Month: October 2016

The Electric Prunes: Too Much to Dream – Original Group Recordings: 1966-1967

ARTIST: The Electric Prunes

TITLE:  Too Much to Dream – Original Group Recordings: 1966-1967 prunes

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None. Their original albums charted at 113 and 172.

SINGLES: Ain’t It Hard, I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) (#11 US, #49 UK), Get Me to the World on Time (#27 US, #42 UK), Dr. Do-Good (#128 US), The Great Banana Hoax, Everybody Knows You’re Not in Love, Shadows

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Are You Loving Me More (But Enjoying It Less) has been covered by garage bands since, including the Lime Spiders

LINEUP: James Lowe, Ken Williams, James Spagnola, Mark Tulin, Preston Ritter, Michael Weakley. Later on Mike Gannon and Joe Dooley joined to replace Spagnola and Ritter.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Band that recorded the seminal garage – fuzz – psychedelic anthem released two albums of varying quality and some singles (collected here) before their producer really screwed them over.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Electric Prunes will always be remembered not only for their name, but their contribution to the 60’s in “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”, a blast of psychedelia / garage rock featuring distorted and wah-wah guitars that caught the ear of everyone (including Vox, which gave the Prunes an endorsement deal). Yet their first album was full of non-band written filler that is haphazard at best and ill-conceived at worst. the_electric_prunes

They wrote more of their second album, which was more cohesive but didn’t have a hit single. Then the fun began, where the band was drafted into creating a rock opera full of absolute nonsense, and since the producer owned the name, he basically fired them from their own band and recorded another abysmal rock opera and a final record of mediocre 60’s rock.

This collection covers their first two records (The Electric Prunes and Underground), which feature all of the cuts that made them trailblazers and legendary in the psychedelic scene. It’s hit and miss, but it’s worthwhile for historical reasons.ep_underground

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The rock operas are Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath. Longer stories can be told about how the band lost the rights to their name. They’re just psychedelic hippy-dippy BS of the highest degree, and the band couldn’t deal with them, either.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-: There’s interesting stuff here, especially the use of distortion, feedback and wah-wah that did inspire people. But man, that first album filler was just dreck, and the band knew it.

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Catch a Fire

ARTIST: Bob Marley & the Wailers         220px-bobmarleycatchafire

TITLE:  Catch a Fire

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #171, #51 R&B

SINGLES: Stir It Up, Concrete Jungle

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stop That train

LINEUP: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Aston Barret, Carlton Barrett, Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths, John Bundrick with help from Wayne Perkins, Tyrone Downie, and Robbie Shakespeare, among others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  First true international release on Island records is an instant classic, a landmark recording, and above all, brings reggae into the consciousness of the US and UK outside of the Jamaican community.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Singed by Island after a contract dispute was resolved, Marley and the Wailers presented this definitive statement to the world. The album was recorded in Jamaica, but Island Records honcho Chris Blackwell had overdubs done in London and the result enhanced the record to where it became the standard for all reggae albums. 220px-thewailerscatchafire

Marley’s songs, combined with the Wailers’ strong performances and the themes of poverty and struggle, injustice, and love, set the stage for the world to hear reggae, and then what was happening in Jamaica which was out-of-sight and out-of-mind for many.

The fantastic rhythm section of “Family Man” and Carlton Barrett (on bass and drums respectively) is the rock the songs are grounded in. Without their solid, steadfast work, Marley’s songs wouldn’t have a base that propels them into the consciousness.

If you have one reggae record to buy, don’t get a Marley hits collection, get this, which is conceptually solid and fantastically executed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The phrase “Catch a Fire” means smoking herb.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The original, un-overdubbed album is available as part of the deluxe edition with two additional songs. That version is also outstanding in its own way.

GRADE: A+: The reggae album to have.

 

Prince – For You

ARTIST: Prince                         220px-prince_foryou

TITLE:  For You

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: #163 US, #156 UK

SINGLES: Soft and Wet (#92, #12 R&B), Just as Long as We’re Together (#91 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No. This is obscure Prince.

LINEUP: Prince

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Teenage wonder writes, plays, and sings an entire album. While not earth shaking, the feat is notable in itself.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The opening vocal montage of Prince’s debut album shows the meticulous craftsmanship that Prince would put toward most all of his work in his career. Even in his early years, Prince was comfortable in his artistry, and able to conceive and play all of the parts on his records.

