Tag: Compilation

Strawbs – Halcyon Days

ARTIST: Strawbs  Halcyon_days_uk

TITLE: Halcyon Days

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Charting: Lay Down (#12 UK), Part of the Union (#2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Their albums charted here but really it was a select crowd.

LINEUP: Dave Cousins was the constant. Tony Hooper was his foil until 1973 or so. Dave Lambert, Ron Chesterman, John Ford, Chas Cronk, Richard Hudson, Ron Coombes, Rick Wakeman (yup!), Blue Weaver, and  John Hawken all appeared at some point.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Fantastic, if not overwhelming, collection from a UK band that straddled folk, psychedelic, prog, and glam (a bit). Leader Dave Cousins had a knack for melody and lyrics that allowed for various instrumentations and arrangements.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Strawbs started in 1964, but it wasn’t until 1969 that they got their first record deal and immediately gained a foothold in the UK in the folky / psychedelic / prog lane, near the Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, and some of the earlier Yes records. But they weren’t easy to pin down, as their sound evolved with the various band members coming through the group.

The constant was Dave Cousins, who had serious songwriting gifts. His songs were complex and led themselves to various arrangements. Sometimes they were long and pastoral meditations, some were suites in line with the progressive bands of the time (like King Crimson in the early 70’s) and then sometimes they were in step with the synth / mellotron / guitar progressive rock of the mid-70’s.

For those not knowing about them, it is a bit much to bite off at once, especially if you don’t think you’re totally on board. But just a few tracks (like the opener “The Man Who Called Himself Jesus”) should make you a believer on some level.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sandy Dennis was in the band for a bit in 1967, and Rick Wakeman was on three albums before he decamped to Yes.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There are two versions, as the band differentiated between US and UK markets with their promotion The US version has tracks in chronological order, and this approach makes sense. The UK version is scattered, and has several different tracks (and three not streaming – probably due to issues with Rick Wakeman’s contract). They also have solo work from Cousins and the UK version has tracks from spin off group Hudson Ford.

 GRADE B+: There’s some impressive stuff here that everyone should like, but most of it is probably great for prog fans and not so much for those who don’t dig that scene.

The Ohio Express – The Best of the Ohio Express

ARTIST: The Ohio Express R-3041990-1313008318.jpeg

TITLE: The Best of the Ohio Express

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Yummy Yummy Yummy (#4 US, #6 UK), Down at Lulu’s (#33 US), Chewy Chewy (#15 US), Sweeter than Sugar (#96 US), Mercy (#30 US), Pinch Me (Baby Convince Me) (#99 US), Sausalito (Is the Place to Go) (#86 US), Cowboy Convention (#101 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, I doubt it.

LINEUP: Joey Levine is the vocalist you know on their hits. 10cc stood in later (yep). There was a ‘real’ band that was featured on a few cuts their first album (second album?), sent off to tour, and were never seen again in the studio.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of best known Kasenetz–Katz ‘bands’ had a real band going around touring, but they didn’t play on any of their hit singles, which were radio gold..

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Kasenetz-Katz production empire was nothing if not efficient. The Ohio Express, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Music Explosion, and others relied on session musicians, shared backing tracks, and even the same songs released on the others B-sides. R-3556232-1335122443.jpeg (1)

Despite “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and “Chewy Chewy”, their other singles were better than the usual bubblegum fare. They had hooks galore and crack session players and the unique Joey Levine voice. When Levine left the production company due to a dispute (it’s always about the money) they drafted others in, like the masterminds behind 10cc, to keep up the groups appearance until the bubblegum fad faded.

Don’t try out their albums, since they really focused on singles, and the few cuts that the actual bad played on are gunky. They focused on the A-sides so much the B-sides were instrumentals, or songs run backwards.

This is damn fine pop candy for those inclined. Or, gum, I guess. Bubble Yum?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The origins of the name and band Ohio Express are wild. Basically the ‘first’ album was patched together after the Kasenetz-Katz team bought a few songs and rebranded them Ohio Express from the Rare Breed, and then had others record stuff to fill it out, then found another group to become the Ohio Express for album two.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there are other comps with different tracks. Beware of re-recordings. And seek out the original “Cowboy Convention” on comps that are not streaming.

