Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Dave Clark Five

For the second all time best selling British Band of the 60s there's hardly much out there to buy.  Dave Clark is a very frugal guy who really controls the copyrights to his band's songs to the point that the last official US release, The History Of The Dave Clark Five was licensed to Hollywood Records back around 1992 for a limited time and while 50 songs is quite a few, there's a few clunkers in there as well.  Universal in the UK issued a single cd  The Hits, which is just as hit and miss as the Hollywood overview.  Frustrated at Clark's oddball song selection, I pretty much made a single mix CD and still wasn't that satisfied with the results.  And so the story begins.

In the heydays of The British Invasion, The Beatles and DC5 duked it out for chart position and Ed Sullivan's buddies, appearing just about on a regular basis back in 64 and 65. But while the Beatles evolved and became more adventurous with their albums, the DC5 became obsolete relics in three years, the last top ten was a cover of You Got What It Takes.  The DC5 were a singles act and they made some tough sounding singles in Glad All Over, Bits And Pieces and a 53 chart placing of I Knew It All The Time which somehow made it to a compilation  Piccadilly Story on Castle in the early 2000s and how that escaped the claws of Clark's watchful eye is a feat upon itself.  The DC5 had a excellent vocalist in the late great Mike Smith although upon hearing them doing a punked up Do You Love Me, it sounds like he screaming WHY DO YOU LOVE ME in the call and response of the the band members.  Make no mistake, Clark had a eye and ear for the music hook and most DC5 songs clocked under 2 and a half minutes, I Like It Like That only a minute forty time of song.  And Anyway You Want It showed that they can do garage punk as well.  Even KISS covered that song in 1977 on Alive Two, the studio side that is.

For the most part, the DC5 wrote the majority of songs but the problem was Dave Clark was never a lyricist.  Listening to Glad All Over their Epic debut has great singles (Glad All Over, Bits And Pieces, Do You Love Me) but the embarrassing good I Know You, has the middle eight that sounded like Clark took them off a bunch of grade school kids throwing insults at one another, but it also has the embarrassing bad Doo Dah which is a variation of you guessed it, the old Foghorn Leghorn cartoon show.  And each DC5 album would be more of the same, about 10 to 12 songs clocking in and around 25 minutes at best with varying results.   They could do a decent Beatles cop, Because, 19 Days, and failed latter day single Live In The Sky which echoes All You Need Is Love but by the late 60s, Dave Clark was redoing rock classics, in the 70s covering Tommy James' Draggin The Line (more bizzare than TJ's version but with the cheesiness of horns I ever heard.  He took on Neil Young on a version of Southern Man, which isn't too bad given the dated guitar solo work.  It helped that he still had Mike Smith shouting it out too.  But it seems that Dave Clark really has no intention of putting this nor Draggin the Line out since neither song has appeared on any best of.

And that's the problem.  Clark's tight reins on his back catalog may reveals that even though he might be a shrewd businessman that perhaps even he thinks that the lesser DC5 songs are not worth preserving. But you can license any of his best songs for a fee from his website or buy them on Itunes.  Or take your chances trying to find vinyl copies that are not scratched up or 45s for that matter.  Turns out that everybody that bought a DC5 record wore the grooves down to nothing.  And honest the DC5 had rocking great songs, but some songs are absolute dated relics of the past.  The silly Catch Us If You Can,  You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, which is basically the same arrangement of You Got What It Takes (although the beginning and end also borrows from The Beatles) and the Good Old Rock And Roll Medley that nobody bought.

It's really hard to put together a complete overview of Dave Clark Five albums since Dave Clark will probably take the damn masters to his grave when he dies off.  Even the most recent Best of import is now out of print.  So you're better off trying to locate The History Of The Dave Clark Five on CD at your local store and hope that the owner don't jack the price up to about 50 dollars.  The single The Hits import, more scattershot and more disappointing in song selection.  Unless you're hip to hear them do the Steam cover of Kiss Him Goodbye and of course.. the good old rock and roll medley.  There are bootleg copies of their albums on CD and the sound varies from each and every one.  To which Buyer Beware comes into play.  But don't hold your breath on if and when Dave Clark decides to have them available again.  He's done more to slit his own throat about having the legacy of the DC5 fade into 60's folklore.  But he'll be happy to tell you that they had their own plane before the Beatles.  The first and only time he's ever topped the fab four.

In 2019, Dave Clark finally issued a stand alone single best of CD (tho in the UK it was a 2 CD set). For a bare bones introduction it is probably all the DC5 you could ever want, with their hits (Glad All Over, Bits And Pieces, Try Too Hard) and misses (Universal Love) but at 38 minutes it's a small history lesson about how the DC5 challenged the Beatles and for a small time in 64-65 managed to hang with them before The Beatles started changing their music, whereas The DC5 stayed the same and their music never did evolve like The Beatles or Rolling Stones .  If nothing else, Mike Smith was Dave Clark's voice and sound.  But I also think session drummer Bobby Graham might have more to do with the drum sound rather than Mr. Clark.  Mike Smith's passed away in 2008.

History Of The Dave Clark Five (Hollywood 1994) B+
The Hits (EMI 2007) C+
All The Hits (BMG 2019) B+


While the DC5 may have been the closest rivals to The Beatles, an essay sheds more light on Dave Clark, the boss rather than the rock and roller.  Bobby Graham, the long time UK session drummer seemed to be the one that played drums rather than Clark himself.  Perhaps the MVP of the band was Mike Smith and maybe set the boss off.  While Clark has issued a few of the catalog on I Tunes and has varied the history of the band, this essay makes the first time I have ever heard of Ron Ryan, who was instrumental of the hits like Because or Anyway You Want It.  You can't deny the fact that from 64-66, the DC5 had very good singles but the albums were basically 10 songs, two or three good song and the rest filler.  Which explains Doo Dah on Bits And Pieces. Sgt Pepper pretty much shut the DC5 down since Clark didn't have a clue on how to counter this, but choose instead some R n B covers and old rock songs medley that went nowhere, and made the DC5 more bubblegum pop than blazing rockers.  Clark was a true visionary in scoring a deal where 10 years from signing he'd get his masters back to do what he wanted and that's what he did: put out 50 songs of hits and misses and buried the rest in his backyard.  He also had the most dedicated members in his band, sticking with him as salaried employees till the end.  There was a PBS special that aired the other day about the life and times of the DC5 but from what I have heard, it could have been an infocommercial promoting Dave Clark himself.  Which is fine but without Mike Smith, Lenny Davidson, Mike Huxley and Dennis Payton, Clark is nothing.   The music proves it.

Dave Clark; control freak:

Another opinion: 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Producers

One of the strangest things I see on the internet or at the local thrift shop is that The Producer's first album you can find for a dollar, but try to find the One Way 2 on 1 CD and it will set you back about 30 dollars.  For an investment firm, my advice is if you do find The Producers' One Way CD cheap and in good shape, chances are you can get your investment back times 10.

They were from Atlanta and started out as a Beatles type tribute band but eventually their music was more Cheap Trick than the fab four.  CBS signed them up, assigned them to Portrait, and put their S/T out in those 5.99 new band introductory price.  It's not bad but there's not much variation to the songs and despite the minor hit What She Does To Me and album cut staple What's He Got. the rest sound too similar.  Cheap Trick did it better.

The second album You Make The Heat,spawned the number 48 hit single She Sheila and a more varied style of music, a little more toward arena rock but still holding the power pop ways of most bands of that era.  Despite the top 50 single, the album didn't chart and CBS said bye bye to The Producers.

Kyle Henderson quit the band after You Make The Heart, got born again, played Christian Music and now is back playing more of a blues and R&B type of music, and is now based the Madison area.  Wayne McNutt (Famous) sometimes moonlights as a taxi driver and session player, but from time to time The Producers have known to get together off and on and play some live dates. 

In 2000, One Way issued both Portrait albums as a highly prized 2 and 1 CD and issued the 1989 MCA recorded but never released Coelacanth  with Tim Smith replacing Henderson. For latter day power pop, not bad but not exactly memorable either.  Soon after One Way records went out of business, and even though the Portrait albums came from Sony Music, no other record label has gone ahead and reissued them. Until somebody gets the word over to Real Gone or Wounded Bird, the CD set will be a high priced acquisition for CD collectors.  Better to have a working turntable and the cheaper record to play it on.

The Producers (Portrait 1980) B-
You Make The Heat (Portrait 1981) B
Run For Your Life (Marathon 1985) C+
Coelacanth (MCA 1989/One Way 2001) C+
Producers/You Make The Heat (One Way 2000) B+ (Up a grade for historical value)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Frank Marino

For my money, Frank Marino was the best rock guitar player that came from the 70s and made some classic and trippy rock and roll for 20th Century and later Columbia Records to which Frank considered that to be one of the darkest periods of his music career.  I first heard Frank on California Jam 2, to which they showed him doing an edited version of Johnny B Goode but left off the electric reflections of war segment.  Frank never cared for that either and what you didn't hear on the LP was his final song a version of the Mickey Mouse Club Theme.  An outsider even in rock and roll.

The comparisons to Jimi Hendrix has been a touchy subject to Frank and even though he cites him as a influence, his other influence was Johnny Cipolina of Quicksilver Messenger Service. The first album Maxoom is Frank's tribute to Jimi Hendrix and it shows by his guitar playing and song delivery.  The next album Child Of The Novelty, Frank begin to distanced himself from the Hendrix myth as he begin to sing about a New Rock And Roll. His band Mahogany Rush had wild man James Ayoub on drums and Paul Harwood on bass and they complimented his guitar player quite well.  The next album Strange Universe got a bit more heavier  Land Of 1000 Nights, Frank has said was written from the after effects of a bad acid trip.  I love it as well as failed hit single Satisfy Your Soul.  Although the record was underpromoted by 20th Century, Frank took his act over to Columbia for the classic years.  And years of distain.

Mahogany Rush IV sometimes I think is their best studio album.  There's more confidence in Frank's vocals but his guitar work was nothing short of awesome.  Frank was migrating toward a jazzier and progressive rock sound on Dragonfly or The Answer but Little Sexy Annie is pure rock fun. The World Anthem continued more into Prog rock with Requiem For A Sinner and the title track but like Little Sexy Annie, Hey Little Lover is back to rock but a bit more complex on the beat.

As the ad proclaimed it takes other bands to make a 2 record set whereas it takes Frank to make one album, basically it was Columbia not springing for the full two record set so Live! was kept to a one LP set. But  this was the live record that I played all the time in my Senior year and got my best friend hooked on Frank as well. Beginning with plenty of fireworks, Frank leads off with a killer start of The Answer and Dragonfly before bringing on the blues with a killer I'm A King Bee and showstoppers A New Rock And Roll and more stripped down Johnny B Goode from the Cal Jam 2 version.  The medley of Talkin About A Feeling/Who Do You Love/War/New World Anthem is so over the top at the end one has to hear it to believe it.  And then the usual Jimi Hendrix tribute with Purple Haze.  This is the legend of Frank Marino from start to finish.

