Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years

ARTIST: Paul Simon      PaulSimonStillCrazyAfterAllTheseYearsCover

TITLE: Still Crazy After All These Years

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #6 UK

SINGLES: Gone at Last (#23 US), 50 Way to Leave Your Lover (#1 US, #23 UK), Still Crazy After All These Years (#40 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only Simon fans know more.

LINEUP: Paul Simon. The main band was Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, and Hugh McCracken but there was a whole bunch of others on various songs. Art Garfunkel dueted on “My Little Town”. Phoebe Snow sang with Simon on “Gone at Last”

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third (ok, fourth, but no one remembers his first, and he’d like to forget it, really) solo album finds Simon’s deeper cuts being a little lackluster, or maudlin.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some great music on this album. Steve Gadd’s drum pattern on “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is a marvel to this day, especially on close listen (hearing the interaction of snare, tom and kick drum with chocked hi hat). Yet it seemed that Simon had reached the end of his songbook for the time being.

Unlike his previous two albums, it seemed that the deeper cuts were at times schlocky and at other times derivative of his other work. It’s well produced and impeccably played, but it still seems a bit off.

There’s some great music here, and for that it’s worth a spin. But it doesn’t shine like his other early solo work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title cut was covered by singers as diverse as Rosemary Clooney and Willie Nelson

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of demo cuts added.

GRADE: B:  Maybe it’s because his other early solo albums were really exemplary, but this one’s just a bit flat.

 

The Kooks – Inside In / Inside Out

ARTIST: The Kooks                                220px-Insideininsideout

TITLE: Inside In / Inside Out

YEAR RELEASED: 2006

CHART ACTION: #165 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Eddie’s Gun (#35 UK), Sofa Song (#28 UK), You Don’t Love Me (#12 UK), Naïve (#5 UK, #22 US Alt), She Moves in Her Own Way (#7 UK, #39 US Alt), Ooh La (#20 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here.

LINEUP: Luke Pritchard, Hugh Harris, Max Rafferty, Paul Garred

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: UK modern rock band’s first album is a commercial success, and has some decent, if not memorable moments.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Though it was a little overshadowed at first by the Arctic Monkeys, the Kooks’ first album also became a world wide smash (not here, because, you know, the US does its own thing at times).

The reason is pretty clear, pleasing hooks and melodies and enough crunch to satisfy some rock fans. There’s nothing horribly new about the Kooks, but their music sounds good on the radio and really one song at a time may be the best way to hear them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They decided to tour and write first right after signing their contract to work on their sound and songs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, an extra US track.

GRADE: B:  It’s not revolutionary, but it’s a decent listen and the individual cuts sound good on the radio.

Various Artists – Zabriske Point Soundtrack

ARTIST: Various (Soundtrack)                              zabriske

TITLE: Zabriske Point

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dark Star, Tennessee Waltz

LINEUP: Pink Floyd, Kaleidoscope (US band), Grateful Dead, Patti Page, Youngbloods, Jerry Garcia, Roscoe Holcomb, John Fahey

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Soundtrack to infamous Michaelangelo Antonioni film is as unfocused and bland as the film, despite the presence of some heavy hitters.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The best thing about this soundtrack album is the reworking by Pink Floyd of “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” to “Come in Number 51, You’re Time Is Up”. The best way to hear that is on You Tube, with the concluding images of the film (the house exploding over and over and over again) combined with the song.

What else is there? Some country-rock excursions, an excerpt from “Dark Star” that only makes you want to hear the whole thing, some Pink Floyd songs that were actually better than the second side of Atom Heart Mother, and some infernal noodling. Oh, and Patty Page.

This movie was a spectacular failure:  incomprehensible, pretentious, and clichéd. The soundtrack kind of fits it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Pink Floyd had some other tracks they kept from the movie and finally reworked them into the famous “Us and Them”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, even more noodling and more blah Pink Floyd tracks.

GRADE: C:  Maybe it should have been a Pink Floyd EP, though one of the Kaleidoscope tracks and the John Fahey tune is nice.

Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother

ARTIST: Pink Floyd                                          AtomHeartMotherCover.jpeg

TITLE: Atom Heart Mother

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #55 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The title track

LINEUP: Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Rick Wright, Nick Mason. The EMI Orchestra and the John Aldis choir was involved as well.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Audacious side-long suite shows the bands ambitions and weaknesses, while the individual songs on side two add a factor of meh to the proceedings.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There are some folks who think this record is the epitome of Pink Floyd’s early period, and I’d like to know why they think that.

