Month: March 2017

UFO – Phenomenon

ARTIST: UFO                             220px-UFO_album_Phenomenon

TITLE: Phenomenon

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #202

SINGLES: Doctor Doctor

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Space Child, Rock Bottom, Oh My

LINEUP: Phil Mogg, Michael Schenker, Pete Way, Andy Parker

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After a lackluster career as proggy-space-rockers, UFO finds a teenage Michael Schenker, and immediately becomes listenable and interesting.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: UFO had been dropped and all but forgotten when they hired a teenage Michael Schenker as their guitarist, and, well, that was a coup and a half.

Still showing some proggy and spacy tendencies, the band incorporates Schenker and his presence infuses the band with sparks and smoke. That was much needed after boring people to death from 1970-72.

“Oh My” and “Doctor Doctor” are fine slabs of 70’s rock, and other tracks are good enough, but damn, this has “Rock Bottom”, which, if you haven’t heard it, you must drop everything now and take a listen. It’s…smoldering and should have been all over FM radio in the day. The riff is genius. Genius!

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I’m going to rant about Chrysalis Records here. This album isn’t on Google Play, but it’s on Spotify. Fine and dandy, at least it’s out there. But why pick and choose, especially when other stuff is streaming on Google.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. An interesting single + B-side that introduced Schenker to the masses, and BBC sessions, etc.

GRADE: B+:  Worth it just for “Rock Bottom”, but it’s decent to good hard 70’s rock all through.

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Def Leppard – High ‘n’ Dry

ARTIST: Def Leppard                     220px-Def_Leppard_-_High_'n'_Dry

TITLE: High ‘n’ Dry

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #38 US, #26 UK

SINGLES: Let It Go (#34 Rock), Bringing on the Heartbreak (#61)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)

LINEUP: Joe Elliott, Steve Clark, Pete Willis, Rick Savage, Rick Allen

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A commercial and MTV breakthrough for the hard-rockin’, hard-livin’ band – at least in the US.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While still showing inconsistency and still sporting a few lackluster songs, Def Leppard’s second album started the process of their US domination.

The video for “Bringing on the Heartbreak” brought US fans to the band, even if the single didn’t make a radio impact. That showed the band could slow down and be emotional and powerful, while still showing the heaviness that hard rock fans wanted.

The second side is a bit lackluster, but overall this is a slight improvement from their debut and has a few all-timer songs. This may be the best place to start for those dipping in past the hits collections.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Still not streaming, for no damn good reason as I can see.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a B-side (great) and an unneeded ‘enhancement’ of “Bringing on the Heartbreak”

GRADE: B:  It’s the same grade as the debut, as the whole second side isn’t that hot all in all, but I’d start here for an immersion of Deep Leppard.

 

Kylesa – To Walk a Middle Course

ARTIST: Kylesa                                        220px-To_Walk_a_Middle_Course

TITLE: To Walk a Middle Course

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only the metalheads know, unfortunately.

LINEUP: Phillip Cope, Laura Pleasants, Corey Barhorst, Brandon Baltzley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from sludge-alt-new-whatever metal combo melts some damn faces off.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, they shout instead of singing (for the most part), which could lessen its appeal to the wimpier, but dang it, this cooks.

Adding Laura Pleasants’ voice into the yowl by Phillip Cope (or Corey Barhorst) helps break up the monotony and adds tension. The star here though are the riffs, and the feel. Cope and Pleasants rip through riffs, and the production adding quieter parts and samples also bring balance.

Yeah, it’s still a bit monotonous – all of those killer riffs can run together – but in small-to-medium doses, your face will melt.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Between their debut and this, they released a few very limited edition 7” singles.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+:  I can’t quite get there with an A-, because of some of the monotony, but for metal heads wanting something powerful and non-generic, this is a good one.

The Jesus Lizard – Pure

ARTIST: The Jesus Lizard                                  220px-Pure_EP

TITLE: Pure

YEAR RELEASED: 1989

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: It was an EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you were in tune with Touch & Go or Albini

LINEUP: Duane Denison, David Wm. Sims, David Yow

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut EP from the band formed from the ashes of Scratch Acid.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After Scratch Acid broke up, David Yow was asked by Duane Denison to play bass on some songs for a recording. Yow suggested he sing and bring on his old band mate Sims and the Jesus Lizard was born.