Tales Of The Unexpected (1979) continues the Hendrix love with Sister Change and All Along The Watchtower before going into Norwegian Wood  and the jazz/prog rock of Tales Of The Unexpected. The inclusion of live versions of new songs Down Down Down, Door Of Illusion, Woman and Bottom Of The Barrel kinda deflated the momentum of the first side and pales to the Live album.  Reviews were mixed but it's really not that bad.  A subpar Frank Marino could outrock Ted Nugent on his best any night (with the exception of Ted's S/T Epic album)  but for some reason the buying public that bought the Live album got off the bus on Tales

What's Next (1980) was a more return to form  but again radio only played Roadhouse Blues, the Doors cover and Rock Me Baby to which Frank's version was more Robin Trower than BB King or Jimi.  In fact, What's Next was Marino moving away from the sound of Hendrix to a more signature sound and it's very heavy sounding on You Got Livin and the 8 minute Loved By You.  The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame/Mona medley is throwaway.  The biggest selling album for Columbia has never seen CD release in the US (Black Rose issued a poorly mastered CD).

With that Frank retired the  Mahogany Rush name and made perhaps his more heaviest albums with The Power Of Rock And Roll and Juggernaut.  Both sold well but Columbia never promoted them very well. The former album's powerful title track should have made it to rock radio. Other fine rockers include Ain't Dead Yet and the jazz fusion that is Go Strange.  Juggernaut, his final CBS platter contained his only hit single  Strange Dreams to which I never heard on KRNA nor KKRQ but have on XM radio. Juggernaut had the searing title track, the crash and bash Free and Stories Of A Hero which actually harkens back to World Anthem.  It sold enough but by then Frank, tired of dealing with a corporate label clueless how to market him walked away.

When he disappeared from the rock and roll world, I kind of forgotten him till I pulled out Live or Strange Universe  and the CBS albums that he did.  Full Circle, while rocking, was venturing toward new age, a honest effort but it didn't do much for me.  In 1993 Frank retired from music only to be brought back by the fans who continued to support his back catalog and of course it may have something to do with Razor and Tie cherry picking some cuts into a best of Dragonfly, a big mess since it includes nothing from the 20th Century albums and ends up putting the wrong songs off Power Of Rock And Roll.  Buyer Beware.  Sony Music issued in the states Live and Tales only, the rest are import only.  However, the 20th Century albums have been reissued a few times on CD and although Maxoom still remains Frank's I Love Jimi album, the rest does show a more conventional and blues hard rock sound that I still think they have all have their moments.  However, Frank in a interview has mentioned that the original tapes of what he did at Tempo Studios in Canada got taped over by other bands which is a bummer, although I'm sure Sony Music still has the masters of the finished albums on CD somewhere.  But still Frank remains his own man and not owned by the labels whatsoever, when he plays live, he says he plays it for fun and when it's not fun he doesn't go on tour.  But when he does play, he still plays with the rude tenacity that blew Ted Nugent off the stage in 1978.

In a perfect world, The Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame would have Frank Marino in there.  And still, to me, Frank remains the best unheard guitarist that classic rock radio has forgotten.  Which is as bad as having Jann Wanner being head of the RnRHOF dictating who gets in.  Up his ass if he can deal with real rock and roll.

The Frank Marino Anthology (Incomplete)

Maxoom 1972 (20th Century/Just A Minute) B-
Child Of The Novelty  (20th Century/Just A Minute 1974) B+
Strange Universe (20th Century/Just A Minute 1975) A-
Mahogany Rush IV (Columbia/Pilot 1976) A-
World Anthem (Columbia 1977) B+
Live (Columbia/Silver Cloud 1978) A
Tales Of The Unexpected (Columbia 1979) B+
What's Next (Columbia 1980) B+
The Power Of Rock And Roll (Columbia 1981) B+
Juggernaut (Columbia 1982) A-
Dragonfly-The Best Of Frank Marino/Mahogany Rush (Razor And Tie 1996) B- 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Velvet Underground

Perhaps the most influential alternative rock band that ever came out, The Velvet Underground couldn't sell 100 copies of their first album but Brian Eno said whoever bought them formed a band.  If there was any other band that was like the Velvets that would have been The Fugs in terms of turning three chords into much more sinister.  With John Cale in the band being polar opposites with Lou Reed their first two albums are an exercise in melody and mayhem and chaos.  But with Andy Warhol playing a role with oddball movies, a light show and dancers to boot,  there were the first true alternative band.

But after losing Andy Warhol and later John Cale, they turned to be more of a garage rock bar band and after the meltdown that was White Light/White Heat, Lou Reed booted Cale out of the band (at the urging of Steve Sesnick who singlehandedly killed the Velvets when he did the divide and conquer rule to Doug Yule after Loaded was finished) and opted for a more laid back but mellow but still a garage rock sound.  Sad to say MGM didn't know what to do with them and after completing what would be released as VU a decade and half later, moved over to Atlantic for their most accessible album to date Loaded, a phase coined by Reed as an album Loaded with hits and he's right, all 10 songs would have sounded good on either AM or underground FM.  Atlantic, demoted them to Cotillion for Loaded and used Bridgit Polk's cassette recording of the Max's Kansas City Show as a final offering.

Doug Yule ended up taking over for the import only and mostly unheard Squeeze, which isn't a bad album but it's not a true Velvet Underground either, none of the original members play on it and despite no notes and a basic album cover, the big story was that Ian Paice played drums on some of the songs.  Hard to imagine the Deep Purple drummer being a part of Velvet Underground.  But no US label would touch it and it came out on Polydor UK.

Back to the beginning, The Velvet Underground with Nico starts out somewhat mellow a calm before the storm with Sunday Morning but even then Lou Reed warns you to look out and then the next song becomes Waiting For The Man, made famous by John Cale's crazed barrel house piano playing.  Nico does three songs, the mellow Femme Fitale, the failed single All Tomorrow Parties and I'll Be Your Mirror but she would be gone soon after although The Velvets did play on some of her Chelsea Girls album that came out later on.  Buoyed by Maureen Tucker's primitive drumming, Run Run Run is another horror story done in by plenty of Reed's feedback and free form lead guitar.  There She Goes Again could have been a good single had Verve put it out but it has been covered a few times over by the likes of REM and The Beat Farmers.  But side 2 leads off with Heroin, which Reed tells it from a junkie's view and John Cale's viola and Tucker's drumming leads up to a big falling apart toward the end of the song.  To end the album with Black Angel's Death Song to which Cale hisses after Reed spits out the verse and the strange European Son ends things on a chaotic note, not exactly a good thing but this record probably says more about how Reed and Cale would operate on their own solo recordings.

The noise fest that is White Light/White Heat is that, all noise, amps cranked up to ten and did I mention more noise.  The title track becoming yet another failed hit single, the trainwreck ending to which Cale sounds like the bass is strangling him and side 2 is I Heard Her Call My Name and the 19 minute Sister Ray which will drive the old ladies out of the building if they heard it.  I give it points for effort but I didn't like The Gift or Lady Godiva's Operation much, nor the 2 minute throwaway Here She Comes Now.

The third album is polar opposite, mostly nice and mellow and only the 8 minute throwaway Murder Mystery to which Lou And Sterling speaking gibberish first and then Maureen and Doug doing what I'm guessing is the chorus line doesn't get much playing time but it leaves you back to the first side to almost perfect pairing of Candy Says leading to What Goes On, then Some Kinda Love and Pale Blue Eyes and then Jesus.  Take away Murder Mystery and this could have been their classic album.

But then that would be saved for Loaded and there's not a bad track anywhere. Another failed single Who Loves The Sun b/w the 7 minute Oh Sweet Nuthin' but this is where you get to hear the original Sweet Jane and a revisit of Rock And Roll (the original was on the 4th album). My other faves are Head Held High and Train Around The Bend.  Even the lesser known songs (Lonesome Cowboy Bill and I found A Reason) have a bit of heart to them as well.  But sad to say, Maureen Tucker doesn't play drums on it at all, she was pregnant at the time and bowed out so Doug Yule and brother Bill took over most of the drumming as well as Adrian Barber.

The original Live At Max's Kansas City was upgraded to a 2 CD set and is much better overview should you find it.  Robert Quine recorded a bunch of live Velvets and some of the highlights came out on the 1969 Live on Mercury.  With the 10 minute Ocean and the 9 minute What Goes On, you really get the feeling that you had to be there to see it and the recording is rougher than the Max's Kansas City but till the 1993 reunion live album that was all we had to go on.

The albums didn't sell and Polygram only had the Velvet Underground And Nico in print but in 1984, they reissued much of the 4th album that MGM rejected and it's a worthy listen and the songs were so good, Lou Reed would use them for his early solo albums.  Leading off with I Can't Stand It  and the other side with Foggy Notion, The Velvets never rocked harder. A couple of 1967 sessions with John Cale doesn't leave him out.  VU, the album sold well enough that Another View was issued a year later, and basically a bottom barrel scraping adventure although we do get to hear the original We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together and a feisty Guess I'm Falling In Love, an instrumental that the original vocal on the tape were too damaged to use.

For years, there would not be a Velvet Underground reuinon of sorts till 1991 although John Cale and Lou Reed buried the hatchet to do a 1990 tribute to Andy Warhol, Songs From Drella.  Three years later the Velvets did reunite to do a European tour and Sire issued both a one cd and two cd set of the shows and it's a mixed bag for either version although you're better off with the 2 CD set.  But it wouldn't last and the band imploded, and Sterling Morrison passed away in 1995.

Mark Prindle thinks their overrated and he could have a point but if you take them at their music and not get caught up in the media praise, the Velvet Underground was still a very good bar band, and they were if you had to chance to see them in the late 60s after Doug Yule joined up, with John Cale they were more of a cabaret band with a chance to shock with the S & M imagery of Venus In Furs or documenting a sick party like Sister Ray.  Andy Warhol may have "produced" the first album but the dirty work recording was from the late Tom Wilson (Bob Dylan, Animals), and everybody from Sterling on down to Maureen played a vital role in the music, Tucker being the inspiration to Meg White although Tucker was by far the better drummer. Even though Doug Yule was a big part of the VU, he was all but forgotten when the original band got back together in 1993 and when they became part of the rock and roll hall of fame in 1996.

There are plenty of best ofs out there And The Velvet Underground Gold pretty much gets rid of the filler of the albums that were released on Verve/MGM/Polydor but nothing from the Atlantic albums. A 1989 best of does feature two cuts from Loaded (Rock And Roll and Sweet Jane of course) but for me the Gold set was the better buy.  Still the original albums speak for themselves and if you really want to know how Alternative Rock started, The Velvet Underground and Nico is that album.  Last year, Universal put out a limited edition of the Scepter Sessions which was the basis of the first album and it's rougher and cruder but worth a listen.  You'll never hear Squeeze anyway and you're better off for it but in the end, The Velvet Underground carved out a territory that no other band dared go to, celebrating drugs, drag queens and adultery but could pin a nice little love song, or a tribute to the radio and even a song about Jesus.  But still uncompromising but still rock and roll rebellion, no band ever sounded like that before them.  But they sure had a lot of imitators after that as well.  The perfect compliment.


