Month: October 2015

Pixies – Come on Pilgrim

ARTIST: Pixies 220px-Come_on_pilgrim
TITLE: Come on Pilgrim
YEAR RELEASED: 1987
CHART ACTION: #5 UK Indie
SINGLES: None, it was an EP
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: How many Pixies fans can sing every word of this thing?
LINEUP: Black Francis, Kim Deal, David Lovering, Joey Santiago
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: 4AD takes eight songs from their demo tape, remix it, and put it out there. Thus starts the Pixies in all their glory and weirdness.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Let’s see: A singer who shouts, screams, barks and croons, and also sings about a song-and-a-half in Spanish. A guitar player that attacks his guitar more or less. Songs about incest, brain damaged people, religion, Puerto Rico, rock and roll culture.

Who would listen to this band at all? Well, we did. We all did.

The Pixies may have grown musically and in terms of production over their too-brief career, but Pixies 101 is right here in this eight-song EP. Black Francis’ lyrics, Kim Deal’s great bass work and backing vocals, Santiago riffing and atypical leads, and Lovering’s solid drumming.

This originally was a two-fer CD with Surfer Rosa, but now it’s streamed and sold on its own. It’s just fabulous.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title, from the song Levitate Me, is derived from a catchphrase of a Christian rock artist from the 80’s

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No..

GRADE: A: No fluff, no head scratching sidetracks. Just straight up Pixies magic.

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The Old 97’s – Hitchhike to Rhome

ARTIST: The Old 97’s  220px-Old_97s-Hitchhike_To_Rhome
TITLE: Hitchike to Rhome
YEAR RELEASED: 1994
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Stoned
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They redid a few tracks for later albums.
LINEUP: Ken Bethea, Murry Hammond, Rhett Miller, Phil Peeples.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Texas alt-country band begins their long recording career with an independent album that, coupled with a national tour, started the wags buzzing.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Old 97’s burst out of the gate pretty much fully formed in their vision and what they do. Rhett Miller and company write songs about bad relationships, drinking and other substances, and Texas, in a rockin’ way with country underpinnings – with some acoustic tales of woe from Miller.

About half of this record is great, and most of the great songs familiar, as they recorded some of these tracks later, or played them live and documented them on their live album. They stumble a bit at times (while Hammond loves Mama Tried it’s not his best effort) and a few songs could have trimmed – there are 15 tracks.

Still, it’s a debut album that’s a great introduction to them, and you’ll want to consume your beverage of choice and kick back to it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title comes from the song “Stoned” – which I think is the highlight of the record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes with a bunch of demos.

GRADE: B: There’s some fluff, but it’s solid.

The Yardbirds – For Your Love

ARTIST: The Yardbirds The_Yardbirds_-_For_Your_Love
TITLE: For Your Love
YEAR RELEASED: 1965
CHART ACTION: #96
SINGLES: I Wish You Would, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (#44 UK), For Your Love (#6 US, #3 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A Certain Girl
LINEUP: Keith Relf, Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith, Jim McCarty, Eric Clapton on nine tracks, Jeff Beck on three.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: US record company takes advantage of great single, and arranges a US only album to coincide with a tour despite the fact Eric Clapton had left the band earlier in the year.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is the bad thing about mid-60’s albums from British bands – they’re a mess in sequencing and continuity. Some of these tracks date back to early 1964. But Epic needed product because of “For Your Love”, and well, product is what they got.

“For Your Love” is a tremendous single and a great relic of the British invasion. Yeah, Clapton didn’t like it – he’s was a purist then you know – but it’s a hell of a record. About half of the cuts are decent covers of blues songs. There’s only one original from the band and it’s OK. Songwriting wasn’t their strength yet.

But some of the tracks aren’t great, and their cover of “My Girl Sloopy” just sits there and goes on way too long doing nothing really.

Product, man, product.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Graham Gouldman wrote “For Your Love”, and later was in 10cc. I guess the relationship didn’t quite work out, because he later co-wrote “I’m Not in Love” for 10cc. (Hah, just kidding about the relationship part).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No – I had to put this together myself.

GRADE: C+: Half of this is good, but there’s no flow or continuity. Find the good stuff on compilations!

The Who – My Generation

ARTIST: The Who 220px-My-Generation--2
TITLE: My Generation (or The Who Sings My Generation for us Americans)
YEAR RELEASED: 1965
CHART ACTION: #5 UK (No charting in the US!)
SINGLES: Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere (#10 UK), My Generation (#2 UK, #74, #99 US 220px-The_Who_sings_My_GenerationCashbox), A Legal Matter (#32 UK), The Kids Are Alright (#41 UK, #85 US Cashbox), La-La-La-Lies
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Circles (Instant Party) (US Version)
LINEUP: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon, Pete Townshend. Nicky Hopkins plays piano.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Loud and raucous debut from the premier Mod group. Hide the children; it’s so loud!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After this exploded on turntables in 1965 and 1966, nothing really was the same. Bands could push the VU meters to red and not worry about distortion. Distortion is what they wanted. The kids really could stick it to their ol’ man and ol’ lady with the volume!

