Month: April 2016

Samantha Fox – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Samantha Fox 51EQY39SCDL

TITLE:  Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 40: Touch Me (I Want Your Body) (#4 US, #3 UK), Do Ya Do Ya (Wanna Please Me) (#87 US, #10 UK), Hold on Tight (#26 UK), Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now (#80 US, #8 UK), I Surrender (To the Spirit of the Night) (#25 UK), Naughty Girls (Need Love Too) (#3 US, #31 UK), Love House (#32 UK), I Wanna Have Some Fun (#8 US, #63 UK), I Only Wanna Be with You (#31 US, #16 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Isn’t that enough?

LINEUP: Samantha Fox, and about a zillion producers and session players.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Page three girl, who gained ‘fame’ at 17 by displaying her assets in the Sun, becomes a pop star with the most vapid ‘naughty-ish’ songs around.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Somehow, I missed that “Touch Me” wasn’t Samantha Fox’s biggest hit in the US. But that’s the only one anyone remembers.

For good reason – the worst of late 80’s dance production meets the worst ‘cheeky’ lyrics sung by a singer who is barely adequate, and that’s being charitable.

She sold a butt load of records, which beats working for a living. She also desecrated “Satisfaction”, which is a crime against nature.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There’s another collection that has even later hits than this one (which ends in 1992 or so). I mean, why?

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There’s a “UK Megamix” which strings a lot of her songs together in one ‘smooth’ beat. Oh, GAWD!

GRADE: D: “Touch Me” saves it from failure, though that song is the only reason I reviewed this to begin with. It was in my legacy catalog, so…yeah.

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Wire – Pink Flag

ARTIST: Wire 220px-Wirepinkflagcover

TITLE:  Pink Flag

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Mannequin

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Thee Girl Rhumna, Ex Lion Tamer, 12 XU and Strange were all covered by big name bands.

LINEUP: Bruce Gilbert, Robert Gotobed, Graham Lewis, Colin Newman

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Short, taut, tight dispatches from the arty side of punk that influenced about every alternative-type band that followed.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s lumped in to punk rock’s UK first wave, mainly because of when it came out and that the songs were short and deceptively simple. But Pink Flag was much more than that.

The 21 song record was like nothing before it in the genre. Instead of hot passion, there’s cool detachment. Instead of joy in playing, there’s a cold art-school attitude. Everything sounds so precise and on point – nothing is out of place.

It breezes by you before you have a chance to take a breath and then you wonder what you heard and why you’re humming or singing certain songs. For anyone even remotely interested in the development of alternative music post-1977 UK punk, this is a starting point.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Elastica got into big trouble because “Connection” basically stole the riff from “Three Girl Rhumba”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two early CD releases added a track or two

GRADE: A: It may be a touch long, and that means a couple tracks could be skipped. It’s just an amazing album.

King’s X – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska

ARTIST: King’s X 220px-King's_X_Gretchen_Goes_to_Nebraska

TITLE:  Gretchen Goes to Nebraska

YEAR RELEASED: 1989

CHART ACTION: #123 US, #52 UK

SINGLES: Over My Head, Summerland

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I am fascinated why King’s X never got airplay.

LINEUP: Doug Pinnick, Ty Tabor, Jerry Gaskill.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Metal trio’s second album is a successful record and combines serious chops, poignant themes and interesting song structures.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The spiritual side of King’s X comes front and center with this fantastic album. The hooks of songs like “Over My Head” help give their message a platform that all music lovers can appreciate. The beauty of “Pleiades” gives that song a poignancy past its lyrics.

Even though King’s X was ostensibly a Christian-oriented band, they were not above criticizing the religious in “Mission”, and in other places they question religion’s place in society.

Musically, it’s challenging as King’s X isn’t just content with power chords and burning solos. They’re lumped into metal, but there’s a beauty and artistry, a soft and delicate touch not found so much in the then popular hair-metal. It’s a brainy record that you can also air guitar to.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album title was given to the band by a roadie as a joke when they were talking about preposterous album titles.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A: A powerful, gorgeous record.