The Velvet Underground  Scepter Sessions Acetate (1966 reissued 2012 Polydor) B+
The Velvet Underground And Nico (Verve 1966)  A
White Light/White Heat (Verve 1968) B+
The Velvet Underground (MGM 1969)  A
Loaded (Cotillion 1970) A
Live At Max's Kansas City (Cotillion 1971) B
Squeeze (Polydor UK 1973) B-
1969 Velvet Underground Live (Mercury 1974) B+
VU (Verve 1985) A
Another View (Verve 1986) B
Best Of (Words And Music By Lou Reed) (Verve 1989) A-
Velvet Underground Gold (Polydor) A-
Live 1993 (Sire 1993) B
Final VU (Captain Trip 2001) B

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spooky Tooth-That Was Only Yesterday

Let's face it, the 60s and the 70s was my era, even though I continue to review things in the 80s onward and thought that the 90s has their share of great bands as well.  But as time progresses on, some of the bands that I used to listen to on the FM side of the dial have not dated properly.  Some have not stand the test of time.

I used to be a Cactus fan back in the 70s, they had the guys from Vanilla Fudge and Jim McCartney from The Detroit Wheels and the screaming Rusty Day of Amboy Dukes.  But upon buying the reissues from Wounded Bird, I came to find that the first Cactus album isn't that great and the Rhino Best of, I donated it back to charity after hearing it.  The Fudge, loved their singles and their best of but their actual albums didn't do much for me anymore.  And the 1983 comeback album Mystery, bad beyond belief.  At least with Bloodrock I do enjoy their first two albums including the morbid D.O.A.  I've been searching for years for the Capitol best of Bloodrock And Roll, which came out as a reissue in the early 90s but then again I come to find I could live without that.  But I do keep my eyes open.

And then there's Spooky Tooth, a band that may have been A&M's answer to Vanilla Fudge.  Led by Mike Harrison and Gary Wright, later of Dreamweaver fame, they made a few albums for A&M and Island (although Island issued their albums in the UK).  In Arizona on vacation I found their so called classic Spooky Two in the cutouts fairly cheap and decided to buy it on a cross state tour of Arizona only to get to stuck in a runaway lane miles from nowhere and somehow somebody helped me out of that situation and the song I got stuck in the lane was Better By You, Better Than Me.  I came to find the album a farce and ended up on the trip back, donating it back to Goodwill and maybe thinking I may have misjudged them.

So in Quincy, FYE had a used copy of their best of, That Was Only Yesterday, which is Spooky Two with the best song left off the thing (I Got Enough Heartaches, a excellent song covered by Three Dog Night) and cherry picks three off their first Tobacco Road, Four from The Last Puff and an except from the Ceremony and one off the Mick Jones version of band with perhaps one of the best titles in rock history with You Broke My Jaw So I Busted Your Jaw to which Island in the US issued that album.

Rarely has a greatest hits package has disappointed me in a way that whoever compiled this best of had their head up their ass.  How could you leave off I Got Enough Heartache but in the process added the rest of Spooky Two?  That's deducts a half grade right off the bat.  The three sections from Tobacco Road, including title track and a oddball cover of Janis Ian's Society's Child are so damn pompous and over the top it sounds like they're going for a Vanilla Fudge sound, with bombast to boot.  Sunshine Help Me is passable.

Perhaps the best song or nadir is Evil Woman, the 9 minute FM favorite from Spooky Two.  It's interesting to hear both Harrison and Wright trade off vocals, and whoever decided to sing the higher notes must have been wearing very tight jeans in the process.    It's one of the songs that when the younger generation hears, wonders what the big fuss was all about. Better By You was later covered by Judas Priest.  When they tone down the rhetoric, they actually sounded like Humble Pie around the  As Safe As Yesterday to which Greg Ridley would later join.  In all fairness, Spooky Two is basically all you need if you want to know the hoopla of this band.

The scattershot song selection kills this best of.  Their second best known is a slowed down and druggy I Am The Walrus but also covers a Joe Cocker song (Something To Say) and up and coming Elton John (Son Of Your Father) that perhaps The Last Puff album might be worth a listen to, since Cocker himself provides some backing vocals and three members of the Grease band play on this.  Luther Grovsenor would leave and change his name to Ariel Bender as he replaced Mick Ralphs in Mott The Hoople.  Gary Wright would replace Mike Harrison for the 1973 Busted Your Jaw, to which only featured one song and the followup LP Witness, with Mick Kellie returning on drums no songs.  And then the band would break up, with Wright going on a solo career, Mick Jones played in Leslie West Band before starting up Foreigner, Kellie, the drummer would play on later albums by Johnny Thunders and become part of The Only Ones with Peter Parrett.

For a overview, That Was Only Yesterday isn't worth your time or effort since it borrows too much from the second album. Buy Spooky Two instead.  And shortchanges the rest of the catalog of this band.  And leaves you scratching your head of what the fuss was all about.

Grade C

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Forgotten Classics Of The 90s-Handsome

The 1990s had their share of great albums that nobody heard.  One of the great mysteries of this is the failure of Handsome's  first and only album to generate any airplay or sales while crap nu metal bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn topped the charts.

On paper this album should have been a seller. Peter Mengede was part of the classic Helmet lineup, Tom Capone played in Quicksand and Pete Hines played in Cro Mags. Boasting a loud production from Terry Date (Soundgarden), Handsome runs through 12 loud songs that recall Helmet.  In fact this album was better than the After Taste that Helmet did put out.  Needles did get some minor airplay but sadly the rest didn't.

With the album failing to do much, the band broke up. However, there's still enough love of the band that the folks at ShopRadioCast is reissuing the album in vinyl next month with a bonus 7 inch single of two unreleased tracks.  Basically it's easy to say that Handsome didn't extort none of the dubious crap features of a Limp Bizkit or a Mudvayne, they rocked a bit harder without the rap overtones or screamo of Korn, or the cheese factor of Fred Durst.  In fact Durst would kill for a hook like Left Of Heaven or Going To Panic.  Fans of Helmet would enjoy this album.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed Memorial

Like it or not, Lou Reed followed his own path and made albums that were difficult and hard to get into or get.  But in his 40 years as a solo artists it has been one great ride.  Not everything worked mind you but regardless, it was unique.  He let the music do the talking more or less.

Albums: (incomplete)

Lou Reed  (RCA-1972) B+
Transformer (RCA 1973) B-
Rock And Roll Animal (RCA 1973) A-
Berlin (RCA 1973) B+
Lou Reed Live (RCA 1974) B
Sally Can't Dance (RCA 1974) B+
Metal Machine Music (RCA 1975) C
Coney Island Baby (RCA 1976) B+
Rock And Roll Heart (Arista 1977) C+
Walk On The Wild Side-Best Of Lou Reed (RCA 1977) B+
Street Hassle (Arista 1978) B+
Take No Prisoners (Arista 1978) C+
The Bells (Arista 1979) C+
Growing Up In Public (Arista 1980) B+
The Blue Mask (RCA 1982) A-
Legendary Hearts (RCA 1983) B+
New Sensations (RCA 1984) A
Mistrial (RCA 1986) B
New York (Sire 1989) A-
Songs For Drella (Sire 1990) A-
Magic And Loss (Sire 1992) B-
Set The Twilight Reeling (Warner Bros 1996) A-
Perfect Day (Reprise 1998) B+
Ecstasy (Reprise 2000) B+
The Raven (Sire/Warner Bros 2002) B
Animal Serenade (Sire 2004) B
Metal Machine Music Live At Berlin  (Avant Garde 2007) C
Hudson River Wind Meditations (2007) B
Berlin Live At St Ann's Warehouse (Matador 2008) B
Lulu (Vertigo/Warner Brothers 2011) B-


Monday, October 21, 2013

Eddie And The Hot Rods

I got to know this band from Teenage Depression, the song off the Ramones Rock And Roll High School soundtrack and next to Rockpile, my favorite band of the 70s nobody knows about.  Not a punk band, they had more roots in Pub Rock but they played ultra fast versions of Get Out Of Denver, The Kids Are Alright and Gloria.   Chris Blackwell signed them up to his Island Records label but the UK and US version of Teenage Depression are two different albums, the UK has a so so cover of Show Me and Shake, that showed more of their R&B than punk.  The US album has their live Live At The Marqee  EP and a different song list but leaves off Show Me and Shake.  For the most Vic Maile records them in the raw, similar in tone to Dr Feelgood.  When it came to pub rock Vic Maile was the best producer.  Leading off with the three chords and the truth Get Across To You,  Teenage Depression is classic pub or bar rock.  Kids may not know the big deal but you had to be there to see them live and it has been known that Eddie And The Hot Rods could blow away Feelgood or Ducks Deluxe and give The Pirates a good run for their money as well.

Life On The Line has Graeme Douglas on lead guitar and has a more punk rock sound to it thanks be to Steve Lillywhite helping out and they had their best known single Do Anything You Wanna Do but in my case the title track, Quit This Town, the fast paced Ignore Them (Still Life) and the 8 minute epic Beginning Of The End.  Teenage Depression while great, I played Life On The Line a bit more.  I found the album as a cut out (I'm thinking I got it at Big Apple Records in the Town And Country Shopping Center in town) and I think I drove a high school date out of the house by playing Beginning Of The End, since she was a disco fan.  Didn't make a good impression I gather.   I still don't consider The Hot Rods punk at all.  They simply rocked too hard on their 2nd album.

Thriller, (not the Michael Jackson album) only was available as a import and I was overjoyed to see Record Realm had it and I had to have it.  But sad to say this is where they were losing their creative edge.  Some of it was still fun but most of it was a bitter rant and rave, Does It With Mirrors is famous for the continual groove at the end of the record but that and Echoes was blah.  Power And The Glory and Take It Or Leave it (featuring Linda McCartney on backing vocals, sure sounds like the late Lady Mac).  But it was out of style and Warner Brothers, which at the time was distributing Island Records passed on its release.

A major overhaul of the band was coming up for the next album, Tony Craney replaced Paul Gray on bass, Douglas left the band and they were on the ill fated EMI America for the lackluster Fish And Chips, produced by Al Kooper.  The title track may be the worst thing they ever recorded, the cover versions of You Better Run and Time Won't Let Me was phoned in and although I command them for a cover of Crack The Sky's We Want Mine, it was a ill suited fit for Eddie And The Hot Rods.  Al Kooper produced and added some keyboards and effects but outside of Wide Eyed Kids, Fish And Chips is a strikeout.

With that Eddie And The Hot Rods faded into the sunset but some outtakes which came before Fish And Chips and still featured G. Douglas and P Gray, The Curse Of The Hot Rods is a better record than both Thriller and Fish And Chips although they are demos. Graeme Douglas provides comic relief as he describes the songs.  Douglas also shares his thoughts on the Island best of End Of The Beginning, which pretty much cherry picks the best of the Island albums, and leaves Fish And Chips in the dust.

