Month: June 2016

The Pretty Things – Get the Picture?

ARTIST: The Pretty Things                         220px-Get_the_picture_cover

TITLE:  Get the Picture

YEAR RELEASED: 1965

CHART ACTION: No

SINGLES:  Cry to Me (#28 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you were a UK blues fanatic

LINEUP: Phil May, Dick Taylor, Brian Pendleton, John Stax, Viv Prince. Bobby Graham or Twink (John Alder) replaced Prince when Prince got too substance damaged to perform.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Blues and R&B, London style and using a lot of fuzz and distortion, garage band style.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Pretty Things went back into the studio flush from their success on the UK blues circuit, and put together a pretty solid group of songs signaling a move forward towards a more blues rock direction.

The performances are more together than their first record, but still it seems rushed at times and sometimes a little, um, hazy. They were a bit more serious here, and also they got more professional as they had to sack beloved drummer Viv Prince due to his excesses.

The sounds till sounds raw, which is good. But their pure blues songs don’t stack up to the originals. At least they introduced them to a rapt audience (well, live, it seems that the public didn’t go for this).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is all on Spotify. On Google Play it’s not streaming, but eight of the twelve tracks are on an EP collection.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Singles and B-sides and oddities.

GRADE: B: Better, but still to modern ears it’s more influential than essential.

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The Soft Boys – A Can of Bees

ARTIST: The Soft Boys      220px-Acanofbees

TITLE:  A Can of Bees

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: I Wish

SINGLES:  No – they released singles separately – though Wading Through a Ventilator and (I Want to Be an) Anglepoise Lamp were appended as live cuts to the various versions of the album.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Leppo and the Jooves, Sandra’s Having Her Brain Out (I wish…)

LINEUP: Robyn Hitchcock, Kimberly Rew, Andy Metcalfe, Morris Windsor

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A full length album from this interestingly wacky group that takes 60’s influences and 70’s new wave and melds them with, well, um, read the titles above.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The album title, the song about chisels, Sandra and her brain, whatever Jooves are, sacred crabs, etc. means that you’re not in for a normal rock-and-roll ride. Not a normal punk rock ride. Maybe an XTC ride with more oddball allusions.

Now, Robyn Hitchcock has a cult following, and cranks out songs similar to the above in subject matter, even as his style has evolved over the years. But the Soft Boys, with Kimberly Rew (future Katrina and the Waves co-conspirator), backed Hitchcock’s whimsy with pretty straight forward new-wave / neo-psychedelic backing.

Not everything hits the target, and a couple songs seem monotonous or non-essential. But when they’re at their best, you gotta give it to them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: When they re-issued this in 1984, three of the last four cuts were changed out, and “Cold Turkey” moved to the end.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The 1992 release has all of the tracks from the original release and the re-release, and then another release adds even more outtakes. The Soft Boys didn’t shirk on recording songs for records.

GRADE: B+: Just do the chisel, and listen to it while having your brain out, Leppo.

Japandroids – No Singles

ARTIST: Japandroids           220px-No_Singles_cover

TITLE:  No Singles

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES:  This takes a 2006 and 2007 EP and smooshes them together.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only 500 of each EP were released at first,so….

LINEUP: Brian King, David Prowse

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First two EPs from the shambling, loud duo. It’s raw and pretty good.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This Vancouver duo (kinda like the White Stripes or Black Keys, only different) plays raw, unadorned rock and roll that showcase their love for all kinds of guitar rock.

The energy is great, and there’s obviously a lot of love of riffs and lots of riffs. Yet at times, that energy overwhelms the song, making it all about the noise with the song struggling to emerge.

It’s great that they put this out, because the EPs were definitely something the public at large (and not just 500 hipsters in Vancouver) should hear, and it’s what they built on for the future.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had a hard time finding places to play, so basically they had to DIY it, and rent out spaces and ran the gigs themselves.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-: A decent beginning – you can hear where they wound up from here.

Pretenders – Pretenders II

ARTIST: Pretenders                      Pretenders_II_(The_Pretenders_album_-_cover_art)

TITLE:  Pretenders II

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #10 US, #7 UK

SINGLES:  Talk of the Town (#8 UK), Message of Love (#5 US Mainstream, #11 UK), Day After Day (#45 UK), The Adultress (#12 US Mainstream), I Go to Sleep (#7 UK), Louie Louie (#110 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Half the album was a single somewhere.

