Month: November 2015

BB King – Singin’ the Blues

ARTIST: B. B. King
TITLE: Singin’ the Blues
YEAR RELEASED: 1956220px-Singin'_the_blues_small
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Almost every cut was a Top 10 R&B hit, including three number ones (Three O’Clock Blues, Please Love Me, You Upset Me Baby)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Every Day I Have the Blues is on this.
LINEUP: BB King – a bunch of other guys – but it’s BB King.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Record company collects BB King’s mid-50’s singles and other masters. Yeah, it’s good.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The debut album for King collected a whole bunch of his singles. Those early singles are not only touchstones for the blues as a genre, but established King at the forefront of the electric blues movement.

Many of these songs have become blues standards, and you can find a lot of cover versions, especially from UK blues bands in the 60’s and 70’s.

A few songs don’t feature his guitar, or much of it. King is a fine singer, but his guitar is his moneymaker. It’s also an album that’s thrown together – great stuff but there wasn’t much thought about where things went. The first side is much stronger, though side two is no slouch.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Most of these songs were credited to a “Jules Taub” along with King, which was a pseudonym for one of the owners of the record company.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: In Japan and the UK they added some other tracks from this era.

GRADE: A-: Blues hounds need it. We all need lots of it, because it’s good to have the blues.

 

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The Thrills – So Much for the City

 

ARTIST: The Thrills 220px-The_Thrills-So_Much_for_the_City_(album_cover)
TITLE: So Much for the City
YEAR RELEASED: 2003
CHART ACTION: #14 US Heatseeker, #3 UK
SINGLES: Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far) (#33 UK), One Horse Town (#18 UK), Big Sur (#17 UK), Don’t Steal Our Sun (#45 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you were in Dublin in 2003, yeah.
LINEUP: Conor Deasy, Daniel Ryan, Padraic McMahon, Kevin Horan, Ben Carrigan. Sessioneers for horns and strings and pedal steel and what not.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Dublin band writes a love letter for…the US West Coast.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Thrills have a lot of American influences, be it California or rock and soul from the 60’s and 70’s. It shows, somewhat, in their music, which at times can be exuberant. At other times they can be ponderous and wandering.

Deasy’s voice sounds world weary, and his band gives him sympathetic backing with some great arrangements for the most part. The songs, though, are hit or miss. When Deasy and the gang slow down, they really get ploddy.

The UK and Ireland loved ‘em, and the singles all did well (and the singles are all rather upbeat and bright). So if you’re curious, there’s some good stuff here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band spent 1999 in San Diego and wrote many of the songs on this album there. Instead of Dublin or the UK, they recorded this in LA.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but the last track has a ‘hidden’ track and that includes streaming. Oh, that was cute one time.

GRADE: B-: Some I exiled. Some I kept. It’s decent but I wouldn’t raid the larder for the pence to get this.

Wings – Wild Life

ARTIST: Wings
TITLE: Wild LifeWings_Wild_Life
YEAR RELEASED: 1971
CHART ACTION: #10 US, #11 UK
SINGLES: None. They released three non-album singles in 1972
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Radio stayed the hell away from this.
LINEUP: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Paul formed a new group! Paul gave the new group half-baked songs!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first three cuts tell the tale. “Mumbo” was a jam with made-up lyrics. “Bip Bop” is what the title says. “Love Is Strange” is a reggaed-up cover that lasts almost five minutes. That’s 3/8 of the record, not counting the reprises for the first two (ye Gods, McCartney). They’re nice to listen to, and all – Paul’s a genius of melody – but there’s nothing substantial from the man himself. (The cover is well chosen, but familiar.)

Four of the other tracks are actual songs that make decent album filler, and then there’s “I Am Your Singer”. Sample lyrics “You are my song / I am your singer”. It’s a duet between Paul and Linda. Oh, criminy.

Keep it around if you’re a Beatles completist – otherwise you can pass and spare yourself from having “Bip Bop” stuck in your head against your will.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Dear Friend” is a response to John Lennon’s vicious “How Do You Sleep”. The title cut was also the first clue that that McCartney’s were going down the path of animal-rights and vegetarianism.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, two of the singles are there. One was banned by the BBC (“Give Ireland Back to the Irish” – #16 UK, #21 US). The other was “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (#9 UK, #28 US), recorded in response to the BBC banning the former.

GRADE: C-: I perversely mixed “Mumbo”, “Bip Bop” and “I Am Your Singer” to a lot of folks – maybe for spite?

