U.K. – U.K.

ARTIST: U.K.                        220px-UK-UK

TITLE:  U.K.

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: #65 US, #43 UK

SINGLES: In the Dead of Night

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Alan Holdsworth, Eddie Jobson, John Wetton, Bill Bruford

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Prog-rock vets come together and form a supergroup that has some interesting moments evoking King Crimson and Zappa.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Eddie Jobson and John Wetton toured together with Roxy Music, while Wetton and Bill Bruford were in King Crimson together. Bruford hired Alan Holdsworth for solo projects, so they decided to all get together and make their own music putting all of their ideas together.

The album has some decent moments, as all of the players are top-notch and the arrangements are compelling. Yet as songwriters, they miss a bit. It would have been best if they jammed together and came up with pieces through that, and didn’t worry about ‘songs’ per se.

If you like prog, this is an interesting listen. Just don’t expect to be knocked out by the songs themselves.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their second album charted higher, but it is not streaming.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B-:  It’s interesting at times, boring at times. The songwriting needed help.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It!

ARTIST: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers        220px-TomPettyYou'reGonnaGetIt!

TITLE:  You’re Gonna Get It!

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: #23 US, #34 UK

SINGLES: I Need to Know (#41), Listen to Her Heart (#59)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Magnolia

LINEUP: Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Ron Blair, Stan Lynch.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from the rootsy band has some decent songs and a straightforward sound. It’s awfully short and sometimes slight.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Tom Petty had a short, tight group of 10 songs for his band’s next albums. There are some real winners, like the two best known records (the singles, which didn’t chart that high but was always big on the radio), and “When the Time Comes” and the title track.

It seems a bit like their record company, Shelter, needed to get product out there, so with less than a half hour of material they put this out. It’s not out of the ordinary for any other early Tom Petty album – just poppy rock-and-roll. Even with just 10 tracks, there are a few less-than-stellar tracks.

Even though you know the hits, some of this would still sound fresh to me.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Denny Cordell, who produced the first Moody Blues album, co-produced this.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B-:  If there was more of it, or was more consistent, the grade would be higher.

Destiny’s Child – Destiny’s Child

ARTIST: Destiny’s Child                          Destiny's_Child_–_Destiny's_Child_(album)

TITLE:  Destiny’s Child

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: #67 US, #14 R&B, #45 UK

SINGLES: No, No, No (#3 US, #5 UK), With Me (#19 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They covered Sail On

LINEUP: Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Roberson, many producres and session musicians. Guests included Wyclef Jean, Jermaine Dupin, Method Man and Will Smith.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: 90’s girl group’s debut showcases their great harmonies and Beyonce’s voice, which compensates for some average material.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When the four (at the time) members of Destiny’s Child come together and sing in their harmonies you do feel that they have something special, and Beyonce’s lead vocals are definitely distinctive.Destiny's_Child_–_Destiny's_Child_(Japanese_edition)

 

There are a lot of cooks here. Lots of songwriters, lots of producers, and engineers, and it does show. At times, it seems haphazardly put together, including that the Part 2’s of the big hit “No, No, No” is sequenced before Part 1.

It’s Beyonce with Kelly Rowland (and two others, who do sound great in the harmonies), so there’s quality here. They’d strike it big next time – this is a tentative step towards there.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album won the Best R&B / Soul album of the year at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Different versions in Australia, Japan and Europe.

GRADE: C+:  It’s OK. Not the best. I’m keeping a lot of it around because of the vocals.

A-ha – The Singles: 1984-2004

ARTIST: A-ha                           Aha_singles_collection

TITLE:  The Singles: 1984-2004

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None in the US or UK

SINGLES: Top 10: Take On Me (#1 US, #2 UK), The Sun Always Shines on TV (#20 US, #1 UK), Train of Thought (#8 UK), Hunting High and Low (#5 UK), I’ve Been Losing You (#8 UK), Cry Wolf (#50 US, #5 UK), The Living Daylights (#113 US, #5 UK), Stay on These Roads (#5 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not unless you were Norwegian or Swedish

LINEUP: Morten Harket, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, Mange Furuholmen

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Scandinavian synthesizer pop band, remembered for one huge US song and video, releases a comprehensive singles collection that illustrates their popularity outside of the US.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Yes, you know the song, and the video, and it will never die. “Take On Me” is played at sporting events, which is kind of funny since most all of their songs are lush, romantic synth ballads or pop songs.

