Month: January 2016

Pearl Jam – Ten

ARTIST: Pearl Jam 220px-PearlJam-Ten2

TITLE:  Ten

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #2 US, #18 UK

SINGLES: Alive (#107 US, #16 US Mainstream, #18 US Modern, #16 UK), Even Flow (#108 US, #3 US Mainstream, #21 US Modern, #27), Jeremy (#79 US, #5 US Mainstream, #5 US Modern, #15 UK), Oceans

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Possibly all of it, but Black went to #3 on the Mainstream Rock and #20 on the Modern Rock charts without being issued as a single.

LINEUP: Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Dave Kruzen

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from band formed from the detritus of Mother Love Bone, and it becomes accidentally iconic for a scene.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I really don’t know if Pearl Jam was ever really trying to be grungy or alternative. Gossard and Ament had their run in Green River as a punkish band, but Mother Love Bone was more glam than anything. They just happened to be in Seattle, playing guitar oriented rock without trying to look or sound like hair metal, and thus ‘grungy’.

This album did take a while to hit, and it took touring to do so, but when it hit, it became a signpost for Seattle. Frankly, there’s nothing really edgy or alternative about the album. What it is are many straight, basic rock songs, mostly in mid-tempo, sung by a vocalist that eschewed the high notes and the glam posturing. Ok, maybe they were a BIT alternative in that way.

As a rock-and-roll album, it’s good with some great songs. It’s not the best debut of all time as some say. My issue is that there’s a few too many mid-tempo songs and they wreck the pacing a little bit toward the end. The last few cuts aren’t strong after “Jeremy” and it just meanders to an end. Still, “Even Flow” is an all-timer and I’m even warming now to “Black”. (I really didn’t like it when it came out). But it’s a pretty solid debut, even if it put them in a category where I don’t think they really belonged anyway.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: As you probably know, they were called Mookie Blaylock before settling on Pearl Jam (unfortunately – and that ended my dream of naming a band after former University of Texas forward Locksley Collie).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  Yes. A new mix, b-sides and outtakes galore. Happy hunting for all the versions!

GRADE: A-: About 15 years ago I probably would have given this a “B” but I’ve warmed to many of the songs now. The back end is still slow for me though.

Advertisements

John Parish & PJ Harvey – Dance Hall at Louse Point

ARTIST: John Parish & PJ Harvey Dance_Hall_at_Louse_Point
TITLE: Dance Hall at Louse Point
YEAR RELEASED: 1996
CHART ACTION: #175 US, #46 UK
SINGLES: That Was My Veil (#75 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, nope
LINEUP: John Parish, PJ Harvey, Mick Harvey
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Odd experimental songs and sounds that do Parish and Harvey justice.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: PJ Harvey’s duet with experimentalist and session musician John Parish is kind of a jarring listen at first. At times, this is truly avant-garde with shards of music going hither and yon. Harvey screams or becomes atonal. This was right after some of her biggest commercial successes in the UK so it may have surprised some casual listeners.

At times, though, there is beauty in the clatter. Parish isn’t always interested in creating oddity and Harvey can really sing tenderly. The recitation of “Is That All There Is?” is quite enlightening.

All said, it’s one to file way for those who love Harvey, like I do.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Harvey and Parish had known each other for years and played in the same band until Harvey went solo.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B: It’s avant garde, but Harvey fans should like it. It shows neophytes another side of her.

Alcatrazz – No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll

ARTIST: Alcatrazz 220px-No-parole-from-rock-n-roll_large
TITLE: No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll
YEAR RELEASED: 1983
CHART ACTION: #128
SINGLES: Island in the Sun, Jet to Jet, Hiroshima Mon Amour
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Deep cut metalhead researchers – probably. Or Yngwie Malmsteen fans.
LINEUP: Graham Bonnet, Yngwie Malmsteen, Gary Shea, Jan Uvena, Jimmy Waldo
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Graham Bonnet picks up pieces and parts after he was fired from Rainbow, lucks into Malmsteen, can’t write for shit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Graham Bonnet has a very distinctive voice. He has range and power. Yet, I think he may be an acquired taste. He was a bit under control in Rainbow, but here his voice is more out front and that’s a problem for me.

It sounds a little off – like he’s a bit outside of the song, if that makes sense. He doesn’t exhibit any subtlety either, not that these songs demand it much. But he seems to shout-sing a lot.

Another issue is the songwriting. Yes, Malmsteen can play a mean axe yet that doesn’t translate into songwriting ability outside of ‘listen to this riff, man’ Bonnet wrote the lyrics and they’re not the best. The band also sounds a bit like re-heated Rainbow or Not-So-Deep Purple.

Their cover of Ultravox’ “Hiroshima Mon Amour” was quite popular in Japan. It’s OK.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bonnet was the lucky one to replace Ronnie James Dio in Rainbow, and recorded a sorta decent album with them, but was fired after one gig because of drunken tom-foolery on stage. Of course, being in a band with Ritchie Blackmore and Cozy Powell may cause you to drink…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, instrumental demos. Hooray!?!?!?