Barenaked Ladies – Maybe You Should Drive

ARTIST: Barenaked Ladies Barenaked_Ladies_-_Maybe_You_Should_Drive
TITLE: Maybe You Should Drive
YEAR RELEASED: 1994
CHART ACTION: #175 US, #8 US Heatseekers, #3 Canada, #57 UK
SINGLES: Jane (#3 Canada); Alternative Girlfriend (#22 Canada); Life, in a Nutshell (#29 Canada)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably none.
LINEUP: Andrew Creegan, Jim Creegan, Steven Page, Ed Robertson, Tyler Stewart
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: BNL moves away from the quirkly, clever and funny and becomes…dull.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Well played, well sung, good harmonies and boring. Yeah, boring. After the hi-jinks and fun times on their debut the Barenaked Ladies play it straight. It doesn’t really work.

There are some very clever songs here, like “Alternative Girlfriend” and “These Apples”, that show a great spark. However, on this album at least, BNL shows that they’re really in the middle-of-the-road without their wit. Safe doesn’t cut it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Unlike the previous album, there’s only two tracks co-written by Page and Robertson.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: C+: As with most competent, dull albums, I’ll put it in this range. A couple good tunes doesn’t make up for the torpor on some of them. And I’m going to exile the dullest.

The Who – The Who Sell Out

ARTIST: The Who The_who_sell_out_album_front
TITLE: The Who Sell Out
YEAR RELEASED: 1967
CHART ACTION: #48 US, #13 UK
SINGLES: I Can See for Miles (#9 US, #10 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You know, radio didn’t play anything else, which is a shame.
LINEUP: Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A day-in-the-life of a pirate radio station, with songs spanning all sorts of genres and types, plus fake commercials.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Pete Townshend and the Who came up with a glorious concept album – an album mimicking the UK pirate radio stations. Each song is of a different style, but each song is definitely a Who song. The fake commercials were also brilliant, with a full song for Odorono deodorant.

It’s mostly brilliant. It’s the best set of Who songs released to date. They also got a great contribution from a friend of the band (Speedy Keen, later of Thunderclap Newman) for “Armenia City In The Sky”. Songs like “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand”, “Tattoo” and “Can’t Reach You” would have been hits or sure-fire radio cuts for almost any other band.

The only downer of the album is the last couple of cuts. “Rael” isn’t a strong closer – it would be better in the middle somewhere – and Pete’s solo song takes away the high-spirited mood. Still, it’s a must purchase especially for anyone interested in 60’s radio.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: While recording this album, the UK shut down the pirate radio stations. Pity.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes! And they are worth it! The first deluxe is my favorite, as it’s all great outtakes and more fake commericals with the great song “Melancholia” (missing from the second deluxe edition for some reason).

GRADE: A: Add in just one of the outtakes at the end, and you’d have an A+

King’s X – Out of the Silent Planet

ARTIST: King’s X 220px-Out_of_the_silent_planet_album_cover

TITLE:  Out of the Silent Planet

YEAR RELEASED: 1988

CHART ACTION: #144

SINGLES: Goldilox, King, Shot of Love

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Fans, do

LINEUP: Doug Pinnick, Ty Tabor, Jerry Gaskill

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long-time band mates find a unique sound and voice and it’s unique sonic elements finds an audience among sophisticated rock fans.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The trio known as King’s X had been in the business of making music for years, struggling to find their niche and voice. When they hit on the sound that soon became the King’s X signature, they knew that was the way to go.

This album sets the stage for several that follow. It has mystical and spiritual elements to the music, a great sense of melody and harmony, enough riffs to please the metal heads and most of all, a great sense of musicianship. They have a very sophisticated sound, incorporating a lot of classical motifs and complicated chord structures, but present them in a very user friendly way.

Many of the songs on this album, though, don’t have a really memorable element that stays with the listener afterwards. It’s got a lot of great elements, and sounds great. It just doesn’t have that tune you remember two days later. “Sometimes” may be the exception.

NOTES & MINUTAE: Five years earlier, they released a record as the band Sneak Preview. It was as generic of an 80’s record as it could be, allegedly. It’s very hard to find now, as the band itself destroyed a lot of the copies of the record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  No

GRADE: B+: I really like the band and the sound, but I’m not bowled over by this one in the whole. Still, I’d take it over most every metal album of the era.

Soul Coughing – Ruby Vroom

ARTIST: Soul Coughing 220px-Rubyvroom
TITLE: Ruby Vroom
YEAR RELEASED: 1994
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Down to This, Sugar Free Jazz, Screenwriter’s Blues
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago; Casiotone Nation; Bus to Beelzebub
LINEUP: M. Doughty, Mark de Gil Antoni, Sebastian Steinberg, Yuval Gabay
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Combining beatnik poetry, sampling and jazz, a hipster band releases their hipster debut for hipsters, dig?

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Nothing really sounded like Soul Coughing in 1994. The nation was still enthralled by grunge, and sampling was the purview of the hip-hop community. Soul Coughing turned that on its head.

It was clever, funny, appealing and well-produced. The samples were integrated well, and the musicians all floated in and around them. Doughty’s poetry and rantings also were well-conceived even if some were, in fact, off the cuff.