Todd Rundgren – Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren

ARTIST: Todd Rundgren 220px-Runt_the_ballad

TITLE:  Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #214

SINGLES: Be Nice to Me (#71), A Long Time, A Long Way to Go (#92)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Long Flowing Robe, The Range War (well, if you got me for a mix buddy…)

LINEUP: Todd Rundgren, mostly. Tony Sales, ND Smart, John Guerin, Hunt Sales and Jerry Scheff did bass and drums work through the album.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Rundgren decides to scrap the band identity, kinda (Runt is still listed as the ‘artist’) and puts forth an effort showcasing most sides of his musical idiom.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Todd Rundgren, by this, time, knew the only way he could ensure the sound he heard in his ears wound up on record was to record everything himself. He was unsure about bass and drums, so he enlisted session guys for those (and the Sales brothers – his old ‘Runt’ bandmates).

It’s not a tour de force, but it’s an excellent and varied album. He has a knack for pretty ballads, outright rockers, and pop songs with hooks, lots of hooks. His lyrics are also as varied as the music. “The Range War”, a clever telling of lovers caught up in the cattle vs. sheep war in the Old West, is one example.

Rundgren showed he was a unique performer, and while this isn’t one loaded with hits or airplay, it’s fascinating through and through.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was talk of releasing both of this solo albums together, but he decided he’d rather release new material in 1972.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A-: It’s a clever, quirky and fun record – cover photo notwithstanding.

 

Curtis Mayfield – Curtis

ARTIST: Curtis Mayfield 220px-Curtismayfield-1970lp

TITLE:  Curtis

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #19 US, #1 US R&B, #30 UK

SINGLES: (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go (#29 US, #3 US R&B), Move on Up (#12 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not unless you loved 70’s soul and funk

LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield and a whole bunch of session guys

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First solo album from the former Impressions leader takes his socially conscious and political songs to the next level, as well as updating his sound to a soul-funk-psychedelia hybrid with plenty of chances for him to show off his voice.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Mayfield’s bright tenor gave the Impressions their signature vocal sound for years, and their last few albums with Mayfield in charge moved towards a socially conscious idiom. Here, though, Mayfield goes all in, keeping it real about America in general, and the plight of the city in general.

Musically, he took notes from Isaac Hayes and James Brown, and added some definite psychedelic touches and strings to sweeten the sound and give the records some depth. It’s pert near a perfect example of early 70’s soul funk with a lot of socially conscious soul ballads thrown in there, too.

I don’t think the message is dated, either. What Mayfield was singing about still resonates today, since the problems of racial tensions and the inner city residents still haven’t gone away. The funk is strong as is his voice.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Jam covered “Move on Up” in their later incarnation.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with demos and backing tracks.

GRADE: A: This is a definite record to own. The songs are strong, and it shows the soul / funk evolution.

Year Long Disaster – Year Long Disaster

ARTIST: Year Long Disaster YearLongDisaster-YearLongDisaster

TITLE:  Year Long Disaster

YEAR RELEASED: 2007

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Per Quaiche Dollardo in Piu, Leda Atomica

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Daniel Davies, Rich Mullins, Brad Hargreaves

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Retro-sounding hard rock trio stay true to their roots and influences.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: What this album has? Riffs, attitude, volume, swagger?

What it doesn’t have much of? Real originality.

However, that’s not to say it’s bad or boring. This is pretty decent for a hard rock aficionado. It’s a power trio that just crank up the power chords and wail away. They’re not like Wolfmother in that they don’t try to really ape anyone directly, but they just write basic rock songs in a power trio format.

In the 70’s, they’d be lost in a sea of bands like this. In 2007, they stood out, and us rock fans were better for it, even if it wasn’t truly trailblazing.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Daniel Davies is the son of Kinks’ guitarist Dave Davies, so he comes at his guitar playing honestly.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B: I sometimes wish this was on 8-track, because it’s one of those albums that would have sounded good in that format.

 

Neil Young – Neil Young

ARTIST: Neil Young  Neil_Young_(album)_cover

TITLE:  Neil Young

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Loner

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Old Laughing Lady

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzsche, Jim Messina, Carol Kaye, George Grantham, Earl Palmer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First solo album from former Buffalo Springfield member has some good tracks but is marred by mix issues.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Most Neil Young albums are unique experiences, but his first solo record is totally different from those that followed. This one had an orchestral, ornate feel that was more of a product of Nitzsche’s production than Young’s aesthetic. 220px-Neil_Young_(album)

No doubt this came from some Springfield songs like “Broken Arrow”, which were put together laboriously in the studio. At times, it diminishes the heft of some of the songs, but the material itself isn’t up to Young’s standards before and after this album. Also, the weird mix was a result of a process that made stereo compatible to mono that rather much failed.

