Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story

ARTIST: Rod Stewart                                            220px-EveryPictureTellsaStory

TITLE: Every Picture Tells a Story

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Reason to Believe (#62 US, #1 UK), Maggie May (#1 US), (I Know) I’m Losing You (324 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mandolin Wind

LINEUP: Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Martell Brandy, Sam Mitchell, Martin Quittenton, Pete Sears, Micky Waller, Danny Thompson, Andy Pyle, Lindsay Jackson. The Faces were on (I Know) I’m Losing You, and Long John Baldry and Maggie Wood sang on the title track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Stewart’s solo career hits its apex, musically.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is peak Rod Stewart. His raspy voice was well suited for all of the material. He and Faces running mate Ronnie Wood and his ‘second band’ of studio musicians constructed great arrangements and showcased their versatility and musicianship. It’s mostly an acoustic album, with just enough electricity to add to the various classical guitars, pedal steels, and mandolins.

The impressive note is that Stewart covered songs by Dylan, Tim Hardin, and Elvis and wrote songs to their equal. “Maggie May” has been played to death, but in this context, with the Martin Quittenton intro, and right next to “Mandolin Wind” in the running order, it sounds fresh and of a piece with the album.

Stewart would really never reach this artistic level again, succumbing to the ease of ready-made fame. This one is for everyone, critics and fans.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The opening to “Maggie May” is officially “Henry” written by Martin Quittenton.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A+: Even the most obscure cut (“Seems Like a Long Time”) is a winner

Silverchair – Freak

ARTIST: Silverchair                                                 220px-Silverchair_-_Freak_Show

TITLE: Freak Show

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #38 UK

SINGLES: Freak (#25 Mainstream, #29 Modern, #34 UK), Abuse Me (#4 Mainstream, #4 Modern, #40 UK), Cemetery, The Door

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Slave

LINEUP: Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies, Chris Joannou

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Oh, the second album issue strikes hard, which really hit this band of teenagers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Silverchair should have been just about done with high school when this album was released, and some of the songs were written around the time their debut was taking the world by storm. Does that excuse the sloppy lyrics, half-baked Nirvanaisms, and generally maudlin sensibility.

No, not really.

The lyrics to “Freak” are ham-fisted and dilute a great riff. That’s just the beginning. “Abuse Me” is a Nirvana slow-song rip from a teenager’s journal (which it probably is).  As the album goes on, you get the idea that Johns and company wanted this album to be ‘a lost Nirvana album’, but not even Kurt Cobain at his most juvenile or suicidal could match some of these songs.

I’m going by song by song on this one – some tracks have potential to excite. But as a whole, it’s an unsuccessful attempt at aping an idol.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Johns has basically disavowed this album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C-: You can play “Name the Nirvana song that inspired this” for each track. I exiled all but four, as I have all of Nirvana’s albums and don’t need another.

Queen Latifah – She’s a Queen: A Collection of Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Queen Latifah                       220px-She's_A_Queen_album_cover

TITLE: She’s a Queen: A Collection of Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Ladies First (#64 R&B, #5 Rap, #38 Dance), Come Into My House (#81 R&B, #21 Rap, #7 Dance), Latifah’s Had It Up 2 Here (#13 R&B, #8 Rap), UNITY (#23, #7 R&B, #3 Rap), Just Another Day (#54, #37 R&B, #11 Rap), Black Hand Side (#29 R&B, #20 Rap), It’s Alright (#76), Paper (#50, #23 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Queen Latifah with guests Monie Love, Organized Noize, and Tha’ Raine and producers.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Overview of the hip-hop era of Queen Latifah, which seems slight.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Queen Latifah recorded four albums and several soundtrack cuts, and entered pop culture as a strong female in a very male dominated genre. Yet, the compilations for this era are quite sparse, and don’t have the depth you’d expect for an artist with this much cache.

Latifah’s moved on to bigger and better things, and has made more of an impact now as an actress and singer, but this era needs to be explored more. The original albums are still out there, so perhaps that’s where one should go to really flesh out her catalog.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Her charting positions don’t indicate her impact – her highest charting album in this era hit #60 on the Top 200, and only one was a Top 10 Rap album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, there’s a smaller collection out there with only 10 songs and four tracks not on this collection – why not combine them?

