Tag: 1975

The Dynamic Superiors – The Dynamic Superiors

ARTIST: The Dynamic Superiors

TITLE: The Dynamic Superiors

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION:  #36 R&B Albums

SINGLES: Shoe Shoe Shine (#68, #16 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh…no.

LINEUP: Tony Washington, George Spann, George Peterback Jr., Michael McCalpin, Maurice Washington. Session guys did the music.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A throwback Motown vocal group produced by Ashford & Simpson has some highlights, and an interesting story that wasn’t really told then.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Having kicked around since 1969, and being signed to Motown since 1972, the vocal group the Dynamic Superiors finally got an album released thanks to Ashford & Simpson in 1975, and it deserved better.

Lead singer Tony Washington had a soaring falsetto and George Spann was an excellent first tenor backing him up. Plus, the ballad “Shoe Shoe Shine” showcased the vocal strength of the group.

Washington, though, used to perform in drag. He was out and proud, which in 1975 was rare for anyone in the R&B world. It didn’t seem to hold them back, and in fact, Motown was quite progressive in signing and promoting gay performers at the time.

As for the music, it’s better than average and better than what some of the more established R&B vocal groups were turning out at the time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were signed at a DJ convention in 1972.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: It was released as a double CD with their second album, which wasn’t as solid.

 GRADE B+: It’s historical, and a good old-school vocal group record.

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

ARTIST: Pink Floyd

TITLE: Wish You Were Here   

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION:  #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Have a Cigar

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The title track, Shine On You Crazy Diamond

LINEUP: Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright. Dick Parry played sax. Roy Harper sang Have a Cigar. Venatta Fields and Carlena Williams added vocals.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A meditation on the loss of a friend and the music industry, which are intertwined.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Many love this album, even more than other Pink Floyd records. The playing is still impeccable, the sound engineering is top notch, and the concept one that can resonate (at least the concept about the lost friend – Syd Barrett).

Yet, to me, this is when Pink Floyd gets ponderous. Roger Waters starts exerting his influence over the group, being more of the first among equals instead of a collaborator. He shot down the idea of keeping “Shine On Your Crazy Diamond” as a whole piece, and while Rick Wright received some writing credit, his creative input was lessened.

The one track that really gets me going is “Have a Cigar”, where Roy Harper sings this diatribe against the music industry. This one has spunk and fire, where the other tracks (except for parts of “Wish You Were Here”) just seem to be there – they don’t compel you to listen.

It’s still a good to great album but it seemed flat

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Harper was in the same studio block at EMI recording an album and that’s why he was grabbed. No one else really nailed the vocal like him.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B+: Production and playing are great. But it’s kind of tedious at times.

The Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination

ARTIST: The Alan Parsons Project      220px-TAPP-TalesOfImagination

TITLE: Tales of Mystery and Imagination

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION: #38 US, #56 UK

SINGLES: The Raven (#80 US), (The System of) Dr. Tarr & Professor Fether (#37 US), To One in Paradise (#108 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no

LINEUP: Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson with work from a whole punch of people from Pilot and Ambrosia, vocals from Arthur Brown, Jack Harris, Leonard Whiting, and Terry Sylvester, and narration from Orson Welles (!).

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut record from the proggy standbys somehow got a top 40 single (and not even the poppiest cut) with an album revolving around stories from Edgar Allan Poe. TalesofMystery-_LP_alternate

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson combined talents in 1974 as engineer and manager, and then decided to record tracks that fit their personal musical tastes and direction. The result was a very proggy, highly engineered and produced, album that utilized stories from Edgar Allan Poe as inspiration.

Gathering musicians and actors, they put together the tracks meticulously. It was crafted and polished, and at times seemingly rote and mechanical (especially if you know the APP’s later work).

Somehow, somehow, there was a Top 40 hit in all of this heavy prog, but it was the 70’s. It’s a decent enough record that skimps on the Poe in place of pretty heavy progressive elements. But at least most of the tracks move along at a pace.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Orson Welles isn’t in the original mix, but in the 1987 remix by Parsons utilized narration that Welles recorded and sent to Parsons after the original album. Also, the drum sounds were updated.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos and guide vocals, and both the ’76 and ’87 mixes are in a package.

 GRADE B-: It’s bloated and bombastic, but it’s not terrible, and it is interesting in some places.