The first side is the 23-minute long mega-suite with a choir and orchestral sections, making it another in a line of rock+orchestra releases from the UK around this time. It’s got some nice pieces and parts but seems bogged down in pretention, especially with the choir.

The other side features a song each from the band (well, everyone is credited with “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” but it’s really a Nick Mason joint), and they’re rather disposable songs to be honest – nothing that really excites you or causes you to throw the record away.

I can say the best part of the album is really the cover. Not that this is bad like More, or the solo sides of Ummagumma. It’s just pretension amping up mediocre art.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They tried to tour this bloody thing with brass sections and a choir, but they had to hire the brass on the fly and they lost money all in all.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+:  Soon, Pink Floyd will find the spark they had from their early days. This is just treading water, though.

The Buzzcocks – Love Bites

ARTIST: Buzzcocks                           220px-BuzzcocksLoveBites

TITLE: Love Bites

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: #13 UK

SINGLES: Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) (#12 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Operator’s Manual

LINEUP: Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle, Steve Garvey, John Maher

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second full album by the pop-punk band is a bit ragged. With their best songs saved for singles the deep cuts seem lackluster.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Working fast was the ethos in the punk and post-punk era, and with the singles released around this time shows that Pete Shelley had the songwriting chops.

Yet it seemed that as the record moves on to side two, it runs out of steam. The fantastic single “Ever Fallen in Love” is definitely worth the price of admission, but as we move to side two it definitely feels that the Buzzcocks needed to fill up the numbers instead of making great art.

A lot of this is still quality stuff, and the packed deluxe edition is fantastic. But the original album isn’t as shiny as their first releases.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They started recording just six months after their first album was released.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the great non-album singles released around the time (“Love You More” (#34 UK), “Noise Annoys”, “Promises” (#20 UK)), and demos, Peel Sessions, etc.

GRADE: B:  I just didn’t feel this as much as their debut album.

Otis Redding – These Arms of Mine

ARTIST: Otis Redding              220px-Otisredding-paininmyheart-original

TITLE: Pain in My Heart

YEAR RELEASED: 1964

CHART ACTION: #103 US, #28 UK

SINGLES: These Arms of Mine (#85 US, #20 R&B), That’s What My Heart Needs (#27 R&B), Pain in My Herat (#61 US, #11 R&B), Security (#97 US, #23 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: He covers “Stand by Me”, “You Send Me”, “Louie Louie” ,and “Lucille”

LINEUP: Otis Redding, Booker T. Jones, Isaac Hayes, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr., Johnny Jenkins, Lewis Steinberg, Wayne Jackson, Charles Axton, Floyd Newman

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album from soul legend showed his vocal ability and songwriting prowess, backed by the first-rate Stax musicians.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Whether it’s recording Naomi Neville’s title track, his own “These Arms of Mine”, or another cover version, Otis Redding’s talent is apparent, and indescribable.

Redding please, croons, cajoles, begs, and shouts, sometimes all in the same song. His emotional range and feeling he puts in each song makes the album burn in your ears, even if some of the covers seem perfunctory. A half-assed performance by Redding beats almost everyone else’s best shot.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album was made from sessions dating back to his debut in October of 1962.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+:  Some of the covers aren’t Otis’ best work and I don’t think the band was into the, either. But he really cooks on his songs and the title track.

 

Uriah Heep – …Very ‘Eavy…Very ‘Umble

ARTIST: Uriah Heep                                                                     220px-VeryEavyVeryUmble

TITLE:  …Very ‘Eavy…Very ‘Umble

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #186

SINGLES: Gypsy

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nope

LINEUP: David Byron, Ken Hensley, Mick Box, Paul Newton, Alex Napier. Nigel Olsson played drums on two tracks. Colin Wood played keyboards on two tracks.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Keyboard and guitar heavy band crunch out their debut album. It’s not horrible, despite the contemporary reviews of it.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Uriah Heep rumbles out of the gate with “Gypsy”, a plodding heavy tune showcasing Ken Hensley’s organs and the bands ability to pile drive a riff to submission.

For most of the album, that’s the formula. It’s not bad, since Hensley’s a great organist and Mick Box can fake a good riff or two. What doesn’t work is their work on slower tracks, as they had a couple of moments where folk invaded their bluster, and they just don’t work in a slow, less heavy idiom. 220px-UriahHeepAlbum

It’s probably not the first Uriah Heep album to grab, but it’s not awful despite what they said at the time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The ghastly photo on the UK cover was David Byron in heavy makeup.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: They had one different track in the US and UK originally. Reissues have the UK and US songs, and some other rarities.

GRADE: B-:  Ken Hensley gets an A- / B+ by himself.