Huge in Scandinavia, big in the UK for most of the 80’s, A-ha’s sound is kind of dated, but they do have some songs of quality and distinction which break through the sound. They also landed the theme of the Bond movie The Living Daylights.

Some of their ballads are a bit too slow and languid for my ears, so I exiled some. The band lasted a long time thanks to their fans, and they’re definitely tuned to the European market.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They’ve released three other albums since this compilation came out.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-:  It’s not really fluff – there’s some good work here. But all of it isn’t in my alley.

The Afghan Whigs – Congregation

ARTIST: The Afghan Whigs     220px-Afghan_Whigs_Congregation

TITLE:  Congregation

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Turn on the Water, Conjure Me, Miles Iz Ded

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I’m Her Slave

LINEUP: John Curley, Greg Dulli, Steve Earle, Rick McCollum

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Afghan Whigs announce their full presence with authority with a great album that sets their course for the rest of the 90’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They were on Sub Pop, but they weren’t from the Northwest, nor were they grunge. The Afghan Whigs decadent and hedonistic elegance is in full form here.

There’s a combo of alternative rock, soul and other elements in the music, as McCollum’s guitar reigns over the songs. But the star is Dulli – his vocals, mannerisms and lyrics are intriguing, compelling and at times revulsive. It’s all about Dulli on the prowl, as a hunter and as the hunted.

The album kind of loses a bit of steam during the back half. The slow burns get wearisome after a while, but it ends on a quite high note with “Miles Iz Ded”, a song tacked on at the end of the album from a different session.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sub Pop was almost bankrupt and this album was on hold until they could pay the studio (actually Dulli had to find a job to pay the studio then Sub Pop paid him back) and manufacture and release the album. Then Nevermind hit and Sub Pop became flush with royalties

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Most of is nice and sleazy.

The Mavericks – From Hell to Paradise

ARTIST: The Mavericks                     Maverickshell

TITLE:  From Hell to Paradise

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Hey Good Lookin’ (#74 Country), I got You

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Fans probably do.

LINEUP: Paul Deakin, David Lee Holt, Raul Malo, Robert Reynolds with help from Richard Bennett, Steve Fishell, Marty Stuart and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First major label record by the neo-traditional country band is a good introduction to a 90’s spin on ‘real’ country music, with good songwriting and a nice taste in covers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Raul Malo’s acoustic guitar and voice greets you on the opening cut, and already country music fans feel very comfortable. As the song and album moves on, you realize the Mavericks have a reverence for the past, and the chops to gain other fans outside of the traditional country demographic.

Malo’s songwriting is key. He can rouse you with a song like “The End of the Line (Jim Baker)” but also touch you with a song like “Children”. I question why the record company released a pretty standard cover when you had a couple of other cuts that maybe would have made a better dent in country radio.

It’s a good to great country album without a lot of filler and is pretty consistent track-for-track. It paved the way for the Mavericks to become a force in the 90’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released an independent album in 1991 (with a different guitarist than Holt) but four tracks from that repeat on this album and I think this is more representative of what they wanted to be.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+: It’s good, REAL, country music.

Rush – Fly By Night

ARTIST: Rush                           220px-Rush_Fly_by_Night

TITLE:  Fly By Night

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #113 US (#9 in Canada)

SINGLES: Fly by Night (#45 in Canada), Making Memories

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Anthem, By-Tor and the Snow Dog, Beneath, Between & Behind

LINEUP: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neal Peart

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Rush moves toward progressive rock with some lyrics evoking fantasy and a long, excellent suite about a pitched battle.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After parting ways with their original drummer, Rush found Neal Peart (or he found them, whatever) and set out on their long, storied partnership.

Peart immediately improved their lyrical content (Lee wrote the words to a couple of songs, and Peart’s are just so much better). Peart’s drumming also adds another dimension – he allowed Rush to expand their sound and their rhythms and really get into a progressive rock phase. In effect he allowed Lee and Lifeson plenty of room to explore their musical abilities much like Bill Bruford did for Yes and King Crimson. There’s no doubt that Peart is the reason they were able to pull off a great track like “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”.

