La Bamba – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

ARTIST: Various (Mostly Los Lobos)                         220px-Labambasounds

TITLE: La Bamba

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: #1

SINGLES: Come On, Let’s Go (#21 US, #18 UK), La Bamba (#1 US, #1 UK), Donna (#83 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All of them but not these versions.

LINEUP: Los Lobos (8 tracks) with cuts from Howard Huntsberry, Marshall Crenshaw, Brian Setzer, and Bo Diddley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Big, huge soundtrack (at least sales wise) to the move about the life of Ritchie Valens.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If you weren’t going to use the original songs by Ritchie Valens and others (and just WHY NOT – I mean, they sound great now), then having Los Lobos record the Ritchie Valens was the least you could do.

It struck gold. The movie made a big box office impression, and the soundtrack hit the charts and made Los Lobos a household name, at least for a summer.

Yet, now, it seems unnecessary. Every song on here is found easily on the web in the original forms, and while Los Lobos does a great and reverent job with the Valens tracks, they’d be the first to tell you that you need to have the originals.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I don’t need to tell you the title track was Los Lobos only #1 hit.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: C-: Not necessary in this day and time.

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The Sea and Cake – The Biz

ARTIST: The Sea and Cake          220px-Thebiz

TITLE: The Biz

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Sam Prekop, Archer Prewitt, John McEntire, Eric Claridge

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Chicago-area band continues its prolific exploration of jazzy indie rock sounds.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The jazzy parts of the first two Sea and Cake records were some of the best work they did, so in this third effort they lay back and see where things go, and they go into some nice grooves and sounds.

Evoking a quieter vibe than most of the decade’s artists, the Sea and Cake explore moods and sounds, creating some chill guitar parts and unobstrusive vocals that let the music shine through.

All of the musicians play off each other and at times it’s a jammy band thing, but with more jazz and less blues. It’s recommended for late nights with a bottle of wine and a nice tome.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was their third record in 12 months.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: Just allow it to spin it’s wonder over a few playings.

The Spinners – The Best of the Spinners

ARTIST: The Spinners                    9000000407909

TITLE: The Best of the Spinners

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #124, #37 R&B

SINGLES: I’ll Always Love You (#35 US, #8 R&B), Truly Yours (#111 US, #16 R&B), It’s a Shame (#14 US, #4 R&B, #20 UK), We’ll Have It Made (#89 US, #20 R&B), Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music (#91)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not, not by them at least

LINEUP: Billy Henderson, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, Bobby Smith, G. C. Cameron. Chico Edwards was the lead singer (instead of Cameron) early in their Motown run.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Motown “best” picks and chooses from their scant output in their Motown tenure. best of the spinners

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Spinners were a group that Motown inherited in 1964 after they bought Tri-Phi records from Harvey Fuqua, They lasted on the label for seven years, but the company only released two albums and eight singles in all that time.

They were an afterthought for the company until they hit it big in 1972, and then all of a sudden Motown decided to throw out this collection of tracks, and with it another single (that was a B-side before).

It does sound like a crass money-grab, as some of the cuts sound like the master was buried in sad for a while. The Spinners weren’t served well by Motown, and made their bones when they switched labels.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Because of their lack of work at Motown, they had to take second jobs, including chauffeuring other Motown stars aroumd.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: C: If Motown perceived you as a scond tier band, you get the scraps. These are the scraps.

Kyuss – Wretch

ARTIST: Kyuss                   220px-Kyuss_Wretch

TITLE: Wretch

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, Josh Homme fans MAYBE

LINEUP: John Garcia, Josh Homme, Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri. Chris Cockrell played bass on two cuts.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from stoner desert metal band has a few good riffs but a flat production.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some decent riffs here and there in this debut album from Kyuss. Coming out of the desert in California, the band was tight and had some power behind them, but a flat production did them in.