 GRADE B-: I mean, it’s pop fluff, but it’s tasty. I can’t help it.

Gloria Estefan – The Essential Gloria Estefan

ARTIST: Gloria Estefan 220px-Gloria_Estefan_The_Essential_Gloria_Estefan

TITLE: The Essential Gloria Estefan

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: With Miami Sound Machine: Dr. Beat (#17 Dance, #6 UK), Conga (#10 US, #7 Dance, #79 UK), Bad Boy (#8 US, #10 Dance, #16 UK), Words Get in the Way (#5 US), Falling in Love (Uh-Oh) (#25 US, #89 UK), Solo Top 20: Can’t Stay Away from You (#6 US, #7 UK), Anything for You (#1 US, #10 UK), 1-2-3 (#3 US, #9 UK), Don’t Want to Lose You (#1 US, #6 UK), Get on Your Feet (#11 US, #20 Dance, #23 UK), Here We Are (#6 US, 23 UK), Oye Mi Canto (#48 US, #16 UK), Cuts Both Ways (#44 US, #17 UK), Coming Out of the Dark (#1 US, #25 UK). Go Away (#103 US, #13 UK), Turn the Beat Around (#13 US, #21 UK), Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me (#11 UK), Everlasting Love (#27 US, #19 UK), Reach (#42 US, #15 UK), You’ll Be Mine (Party Time) (#70 US, #18 UK), Heaven’s What I Feel (#27 US, #17 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe so? She has some of her Spanish language hits here.

LINEUP: Gloria Estefan, and whatever incarnation of the Miami Sound Machine was on those records.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the first Latin crossover artists that made a long-lasting impact in the US and abroad has a compilation stacked with her festive hits and romantic ballads.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ever since the Miami Sound Machine made the move to English-language records (after seven Spanish language albums), Gloria Estefan, her husband Emilio, and the band have been a force in European, Latin, and American markets. And while it could be said that the music is formulaic, it is also joyous and memorable.

From 1984 to 1998, Estefan and / or the group had hits in the US or the UK, and still held sway over the Latin charts when she recorded in Spanish. Combining Cuban and Latin American rhythms and flourishes with modern synthesizers and drum machines made their sound unique in the pop markets. The arrangements may be bold and big, but they usually don’t overpower the song or her voice.

This is a large collection, and there’s some stuff that isn’t up my alley, and probably not up yours either. But she deserves a lot more credit than she gets sometimes for being a force in pop and dance music for so many years.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She survived a huge bus / semi crash in 1990 and was touring ten months later.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There are other comps but this is the most comprehensive.

 GRADE A-: You don’t really think about how long she was on top of the game until you start listening to these tracks back to back to back.

Chuck Berry – The Chess Box

ARTIST: Chuck Berry  220px-The_Chess_Box_(Chuck_Berry_box_set)_cover_art

TITLE: The Chess Box

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 20: Maybelline (#5 US, #1 R&B), Wee Wee Hours (#10 R&B), Thirty Days (#2 R&B), No Money Down (#8 R&B), Roll Over Beethoven (#29 US, #2 R&B), Too Much Monkey Business (#4 R&B), School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell) (#5 US, #1 R&B, #24 UK), Rock and Roll Music (#8 US, #6 R&B), Sweet Little Sixteen (#2 US, #1 R&B, #16 UK), Johnny B. Goode (#8 US, #2 R&B), Carol (#18 US, #9 R&B), Almost Grown (#32 US, #3 R&B), No Particular Place to Go (#10 US, #10 R&B, #3 UK), My Ding-A-Ling (#1 US, #42 R&B, #1 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: How many don’t you know?

LINEUP: Chuck Berry. His early band had Johnnie Johnson, Willie Dixon, and Fred Below, but there so many others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: It’s Chuck Berry. C’mon, man.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: His impact is short-changed by the charts, but running down the tracks in this collection is staggering as to what he wrote, and what he performed. Even if you don’t like a couple of tracks, there are many many others you’ll know.

He wrote about a lot of every day problems, and always tinged with his status as someone who was poor and a minority in Middle America.