LINEUP: Chrissy Hynde, James Honeyman-Scott, Pete Farndon, Martin Chambers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The second album by the Pretenders isn’t as top-notch as their debut, but it’s not as bad as the reputation it has, especially in the UK.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: No way to go but down after such a strong debut, but the UK press (and some in the US) was pretty hard on this. It took a while to get all of the songs together, because they were touring a lot, so they released “Talk of the Town” and “Message of Love” as stopgap singles and as part of an EP.

Well, when the album came out people squawked about that, never mind that those two songs were equal to everything on the first album. They picked apart the rest of the record too, even though “Day After Day” is top tier, and the ballads show depth and maturity (that I honestly didn’t get in my 20’s, but I was young, ya know).

I’m not saying this is a perfect album. A few songs do seem a like re-writes or at least variations on a theme, and a couple songs linger too much. Not every album can be an A+, but this has enough great songs to stay in anyone’s rotation.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “I Go to Sleep” was a Ray Davies song, and soon Hynde and Davies started a relationship. And “Louie Louie” isn’t a cover song, either.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, an entire live set from Santa Monica is appended and IT IS AWESOME! Grab it!

GRADE: A-: Some of the songs would fit right in on the debut. A solid album, and not scorn worthy.

Two Cow Garage – Please Turn the Gas Back On

ARTIST: Two Cow Garage                  MI0001496614

TITLE:  Please Turn the Gas Back On

YEAR RELEASED: 2002

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES:  None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, unless you saw them live. They tour relentlessly.

LINEUP: Micah Schnabel, Dustin Hargle, Chris Flint, Shane Sweeney

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Hardscrabble, gruff alt country blends a lot of influences but makes their own sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some Uncle Tupelo, a bit of Drive By Truckers,  a bit o’ Blue Mountain, a smattering of Ass Ponys and a pinch of the Bottle Rockets. But this record – it turns into Two Cow Garage.

Micah Schnabel’s voice sounds like he’s 40 and smoked three packs of Luckies a day, but he’s a young whippersnapper (at least in 2002). The band is raucous at times, but their use of a pedal steel and fiddle at times helps soften the coarseness.

The stories and songs talk about what seems like a regular alt-country theme – living in a dying small town and trying to figure out what’s going on besides drinking and trying to get laid, and then how to get outta there. Good stuff, especially for small town kids.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: During the tour to support this record, the band traveled 300,000 miles. Yikes!

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: If you pinch good parts from all of your influences, it’s not derivative. This sounds fresh and new, even though you’ve heard parts of it before.

R.E.M – Reckoning

ARTIST: R.E.M       R.E.M._-_Reckoning

TITLE:  Reckoning

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #27 US, #91 UK

SINGLES:  So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) (#85 US, #43 Mainstream), (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: 7 Chinese Bros., Pretty Persuasion

LINEUP: Michael Stipe. Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Bill Berry.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second full length from the Athens band moves a bit forward from their fantastic debut towards a more rock oriented sound, but the overall songs aren’t as strong.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While Pavement once said “Time After Time / is my least favorite song”, I think that’s a matter for discussion on this album. Of all of the songs on Reckoning, that one seems to have most of the elements of their debut (that and “Letter Never Sent” could have fit in with Murmur, sound wise, but aren’t that strong).

This second album isn’t a slump from their classic debut, as the first side is fairly strong with some absolute REM classics. The second side wobbles a bit, with some secondary material that are either very similar to other songs or just not as cohesive.

Of course, a second-rate REM song at this time was better than almost every other bands top songs, so this is still a darn great album. Just not up to the standards of the debut.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One of the iconic songs on the album, “Pretty Persuasion”, was an older tune that producers Don Dixon and Mitch Easter had to convince them to record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a couple of editions featuring outtakes, alternate cuts, live tracks, you name it.

GRADE: A-: It’s no Murmur, but what is? There’s still a bunch of great, classic tracks here.

 

Junior Wells – Hoodoo Man Blues

ARTIST: Junior Wells       Hoo_Doo_Man_Blues

TITLE:  Hoodoo Man Blues

YEAR RELEASED: 1965

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES:  None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Good Morning Schoolgirl, Hound Dog, Hey Lawdy Mama, Hoodoo Man Blues, Early in the Morning

LINEUP: Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Jack Myers, Bill Warren.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album from Junior Wells, in collaboration with Buddy Guy, and it’s a classic of Chicago Blues.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Chicago Blues won’t work on an album”. “No one will buy it.”

Poppycock. Delmark Records owner Bob Koester loved Wells so much he definitely wanted to get him and his band on vinyl. So much so he didn’t care about cost, and gave Wells freedom to record what he wanted and chose his band. The result? Classic, and the best seller in the history of the label.

