Month: August 2015

Quiet Riot – Metal Health

ARTIST: Quiet Riot             220px-MetalHealthQuietRiot

TITLE: Metal Health

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #1

SINGLES: Metal Health (Bang Your Head) #31, Cum On Feel the Noize (#5)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you bought the record, unless Slick Black Cadillac was played on your local AOR station.

LINEUP: Kevin Dubrow, Carlos Cavazo, Rudy Szaro, Frankie Banali. Chuck Wright plays bass on a couple of tracks. You will probably need a chart to map out the number of times Wright has been in and out of this band.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: It summarized LA glam metal in the 80’s. Shouty, loud and in the long run, empty. Its success was a payoff for the late Kevin Dubrow, who worked for many years before hitting with this album, one of many rags to riches stories from the 80’s metal scene.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Everyone knows the first two songs on this record – the title track and the song they stole from Slade. (Actually, they really made a better version of Cum On Feel the Noize than Slade did itself – starting with the chorus was genius). The rest of it is fair to middlin at best and overbearingly maudlin at worst. Dubrow can’t really sing ballads – he still tries to shout them at a lower volume.
The second side of the record is better than it should be. But thanks to the sequencing, I bet it was hardly played by your average teenager.

 

NOTES & MINUTAE: This is actually the THIRD Quiet Riot album. They had two releases in Japan in the late 70’s that haven’t been re-released. That’s because Randy Rhoads’ family (who played guitar for Quiet Riot before joining Ozzy’s band) has asked that they not be out of respect for Rhoads.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of bonus cuts have been added that don’t really add anything except the realization that Kevin Dubrow is even more of a shouter in concert.
GRADE: C-. There’s not a lot of depth. The two hits are fun for nostalgic purposes but you probably should just find collections that have those songs.

EXILED except for a the hits and a few side 2 songs. The ballads? Nah.

The Mamas & The Papas – If You Can Believer Your Eyes and Ears

ARTIST: The Mama’s & The Papa’s             220px-TheMamasAndThePapas-IfYouCanBelieveYourEyesAndEars

TITLE: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: Go Where You Wanna Go, California Dreaming (#4 US, #23 UK), Monday Monday (#1 US, #3 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not

LINEUP: John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot. Part of the famous “Wrecking Crew” provided the music.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: It could be said that the Summer of Love and the world of Sunshine Pop started with this record. It’s got a great sunshine and laid back vibe even if some of the lyrics were dark and jaded.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The hits really overpower this album, but the whole album is filled with great melodies and harmonies, all impeccably sung and produced. Their version of I Call Your Name is arguably better than the Beatles’ original. Some of the covers are really just filler, but all of the Phillips’ originals are keepers. A fine album that will keep you humming and smiling even with the darker undertones of some of the songs.

There’s no doubt the kids started to think about California as an idyllic place thanks to this album.

 

NOTES & MINUTAE: Lou Adler is the unsung hero of this record. He assembled the backing band, put the group through their paces, and came out with one of the classic Sunshine Pop albums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There’s a good reason for that. ABC / Dunhill got rid of the first generation mono masters and the recording session tapes as a “cost savings move” in the 70’s. So any re-release is the stereo masters, which are a couple of generations removed from the pristine takes. Thanks, bean counters.
GRADE: B+. Some of the covers seem perfunctory, as John Phillips hadn’t filled up his bag o’songs yet.

Ramones – Ramones

ARTIST: Ramones   ramones

TITLE: Ramones

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION: #111

SINGLES: Blitzkrieg Bop, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You either know all of the record, or you don’t

LINEUP: Johnny, Joey, DeeDee and Tommy, with some random studio workers singing backups at times.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: While it’s not really the first punk rock record, it became a touchstone of some struggling bands in the UK. Here in the US it was a sign that ‘real’ rock and roll was supposed to be fun, and stupid, and easy to play, and fun.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Today, there would be some ‘problems’ regarding the lyrics of some songs regarding violence, drug use, hustlers and Nazis. I really don’t think anyone in 1976 or 1977 took this record seriously except for the fun it was. To this day, it sounds like a breath of fresh air – except “Blitzkrieg Bop” which unfortunately has been used and played ad nauseum in commercials and sporting events, and that over playing was about 30 years too late, really. Seriously, if you haven’t heard the whole record, what’s your problem?

Not every song has three chords. “Let’s Dance” and “Loudmouth” may have as many as six. That’s a lot of bass strings Dee Dee had to pluck! (Johnny just went with barre chords, of course).

 NOTES & MINUTAE: You may notice the stereo effect – in that the bass is in one channel and the guitar is in the other. That’s a big tribute to the early Beatles stereo, where they did it that way for ease. I’d love to hear this album remixed for mono.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, there is one with some demos and outtakes. However, the demos really sound like the original songs – so they’re kind of superfluous.

