Tag: 1974

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

ARTIST: Supertramp  220px-Supertramp_-_Crime_of_the_Century

TITLE: Crime of the Century

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION:  #38 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Dreamer (#13 UK), Bloody Well Right (#35 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Crime of the Century

LINEUP: Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, John Anthony Helliwell, Dougie Thompson, Bob Siebenberg

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Struggling prog band finds some pop chops, and a little humor, and gets a hit record that sustains a long career.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Listening to the dribs and drabs of their first two albums (on comps), Supertramp had talent. Leaders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson had their musical ideas (always different) but in reality the band wasn’t that much different than in their hit making phase.

This one, coming out in 1974, was basically their last chance. It was their last chance for good, as their original financial backer pulled out and A&M were going to lose patience if this one stiffed. Davies and Hodgson replaced the rest of the band, improved their songwriting, and threw in some humor and hooks along with their progressive and arty pieces. There wasn’t a lot of noodling – at least not as much as before.

Some songs do linger a bit too long, but a better and more sympathetic band helped out the songwriters. This record really introduced Supertramp to the world, and over the next decade (give or take) they were one of the bastions of popular progressive rock.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The first two records aren’t streaming, and really are for uber-completists only.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with a live set.

GRADE B: The deep cuts kind of ramble along, but the well-known songs are the ones that helped their career take a leap.

Phoebe Snow – Phoebe Snow

ARTIST: Phoebe Snow Phoebe_Snow_-_Phoebe_Snow

TITLE: Phoebe Snow

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #4

SINGLES: Poetry Man (#5), Harpo’s Blues

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Where Eagles Dare

LINEUP: Phoebe Snow and many sessioneers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut for jazz-pop-folk singer is her career highlight.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 1974, things were looking up for Phoebe Snow. Her acoustic based jazzy and folk inspired songs gained critical acclaim and a deserved hit for “Poetry Man”.

Her voice was unique; she had range and dynamics. The production and arrangements by Dino Airali and Phil Ramone complemented her songs and her voice well, staying out of the way of the songs yet enhancing them. Eight of the ten tracks were originals, and she showed promise as a songwriter.

For various reasons (most notably being a parent of a special needs child that she refused to institutionalize), her career never materialized into long lasting success. So this is probably the best thing to pick up if you heard “Poetry Man” and were intrigued.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She had record company issues as well (Shelter Records reared its head again – like it did for Dwight Twilley and Tom Petty). There are compilations that have bits and pieces of her other albums streaming, but this material is only streaming on the original album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with demos and B-sides.

 GRADE A: A very pleasant record. Her songs are well written and evocative, and the arrangements fit them well.

Hall & Oates – War Babies

ARTIST: Hall & Oates              220px-Hall_Oates_War_Babies

TITLE: War Babies

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #86

SINGLES: Can’t Stop the Music (He Played It Much Too Long)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I don’t think so.

LINEUP: Daryl Hall, John Oates, Todd Rundgren, Richie Cerniglia, Don York, John Siegler, Willie Wilcox, Sandy Allen, Gail Boggs

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A Todd Rundgren production that missed the mark commercially but is very intriguing as a meld between the two artists.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s easy to see how this missed the mark, in retrospect. The sound of this album is miles away from blue-eyed soul and pop, and is definitely in the mold of Todd Rundgren’s mid-70’s records. (He produced this, and had the early version of Utopia play on it). It didn’t sell, and Atlantic dropped them.

But, it’s a fascinating mix of Hall, Oates, and Rundgren. “Is It a Star” should have been the single (that or “You’re Much Too Soon”), and at least should have gotten them some FM radio play. The songs may have odd titles (“War Baby Son of Zorro”, “Beanie G and the Rose Tattoo”, “Johnny Gore and the ‘C’ Eaters) but Daryl Hall was always kind of a closet prog weirdo, it turns out. The songs, despite the arty production and sounds, have hooks and great singing (of course).

It doesn’t have any hits, but it’s worth a listen, especially if you like both Hall & Oates AND Todd Rundgren. That’s not really a weird combo it turns out.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It was the first album to chart after release, but Abandoned Luncheonette charted higher on re-release a year later.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A-: Better than I really expected, and only some of the wilder prog excursions in songs don’t work.