Yet what he needed the most seasoning in was songwriting. “Soft and Wet” definitely is Prince as we knew him, but the rest of the album is just OK. He had a long time to get better though.

Nothing else really sticks besides the single, but it’s interesting to hear where Prince started to his peak and beyond. It wasn’t that long until he really became Prince.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The final recording tripled the budget allotted. Also, this is only streaming on Tidal. If $10 a month is worth it for Prince, then by all means.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: C+: It amazing that he played all 27 instruments and did all of the intricate vocal work, but the songs aren’t there yet.

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand the Weather

ARTIST: Stevie Ray Vaughan                        220px-srvcouldntstandtheweather

TITLE:  Couldn’t Stand the Weather

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #31

SINGLES: Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (#20 Rock), Cold Shot (#29 Rock), Couldn’t Stand the Weather

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I dunno. Maybe?

LINEUP: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton. Help from Jimmie Vaughan on a couple of tracks and Fran Christina on one.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Second album by the now-star blues guitarist seems a little short on material.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There are some fantastic cuts on this album, don’t get me wrong. The title track is outstanding with its syncopated rhythm and difficult time signature. His cover of “Cold Shot” is also fantastic as is the slow burn of “Tin Pan Alley”.

Yes, he does cover Hendrix, who was an inspiration, and he does it pert near flawlessly, but it does sound a lot like the Hendrix version without the ultra-distorted guitar. While two of the songs break eight minutes, it still seems like a slight album and not one that’s packed with songs.

Still, it has enough good to great material to make this a must for blues guitar fans. After his first record, we wanted more, and this seems like a regression.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This time, the record took 19 days. There are more outtakes than the first album, but some of the spark and immediacy is gone.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with outtakes that wound up being remade for his third album, and later a live set.

GRADE: B: I wanted more than I got, I guess. It’s good, but it could have been great.

Ed Hall – Albert

ARTIST: Ed Hall                       220px-albert_album

TITLE:  Albert

YEAR RELEASED: 1988

CHART ACTION: Are you kidding?

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I don’t think so

LINEUP: Gary Chester, Larry Strub, Kevin Whitley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Austin-based punk rock weirdos release weird but compelling record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When the Butthole Surfers are the leader of your scene, you know things are gonna get weird. And while the band Ed Hall is definitely strange, they’re not AS strange as the Surfers.

This debut definitely wasn’t on the straight and narrow, though through the weirdness there are some good ol’ fashioned riffs, some catchy songs, and definitely some great out-front bass work. Still, the subject matter at times is…well…odd. “Candyhouse” is the best cut, but don’t sleep on any of ‘em.

Ed Hall sounds like they’re having fun, and they are. They’re also pretty tight, which you have to be to create some of their oddness and make sense. If you’re not afraid of a little derangement, it’s a good ride.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Ed Hall isn’t anyone. They chose a name to be as bland and generic as possible.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: Not for everyone, but those who would dig it, will definitely dig it.

 

Jo Jo Gunne – Jo Jo Gunne

ARTIST: Jo Jo Gunne                   jojogunne-090431182529

TITLE:  Jo Jo Gunne

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Run Run Run (#27 US, #6 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nope

LINEUP: Jay Ferguson, Matt Andes, Mark Andes, Curly Smith

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  One-hit wonder’s album really showed why they were a one-hit wonder, despite the presence of Jay Ferguson.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Featuring two members from Spirit (and those same two members would find fame as a solo artist (Jay Ferguson) or a member of Firefall and Heart (Mark Andes), Jo Jo Gunne’s first album was released with much promise.

Featuring a great single in “Run Run Run”, it was hoped that their brand of rock-and-roll boogie would catch fire. It didn’t, and it’s plain to see why. Except for the single, none of the songs are truly memorable.

Boogie-rock is fine if you have some hooks. Heck, Status Quo has hooks, and they play the same song over and over again. Jo Jo Gunne’s sound is pretty fresh, but the songs are just there and there’s nothing compelling drawing you in to listen. I’m disappointed as I always heard decent things about this record, but on listen it’s meh.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mark Andes left after this album. They carried on for three more records before Jay Ferguson went solo.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: C+: Upgraded for the single. Some exiled.