 

Armageddon – Armageddon

ARTIST: Armageddon             Armageddon_(Armageddon_album)

TITLE: Armageddon

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #151

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, heck to the no

LINEUP: Keith Relf, Martin Pugh, Bobby Caldwell, Louis Cennamo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Keith Relf’s post-Reinassance band veered him pretty solidly into prog. It was disappointing on all fronts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Combining Keith Relf, two blokes from Steamhammer and drummer Bobby Caldwell, Armageddon took flight and promptly crashed.

Relf’s harmonica skills seem a bit out of place, and some tracks just meander along on a repetitive riff, and others meander along with jammy proggy excess. Only a couple of tracks rise to the occasion on the dividing line between exile and a catalog slot.

This is a shame, as Relf, though he was not-at-all-well, still had some vocal prowess (though emphysema due to asthma soon took care of that), and Martin Pugh had done yeoman’s work as a studio player. But it didn’t cohere, and didn’t ring the cash register, either.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They only played two live gigs, and couldn’t tour as Relf got sicker and couldn’t sing for an extended show.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE C+: “Buzzard” keeps me from chucking it all.

Robin Trower – For Earth Below

ARTIST: Robin Trower                 220px-robin_trower_-_for_earth_below

TITLE: For Earth Below

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #5 US, #26 UK

SINGLES: Shame the Devil

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: It sold, but it’s not played now.

LINEUP: Robin Trower, James Dewar, Bill Lordan

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Trower plays it safe with his third album, basically a stylistic repeat of his breakthrough.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I suppose that there’s nothing wrong with an artist making an album in the same mode as their previous work, but the former Procol Harum guitarist made Bridge of Sighs 2 with this release.

Not to say that this is a bad record. There’s definitely some cuts here to thrill the rock-and-rollers and the guitar fiends. James Dewar’s vocals fit the blues motif of the songs pretty well, and Trower adds some spacey rock guitar all over the place. That’s fine, but it’s becoming formulaic.

This sold a lot of records, hence the chart activity, but it’s hard to listen to now unless a satellite radio station programs a cut somehow. That’s a shame, because even Trower repeating himself is worth a listen or ten.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In case you were wondering, he’s a Startocaster maven/

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B: It’s perfectly okey-doke, but it’s not a revelation as his other solo albums were. It’s just workmanlike rock-and-roll.

Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night

ARTIST: Neil Young                            220px-Neil_Young_TTN_cover

TITLE:  Tonight’s the Night

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #25

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tonight’s the Night, Come on Baby Let’s Go downtown, Roll Another Number (For the Road)

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Nils Lofgren, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina. A live cut featured Danny Whitte and Jack Nitzsche. Tim Drummond and Kenny Buttrey were on a track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A dark album about the despair that emanated from overdose deaths of two of Young’s close friends.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Danny Whitten was a great musician and friend. He worked with Young in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, but he couldn’t stay off of smack and he died. Bruce Berry was a roadie and another close friend who also died from heroin. Young poured his grief into this album, recording it in late 1973 with other close friends as an elegy and eulogy.

It’s a loose, raw record. You can hear the frayed emotions and tension in the playing and singing. It’s not raucous, or loud. It sounds like a wake, which in a sense it was. After the success of Harvest, Young went dark, and that fueled his art.

Using guitar, piano, steel guitar, bass and drums, Young and his assembled friends made a statement. It should be required listening for anyone in pain and grief.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One track, “Come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown” was recorded live with Whitten on guitar. It later showed up on a concert recording from Young’s archives.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There is a version that’s even rawer and more gut wrenching that they may release later.

 GRADE: A+: Listen to this alone on a Saturday night when you’re alone and sad. It’s an album that speaks to you one on one.

Kiss – Dressed to Kill

ARTIST: Kiss                                                 220px-Dressed_to_Kill_(album)_cover

TITLE:  Dressed to Kill

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #32

SINGLES: Rock and Roll All Nite (#68), C’mon and Love Me

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The deep cuts stayed deep

LINEUP: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album from the made-up marvels improves the sound and the songwriting, but the sequencing buried their classic song at the end.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Recorded with label boss Neil Bogart, the third album by Kiss has better sound, which helps the band tremendously. The guitars of Ace Frehley stand out now above the mix (frankly, that’s the best thing about the band if you want to be honest). The vocals are out there as well, which is good and bad, since the vocal range of this band isn’t that dynamic. You do hear Paul Stanley’s harmonies better, though.

