Ginuwine – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Ginuwine            220px-Ginuwine_-_Greatest_Hits_(LQ)

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #42 R&B

SINGLES: Top 10: Pony (#6 US, #1 R&B, #16 UK), What’s So Different (#49 US, #21 R&B, #10 UK), So Anxious (#16 US, #2 R&B), None of Ur Friends Business (#48 US, #7 R&B), Differences (#4 US, #1 R&B), Stingy (#33 US, #7 R&B), Hell Yeah (#17 US, #16 R&B, #27 UK), In Those Jeans (#8 US, #3 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Get it together, it’s Ginuwine

LINEUP: Ginuwine and producers + session musicians

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A good overview of the R&B singer’s early successes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After his fifth album laid an egg, Epic Records decided the best thing to do with Ginuwine was to wrap up his career with the lable with a best-of collection.

This fits, as in listening to the regular Ginuwine albums, he tends to put skits and extra un-musical items onto his album tracks, which disturbs the flow and caused me to eject the rest of his catalog in favor of this collection.

It’s not the perfect overview, but it’s good enough for now and we can wait for another, fuller, compilation later – at least we can hope.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I was in process of reviewing his second album, but the skits and extra material was just too much to deal with.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there’s a UK version with added tracks and a different order.

GRADE: B: If you’d combine the US and UK versions, this would be a higher letter grade, maybe.

 

The Beach Boys – Shut Down, Volume 2

ARTIST: The Beach Boys

TITLE: Shut Down, Volume 2 ShutDownVol2Cover

YEAR RELEASED: 1964

CHART ACTION: #13

SINGLES: Fun, Fun, Fun (#5), I Get Around (#1), Don’t Worry Baby (#24)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Most all of the album are covers of known songs.

LINEUP: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A split decision, with some classics and some filler.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Four tracks on the first side (“Fun, Fun, Fun”, “Don’t Worry Baby”, “The Warmth of the Sun”, “This Car of Mine”) are bonafide Beach Boys classics (major and minor). The other eight songs range from amusing filler (“In the Parkin’ Lot”, “Pom, Pom Play Girl”), and valiant attempt at “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”, down to blatant filler (two instrumentals and a cover of “Louie, Louie”).

Then there’s the inane “Cassius’ Love vs. ‘Sonny’ Wilson”, an excuse to fill 3:30 with trash talks and recycled hits. Who thought this was a good idea worth keeping on a record? Maybe a B-side?

The demands of Capitol Records for product meant that Brian Wilson could only do so much to make an album consistently excellent. For now, hits+filler was the rule.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Al Jardine marks his reappearance as a full-time member in the studio and photos.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a mono mix of one track, and a couple of oddities.

GRADE: C+: There’s some A+ stuff here, and then there’s the filler and obnoxious whatever it was.

Aretha Franklin – Aretha Arrives

ARTIST: Aretha Franklin         220px-Aretha_Arrives

TITLE: Aretha Arrives

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #5 US, #1 R&B

SINGLES: Baby I Love You (#4 US #1 R&B, #39 UK), (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (#37 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Most all of the album are covers of known songs.

LINEUP: Aretha Franklin and session aces

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A rushed second Atlantic album fails to capitalize on Aretha’s excellent first Atlantic soul album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Not even allowing her to recover from an injured elbow, Atlantic put Franklin back in the studio to record a followup to her landmark soul record. The magic that was there earlier just wasn’t there.

Aretha’s in good voice, of course, but the material at times seems unsuited, or uninspired. It moved copies, but it’s not memorable. It’s just…there.

She’d rebound, of course, and become the consistent performer that we know today. Still, it Atlantic made a mistake in rushing this.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Because of her injury she couldn’t play the piano except for the slower numbers.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C: It’s not streaming by itself, but it’s really not worth the effort.

Ultravox – Vienna

ARTIST: Ultravox                 Ultravox_-_Vienna

TITLE: Vienna

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #164 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: Sleepwalk (#29 UK), Passing Strangers (#57 UK), Vienna (#2 UK), All Stood Still (#8 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: New Europeans

LINEUP: Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie, Midge Ure

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A reconstituted Ultravox goes towards electronics, and discovers the winning sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After practically disbanding when erstwhile leader John Foxx, Midge Ure joined up with three of the Ultravox quintet and formed practically a new band, since they remade their sound and style.