Ramones – Rocket to Russia

ARTIST: Ramones                  220px-ramones_-_rocket_to_russia_cover

TITLE:  Rocket to Russia

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #49 US, #60 UK

SINGLES: Sheena Is a Punk Rocker (#81 US, #22 UK), Rockaway Beach (#66 US), Do You Wanna Dance (#86 US).

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Cretin Hop, Teenage Lobotomy, Surfin Bird

LINEUP: Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, Tommy

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  An actual hit record! Well, a minor hit but Top 50 albums aren’t anything to sneeze at.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a couple of great records, the Ramones made what many consider their magnum opus. A cleaner sound, some additional chords, a few songs not just hard-and-fast, and a lot of fun made this the album of 1977, sales be damned.

From the opening cut (“Cretin Hop”), through the singles, and the album cuts tender (“Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”), nihilistic (“I Don’t Care”), and fun (“We’re a Happy Family”), this is a record for any rock fan. It’s also a value proposition with 14 cuts, with almost every cut a classic or near-classic.

The band also continued to show their love for old rock-and-roll with covers of “Surfin’ Bird” and “Do You Wanna Dance”.

This was on a trajectory to be a big hit, but then the Ramones were lumped into the ‘troubling’ punk rock genre in the UK (thanks Sex Pistols) and it stalled. But it’s still a great ride.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Tommy Ramone (nee Tommy Erdelyi) left the band after this album to focus on production.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Some live cuts, B-sides and demos.

GRADE: A+: If you buy just one Ramones album (and you must), buy this.

The Radiators – Heat Generation

ARTIST: The Radiators  radiators_heat_generation_album

TITLE:  Heat Generation

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nail Your Heart to Mine

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

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  First (mostly) studio album from the New Orleans combo showcases songs that would remain favorites for years.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Already favorites around New Orleans, the Radiators had a large enough fan base to record a local independent album that they sold in shops and on tour.

The album is a fairly good representation of their chops and instrumental skills, along with the chemistry that they have with each other. What’s missing is the back-and-forth with the audience that you can only get in a live show, but they still made a connection to the listener.

Several of these songs, especially “Nail Your Heart to Mine” would remain fan favorites and crop up in sets forever. If you’re a fan of the Radiators, it’s definitely worth a listen or 10.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the last album they made for six years, until their major label debut

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: Excellent record for fans.

Voivod – War and Pain

ARTIST: Voivod                                    voivod_-_war__pain

TITLE:  War and Pain

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Voivod

LINEUP: Denis Belanger, Denis D’Amour, Jean-Yves Theriault, Michel Langevin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Quebecois thrash band makes a thrashy record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The early roots of Voivod is pure thrash, and this debut record illustrates this. On original release there were nine cuts that all kind of bled together as one pummeling assault.

What separates great thrash albums from others is the change in textures and styles. This has none – it’s pure assault and that can wear on you for a long time.

Voivod would grow, change, mature past the simple thrashiness. Here, though, this is just too much blurriness.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Allegedly, they made only $1,000 from this even though it sold 40,000 copies initially.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos and live cuts and cuts for a compilation.

GRADE: C: I am exiling this. It’s just too much of the same thing.

Bruce Cockburn – In the Falling Dark

ARTIST: Bruce Cockburn                               in-the-falling-dark

TITLE:  In the Falling Dark

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Bruce Cockburn, Michael Donato, Bob Disalie, Bill Usher, Dennis Pendrith, Kathryn Moses, Fred Stone, and others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  On his seventh (7!) album, Cockburn moves away from his almost entirely acoustic material into a sound incorporating jazz and rock with his environmental folk tunes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Cockburn had released six albums since 1970 in Canada (they’re all streaming, but they really didn’t make an impact here (barely released if at all))but this is where he moves towards a more contemporary sound.

There’s a lot of jazz elements here, especially when Kathryn Moses’ flutes mingle with the bass, drums, percussion and guitar. Cockburn’s guitar picking is outstanding, as he really lets it fly on the instrumental “Water into Wine”.

The long, acoustice “Gavin’s Woodpile” stops the record cold on the middle of side two. I’m sure fans of his previous albums appreciated it, but it’s an eight minute long acoustic diatribe that I just wanted to end.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It’s pronounced CO-burn, you pervs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Some outtakes have been appended.

GRADE: B-: Folk / jazz / soft rock ain’t for everyone, I know, especially when it’s kind of environmentally preachy. But this works on a lot of levels, except for the one long long long song.