Month: April 2017

Spoon – Telephono

ARTIST: Spoon                                      220px-Telephono

TITLE: Telephono

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #35 Independent

SINGLES: All the Negatives Have Been Destroyed, Not Turning Off

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Really, no.

LINEUP: Britt Daniel, Andy Maguire, Jim Eno, Brad Shenfeld

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Early album from the Austin group is rough and raw, but shows potential.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Pixies were gone by 1997, but Spoon wanted to fill the void in with weird songwriting, sonic dynamics, and loud-ish playing. That’s not what they’re known for now, of course, but it worked at the time. 220px-Spoon-Soft_Effects

Some elements of Spoon’s later work do show up – Britt Daniel’s gift for quirky melodies and rhythms do show up even amongst the loudness. It’s still jarring to compare this album to those that made them famous (well, famous for an alternative band in this day and age).

The album comes now with a follow up EP (Soft Effects), which really shows a subtle evolution before their major label debacle. But here, listen to “Not Turning Off” and know that without the Pixies, they wouldn’t exist.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released an EP back in 1994 that was pressed up in the dozens, maybe.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: See above

GRADE: B: Good record for fans to see where they started and how they evolved.

The Roots – Do You Want More?!!!??!

ARTIST: The Roots                                         220px-Doyouwantmore

TITLE: Do You Want More?!!!??!

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: #104, #22 Hip-Hop, #2 Heatseekers

SINGLES: Distortion to Static (#96 R&B, #25 Rap), Proceed (#123, #79 R&B, #13 Rap), Silent Treatment (#105 R&B, #31 Rap)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not unless you’re a fan.

LINEUP: Black Thought, Questlove, Kamal Gray, Malik B, Scott Storch, Nikki Yeoh. Guests include Elo, Cassandra Wilson, Dice Raw, and Ursula Rucker.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Roots really begin here – using jazz, rock, R&B, and other music and sounds to create innovative and provocative hip-hop.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It seems the Roots have always been with us, melding hip-hop with all kinds of sounds, writing provocative rhymes, and keeping the genre fresh and innovative. But they didn’t emerge from the underground until 1995.

Even though some of the raps are angry sounding, they definitely were going against the ‘gangster’ genre into more of a politically focused style. Produced by the Roots and the Grand Negaz, this is definitely an antidote to what hip-hop was going to become, with an emphasis on real music and not samples. Definitely ahead of its time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Personnel would change as always, but keyboardist Kamal Gray joined and hasn’t left yet. He’s the longest tenured behind Questlove and Black Thought.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A-: A bold statement from a bold, innovative band.

Mariah Carey – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Mariah Carey        220px-Greatest_Hits_Mariah_Carey

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #52 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: Well, most all of these tracks.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Most everyone.

LINEUP: Mariah Carey and countless sidemen, producers, etc.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Diva’s collection of early hits. Essential for a Carey or 90’s pop / R&B fan. The rest of us can take or leave.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is a record where criticism is kind of fruitless. This is absolutely essential for fans (her albums are fine, but really, the deep cuts kind of fall away), and those that like 90’s pop. The songwriting and production machine, with Carey’s voice, made her a powerhouse.

The early sound is VERRRRY late 80’s, almost embarrassingly so. But the singing and melodies carry it. Yes, “Fantasy” is basically a total rip of “Genius of Love” but I think the Tom Tom Club got paid big time.

This isn’t in my wheelhouse so I exiled a lot. I can find here predictable, and her ballads overwrought and overly sentimental. But, fans dig that. Fine.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This ends at 2001. There’s not a good collection of her later hits.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: I can’t say it’s wonderful, nor can I say it’s crap. It’s really good for what it is and what you want from her.

Weezer – Pinkerton

ARTIST: Weezer                   220px-Pinkerton_cover

TITLE: Pinkerton

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #19 US, #43 UK

SINGLES: El Scorcho (#19 Alternative, #50 UK), The Good Life (#32 Alternative), Pink Triangle

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tired of Sex, Getchoo

LINEUP: Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, Matt Sharp

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: At the time, a commercial disappointment. Now, a cult album hailed as a masterpiece. The truth is in the middle.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You can’t please critics all the time (this one included). You can’t please the public or your fans all the time. You should only please yourself by making the music you feel in your heart.

