Scorpions – Virgin Killer

ARTIST: Scorpions

TITLE: Virgin Killer



SINGLES: Virgin Killer, Pictured Life


LINEUP: Klaus Meine, Uli Jon Roth, Rudolf Schenker, Francis Bucholz, Rudy Lenners. Achim Kirschning played keyboards when needed.  

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The moment when the Scorpions really get their act together and start world domination. Or would have, if that cover didn’t get in the way. (NOTE: There is no way in hell that I’m showing the original cover. Wikipedia got a pass – I don’t think I will).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After three albums, this band of German rockers found their niche, and on this, their fourth album, they pert near perfected their hard rock tracks. The songs written by Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker have caught up to Uli Jon Roth’s contributions (for the most part). And Roth’s guitar work is still as unpredictable and invigorating as ever.

Four of the five songs on the first side, concluding with the title track (a song about time ravaging the youth – no, really). Yet, Roth still sings two tracks (he shouldn’t have), and there were two ballads that interfered with their rock-and-roll fury.

This is close to the pinnacle of the 70’s Scorpions, and got them into bigger venues around Europe and some whispers in the states. Alas…the cover.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The controversy about the cover is in the Wikipedia page for this album (along with the original cover). It’s…not the smartest thing they ever did.


GRADE B:  If they could have stopped with the bland ballads and Roth singing, this would have been a great record through and through, But I’m yelling about this 46 years in the future…so it’s a bit late, right?

The Scorpions – In Trance

ARTIST: Scorpions

TITLE: In Trance



SINGLES: In Trance


LINEUP: Klaus Meine, Uli Jon Roth, Rudolf Schenker, Francis Bucholz, Rudy Lenners. Achim Kirschning played keyboards when needed.  

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After mixing epic prog with hard rock, the Scorpions drop the prog and focus on mid-70’s hard rock with decent results.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a decade, and a big band shakeup in 1973, the Scorpions seemed to get it together with this, their third album. (Their first is practically a different band, and meh, their second isn’t streaming but many cuts are on comps). Uli Jon Roth breaks out on this album, instilling many songs with classic riffs along with guitar wizardry that many after tried to copy.

While a more concise song attack is helpful, the inclusion of some less than exciting ballads really slow the momentum. The first side has two snoozers in particular. Also, Roth vocalizes on two cuts (Klaus Meine really should be the only voice for the Scorps) and Roth’s instrumental is kind of a snoozer.

Still, this is a step forward for the band, and set the stage for their eventual success.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is the first of many Scorpions album covers to cause controversy, and that they had to change up after release. Their next album’s cover would DEFINITELY cause consternation.


GRADE B-:  It’s an halfway decent album with a couple of lasting tracks and some ballads that just fall flat. It may be best to seek out the three comps of their RCA work and grab the best cuts,

Ray Charles – True Genius

ARTIST: Ray Charles


TITLE: True Genius

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation


SINGLES: Top 10: Georgia on My Mind (#1 US, #3 R&B, #24 UK), Ruby (#28 US, #10 R&B), One Mint Julep (#8 US, #1 R&B), I’ve Gor News for You (#66 US, #8 R&B), Hit the Road Jack (#1 US, #1 R&B, #6 UK), Unchain My Heart (#9 US, #1 R&B), Hide Nor Hair (#20 US, #7 R&B), I Can’t Stop Loving You (#1 US, #1 R&B, #1 UK), You Don’t Know Me (#2 US, #5 R&B, #9 UK), You Are My Sunshine (#7 US, #1 R&B), Take These Chains From My Heart (#8 US, #7 R&B, #5 UK), No One (#21 US, #9 R&B, #35 UK), Busted (#4 US, #3 R&B, #21 UK), Baby Don’t You Cry (#39 US, #7 R&B), Makin’ Whoopie (#46 US, #10 R&B, #42 UK), Crying Time (#6 US, #5 R&B, #36 UK), Together Again (#19 US, #10 R&B, #48 UK), Let’s Go Get Stoned (#31 US, #1 R&B), Here We Go Again (#15 US, #5 R&B)< Yesterday (#25 US, #9 R&B, #44 UK), I’ll Be Good to You (#18 US, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In the Heat of the Night, I Don’t Need No Doctor

LINEUP: Ray Charles, the Raeletts, and session players and sometimes guests.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A compendium of Charles’ best tracks after leaving Atlantic Records. There’s some great stuff but it also showcases his decline as a performer and an influencer on the charts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Did you know that after 1963, Ray Charles only had one Top 10 pop hit? That he had just one #1 R&B hit after 1962? The decline of Ray Charles on the charts, which was steep after his groundbreaking Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music sets (1962 and 1963, is quite telling in this set.

