Month: January 2017

Pebbles – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Pebbles                pebbles

TITLE:  Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Girlfriend (#5 US, #1 R&B, #24 Dance, #8 UK), Mercedes Boy (#2 US, #1 R&B, #2 Dance, #42 UK), Take Your Time (#3 R&B, #41 Dance), Giving You the Benefit (#4 US, #1 R&B, #10 Dance, #73 UK), Backyard (#73 US, #4 R&B), Always (#13 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably Not

LINEUP: Peri “Pebbles” Reid, LA Reid, Kayo, Andre Cymone, Michael Sembello, Babyface, and other session players.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Early 90’s R&B diva’s hits collection has some nice confections, but ultimately dissolves into the air with no substance.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: New Jack Swing was the rage when Pebbles came into the spotlight with her debut singles “Girlfriend” and “Mercedes Boy”, which provided some ear candy for early 90’s radio.

It was more like cotton candy, really, since the songs sound nice but aren’t substantive for the most part. The ballads, especially, are forgettable fluff.

When her third album stiffed, she focused on managing TLC (which ended up bad for everyone). If you have a yen for “Mercedes Boy” on occasion, grab that to stream. Else, this is for New Jack Swing acolytes only.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She’s now a minister in Atlanta, and released an album in 2008 as Sister Perri.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C:  If you’re really nostalgic for the early 90’s R&B….else, no.

 

 

James Carr – You Got My Mind Messed Up

ARTIST: James Carr                                          220px-jamrescarryougotmymind

TITLE:  You Got My Mind Messed Up

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #25 R&B

SINGLES: You Got My Mind Messed Up (#63, #7 R&B), Love Attack (#99, #21 R&B), Pouring Water on a Drowning Man (#85, #23 R&B), The Dark End of the Street (#77, #10 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: James Carr and Memphis session musicians.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the great hidden soul albums of the 60’s, Carr’s emotive singing is on par with the greats, and there are two bonafide classics here that should be in everyone’s catalog.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Unlike Motown, the southern soul scene around Memphis and Muscle Shoals didn’t just churn out hits+filler albums for the most part – they laid into every track and nailed every performance like it was going to be a hit single.

James Carr’s debut album has 12 tracks, four singles, and no filler. Each song could have been a potential radio hit, and every performance is top notch. Carr reminds one of Otis Redding, with a little bit of Joe Simon and Wilson Pickett thrown in there for good measure.

“Pouring Water on a Drowning Man” and “The Dark End of the Street” are absolute stone-cold classics, but really, every song here is good to great, and one that should be heard – especially if you love 60’s soul.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The songs were culled from a great collection of soul songwriters – such as Dan Penn and Chips Moman, Roosevelt Jamison, and OV McClinton.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There are 12 bonus cuts that could have been their own album

GRADE: A:  More folks should know about James Carr. A fantastic singer whose career was way too short.

Queen – Queen II

ARTIST: Queen                                         220px-queen_ii

TITLE:  Queen II

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #49 US, #5 UK

SINGLES: Seven Seas of Rhye (#10 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nothing really hit the radio here.

LINEUP: Freddy Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Very proggy, kinda concept-y second album from Queen doesn’t work all of the time, with some great individual songs bogged down by a concept.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Queen really went for the gusto on their second album, and proved they had some great versatility in them and their sound. Yet, they hitched their second record to a concept that seemed to be muddled at times. You can’t really half-do a concept album, and some songs didn’t seem to flow with it.

This is also one of the softer Queen albums. There is some definite Brian May guitar magic happening, but the album focuses less on bombastic arrangements and more on the acoustic guitar and piano.

I’ve run hot and cold on this album. I know some people love it, but it seems too disjointed and Queen’s prog efforts aren’t as strong as their other songs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There were two sides, the White Side (all written by Brian May save one Roger Taylor track), and the Black Side (all written by Freddy Mercury)

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, BBC cuts and a b-side

GRADE: B:  It’s hot-and-cold, and I’m hot-and-cold on the album in general.

Phish – A Picture of Nectar

ARTIST: Phish                                   a_picture_of_nectar_phish_album_-_cover_art

TITLE:  A Picture of Nectar

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Chalk Dust Torture, Cavern

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tweezer, Llama, Stash

LINEUP: Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Mike Gordon, Jon Fishman. Gordon Stone played pedal steel and banjo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Phish’ major label debut is a long, sprawling album full of various styles and genres. Most of it works, but some things sounds like goofs and that detracts somewhat from the flow of it all.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Even though Phish signed with Elektra Records, they didn’t change their approach or style in the least. Their well-honed stage jams again morphed into surprisingly tight, taut tracks.