There are way too many tales, tomes, and essays about Pinkerton. It was an album created after an ambitious project was scrapped (and several songs morphed and mutated into the versions here). It was harder edged, with a great crunchy guitar sound, and a driving distorted bass. Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, and Matt Sharp do yeomen’s work backing Rivers Cuomo. The melodies were there as well.

A lot of the focus were on the confessional lyrics. I think that’s malarkey, really. Critics wanted to pick them apart – radio didn’t hear another “Buddy Holly” – and casual fans didn’t hear what they wanted. That was their loss. Yet, it’s not the Holy Grail of albums either. It’s a solid record much better than a lot of late 90’s albums and it’s a shame that the initial reaction to this altered the band so much.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The scrapped album was a science fiction rock opera.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, b-sides and live tracks, of course.

GRADE: A-: Solid album, just got caught up in a media maelstrom and other industry BS.

 

Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection

ARTIST: Elton John                             Elton_John_-_Tumbleweed_Connection

TITLE: Tumbleweed Connection

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #5 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Love Song

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Ballad of a Well-Known Gun, Country Comfort, Burn Down the Mission

LINEUP: Elton John, Caleb Quaye, Roger Pope, Dave Glover, Herbie Flowers, Nigel Olsson, Barry Morgan, lots of others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Elton John finds his 70’s sound and improves his songwriting and arrangements.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: From the first notes of “Ballad of a Well Known Gun”, modern listeners recognize Elton John’s signature sound. This is the album where it begins to coalesce.

The arrangements and melodies are more rock-and-roll than before, and Elton’s vocals are also schooled in more of a rock idiom. Gems like “Amoreena” and “Country Comfort”, and “Burn Down the Mission” populate the record. There’s somewhat of a theme, with a lot of songs with gun allusions, keeping a western theme.

There’s still a few tracks where it doesn’t all hold together. The selection for a single (“Love Song”) seemed out of place. It bombed, but the album did well on FM radio and sold and sold despite no single.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Amoreena” was used in the opening credits of Dog Day Afternoon.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The gem is the original version of “Madman Across the Water”

GRADE: B+: Most everything is a great listen, with just a few tracks that are semi-skippable.

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story

ARTIST: Rod Stewart                                            220px-EveryPictureTellsaStory

TITLE: Every Picture Tells a Story

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Reason to Believe (#62 US, #1 UK), Maggie May (#1 US), (I Know) I’m Losing You (324 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mandolin Wind

LINEUP: Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Martell Brandy, Sam Mitchell, Martin Quittenton, Pete Sears, Micky Waller, Danny Thompson, Andy Pyle, Lindsay Jackson. The Faces were on (I Know) I’m Losing You, and Long John Baldry and Maggie Wood sang on the title track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Stewart’s solo career hits its apex, musically.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is peak Rod Stewart. His raspy voice was well suited for all of the material. He and Faces running mate Ronnie Wood and his ‘second band’ of studio musicians constructed great arrangements and showcased their versatility and musicianship. It’s mostly an acoustic album, with just enough electricity to add to the various classical guitars, pedal steels, and mandolins.

The impressive note is that Stewart covered songs by Dylan, Tim Hardin, and Elvis and wrote songs to their equal. “Maggie May” has been played to death, but in this context, with the Martin Quittenton intro, and right next to “Mandolin Wind” in the running order, it sounds fresh and of a piece with the album.

Stewart would really never reach this artistic level again, succumbing to the ease of ready-made fame. This one is for everyone, critics and fans.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The opening to “Maggie May” is officially “Henry” written by Martin Quittenton.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A+: Even the most obscure cut (“Seems Like a Long Time”) is a winner

Silverchair – Freak

ARTIST: Silverchair                                                 220px-Silverchair_-_Freak_Show

TITLE: Freak Show

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #38 UK

SINGLES: Freak (#25 Mainstream, #29 Modern, #34 UK), Abuse Me (#4 Mainstream, #4 Modern, #40 UK), Cemetery, The Door

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Slave

LINEUP: Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies, Chris Joannou

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Oh, the second album issue strikes hard, which really hit this band of teenagers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Silverchair should have been just about done with high school when this album was released, and some of the songs were written around the time their debut was taking the world by storm. Does that excuse the sloppy lyrics, half-baked Nirvanaisms, and generally maudlin sensibility.

No, not really.

