Voivod – War and Pain

ARTIST: Voivod                                    voivod_-_war__pain

TITLE:  War and Pain





LINEUP: Denis Belanger, Denis D’Amour, Jean-Yves Theriault, Michel Langevin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Quebecois thrash band makes a thrashy record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The early roots of Voivod is pure thrash, and this debut record illustrates this. On original release there were nine cuts that all kind of bled together as one pummeling assault.

What separates great thrash albums from others is the change in textures and styles. This has none – it’s pure assault and that can wear on you for a long time.

Voivod would grow, change, mature past the simple thrashiness. Here, though, this is just too much blurriness.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Allegedly, they made only $1,000 from this even though it sold 40,000 copies initially.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos and live cuts and cuts for a compilation.

GRADE: C: I am exiling this. It’s just too much of the same thing.

Bruce Cockburn – In the Falling Dark

ARTIST: Bruce Cockburn                               in-the-falling-dark

TITLE:  In the Falling Dark





LINEUP: Bruce Cockburn, Michael Donato, Bob Disalie, Bill Usher, Dennis Pendrith, Kathryn Moses, Fred Stone, and others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  On his seventh (7!) album, Cockburn moves away from his almost entirely acoustic material into a sound incorporating jazz and rock with his environmental folk tunes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Cockburn had released six albums since 1970 in Canada (they’re all streaming, but they really didn’t make an impact here (barely released if at all))but this is where he moves towards a more contemporary sound.

There’s a lot of jazz elements here, especially when Kathryn Moses’ flutes mingle with the bass, drums, percussion and guitar. Cockburn’s guitar picking is outstanding, as he really lets it fly on the instrumental “Water into Wine”.

The long, acoustice “Gavin’s Woodpile” stops the record cold on the middle of side two. I’m sure fans of his previous albums appreciated it, but it’s an eight minute long acoustic diatribe that I just wanted to end.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It’s pronounced CO-burn, you pervs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Some outtakes have been appended.

GRADE: B-: Folk / jazz / soft rock ain’t for everyone, I know, especially when it’s kind of environmentally preachy. But this works on a lot of levels, except for the one long long long song.

Judas Priest – Hell Bent for Leather

ARTIST: Judas Priest

TITLE:  Hell Bent for Leather (Killing Machine in the UK) judas_priest_-_killing_machine_album_coverart

YEAR RELEASED: 1978 (1979 in the US in case you were wondering)


SINGLES: Take on the World (#14 UK), Evening Star (#53 UK), Rock Forever

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Delivering the Goods, Hell Bent for Leather, The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown)

LINEUP: Rob Halford, KK Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill, Les Binks

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Having broken through a bit in the US, Priest goes all-in, establishing a look and tightening and polishing up their sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: How do you review and album that you’ve known and loved forever? Well, you try to listen to things you haven’t heard before when you were mindlessly headbanging.

While not a huge chart success in the US, this was the breakthrough in terms of sound and approach. The Priest were now a tight, taut, heavy metal machine ready to rock the world. While there’s still some darkness and some deviance (especially on side two), here the band reins in any prog-rock aspersions and delivers tight, concise songs. (OK, some are over four minutes, but still that’s mostly some solos going on).

There are a couple of mis-steps. “Take on the World” is just a football chant that’s kind of a rip on “We Will Rock You”. It, of course, was a big hit in the UK. “Before the Dawn” is a ballad that’s, well, their best single ballad, but that’s not saying much. And “Evil Fantasies” seems a bit sparse.

The Priest were now primed and ready for their breakthrough. It would just be a matter of time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Columbia Records in the US didn’t like the Killing Machine title, so they had to come up with another. They chose the single track that is symbolic of the Priest, especially at live shows.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The US version added the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Green Manalishi”. Sorry Brits. Also, there is an outtake and a live cut appended, but not from these sessions. Why?

GRADE: A-: I love this record. But it has a couple of flaws Stained Class didn’t. Still, crank it.

Ben Harper – Fight for Your Mind

ARTIST: Ben Harper                               benharperfightforyourmind

TITLE:  Fight for Your Mind



SINGLES: Ground on Down, Excuse Me Mr., Gold to Me

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe when he was on tour or at a jam band festival

LINEUP: Ben Harper, Brett Banduci, Danielle Charles, Oliver Charles, Bob Coke, Timothy Loo, Leon Mobley, Juan Nelson, Ervin Pope

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Harper expands his musical palette, and also exhibits some jam band tendencies. That’s good and bad.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ben Harper prepped for this second album by absorbing the atmosphere from the jam band scene and his tour with the Dave Matthews band. That opened up his music, and the arrangements complemented his lyrics.