Wells works seamlessly with the band, especially trading off with Guy’s fabulous guitar lines. The opener “Snatch It Back and Hold It” should be taught as “Chicago Blues 101”, as Guy’s snaking guitar lines, the groove from Myers and Warren, and Wells’ vocals and harmonica blend into a fantastic blues workout.

Are you any ways interested in Chicago Blues? Then why don’t you have this?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Guy was signed to Chess Records and the company didn’t want his name on the credits, so he was originally billed as “Friendly Chap”, but it turned out Norman Chess actually couldn’t contractually stop Guy from being credited on the album after all.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of alternate takes exist.

GRADE: A: Junior Wells and Buddy Guy are a match made in Blues Heaven.

Buddy Holly – The “Chirping” Crickets

ARTIST: Buddy Holly            220px-Chirping_Crickets

TITLE:  The “Chirping” Crickets

YEAR RELEASED: 1957

CHART ACTION: #5 UK

SINGLES:  That’ll Be the Day (#1 US, #2 R&B, #1 UK), Oh, Boy! (#10 US, #15 R&B, #3 UK), Maybe Baby (#17 US, #8 R&B, #4 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not Fade Away

LINEUP: Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison, Joe Mauldin, Niki Sullivan. The Picks on backing vocals.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut long-player for Holly somehow didn’t chart in the US, but it’s packed to the brim with hits and marvelous deep cuts. BuddyHollyAndTheCrickets

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Billed as an album by the Crickets, this of course was Buddy Holly’s long player debut, released a few months after “That’ll Be the Day” took the charts by storm. Starting off with “Oh, Boy!” (What a way to start a record!) the Crickets and Holly go through 12 tracks, all of them quality.

Even the deep cuts are of quality and distinction.

Countless bands have formed inspired by the tracks on this album. This release is a touchstone on the history of rock and roll, and sounds vital today after all of these years. I can’t recommend this enough. You know you should have this in your collection.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “That’ll Be the Day” was the B-side of a failed single by Holly on Decca. However, they re-recorded it under the Crickets name for Brunswick (to avoid some contract issues on Decca) and it became a smash. Funny thing is, Decca owned Brunswick.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The streaming copy has the singles “Think It Over” (#27 US, #9 R&B, #11 UK) and “It’s So Easy” (which somehow DID NOT CHART) and the B-sides.

GRADE: A+: Holly, the Crickets, and producer Norman Petty really put together a top-to-bottom classic, very rare in the early stages of rock and roll.

BB King – BB King Wails

ARTIST: BB King         MI0003917817

TITLE:  BB King Wails

YEAR RELEASED: 1959

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES:  The Woman I Love (#94, #31 R&B) – in 1968!

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: BB King and session musicians

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A relatively short and relatively obscure set from King still showcases his guitar and his exuberance.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Even a minor album such as this can give you some great moments. King’s guitar, and his voice, and his joy are all here even if the songs aren’t the best of his career.

The arrangements, using big band style horn charts, also seems a bit dated. The players (whoever they are) and arrangements are pretty decent. The star, of course, is King, and his guitar shines through no matter what.

This is a minor work, but King fans and blues fans should dig it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I have seen three different release dates for the original release, so I’m splitting the difference and keeping it at 1959. This album was re-released twice with different titles in the 60’s and 70’s.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-: Blues fans will like it.

 

Merle Haggard – Swinging Doors

ARTIST: Merle Haggard          Swingingdoors

TITLE:  Swinging Doors

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

CHART ACTION: #1 Country

SINGLES:  Swinging Doors (#5 Country), The Bottle Let Me Down (#3 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Merle Haggard, Roy Nichols, Ralph Mooney, Bonnie Owens and many other session people like James Burton, Glen Campbell, Glen D. Hardin and Jim Gordon

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A top-to-bottom good-to-great album from Haggard, who was emerging as the new voice of traditional country music.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, the two big hits are on every Haggard compilation that you could get, but by going that route you short change yourself the vision of Haggard, the songwriter.

Ten of the twelve songs here are from Haggard’s pen, and his interpretation of “High on a Hilltop” is a big winner. Most of the songs are first class, and even the ones that are lesser lights are redeemed by Haggard and crew’s performance.

The steel guitar of Mooney, the backing vocals of Owens and Nichol’s distinctive telecaster shine through this album, and the production from Ken Nelson and Fuzzy Owens is top notch.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album was recorded in four separate sessions, but it seems like it was all done in the same session period. The title track was completed in August of 1965, and the finishing touches were done a year later.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Put this into your country music collection, for sure.