Journey – Next

ARTIST: Journey                                 Journey_Next

TITLE: Next

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #85

SINGLES: Spaceman

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You’re kidding, right?

LINEUP: Greg Rollie, Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Aynsley Dunbar

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album for the band still find them in prog land at times, bland rock land at other times, and you wonder why they stayed on a label.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The third record from this band of ex-West Coast bands had elements of guitar rock and prog, and is…BORING AS FUCK. No really, it is.

The songs meander and wander, allowing Neal Schon and Greg Rollie space to solo, and only on the title cut does the energy pick up. The rest of just generic rock and balladeering, played with competence but not brilliance.

While some are (still?) upset that they moved to a more pop direction with the addition of a lead singer (see below), the fact is that they’d have been dropped and no one would remember them had they not changed direction. These albums would just be dust in the library.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: First, they never performed the single in concert, which is odd. They also didn’t record the album with a front man, but soon after hired Robert Fleischmann, who was there briefly, co-writing some tracks. He left and then the band found Steve Perry.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C-: I had to wake myself up to write this review. EXILED

The Scorpions – Best of Scorpions / Best of Scorpions, Vol. 2 / Gold

ARTIST: Scorpions                                        220px-BestOfScorpions

TITLE: Best of Scorpions / Best of Scorpions Vol.2 / Gold

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation(s)

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: In Trance, Speedy’s Coming, Virgin Killer, Pictured Life, He’s a Woman-She’s a Man, Sailes of Charon, All Night Long

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe?

LINEUP: Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker. Most cuts had Uli Jon Roth and Francis Bucholz. Michael Schenker was on one track and wrote others. Herman Rarebell, Wolfgang Dziorky, Rudy Lenners, and Jurgen Rosenthal were the drummers (among others).

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Mishmosh of compilations cover the RCA years for the Scorpions. 220px-The_Best_of_Scorpions_Vol._2

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Scorpions, Germany’s longest lasting hard rock / metal band, had two decades where they were one of the best known bands in Europe, and built a fan base over the years in the US that resulted in a mid-80’s explosion before throwing it all away in the late 80’s with a turn towards more pop than metal.

Their 70’s catalog, featuring Uli Jon Roth on lead guitar (for the most part) mixed prog elements with hard rock, and Roth was an inventive guitarist adding surprising elements to the mix. While they had questionable taste in record covers (they blamed RCA for the most part – and one album shut down Wikipedia for four days in the UK at one point), and their albums weren’t so consistent track-for-track, the best tracks definitely stand up.

YET – their 70’s streaming is a mess. Two full albums (their first, which has just one track on any of these comps – and their third) are streaming, and the comps are EXCEPT for one song – the killer “He’s a Woman – She’s a Man”. The seminal live album Tokyo Tapes isn’t streaming either. 51HDAZ4KC8L

The comps don’t replace the full albums in a sense to get what the Scorps were about in the 70’s, but they have to do for now. And someone explain to me why “He’s a Woman…” isn’t streaming.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Michael Schenker was on their first album before UFO scooped him up and they got Uli Jon Roth. Roth left after Tokyo Tapes so these comps encapsulate that era. Gold is mixed with both RCA and EMI recordings.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B: Each of the comps isn’t perfect. You could Frankenstein the best cuts for yourself, and there’s enough to do so. But damnit, stream the whole albums guys – especially Tokyo Tapes (which I’ll review itself).

 

The Smithereens – Especially for You

ARTIST: The Smithereens                              220px-Smithereensespeciallyforyou

TITLE: Especially for You

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: #51 US, #5 UK Indie

SINGLES: Blood and Roses (#14 Mainstream), Behind the Wall of Sleep (#23 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Strangers When We Meet, In a Lonely Place

LINEUP: Jim Babjak, Pat DiNizio, Dennis Diken, Mike Mesaros. Suzanne Vega duets on a track, and other studio musicians help now and then.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After a couple of EPs the Smithereens record an album totally influenced by the Beatles and 60’s British rock, yet original sounding.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Blood and Roses” seemed to be a go-to song for movie producers around 1986 and 1987, and that song got the Smithereens noticed and this album some commercial play. When people bought it, they were introduced to a band that could pull off writing 60’s style songs with a modern flair. It was magic.

Everything from the songs, the production, and the sequencing were nearly perfect. The tracks were all unique, and ranged from French-ballads, to melodic rock-and-roll, to lovelorn duets. The pacing of the album also makes it easy to listen to from front to back.