As for the tunes, it has some decent deep cuts that didn’t get any traction, probably because no one listened to the first side. “Rock and Roll All Nite”, THE Kiss song, is stuck at the end of the record, which seems odd. Put it on side one, and flip, say “Getaway” to the end, then it’s probably a stronger album just by moving a couple of tracks around.

This still didn’t propel them in the stratosphere, not yet. They were too hard or scary for AM radio, and FM radio thought they were juvenile until the kids decided “Rock and Roll All Nite” was the tune.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was a short record. Just over 30 minutes, and that’s with a two minute acoustic intro to “Rock Bottom” which seems gratuitous. Not a value proposition, but this was their third record in a short amount of time.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: Better production made a big difference.

Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity

ARTIST: Kraftwerk                                     220px-Kraftwerk_Radio_Activity_album_cover

TITLE:  Radio-Activity

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #140 US

SINGLES: Radioactivity

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Ralf Huitter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flur

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Kraftwerk begins to forge out its commitment and vision to melding pop music to avant-garde electronics.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beeps and bloops abound. Voices put through synthesizers to make them sound scary (especially in German). But, there’s melody, musicality, and lots of stuff that was sampled by all sorts of bands. 220px-Radio-Activity_2009

Kraftwerk was moving electronic music away from the ‘hey look at what this machine can do’ towards making it a real creative asset to music. The single, “Radioactivity” was a simple-sounding song that made the synthesizer a palette for musicianship.

Not every track works – which happens when you are experimenting. But unlike their first big album, everything is worth keeping as they fit together as a whole thematic piece, and the shorter tracks are intros and codas which captures the essence of the work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They used an Orchestron, a synthesizer that used pre-recorded sounds much like a mellotron.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B+: Surprisingly listenable even with the interludes and experiments.

 

Kansas – Song for America

ARTIST: Kansas                        Kansas_-_Song_for_America

TITLE: Song for America

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #57

SINGLES: Song for America

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I really doubt it

LINEUP: Steve Walsh, Kerry Livgren, Robby Steinhardt, Rich Williams, Dave Hope, Phil Ehart

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another bifurcated album from the band, with half being rockers and half being long prog songs. It doesn’t really work.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Out of the gate, this is the tale of two bands making one album. “Down the Road” is a rocker, with only a proggy violin element (and vocals by Robby Steinhardt, not Steve Walsh), and then the ‘hit’ “Song for America” comes out – all 10 minutes of it.

The rest of the record is split as well. Two more prog songs (eight and twelve minutes), and two rockers (shorter at five minutes). Those songs don’t do anyone any justice, and “Incomudro – Hymn to the Atman” makes about as much sense as the title.

You could hear that something was coming together, as “Song for America” had definite moments, and within 18 months, the band would be well known. Just not for this one, and for good reason.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The edited version of “Song for America” was three minutes, so yeah, there was proggy bloat.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, live cuts and the 45 version of the title track. 

GRADE: C: This one doesn’t click for me. It’s doesn’t sound cohesive at all.

ZZ Top – Fandango!

ARTIST: ZZ Top                     220px-ZZ_Top_-_Fandango

TITLE: Fandango!

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #10 US, #60 UK

SINGLES: Tush (#20)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Heard It on the X, Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings, Thunderbird

LINEUP: Billy Gibbson, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Half studio, half live, half of a great album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’ve been wondering about this release. The studio side is probably the best, most cohesive side the band had done in their career, with the only true misstep is the subtle racism / sexism in “Mexican Blackbird” that probably didn’t raise any eyebrows in 1974.

The live side starts with the smokin’ hot “Thunderbird” (after about a minute of milling around), but then only has two more tracks, including a ending medley that really didn’t work.

Why didn’t the band release a whole show (or most of it) on three sides, and then side four the new studio tracks? Not having more studio tracks may be burnout or writer’s block – they were on tour for a long time in 1973 and 1974. Still, the brevity of the live side makes this not a great value, no matter how hot the studio tracks were.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Thunderbird” was a track originally done by the Nightcaps, but they never applied for the copyright. Oops.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: More live tracks, but from a much later show, and just three of them.

 GRADE: B: I wish I could score it higher – and it would be if it were a studio EP or a double set with more good live material.