Like most 90’s albums in the CD era, this goes on a bit too long. A couple of cuts could have been held back for B-sides. Still, though, this is a innovative album that you should check out, if for nothing else the inventiveness of “Casiotone Nation” and “Bus to Beelzebub”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The great sample in “Bus to Beelzebub” is “Powerhouse” by Raymond Scott – better known as music in a badillion Warner Brothers’ cartoons. You’ve heard it. This also went gold in the US, even though it never charted.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Nope.

GRADE: A-: A little too long, but clever, inventive and appealing.

AC/DC – High Voltage

ARTIST: AC/DC Acdc_high_voltage_international_album
TITLE: High Voltage
YEAR RELEASED: 1976 (International Version)
CHART ACTION: #146 US, #31 Australia (source albums went to #7 and #2)
SINGLES: It’s a Long Way to the Top (#9 Australia), High Voltage (#10 Australia), TNT (#19 Australia)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Rock & Roll Singer, The Jack
LINEUP: Bon Scott, Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Mark Evans, Phil Rudd
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Popular Australian rock band releases combination of first two Australian albums to an unaware public. Chaos ensues. Heads are banged.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 1974, the Young brothers and Scott’s band released High Voltage in Australia, and in 1975 they released TNT and they were quite popular. Finally, in 1976 Atlantic decided to release their records internationally, and took a little column A and a little column B for a while in making international versions.

Most of this record is from TNT, which found the band already in peak form. You know the formula – infectious guitar riff, solid and uncomplicated beat and bass guitar, an Angus solo and Bon Scott being lewd and lascivious. What more do you want?

The big issue with early AC/DC albums is that the album filler truly is filler. Even on an amalgamation like this, a few cuts fall short. Still, though, it was a great introduction to the world. Yeah, critics at the time didn’t like it – they didn’t know how to deal with it. Especially Bon Scott. No one else sounded like him.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The producers were George Young and Harry Vanda, the brother of Malcolm and Angus and his bandmate in the great Easybeats.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. But if you have a streaming service you can make the Australian versions of High Voltage & TNT.

GRADE: B+: The first side is great, and “TNT” leads off side two. From then it’s kind of a fall off until the closing cut.

 

The Vulgar Boatmen – You and Your Sister

ARTIST: The Vulgar Boatmen MI0000050092
TITLE: You and Your Sister
YEAR RELEASED: 1989
CHART ACTION: No
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah
LINEUP: Dale Lawrence, Robert Ray, Dave Glennon, Tom Holtz, Jonathan Isley, Helen Kirklin, Dave Langfitt, Larry Newcomb, Bob Rupe
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Band with bases in Florida and Indiana get together to record their songs and create a cult following with their rootsy nuggets.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was the Postal Service before that became a thing. Lawrence and Ray were members of the Vulgar Boatmen that released two cassettes in the early 80’s at the University of Florida. Lawrence moved to Indiana but the partnership remained and they wrote songs by exchanging cassettes in the mail.

Both Ray and Lawrence led versions of the band in each state, with Ray leading the branch that did most of their recording.

This 12-song set is full of songs about nerdy girls, car rides, college-age kids trying to change the world, and all three at once sometimes. It’s mellow at times – almost too mellow. But when the songs work they really become quite memorable, especially for a guy who liked nerdy girls and car rides.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: An early member of the band was Walter Salas-Humara, who formed the great band the Silos.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. It is on Spotify only at this time, not Google Play.

GRADE: B+: It’s very much hyped. To my ears not as great as they hype but still pretty good.

American Music Club – Everclear

ARTIST: American Music Club MI0001711514
TITLE: Everclear
YEAR RELEASED: 1991
CHART ACTION: No
SINGLES: Why Won’t You Stay, Rise
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sick of Food
LINEUP: Mark Eitzel, Vudi, Dan Pearson, Mike Simms, Bruce Kaplan
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Lachrymose, moody band makes a great record for those who are bummed out to commiserate.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Can you feel good about being depressed? Maybe. This record from American Music Club is a great record for those who want others to share in their despondency. Now, some of the tunes sound like they have a lift and a happy sound, but nah, the mood is one of being sad and lonesome.

The production is perfect, framing Eitzel’s songs just so, and the band’s performances are also very sympathetic. Maybe it’s TOO real, AMC never quite made it. It touches a lot of nerves that may be too real for us. It’s a record of a full ashtray and an empty bottle.

So, this is all to say that this is great. Most everything works. It’s a shame they didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Eitzel was named songwriter of the year by Rolling Stone in 1991 for this album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. The time has come for a complete re-release and expansion of AMC’s back catalog.

GRADE: A: Elton John said sad songs say so much – but Eitzel’s sad songs stay with you.