It was made for the vinyl age, as the band and Don Dixon understood the best sequencing for that medium. It’s one of the touchstone rock albums of the 80’s – a standout in the midst of hair metal and cool UK pretty boy dance music.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released two EPs before this album. One is so-so, but the second (Beauty and Sadness) should really be out there in full. Two tracks show up on a lot of compilations but they miss the sublime “Tracey’s World”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. “White Castle Blues” was a bonus track on cassette and CD, and they added another bonus later.

GRADE: A+: I keep thinking of a track I’d leave off, and I can’t. Even “White Castle Blues” works as a coda to the perfect album ending track.

 

Neil Young – Harvest

ARTIST: Neil Young                  220px-NeilYoungHarvestalbumcover

TITLE: Harvest

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Heart of Gold (#1 US, #10 UK), Old Man (#31 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A Man Needs a Maid, The Needle and the Damage Done

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Jack Nitzche, Tim Drummond, Kennty Buttrey and other guests like CSN, Linda Ronstadt, and James Taylor

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A laid back country influenced album from Young becomes a hit and Young’s signature record, much to his chagrin.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Neil Young definitely had an ear for combining country, folk, and rock. Yet, he wasn’t part of the nascent ‘country rock’ movement, he was his own man, as always.

There’s a melancholy air to the album, fitting the times. A lot of the songs are commentaries on the life in 1972, political, social, and generational. There’s a couple of cuts that break away from the country-sounding style thanks to some orchestration added on (a rarity for Young).

While this was popular, and some songs are poignant, a few cuts just seem tossed off to fit the theme and aren’t as meaningful as others.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Alabama” was a followup to “Southern Man”, and those songs made Lynyrd Skynyrd respond to him. Also, Young didn’t like the spotlight, and retreated by making his next few albums uncompromising and non-commerical.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B: I know this is one of his best-loved album by casual fans, but only a few tracks seem at par with Young’s best.

Prince – Around the World in a Day

ARTIST: Prince                        Prince_Around

TITLE: Around the World in a Day

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #4 R&B, #5 UK

SINGLES: Raspberry Beret (#2 US, #4 R&B, #25 UK), Paisley Park (#18 UK), Pop Life (#7 US, #8 R&B, #60 UK), America (#46 US, #35 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Condition of the Heart

LINEUP: Prince with some help from the Revolution, David Coleman, Jonathan Melvoin, Susannah Melvoin and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Prince releases a ‘disappointing album’, which was perfectly fine, just not a masterpiece like his previous two.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Except for “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life”, Prince’s psychedelic excursion isn’t memorable to casual fans. And yes, there are a couple of cuts that aren’t up to his usual high quality, and drag the album down a bit.

Yet, Prince showed that he definitely has a psychedelic and mystical side with an album that updates the psychedelic soul of the late 60’s into the mid 80’s. He uses more collaborators than usual (the siblings of Wendy and Lisa are prominent), and strings and instruments like the oud and darbuka come into play.

It’s not so much as a stylistic detour, as an enhancement. Prince is adding sounds and textures to his repertoire, and at times that supersedes the actual songs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Prince didn’t want much publicity, and “Raspberry Beret” wasn’t officially released as a single for three weeks after the album release..

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: Some great songs, some great stylistic textures, just a couple of duds.

Guided by Voices – Under the Bushes Under the Stars

ARTIST: Guided by Voices                                                  UTBUTScover

TITLE: Under the Bushes, Under the Stars

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #19 Heatseekers

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Cut-Out Witch, The Official Ironmen Rally Song, Your Name Is Wild.

LINEUP: Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The “classic” lineup runs out of steam.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Robert Pollard will always write songs, and record songs. For several years, his nuggets of tuneage were enough to sustain several albums by Guided By Voices, but finally they hit a snag.

This second record for Matador had some gems, but you can sense the band was tiring and Pollard’s muse wasn’t as strong as it once was. Matador records even compounded the problem by adding on extra tracks at the end that really bloats up the album more than usual for GBV standards.

It’s not bad as a whole and some good cuts are there, but soon Pollard would regroup GBV in a totally different direction. That was probably a wise decision.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is the first record that they recorded ‘professionally”, and it took several sessions and producers to get the tracks laid down.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of bonus tracks.

GRADE: B-: This runs out of steam at the end, just like the band.