GRADE: B-: The grade is for the slight selection, which makes a B+ possibility a B-.

Motorhead – Bomber

ARTIST: Motorhead          Motörhead_-_Bomber_(1979)

TITLE: Bomber

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #12 UK

SINGLES: Bomber (#34 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stone Dead Forever, Dead Men Tell No Tales

LINEUP: Lemmy, Fast Eddie, Philthy Animal

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Followup to Motorhead’s breakthrough gives us more of the same, but, what’s really wrong with that?

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The riffs are there, but not as stunning and mind-blowing. The sleaze is still there, and Lemmy’s still Lemmy.

It doesn’t reach the height of Overkill. There’s not a ‘last chance urgency’ on some of the tracks. The band had secured themselves, and cranked out some good tracks, but there’s definitely some filler creeping in here in the middle of each side.

Bomber’s a good Motorhead album, and really that’s about all you need to know.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Producer Jimmy Miller was often late for sessions due to his heroin addiction. Heroin was the subject of “Dead Men Tell No Tales”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes – a b-side, live tracks, and alternate mixes.

GRADE: B+: It’s an album lost between a couple of classics, but it’s good for some riffin’ and head bangin’.

 

Peter Frampton – Somethin’s Happening

ARTIST: Peter Frampton                                                Somethin's_Happening_Album

TITLE: Somethin’s Happening

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #125

SINGLES: Baby (Somethin’s Happening)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doobie Wah

LINEUP: Peter Frampton, Rick Willis, John Slomos, Nicky Hopkins

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third Frampton solo album doesn’t excite anyone, much like his first two. It’s an improvement over his second, barely.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Kicking off with “Doobie Wah”, a blast of 70’s rock energy, there was hope that this third solo album from Peter Frampton would be a great improvement over his second, lazier, too-mellow album.

Well, the sound of the group (now a trio for the most part with Frampton on keyboards as well as guitar in the studio) is rawer and fresher and there’s more energy here. Yet, somehow, Frampton still doesn’t inspire here.

Many of the songs seem to be half-written excuses to show off his guitar playing. Maybe it was the constant touring, but it sounded like he couldn’t be bothered to write more than a couple of decent tunes and then coast on the rest.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Nicky Hopkins plays piano on two tracks, else it’s Frampton on the keyboards.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+ : I like the fresher energy, but the songs are kind of lame. Somehow he kept his contract.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Earth, Wind & Fire

ARTIST: Earth, Wind & Fire     Earth,_Wind_&_Fire_-_Earth,_Wind_&_Fire

TITLE: Earth, Wind & Fire

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #172, #24 R&B

SINGLES: Fan the Fire, Love Is Life (#93, #31 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: My Baby Don’t Dance to Nothing but Ernest Tubb, Too Many Nights in a Roadhouse, Hillbilly Hula Gal

LINEUP: Maurice White, Verdine White, Michael Beal, Leslie Drayton, Wade Flemons, Sherry Scott, Alexander Thomas, Chet Washington, Don Whitehead, Doug Carn, Phillard Williams

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album sounds more like a conglomeration of Sly Stone, Chicago, and Santana.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Maurice White’s first formation of Earth, Wind & Fire had the funk and the sensibility, but unlike his later incarnation, this was more of a collaboration of voices, led by Sherry Scott and others like Wade Flemons, instead of White taking more of a solo vocal turn.

The group does have a swing, but it sounds derivative at times. The late 60’s Sly and the Family Stone come to mind, with some influences by Chicago in the horn charts and the percussion effects of Santana.

That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable – it’s a fun listen except for the interludes (which really distract from the music) – it’s just not so original.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Maurice White and two other members (Flemons and Whitehead) were The Salty Peppers before forming EWF.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-  Derivative, but well-played funk/soul for the time. The interludes knock it down a bit.