John Garcia’s vocals are distinctive and rise above the stoner sludge put down by Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri. Some of the tempos are faster than the normal stoner rock drones, yet the faster ones aren’t as effective as the down tempo ones. The drop tuning guitars sound better slower.

Better things would be in store for Kyuss, but this is a completist record for fans only.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Originally, the band was called Katzenjammer, then Sons of Kyuss.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: C+: Eh.

Grand Funk Railroad – Closer to Home

ARTIST: Grand Funk Railroad        Closer_to_Home

TITLE: Closer to Home

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #6

SINGLES: Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother, Close to Home (#22)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mean Mistreater

LINEUP: Mark Farner, Don Brewer, Mel Schachter

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The third album (in 10 months!) moves the band into the superstar status (based on album sales and concert attendance). But it’s maddeningly inconsistent.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At their best (“I’m Your Captain / Closer to Home”), Grand Funk Railroad can create timeless rock-and-roll. Yet, most every other track here has flaws in either lyrics (“Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother” is just full of nonsense), music (they’re not balladeers), or execution (the backing vocals for “Hooked on Love”? Oh, man).

“Aimless Lady” is about the only other track that doesn’t have a noticeable flaw. The songs rock hard enough (except for the ballads) that their flaws can be papered over if you just focus on the rock. Even the sexist tripe can almost pass for acceptable if you just turn off the lyrics.

Still, a record with “I’m Your Captain…” is worth at least a small investment.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The single version of the title track was half of the length, and there’s been at least five or six ways that track has been listed among albums by the band.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, live cuts and a different mix of “Mean Mistreater” 

GRADE: B-: One classic, and a few songs just not all the way there. They’re kind of a frustrating group, to be honest.

Queen – Sheer Heart Attack

ARTIST: Queen                            220px-Queen_Sheer_Heart_Attack

TITLE: Sheer Heart Attack

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Killer Queen (#12 US, #2 UK), Now I’m Here (#11 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stone Cold Crazy

LINEUP: Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Queen solidifies its home fan base, and breaks through in the US with this diverse and tasty record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Running out of the gate quickly with “Brighton Rock”, a showcase for Brian May’s guitar work and Freddie Mercury’s vocal range, then hitting the listener with the breakthrough track “Killer Queen”, this third record from Queen started fast. It didn’t relent.

Campy songs, ballads, some prog work, layers upon layers of harmonies, and even a medley of three diverse songs that work well together – this record had it all for Queen and was a bluepring for their work in the rest of the decade.

Some of the proggy stuff is a bit heavy handed, and some of the ballady songs a bit too earnest, but for the most part this is Queen at their best.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It’s said the “In the Lap of the Gods” has the highest vocals on any Queen song – it’s a scream by Roger Taylor.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the latest one had live and BBC tracks 

GRADE: A: Whenever I start playing this one, I always run through it a couple of times. Just a couple of tracks aren’t up to snuff.

 

Nicole Willis – Soul Makeover

ARTIST: Nicole Willis                 soulmakeover

TITLE: Soul Makeover

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: All the Time, Curiosity, Siesta

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Really, no

LINEUP: Nicole Willis, Jimi Tenor, Chris Dawkins, Severu Pyysalo, other studio pros in Spain and NY

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long time backing vocalist (mainly in Europe, though she’s Brooklyn native) records a solo album with her producer husband (Tenor).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Nicole Willis spent scads of time as a backing vocalist and collaborator in the US and Europe, Willis, by now living in Helsinki, recorded this solo album that proved to be an European breakthrough.

Combining soul, jazz, and electronica, Willis and her producer husband created a wonderful eclectic album which showcases how versatile her voice is as it comfortably nestles in with odd electronic experiments along with more classic soul and jazz sounds.

This record, and the touring behind it (she’s always been a big draw in Europe) established her as more than just a voice on someone else’s records. The arrangements and experiments also help to prove that she’s more than just a voice.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She started her career in 1983, and by 1985 was a studio vocalist in London.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, remixes of a few tracks. 

