Month: December 2015

Rogue Wave – Out of the Shadow

ARTIST: Rogue Wave 220px-OutoftheShadow

TITLE:  Out of the Shadow

YEAR RELEASED: 2004

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Kinda obscure, this one is.

LINEUP: Zach Rogue, Patrick Spurgeon, Sonya Westcott, Gram LeBron

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pleasant and cerebral indie band has some tuneful moments.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Rogue Wave has placed lots of songs on soundtracks and compilations. They seem to be a go-to band for a director if they want a band that’s indie, but not one so indie that it’d scare away the paying customers.

This is due to their style, which is in full effect. They’re tuneful, have some quirky things they do with meter, harmony and song construction, but they’re not brash or atonal about it. Plus, they use harmonies and have smart lyrics.

This didn’t seem like a debut album, but it also was one that just loped along for me while I did work. That may be another reason directors like them – they’re fairly unobtrusive.

NOTES & MINUTAE: Zach Rogue (nee Schwartz) was a dot-com employee but lost his job in the burst in 2001. So why not start a band?

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  No.

GRADE: B: Nothing really wrong about it. You may hum a melody or two afterwards.

 

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Dan Bern – Dan Bern

ARTIST: Dan Bern 220px-DanBernCover1
TITLE: Dan Bern
YEAR RELEASED: 1997
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Those that like neo-folkie wiseasses would know.
LINEUP: Dan bern, Jennifer Condos, Gary Mallaber, Dean Restum, Marshall Thompson, Josh Zawaduk
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First full-length album from folkie with several songs with wry, witty or smartass lyrics.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Bern now has a comfortable cult following, and in listening to this first full length record, he hasn’t changed his modus operandi much. Take a basic folk song template, add literate lyrics (either serious, silly, or sardonic), and use either a solo acoustic or a full band, depending on the song or style needed.

Because of the variety of styles and music in this album, which means a rather novice non-immersed-in-folk listener can more easily gravitate towards songs and grasp them without them all blending together in the same style.

If you’ve had friends talk about him, check this first effort out. The side of Bern I like the most is the humorous side, and the cut I love is “Marilyn”, about what would have happened if Marilyn Monroe married Henry Miller and not Arthur Miller. That’s a joke only lit nerds would really get. Or there’s “Estelle”, which follows in Dylan’s talking blues footsteps, except with a full band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He recorded a record in 1994 that wasn’t released until 2007, and an self-released EP in 1996 that’s vanished, I think, or at least I haven’t found it yet.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+: It’s a good listen – and the variety really helps keep the listener’s attention.

The Moody Blues – The Magnificent Moodies

ARTIST: The Moody Blues The_magnificent_moodies
TITLE: The Magnificent Moodies (Go Now – The Moody Blues #1 in the US)
YEAR RELEASED: 1965
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Go Now (#10 US, #1 UK), I Don’t Want to Go On Without You (#33 UK), From the Bottom of My Heart (#93 US), Stop! (#98 US)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You probably know all but a few, since they did a lot of covers (as usual)
LINEUP: Denny Laine, Mike Pinder, Clint Warwick, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Moody Blues start as a typical UK Beat group, with one big single, a bunch of other stuff, and what seemed to be a short, forgettable career.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Um, let’s cut this short. This is a quick LP job to support a hit single. It’s by a version of the Moody Blues that has really no connection, sonically, to their later material. Warwick and Laine both quite the group in 1966, and they were in a jam until Justin Heyward and John Lodge joined, and they ultimately scrapped this style (for the better). R-5779871-1402437695-4850.jpeg

“Go Now” is a nice hit. The rest is a no-go for me. Their originals aren’t anything special, and they really aren’t a band that can cover US R&B.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Laine, of course, was Paul McCartney’s foil in Wings in the 70’s.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, combining the UK and US versions with other singles and tracks. Listen to their version of “Time Is on My Side” versus the Stones’ version and see what you think. Some of the bonus tracks are decent, like a re-mastered version of “Go Now”.

GRADE: D+: This is the way albums used to be made for groups with their first hit. I wouldn’t even have reviewed this, except I know people may be interested because it’s the “Moody Blues”. I just wanted to warn folks. The bonus cuts would have made this a C-, but no better.

Robin Trower – Twice Removed from Yesterday

ARTIST: Robin Trower 220px-Robin_Trower_-_Twice_Removed_from_Yesterday
TITLE: Twice Removed from Yesterday
YEAR RELEASED: 1973
CHART ACTION: #106
SINGLES: Man of the World
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Alas, none.
LINEUP: Robin Trower, James Dewar, Reg Isidore
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Ex Procol-Harum guitarist goes solo and releases a solid album full of tasty guitar.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: No doubt Trower was chomping on the bit during his time in Procol Harum, as his talents were underused in that band. He contributed the great “Whisky Train” to the band in 1970, and two tracks in 1971 that were more blues rock and not proggy at all. So when he finally split from Procol Harum, Trower went all in to become a guitar hero much like Hendrix, Clapton and Rory Gallagher.