“The Loner”, “The Old Laughing Lady” and a few others are definite keepers. It’s not an essential album, and “The Loner” is a crucial song that could be found elsewhere.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They remixed the album without the stereo/mono process in 1969. The difference in the mixes are denoted by different covers.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B-: A couple great songs, but the production is a bit intrusive on most others.

Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full

ARTIST: Eric B. & Rakim 220px-RakimPIF

TITLE:  Paid in Full

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: #58 US, #8 US R&B, #85 UK

SINGLES: Eric B. Is President (#48 US R&B), I Ain’t No Joke (#38 US R&B), I Know You Got Soul (#64 US R&B, #13 UK), Move the Crowd (#53 UK), Paid in Full (#65 US R&B, #15 UK), As the Rhyme Goes On (#81 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s 3/5 of the album up there!

LINEUP: Eric B, Rakim

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album for the DJ / rapper duo that set a new standard for lyrical flow.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thirty years hence, it’s hard to remember the early days of hip/hop, and how Rakim set a new standard for rhymes and flow. Instead of a simple rhyming pattern, Rakim used internal rhyming schemes to create a great flow and set his raps apart from the crowd.

The beats provided by Eric B. complemented the lyrics and raps, and they also were complex using turntables along with sampling. Three of the cuts are instrumentals showcasing Eric B’s skills.

Yet, those instrumentals do interfere with the overall pace of the album. While impressive, I think they’d better be served as B-sides or bonus tracks. However, that’s rather minor. This is an impressive, and groundbreaking, record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Eric B. put out an ad wanting ‘New York’s Top MC”, and Rakim answered that ad.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A-: Classic, but downgraded for the instrumental tracks messing with the sequencing. Still, grab it for your collection.

The Radiators – Work Done on Premesis

ARTIST: The Radiators Radiators_Work_Done_on_Premises_album

TITLE:  Work Done on Premesis

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hard Core was on their major label comp

LINEUP: Camille Baudoin, Frank Bua, Dave Malone, Reggie Scanlan, Ed Volker.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: New Orleans fixture releases first album, a live double LP mainly meant for fans.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They’re not a household name for sure, but among fans the Radiators are a special, special band. This first record shows the playing chops that cemented them among New Orleans music patrons.

Their songwriting already shows the humor mixed with memorable melodies that made them kinda sorta famous around the country, but for some reason the energy here is muted. Maybe it’s the recording or the crowd at the time, but the performances seem a bit flat.

Since the band churned through so many songs in their life, and their recordings go in and out of availability, if you’re a fan you better grab this to hear some songs. It’s not where to start, though.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They lost a gig at a New Orleans club when Frank Bua brought an actual chainsaw into the club for their song “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The original vinyl had two extra songs.

GRADE: B-: The songs are great, but this seems muted and flat.

Willie Nelson – …And Then I Wrote

ARTIST: Willie Nelson Willie-Nelson-And-Then-I-Wrote

TITLE:  …And Then I Wrote

YEAR RELEASED: 1962

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Touch Me (#7 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hello Walls, Funny How Time Slips Away, Crazy

LINEUP: Willie Nelson and session Nashvillians.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Nelson’s first album showcases the songs he wrote for others, and one hit for himself.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While most all of the versions on this album are not the ones that were the most popular, they are straight from the horses’ mouth, as it were, and Nelson does a good job in reclaiming his songs for himself.

While his voice is still a bit shaky and unsteady at times, he shows that there wasn’t much of a reason why he couldn’t be a country star in his own right, even though he didn’t fit the vocal mold of the crooners that were soon to take over the radio.

Not an essential Nelson album (most of his 60’s output isn’t, but they’re all worth examining), but quite intriguing to hear how he was when he started, and a reminder of the songs he wrote for others.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Faron Young was the first to really taste success with a Nelson song, with “Hello Walls”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B: Most all of the songs are well worth it, even though the arrangements are a bit staid and old-fashioned.