The songs here are little more fierce and developed than his first album, and having more of a band helps him a great deal. Harper’s guitar work on acoustic and electric carries through the songs as well, but his tendency at times to overplay or over-extend shows that the jam band mentality didn’t always work.

This record is a step forward, and showed to everyone that Harper was going to be a great artist no matter where he goes on stage – be it festival, arena or theatre.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The songs on the album were represented by roundels symbolizing 13 African armies and Jamaica. Also, this isn’t on Google Play but available on Spotify.


GRADE: A-: A little jam-bandy at times, but most of this grabs you and keeps you listenting.

Ohio Players – Pleasure

ARTIST: Ohio Players                                     220px-pleasureohioplayers

TITLE:  Pleasure



SINGLES: Pleasure (#45 R&B), Varee is Love, Funky Worm (#15, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not unless you were funky enough.

LINEUP: Sugarfoot Bonner, Rock Jones, Pee Wee Middlebrooks, Junie Morrison, Andrew Noland, Marvin Pierce, Gregory Webster.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Funk group hits its stride, and breaks out with a novelty hit about…well…a funky worm.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Funky Worm” was a hilarious (well, I think it’s funny) tune about a worm that plays guitar, and features the “Granny”, a character developed by Junie Morrison.

Dang it, though, this is funky and hot all the way through. The synthesizers and keyboards by Morrison were definitely trailblazing, and the rest of the band develops great grooves and hooks in the grooves. The band sounds loose and like they’re having fun, which adds to the atmosphere.

Ballads (first and last cut of side two) still trip them up a bit, and vocals are an afterthought. It’s still quite funky.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Morrison’s ARP synthesizer in “Funky Worm” has been sampled by numerous acts.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few b-sides and leftover cuts. Some great, some not so great.

GRADE: A-: Except for the ballads, this is like nine cans of shaving powder funky.

American Music Club – Mercury

ARTIST: American Music Club               american_music_club_-_mercury

TITLE:  Mercury



SINGLES: Keep Me Around, Johnny Mathis’ Feet


LINEUP: Mark Eitzel, Vudi, Danny Pearson, Bruce Kaphan, Tim Mooney

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Dense, sadly beautiful, eclectic record from the masters of down and out mood music.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In the early 90’s, thanks to the breakthrough of Nirvana, etc., alternative bands were signed by major labels and released albums that even seemed more daring than their independent label works. This was the case here.

The album is a bit more varied than previous AMC releases, if only that the sadness at the core is balanced at times with almost upbeat sounding tunes (“Keep Me Around” – the melody and hooks mask some dark stuff) and some arrangements that move toward the avant-garde a bit (“Challenger”). But songs like “If I Had a Hammer” and “I’ve Been a Mess” are the core of the record and there’s nothing happy about songs like this, really.

It’s another record for drinking whiskey by yourself in a dark room after a bad day. That’s a complement.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They signed with Reprise and Virgin after five independent albums.


GRADE: A: Beauty and sadness.

DM3 – One Times Two Times Three Red Light

ARTIST: DM3                                                                      dm3-one-time

TITLE:  One Time Two Times Three Red Light



SINGLES: Foolish, Far from Here, 1X, 2X Devistated


LINEUP: Dom Mariani, Toni Italiano, Pascal Bartolone, Ian Campbell.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Australian power-pop band with hooks, great guitars, and harmonies galore. Didn’t make a dent here, except if you paid attention. Some did for sure.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Dom Mariani had cut his teeth in some Australian bands of note (the Stems, especially) when he formed this band with some other refugees from Australian bands, and released this heavenly power-pop mix that hits all the right notes.

It didn’t do much here; it was only available on import. It did well enough in Australia and Europe for them to tour regularly, and they were treated to rockin’ guitars with enough polish to take a rough edge off, great melodies, and harmonies, and a fun sound in general.

Who was listening? Well, the Fountains of Wayne definitely were, since their sound is quite similar to this bands (“1X 2X Devistated” definitely is where the FoW took notes). There are 12 great tracks here that power pop lovers need to find. dm3-one-time-alt

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mariani was in the Stems through their history, and then formed the Someloves.


GRADE: A: I can’t help myself to love power-pop records like this.

Dead or Alive – That’s the Way I Like It: The Best of Dead or Alive

ARTIST: Dead or Alive                      r-2507232-1287796845-jpeg

TITLE:  That’s the Way I Like It: The Best of Dead or Alive

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation


SINGLES: Top 40: Misty Circles (#4 US Dance, #100 UK), That’s the Way (I Like It) (#28 US Dance, #22 UK), You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) (#11 US, #4 US Dance, #1 UK), Lover Come Back to Me (#75 US, #13 US Dance, #11 UK), In Too Deep (#14 UK), My Heart Goes Bang (#15 US Dance, #23 UK), Brand New Lover (#15 US, #1 US Dance, #31 UK), Something in My House (#3 US Dance, #12 UK), Turn Around & Count 2 Ten (#2 US Dance, #70 UK), Come Home with Me Baby (#1 US Dance, #62 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: On the dance floor, maybe.