GRADE: C+: I don’t know how highly I’d recommend this outside of those who dig Malmsteen. Without him, there wouldn’t be any reason to keep it. Right now, I am keeping it around just for his guitar work.

Rufus – From Rags to Rufus

ARTIST: Rufus Rags_to_Rufus
TITLE: Rags to Rufus
YEAR RELEASED: 1974
CHART ACTION: #4, #4 US R&B
SINGLES: Tell Me Something Good (#3, #3 R&B), You Got the Love (#11, #1 R&B)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I don’t think so
LINEUP: Chaka Khan, Dennis Belfield, Andre Fisher, Kevin Murphy, Al Ciner, Ron Stockert, Tony Maiden.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After one rather unsuccessful album, the record company hears the reactions to the Khan-sung singles, immediately says Chaka Khan should be the focal, and viola, hit city. Half of the band leaves after the album’s recorded.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Rufus had a tangled history from its formation to the recording of its first album, which rather much laid an egg. Still, the record company saw that some stations were playing the songs sung by Chaka Khan instead of the main single sung by Stockert. So, it was decided that Khan should be the focal point.

Tension? Yeah, that created tension. But that also created a new sound a pretty decent album. There’s some hot funk, some decent soul and Khan can sing some ballads as well. They also had some heavy-hitting songwriting help. Stevie Wonder gave them “Tell Me Something Good” and Ray Parker, Jr. co-wrote “You Got the Love” with Khan and the team of Ashford and Simpson contributed the ballad “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Maybe”.

It’s not totally polished, as the tension also made the production rushed (Stockert left halfway through the recording – and Ciner and Belfield left soon after). Still, there are enough good cuts to keep this around.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their first album seems not to exist in the streaming world. That’s OK; I’m not listing as missing. It was little noticed when it was out.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: I wavered on moving this up a notch because of the great singles, but there’s just something a bit rough about some of the album cuts.

Eric Clapton – Eric Clapton

ARTIST: Eric Clapton Eric_Clapton_Album_Cover
TITLE: Eric Clapton
YEAR RELEASED: 1970
CHART ACTION: #13 US, #14 UK
SINGLES: After Midnight (#18), Let It Rain (#48)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Blues Power
LINEUP: Eric Clapton, Delaney Bramlett, Leon Russell, Bobby Whitlock, John Simon, Carle Radle, Jim Gordon, session horns and singers.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Noted UK guitarist finally records his first solo album with some decent and some so-so material and performances.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Clapton made his bones in groups, and seemed always drive his groups toward more of a blues sound than not (though his later work with Cream definitely had him favoring rock guitar), so it was a little surprising that his first solo album, made basically with Delaney & Bonnie’s band, was more rock oriented than anything,

What wasn’t surprising was Clapton’s guitar work, when he unleashed it. It seemed that the production and the songs held him back a bit. Everything here is an original (except for “After Midnight” which might as well have been) and only a hint of the blues.

Another issue, that Clapton himself has, is his vocals. While they sound adequate, they’re a bit thin, and higher pitched than his later singing. Sometimes, for me, the backing vocals seem a bit much – I’d rather have had simple productions, longer guitar workouts, and maybe more blues.

There are some good songs – the singles above and “Blues Power” are solid and the opening instrumental is very tasty, though cut off surprisingly. That, I didn’t like or expect.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Clapton, Radle, Whitlock, and Gordon formed the core of Derek & the Dominos, which started up right after these sessions.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, two different mixes and some extra songs.

GRADE: B: A few average cuts, a few great songs, but overall just an OK record in the whole.

Sly & The Family Stone – A Whole New Thing

ARTIST: Sly & The Family Stone 220px-Sly-wholenewthing-1967origi
TITLE: A Whole New Thing
YEAR RELEASED: 1967
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Underdog
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Wow, this didn’t make much of an effect on radio at all. It’s forgotten, really.
LINEUP: Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Larry Graham, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Greg Errico
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: San Francisco DJ and producer forms a group by combining his first lineup with his brother’s band, and gets signed by Clive Davis. The record has highlights, but stiffs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s hard to imagine as big of a group as Sly & the Family Stone was that their first record was a commercial failure, yet here we are. Frankly, the issue boils down to commercial hooks. These 12 tracks are fine, and demonstrate the versatility and chops the band has, but only the single “Underdog” had any memorable hooks that would drive radio play.

What we have here is a dilemma that forced the record company to intervene. They had talent, yes, but Sly Stone’s writing wasn’t conducive to the commercial market. They needed the hits to become successful, since they had too much rock for soul and too much soul for the psychedelic rock folks. So the next album began the hit parade, and this was quietly left in print but not promoted.

It’s a decent album, but not where I’d start for Sly. “Underdog” could have been a hit had it been six months later after they were established. Timing, you know.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The backing vocal group on some cuts were the band Little Sister, which Sly started on request of his younger sister.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides and extra cuts. There’s an instrumental that’s pretty tight.

GRADE: B: Good, but needed a couple of hooks here and there.

