Month: December 2016

Peter Frampton – Frampton’s Camel

ARTIST: Peter Frampton                           framptons_camel_album

TITLE:  Frampton’s Camel

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #110

SINGLES: All Night Long, Which Way the Wind Blows

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lines on My Face, Do You Feel Like We Do

LINEUP: Peter Frampton, Mick Gallagher, Rick Wills, John Siomos

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second solo record from the former Humble Pie guitarist is blander and safer than his first, and was ignored just the same, especially in his native England.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Listening to the second Peter Frampton record (which he really wanted it to be a ‘group’, kind of like Joe Walsh and Barnstorm), you get the sense that he wanted to be a star, and to do that he wanted to play music that wouldn’t ruffle any feathers yet at the same time showcase some of his guitar playing.

Well, some of the guitar licks are nice, though a lot of the songs are keyboard based at their core, and his pleasant voice and demeanor won’t get anyone really upset. Yet, this is mostly a dull affair, except for the closing cut “Do You Feel Like We Do”, which actually may just because everyone knows that one from his hit.

I can’t really exile anything, because it’s just good enough, but I’m not throwing up any lighters or anything like that for this one. Safe, generic, FM rock for those mellow times.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Frampton wanted Frampton’s Camel to be a real group, but he played drums and keyboards on this album as well as his bandmates. Soon, the idea of a band would fall away.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+: Wake me up in time for the last cut, please.

ZZ Top – Rio Grande Mud

ARTIST: ZZ Top                                    220px-zz_top_-_rio_grande_mud

TITLE:  Rio Grande Mud

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #104

SINGLES: Francine (#69)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Just Got Paid

LINEUP: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Better riffs, better variety, better songs. This is ZZ Top all the way, just no one really knew it yet.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is the launching point for the classic 70’s ZZ Top sounds. Compared to the first album, there are more rock-and-roll elements here than in their first album, and a more varied attack of the blues.

“Francine” and “Just Got Paid” roar out from the start with two ripping classics (though “Francine” is really inappropriate) and then record moves toward more of a blues feel, ending with a long, slow blues “Sure Got Cold After the Rain Fell”, the great “Whiskey’n Mama” and “Down Brownie”, a tribute to a girl who takes them out for a good time.

The consistency between tracks is better, and every song has its high points. It’s not perfect, but if you love ZZ Top and don’t want the usual, grab this one.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Steve Perron and Kenny Cordray actually wrote “Francine” (which also is spelled “Francene” at times).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Air slide guitars to the fore!

Husker Du – Everything Falls Apart

ARTIST: Husker Du                     huskerdu_everythingfalls

TITLE:  Everything Falls Apart

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: Oh, heavens no

SINGLES: No

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Sunshine Superman

LINEUP: Bob Mould, Greg Norton, Grant Hart

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After their dizzying live Land Speed Record, Husker Du releases a full length album after a few singles, and starts to distinguish themselves from hardfastrules.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s not as breakneck as Land Speed Record. I don’t know how they could be that way in the studio. Still, some songs like “Punch Drunk” and “Bricklayer” have that vibe, but those are among the weakest tracks here.

The opener “From the Gut” rather much establishes things here – slower but not slow by any means, powerful, thoughtful, and uncompromising. “Afraid of Being Wrong” still has a whirring fast tempo but it’s slow enough to get the big message across. The side two opener, the title track, adds texture and other sonic dimensions that the rest of the tracks last – showing the way forward for the band as does the closer “Gravity”.

Of all the tracks, “Target” had the most staying power, for good reason. It’s angry and powerful and could fit in on almost every subsequent album.

This has its flaws, sure, but some tracks are definitely worth it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This isn’t streaming as far as I could find.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The CD version has a singles and B-sides released around this era, including the fantastic “In a Free Land”

GRADE: B: The handful of blurry too-fast cuts diminishes it, but the highlights are fantastic.