There are 71 tracks here, from his great beginning, to some of his best later stuff (like “Tulane”), and yes, “My Ding-a-Ling” which should be excised from human existence. But that should not dissuade you. Just delete it from your collection and move forward.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He had some legal issues, tax issues, and some…other issues. He’s not in the HOF of best-ever people.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. Chess did a good job here.

GRADE A+: It’s Chuck Berry.

Glen Campbell – The Legacy (1961-2017)

ARTIST: Glen Campbell Glen_Campbell_The_Legacy_album_cover

TITLE: The Legacy (1961-2017)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 5: By the Time I Get to Phoenix (#26 US, #2 Country), I Wanna Live (#36 US, #1 Country), Dreams of the Everyday Housewife (#32 US, #3 Country), Wichita Lineman (#3 US, #1 Country, #7 UK), Galveston (#4 US, #1 Country, #14 UK), Try a Little Kindess (#23 US, #2 Country, #45 UK), Honey Come Back (#19 US, #2 Country, #4 UK), All I Have to Do Is Dream (#27 US, #6 country, #3 UK), Everything a Man Could Ever Need (#52 US, #5 Country, #32 UK), It’s Only Make Believe (#10 US, #3 Country, #4 UK), Bonaparte’s Retreat (#3 Country), Rhinestone Cowboy (#1 US, #1 Country, #4 UK), Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in LA) (#11 US, #3 Country), Don’t Pull Your Love / Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (#27 US, #4 Country), Southern Nights (#1 US, #1 Country, #28 UK), Sunflower (#39 US, #4 UK), A Lady Like You (#4 Country), Still Within the Sound of My Voice (#5 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Turn Around Look at Me, Universal Soldier, The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde, Gentle on My Mind, True Grit

LINEUP: Glen Campbell and Session musicians. Duets with Bobbie Gentry and Anne Murray too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After being an in-demand session guitarist and backing vocalist (and temporary replacement Beach Boy), Glen Campbell’s solo career took off after recording songs by Jimmy Webb. It was a perfect match.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Glen Campbell’s impact on pop and country seemed diminished for a while, as his happy-go-lucky TV personality and his later marital issues and gossip column fodder overshadowed his gifts. But while he wasn’t much of a songwriter – he was an ace guitar player and an excellent vocalist who could evoke emotion from each song he performed, and fit his voice perfectly with arrangements.

His first big hits came when he started collaborating with songwriter Jimmy Webb, starting with “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, and “Wichita Lineman”. He recorded the definite version of “Gentle on My Mind” by John Hartford, and many other songs became standards due to his interpretations, even down to Alan Toussaint’s “Southern Nights”.

This collection has some fluff, especially his later career, and honestly, the string-laden productions can get a bit overblown in his 60’s material, but for music fans from 1966 through 1977 or so, Campbell was a force in country, pop, and television.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He was the first to record (and he co-wrote) “Turn Around, Look at Me”. He also released 14 albums between 1967 and 1970. Holy studio time!

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. This is a new collection of a collection first issued in the early 2000’s, with the last disc of live and outtakes replaced by a whole disc of his later work.

GRADE A-: Comprehensive, and most of his material is essential for pop and country fans. There’s just some dross in his later years, as one would expect.

Del Shannon – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Del Shannon R-3844037-1363413923-3560.jpeg

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 20: Runaway (#1 US, #1 UK), Hats Off to Larry (#5 US, #6 UK), So Long Baby (#28 US, #10 UK), Hey! Little Girl (#38 US, #2 UK), The Swiss Maid (#62 US, #2 UK), Little Town Flirt (#12 US, #4 UK), Two Kinds of Teardrops (#50 US, #5 UK), Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow the Sun) (##9 US, #3 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stranger in Town, Handy Man, Do You Wanna Dance

LINEUP: Del Shannon and session players. Max Crook was the inventor and player of the Musitron, which gave Shannon’s records that neat keyboard sound.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An unlikely pop star for the early 60’s, as he was almost 27 and wrote his own songs, Shannon deserved more accolades for his entire work, but Runaway is still an all-timer.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Del Shannon met Max Crook in 1959, and together the two changed rock music for good in 1961 when they struck gold with “Runaway” featuring Crook’s Musitron as a lead instrument. The Musitron was arguably a synthesizer and that keyboard sound helped widen the sound of music besides simple piano or organ.

