Month: August 2017

Electric Eels – Die Electric Eels

ARTIST: Electric Eels                                        die electric eels

TITLE: Die Electric Eels

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Get real.

LINEUP: John Morton, Dave E McManus, Brian McMahon, Paul Marotta or Nick Knox

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Nihilistic art terrorism.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The ethos of the band is summed up by these words in “Agitated”: “You know what I think, I think the whole world stinks, and I don’t need no shrink, I just hate it”

Simple three or four chord music, loud drums, crummy recordings, sneery vocals, and lyrics that disguise their wit with all kinds of negativity. Of course, Cleveland in the mid-70’s was not a pretty city to be in, especially if you were an outsider making art.

The stories of the Electric Eels are out there – told in various histories of punk / new wave and the emerging Cleveland / Akron / Kent scene (which produced Devo, Pere Ubu, and the Dead Boys among others.

Just be warned – this is loud and ugly music – like 1975 Cleveland.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Nick Knox may have drummed on these demos, and he later drummed for the Cramps.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Well, there are several packages of these demos running around – some with other tracks. Basically at most there are 19 or 20 Electric Eels recordings.

GRADE: B-: It’s really hard to grade this. It’s a historical “A” and there are a couple three great, witty tracks. But the nihilism and the crappy recording makes it hard to slog through all of it.

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Barrence Whitfield & The Savages – Barrance Whitfield & The Savages

ARTIST: Barrence Whitfield & the Savages             whitfield

TITLE: Barrence Whitfield & the Savages

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no

LINEUP: Barrance Whitfield, Peter Greenberg, Phil Lenker, Howard Ferguson, Steve LaGrega, Bill Mooney-McCoy

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A throwback soul man hooks up with a group of affecionadoes from the Lyres and other Boston bands to create a hot R&B revue.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Barrence Whitfield was in college in Boston and working at a record store, when Peter Greenberg of the Lyres heard him singing in the store. Soon, Whitfield and Greenberg were working together with a group of Boston-based musicians. They dubbed the band “The Savages” which fit Whitfield’s raucous vocals.

Their first album is a stomper, with some obscure R&B covers from the 60’s and originals that fit right in like “Walking with Barrence” and “Ship Sailed at Six”. A cover of “Mama Get the Hammer” fits right in with its oddball and frenetic energy.

It’s a fun time with a fun band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Whitfield’s real name is Barry White. There’s a good reason they changed it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a re-issue packs 10 more cuts onto the package.

GRADE: A-: Just try not to move during this record.

Janet Jackson – Control

ARTIST: Janet Jackson                              Janet_Jackson_-_Control

TITLE: Control

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 R&B, #8 UK

SINGLES: What Have You Done for Me Lately (#4 US, #1 R&B, #3 UK), Nasty (#3 US, #1 R&B, #19 UK), When I Think of You (#1 US, #3 R&B, #10 UK), Control (#5 US, #1 R&B, #42 UK), Let’s Wait Awhile (#2 US, #1 R&B, #3 UK), The Pleasure Principle (#14 US, #1 R&B, #24 UK), Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun) (#59 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s seven of nine tracks right there.

LINEUP: Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Spencer Bernard, Monte Moir, and other session players

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After two sentimentally goopy pop albums, Janet Jackson breaks away from the family dynasty and asserts herself.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Track one is all about taking control of one’s self and career. Track two is about asserting one’s self as not taking sexist crap from men. Track three is about putting that bad boyfriend in his place. Janet Jackson has basically flipped the bird, strongly, towards anyone doubting her.

Working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jackson and the producers constructed a mid-80’s soundtrack for women’s empowerment. Yes, there are love songs (and those slow ones get treacly), but the dance numbers shine, and Jackson uses the strengths of her voice, and Jam and Lewis’s production, to get the message out there.

The production is of the time, but the message is still of our time. The only bad thing is the sequencing, putting the two slow jams at the end allows the record to run out of steam.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She had two solo records in the early 80’s before she broke away from the family management. Those are better left in the dust.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A Japanese bonus track.

GRADE: A-: The downgrade is for the closing two tracks.