GRADE: A. Not quite an A+ as some of the material isn’t their strongest. Still it’s a hell of a record.

Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

devo

ARTIST: Devo
TITLE: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
YEAR RELEASED: 1978
CHART ACTION: #78 US, #12 UK
SINGLES: Satisfaction (#41 UK), Jocko Homo (#62 UK), Come Back Jonee (#60 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Uncontrollable Urge, Mongolid and Jocko Homo (which has the title of the record in the refrain) but you probably have heard the whole record at some point if you hung out with the nerds and geeks.
LINEUP: Mark Motherspaugh, Gerald V. Casale, Bob I Motherspaugh, Bob II Casale, Alan Myers
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Art damaged Ohioans confound the Western World with their philosophy of “de-evolution”, whilst dressed in yellow haz-mat suits with 3-D glasses.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Mind you, when this first showed up in record stores it was definitely mind-bending to the straights. Their deranged take on Satisfaction stirred up some trouble. However, through all of the weirdness are some great songs and great playing, and Uncontrollable Urge is just a flat out ripper as an album starter. This is a definite classic and perhaps the beginning of American post-punk.

One secret to Devo’s success is that they don’t sacrifice the melody even when being obtuse and strange. You can sing along to pretty much everything on this record (except Too Much Paranoias, but that has its charm as well).

NOTES & MINUTAE: Devo was around for four years or so before they recorded this, and definitely honed their vision and their songs. They released an EP in the UK in 1977 (“Be Stiff”) that isn’t available anywhere but the cuts are scattered here and there on compilations. So they weren’t a raw band going into the studio.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, there are bonus track options and an entire albums worth of live tracks is appended onto the Google Play version.

GRADE: A:  This is what a debut record should be. Smart, uncompromising, and visionary.

Squeeze – UK Squeeze

UK SqueezeARTIST: Squeeze
TITLE: UK Squeeze (Squeeze in the UK)
YEAR RELEASED: 1978
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Take Me I’m Yours (#19 UK), Bang Bang (#49 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None, unless you’re a real Squeeze junkie
LINEUP: Glenn Tillbrook, Chris Difford, Jools Holland, Gilson Lavis, Harry Kakoulli.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut new-wave / power pop record from the premier UK power pop practitioners.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You gotta start somewhere, right? Unlike many of their brethren, who put together excellent first albums, this was rather a disappointment. From reports, it wasn’t their fault. Their producer, John Cale, had them scrap their current songs and write new ones and you can tell that they’re a bit tentative and unsure about themselves and their direction. Frankly, about three or four cuts could have been left off in favor of the contents of their debut EP (Packet of Three), and a forgotten B-side called “Disco Kid”.

To wit: There’s an instrumental on here. Mind you, Squeeze are great musicians, but you don’t really buy a Squeeze album to hear an instrumental.

NOTES & MINUTAE: Packet of Three isn’t available for streaming, at least as I saw it. You can find the individual cuts on You Tube, and the lead cut “Cat on a Wall” (which definitely should have been on this record) is on a compilation called Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here’s the Bollocks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There was a CD with bonus tracks, but on Google Play it’s just the conventional album.

GRADE: C+: Saved by the singles and a few typical Squeeze cuts. Use your skip feature wisely. This would be the last of the ‘classic’ Squeeze albums to buy.

The Kinks – Kinks

ARTIST: The Kinks 220px-KinksTheKinks

TITLE: Kinks

YEAR RELEASED: 1964

CHART ACTION: #29 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: You Really Got Me (#7 US, #1 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stop Your Sobbing

LINEUP: Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife, Mick Avory + session guys like Jimmy Page and Jon Lord. No Page didn’t play on You Really Got Me.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First full album by the famous Brit band recorded to capitalize on the success of You Really Got Me. Unfortunately, the rush job shows.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a couple of unsuccessful singles, Ray Davies came up with the classic “You Really Got Me”. It’s world famous, as you know. The band rushed into the studio with just a handful of Davies originals and a lot of cover versions they played in their live shows.

Let’s just say the album could be named “You Really Got Me, with Stop Your Sobbing and 12 Others”. Those two tracks, plus a couple of Davies originals, are the only standouts. The rest would be exiled if I didn’t think I was going to collect most every Kinks album. On second thought, nah, the bad ones are just soooo bad.

 

NOTES & MINUTAE: The US version contains only 11 cuts, not 14. They squeezed two whole extra Kinks albums out of their first three UK releases, thanks to pruning and appending some singles.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The Deluxe version streaming has over 50 songs! It has both the mono and stereo mixes of the album, plus demos, their first two failed singles, some BBC tracks, an UK EP and most importantly, the A and B side of their next single, “All Day & All of the Night”. That last one? A true keeper for any library.
GRADE: C-: If it didn’t have You Really Got Me and Stop Your Sobbing, it could have been a D or D-. They sound like the teenage band they were covering Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.