Going for a cool, European, electronic vibe in the manner of Gary Numan, and coupling that with the alien-sounding guitar of Ure and violin of Billy Currie, Ultravox’ Vienna struck the right mood in image, style, and sound.

Even though the sound is mostly electronic, drummer Warren Cann’s use of electronic percussion and programming (he came up with the signature percussion sounds in the title track) were unique.

The whole album came together, with the kick-off instrumental setting the mood for the entire record. This set the tone for the 80’s New Romantic movement in the UK.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer Cann was the creepy vocal in “Mr. X”, and they also did a German version called “Herr X” (of course). Also, the US switched around the order in the first side, and it messed with the flow.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides and remixes abount

GRADE: A: A landmark album for the UK scene.

Ringo Starr – Beaucoups of Blues

ARTIST: Ringo Starr             220px-BeaucoupsBCover

TITLE: Beaucoups of Blues

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #65

SINGLES: Beaucoups of Blues (#87)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Ringo and lots and lots of Nashville Cats

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Ringo goes country, which shouldn’t have been a surprise, really.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Several of the songs that Ringo sang for the Beatles have their roots in country or rockabilly, so the fact that Ringo went country for a solo album shouldn’t have been a surprise.

It was a run-of-the-mill country album for the time, with some decent songs (the title cut and “$15 Draw” especially) and expert playing by the Nasvhille session players. Ringo’s voice is well suited for this.

It’s worth keeping in the catalog more as a curio than anything. Ringo’s solo work is spotty, but this is decent enough.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The songs were all written for Ringo. This also wasn’t the first solo album for Ringo. Early in 1970 Ringo released Sentimental Journey, an album of standards he recorded ‘for his mum’.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A B-side and a jam.

GRADE: C+: Not bad, really, but not exceptional and more for fans than anything.

If – If 3

ARTIST: If                     If_3_(If_album_-_cover_art)

TITLE: If 3

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #171

SINGLES: Forgotten Roads, Far Beyond

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nnnnooooopppppeeeee

LINEUP: JW Hodkinson, Dick Morrissey, Dave Quincy, Terry Smith, John Mealing, Jim Richardson, Dennis Elliott

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album by jazz-rock combo sounds like a repeat of their first two albums, and it seems flat and same-old when compared to the others.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some nice playing here and some decent arrangements, but this third record from If is about as imaginative as the title. The vocals and lyrics don’t always seem to the fit right, and even though guitarist Terry Smith does good work (especially on “Here Comes Mr. Time”), it all sounds pretty similar to what’s come before.

There’s more vocals here than on past albums, but moving to a more concise structure doesn’t do much for the album or the group. I’ve moved their catalog into my jazz folders for the most part.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Here Comes Mr. Time” was featured on a United Artists sample album

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with the single mixes.

GRADE: C+: Three records in two years may have spent the ideas for the band. Exiled their catalog to jazz.

Prince – Parade

ARTIST: Prince         220px-ParadeLP

TITLE: Parade

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #2 R&B, #4 UK

SINGLES: Kiss (#1 US, #1 R&B, #1 Dance, #6 UK), Mountains (#23 US, #15 R&B, #11 Dance, #45 UK), Anotherloverholenyohead (#63 US, #18 R&B, #21 Dance, #36), Girls & Boys (#21 Dance, #11 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Under the Cherry Moon

LINEUP: Prince, Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin and some help from others in the Revolution (Brown Mark, Bobby Z, Dr. Fink), Sheila E and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pop-funk and pop-dance record combines elements from his last few albums with success.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first thing I wondered about this album is the sequencing. Putting two of the strongest songs in the middle of side two, and making the entire first side deep cuts for the most part seems idiosyncratic, but that’s Prince for you.

There’s definite elements left over from Around the World in a Day, with its psychedelic leanings. He combines those with some of the spare funk he trotted out in the early 80’s and came up with another new Prince sound.