Junior Brown – 12 Shades of Brown

ARTIST: Junior Brown                        51u480XQ3SL

TITLE: 12 Shades of Brown

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: My Baby Don’t Dance to Nothing but Ernest Tubb, Too Many Nights in a Roadhouse, Hillbilly Hula Gal

LINEUP: Junior Brown, Tanya Rae Brown, Steve Layne, Spencer Starnes, Mike Ballew, Donny Dolan, Tom Lewis

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album featuring the guit-steel innovator and husky baritone/bass and sense of humor.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Junior Brown’s legendary guitar and steel playing finally got a showcase of his own with this solo album. His guit-steel, which combines a lap steel and electric guitar, allows Brown the freedom to switch between both instruments easily during a song.

The songs are slight at times, and are more showcases for Brown’s firey guitar playing. He specializes in a Western swing theme (hence his name-check of Ernest Tubb) and doesn’t cotton to current Nashville trends (then or now).

It’s a fun album for the most part. When Brown gets serious, it suffers, but the light cuts will make you smile and the guitar playing will leave you in wonder.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He created his guit-steel in 1985.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B:  It’s fun (the best songs are the fun ones) and the guitar playing is fantastic.

Grouplove – Grouplove

ARTIST: Grouplove                            220px-Grouplovemirrors2010

TITLE: Grouplove

YEAR RELEASED: 2010

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Colours (#15 Alternative, #29 Rock)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Naked Kids-

LINEUP: Christian Zucconi, Hannah Hooper, Andrew Wessen, Ryan Rabin, Sean Gadd

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut EP sets the stage for the indie pop / rock groups success, and their side gig on TV commercials.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If there was a modern group made for providing backing music for TV commercials, it’s probably Grouplove.

They’re tuneful, positive, and quirky. Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi’s voices blend together in an appealing way, and while the music isn’t outre, it’s different enough to stand out. The big thing are the hooks – big, bold and tuneful.

This six song EP is a great start for the band, and my gosh “Naked Kids” gets in your head and doesn’t let go.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Getaway Car” was licensed to HBO.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A:  An EP that you can play on repeat.

Electric Wizard – Electric Wizard

ARTIST: Electric Wizard    220px-Electricwizardalbum

TITLE: Electric Wizard

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubt it.

LINEUP: Jus Oborn, Tim Bagshaw, Mark Greening

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album from the UK doom / stoner metal band is doomy and detuned.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Guitars, detuned. Tempos, slow. Riffs, mighty. This follows modern doom / stoner metal’s playbook to a T.

Even though it’s their debut, they come at it fully formed, with all of the sludge you need if you’ve worn out your early Black Sabbath records. The vocals aren’t a shriek, but more of a lazy, clear tone. The lyrics feature the usual tropes – fantasy, the occult, black magic. You know the drill.

The length of the songs tends to wear out the listener, so even with the great title cut (for both the band and album) closing it, you’re worn out by then. Still, a decent debut.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original Amon Duul’s recordings were unprofessional and only released after Amon Duul II were notable.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Leader Jus Oborn’s first band was Lord of Putrefaction

GRADE: B+:  A good debut for the sludgy doomers – you’ll love it if you dig that.

Amon Dull II – Phallus Dei

ARTIST: Amon Duul II                            220px-Phallus_dei

TITLE: Phallus Dei

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only Krautrock fans, perhaps.

LINEUP: Christian Thierfeld, Peter Leopold, Holger Truizsch, Dieter Serfas, John Weinzierl, Falk Rogner, Christian Borchard, Chris Karrer, Renate Knaup, Dave Anderson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the definitive early Krautrock bands. This isn’t for those who need structure, order, and brevity.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Amon Duul II was a breakaway band from the Amon Duul commune in Germany. Amon Duul, the commune, had a band as well but this bunch wanted to create an actual career as musicians.

Along with Can, they were on the forefront of the experimental German music, featuring long, complicated jams and odd vocals that may be chanting or lyrics – and lyrics in German or English.

This record has a single long title track on the back side, which devolves into a percussion-heavy jam. Most of the album moves forward and rewards intense listening, but the last jam gets tiresome after a while.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original Amon Duul’s recordings were unprofessional and only released after Amon Duul II were notable.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, two versions with various jams.

GRADE: B+:  Krautrock starts here, along with the first Can album.