Superchunk – No Pocky for Kitty

ARTIST: Superchunk                      superchunk_nopocky

TITLE:  No Pocky for Kitty

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Tower, Seed Toss, Cast Iron (B-side)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Skip Steps 1 & 3

LINEUP: Mac McCaughan, Laura Ballance, Jim Wilbur, Chuck Garrison

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: North Carolina punk-indie bands solidifies their reputation and releases one of the best non-grunge punk records of the early 90’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While Seattle got all of the hype, Chapel Hill had its own music scene and Superchunk (though they were loath to admit it) were the defacto leaders of it.

They were just as noisy and inspired as the groups across the country, but had a totally different vibe. Superchunk were wired tight, focused on the guitar melody in all of the racket, and letting the band contribute to the overall sound as one unit (so it seemed). Even with all of the noise and distortion, there was a definite sense of melody in the songs and riffs.

The first three tracks basically sandblast your face off with the volume and power, and then you notice the subtleties. The rest of the album follows on to a lesser extent, but there’s not a point where you want to skip a track once you get rolling into the heart of the album.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It took three days to record with Steve Albini.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: The first few tracks are so strong the rest of the record does pale a bit by comparison, but it’s still a big leap above their first album in terms of consistency.

Guided by Voices – Vampire on Titus

ARTIST: Guided By Voices                 220px-vampire_on_titus

TITLE:  Vampire on Titus

YEAR RELEASED: 1993

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: GBV fans for sure. This got some bigger run nationally.

LINEUP: Robert Pollard, Jim Pollard, Tobin Sprout

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Still wondering whether to crank GBV out full time, Robert Pollard and company record this low-fi wonder that cements their underground reputation.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It sounds like it was recorded on a rusty tape deck with oxidized tapes, and sometimes the noise and distortion from the lo-fi recording inhibits a songs ability to shine, but there’s enough great stuff here to marvel at.

Robert Pollard was still teaching at this point (how would like to have been in his fourth grade classroom?) and recorded this album with a skeleton crew with overdubs. Some songs are fragments, some songs don’t make sense (“Superior Sector Janitor X” illustrates both counts). There’s enough here for someone to be very irritated by it all.

But then we go to “#2 in the Model Home Series”, “Jar of Cardinals”, “Marchers in Orange”, “Sot”, and “Gleemer (The Deeds of Fertile Jim”) are well worth it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album convinced Pollard to go full time into music.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+: The best songs are definite “A” quality. As with any GBV record, there’s good and meh.

Gossip – Movement

ARTIST: Gossip                              220px-thegossip-movement

TITLE:  Movement

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe not

LINEUP: Beth Ditto, Brace Paine, Kathy Mendonca

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second full length album sands off the rough edges and makes for a more powerful record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s not that rough edges aren’t great in rock-and-roll – they are for sure. However, Gossip’s move away from full-on raggedness to a more polished sound is great as it highlights Beth Ditto’s voice even more.

The songwriting here is more varied as well, from the powerful “Nite” to the up-and-at-em “Jason’s Basement” and “Don’t Make Waves”, this record smokes at just the right time. “Yesterdays News” goes from slow meditation to perfect stomper.

There are a couple of misses, especially the final cut which wears out its welcome in no time. Still, a fine record to own – simple rock with a powerful voice.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had an EP between full-length album one and two, which I’ll review later.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Thoroughly enjoyable on 10 of 11 tracks.

John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band – Live Peace in Toronto

ARTIST: John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band                220px-livepeacecover

TITLE:  Live Peace in Toronto

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #10

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Live versions of oldies, Yer Blues, Cold Turkey and Give Peace a Chance

LINEUP: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Clause Voorman, Alan White

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Haphazard live album from a Toronto peace benefit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Somehow, this appearance was pulled off, and considering it was a last minute band that never played together before, it’s surprisingly decent. That doesn’t mean it’s great or anything or something you need to have unless you MUST have everything from John, Yoko, or Eric Clapton.

The story of Lennon and company showing up at the benefit in Toronto is legendary, but basically Eric Clapton found out he was to go an hour before he boarded the plane and the band rehearsed twice.

The first side is John’s – oldies, two solo John songs and a Beatles track. Yoko takes side two, and I have a soft spot in my heart for “Don’t Worry Kyoko”, wailings and all. I did lose patience with the closing track, an adaptation from the John & Yoko experimental albums that were tedious and pretentious, rather than bold and arty.