Besides “Runaway”, Shannon had a decent pre-Beatlemania career in the US, and a longer stretch of hits in the UK (where the Beatles were big fans). But as time went along, Shannon fell out of favor despite embracing psychedelic pop for a couple of fine late 60’s records.

This collection has all of the early 60’s high points and shows that Shannon’s songwriting had some depth (even if the Musitron solos all were similar in his early stuff), with the only nit to pick was the anonymous and very white female backup singers. He later had alcohol and depression issues, and took his life in his mid 50’s even as he was being considered to replace Roy Orbison in the Traveling Wilburys.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He was the first US artist to cover the Beatles, as his version of “From Me to You” which hit #77 in the US (and was the flip to a hit in the UK).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The Rhino version isn’t streaming, but there is one streaming that adds on three later songs instead of the final three tracks. You take what you can get.

 GRADE B+: “Runaway” is an all-timer, and some of his other hits are must have for your collection.

Dokken – The Best of Dokken

ARTIST: Dokken 220px-BestOfDokken

TITLE: Best of Dokken

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Breaking the Chains (#32 Mainstream), Into the Fire (#21 Mainstream), Alone Again (#64 US, #20 Mainstream), Just Got Lucky (#27 Mainstream), The Hunter (#25 Mainstream), In My Dreams (#77 US, #24 Mainstream), Dream Warriors (#22 Mainstream), Burning Like a Flame (#72 US, #20 Mainstream #78 UK), Walk Away (#48 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tooth and Nail

LINEUP: Don Dokken, George Lynch, Mick Brown, Jeff Pilson. Juan Croucier was in the band early on before he bolted for Ratt.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pop metal band had one deadly weapon in George Lynch, and screwed it up with inane lyrics and songwriting.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Oh, Dokken. You listen to them, and some things rouse you, and then, there are things that make you cringe. Now, pop / glam metal wasn’t the genre where wordsmiths went, but Don Dokken was not one to eschew clichés when presented with lyric writing issues. “Burning Like a Flame”? Please.

This collecton covers their first era, before their inevitable reunions and long time cash grabs. MTV made the band as it showcased their perfect locks and good looks, but as for the music, Lynch aside, it was damn generic, at best.

Dokken does have some decent riffs in their songs, but most of their tracks are mid-tempo sing alongs or love songs that appeal to 8th graders.

 NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their first record was released in Europe in 1981, then released in the US after some doctoring in 1983.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C: I gave it a whirl, but I didn’t like them then and I really don’t like them now.

Bobbie Gentry – I’ll Never Fall in Love Again: The Best of Bobbie Gentry

ARTIST: Bobbie Gentry  gentry

TITLE: I’ll Never Fall in Love Again: The Best of Bobbie Gentry

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Ode To Billy Joe (#1 US, #17 Country, #13 UK), Okolona River Bottom Band (#54 US), Touch ‘Em With Love (#113 US), I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (#1 UK), Fancy (#8 US, #26 Country), All I Have to Do Is Dream (#27 US, #6 Country, #3 UK), Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head (#40 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: She covers Tobacco Road

LINEUP: Bobbie Gentry, sessioneers. Glen Campbell duets on “All I Have to Do Is Dream”

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Good overview for Gentry’s career except it misses a charting single for her (“Louisiana Man (#100 US, #72 US Country)

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Bobbie Gentry was a rarity in Nashville in the 60’s – a female writing most of her own songs and singing about themes such as women’s liberation and equality. Most of her songs were character sketches about what she observed while growing up in Mississippi.

“Ode to Billy Joe” is the one everyone remembers. It’s an iconic story song with an ambiguous ending. Her material, though, was oriented towards concept-type albums. She also was heavily involved in production as well, but wasn’t credited because of…reasons (her being a woman and all). The production was fairly sophisticated and varied, with horn charts and dynamic sounds.

