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.