Of course, “Kiss” takes over the album, and overwhelms the other songs, though “Anotherloverholenyourhead” is almost its equal with a strong hook and a sense of fun. It’s a strong album in the string of strong records Prince put out in the 80’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Oh, it’s also the soundtrack to his turkey of a film Under the Cherry Moon. You probably didn’t see it. And double oh, Prince uses the band Mazarati (led by Brown Mark, his bassist) as his backing musicians on “Kiss”. Didn’t help their career.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: People really forget about this album, for no reason.

Lifter Puller – Lifter Puller

ARTIST: Lifter Puller                            Lifterpullerlifterpuller

TITLE: Lifter Puller

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Mezzanine Gypoff

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Craig Finn, Steve Barone, Dan Monick, Tommy Roach

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After some singles, Minneapolis-based Lifter Puller releases a muted first album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s hard not to put this album in context to the singles, and later releases by Lifter Puller, much less the Hold Steady, but this album seems muted compared to their other released.

Craig Finn’s rambling talk-vocals are here, but they’re not as prominent or exuberant as they were on some singles and the way they were moving forward. The worst thing you can do is move Finn to the background, yet it seems like the band did so here.

Stories and characters and the beginnings of their arcs are here, as usual, but they’re not as well served as they could have been. This album just sounds like a generic 90’s band with a rambling lead singer.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band released three singles before this, with only one track making the album in its single version.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+: Mildy generic 90’s rock, which isn’t what you signed up for with Lifter Puller.

Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz

ARTIST: Ozzy Osbourne                       220px-Blizzard_of_ozz

TITLE: Blizzard of Ozz

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #21 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: Crazy Train (#106 US, #9 Mainstream, #49 UK), Mr. Crowley (#46 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Don’t Know, Suicide Solution

LINEUP: Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake, Don Airey

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut solo album from Black Sabbath front man is more energetic and lively than anything he sang with his old group since 1975.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Somehow, after several years in a creative stupor thanks to drugs and…well…drugs, Ozzy Osbourne got it together after being fired from Black Sabbath for good (well, kinda for good with all the reunions and all) and created his best known solo work with his best known song.

A lot of the credit goes to Ozzy’s band. They were spitting hot fire behind Ozzy, especially guitar hot-shot Randy Rhoads (having escaped Quiet Riot). Ozzy and the band put together several memorable hooks and riffs, and constructed some memorable songs.

Don’t kid yourself, it’s not a perfect record. There are a couple of clunkers (ballads, feh). But this put Ozzy on the map – ironically at the same time his old band was also going through a creative renaissance.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was a lot of drama behind the scenes with the original producer being fired, songwriting credits not being equitable, and the band name itself, which was supposed to be a band named Blizzard of Ozz.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the 2002 reissue should be avoided because Sharon Osbourne basically had the bass and drum parts re-recorded to spite Daisley and Kerslake. The recent re-issue restores to original.

GRADE: B+: Most cuts are pretty good to great, but as for my ears, Ozzy and ballads don’t mix.

Journey – Next

ARTIST: Journey                                 Journey_Next

TITLE: Next

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #85

SINGLES: Spaceman

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You’re kidding, right?

LINEUP: Greg Rollie, Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Aynsley Dunbar

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album for the band still find them in prog land at times, bland rock land at other times, and you wonder why they stayed on a label.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The third record from this band of ex-West Coast bands had elements of guitar rock and prog, and is…BORING AS FUCK. No really, it is.

The songs meander and wander, allowing Neal Schon and Greg Rollie space to solo, and only on the title cut does the energy pick up. The rest of just generic rock and balladeering, played with competence but not brilliance.

While some are (still?) upset that they moved to a more pop direction with the addition of a lead singer (see below), the fact is that they’d have been dropped and no one would remember them had they not changed direction. These albums would just be dust in the library.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: First, they never performed the single in concert, which is odd. They also didn’t record the album with a front man, but soon after hired Robert Fleischmann, who was there briefly, co-writing some tracks. He left and then the band found Steve Perry.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C-: I had to wake myself up to write this review. EXILED