Shudder to Think – Funeral at the Movies

ARTIST: Shudder to Think funeral at the movies
TITLE: Funeral at the Movies
YEAR RELEASED: 1991
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Red House (their original version is here – they’d revisit it for a later B-side and an album)
LINEUP: Craig Wedren, Chris Matthews, Stuart Hill, Mike Russell
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another step forward for the odd arty Dischord band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After two full length albums, Shudder to Think goes the EP route with this release. It’s a sharper, clearer and more focused. You can hear Wedren really going for somewhat skewed melodies and the overdubbed harmonies that they’d later use to great effect. Wedren also is more confident of his high register and he lets loose once in a while.

There’s a noise experiment here on the second half of a song that kind of puts the whole thing down, but there’s some good material here (5 ½ songs worth) and it’s a good investment for those who like the kind of arty post-punk sound.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Originally, there was a version of “Crosstown Traffic” but it’s not streaming. Hmpf.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but it was combined on CD with Ten Spot.

GRADE: B+: Downgraded for the loss of a song and the noise on ½ of a song. Art, though.

Madder Rose – Bring It Down

ARTIST: Madder Rose Bring_it_Down
TITLE: Bring It Down
YEAR RELEASED: 1993
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Beautiful John, Swim
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: John Peel liked them, so if you were listening to his show in the UK in 1993…
LINEUP: Billy Cote, Mary Lorson, Kevin Salem, Matt Verta-Ray, Brian Doherty, Johnny Kick
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: NYC band uses distorted guitars and melodic vocals that aren’t mixed up front to create – well something similar to shoegaze.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Madder Rose was the product of a mutual friend who hooked up Cote and Lorson after Cote had written some songs and Lorson was looking for a new band. They got together and formed Madder Rose, and quickly found footing to record this album in 1993.

It’s kinda shoegazy, a little hazy, and Lorson’s vocals aren’t mixed up front, which of course is just like shoegaze. However, there’s a little more variety here than the typical band of that ilk. Cote and Lorson’s songs have variety and some different textures at time. Cote doesn’t always wash the songs in distortion, which is a relief.

They still sound a bit tentative here – trying to figure out a mutual direction. They had three different drummers on this project. It’s pretty solid, though, if you enjoy distorted guitars and a little haze on your melody.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were big in the UK underground, and Atlantic wanted to sign them immediately, but Lorson turned that down at first. They signed for their second album, which is why this album was so hard to find.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: It’s a pretty good early 90’s record, nothing ultra-special but I like Lorson’s voice and Cote’s guitar work.

Lindisfarne – Nicely Out of Tune

82ARTIST: Lindisfarne 220px-Lindisfarne-NicelyOutOfTune
TITLE: Nicely Out of Tune
YEAR RELEASED: 1970
CHART ACTION: #8 UK (on reissue in 1972)
SINGLES: Clear White Light, Lady Eleanor (#82 US, 3 UK) (on reissue in 1972)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah.
LINEUP: Alan Hull, Ray Jackson, Rod Clements, Simon Crowe, Ray Laidlaw
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another band in the English folk/rock brigade, they were not as challenging as others but more popular (of course).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: All of the songs on this debut by Lindisfarne and pleasant, and they whiz by as you contemplate the sun in a meadow of your mind. It is pleasantly pastoral, but also more electric than some of their ilk.

There’s not a whole lot of sonic difference between the cuts. Such tunes as “Lady Eleanor” and “Winter Song” are probably the highlights – they have a little more of the classic folk elements than some of the others – and “We Can Swing Together” becomes a campfire singalong of sorts.

It’s decent, especially if you’re already disposed to the English Folk revival. The harmonies are pretty good and there is a good sense of melody. But they tend not to extend instrumentally here – which sets them apart as well from other groups with virtuosos.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Alan in the River With Flowers” was titled “Float Me Down the River” on the first US pressing.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with two B-sides appended.

GRADE: B: I like other bands of this era better, but this will suffice if you need an English Folk revival fix

The Pentangle – The Pentangle

ARTIST: The Pentangle 220px-Thepentangle
TITLE: The Pentangle
YEAR RELEASED: 1968
CHART ACTION: #21 UK
SINGLES: Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Way Behind the Sun
LINEUP: Jaqui McShee, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Danny Thompson, Terry Cox
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut from a group of fantastic acoustic folk musicians that move toward jazz and rock rather than English folk.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: John Renbourn and Bert Jansch were known commodities in the UK folk scene before coming together to form Pentangle. Yet their acoustic guitar work, as extraordinary as it is (and it is extraordinary) is greatly enhanced by their collaboration with the rest of the group.

McShee’s voice is ethereal and Thompson on double bass (either bowed or plucked) adds a great bottom element to the sound. Cox’s percussion work steers the band away from strict folk by adding touches of jazz and rock rhythms. Renbourn and Jansch also construct complicated acoustic lines to add to the stew.

It’s definitely a strong debut, and the UK public agreed, making this one of their best sellers.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: For a while, Jansch was known as the “British Bob Dylan” when he was a solo folkie.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes and alternate takes. Almost all of them are just as good as the album tracks proper.

GRADE: A: Music of quality and distinction.