LINEUP: Pete Burns, Mike Percy, Steve Coy, Tim Lever. Wayne Hussey (yeah, the guy from the Mission & Sisters of Mercy) was in the band for their first album.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Very 80’s dance band brings nostalgia, and lots of songs that sound alike.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If you had two copies of this collection, I bet you could keep a dance floor going for over an hour without a problem, seamlessly mixing the tracks together so there’s no fade or stops.

That’s a compliment, but also a detraction. While not every song is similar to “You Spin Me Round” or “Brand New Lover”, they’re all very much in the same motif. Electro beats, loud keyboards, and Pete Burns singing about sex and love.

They were huge first in the UK, then became US dance floor mainstays through the 80’s. The individual albums are all streaming, but really, this collection suffices for your Dead or Alive fix.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: As stated above, Wayne Hussey was with the band for their first album and few singles, but left for the Mission and Sisters of Mercy before they became huge.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There are some other comps, but some have only remixes or re-recordings.

GRADE: B: It’s tuneful, and while repetitive, there’s only one cut out of 17 that didn’t get me going. Even the good remixes were keepers.

Paul McCartney – McCartney

ARTIST: Paul McCartney                      220px-mccartney1970albumcover

TITLE:  McCartney




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe I’m Amazed, Every Night

LINEUP: Paul McCartney. Linda on some backing vocals.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  A mostly home-recorded album that is mostly daft but sometimes brilliant.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: NOTE: As you may have guessed, I’m treating Paul McCartney solo separate from Wings. Carry on.

Starting out as a couple of recordings designed to test his home equipment, Paul’s first solo album grew into a full blown album after it was clear the Beatles weren’t going to get back together. Released and gobbled up by an eager public in 1970, it showed the brilliant Paul alongside the annoying Paul in one fell swoop.

Songs like “Every Night”, “Maybe I’m Amazed” and the instrumental “Hot As Sun” show McCartney’s gifts in full – in melody, structure and harmony along with a prowess at most every instrument. A few other songs are decent enough. Then…well….

“Hot As Sun” is rather spoiled by a silly experiment on wine glasses tagged on the end. A few songs are instrumental improvisations, half-formed songs, experiments best left in the vault, or pieces that really needed a John Lennon quality-control opinion. (“Junk” is one of my all-time can’t –stand-it’s and it was always rejected by the Beatles for good reason. Same with “Teddy Boy” – gack.)

Paul had an EP’s worth of material and made it an LP. It wouldn’t be the last time he did that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Paul basically announced the Beatles were splitting up on the press release for this album, leaving the rest of the group none-too-pleased. It was viewed by the other three as premature, hasty, or bad timing. Take your pick.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, live cuts from later tours and a couple of outtakes. Yes, believe it or not “Oo You” made the record over some other songs.

GRADE: C: His best solo song, “Maybe I’m Amazed”, is stuck on this lemon.



The Doors – Strange Days

ARTIST: The Doors                     220px-albumstrangedays

TITLE:  Strange Days



SINGLES: People Are Strange (#12), Love Me Two Times (#25)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Strange Days, Moonlight Drive, When the Music’s Ovder

LINEUP: Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Kreiger, John Densmore, Doug Lubahn

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  After a smash hit, the Doors release an album closer to their true vision with fewer songs geared for the radio.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Light My Fire” was a huge hit, of course, so radio folks may have been a little taken aback by some of the cuts on their second album.

Robby Kreiger had two somewhat traditional pop-rock songs (though “Love Me Two Times” was even more risqué than his “Light My Fire”), but “People Are Strange” (a Morrison / Kreiger collaboration) was a little more out there than the normal Top 20 hit, and “Strange Days” and “Moonlight Drive” showed Morrison’s combination of art-poetry and rock-star vibe. Plus “When the Music’s Over” is another grand opus that’s better than “The End”.

The hidden star here is bassist-for-hire Doug Lubahn, who is mixed higher this time and adds a lot to the eight tracks he’s on, especially the title track. But ee also get the first load of Jim Morrison’s horeshit in “Horse Latitudes”, which is unbearable for everyone but the most stoned.

The Doors were a good band in a fertile time for rock experimentation, but there’s nothing magical about them except their aura.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Lubahn was asked to join the band, but declined, since he was in Clear Light and didn’t want to leave that band. That may have been a mistake on his part.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes of released cuts, and just a couple.

GRADE: B+: “Horse Latitudes” is a warning for palaver to come, but most of this record is pretty solid.