The lyrics to “Freak” are ham-fisted and dilute a great riff. That’s just the beginning. “Abuse Me” is a Nirvana slow-song rip from a teenager’s journal (which it probably is).  As the album goes on, you get the idea that Johns and company wanted this album to be ‘a lost Nirvana album’, but not even Kurt Cobain at his most juvenile or suicidal could match some of these songs.

I’m going by song by song on this one – some tracks have potential to excite. But as a whole, it’s an unsuccessful attempt at aping an idol.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Johns has basically disavowed this album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C-: You can play “Name the Nirvana song that inspired this” for each track. I exiled all but four, as I have all of Nirvana’s albums and don’t need another.

Queen Latifah – She’s a Queen: A Collection of Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Queen Latifah                       220px-She's_A_Queen_album_cover

TITLE: She’s a Queen: A Collection of Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Ladies First (#64 R&B, #5 Rap, #38 Dance), Come Into My House (#81 R&B, #21 Rap, #7 Dance), Latifah’s Had It Up 2 Here (#13 R&B, #8 Rap), UNITY (#23, #7 R&B, #3 Rap), Just Another Day (#54, #37 R&B, #11 Rap), Black Hand Side (#29 R&B, #20 Rap), It’s Alright (#76), Paper (#50, #23 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Queen Latifah with guests Monie Love, Organized Noize, and Tha’ Raine and producers.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Overview of the hip-hop era of Queen Latifah, which seems slight.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Queen Latifah recorded four albums and several soundtrack cuts, and entered pop culture as a strong female in a very male dominated genre. Yet, the compilations for this era are quite sparse, and don’t have the depth you’d expect for an artist with this much cache.

Latifah’s moved on to bigger and better things, and has made more of an impact now as an actress and singer, but this era needs to be explored more. The original albums are still out there, so perhaps that’s where one should go to really flesh out her catalog.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Her charting positions don’t indicate her impact – her highest charting album in this era hit #60 on the Top 200, and only one was a Top 10 Rap album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, there’s a smaller collection out there with only 10 songs and four tracks not on this collection – why not combine them?

GRADE: B-: The grade is for the slight selection, which makes a B+ possibility a B-.

Motorhead – Bomber

ARTIST: Motorhead          Motörhead_-_Bomber_(1979)

TITLE: Bomber

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #12 UK

SINGLES: Bomber (#34 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stone Dead Forever, Dead Men Tell No Tales

LINEUP: Lemmy, Fast Eddie, Philthy Animal

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Followup to Motorhead’s breakthrough gives us more of the same, but, what’s really wrong with that?

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The riffs are there, but not as stunning and mind-blowing. The sleaze is still there, and Lemmy’s still Lemmy.

It doesn’t reach the height of Overkill. There’s not a ‘last chance urgency’ on some of the tracks. The band had secured themselves, and cranked out some good tracks, but there’s definitely some filler creeping in here in the middle of each side.

Bomber’s a good Motorhead album, and really that’s about all you need to know.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Producer Jimmy Miller was often late for sessions due to his heroin addiction. Heroin was the subject of “Dead Men Tell No Tales”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes – a b-side, live tracks, and alternate mixes.

GRADE: B+: It’s an album lost between a couple of classics, but it’s good for some riffin’ and head bangin’.

 

Peter Frampton – Somethin’s Happening

ARTIST: Peter Frampton                                                Somethin's_Happening_Album

TITLE: Somethin’s Happening

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #125

SINGLES: Baby (Somethin’s Happening)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doobie Wah

LINEUP: Peter Frampton, Rick Willis, John Slomos, Nicky Hopkins

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third Frampton solo album doesn’t excite anyone, much like his first two. It’s an improvement over his second, barely.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Kicking off with “Doobie Wah”, a blast of 70’s rock energy, there was hope that this third solo album from Peter Frampton would be a great improvement over his second, lazier, too-mellow album.

Well, the sound of the group (now a trio for the most part with Frampton on keyboards as well as guitar in the studio) is rawer and fresher and there’s more energy here. Yet, somehow, Frampton still doesn’t inspire here.

Many of the songs seem to be half-written excuses to show off his guitar playing. Maybe it was the constant touring, but it sounded like he couldn’t be bothered to write more than a couple of decent tunes and then coast on the rest.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Nicky Hopkins plays piano on two tracks, else it’s Frampton on the keyboards.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+ : I like the fresher energy, but the songs are kind of lame. Somehow he kept his contract.