Parliament – Up for the Down Stroke

ARTIST: Parliament                                      Parliament-Up_for_the_Down_Stroke_(album_cover)

TITLE: Up for the Down Stoke

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #17 R&B

SINGLES: Up for the Down Stroke (#63, #10 R&B), Testify (#77 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All Your Goodies Are Gone

LINEUP: Bernie Worrell, Eddie Hazel, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Gary Bronson, Ron Bykowski, Raymond Davis, Tiki Fulwood, Fuzzy Haskins, Cordell Mosson, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: George Clinton re-interoduces Parliament to the masses – making it a lighter, horn based funk band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The core musicians are the same, but the addition of James Brown’s horn section (somehow uncredited) and the return of Bootsy Collins brought a more commercial funk sound than the hardcore guitar funk of Funkadelic.

The title track starts out everyone with a big ol’ party track, and then the group goes into a cover of the original Parliaments big hut. As the record moves along, they ‘cover’ a couple of Funkadelic tracks and more commercial versions of what was going to become the P-Funk sound. It’s not always successful, but Clinton had the right idea.

The success of this record encouraged Clinton to keep both names and release albums by both in their particular style, and the 70’s funk scene was never the same!

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The saga of the Parliaments / Parliament and their record companies is twisted and worthy of a chapter in a book.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, alternate mixes and an outtake

 GRADE B+: They’re still figuring out how to make a commercial version of P-Funk, and the party drags a bit, but it’s still a fun record for the most part.

Roxy Music – Country Life

ARTIST: Roxy Music                             220px-Roxy_Music-Country_Life

TITLE: Country Life

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #37 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: The Thrill of It All, All I Want Is You (#12 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Out of the Blue, Prairie Rose, Bitter-Sweet, Casanova

LINEUP: Bryan Ferry, John Gustafson, Eddie Jobson, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, Paul Thompson.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The record that Roxy Music was building up to since they formed.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This record has everything: energy, elegance, sophistication, dirty-sounding guitar, sex, Germans, alienation, and Bryan Ferry’s quintessential detached observational vocals and lyrics.

The players are all on top of their game, with Phil Manzanera’s guitar shining, Eddie Jobson’s violin and keyboards adding distinct color and flavor, and Paul Thompson’s solid and intricate drumming. Ferry even adds harmonica (!).

Not only was this their first Top 40 hit in the US, it set up for Roxy Music to have some imprint on the singles chart the next year. The drive of “All I Want Is You” and “Casanova”, the chaos of “The Thrill of It All”, the German oom-pahs of “Bitter Sweet”, and my personal favorite Roxy song of all time “Out of the Blue”, featuring Andy Mackay on oboe, Thompson and John Gustafson’s rhythm section work, Manzanera’s dirty guitar during the chorus, and great production by Chris Thomas with the flange.

This is hot and cool at the same time. The album cuts and the singles all co-exist into one outstanding package.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Several countries censored the album cover. Sigh.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: The pinnacle of art-rock.

Queen – Sheer Heart Attack

ARTIST: Queen                            220px-Queen_Sheer_Heart_Attack

TITLE: Sheer Heart Attack

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Killer Queen (#12 US, #2 UK), Now I’m Here (#11 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stone Cold Crazy

LINEUP: Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Queen solidifies its home fan base, and breaks through in the US with this diverse and tasty record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Running out of the gate quickly with “Brighton Rock”, a showcase for Brian May’s guitar work and Freddie Mercury’s vocal range, then hitting the listener with the breakthrough track “Killer Queen”, this third record from Queen started fast. It didn’t relent.

Campy songs, ballads, some prog work, layers upon layers of harmonies, and even a medley of three diverse songs that work well together – this record had it all for Queen and was a bluepring for their work in the rest of the decade.

Some of the proggy stuff is a bit heavy handed, and some of the ballady songs a bit too earnest, but for the most part this is Queen at their best.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It’s said the “In the Lap of the Gods” has the highest vocals on any Queen song – it’s a scream by Roger Taylor.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the latest one had live and BBC tracks 

GRADE: A: Whenever I start playing this one, I always run through it a couple of times. Just a couple of tracks aren’t up to snuff.

 

Neil Young – On the Beach

ARTIST: Neil Young                 220px-On_the_Beach_-_Neil_Young

TITLE: On the Beach

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #16 US, #42 UK

SINGLES: Walk On (#61 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: For the Turnstiles

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Tim Drummond with cameos by Ralph Molina, Levon Helm, Rusty Kershaw, Graham Nash, Billy Talbot, David Crosby, George Whitsell, and Rick Danko

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Young’s first studio album since his commercial breakthrough is a despairing look at 1974 from several angles.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The year 1974 was a bleak one for those who had hoped the Sixties would bring change, and the tone and tenor of this Neil Young album fits in well with the national malaise.