From 1967 through 1971 she released six solo albums and a duet record with Glen Campbell. Then after a 1972 single, she stopped recording, but worked on TV and in Las Vegas. Then by 1980, after three marriages, she just disappeared. She’s still alive, living in Memphis, but is very reclusive. Her legacy is strong, though, and should be discovered by more than the nostalgic.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She had a replacement series in 1974 called the The Bobbie Gentry Happiness Hour.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there are bigger collections out there for advanced studies.

GRADE A-: Because she had such a short career, she’s usually forgotten except for “Ode to Billy Joe”. She shouldn’t be.

The Bobby Fuller Four – Never to Be Forgotten: The Mustang Years

ARTIST: The Bobby Fuller Four

fuller

TITLE: Never to Be Forgotten: The Mustang Years

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Wolfman, Take My Word, Let Her Dance (#133), Never to Be Forgotten, I Fought the Law (#9), Love’s Made a Fool of You (#26), The Magic Touch (#117), It’s Love, Come What May

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably Not.

LINEUP: Bobby Fuller, Randy Fuller, Jim Reese, DeWayne Quirico. A few tracks had Dalton Powell or John Barbata drumming in place of Quirico.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Collection from a beloved garage band with surprisingly small chart history.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Bobby Fuller and his group would still be known for their version of “I Fought the Law” had he not been murdered (Suicide? Nope) in mysterious circumstances in 1966. But that death has given Fuller and The Bobby Fuller Four a name beyond their chart history.

They deserved more of a chart presence than one Top 10 and another Top 30. “Let Her Dance” made waves in LA, but not nationally, and “Never to be Forgotten” is probably their best track (and one of the great hidden gems of the 60’s). And unlike other groups of the 60’s, they rarely covered tracks – even on both of their albums. It just so happened that “I Fought the Law” was a cover that their original producer in El Paso thought would be a good fit for them. (“I Fought the Law” was originally by the Crickets, who kept playing after Buddy Holly passed.)

This collection is their Mustang Records recordings, after they moved to LA and made the scene there. It covers their entire catalog (singles and albums) and includes a live set that was going to be released but was withdrawn (and really, it’s just not so great – though they were a fun live band). While there is some filler (their first album was partly a drag racing album due to a radio station’s wishes), many of the cuts are decent enough and with the strong singles it’s a good collection for 60’s rock fans.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After Bobby died, his brother Randy tried to keep the band going as the Randy Fuller Four.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B+: There’s a lot here, and that may be too much for some, but they’re surprisingly deep for a band with a couple of albums.

The Embarassment – Heyday 1979-83

ARTIST: The Embarassment heyday

TITLE: Heyday 1979-83

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: Hahahahah, you’re joking right?

SINGLES: Sex Drive

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, those who know, know.

LINEUP: John Nichols, Ronnie Klaus, Brent Giessmann, Bill Goffrier

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Obscure Wichita (yep, Wichita) band recorded some great, literate, witty new wave-ish songs that trickled out enough that they developed a cult following.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A bunch of nerdy looking college kids from Wichita formed a band, wrote smart / smart ass lyrics and developed a small yet lovingly rabid following. They released material on singles and sent them to compilations (including two very early Sub Pop cassettes) that found its way to some influential critics and taste makers who loved their take on jangly guitar rock and bent lyrics.

Examples? “Sex Drive” – about guys that you knew in high school that cruised for chicks in their Trans Ams; “Patio Set” – a love song to lawn furniture; “Celebrity Art Party” – where Art Carney attended the ‘narcissistic party’; “Berliner’s Night Out” – which describers a German guy getting ready for a date; and “Lifespan”- giving a mathematical equation to living and saying “if you drive, don’t drive” then going somewhere else.

Not to say that everything is top-class or first-rate. This collects nearly everything they did in those years, and there were some songs that weren’t as well developed or documented for the sake of documentation, and not release. But for those “Hip and Well Read”, this is a nice treasure that still brings smiles to faces.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They recorded an album in 1989 (also recording some of this material again), and have reunited periodically.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A-: It’s a big compilation that may be much for those who just want to dip their toes into them, but it’s well worth spinning at least once.