In the 1990s,  Windsong issued BBC Radio One Live In Concert which captures two 1977, 1978 shows. Worth a listen if you can find it.  Dojo in the same year put out Ties That Bind, a oddball collection of six tracks from Curse Of The Hot Rods, three songs from a 1985 lineup of Berrie Masters, Steve Nicol plus Warren Kennedy on guitar but is better known for five demos featuring long departed Lew Lewis on harmonica (yep he was the weakest link) and includes a raw version of Get Across To You as well as Gloria and Wooly Bully and Get Out Of Denver but it's for audiophiles who want everything only.   Captain Oi! reissued the Island albums and loaded the CDs with plenty of bonus tracks.  You can still live without Thriller but Teenage Depression and Life On The Line should be in your collection. 

Barrie Masters continues the Hot Rods and they continue to play in and around England.


Teenage Depression (Island 1977) B+
Life On The Line (Island 1978) A-
Thriller (Island 1979) B
Fish And Chips (EMI 1980) C
Curse Of The Hot Rods (Link 1985) B
End Of The Beginning (Island 1993) A-
BBC Radio One Live (Windsong 1994) B+
Ties That Bind (Dojo 1995) C+

Friday, September 27, 2013

Blue Oyster Cult

In my early youth, I was into buying 45s because we were dirt poor and couldn't afford albums but once I got a job peddling those free newspapers The Penny Saver, I managed to earn a few dollars to buy an album or two per year.  Penny Saver paid something like a penny delivered to house and these fuckers were heavy.  The good old days, now they just mail them off every Wednesday.

I think it was 1974 when Mom took me down to Woolworth's in downtown Cedar Rapids and they had Blue Oyster Cult's first album for something like 5 dollars thereabouts, BOC was played on the FM stations before The Reaper came out a couple years later but KLWW FM played Cities On Flame and Red And The Black from time to time.   First time I ever played the first BOC album on the stereo it sounded much different than anything beforehand.  The guitars sounded sinister, the vocalist evil and the sound recording opened up a new door of hearing music as it sounded back then.  My ears weren't subjected to all the big cymbal crashes of my band and I could hear it all.  The first record from BOC was original hard rock in the hushed vocals of Eric Bloom or countered sadder sounding Buck Dharma on Then Came The Last Days Of May or Albert Bouchard doing the original Cities On Flame or the 4th vocalist in Joe Bouchard on Screams, this was a thinking man's rock band and everybody helped out and still remains one of the best debuts in rock history rivaling only that of Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin (IMO).  But BOC goes back further, going under the name of the Soft White Underbelly or Stalk Forrest Group which made a one off single for Elektra and an album that didn't get released till about 30 years down the road but odes more to The Grateful Dead in sound rather than the radical change that was Blue Oyster Cult, the first album.

The next two albums BOC took a page from the Tony Clarke/Moody Blues albums and Tyranny And Mutation and Secret Treaties the song segmented into the next one.  Took me years to really warm to Tyranny (especially on 7 Screaming Diz Busters) and although they maintained the odd William Gralik cover art, the recording wasn't as mysterious as the first one.  Side 1 remains a keeper with the scathing Red And Black, OD on Life Itself and Hot Rails To Hell with the epic 7 Screaming Diz Busters riding the band and the listener into hell itself.  Side 2, there are moments like Mistress Of The Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl) and Teen Archer but the record feels a bit rushed, like the record label ordering them back into the studio.  Secret Treaties is better where concert faves like Harvester Of Eyes and ME 262 can be found.  And of course Astronomy.   On Your Feet Or On Your Knees is a 1975 live document and the first of many many live albums out there, to which when I saw them play in Cedar Rapids in 1979, they were still using many of the songs that they don't now (I Ain't Got You) and the five guitars segment of ME 262 which is better seen live than heard.  The original BOC of Eric Bloom, Don Roeser, Alan Lanier (RIP) and Joe & Al Bouchard  were the best lineup and once the Bouchard boys would leave, the albums would become less and less satisfying.

The best albums remain Agents Of Fortune and Spectres, two album that defined my high school years since I played both of them a lot but liked the latter album better despite the familiar Don't Fear The Reaper is on the former.  Returning to that forbidden sound of the first album Agents is perhaps the most democratic of all BOC albums, even Alan Lanier signs on True Confessions (the first and only time Alan ever sung in the band). Faves remain the big hit, This Ain't The Summer Of Love (Which bombed as a single), E.T.I and Albert Bouchard engages in a duet to the death with Patti Smith on Revenge Of Vera Gemini. And to further prove another point Albert leads off side two with I'll love you like sin but won't be your pigeon line to Sinful Love. Debbie Denise, originally thought to be the worst BOC ever, isn't that; it's somewhat tongue in cheek. I can probably listen to that one better than say, 7 Screaming Diz Busters or anything of Revolution By Night.  Spectres on the other hand, to me was better leading with FM hit Godzilla, The Golden Age Of Leather which could be a followup to Then Came The Last Days Of May.  Other faves are R U Ready 2 Rock but more often it's Albert again on Death Valley Nights and Don Roeser's I Love The Night, another vampire song so to speak.   Their second live album in three years Some Enchanted Evening came out and although I have yet to hear the expanded version, I can say that the single album version was slightly better soundwise than On Your Feet.., but at that time it was product for the label to ship out.  Perhaps someday I'll spring the big bucks to get the expended edition but as they say so little time so much music to hear.  Moving on.

BOC said goodbye to Sandy Pearlman and ushered in a new era with pop master producer Tom Werman to produce Mirrors and in the result became their most pop sounding album ever. The Great Sun Jester would have benefited more from Pearlman's production but in this setting something seems missing, still a good song but one that could have been better with a harder production.  Dr. Music, Mirrors and the beautiful goodbye to Patti Smith from Alan Lanier called In Thee are the standouts.  Alas, side 2 has not held up very well over time.  Al Bouchard's You're Not The One I Was Looking For, borrows a lot of the melody from The Cars Just What I Need and the James Gang Tend My Garden and turns BOC into power pop.  The Vigil sounds uninspired.

The next two albums are considered the last good BOC efforts, this time hooking up with Martin Birch (Deep Purple, Iron Maiden) to make the prog rock sounding Cultosaurus Erectus, the last great album.  Working with Mike Moorcock (Hawkwind) they came up with Black Blade, another guitar rock Lips In The Hills has great guitar work from Don Roeser but the lyrics are ultra silly.  They even go jazz on Monsters! My other faves would be Hungry Boys and Fallen Angel.  Fire Of Unknown Origin brings their second and final hit in the overplayed Burnin For You but also the sinister Joan Crawford and Veteran Of The Physic Wars, which would be used in the Heavy Metal movie as well.  But this would be the end of the original BOC.  Albert Bouchard would leave soon after and CBS issued yet another live album ETI Live which has Albert playing on only two tracks (the best ones Black Blade and Dominance And Submission to which he usually sang didn't by this time) and the rest by Rick Downey (later managing Anthrax).

And then the lost years.  Revolution By Night (1983) which the late Bruce Fairbairn produced showed a band that lost its identity and although I have it on record I didn't like it enough to buy on CD.  Take Me Away (co written with Aldo Nova) was the failed hit and best song, Shooting Shark the other decent song.  The rest was forgettible.  Club Ninja (1986) is a even bigger mess to which Joe Bourchard left after the Revolution By Night fiasco and although Sandy Pearlman is back in the producer's chair, the outside song doctors didn't help much, nor did the borrowed rhythm section.  Dancing In The Ruins was the failed hit and best song.  The strange Imaginos (1988)  has Albert Bouchard coming back to write the lyrics and music and although Joe Bouchard is credited as a player here it sounds a bit too much like Club Ninja.  This is one record that I can like one minute and hate the next.  The namesake song Blue Oyster Cult is very bizarre sounding, while the backing vocals say We understand, I don't.  Not in this context.  And they do a disco version of Astronomy as well too.  Imaginos the album has been reissued four times in its history and as a curio should be heard as least one time.

With that in mind, Columbia/CBS bid adios to the cult with the half assed Career Of Evil, which is a contractual obligation upon itself with inferior live versions of their hits.  Since then, Sony Music has reissued many a best of Blue Oyster Cult album and the most practical one and cheapest was On Flame With Rock And Roll. Workshop Of The Telescopes is a 2 CD effort that takes sections off all the CBS albums and adds a few obscure ones as well.  Later on Sony Music reissued the first five BOC albums with bonus tracks and if you're a fan like me you have them all now (the ones being the first album up to Spectres). The Essential Blue Oyster Cult is Workshop Of The Telescopes renamed.

BOC was not done yet; in the 1998, they signed up with CMC to release their best album in years in Heaven Forbid and had some airplay with Harvest Moon.  Heaven Forbid is their most metal sounding record with See You In Black and Power Underneath Despair.  Curse Of The Hidden Mirror (2001) was a decent followup. A Long's Day Night was a credible live album.  BOC hasn't recorded much since then if they ever did but still remain one of the hardest working bands touring to this day.

In 2003, Sony Music finally reissued the first five studio albums with bonus tracks and finally the lyrics (except Spectres), for the first time people can actually read the lyrics but turns out the lyrics may have been the least worthy, and why hardly anybody ventures out of covering The Reaper or Godzilla, they're much harder to sing to.  The notes to Spectres are half assed and the lyrics not even printed on this one.  Club Ninja and Imaginos have been deleted by Sony, with Koch Records reissuing them for a time and then American Beat taking over and doing a bared bones reissue (at least the Columbia version had the printed lyrics and story line).  Real Gone Music is now the third reissue label for that. Lemon Records in the UK still has Club Ninja in print.

Blue Oyster Cult continues to tour with Eric Bloom and Donald Roeser still the band. On occasion Joe and Albert Bouchard will pop up on stage for a special guest appearance.  Many years of smoking Allen Lanier paid the price, dying from COPD in 2013. 

Most recently, BOC has signed with Frontier Records and have reissued a few things including Cult Classic and a Agents Of Fortune 40 Year Anniversary live album. I can live without both albums. There's a promise of a new BOC album before the year is out. It would be wonderful to see Joe and Albert Bouchard back on board but that won't happen.