Tortoise – Tortoise

ARTIST: Tortoise                 Tortoise-Tortoise_(album_cover)

TITLE: Tortoise

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #Nope

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: John McEntire, Dan Bitney, John Herdon, Douglas McCombs, Bundy Brown

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album by slow and steady Chicago scenesters is eerily beautiful.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s probably no apt name for this band than Tortoise – where mid-tempo is breakneck speed and the music moves along methodically, steadily, and even with great beauty despite it all.

The first incarnation of the band featured two bassists and three percussionists, who play the standard drum kit along with vibraphone, marimba, and other mallet instruments. What results is a music that intrigues the listener. It sounds so different, yet at the same time the themes and motifs are familiar. And because it’s slow doesn’t mean it can’t be loud, but normally they carry along quietly (the drum kit on “Ry Cooder” is loud and joyful, though).

This is a record for those chill moments when you don’t need volume or convention to hang out. Good with wine and a book.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band was given credit for moving the Chicago scene away from the “Guyville” towards something called ‘post-rock’.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A: For those of us who don’t mind instrumentals that blur the line of many genres.

Eric Clapton – There’s One in Every Crowd

ARTIST: Eric Clapton                  220px-EricClaptonTheresOneInEveryCrowd

TITLE: There’s One in Every Crowd

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #21 US, #15 UK

SINGLES: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (#19 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A cover of The Sky Is Crying

LINEUP: Eric Clapton, George Terry, Carl Radle,, Jamie Oldaker, Dick Sims, Albhy Galutein, Yvonne Ellman, Marcy Levy

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: How bland can you get? None, none more bland.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This whole damn album smacks of calculation, not spontaneity. Since there was a reggae song that was a hit on their last album, let’s put THREE on this one, and record it in Jamaica to boot – never mind the drug and alcohol problem that almost everyone had.

Clapton’s love for the JJ Cale “Tulsa” sound has made this album so laid back, it needs a jolt of caffeine to rouse it from its torpor just to be mellow.

Only the deep cut “High” roused ME from my slumber. The playing is good, yeah, and there’s some attempts at energy, but you know, this album was rushed, and didn’t need to happen. But it did.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original title as supposed to be “EC is God…There’s One in Every Crowd”. The record company said nix on that.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C-: Wake me up when it’s over. I 86’d a bunch of tracks.

Hefner – Breaking God’s Heart

ARTIST: Hefner                          220px-Breaking_God's_Heart

TITLE: Breaking God’s Heart

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Sweetness Lies Within (#171 UK), Love Will Destroy Us in the End

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here. We didn’t get John Peel’s show

LINEUP: Darren Hayman, Antony Harding, John Morrison, Jack Hayder

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Independent rock / folk band’s first album has promising songs, but suffers a bit from packing too much into them.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hefner was an outfit that drew from the traditions of folk, combining them with the burgeoning independent rock scene in the UK, and crafted songs as wordy as Elvis Costello’s early work with spare sounding arrangements.

For those not devoted 100% to the band, that can create issues. While most all of their tracks show humor, and melody, only a few have memorable hooks that allow them to stand out, letting the rest recede into the background where they’re blurred together with others.

My best advice is listen to the first few tracks. If you’re in, you’ll know. I’m still on the fence myself, long term.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: John Peel, famous BBC DJ, took a real shine to them and they were on the show constantly.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The always had EPs between albums, and stand alone singles. Those bonus tracks illustrate their weaknesses more than play to their strengths.

GRADE: B-: I get it, and I’m kind of on the train, but some of their stuff is just flat.

 

Curtis Mayfield – Superfly

ARTIST: Curtis Mayfield                220px-CurtisMayfieldSuperfly

TITLE: Superfly

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 R&B, #26 UK

SINGLES: Freddie’s Dead (#4 US, #2 R&B), Superfly (#8 US, #5 R&B, #52 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Pusherman

LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield, Joseph Lucky Scott, Master Henry Gibson, Morris Jennings, Carig McMullen. Tyrone McCullen played drums on one track. They used session strings and horns.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A soundtrack that was much better than the movie. An iconic funk album perfect for the mood in summer 1972 (which was dark and dingy).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While Curtis Mayfield definitely had some appeal thanks to his work with the Impressions and his solo work, it was this album that thrust him into the stratosphere as a musical innovator, producer, and arranger.