In this set, Charles and / or his producers tried to be all things to all people. He dabbled in jazz, focused on C&W for a couple of years, returned to R&B and rock on occasion, and made most of his records in the vocal pop arena where his records were competing with many others. Charles, many times, had corny arrangements, too many strings, and backing vocals that inhibited him. He also had a heroin habit that he couldn’t kick until 1965.

He also owned his masters for this era, so recording fresh material wasn’t a big priority for him when his hits started to get play on oldies stations. Except for occasional sightings on the charts, he was more of a nostalgia act with a few C&W and R&B duets. As this set goes on, you wish that his voice wasn’t wasted on gunky adult contemporary ballads and unnecessary cover versions.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His third arrest in 1964 was the one that got him to kick the habit. He had to choose rehab or jail, and wasn’t released from parole until 1966.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, and many of his post-Atlantic albums aren’t streaming, so you’re stuck with this.

GRADE B:  His Atlantic Records set is well worth the investment in time and money, even if you’re not a Charles completist. This, not so much. You have to pick and choose to avoid the syrup.


No, not the yacht rock group!

But I’ve updated all of the pages where I dish out small reviews to various bands and records. This was an effort to clean up and out my catalog, so enjoy my leftovers, as it were!

Green River – Dry As a Bone / Rehab Doll

ARTIST: Green River 

TITLE: Dry As a Bone / Rehab Doll

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation



OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Swallow My Pride is probably the most well known one..

LINEUP: Mark Arm, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Bruce Fairweather, Alex Vincent

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A collection of the 1986-88 recordings by the seminal grunge band that shows a band always on the verge of imploding.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They were doomed to be short lived. Shoehorning indie ride-or-dies with hard rock / metalheads set on a major label recording contract could only go on so long. Green River stuck around from 1984 through the end of 1987, finishing their last recordings after they technically split up. This collection takes their last two releases as a combo and adds in outtakes


Dry As a Bone was recorded in 1986, but not released for another year, and it is the more cohesive of the two records. Mark Arm’s more in charge and the songs seem more Mudhoney-like. By Rehab Doll, the guitarists and bassists won out in terms of song construction and style, and the safer aspects of their tastes dilute the end product. Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Bruce Fairweather then went on to form Mother Love Bone, and the former two later schemed up Pearl Jam.

While this is a good document for the evolution of Seattle, it’s not anything special not vital. The parts were greater than the sum.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released an EP before this one that’s a bit edgier since Steve Turner (future Mudhoney) was in the group. Edgier, not better.


 GRADE: C+: For historical use only, really.

The Impressions – People Get Ready: The Best of Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions

ARTIST: The Impressions

TITLE: People Get Ready: The Best of Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation


SINGLES: Top 20: Gypsy Woman (#20 US, #2 R&B), It’s All Right (#4 US, #1 R&B), I’m So Proud (#14 US, #14 R&B), Keep On Pushing (#10 US), You Must Believe Me (#15 US), Amen (#7 US), People Get Ready (#14 US, #3 R&B), Woman’s Got Soul (#29 US, #9 R&B), Meeting Over Yonder (#48 US, #12 R&B), Can’t Satisfy (#65 US, #12 R&B). You Always Hurt Me (#96 US, #20 R&B), We’re a Winner (#14 US, #1 R&B), We’re Rolling On (#59 US, #17 R&B), I Loved and I Lost (#61 US, #9 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really. It’s packed with B-sides and deep cuts too.

LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash. Session musicians. Richard and Arthur Brooks sang with them early in their ABC career.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A great and deep collection of the ABC / Paramount years for the Impressions, when Curtis Mayfield masterminded the sound and style.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Surviving the loss of lead singer Jerry Butler and moving to Chicago to record for ABC / Paramount, Curtis Mayfield guided the Impressions through the 60’s.

Mayfield was the songwriter for the Impressions and also wrote solo hits for Butler, and using his songs and production by Johnny Pate the vocal trio (they lost the Brooks brothers after 1962) went from standard R&B towards more socially conscious and uplifting songs, and a more contemporary soul sound, Everyone now knows “People Get Ready”, but from the original “Gypsy Woman” through “We’re a Winner” the group evolved without losing quality.

This collection scoops up 40 tracks recorded for ABC / Paramount before they left for Mayfield’s own record company. Mostly a singles act until 1967, this is the best way to experience the Impressions mid 60’s era. It’s full of great songs you know and gems hidden away.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mayfield started to focus on albums with a message starting with We’re a Winner. The title of the album was also the motto for Curtom Records, Mayfield’s label


 GRADE: A: One of the keystone soul acts of the 60’s gets the collection they deserve.

Loudness – Crazy Nights

ARTIST: Loudness

TITLE: Crazy Nights

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation


SINGLES: Crazy Night, Let It Go, So Lonely, This Lonely Heart, You Shook Me

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Committed 80’s metal heads may know more

LINEUP: Minou Niihara, Akira Takasaki, Masayoki Yamashita, Munetaka Higuchi. Michael Vescera replaced Niihara in an effort to gain a US audience. Didn’t work.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Japanese heavy metal pioneers’ English major label output is compiled here. It’s better than a lot of their contemporaries.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They came, they saw, they tried, they didn’t quite make it. Armed with riffs, a decent guitarist in Akira Takasaki, and a knowledge of the contemporary heavy metal scene, Loudness signed with Atco Records and make a try at stateside success.

The translated lyrics into English with some help, added some keyboards on occasion (from guys like Greg Giuffria) and the the results was pretty decent mainstream metal. The vocals didn’t really have any more accent than the Scorpions or other European metal bands, and they got a cult following by touring relentlessly.

Alas, in 1989 they made a play for the big time here, and got an US singer to front them. Well, it didn’t change their sound really, and didn’t break them. What’s worse, they alienated many Japanese fans. So…not good. They then lost their US contract and US singer bailed on them mid-tour to sing with..Yngwie Malmsteen. Welp.

You could do a lot worse than Loudness for your 80’s metal fix. Really, they’re a perfectly decent band that could fit right in with your Priest, Maiden, and Def Leppard.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In 2001, they got the original band back together (OK, bass player Yamashita replaced the original original within a few weeks) until drummer Higuchi died of liver cancer in 2008. They regrouped and are still going strong. Their Wikipedia page is definitely translated from Japanese.


 GRADE: B: They were decent enough that they should have had hits instead of some of the hair bands.

The Spinners – The Very Best of the Spinners, Vol. 2

ARTIST: The Spinners 

TITLE: The Very Best of the Spinners, Vol. 2

YEAR RELEASED: Compliation


SINGLES: Top 20:  Love or Leave (#36 US, #8 R&B), Wake Up Susan (#56 US, #11 R&B, #29 UK), You’re Throwing a Good Love Away (#43 US, #5 R&B), If You Wanna Do a Dance (#49 US, #17 R&B)


LINEUP: Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, Billy Henderson, Bobby Smith. Most of the hits were with Philippe Wynne, and later hits with John Edwards. MFSB did the backing, and the Sigma Sweethearts did backing vocals too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A second collection from the Spinners in the Thom Bell area picks up the leftover hits and deeper cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It could be expected that the Spinners’ second volume of hits would be a bit of a downslide from the greatness of their first collection. And yes, this isn’t as packed full of goodness as Volume 1.

But there’s still a lot to like and admire here. The vocals are spot on, and the arrangements by Thom Bell and MFSB are tight. Just listening to them will give you a groove. The Spinners had better deep cuts than most every other vocal group (especially the Stylistics and Four Tops) of the era and they showed their versatility.