This EP catches the band in their early stages, with a drum machine and a tentative style. David Yow’s ‘vocals’ are rather much in place (he screams, yelps, shouts and distorts his voice more than sing), but with a drum machine the power of the group is somewhat dimmed.

Still, this is a debut that shows what the group was going to be about. And of course, with their final cut, some of what they were going to be was noisy BS, but hey, that’s their MO.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They originally formed in Austin, but moved to Chicago before recording.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but on CD it was originally appended to their first full length.

GRADE: B:  “Interesting”.

The Old 97’s – Too Far to Care

ARTIST: The Old 97’s                                220px-Old_97s-Too_Far_To_Care

TITLE: Too Far to Care

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Only promo singles

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Timebomb, Barrier Reef, Melt Show, Big Brown Eyes, Four Leaf Clover

LINEUP: Rhett Miller, Murry Hammon, Ken Bethea, Phillip Peeples. John Rauhouse and Wally Gagel guested, and Exene sang on one track with Rhett Miller.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First major label release for the rockin’ alt-country band blazes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Kicking off with the raucous “Timebomb”, then going into their probably-signature song “Barrier Reef”, the Old 97’s go national and make a name for themselves.

They focused on more of their rock side, and that probably helped them to be honest, especially with the sound and production from Wally Gagel that emphasizes the guitar of Ken Bethea and the drums.

While not exactly a perfect album, Miller’s songwriting was getting sharper and wittier, and the band was ready to jump in to the rockin’ style with both feet.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: A couple of tracks were re-done from earlier albums. Also, Stuart Ransom Miller is Rhett Miller’s real name, but it’s also his father’s name and it’s allegedly not autobiographical.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Four extra songs, and then later another disc of demos.

GRADE: A-:  A fun, raucous good time.

Depeche Mode – Construction Time Again

ARTIST: Depeche Mode             Depeche_Mode_-_Construction_Time_Again

TITLE: Construction Time Again

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #6 UK

SINGLES: Everything Counts (#17 Dance, #6 UK), Love, in Itself (#21 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not over in the US, no.

LINEUP: Martin Gore, Alan Wilder, David Gahan, Andy Fletcher

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An artistic turnaround, and the path forward for Depeche Mode.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Alan Wilder joined Depeche Mode as a full member for this album, and whether it was that, or Martin Gore’s evolution as a songwriter, Depeche Mode definitely moved in a positive direction.

The band was now adding depth to its sonic palette, with a darker mood, complex song structures, and samples of industrial-type sounds that helped add a more experimental edge to their sound. Vocals were also utilized as more than just a melody-carrier as well as the layered vocals with Gahan and the band added to the moody atmosphere.

“Everything Counts” got their first real notice in the US after their initial hit, even though it was just in clubs and dance floors. It also was a dance tune with a political message, which led the band to include more political and social messaging in its songs. More importantly, it had a hook to die for which got people moving.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Wilder wrote two songs on the album, and continued to contribute songs until his departure.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Originally the CD had a hidden track (a reprise of “Everything Counts”). In 2007, a deluxe version with their pre-album single “Get the Balance Right” (#13 UK, #31 US Dance), which set the stage for the album.

GRADE: A-:  Depeche Mode moves from just a synth-pop band to something more ambitious.

Roy Buchanan – Roy Buchanan

ARTIST: Roy Buchanan                           MI0000616898

TITLE: Roy Buchanan

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Sweet Dreams, Haunted House

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: He covers a Merle Haggard and Hank Williams song.

LINEUP: Roy Buchanan, Chuck Tilley, Teddy Irwin, Pete Van Hallen, Dick Heintze, Ned Davis.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First real commercial studio album from an under-known yet influential guitarist.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thanks to an early PBS documentary, Roy Buchanan went from a local DC legend to a national recording artist. His playing with the Telecaster inspired numerous guitarists and gained praise from John Lennon, Merle Haggard, and the Rolling Stones.

This is a simple album, with some cover songs (including an inspired take of the 60’s novelty tune “Haunted House”). Only a few cuts have vocals, those by country vocalist Chuck Tilley. The playing is raw and ragged at times, but it seemed like Buchanan and the band were having a good time.