This isn’t streaming. It’s on CD and on You Tube. I think Yoko will stream her stuff soon, she’s just taking her time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They did a lot of mixes taking out Yoko’s backing in some places, or removing backing vocals, etc.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C: It’s a curiosity and of a different time and place. And no, I’m not going to review those three John / Yoko albums. I’ve heard enough and you don’t need to.

 

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Burnin’

ARTIST: Bob Marley & the Wailers            220px-thewailersburnin

TITLE:  Burnin’

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #151, #41 R&B

SINGLES: Get Up Stand Up, I Shot the Sherriff (#67 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Small Axe, Duppy Conqueror

LINEUP: Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Aston Barrett, Carlton Barrett, Earl Lindo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Follow up to their groundbreaking world-wide debut has many classic songs as well.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out with the timeless “Get Up Stand Up”, a call that resonates today all around the world, not just 1973 Jamaica, Bob Marley and the Wailers follow up to Catch a Fire has several songs of quality and distinction as well.

Featuring one traditional Jamaican chant, two songs from Bunny Wailer, one from Peter Tosh, and one co-writing credit, this is more of a group effort. The band is tight, as always, with the Barrett’s forming a tremendous backbone for the keyboards and guitar to work around and through.

It’s not as packed with quality songs as its predecessor, but it’s still a fine album in its own right and cemented Marley and the Wailers place in the world as the voice of reggae and Jamaica.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album is in the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a version with B-sides and another with an entire live show from 1973.

GRADE: A: Another crucial Marley album to listen from cover to cover.

Raging Slab – Assmaster

ARTIST: Raging Slab                        assmaster

TITLE:  Assmaster (Also known as Slabbage / True Death)

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Mr. Lucky

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: An early version of Get Off My Jollies.

LINEUP: Greg Strzempka, Elyse Steinman, Niklas Matsson, Alec Morton, Mark Middleton

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: New York City based southern fried band releases an independent record and EP and gets signed.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: One of the great lost bands of the late 80’s, early 90’s was Raging Slab. Not fitting in to hair mtrue-deathetal, not grungy, and never catching fire like the Black Crowes, the Slab had the jobs, the feel, and the sound for Southern Rock domination, if that was ever going to be a thing in the 80’s.

This debut is a bit muddy, but the songs and attitude are there (and when True Death, the EP, came out, the sound was clearer for sure), and you can sense they’re on the cusp of something good. Good enough for RCA, who snapped them up soon enough.

It doesn’t all come together, as not everything works 100%, and the production can be a distraction. Better records were to come, and live they were great.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had formed in 1983, and early on DJ Dmitri from Deee-Lite was a guitarist. slabbage

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Assmaster was released with the True Death EP in 1991 and renamed Slabbage and given an absolutely hideous cover. Later, in the streaming world, they’re together with more bonus tracks and demos.

GRADE: B:  The production does it in, but the stage is set for domination (or their attempt at it).

Surfer Blood – Pythons

ARTIST: Surfer Blood                                                                                                                     pythons

TITLE:  Pythons

YEAR RELEASED: 2013

CHART ACTION: #127

SINGLES: Demon Dance

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe some on college radio.

LINEUP: John Paul Pitts, Tyler Schwarz, Thoma Fekete, Kevin Williams

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A less noisy, more poppy effort that cut the distortion and let the songs come through.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Their love of distortion was tempered on this, their major label debut, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lesser effort or that they sold out.

Instead, they let the distortion be an accent and the melodies and hooks come through clearly. While some didn’t agree with this change, what it meant was a more accessible album for casual fans, while keeping the songwriting and feel (without a lot of cluttery noise).

There’s still some guitar heft, and definite Pixies influence here. It’s a darn good modern pop record, and a fun listen.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: John Paul Pitts had some legal troubles resulting from a domestic incident in 2012, and that delayed the record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes – two extra songs

GRADE: A-:  It’s a nice, pleasant listen that you’ll be humming along to in no time.