While this isn’t a must have, nor will you play it every day, it’s still a good supplemental collection to have for your 70’s R&B needs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In the UK they still had to be listed as the Detroit Spinners due to a group over there that had the name.


 GRADE: B: Good collection of secondary tracks.

The Spinners – The Very Best of the Spinners

ARTIST: The Spinners

TITLE: The Very Best of the Spinners

YEAR RELEASED: Compliation


SINGLES: The whole album is packed with hits!

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The whole album is packed with hits!

LINEUP: Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, Billy Henderson, Bobby Smith. Most of the hits were with Philippe Wynne, and later hits with John Edwards. MFSB did the backing, and the Sigma Sweethearts did backing vocals too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Spinners were the kings of Thom Bell’s production line, and they had an impeccable chart run in the 70’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Spinners had 16 Top 10 R&B hits between 1972 and 1980 and this collects 14 of them. (One track, the original A-side to “I’ll Be Around” charted at a measly #14). Backed by MFSB, they could do no wrong for about five years, and then made a comeback as the decade turned.

Their first album on Atlantic (which I reviewed) was excellent, but as time went on they went toward more hit-oriented records (and you really can’t out-do five excellent singles out of ten tracks), so this compilation seems more the way to go for the rest of the tracks.

While newcomer Philippe Wynne handled many of the lead vocals, they were spread around based on the song, and that kept the sound fresh and allowed Thom Bell to give them tracks that were varied since each singer could handle a lead.

No 70’s R&B or soul collection would be complete without some Spinners in it, and this is the best intro to that fantastic band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was some controversy on “They Just Can’t Stop It (The Games People Play) as some said that Sigma Sweetheart Evette Benton did the high solo parts, while others say it was Henry Fambrough sped up a bit.


 GRADE: A: These songs hold up today as examples of the funky fresh 70’s.

Joe Simon – (The) Best of Joe Simon, Greatest Hits: The Spring Years

ARTIST: Joe Simon

TITLE: (The) Best of Joe Simon / Greatest Hits: The Spring Years

YEAR RELEASED: Compliation(s)


SINGLES: Top 10: My Adorable One (#102 US, #8 R&B), The Chokin’ Kind (#13 US, #1 R&B), Farther on Down the Road (#57 US, #7 R&B), Yours Love (#78 US, #10 R&B), Your Time to Cry (#40 US, #3 R&B), Power of Love (#11 US, #1 R&B), Trouble in My Home (#50 US, #5 R&B), Step By Step (#37 US, #6 R&B, #14 UK), Theme from Cleopatra Jones (#18 US, #3 R&B), River (#62 US, #6 R&B), Get Down Get Down (Get on the Floor) (#8 US, #1 R&B), Music in My Bones (#92 US< #7 R&B), I Need You You Need Me (#5 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: He covered some soul classics through his career that you’d know.

LINEUP: Joe Simon + sessioneers – in Nashville early and then with Gamble & Huff

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long time chart mainstay has two (three) collections that neatly summarize his career – first in Nashville then in Philly.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Joe Simon was a Louisiana native that went from gospel to secular R&B in the early 60’s,and kicked around before hooking up with the Monument Records group in Nashville in 1966. He and his producers developed a sound that definitely had a country influence in the R&B world. (“The Chokin’ Kind was written by Harlan Howard and originally cut by Waylon Jennings).

Sensing a trend, his DJ friend steered him to Philly and Gamble & Huff and had a chart run from 1972 through 1975 that constantly had him in the pop and R&B charts.

These collections cover three eras: His pre-Nashville era (mostly generic R&B pleaders), the Nashville era on Monument and the Philly era on Spring. His unique voice which could cover both a tenor and a bass / baritone was well suited for mid-tempo soul and harder-edged ballads that gave him a niche in the market.

The main issue with the earlier comps is that they’re not complete (that’s why you need two) and not in chronological order. The Spring Records comp is more complete for that company, but it misses a lot, of course. It’s a shame that there are licensing loggerheads that one well-picked compilation won’t do, but you can have both and groove with an artist that should be more well known.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He stopped recording secular music in 1980 and returned to the church to become a pastor.


 GRADE: B+: Together these comps (with some pruning) would be an A, but that’s not the world we live in right now.