The musical virtuosity by the band is all over the album. Trey Anastasio’s guitar work is fantastic throughout, and there is a playful spirit, especially on songs like “Tweezer”.

Yet, they suffer from the bane of many bands at this time – since CD’s had a lot more time than vinyl, bands felt they needed to fill most of the available minutes. Thus, there’s some tracks here that are just mindless noodling around, or things that probably sounded neat at the time, but didn’t work out that way.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Nectar’s was the club in Burlington where they first played.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B:  Great at times, indulgent at other times.

 

R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant

ARTIST: R.E.M.                                    220px-r-e-m-_-_lifes_rich_pageant

TITLE:  Lifes Rich Pageant

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: #21 US, #43 UK

SINGLES: Fall on Me (#94, #5 Mainstream), Superman (#17 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Cuyahoga, I Believe

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

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: REM changes its sounds and style in many ways – making a crunch harder-rock album with clear vocals.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After several years of similar sounding songs (jangly guitars, mumbled vocals), REM breaks out of its box, and revs up their rock-and-roll influences.

On many songs, Peter Buck’s guitars roars with power chords and feedback and Bill Berry hits the drums with fury. The biggest change is Michael Stipe’s vocals. For the most part, they’re clear and you can hear every word. The meaning and lyrics are still oblique, but you can pick out what he’s saying. Only on a couple tracks does the band soften and slow down, and even on “The Flowers of Guatemala” Buck’s guitar gets loud and insistent at the end.

Track-for-track, this is their strongest record since their debut and creates a sound that would carry REM into the future.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Because they’re REM, the track list of the back of the album is all mixed up and the closing track on each side isn’t listed.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, one with bonus tracks and another with demos for their 25th anniversary.

GRADE: A:  A fantastic record and a welcome change of pace.

 

Pink Floyd – A Saucer Full of Secrets

ARTIST: Pink Floyd                           220px-saucerful_of_secrets2

TITLE:  A Saucer Full of Secrets

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #9 UK

SINGLES: Let There Be More Light

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Set the Control for the Heart of the Sun, A Saucerful of Secrets, Jugband Blues

LINEUP: Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason. David Gilmour is on five tracks, and Syd Barrett is on only three.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A transitional album full of psychedelic explorations and Syd Barrett’s last Pink Floyd composition that was released in his time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The story of this album is in its second side. The title track is the only released song that both David Gilmour and Syd Barrett appear on, then there’s a Rick Wright song that it seemed bored everyone, including the author (needed it for the numbers, you know), and then, Barrett’s parting shot “Jugband Blues”.

This album doesn’t stand up to their debut, but how could it given the circumstances? Barrett’s decent into madness left them with an album to complete, and others pressed into duty to write it. Barrett’s chum Gilmour steps in to help, and becomes a full time member contributing greatly to the title track.

What we have is some brilliance, and some mediocrity (“Corporal Clegg” and Wright’s “See-Saw”). The band moves from playful, to more of a heavy-handed approach, and they’d keep that hand for the rest of their career.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They thought that Syd could become a Brian Wilson-like figure, writing songs and not touring – it didn’t work.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. It was released for a while with their debut in a two-album vinyl set.

GRADE: B+:  The highlights are an “A”, but the lowlights drag it down.

Sting – Bring on the Night

ARTIST: Sting                                      bring-on-the-night-2

TITLE:  Bring on the Night

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: #16 UK

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably the entire album if you’re a Sting fan, the songs at least…

LINEUP: Sting, Daryl Jones, Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland, Omar Hakim, Janice Pendarvis, Dolette McDonald

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sting remakes / remodels some tunes from the Police and his first solo album into jazz / fusion explorations. It works on some levels, but you have to be somewhat hep to jazz.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If you like jazz, and liked the Police and Sting’s solo work, then this would be the perfect album for you. Taking the raw material, and performing them with some jazz hotshots of the time (Sting moves to guitar to allow Daryl Jones to play bass), there’s new life brought into these tracks.220px-stingnight

It really is brilliant on some levels. The opening track, a medley of “Bring on the Night” and “When the World Is Running Down…” features a great keyboard solo from Kenny Kirkland and a rap from Branford Marsalis, while Jones’ bass moves all over the fretboard.