GRADE: A-: I like the mix of old and new here. It’s definitely worth seeking out.

 

Kansas – Song for America

ARTIST: Kansas                        Kansas_-_Song_for_America

TITLE: Song for America

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #57

SINGLES: Song for America

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I really doubt it

LINEUP: Steve Walsh, Kerry Livgren, Robby Steinhardt, Rich Williams, Dave Hope, Phil Ehart

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another bifurcated album from the band, with half being rockers and half being long prog songs. It doesn’t really work.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Out of the gate, this is the tale of two bands making one album. “Down the Road” is a rocker, with only a proggy violin element (and vocals by Robby Steinhardt, not Steve Walsh), and then the ‘hit’ “Song for America” comes out – all 10 minutes of it.

The rest of the record is split as well. Two more prog songs (eight and twelve minutes), and two rockers (shorter at five minutes). Those songs don’t do anyone any justice, and “Incomudro – Hymn to the Atman” makes about as much sense as the title.

You could hear that something was coming together, as “Song for America” had definite moments, and within 18 months, the band would be well known. Just not for this one, and for good reason.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The edited version of “Song for America” was three minutes, so yeah, there was proggy bloat.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, live cuts and the 45 version of the title track. 

GRADE: C: This one doesn’t click for me. It’s doesn’t sound cohesive at all.

Dr. Feelgood – Be Seeing You

ARTIST: Dr. Feelgood                220px-Be_Seeing_You_Album_Cover

TITLE: Be Seeing You

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #55 UK

SINGLES: She’s a Windup (#34 UK), Baby Jane

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Noooo

LINEUP: Lee Brilleaux, John B. Sparks, Gypie Mayo, The Big Figure

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album with a new guitarist shakes some of the rust off of the band, but it’s still not as vital as their early work.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first track, a perfunctory cover of “Ninety Nine and a Half (Won’t Do)” gave me pause that this Dr. Feelgood album would be the end of the road for my reviews of them. But then as more originals and obscure covers followed it showed that the change in guitarist somewhat energized the band.

Gypie Mayo is no Wilko Johnson, but the band seemed game for adding his guitar style to the mix, and his songwriting helped the originals. The covers seem to have more depth and crate digging, bringing deep cuts to the fore.

It’s a bit of a renaissance for the band, who were almost considered DOA when Wilko left by the wags. They had a few good years left in them, and this album points the way toward those.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Gypie Mayo’s real name was John Cawthra.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: Decent old-time, old-fashioned rock-and-roll for the UK scene.

Ice – T – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Ice-T                                icet

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Colors (#70 US, #77 R&B), I’m Your Pusher (#13 R&B, #21 Dance), High Rollers (#9 Rap, #76 R&B, #63 UK), Lethal Weapon (#12 Rap, #98 UK), You Played Yourself (#64 UK), New Jack Hustler (#67 US, #3 Rap, #49 R&B), OG Original Gangster (#7 Rap)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe, if you’re a hip-hop historian

LINEUP: Ice-T with DJs, producers, etc.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A decent collection if Ice-T’s Warner Brothers era.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: First appearing in the public’s consciousness with a cut on the Breakin’ soundtrack, Ice-T moved from electro-influenced raps to a more spare gangsta rap sound, then to a combo of hard rock and rap that manifested itself in the band Body Count, and then exile from Warner Brothers / Sire.

Ice-T’s records sold over time, but didn’t make a huge chart impact until he scored the theme to the movie Colors, then the publicity from the Body Count debacle put his name on the lips of everyone, it seems. As a rapper, his got some gifts – but isn’t as memorable as LL Cool J.

It’s a decent overview of the rapper’s early work, when he was a musician instead of an actor. Still, he’s more of a celebrity than an accomplished artist, even if he was on the leading edge of gangsta rap.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He’s released more compilation albums than original albums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B-: More of a name than a great artists – though there’s some decent stuff here.