The sound here’s not clean. It’s loud and sounds loud. The band wants to out-do each other in volume, and Nicky Hopkins is back there trying to keep up on piano. Townshend’s eight (nine on the US version) originals are perfect for the band, and Entwistle’s showcase instrumental is fine too. And loud.

The only demerits here are the covers – two James Brown covers and a Bo Diddley cover. Daltrey’s not Brown nor Diddley and while the band does OK by them it’s just not The Who in all their glory (except for the guitar tricks from Townshend on “I’m a Man” – that saves it for the most part).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The US added “Circles” and deleted “I’m a Man” because the lyrics were ‘raunchy’ – never mind Bo Diddley had no problem releasing it. They moved “The Ox” to the middle of side 2 instead of the closing track.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes! The original album, the US cut, lots of alternate takes and outtakes.

GRADE: A-: What a great start to a great career. Only the covers trip the band up.

The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses

ARTIST: The Stone Roses Stoneroses
TITLE: The Stone Roses
YEAR RELEASED: 1989
CHART ACTION: #86, #5 UK
SINGLES: Elephant Stone (#8 UK), Made of Stone (#20 UK), She Bangs the Drums (#9 US Alternative, #34 UK), I Wanna Be Adored (#18 US Alternative), Fools Gold (#5 US Alternative, #8 UK), I Am the Resurrection (#33 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Waterfall
LINEUP: Ian Brown, Mani, Reni, John Squire
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Oh, Madchester! They claimed not to be part of this scene, but their music rather much fits with that vibe.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is another one of those ‘great hype’ records of the UK that fell somewhat flat to me at first. I had wanted all the songs to be like Fools Gold or I Am the Resurrection, but they weren’t. Alas. My favorite cut then was She Bangs the Drums with its neat guitar lines. I rarely played it all the way through, though I did plop a few songs on mixes now and again.

Upon re-hearing I can see where some of the hype came from. While not a TOTALLY Madchester-type record there’s a lot of textures and subtle sonic tricks in the songs. Still, though, some of the songs are meandering and don’t excite me. It’s not the BEST RECORD EVER from the UK. But it’s good.

BTW, I am reviewing the US version, not the UK version, which had two singles missing from the lineup. Without those singles, it’s down a couple of points.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album was a slow burner on the charts. It was released in 1989, but not until 1990 and 1991 did it make a lot of noise in the UK. (A Top of the Pops performance in late 1989 gave them a big push).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, several. The current one is a 20th Anniversary with the original UK order, all the singles and B-sides from the era, outtakes, and ‘lost’ demos. Many of the extras are superfluous.

GRADE: B+: Most cuts are good to great. But some average and lazy cuts move it down from the A territory.

Johnny Cash – With His Hot and Blue Guitar

ARTIST: Johnny Cash 220px-JohnnyCashWithHisHotAndBlueGuitar
TITLE: With His Hot and Blue Guitar
YEAR RELEASED: 1957
CHART ACTION: None (!)
SINGLES: Cry Cry Cry (#14 Country), Folsom Prison Blues (#17, #3 Country), So Doggone Lonesome (#4 Country), I Walk the Line (#17, #1 Country)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Wreck of the Old 97
LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut long player by Cash collects his singles and other cuts he recorded for Sun in his early years.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s hard to complain about an original album with the songs listed above, plus some other great country / rockabilly tunes done in the original Cash style with the Tennessee Two. I mean, I can’t complain about the songs.

What I can quibble about, almost 60 years in the future, is the sequencing. They bury the two best known and most popular songs on the second side, and lead off with a couple of the least representative cuts. I don’t know what Sam Phillips was thinking.

At any rate, the Sun recordings have been packaged and re-packaged a lot, even during the early 60’s, but this only misses Hey, Porter from his best early singles. Cash’s voice and presence is remarkable. You already knew he was going to be an all-timer.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the first album Sun Records released. They were all singles before then.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but these songs are all floating around on other compilations.

GRADE: A-: Sequencing does matter when listening to an album all the way through, but the songs are great.

Ultravox! – Ha! Ha! Ha!

Ultravox_-_Ha!-Ha!-Ha!ARTIST: Ultravox!
TITLE: Ha! Ha! Ha!
YEAR RELEASED: 1977
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: ROckWrok, The Frozen Ones, Young Savage
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hiroshima Mon Amour
LINEUP: John Foxx, Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie, Stevie Shears
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second 1977 album introduces more keyboards, a drum machine, and a better set of songs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is a pretty vast improvement over their self-titled debut. Ha! Ha! Ha! is the album that starts Ultravox! on the way to being Ultravox as we know them. Their synthesizers and electronics set more of a mood and feel, and the punky cuts have more energy and urgency to them.

Foxx’ vocals still irk me a bit, but he’s more in control and he actually does a good job in delivering Hiroshima Mon Amour as a torch song (complete with saxophone break).