Blue Oyster Cult (Columbia 1971) A
Tyranny And Mutation (Columbia 1973) B+
Secret Treaties (Columbia 1974) A
On Your Feet Or On Your Knees (Columbia 1975) B
Live 1976 (Griffin 1976) B-
Agents Of Fortune (Columbia 1976) A-
Spectres (Columbia 1977) A
Some Enchanted Evening (Columbia 1978) C+  (Grade for the single LP only)
Mirrors (Columbia 1979) C+
Cultosaurus Erectus (Columbia 1980) A-
Fire Of Unknown Origin (Columbia 1981) B+
Extraterrestrial Live (Columbia 1982) B+
The Revolution By Night (Columbia 1983) C
Club Ninja (Columbia 1986) C
Imaginos (Columbia 1988) B-
Career Of Evil (Columbia 1989) C
On Flame With Rock N Roll (CBS Special Products 1990) A-
Cult Classic (Frontiers 1992)  C+
Bad Channels S/T (Frontiers 1994) C
Workshop Of The Telescopes (Columbia 1995) B+
Heaven Forbid (Frontiers 1998) B+
Best Of Blue Oyster Cult-Don't Fear The Reaper (Legacy 1999) B+
Curse Of The Hidden Mirror (Frontiers 2001) B
A Long Day's Night (Sanctuary 2002) B+
Setlist: Live Hits (Legacy 2010) NR
Playlist (Sony/Legacy 2015) B

Update: There are now three compilations of BOC best known songs.  I've included On Flame With Rock And Roll among the reissues simply of the fact, that the hits are there.  Career Of Evil remains a half assed effort and Sony Music has deleted it out of the catalog in favor of Don't Fear The Reaper or Playlist.  Workshop Of The Telescopes was renamed The Essential Blue Oyster Cult, same songs, different title.  Don't Fear The Reaper is the better of the single best ofs, but Essential BOC is a good anthology, which packs a few b sides and rarities.  Sony Music did remastered the original albums up to Spectres with bonus tracks, some do enhance the albums for sure, especially the first album and of course Agents Of Fortune   While critics maintain Spectres was the weakest followup to Agents, I thought Spectres was better, at least we were spared of Debbie Denise, perhaps the worst song BOC wrote up to Revolution By Night or Club Ninja.  Once Albert Bouchard left the band, BOC was never quite the same and became a parody of themselves.  Not even Joe could rescue the band and then he finally left the band.  Imaginos had everybody returning to the studios to help out and the music was more heavy metal than Club Ninja, but it's all over the place with guest guitar players and lack of focus.

As mentioned Frontiers reissued the Herald and CMC International albums and without the Bouchard brothers around, it's the Eric and Buck Dharma show.  Heaven Forbid showed BOC going further into thrash metal but a lot of people didn't care for that album.  Curse Of The Hidden Mirror is more streamlined, it's better than the mid 80s albums but to these ears I didn't care much for it.  Since then, Frontiers has issued a few live BOC albums of the 2000s and 2010's but at this point, they are a nostalgic band.  I went as far as picking Long Day's Night as a cutout and while it's not On Your Feet or On Your Needs or ET live, it shows BOC on a pretty good night.  Setlist is interesting for the inclusion of The Vigil and a 1977 live Godzilla which was the B side to (ahem) Godzilla and Flaming Telepaths a live UK B side. For completeists only.

In the end, I'll pass on the BOC concerts in favor of the new BOC album when it comes out.  If and when that happens.   I'll cherish the days of seeing BOC tear up the Five Seasons center in 1979 and the 1981 return engagement with Foghat, to which by then Rick Downey replaced Albert on drums.  If n when Buck and Eric return to a casino near me, I'll go watch.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Arthur Lee And Love-The Classic Years

The Velvet Underground of the Los Angeles music scene, Arthur Lee and Love made some of the more different styles of albums that was part of that long ago and far away 60s.  The first album was a Byrds tribute all the way through, but with Lee's oddball lyrics this side of Bob Dylan.  Before the CD era happened, only Forever Changes remained in print whereas everything else came and went, you could get them via imports.  They were originally The Grassroots but since a certain band had that name and was making AM pop hits, a name change was in order and Lee settled for Love.

The first Love album was, as mentioned before a Byrds tribute album all the way down to the chimey 12 string guitar work but they had a minor garage rock hit with a cover of My Little Red Book.  Bryan MacLean would write one song or two and covered a classic garage rock song like Hey Joe, which was better than The Byrds version to these ears but pales next to the Leaves version. The album would sound pretty good after the likes of Turn Turn Turn or Mr. Tambourine Man.

Arthur and company would make a great 2nd album, with side A the best songs but side B gave us the overlong jam that was Revelation, a lotta people hated it, I can listen to it from time to time but it was Side 1 with Stephanie Knows Who, with a prog like break in the middle of the song and who thought of playing a harpsichord through the song (Genius!). TJ Canterrelli adds horns and gives more music personality on Orange Skies and She Comes In Colors but the standouts remain a blistering 7 + 7 = ? and the moody The Castle.

Lee topped himself with Forever Changes, an album that was much more different than the Byrds tribute first album and the experiments of Da Capo and going with a more acoustic guitar sound and David Angel's arrangements. New drummer Mike Stuart (who was on Da Capo) added a steady beat to the odd time changes of The Daily Planet or House Is Not A Home.  Forever Changes is that perfect album, from start to finish every song is worthy of a place on the record concluding You Set The Scene to which the finale may have been Lee's way of saying that this OTT ending would be the end of the original Love.

MacLean left, and Arthur Lee would dismiss the rest of the band in favor of a more striped down and more rock and funk version of Love and Four Sail and Out There was the end result. In some ways, Lee was turning Love more into what Jimi Hendrix was doing with his band and what fan based he got with Forever Changes, he lost on Four Sail and Out There.  For me, Four Sail was their least interesting, it may have been the poor mix or recording although Singing Cowboy is the best example of what Lee was trying to achieve.  Out There, was issued through the new Blue Thumb label and has some of the better songs (I Still Wonder, Doggone before the 11 minute drum solo put everybody to sleep, Stand Out (a song that Lee liked so much he remade it on False Start), Better Late Than Never which goes into a 10 minute Gary Rowles  guitar freakout).  But as a 2 record set it's all over the map.  False Start, has Gary Rowles taking over for Jay and best known song The Everlasting First has Jimi Hendrix playing guitar although the song itself isn't that great. The rest of the album is so so.

Lee would disband that version of Love (except to revive it in 1982 for a spell), made a solo album that I never heard but made one more go around with a new version of Love, to which became more of a R and B band, somewhat in the Sly and Family Stone Vibe. While reviews of Real To Reel was blah, I liked it better than False Start with a good cover of Be Thankful Of What You Got, a soulful Singing Cowboy but the track I remembered most was Everybody's Gotta Live, which got some airplay on the radio for a time. Out of all the Love albums, this has yet to see the light of day on CD, but hardly anybody knows about it except for the hardcore. Even the Rhino/Elektra best ofs simply have ignored it.

In 1982, MCA put out a cheapo comp Studio/Live  to which one side was live and the other side were selected songs off Out There (with a edited version of Doggone without drum solo, and Better Late Than Never without guitar solo, edits done by Leon Tsilis-who says the live part came from the 1970 Fillmore concert).

In the 1990s Elektra did reissue the first three albums on CD, but the first generation Forever Changes CD suffered from a bad mastering job (Alone Again Or and the Daily Planet suffered from this) but later Rhino reissued the whole album and the sound was much better.  An extensive 2 CD set Love Story combines most of the hits as well as side 1 of Da Capo and all of Forever Changes plus selected stuff from the Blue Thumb albums.  The Best Of Love is a good introduction but really the first three albums are worth getting on their own.  Later in life, Arthur Lee would reform Love and go on tour before he passed away, but John Echols continues with his own tribute band Love Revisited, Michael Stuart-Ware did perform on some 2009 dates.  But even after the passings of Lee and MacLean, the Love legacy continues.  They were ahead of the times but after Four Sail, Lee either fell behind or just contented to do simple rock and funk.  But no denying the fact, that Love was blazing their own trail in the 60s.


Love (Elektra 1966) A-
Da Capo (Elektra 1967) A
Forever Changes (Elektra 1968) A+
Four Sail (Elektra 1969) B-
Out There (Blue Thumb 1969) B+
False Start (Blue Thumb 1970) B
Best Of Love (Elektra 1981) B+
Studio/Live (MCA 1982) C+
Love Story (Elektra/Rhino 1995) A-

Love Lost (Sundazed 2009) B
Black Beauty (Buffalo 1972, reissued Blue Moon Records 2012) NR
Reel To Real (RSO 1974)  B+  (The only LP not on released on CD)


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Blues Project

For a band that has been so widely praised back in their heyday, The Blues Project didn't leave many albums behind and their reputation became more than the sum of their parts.  Not exactly a blues band they also took their inspiration from jazz, and folk rock along with their Chuck Berry numbers. And every album always featured a different lineup it seems, Tommy Flanders was on for the Live at Cafe Au Go Go and would disappear till their forgotten Capitol S/T.  Even their so called classic album Projections is hampered by a slow moving Two Trains Running that you're about ready to give up on them.  But at their best Al Kooper would lead them to many different styles of music from the garage rock of No Time Like The Right Time or I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes, to the jammy Wake Me Shake Me and to the jazz flirtations of Flute Thing or covering the Donovan folk Catch The Wind, Projections will forever remain their claim to fame and one of the essential albums of the 1960s.  Live At Cafe Au Go Go is a curio first album which shows them running through the Chess catalog with their versions of You Can't Catch Me, Going To Lousiana and a few others. Not needed in your collection but it's not bad either

Projections is everything Blues Project, the combination of Kooper, Steve Katz, Roy Blumenthal, Andy Kulberg and especially Danny Kalb on a wicked Caress Me Baby is their finest hour although I'm surprised that Fly Away didn't make the pop charts (They would try it again with another single in 1973).  The recording is not exactly all that great, it sounds distorted but Sundazed reissued it with better sound.  With Al Kooper and Steve Katz leaving to form Blood Sweat And Tears, Verve scraped the bottom of the barrel for Live At Town Hall which adds No Time Like The Right Time (with canned applause) and Electric Flute Thing adding more shock value to the LP (zzzzzz).  Pressing on, Planned Obsolescence starts out with a nice cover of If You Gotta Make A Fool Out Of Somebody but the majority of songs were boring.  Only decent thing about the album was the cover picture  Andy Kulberg would form the minor all star band Seatrain with Peter Rowan and made three uneven albums for Capitol and Warner Brothers which had a underground classic with 13 Questions (Produced by George Martin of The Beatles fame). The Blues Project would solder on with the heavier Lazarus and Tommy Flanders returned for the S/T album which was so so.

For some reason Al Kooper decided to reunite the original Blues Project for one last show in Central Park in 1973 and it turned out to be a fine end to a band who never really got off the ground.  Actually better than Cafe Au Go Go, Reunion In Central Park at least made a fine final statement that when the Blues Project put aside their egos and conflicts of interest, they were a damn good band.


Live At Cafe Au Go Go-Verve Folkways 1966 B
Projections-Verve Forecast 1967 A-
Live At Town Hall-Verve Forecast 1968 B
Planned Obsolescence-Verve Forecast 1969 C
Lazarus-Capitol 1971 C+
Blues Project-Capitol 1972 C+
Reunion Live At Central Park-MCA 1973 B+

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Blackfoot was the hardest rocking band ever to come roaring from the Southern rock world of Lynyrd Skynyrd and led by the pounding drums of the late Jakson (Boomerfoot) Spires and the banshee shout vocals of Rickey Medlocke set upon a world of a Island debut that was way ahead of it's time, even in 1975 No Reservations with the metallic riff leading off side 2, the song Take A Train even with the female singers couldn't hide the fact that Blackfoot was much different than Skynyrd even though bass player Greg Walker and Medlocke played from time to time in the early years.  That was my first hearing of Blackfoot, and it took years to find that album since Island had it out of print in 1977 (although they reissued it via the Antilles offshoot, don't ask why).  Although uneven, No Reservations was a in your face train going 90 miles an hour and get out of the way if you can't take the music.  Only other band that was this hard rocking would be Molly Hatchet.