Polvo – Cor-Crane Secret

ARTIST: Polvo                                             220px-Polvo_corCraneSecret

TITLE: Cor-Crane Secret

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: Nope

SINGLES: Can I Ride, Vibracoba, In the Hand – In the Sieve

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you were in Raleigh or Chapel Hill, yeah.

LINEUP: Ash Bowie, Dave Brylawski, Steve Popson, Eddie Watkins

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A stew of their influences, Polvo’s debut album was right in the wheelhouse for fans of distorted and noisy yet not loud guitars.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ash Bowie and crew definitely had listened to the shoegazer bands from the UK, as well as the post-punk and punk rock bands and local acts.

Polvo uses distorted guitars, interesting time signatures and tunings, and vocals that are laid usually under the instrumental tracks (much like the shoegazers), but there’s a sense of pop to Bowie’s singing and lyrics that lead the listener to realize there’s more than just distorted and disjointed chords afoot.

They soon became one of the favorite acts on Superchunk’s Merge Records, and with good reason. This album doesn’t disappoint and begs for listens.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bowie met bandmate Dave Brylawski in Spanish class at UNC.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Definitely for those who don’t mind a little distortion and noise, but also want some melodies sneaking through.

Blind Melon – Blind Melon

ARTIST: Blind Melon                        220px-BlindMelonBlindMelon

TITLE: Blind Melon

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #53 UK

SINGLES: Tones of Home (#10 Mainstream, #20 Alternative, #62 UK), No Rain (#20 US, #1 Mainstream, #1 Alternative, #17 UK), I Wonder, Change

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not.

LINEUP: Shannon Hoon, Brad Smith, Rogers Stevens, Christopher Thorn, Glenn Graham

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Not really grungy, not really all the way hard rock, but successful because of their tangential connections to those scenes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Shannon Hoon was friends with Axl Rose, and followed him out to California from Lafayette, Indiana and formed a band with some musicians he met from Mississippi.

Not a true hard rock band like Rose’s Guns ‘n’ Roses, Blind Melon had more of a folky feel led by Hoon’s shrieking vocals. Their sound hit many of the popular notes of the time and were kind of lumped into grunge thanks to the industry, yet their album seemed bloated with several tracks all blending together (that second half, zzzzz), with only “Tones of Home”, the big hit “No Rain” and a couple of others (“Soak the Skin” and “Paper Scratcher”) standing out.

Now they’d probably be lumped in with the jam bands, and that’d probably fit them better.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Shannon Hoon was a wrestler, and my high school hosted the wrestling sectional and regionals, and I did the PA for them. Hoon was a really good wrestler as I remember, wiry yet powerful. I never forgot that name…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, anniversary editions, etc.

GRADE: B-: I frankly don’t recall much about the last six songs on the record, which means that they probably lumped too many tracks on here.

Chumbawamba – Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records

ARTIST: Chumbawamba                   Chumbastarving

TITLE: Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, not here, no way.

LINEUP: Harry Hamer, Alice Nutter, Boff Whalley, Mavis Dillon, Lou Watts, Danbert Nobacon, Dunstan Bruce, Simon Lanzon

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First record from the anarchist band / collective is a broadside against celebrities and corporate greed, in a very 80’s style.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Listening to this album, you can somehow hear how this group of in your face anarchists got a hit single. They do have pop sensibilities and musical chops.

Listening to this now, it’s very dated. The first part slams all of the celebrity benefits and calls out Freddie Mercury (for playing at Sun City), Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Cliff Richard.

For the second side, it takes aim at Unilever and Coca Cola for investing in South Africa and taking advantage of the poor and indigent around the world.

It’s good for a curious listen, but really, not much else unless you want to study the political messages of 80’s anarchy.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This isn’t streaming, but you can find it on You Tube.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+: Definitely of a time and place, just not this one.

The Call – The Call

ARTIST: The Call                       R-1096852-1191772999.jpeg

TITLE: The Call

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Just promos

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: War Weary Word

LINEUP: Michael Been, Scott Musick, Greg Freeman, Tom Ferrier, Steve Huddleston

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from topical 80’s rock band is a bit strident and prescriptive.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Featuring an anthemic sound and political and social lyrics, the Call came onto the scene as one of the early bands fighting against the political tide of the time.

The album started out great with “War Weary World”, but as the album went on, Michael Been’s vocals wore on me, as his lack of subtlety felt like someone preaching instead of pleading.

In short doses, especially “War Weary World”, this is fine, but this first effort is just a bit too much.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Been was in the late 60’s band Aorta, which was noted only for their album cover.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+: A few good tracks, but as a whole it seems strident.