Mayfield’s high, pleading voice was perfect for the story of the movie and how he told it, which was a grim tale of drugs in the inner city – a lot grimmer than the film to be honest. Yet, as impressive as Mayfield’s vocals were, it was his use of funk, coupled with horns and an orchestra, that captured the perfect sound for these songs.

On all accounts, this is a powerful testament, and highly influential. Mayfield was always writing about positivity and empowerment, and through the bleakness there is hope. Musicians should still study this album for the impact that melody and arrangement can have in creating a mood and feel, while still enjoying the funk.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Many executives didn’t think this was going to be a hit. Oh, how wrong they were.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A version with working demos and studio outtakes exist. Intriguing to hear the process of the record.

GRADE: A+: A perfect soundtrack for the times, and the movie.

Paramore – All We Know Is Falling

ARTIST: Paramore                                        220px-Paramore-all_we_know_is_falling

TITLE: All We Know Is Falling

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #30 Heatseekers, #51 UK

SINGLES: Pressure, Emergency, All We Know

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Here We Go Again

LINEUP: Hayley Williams, Josh Farro, Zac Farro, Jason Bynum, Lucio Rubino.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut record for the Florida band positions them for their eventual breakout.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Featuring a radio-ready sound, and some charisma in vocalist Hayley Williams, the debut for Paramore was ready-made for teens who were eating up melodic pop / punk at the time.

Hayley Williams’ vocals are the star here. She rises above the at-times generic sounding music with her charisma and range. Everything else seems a bit generic, though (angsty lyrics, heavy guitar riffs with dynamic changes between slow and fast, loud and quiet – it’s like emo punk 101).

The one thing that bothers me about rock from this era is the compressed sound. Everything was made for the digital music revolution, which pinches everything into mid-range and treble for the most part, and that doesn’t allow for a lot of sonic distance, and the drums seem very tinny (to my ears). But that’s not limited to Paramore; it’s just really noticeable here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The drummer, Zac Farro, was only 15. Also, this record was written about former (and future) bassist Jeremy Davis, who split the band right before recording.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, In Japan, they always have bonus tracks, and there were iTunes tracks and anniversary tracks and such.

GRADE: B: It’s a good representation for what was going on in that era, and while it wasn’t a hit it definitely got them buzz in the right places.

Jawbox – Novelty

ARTIST: Jawbox                                              Novelty_jawbox

TITLE: Novelty

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Static, Cutoff

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dischord Records junkies do

LINEUP: J. Robbins, Kim Colletta, Bill Barbot, Adam Wade.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Adding a guitarist opens up their sound, and they quickly become one of the better Dischord acts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first Jawbox releases seemed a bit claustrophobic and same-same, but when the band added Bill Barbot on guitar and backing vocals, their sound opened up, and gained textures and vibrance that they didn’t have originally.

J. Robbins’ voice still carries through the album, but there’s more diversity in sound and style, and in “Static”, one of the better uses of the quiet-loud trope. Adding Barbot made the riffs more menacing at times (in “Cutoff”, especially).

There’s still an issue with sequencing, as “Static” was placed in the back half of the album behind some songs which blur together. Still, an improvement for sure.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bill Barbot is a Facebook friend of mine (a good friend of my best friend and I’ve had conversations with him at conferences and what not), but that hasn’t affected this review.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: They moved to near the top of the Dischord roster – and would be prime for moving up to a major label (which they did).

Lisa Germano – Geek the Girl

ARTIST: Lisa Germano                     220px-Geekthegirl

TITLE: Geek the Girl

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Cry Wolf

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: …A Psychopath

LINEUP: Lisa Germano, Malcom Burn. Kenny Aronoff on some tracks.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Intense, eerie, powerful album with some tracks that are harrowing.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Most of this album has instrumentation that’s ethereal and moody, but the songs by Lisa Germano take those arrangements and make them into something more emotional and wrenching.

In “Trouble”, she sings “As an act I hate myself”. “Cry Wolf” is about a rape where the victim is blamed, and “…A Psychopath”, the most famous track of them all, features a real 911 call from a stalking victim.

Not an easy listen, but compelling, and even today, rings so true. Germano captures her fears and anxiety as a woman living in this society. Her vocals, quiet, breathy, and tentative at times, are framed perfectly by the lyrics and music.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Most of this was recorded in Germano’s apartment, but they took it to the studio for mixing.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A+: Not for the faint of heart, but a record that’s important to this day.