This record is a good start for him. While his songwriting isn’t quite polished, and a few tracks drag a bit, it’s an excellent start. His tone and playing are pretty unique and his backing musicians complement him well.

The slow, spacy “Daydream” is a highlight along with “Can’t Wait Much Longer”. All of this is good, and he’d get better.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Between Procol Harum and this solo album, he tried to create a new band called Jude with ex-members of Stone the Crows, Jethro Tull and singer Frankie Miller.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a B-side has been appended.

GRADE: B+: Great for guitar rock lovers. Trower is sadly underrated and forgotten.

Bad Religion – How Can Hell Be Any Worse? (80-85)

ARTIST: Bad Religion 220px-Bad_Religion_'80-'85
TITLE: 80-85
YEAR RELEASED: Compilation
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: None, really. It’s their first LP, two EPs and three compilation tracks.
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, if you’re into Bad Religion you got this. 220px-BadReligionHowCouldHellBeAnyWorse
LINEUP: Greg Graffin, Bret Gurewitz, Greg Hetson, Jay Bentley, Pete Finestone, Jay Ziskrout, Tim Gallegos
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The first releases from the seminal LA punk rock band which set the bedrock for all American punk rock from 1980 to the present day. It conveniently forgets their 1983 album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ok, this record is now part of their album How Could Hell Be Any Worse as a big deluxe version of that album. HOWEVER, it was first released as 80-85 and by lumping it into that 1982 release the other EPs (1981’s Bad Religion and 1985’s Back to the Known) don’t get a fair shake.

That being said, early Bad Religion (again, forgetting the 1983 album ever existed) was definitely loudfastrules punk rock. Yet, you can hear the first inklings of the melodies that Bad Religion would bring to the genre and some of the complex changes in structure and time that other punk bands couldn’t grip. No harmonies until the 1985 EP. Bad_Religion_-_Bad_Religion_(EP)

Musically, Gurewitz is a power chord monster, and Bentley’s bass carries a lot of the changes with his loping bass work. Graffin adds some piano flourishes that you can pick out if you’re listening carefully. The only negative for punk rockers is that by combining those releases and their appearance in the Public Service compilation, you get three versions of “Bad Religion” and two each for “Slaves” and “Drastic Actions”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: During the recording of How Could Hell Be Any Worse, drummer Jay Ziskrout walked out, and the roadie Pete Finestone took over and finished the album. Also, Gallegos was the bass player for the Back to the Known sessions, as Bentley left the band when Graffin and Gurewitz changed directions for 18 months or so. 220px-Back_to_the_Known_cover

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: See above.

GRADE: B+: It’s an essential document of LA punk but the duplication of tracks can be an issue for some.

 

Passion Pit – Manners

ARTIST: Passion Pit 220px-Mannersalbum
TITLE: Manners
YEAR RELEASED: 2009
CHART ACTION: #51 US, #55 UK
SINGLES: Sleepyhead (#104 US), The Reeling (#34 US Alternative, #99 UK), To Kingdom Come, Little Secrets (#39 US Alternative)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Don’t think so unless they snuck into a commercial.
LINEUP: Michael Angelakos, Nate Donmoyer, Ian Hultquist
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Shiny, happy electro-pop for now people.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Everything’s gonna be OK if you listen to Passion Pit. Well, at least that’s what it seems like. This is a happy record, full of happy electronica.

There are a lot of hooks floating about here as well. The songs tend to overlap into one another except for the hooks. That’s OK; it’s great atmospheric music. The songs do get lost at times because of the sound.

Still, Passion Pit’s debut long-player is good for a few spins. The hooks will keep you coming back.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: During this year, Passion Pit also remixed songs by Gotye: Phoenix: and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few bonus tracks released the next year.

GRADE: B: I wouldn’t call it disposable. The hooks are decent. Some of the songs do get lost, though.

 

The Style Council – Cafe Bleu

ARTIST: The Style Council 220px-The-Style-Council-Café-Bleu
TITLE: Café Bleu (My Ever Changing Moods in the US)
YEAR RELEASED: 1984
CHART ACTION: #56 US, #2 UK
SINGLES: My Ever Changing Moods (#29 US, #5 UK), You’re the Best Thing (#76 US, #5 UK). A Solid Bond in Your Heart (#11 UK) was on the US version.
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not
LINEUP: Paul Weller, Mick Talbot, Steve White and many others
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First proper album by the neo-retro-soul conglomeration garners a hit single in the US and acclaim in the UK.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Paul Weller moved right into retro soul with a touch of jazz and rap without breaking a sweat on this album. It’s full of jazz instrumentals, piano ballads and soul infusions.

The issue for my ears, though, is that I don’t want jazz when Weller is about. He’s definitely got an ear for melody, but also one for lyrics and it seems that instrumentals take that away. Also, some of the songs that feature the rap don’t work, either. It’s too much a clash of the styles.

Weller was guaranteed success in the UK, and the singles are great. The album is spotty and inconsistent to me, though.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The UK version has the solo piano version of “My Ever Changing Moods”. The US version has the 12” version, adds another track, subtracts two, and changes the running order. You can’t get that anymore, though.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but I wish there was the US version or at least the ability to create one. The 12” version of “My Ever Changing Moods” isn’t around as far as I can see.