Grand Funk Railroad – Grand Funk

ARTIST: Grand Funk Railroad                             Grand_Funk_(album_cover)

TITLE:  Grand Funk

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #11

SINGLES: Mr. Limousine Driver (#97 US), Inside Looking Out (#40 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Got This Thing on the Move, Paranoid (not that one)

LINEUP: Mark Farner, Mel Schacher, Don Brewer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album gives the people what they want – simple boogie with some sorta social conscious lyrics.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The star of early Grand Funk has to be bassist Mel Schacher, mainly because of where his bass winds up in the mix. It’s way out there man. Terry Knight’s mixing and producing is very simple here, with Mark Farner’s guitar is split with rhythm mainly in one channel and his leads in the other and Schacher dominating the mix in both channels while Don Brewer’s drums are mainly in the other channel.

The songs? Oh, well, they’re definitely jammy for sure. Four of the nine wind up at over 6 ½ minutes, including the album closer “Inside Looking Out” at 9 ½ minutes of boogie and bluster.

It’s really a simple album, if you like Grand Funk’s hits there’s no reason you won’t like this second effort. If you need more convincing, I don’t think this is the one that will convince you.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The inside of the gatefold was used for their huge Times Square Billboard the next year.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: An outtake and a different take.

GRADE: B-:  I dig it, but sometimes I need me some stoopid rock and boogie.

James Brown – The Singles Vol. 3: 1964-1965

ARTIST: James Brown                                                       jb singles 3

TITLE:  The Singles Vol. 3: 1964-1965

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Please Please Please (“live”) (#95 US), Caldonia (#95 US), The Things That I Used to Do (#99 US), Have Mercy Baby (#93 US), Out of Sight (#24 US), Try Me (instrumental) (#63 US, #34 R&B), Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (#8 US, #1 R&B, #25 UK), I Got You (I Feel Good) (#3 US, #1 R&B, #29 UK), Lost Someone (Live) (#94), I’ll Go Crazy (Live) (#73 US, #28 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only by fanatics

LINEUP: James Brown, the Famous Flames

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third collection of singles highlights a turbulent time in Brown’s career that started with record company issues and ended with a new direction.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Many of the singles on this collection were churned out and flopped, for a decent reason. Brown and Bobby Byrd were establishing a production company on Smash Records, and some Brown releases snuck out on that label. Meanwhile, King Records were milking his live albums (and releasing quite a few of them as well), and released singles from there.

The result was a 1964 that was fallow except for “Out of Sight”, which was a prototype for his huge crossover “I Got You (I Feel Good)”. Brown also released some instrumental records featuring him at the organ, and that’s not what the fans wanted.

It wasn’t until the back-to-back smashes of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You” that Brown started his revolution in soul and R&B. Those come near the end of this volume, and it’s just not enough to really recommend this volume.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Smash released nine James Brown singles in total, with only charting in the Top 30, and only one that hit the R&B charts.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+:  1964 was probably the low point of Brown’s studio career in his prime, and it wasn’t until late 1965 that he came back to make great records. The huge hits at the end can be found almost anywhere else.

The Magnetic Fields – Distant Plastic Trees / The Wayward Bus

ARTIST: The Magnetic Fields                                 220px-Distant_Plastic_Trees

TITLE:  The Wayward Bus / Distant Plastic Trees

YEAR RELEASED: 1992 / 1991

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: 100,000 Fireflies

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Gosh no

LINEUP: Stephin Merritt, Susan Anway, Sam Davol, Clauda Gonson, Johny Blood

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First two albums from Stephin Merritt’s long term project (re-released by Merge soon after and combined on one CD) show Merritt’s baroque chops and intriguing style. 220px-The_Wayward_Bus

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: What’s more punk rock than an album on a ‘punk rock’ label that has little or no electric guitars, plenty of ornate orchestration, and intricate melodies and harmonies? When Merge snapped up Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, they declared that they weren’t just a ‘punk’ label (not that they ever really were) but a ‘great music’ label.

Those coming in late to the Magnetic Fields will notice that Merritt’s doomy baritone isn’t extant here – Susan Anway takes the vocals and complements the songs quite well. Merritt plays almost all of the instruments himself and shows that he’s quite accomplished.

The first album (Distant Plastic Trees) has some songs that aren’t quite up to the caliber, but it also contains the all-timer “100,000 Fireflies” that Superchunk later covered. These two records are charming, beguiling, and totally Magnetic Fields.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: These two records were the only ones Anway sang for Merritt.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No – two records in one though, and the second one are tracks 1-10 (so it’s backwards, as it were).

GRADE: A-:  These albums have their charm and some great, intricate songs.