We still have some issues, though. There’s one song that is just deadly deadly dull, side two is rather superfluous after the title track. Still, the first five tracks (never mind the lyrics to “Best I Can”) are improvements to their first album and showed Rush the way to the future.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: At the end of “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”, if you had the vinyl and a manual record player, the chimes would continue until you stopped the album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+: Four great cuts, one good cut (save the lyrics), two average cuts and one, well, not so good cut. (No, I really hate it…) It’ll do, Rush. Up a notch for “By-Tor”. That song rules.

 

Metallica – Master of Puppets

ARTIST: Metallica                           220px-Metallica_-_Master_of_Puppets_cover

TITLE:  Master of Puppets

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: #29 US, #41 UK

SINGLES: Master of Puppets

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Thing That Should Not Be, Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

LINEUP: James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Cliff Burton, Lars Ulrich

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Their tour-de-force, and quite possibly THE metal album of all time. It’s certainly in the conversation.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: What can you say about this album that hasn’t been said already? Eight standout tracks, all with complicated riffing, the perfect balance of mayhem and control. Add in themes that are universal, and the perfect vocal scream / shout from James Hetfield, and you’ve got near perfection.

The stretch from the title track, to “The Thing That Should Not Be”, to “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” should be what you play to all metal doubters. The versatility, musicianship, feeling, emotion and drive in those songs, one right after another, is among the best stretch in any album ever.

Even the instrumental, “Orion”, isn’t indulgent like many metal instrumentals and is a band showcase that show the strengths of the entire band in composition and playing.

You gotta have this record. Gotta have it, no questions asked.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sadly, it was during the European leg of the tour for this album that Cliff Burton lost his life in a bus accident.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. There are a couple of live cuts.

GRADE: A+: For me, the key cut is “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, which shows beauty, emotion and also kicks ass.

Elvis Costello – Get Happy!!

ARTIST: Elvis Costello                        Elvis_Costello_-_Get_Happy!!

TITLE:  Get Happy!!

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #11 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down (#4 UK), High Fidelity (#30 UK), New Amsterdam (#36)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Clowntime is Over, Black & White World, I Stand Accused

LINEUP: Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve, Bruce Thomas, Pete Thomas

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Costello crams 20 tracks onto an album that moves the Attractions to a more R&B sound. With so many tracks, there’s a few downers but most of it is great.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The vast amount of music on this album makes it a great value. Costello and the Attractions go through their paces and record a boatload of mostly new songs in an R&B idiom. It’s like if Muscle Shoals transported to Europe in 1980.

The playing of the Attractions is top notch as usual. They had come off of a few tours and were well rehearsed and tight. The prolific Costello’s songs have depth and breadth.

With 20 cuts, some don’t totally hit the mark, but there are so many great songs here, and you’ll sing along to almost every one within a few plays.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It was a regular album, not a double, and care had to be taken to make sure there was no loss of fidelity for a record having 10 tracks a side.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Each reissue has added b-sides, demos and live cuts.

GRADE: A: I thought about making it an A-, but the excellence outweighs the few okay cuts. It’s one case where quantity helps.

Caro Emerald – Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor

ARTIST: Caro Emerald         220px-Deleted_Scenes_from_the_Cutting_Room_Floor_cover

TITLE:  Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor

YEAR RELEASED: 2010

CHART ACTION: #4 UK

SINGLES: Back It Up (#190 UK), A Night Like This (#65 UK), That Man (#84 UK), Stuck, Riviera Life

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here

LINEUP: Caro Emerald, David Schreurs, Jan van Wiegingen, session musicians

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A great combo of jazz / swing sounds with contemporary pop idioms.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Trained as a jazz singer, Caro Emerald burst onto the scene in the Netherlands with some smash hit singles. Backed by a great combo that blends classic jazz and swing sounds with some modern flourishes, Emerald’s sound is pleasing and fun.

Her singing is expressive and fluid. She’s not trying to hit every high and low note, but rather would just rather use her voice to evoke moods and expressions. Her style and the sound crafted by hers and her producers make it so that she’s not a retro act, but a blend of old and new.

This is a fun record that’s great to put on for many moods.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She was born in Amsterdam to a Dutch father and Aruban mother.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A deluxe Italian musician and remixes.

GRADE: A: The songs are varied enough to keep you interested, and the arrangements and vocals are fun.