This is a guitar-head’s album, and well worth it for those who love the Telecaster sound.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Buchanan’s career spanned several years, starting with playing for Dale Hawkins and then Ronnie Hawkins, and then settled into session work before settling down in DC.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+:  This is for Telecaster fans!

Bruno Mars – Doo Wops & Hooligans

ARTIST: Bruno Mars                        Doo-Wops_&_Hooligans

TITLE: Doo Wops & Hooligans

YEAR RELEASED: 2010

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Just the Way You Are (#1 US, #1 UK), Grenade (#1 US, #1 UK), The Lazy Song (#4 US, #1 UK), Marry You (#85 US, #11 UK), Count on Me (#78 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s half the album, and it saturated radio.

LINEUP: Bruno Mars, Richard Windman, Dwayne Chin-Quee, Brody Brown, Ari Levine with guests BoB, Damian Marley and Cee Lo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from versatile performer showcases his vocal styles in various modes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is one of those pop albums that’s of its time, but could also be one of those that transcend its era thanks to the vocal chops of Bruno Mars.

Mars’ voice is a classic high soul tenor, and can definitely sing your R&B torch song in a timeless manner. But when the tempo speeds up and it’s a dance song, Mars has the chops to handle that too.

The production does sound of its time, which means it may not age well (hard to say now). Plus, a few of the cuts aren’t so hot compared to great songs like “Marry You”. But it’s a great first effort and got him on the map, not just in music, but in pop culture in general.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His real name is Peter Gene Hernandez.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Several: European, Japanses, iTunes, Platinum, you know how it is now.

GRADE: B+:  A pretty good early 2010 pop record with some great singles.

Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years

ARTIST: Paul Simon      PaulSimonStillCrazyAfterAllTheseYearsCover

TITLE: Still Crazy After All These Years

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #6 UK

SINGLES: Gone at Last (#23 US), 50 Way to Leave Your Lover (#1 US, #23 UK), Still Crazy After All These Years (#40 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only Simon fans know more.

LINEUP: Paul Simon. The main band was Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, and Hugh McCracken but there was a whole bunch of others on various songs. Art Garfunkel dueted on “My Little Town”. Phoebe Snow sang with Simon on “Gone at Last”

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third (ok, fourth, but no one remembers his first, and he’d like to forget it, really) solo album finds Simon’s deeper cuts being a little lackluster, or maudlin.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some great music on this album. Steve Gadd’s drum pattern on “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is a marvel to this day, especially on close listen (hearing the interaction of snare, tom and kick drum with chocked hi hat). Yet it seemed that Simon had reached the end of his songbook for the time being.

Unlike his previous two albums, it seemed that the deeper cuts were at times schlocky and at other times derivative of his other work. It’s well produced and impeccably played, but it still seems a bit off.

There’s some great music here, and for that it’s worth a spin. But it doesn’t shine like his other early solo work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title cut was covered by singers as diverse as Rosemary Clooney and Willie Nelson

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of demo cuts added.

GRADE: B:  Maybe it’s because his other early solo albums were really exemplary, but this one’s just a bit flat.

 

The Kooks – Inside In / Inside Out

ARTIST: The Kooks                                220px-Insideininsideout

TITLE: Inside In / Inside Out

YEAR RELEASED: 2006

CHART ACTION: #165 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Eddie’s Gun (#35 UK), Sofa Song (#28 UK), You Don’t Love Me (#12 UK), Naïve (#5 UK, #22 US Alt), She Moves in Her Own Way (#7 UK, #39 US Alt), Ooh La (#20 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here.

LINEUP: Luke Pritchard, Hugh Harris, Max Rafferty, Paul Garred

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: UK modern rock band’s first album is a commercial success, and has some decent, if not memorable moments.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Though it was a little overshadowed at first by the Arctic Monkeys, the Kooks’ first album also became a world wide smash (not here, because, you know, the US does its own thing at times).

The reason is pretty clear, pleasing hooks and melodies and enough crunch to satisfy some rock fans. There’s nothing horribly new about the Kooks, but their music sounds good on the radio and really one song at a time may be the best way to hear them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They decided to tour and write first right after signing their contract to work on their sound and songs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, an extra US track.

GRADE: B:  It’s not revolutionary, but it’s a decent listen and the individual cuts sound good on the radio.