Island couldn't figure out how to market a southern rock band so they let them go and Blackfoot signed with the other big independent label at that time Virgin Records (Via Epic) for the equally blistering Flyin' High but again the album met with indifference and they were let go.  It wasn't until 1979 that they latched on to Atco Records with Strikes which kinda balances out the hard rock of Road Fever with the Skynyrd like answer to Free Bird Highway Song. Choice covers in Blues Image's Pay My Dues, I Got A Line On You (Spirit) and Wishing Well (Free) it also has  Train Train (featuring the late great Cub Koda on Harmonica), it would eventually go gold.

Tomcattin' (1980) return to much harder attack in tuned with the early albums but despite classic songs such as Every Man Should Know (Little Queenie) and On The Run, the LP sales were disappointing.  Marauder (1981)  attempted a return to Strikes and that too didn't do very well despite having a decent single with Fly Away and rocking cuts such as Good Morning and Dry Country.  Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) joined up for the even less appealing Siogo but the bottom fell out on the lackluster Vertical Smiles which only made it to 176 on the charts.  The dated keyboard sounds and half assed songwriter and one of the worst album covers ever didn't help either.  And with that Blackfoot called it a day.

Or so it seemed.  Rickey Medlocke returned with an all new Blackfoot lineup and managed to get that released on Atlantic rather than Atco and featured Wizzard from Mother's Finest as a member but that record was even worse than Vertical Smiles.  Later albums featured Medlocke as the only original member although in the 2000's the other members of Blackfoot did reunite with Bobby Barth (Axe) being the main vocals and continuing till Jakson Spires death in 2005.  They are now known as Fired Guns after Rickey Medlocke reclaimed the Blackfoot name and added new members in 2012, but for the most part Rickey spends time going from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot and sometimes appearing on as an actor on TV, most notably on a 2001 Nash Bridges show.

Their best albums remains the first five plus the live 1982 Highway Song which didn't see US release till Wounded Bird issued it.  It's better than the King Biscuit 1983 live album.  The last true Blackfoot album is Vertical Smiles and this is where the story ends for me. The 1987 Atlantic album is a waste of time although Medlocke kinda returned to a more rocking sound on Medicine Man and After The Reign but by then I really wasn't that interested anyway. 

Blackfoot when they were on, were just about the best Southern Hard Rock band but when they were off, they came across more like a second rated Skynyrd or by Vertical Smiles, a third rate 38 Special.  But put on Take  A Train or Train Train or Every Man Should Know, they'll stop you in your tracks and make you rock out.  They were more celebrated in the UK than USA it seemed.

No Reservations (Island 1975) B+
Flyin' High (Epic 1976-later reissued on Collectibles) B+
Strikes (Atco 1979) A-
Tomcattin' (Atco 1980) B+
Marauder (Atco 1981) B
Highway Song Live (Wounded Bird 1982) B+
King Biscuit Live (EMI 1983) C+
Siogo (Atco 1983) B
Vertical Smiles (Atco 1985) C
Rickey Medlocke And Blackfoot (Atlantic 1986) C-
Medicine Man (Nalli 1990) C+
After The Reign (Wildcat 1994) C+
Rattlesnake Rock And Roll-Best Of Blackfoot (Rhino 1995) B+

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jim Croce

In the archives that is music, there are artists that die way ahead before their time and sad to say a few of them died in airplane crashes.  Who knows what would have happened had Buddy Holly or Richie Valens never chose to take a plane to get out of a bad winter in Iowa.  Or where Ronnie Van Zant would have taken Skynyrd after Street Survivors.  Jim Croce was on his way to big stardom when a plane crash took him away from us in 1973.

There are 10 times many more best ofs from Jim Croce than actual albums but he did record a couple albums that didn't sell with his wife Ingrid, Pickwick issued a truncated version of his album which whoever heard it compared Jim and Ingrid to Ian And Sylvia, pleasant folk rock but nothing more.

Croce was the ultimate blue collar working man, working for many jobs while trying to make it in the music business and a chance contract with ABC gave him a top ten hit with You Don't Mess Around With Jim, a interesting account of pool hustlers and Willie McCoy aka Slim declaring revenge on Big Jim Walker, pool shooting sun of a gun.  In some ways an East Coast answer to Tom Waits, Croce's songs were a bit more accessible and better sung than the gravel pit voice of Waits but Croce could be as melancholy as Waits.  The single Operator (that's not the way it feels) to me tells a story of a guy trying to reconnect with an old ex girlfriend and enlists a operator to help him place a call and then saying the hell with it.  That too hit the top ten here but Croce would top the charts with another bar hustler tune set to a barrellhouse piano boogie woogie tune called Bad Bad Leroy Brown  to which the storyline is kinda like You Don't Mess Around With Jim but this time out it's shooting dice.  And maybe he didn't intended it, It Doesn't Have To Be That Way is heard a lot more often during Christmas Time.

A posthumous release I Got A Name issued late 1973 ends the story there.  Beginning with the title track which he didn't write himself, the album is perhaps his most introspective.  I Have To Say I Love You In A Song is one of my favorite love songs ever but also Croce could write an anti love song, Lover's Cross comes to mind.  Even though it was left off the best ofs, the revisiting of Age can touch the heart as well.  The record kinda drags at the end of side two (The ho hum Salon And Saloon and Thursday both on the best ofs) but since Croce wasn't around to finish the album I'm sure ABC was looking for outtakes that they could use.

Outside of The Doors, record labels have continue to put out Best ofs after best ofs and perhaps the best overview was Rhino finally putting both Time In A Bottle and Photographs And Memories into the Classic Hits in 2004.  Lifesong scraped the bottom of the barrel for the uneven The Places I've Been in 1976 and a 45 of Chain Gang Medley was released and made it to number 63 on the Billboard chart.  But it seems that every major label has had a hand in putting out Croce's best ofs.  ABC had the original best of, then Lifesong got distribution from CBS/Sony and Croce's albums came out on Lifesong/CBS in the 70s.  Later on 21 Records (later Saja) via Atlantic put out the 2 best ofs at that time and even EMI managed to put out a couple of their own (and Croce didn't live to see that). Which you cannot go wrong but The CEMA/EMI best of has more filler songs and less hits but it does have Age on it.  And Sanctuary (now part of Universal) has put out best ofs as imports abroad, so basically Croce get credit for recording all of the major labels, post death that is.

In 2006 thereabouts, Shout Factory reissued the early Jim And Ingrid Croce albums but also a live album Have You Heard Jim Croce Live which Croce with his right hand man Maury Muehelisen  in tow and they give a intimate performance. Worth seeking out on either DVD or CD.  But there wasn't much live TV stuff from Croce outside seeing him on one show (I think it was The Midnight Special but not too sure). Americana, is Jim and a tape recorder playing old cover songs. Not bad but not essential either.

Nevertheless had he lived Jim Croce could have had a career something like Gordon Lightfoot since both were basically folk rock artists. Or a less pretentious Bruce Springsteen, since Bruce kinda wrote along the same lines. He made classic singles and very good albums in his year stint with ABC and his tragic passing elevates him to the stature of Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, cut down before their prime.  Any best of will do for you but somewhere in oldies and classic rock land Bad Bad Leroy Brown is playing and soft rock Time In A Bottle.  To which the words ring truthfully that there's never enough time whatever you do. 

And he was right.

The Albums:

Facets (Shout Factory 1966)  B+
Croce  (Capitol/One Way Records 1969) B
You Don't Mess Around With Jim (ABC 1973) A-
Life And Times (ABC 1973) B+
I Got A Name (ABC 1974) B+
The Places I've Been (Lifesong 1976) B-
Photographs And Memories (Lifesong 1978) B+
Time In A Bottle-Greatest Ballads (Saja/Atlantic 1985) B+
Home Recordings-Americana (Shout Factory 2004) B
Classic Hits (Rhino 2004) A-
Have You Heard Jim Croce Live (Shout Factory 2006) A-

Certainly there's more Jim Croce Best of's there's are the notables.

Down The Highway (Saja/Atlantic)
The 50th Anniversary Collection (Saja 1992)
Bad Bad Leroy Brown And Other Favorites (Cema 1994)
VH1 Behind The Music Collection (Rhino 2001)
Live The Final Tour (Saja/Edsel 2012)
The Way We Used To Be: The Anthology (Sanctuary)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Gretchen Wilson

For a female, country music is such a small window of opportunity, then if Tammy Wynette or Loretta Lynn came along in the late 90s and even the 00's they would be here for about a minute and then off into the bargain bins.  The staying power has been limited although Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert have been the two exceptions in a male dominated genre.

But before American Idol cheapened the music and country became the monthly pin up girl, there wasn't much for pure singers. Warner Brothers couldn't figure out how to market a pure country singer like Elizabeth Cook who basically came over from a Atlantic Records fire sale.  Jennifer Hanson made a decent Capitol debut and then fell victim to piss poor A and R direction, her album didn't get released till a good six months after Beautiful Goodbye.  And whatever did happen to Jessica Andrews or Lila McCann?

About ten years ago, a spunky beer drinking, cigarette smoking queen from Pocahontas Illinois took country music by the storm by doing Redneck Woman, a hard charging ode the woman who shops at Wal Mart, goes out mud racing pick up trucks and if you dare her enough, outfart you, although she says she's country she's more of a Southern Rock woman that name checks Hank Jr, Charlie Daniels and Tanya Tucker.  Perhaps the finest discovery by John Rich from Big & Rich fame, Redneck Woman was Gretchen's first single but it also topped the country chart, a first for a woman in many a year.  And Here For The Party sold 3 million copies to boot.  And you would have thought that Gretchen Wilson was here to stay.

Amazingly the shelf life was limited and although All Jacked Up and One Of The Boys sold decent, Sony Music gave up the ghost and probably that she was an older woman continued to hinder Gretchen's development into what could have been a career just like Miranda Lamberts but Sony Music rejected what would be I Got Your Country Right Here and cut their losses with a brief Greatest Hits that covered all the basics.   Gretchen Wilson was more rock and roll than Sony Music would have liked, she's almost note for note perfect on the cover of Barracuda from Heart.  If you don't think she's rock and roll then you haven't heard her Under The Covers collection to which she covers the likes of Bad Company, Hot Blooded and even Led Zeppelin's Over The Hills And Far Away.  Without being limited to Sony Music's antics, Gretchen's albums under her own Redneck imprint, Wilson could double as the second coming as a Pat Benetar or even Bonnie Raitt (vocal wise). 

The Playlist series from Epic/Legacy, gives us three more songs not available on Greatest Hits but includes the rockers (All Jacked Up, Here For The Party), Trailer anthems (California Girls, Redneck Woman) and southern rock (Homewrecker which borrows a riff from Sweet Home Alabama) but her weakness remains the ballads, Come To Bed or When I Think About Cheating although if she doesn't oversing, she can be convincing as well (Most of Sunday Morning Coming Down to which she needlessly goes into vocal overkill on the last chorus  where she tries for American Idol oversing and the subduded I don't Feel Like Loving You Today).  Playlist also gives two lesser known singles a spin, the rocker Don't Do Me No Good and the overblown If I Could Do It All Over Again to which I don't think I've ever heard on the radio.