GRADE: C+: I’m not feeling this one from Weller & Co. Too many instrumentals for it to be a great album.

Sonic Youth – Bad Moon Rising

ARTIST: Sonic Youth 220px-SonicYouthBadMoonRising
TITLE: Bad Moon Rising
YEAR RELEASED: 1985
CHART ACTION: No
SINGLES: Death Valley ‘69
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not as such unless you listened to extreme college radio in the 80’s
LINEUP: Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, Bob Burt. Lydia Lunch howls on the single.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sonic Youth turns the corner, slightly, and begins their ‘many guitars / odd tunings’ phase and begins to write more actual songs instead of just noisy noise. It’s a dark record, too.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If you weren’t a Republican or a Reagan Democrat in 1985, you were in a dark mood about the country. This album attempts to capture that feeling of impending doom. The songs all are bleak (sample titles – “Society Is a Hole”, “I’m Insane”, “Justice Is Might”) and run together, thanks to the transitional pieces used by the band that were first used during shows as the music played during tunings.

This ain’t a happy record. But, it’s the first Sonic Youth record where most of the songs are actual songs and not excuses to show off their weird tunings and feedback. Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore focus on sounds this time, and not atonal noise. Still some of the songs can try the patience of listeners since they meander on, exploring sound as they go.

The highlight is the concluding track, “Death Valley ‘69”. Written by Moore and Lydia Lunch, this was an exploration of the Manson Family. Such a happy subject.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Those transitional pieces were useful in concert. It took sometimes five minutes to get the guitars tuned properly. Later, the band just toured with several guitars tuned differently.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: All of the CD versions have bonus songs released as singles and B-sides after this record.

GRADE: B-: There’s still some stuff that’s hard to tolerate, but they’re getting better and “Death Valley ‘69” is a pretty hot track.

 

 

Status Quo – Singles Collection 66-73

ARTIST: Status Quo statusquo
TITLE: Singles Collection 66-73
YEAR RELEASED: Compilation
CHART ACTION: Not this particular one.
SINGLES: By definition, most all were A or B sides. Significant hits: Pictures of Matchstick Men (#12 US, #7 UK), Ice in the Sun (#70 US, #8 UK), Are You Growing Tired of My Love (#46 UK0, Down the Dustpipe (#12 UK), In My Chair (#21 UK), Mean Girl (#20 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Really, no.
LINEUP: Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster, John Coghlan. Roy Lunes was the keyboard player until mid-1970.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A collection of early singles on Pye Records for the stalwart UK band. They started out as psychedelic, and this collection shows the transition toward the boogie band they are known to be.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The best way to attack Status Quo is their compilations, unless you’re a zealot. This collection is one of the best places to start if you’re interested in the early Quo. “Matchstick Men” and “Ice in the Sun” both made the charts here in the US for good reason – they’re prime psychedelic pop.

Then, with that trend mined out, in 1970 they released “Down The Dustpipe” and became a boogie band.

The collection’s second disc has many of the singles they trotted out as the Spectres and Traffic Jam (without Parffit). Those aren’t quite as good as when they started the psychedelic phase of their careers. Though you can ‘trace’ the evolution of Status Quo through the ‘early’ songs of Spinal Tap.

Many of their albums are available for streaming if this collection interests you.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They didn’t become the band the UK punters know and love until they switched record companies. They have put out 85 singles as Status Quo, three as the Spectres and one as Traffic Jam.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Not on this collection – but they padded it with alternate takes.

GRADE: B: Basically, a hit or miss collection since at this time the Status Quo were enjoyable but not consistent. I like a lot of it but I’m a psychedelic pop junkie.

The Spinners – Mighty Love

Spinnersmighty ARTIST: The Spinners
TITLE: Mighty Love
YEAR RELEASED: 1974
CHART ACTION: #16, #1 R&B
SINGLES: Mighty Love (#20, #1 R&B), I’m Coming Home (#18, #3 R&B), Love Don’t Love Nobody (#15, #4 R&B)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not.
LINEUP: Billy Henderson, Bobby Smith, Phillipe Wynne, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson + MFSB
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Vocal group eases into their second Philly Soul album with three hits and pleasing deep cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a long, somewhat fruitless career, then a hit album, the Spinners made sure that the momentum would keep up.

This second record, made with the same MFSB backing crew and producer Thom Bell, broke no new ground, but solidified their place in the R&B / Soul / Pop markets. It’s a nice album, containing a couple of decent hits and a definite slow jam classic in “Love Don’t Love Nobody”.

If you are a fan, grab this, since oldies radio doesn’t seem to touch this album (though it did very well).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: All of the songs were written by Charles Simmons and Joseph Jefferson, with Bruce Hawes collaborating on all but one. The songwriters all worked for Bell in Philly.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some outtakes that don’t add much at all to the album.

GRADE: B: It’s good – nothing special. Fans of the Philly Sound should check it out.