With songs about energy companies, politics, fame, serial killers, and cynicism, this is not a sunshiny walk in the sand. There’s some harrowing imagery throughout the record, and the tone is rough and ragged, with the mix deliberately being a rough monitor mix instead of the full mix done by the engineers.

There’s some glimmer of hope, as “Walk On’ points to a way out of fog. It’s a fantastic record, and a bummer of a record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Young and his guests consumed a marijuana and honey concoction during the recording sessions called Honey Slides.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: There’s hardly a mis-step (depending on how you feel about “Motion Pictures”), and it does take you back to a time where it seemed nothing was going to go right in the world.

Rufus – Rufusized

ARTIST: Rufus                                    Rufus_-_Rufusized

TITLE: Rufusized

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #7 US, #2 R&B, #48 UK

SINGLES: Once You Get Started (#10 US, #4 R&B, #2 Dance) Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me of a Friend) (#48 US, #6 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The deep cuts played on some radio stations.

LINEUP: Chaka Khan, Tony Maiden, Kevin Murphy, Bobby Watson, Andre Fischer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Rushing back into the studio, Rufus recorded a set that kept their momentum that fit right next to their last record, even with turnovers in personnel.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: To many people, Chaka Khan was Rufus, and that impression caused a few of their old members to bolt. But the replacements fit right into the groove established earlier in 1974, so all was good for this album.

It’s got a similar funky feel, and Chaka Khan’s vocals are the focal point (except for the funky instrumental “Rufusized”). None of the songs have reached the cultural zeitgeist of their early hits, yet most all of the cuts are quality, especially the early feminist anthem “I’m a Woman (I’m a Backbone)”

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Keyboard player Nate Morgan was on the album cover, but didn’t participate in the sessions.  And officially, the band is now Rufus (featuring Chaka Khan), but that’s unweildy.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: A-:  A perfectly fine funky record.

Styx – Man of Miracles

ARTIST: Styx                       220px-Styx_-_Man_of_Miracles

TITLE: Man of Miracles

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #154

SINGLES: Best Thing

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None, and there’s a reason for that

LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung, James Young, John Curulewski, Chuck Panozzo, John Panozzo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Styx tries to pivot to rock away from progressive rock, with semi-embarrassing results.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: As much as John Curulewski could hit those high harmonies on “Lady”, the rock songs he wrote for this album as a way to get radio to become interested in Styx were, um, not good. The vocals sound like parodies and there’s a forced energy that permeates them.

James Young’s rockers are no better. Add to that a track that was already on an album, and you have a band at a definite crossroads with themselves. Dennis DeYoung steps up and creates some of his better early work, and while they were trying to get away from prog, “Man of Miracles” seems to be one of their better prog efforts and does set up their next few records.

This was their last effort for the Chicago-based Wooden Nickel, and they were lucky to have some good timing with a single released two years prior (“Lady) to keep their career moving.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Best Thing”, already on their debut album, was on this album too and released as a single. When this was re-released, a horrid cover of “Lies” by the Knickerbockers replaced it. Then, “Unfinished Song” replaced that, though it was on another album as well. The streaming version has “Lies”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: See above for the fun. 

GRADE:C : They were damn lucky “Lady” was a hit, because this wasn’t cutting it, despite Dennis DeYoung’s efforts.

Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic

ARTIST: Steely Dan                        Pretzel_Logic_album

TITLE: Pretzel Logic

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #8 US, #37 UK

SINGLES: Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (#4 US, #58 UK), Pretzel Logic (#57 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Any Major Dude Will Tell You, East St. Louis Toodle-OO

LINEUP: Donald Fagan, Walter Becker, Jeff Baxter, Denny Dias, Jim Hodder – plus 15 other session musicians.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album from jazz-pop group finds the band become more of a duo + session musicians, and the songs are shorter and less jazzy.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Are shorter songs better? Well, they’re no doubt more commercially viable. Personally, while the set of songs put forward by Walter Becker and Donald Fagan are just as complicated and lyrically obtuse, for my ears I preferred their longer excursions.

That’s not to say that this isn’t chock full of great stuff. “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” may be the ultimate Steely Dan song, and the second side has all kinds of characters running in the lyrics. The playing is impeccable, of course, with barely a note out of place.

It seems to my ears that some of the songs could have had some more exploration, since there’s some interesting ideas put forward.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the last album that the original group toured in support.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE: A-: I do think that some songs should have been explored further, and some could have been saved for another day. That’s just me.