With I Got Your Country Right Here, Wilson was no longer a country star but rather a Southern Rocker with a bit country on the side but her later albums the country is left further and further behind which explains why Sony Music couldn't deal with her.  A woman who doesn't cut corners and does it her own way and if you like it fine, if not you're left behind.  A no bullshit woman that does it her way.  Her latest album Right On Time does acknowledge the present with a song co written by Kacey Musgraves but also borrows a bit too much from Bekka Bramlett (3 songs).  Wilson's strengths remains songs that Vicky McGehee has her name on and maybe somewhere down the line Gretchen can write a complete album with Vicky in tow.

The Redneck Woman may be gone from country radio with the exception of that song but we all know that Gretchen has always been a Southern rock and roller from the get go.  If you don't agree check out Under The Covers, not a single country song in there.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Alan O'Day

Needless to say I don't have any of Alan O'Day's albums in my collection but I do have some certain songs that he wrote for other people.  Alan, best known as a one hit wonder artist with Undercover Angel passed away from cancer at age 72.

O'Day wrote for a lot of major bands that recorded for ABC Dunhill, John Kay and later Three Dog Night covered Easy Evil to which was a minor hit for Kay in 1973, Angie Baby done by Helen Reddy and I'm sure he had a hand in writing Are You Old Enough to which Mark Lindsay did as a flop single.  Three Dog Night also covered a bizarre number called Heavy Church on the Naturally album and both Cher and Steppenwolf did Train Of Thought, Cher had the hit version, Steppenwolf's version can be found on the 1976 Skullduggery LP.  The Righteous Brothers took his Rock And Roll Heaven up the charts in 1974.

Appetizers, his 1977 LP contains Undercover Angel and Angie Baby.  Later O'Day would help write songs for the Muppet Babies TV show and co writing with Janis Liebhart on that and other assorted projects for National Geographic and Disney.  In 2008 O'Day did a new album called I Hear Voices and it's a good listen.

O'Day is now in the Rock And Roll Heaven that he wrote years ago.  He will be missed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


If you ever wanted to know what is wrong with classic rock radio or oldies turn on any of those selective radio stations and chances are you'll come across a Foreigner song at any given time.  This band is perhaps the most problematic band of the classic rock era or rock and roll for that matter.  First and foremost a corporate band that played safe corporate rock to the masses.  And made a few albums before cashing in on the oldies circuit and rehashing the hits in different live versions and lineups whenever Mick Jones needed a bit more money from the buying public.

The original members came from such diverse bands like Spooky Tooth and King Crimson although this Mick Jones isn't the one that started up The Clash on his spare time from Foreigner (Duh) but had a career in Spooky Tooth and The Leslie West Band.  Lou Gramm was the vocalist somewhat in the Robert Plant mode.  The first album fired the first shot into Corporate Rock with the top ten overplayed Feels Like The First Time and the hideous Cold As Ice, a song I could tolerate but never loved.  My favorites remain Long Way From Home, the Bad Company like Headknocker and Fool For You Anyway.

Double Vision, they worked with Keith Olsen in getting a more radio friendly sound and got another couple big hits with another Bad Company soundalike in Hot Blooded and like minded Title track although Ian McDonald added bits of King Crimson to that song.  Both songs ended up promoting Burger King a few years ago and that pretty much has stuck in my mind ever since.  The rest of the record is quite mellow then the first, with some rocking here (Blue Morning Blue Day) an odd one there (Tramontrane) and mostly ballads (You're All I Am).  Hasn't aged very well for my taste.

Maybe Mick Jones thought that Double Vision was too mellow so he decided to rock out more on the next album Head Games, taps Roy Thomas Baker to help produce and it roars out of the gate with Dirty White Boy, and although I did like Women and Seventeen as a teen, I find the lyrics to be a bit creepy, even more so in this day and age if Mick Jones is getting Kelly Hansen to sing this.  Some prog rock is noticed on Head Games but I came to find that side 2 didn't have any more good songs after the title track.  And the less said the better.

A major chance in the band happened when Ian McDonald either got booted of left and a couple other guys went on to form the forgettable SPYS that made I think 2 albums for EMI and Rick Willis came on board as new bass player.  Working with wonder producer Robert John Lange, Foreigner finally made a classic album in 4.  If Robert John Lange knows anything, he knows how to make a decent record and radio ready songs and 4 gave us 5 singles of varying degree.  Urgent, with the late great Jr Walker playing sax, the moody Waiting For A Girl Like You,  the bombastic Juke Box Hero which all three songs get KKRQ loving all day, but my favorites were the failed ones Break It Up which is basically Cold As Ice rewritten but more Crabb friendly and poptastic LuAnne. The albums starts out with a fine Night Life (which was a B side but could have made a dent on the charts) and lesser known songs were worthwhile as well (Girl On The Moon). 4 is the high water mark for Foreigner although they continued to make albums of less interesting degree.

Agent Provocateur was basically 4 revisited but with more keyboards and got a major hit with I Want To Know What Love Is (or Waiting For A Girl Like You part 2 with a gospel choir), and That Was Yesterday came close.  Strangely this band was beginning to sound like a Loverboy clone, especially on side 2.  Still rocks hard with Reaction To Action.

Inside Information the last Jones/Gramm Atlantic platter (they would reunite for Mr. Moonlight a few years later) and ended up being a poor seller but it's not all that bad, especially on the rehashing of 4 once again and getting a modern rock hit with Say You Will and soft rock ballad I Don't Want To Live Without You.  I think in some ways the lineup that gave us 4 and the two albums were better than the overplayed S/T, Double Vision and Head Games although the 4 era had more of an eye on radio domination (which failed).  Given poor sales of Inside Information, the band took a break,  Lou Gramm made two listenable albums (Ready Or Not-1987 and the better Long Hard Look although the dated 80s production and whammy bar guitars hinder the songs), and a short stint with Shadow King (a minor super band featuring Bruce Turgeon and the underrated Kevin Valentine (Donnie Iris, The Godz) playing drums. Mick Jones did a solo album which did rocked harder than Foreigner previous two and included appearances from Billy Joel to which Jones co produced Storm Warning for Joel.  But solo albums don't pay as well as the band did and Mick Jones reformed the band but with a new singer in Jonathan Edwards (King Kobra).  Musically the songs were okay, but the lyrics were cliched bad.

But Lou Gramm would return for one more album, Mr Moonlight (1995) which did get good reviews and had good songs but this would be the last Jones/Gramm album.  Problem was also that they weren't on Atlantic anymore and although Rhythm Safari did their best promote it, the grunge era pretty much rendered the classic rock bands to the oldies circuit.  It's a shame really, this record does hold up very well.

Anything after that became a rehash of greatest hits packages, a million live albums featuring the same old songs although the 2005 Live Extended Versions that Sony Music put out is the best since it features Jason Bonham fresh from leaving UFO on drums and and new vocalist Kelly Hansen (Hurricane) and Jeff Pilson (Dio, Dokken) playing bass.  And did I mention an endless supply of best ofs and greatest hits (including the the ironic No End In Sight best of) and even signing with Razor And Tie take another swipe at the original hits with the budget bin Juke Box Heroes CD that can be found in the cheap section.  But then again you are better off with the original versions or Complete Greatest Hits.

Did I mention that the best overall Foreigner album would be Complete Greatest Hits? A perfect example of Corporate rock from the overplayed (guess which ones) to the lesser known and includes perhaps their finest hard rocking song ever in Soul Doctor, to which Lou Gramm and Mick Jones have no choice but to turn it up and rock out.  Records served a purpose back in the 80s but is outdated and Greatest Hits And Beyond adds a few more ballads.  But Complete Greatest Hits is their most definite and essential product, unless you just want to hear them on the radio instead.  Chances are that you will.

The Albums (incomplete)

Foreigner (Atlantic 1977) B-
Double Vision (Atlantic 1978) B-
Head Games (Atlantic 1979) C
4 (Atlantic 1981) A-
Agent Provocateur (Atlantic 1983) B
Records (Atlantic 1984) B
Inside Information (Atlantic 1987) B-
Unusual Heat (Atlantic 1990) C-
The Very Best And Beyond (Atlantic 1992) B
The Best Of Foreigner (Atlantic 1993) B
Mr. Moonlight (Rhythm Safari 1995) B+
Complete Greatest Hits (Rhino 2002) A-
Extended Versions Live (CMG 2005) B
No End In Sight (Rhino 2008) C
Can't Slow Down (Rhino 2010) C-
Extended Versions 2 (CMG 2011) C-
Juke Box Heroes (Razor And Tie 2013) C

Lou Gramm Solo

Ready Or Not (Atlantic 1986) C+
Long Hard Look (Atlantic 1988) B
Shadow King (Atlantic 1991) C

Mick Jones (Atlantic 1989) B+

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pawnshop Classic-17 Candle Californ IA

One of my biggest hobby is going to see what I can find in the used bins and I have good luck finding the obscure to the ridiculous. And plenty of bands that toiled in the obscure.  Maybe they were a local band that made up 100 cds and sold 5 and dumped the rest into charity stores.  Most of the time what's in the dollar bins are crap (the I AM WAR Cd is one of them) sometimes we find a classic that never was (The Randy Cliffs, The Pull Tops).  Today We offer up 17 Candle.

17 Candle reminds me a lot of The Refreshments, a band that stoops into enough novelty and 80s rock and roll but even 2009 when they were still around, I have no idea or inkling of this band anywhere.  The main leader is Ben LaFleur who sounds a bit like David Bellamy with Roger Clyne on the side. Californ IA, the album title is a play on words of a band moving out to the west coast to make it big but high tails it back home after everything is said and done.  Produced by Tom Tatman (Dangtrippers, Blue Band) who adds a bit of that 80s sound to the album, anything Tatman produces or records is worth seeking out.

You can hear their music at their My Space site including a bonus track of Cubs Win, which surprises me that Tom Ricketts doesn't use this more often. For their album, standouts includes a homage to the 80s (Called The 80s) and LeFleur's tribute to Jim Morrison on Lizard King which is where The Refreshments influence comes in.  Lights Out, a bit of The Wallflowers comes to mind and one of these songs the lead guitars takes the guitar lead of Don't Stop Believing as well.  Probably that late 80 early 90 alt pop rock made have 17 Candle late to the party but overall Californ-IA is a fun listen from a band that loves that buzz bin sounds, and so do I.

Since then Ben Lafleur has moved on to the country circuit and formed Crawford County, a better than average country band that wouldn't sound out of place on new country.  Ben's voice is perfect for country although while Stone Cold Country is fun, the other song that they have on reverbnation is country corn.  But they might have a better future than say, the Lost Trailers.  But it still pales next to 17 Candle's only album.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Willie Nelson 80

On April 30, Willie Nelson will turn the big 80.  With the passing of George Jones, the last of the true country artists, namely Willie Nelson along with the ageless Ray Price and Merle Haggard are the last of the dying breed of country stars who were big back in the 60s and 70s.