 

However, (yeah, there’s a however), some of the tracks, the more maudlin ballads, don’t really work in this idiom. They really sound more like puffed up 80’s tracks than a true remake of the song. I don’t know if anything could really save “Children’s Crusade” for me, though.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Originally, this was an import only on vinyl, and it took a while to be released in the US

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+:  Most of this works, especially if you’re a jazz fan.

Doug Sahm – The Genuine Texas Groover

ARTIST: Doug Sahm                           mi0002185579

TITLE:  The Genuine Texas Groover

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone, It’s Gonna Be Easy, Texas Tornado

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Wallflower, Me & Paul, Ain’t That Lovin’ You

LINEUP: Doug Sahm and a whole bunch of friends and members of the Sir Douglas Quintet

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sir Douglas Quintet leader’s first two ‘solo’ albums (though one was credited to the Sir Douglas Band), plus some outtakes, are collected here.doug_sahm_and_band_1973

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With outlaw and country-rock coming to the fore in 1973 or so, Atlantic records signed Doug Sahm and allowed him to construct two album.

These records had their own charm, but are well away from “She’s About a Mover” or “Mendocino”. Incorporating his own interpretation of Texas country, rock, R&B, and Mexican music styles, and incorporating horns playing typical charts, Sahm’s solo work for Atlantic probably confused the label with its eclecticism.

Dr. John and Bob Dylan make appearances, along with almost everyone Sahm’s been in bands with or jammed alongside. It’s probably more for someone who likes Sahm’s amalgamation of country, tex-mex and R&B.mi0001392266

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This contains the Doug Sahm & Band (#125) and Texas Tornado albums

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B:  It’s an interesting mix of styles, and Sahm’s growl is cool.

Waters – Out in the Light

ARTIST: Waters                                            waters-out-in-the-light-album-cover

TITLE:  Out in the Light

YEAR RELEASED: 2011

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Really really doubt it

LINEUP: Van Pierszalowski, Brian DaMert, Greg Sellin, Andrew Wales, Sara DaMert

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Former Port O’Brien leader forms new band that’s at times louder and heavier than his former folkie outfit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Port O’Brien was definitely more on the gentle side of the indie rock spectrum, but the first cut on Waters’ debut (“For the One” is as loud and distorted as anything in the indie scene.

Not everything is that raucous, with some gentler cuts like “Ones You Had Before” echoing Pierzalowski’s past band, but the emphasis is on louder guitars and faster tempos here, and there’s some spacey elements here too “Out in the Light”.

All in all, a good debut, kind of out of the blue, and the crunch of the guitars is welcome away from the twee folkie indie scene.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Pierzalowski formed this band in Oslo (!), recorded their first album in Dallas, but settled in San Francisco.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A-:  It’s tuneful, and at times heavy and gentle. A good mix that keeps rewarding you

Built to Spill – There’s Nothing Wrong with Love

ARTIST: Built to Spill                                                   220px-theres_nothing_wrong_with_love

TITLE:  There’s Nothing Wrong with Love

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Car, Distopian Dream Girl

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In the Morning was a video, and on Beavis & Butthead

LINEUP: Doug Martsch, Brett Nelson, Andy Capps with some help from others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second independent album from the Pacific Northwestern band demonstrates Martsch’s guitar playing and wry songs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: On this album, Doug Martsch cuts loose. While the songs aren’t as epic as they could be – his guitar playing and style steps to the fore. It’s complicated, loud and at times psychedelic, yet not trite or boring. The reason is Martsch and his guitar hooks – he knows how to pepper his songs with them.

Martsch’s high-pitched semi-whine may not be technically the best voice, but it works for these songs and supports his lyrics and melodies well. There are a lot of parallels to Dinosaur, Jr. Plus, little touches like the cellos in “Car” add a depth that’s missing from many similar bands of the time.

Soon, Martsch would be signed to a major label, but with little restrictions on his content (for once). This album is how he was signed, since it showed he could move units and keep true to his vision.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The last track is a parody called “Preview”, which pokes fun at all of the current (for 1994) alt-rock trends.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A:  At first, you may wonder about this album (especially the vocals, if you’re not used to him), but the hooks and melodies and guitar playing sell it.