They got some airplay on the BBC with this one, even without a single hitting the charts. Not to say this is a perfect album, but it’s better, and the bonus single Young Savage is probably their best punk-rock-electronica single.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Metalheads recall Hiroshima Mon Amour as covered by Alcatrazz. Mopers recall that song covered by the Church. I guess it can fit in both camps.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yeppers. The Young Savage single, some live cuts and some remixes and most of them actually add to the record.

GRADE: B+: Again, not perfect, but better and more of what I like about Ultravox and that whole electronics meets punk movement that was burgeoning in the UK.

Elbow – Asleep in the Back

ARTIST: Elbow 220px-Asleepintheback
TITLE: Asleep in the Back
YEAR RELEASED: 2001
CHART ACTION: #14 UK
SINGLES: Red (#36 UK), Powder Blue (#41 UK), Newborn (#42 UK), Asleep in the Back / Coming Second (#19 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you make it a habit of listening to every hyped band from Britain, you probably know this album.
LINEUP: Guy Garvey, Mark Potter, Craig Potter, Pete Turner, Richard Jupp
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut (and hyped) album by UK band that feels like early Genesis combined with mid-career Radiohead crossed with Coldplay a skosh.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Since I’m a cynical SOB now, any time the UK press uniformly loves an album, I get skeptical. The UK press uniformly loved this album and it was a nominee for a Mercury Prize. I guess I’m just an unwashed American…

It’s atmospheric, luxurious, slow, weary and bit over-the-top in its ornateness. If you like moods and textures in your albums this is for you. But it doesn’t seem to break out into anything memorable. The hooks aren’t there – the melodies kind of fade into each other. I keep waiting for a mid-song changeup that never arrives.

Background music for sad souls, plus Garvey can sing a bit like Tom Yorke on occasion (when he really reaches for the high notes).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were originally signed by Island and recorded an entire album, then were dropped. So they recorded a whole new set of songs for this.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with live cuts, EP tracks, B-sides and a DVD and probably pony rides too if you ask nicely.

GRADE: C+: It sounds good, and some tracks are good, but I don’t know if I can give a high grade to a record that gives me nap time vibes. Plus slow-mid tempo UK long and moody languishing songs aren’t really my cup of tea. I’m going to exile some of these.

Kansas – Kansas

ARTIST: Kansas Kansas_-_Kansas
TITLE: Kansas
YEAR RELEASED: 1974
CHART ACTION: #174
SINGLES: Can I Tell You, Bringing It Back
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: To even chart, this had to get some airplay somewhere, but for the life of me I don’t know what songs they would have played except the singles.
LINEUP: Steve Walsh, Kerry Livgren, Robby Steinhardt, Dave Hope, Rick Williams, Phil Ehart.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Two bands come together to form one unit, but combining the two results in an uneven debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When you think of Kansas, you think of ornate songs with progressive rock undertones and pop hooks. Oh, and Dust in the Wind. Deep cuts on their popular albums show their progressive side a great deal – long cuts mining all of the prog rock tricks.

This album, taken from the repertoire of bands that Livgren and Walsh led, sounds a bit patched together. Its proggy songs don’t have great hooks, and the more mainstream rock songs also don’t excite the listener. Frankly, Walsh’s song aren’t really up to scratch in my ears, while Livgren’s progressive rock songs show off Kansas in a better form.

It’s definitely a mixed bag, and you can afford to be selective.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: A writing credit leaves me to believe that Walsh, Hope and Ehart were in one band, while Livgren, Steinhardt and Williams were in the other.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: One bonus cut – an overly long live version of a JJ Cale song which is one of the ones I’m exiling.

GRADE: B-: I’m keeping six of the eight, and they range from OK to pretty good. They were OK as a prog rock band though they did show off a bit outside of a song’s context.

Jackson Browne – Jackson Browne

ARTIST: Jackson Browne Jacksonbrownedebut
TITLE: Jackson Browne
YEAR RELEASED: 1972
CHART ACTION: #53
SINGLES: Doctor My Eyes (#8), Rock Me on the Water (#48)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Jamaica Say You Will
LINEUP: Jackson Browne, Jesse Ed Davis, Jim Gordon, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Russ Kunkel, Craig Doerge, Albert Lee with help from Graham Nash and David Crosby among others.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Singer songwriter finally gets to record his own songs after a few years beating the music industry bushes

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Doctor My Eyes is a song most everyone knows, even if they didn’t know the title or who sang it. It’s a great and timeless piece of songcraft, and Browne had a lot of fully formed songs in his bag.

The issue is that many of these songs, good as they are, all get a bit monotonous at times. Slow tempos, laid back and tasteful arrangements, meaningfully earnest vocals. It’s like the singer at the coffee shop that has songs all in one motif – by the fourth or fifth song in a row like that you want a little variety.

That being said, individually the songs are top notch with good performances and arrangements. I only want a little more variety.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: David Geffen managed Browne, believed in him, and finally decided to start his own record company so Browne and other artists like that could record. He wanted it to be an “Asylum” for talented songwriters. Hence the name. Geffen is fascinating in his own right, but the story of his record company is quite intriguing.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: Great for a catalog when you’re shuffling, but as a whole album I need a bit more variety. The songs carry this.