It's hard to know how many actual albums that Willie Nelson has released in his lifetime but a good guess is somewhere between 250 and 300 not counting countless cheapo compilations that you see in the 2 dollar bins.  But he started all the way back in the very late 50s and if it wasn't for Faron Young and Pasty Cline to record Hello Walls or Crazy, Willie may have been a great behind the scenes songwriter in the tradition of Harlan Howard.  Even back then when he first recorded for Liberty Records, Willie Nelson had a style of his own that defined Nashville.  Although he's country influenced his music was also tin pan alley as well.  Moving on to RCA, Willie toiled in just about obscurity until the hippie influences of Austin and Waylon Jennings gave him a new life as an outlaw country singer and after RCA gave up on him, Willie moved to Atlantic to become their first best known country singer with the conceptual Phases And Stages.

The Columbia years started with Red Headed Stranger to which it was stripped down Willie and he had a big hit with Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain and for the next 20 years Willie would record just about anything that came to his mind.  In 1978 Stardust, an album of old crooner standards was a huge seller.  Anybody who was country Willie would record with, Ray Price, Leon Russell, Hank Snow, Roger Miller, Webb Pierce and of course, Waylon Jennings, or the Lennon/McCartney of country music.  But the onset of so many albums from Nelson, he'd record at least two or three per year it seemed and not only that he started in a movie Honeysuckle Rose which is worth watching.

Like Waylon in the 1980's his albums begin to sell less and less although he would record all the time.  His Columbia albums tend to be spotty even on the best ones Me And Paul, or Stardust.  The first Greatest Hits (and some that will be) remains a fine introduction although there's too much filler to really recommend it, but I think I prefer it to the Essential Willie Nelson.  While he was raking up success with Columbia, RCA reissue some of his albums, the classic Yesterday's Wine predates Red Headed Stranger and Felton Jarvis who produces keeps it fairly simple unlike other albums (Laying My Burdens Down 1971, hard to find on LP but I like it fine). All Time Greatest Hits Volume 1 is a good companion piece to the 1981 Greatest Hits set.  Flashback's cheapo cheapo Whiskey River And Other Hits cherry picks the best of the two Atlantic albums that Nelson did.

After two uneven early 90s albums attempts to cash into the new country scene (the lackluster Born For Trouble and Horse Called Music) Don Was produced the final Columbia album Across The Borderline to which Willie sang with the likes of Paul Simon (Graceland) cowrote a song with Bob Dylan (Heartland) and did a duet with Sinead O'Connor on the Peter Gaberial Don't Give Up song.  When the album tanked, Nelson moved to Island Records to make one of the best latter day albums in his career with Spirit, which is basically an acoustic album and beautiful in its own way.  Teatro, on the other hand has Daniel Lanois producing and Emmy Lou Harris helping out on vocals but it's an odd sounding album.  Milk Cow Blues has Willie hanging with B B King and playing the blues. After which, Universal after buying out Island, reassigned Willie to Lost Highway but he continue to defy the odds and play whatever came to mind. Countryman is Willie doing Reggae with help from Toots Hibbert, and after that did a tribute album to Cindy Walker the songwriter with the very good You Don't Know Me.  The only album that I end up buying after that was Moment Of Truth, to which Kenny Chesney co produced and Willie begin to add songs from his sons in the process.

Last year, Willie Nelson returned back to Sony Music for the uneven Heroes to which Luke Nelson gets plenty of daddy loving but the best songs are by Willie alone or with Jamey Johnson singing.  The new Willie Let's Face The Music And Dance is laid back fun, even though his voice is a bit more ragged he still enjoys revisit the oldies and standards that he loves the best.  At age 80, Willie Nelson continues to do things his way and still touring and still playing and its best to see him while you can.  For one day he may depart like George Jones did the other day. 

Happy birthday Willie Nelson!

It's basically hard to grade all of the Willie Nelson so I'll just compile it down my suggestions of what to get.

Whiskey River And Other Hits (Flashback) B+
Greatest Hits And Some That Will Be (Columbia 1981) B+
The Troublemaker (Columbia 1978) A-
The Sound In Your Mind (Columbia 1976) B
Shotgun Willie (Atlantic 1974) B+
Phases And Stages (Atlantic 1973) B
Laying My Burdens Down (RCA 1971) B+
Yesterday's Wine (RCA 1972) A-
Red Headed Stranger (Columbia 1975) A-
Stardust (Columbia 1978) B-
All Time Greatest Hits Volume 1 (RCA 1989) A-
RCA Country Legends (RCA 2002) B+
Naked Willie (RCA 2009) B+
Me And Paul (DCC/Columbia 1985) B+
Island In The Sea (Columbia 1987) C
Tougher Than Leather (Columbia 1983) C+
Horse Called Music (Columbia 1989) B-
Born For Trouble (Columbia 1990) C+
Across The Borderline (Columbia 1993) B+
Spirit (Island 1996) A-
Teatro (Island 1998) B+
Healing Hands Of Time (SBK/Liberty 1994) C-
Milk Cow Blues (Island 2000) B-
Rainbow Connection (Island 2002) B
Countryman (Lost Highway 2005) B
You Don't Know Me (Lost Highway 2006) B+
Songbird (Lost Highway 2006) B-
Moment Of Forever (Lost Highway 2008) B+
Country Music (Rounder 2010) B
Heroes (Legacy 2012) B-
Let's Face The Music And Dance (Legacy 2013) B

Monday, April 8, 2013

Andy Johns

The music world lost one of the best recording and producer Andy Johns on Sunday.  He was 61 and may have died from liver failure.

If you listened to FM radio and classic rock, you'll hear some of Andy's best known recordings from the likes of Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Mott The Hoople, Free and countless other bands up till the tail end of his life, Andy continued to work with L A Guns on their albums and even Godsmack figures into this.

A selected listings of Andy's work  (incomplete)

Mott The Hoople-S/T, Mad Shadows, Wildlife, Brain Capers
Jethro Tull-Stand Up
Free-Highway, Heartbreaker
Rolling Stones: Get Your Ya Yas Out, Let It Bleed, Exile On Main Street, Sticky Fingers etc
Bonzo Dog Band-Urban Spaceman
Cinderella-Night Songs, Long Cold Winter
Pepper's Ghost-Shake The Hand....
Led Zeppelin-III, IV, Physical Graffiti, Coda

Other groups of note:

Stephen Stills
Jack Bruce
Ginger Baker's Air Force
Blind Faith
Eric Clapton (Derek And The Dominoes)
Spooky Tooth
Sandy Denny
Van Halen
West, Bruce & Laing
Los Lonely Boys

and many more.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Del Shannon

In essence Del Shannon next to Don Gibson are two of my favorite singer songwriters of the music era that I grew up in although in the case of Del, his first big hit Runaway became so popular he would never follow it up like that again.  But his songs were based on the paranoid it seems, Keep Searching  and Stranger In Town come to mind.

There was more to Del than just Runaway and the Rhino Best Of Del Shannon combined the majority of his big hits but stops at Sister Isabelle his failed 1970 single for ABC Dunhill.  The best overall retrospective was the Raven Anthology which came out in the mid 90s and Raven Records, an Australia label manages to get most of his well known hits for Big Top, Amy, Island, Liberty, United Artists, Elektra/Network and Silvertone/MCA Gone Gator.

While Del's albums have fallen out of print in the US, across the pond most of his album are available in 2 on 1 CDs.  Taragon pairs his Runaway album alongside One Thousand Six Hundred Sixty One seconds which came out on Amy, the latter album featuring Dennis Coffey who later go on to Motown and later Sussex and had a major hit with Scorpio in 1971.

His Liberty albums were spotty at best, and paired with pop producers didn't help either although The Liberty Years cherry picks the best of the bunch as Del worked with Snuff Garrett and Leon Russell and Dallas Smith later on.  In 1967 he worked with Andrew Oldham, the Rolling Stones producer on Home And Away with sounded like a fascination with Phil Spector's Wall Of Sound sound. Or Pet Sound.  The two albums beforehand Total Commitment and This Is My Bag didn't work, Liberty  saddled him with some subpar hits of the 60s and they pretty much all bombed.  The Liberty Years pretty much has Home And Away as a complete album as well as collected singles, and even though Shannon was perceived as a pop singer, some of his darker content was more compelling, check out the You Don't Love Me to which Del works up into a frenzy towards the end of song.  A curio album The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover shows Shannon going more toward hippy dippy and to me it's the best of Liberty years, no commercial potential but gallant effort of doing something different.

Del really didn't make albums all that much but he co wrote a few songs with former teen idol Brian Hyland to which Hyland scored a big hit with a remake of Gypsy Woman for UNI in 1970 and Smith, a band featuring Gayle McCormick got a hit with Baby It's You to which Del produced.  In 1981 a big fan of his music Tom Petty, produced and The Heartbreakers played on Del's comeback album Drop Down And Get Me, one of Del's finest moments but it didn't sell and the singles came out in the offshoot Network label. When that failed, Del went country and did a batch of songs for Warner Brothers but outside of a few singles, nothing came of that either.  But Del remained popular on the oldies circuit and there was even a rumor going around that he was going to replaced Roy Orbinson in the Traveling Wilburys till depression took hold his life and ended it on a shotgun blast on February 8, 1990.  Before that he was actually back in the studio with Tom Petty and another big fan Jeff Lynne to which Del would score a posthumous single with Walk Away in 1991, originally on Silvertone in the UK but when the one in the US refused to release it, Tom Petty released it on his Gone Gator imprint.  A good follow up to Drop Down And Get Me, Rock On did have some excellent stuff on it, Who Left Who, Walk Away and a revisit of I Go To Pieces.

The spirit of Del lives on, in the music of The Smithereens, The Townedgers and countless others.  The Rhino Best of covers the bases but the Raven Anthology is the home run of a complete overview.  The Varase 25 Greatest Hits does offer the last two Shannon albums and is better than the Rhino comp.  And there's plenty of imports that do a good job as well.  Either way, everybody at least needs a Del Shannon best of in their collection.  That's what I think.

The Albums (incomplete)

Runaway (Big Top 1962) B+
One Thousand Six Hundred Sixty One Seconds of Del Shannon (Amy 1965) B+
(Both albums are on a 2 on 1 CD from Taragon)
Sings Hank Williams (Big Top 1964) B+
Total Commitment (Liberty 1965) B-
This Is My Bag (Liberty 1966) B-
Home And Away (Liberty 1967) B
The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover (Liberty/BGO 1968) A-
Drop Down And Get Me (Elektra 1981) A-
The Best Of Del Shannon (Rhino 1988) B+
Rock On (Silvertone UK/Gone Gator/MCA USA 1991) B+
The Liberty Years (EMI 1991) B+
The Anthology (Raven Import 1995) A+
25 All Time Greatest Hits (Varase 2001) A-
The Essential Collection (Music Club Import 2012) A-
The Complete UK Singles (and more) (ACE Import 2013) B+