blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Still Flinging
5 Out Of 5 Stars

Essentially, this is the album that finally made punk safe for the masses. Led by a powerhouse trio, a wickedly juvenile sense of humor and, frankly, a killer set of songs, "Dookie" became a multi-platinum success and made overnight stars out of Green Day. They worked the basic best of the punk playbook with quick bursts of melody, propulsive drumming (Tre Cool may be one of the most underrated drummers of modern times) and vocals that were both young man snotty ("Longview") and mature beyond the format ("When I Come Around"), they managed to cover all the bases while holding a punk cachet.

Now that "Dookie" is 20 years old, there's a certain nostalgia for the Green Day of yore, before the politics and rock opera days. Billie Jo is still a wild eyed kid in the midst of all the rock dreams, so he can get away with lines like "when master.....'s lost it's thrill" and the oddball bad joke hidden at the tail end of "F.O.D.". And while they were kind of advanced for they're ages, it would still be another three albums before they'd try something as mature as "Good Riddance/Time Of Your Life."

So revel in the golden age of 1990's power punk, before the dam burst and every dyed hair band with a melody had a hit. Green Day got there first, with one of the best opening lines of a punk song ever in "Do you have the time, to listen to me whine" just before a buzzsaw guitar starts tearing the joint apart ("Longview"). They knew they were climbing over the backs of their forebears - the liner art screams Ramones circa "Rocket To Russia" - but little did they know how much farther they'd raise the bar.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
I Wanna Go Hot Rockin'
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Sandwiched as it is between two five star metal classics, "Point Of Entry" suffers from being buffered by "British Steel" and "Screaming for Vengeance." There's plenty of high energy rocking coming of the disc, but it's only average high energy as opposed to classic stuff like "Breaking The Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming" from opposite sides of this release. There are a couple of tracks here that just feel like filler, which was rare for a Priest album.

But when the going is good, Rob Halford and crew were still delivering the goods. "Heading Out On The Highway," "Hot Rocking" and "Desert Plains" are as good as Judas Priest gets, but then you're saddled with the iffy stuff, like "Don't Go." There were some other inconsistencies, like the lack of the trademarked twin-guitar attack that is a huge part of the band's signature sound. It's also worth noting that most of the songs clock in at under four minutes, which means the band was given no room to stretch out. Perhaps it is because of the "large quantities of alcohol" the band admits to using in the liner notes or the fact that the songs were written in the studio without some road-testing to see what would or would not work.

Be that as it may, "Point Of Entry" lacks the drive and inspiration of most of the Priest albums in their discography and especially in the fertile period between "Hell Bent for Leather" and "Defenders Of The Faith." What makes Judas Priest so inspirational is simply missing, and there are many other better albums to pick up on.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Life on the underside
5 Out Of 5 Stars

By taking all the romantic aspects out from the musical visions others may have had concerning New York City, the Velvet Underground upended the NY Art scene by recording an album about kinky sex, mad drug use, pimps and dealers and femme fatales. Andy Warhol attached himself to the band's skewed vision and began to shepherd them, bringing singer/model Nico along. In 1967, The Velvet Underground and Nico was released, and during the Summer Of Love, nobody really got it. But as the famous quote (accredited to Brian Eno) goes, the Velvet Underground may not have sold many albums, but everyone who bought a copy formed a band.

Nowadays, the album is heralded as a seminal piece of the rock and roll puzzle, and listening to it years later will surprise you as to just how well the album has held up. The center of attentions were singer/songwriter Lou Reed and multi-instrumentalist and art-music fan John Cale. They teased and tormented conventional pop structures while still delivering hooky songs (like "Sunday Morning" or the haunting "All Tomorrow's Parties") before Cale would whip out a viola and draw his bow across some squealing noise ("Black Angel's Death Song"). There's even the fact that Nico's voice had just a mysterious quality to it that added to her allure. When she emotes on "Femme Fatale" that you're just a clown, it drawls out as "clowan."

But what attracted the bulk of the attention (and still does to this day) was the way the band cavalierly treated the dark underbelly of sex and drugs. Reed's "Venus In Furs" explicitly describes the trappings of an SM ritual with a mistress who wants you to "kiss the boots of shiny leather." The fixation of drugs in "Waiting For My Man" and the actual rush of using in "Heroin." There is the push-pull of addiction in an unromantic light that is positively brutal in its almost journalistic qualities. The Beatles were singing about a day in the life, Reed was saying "heroin be the death of me."

It's that kind of non-romantic bluntness that makes the best material on "The Velvet Underground and Nico" so compelling. While the group (it should be added that Maurene Tucker was the first great female rock drummer) rode the pulse of primitive and proto-punk music, they'd lose Nico by the next album and find their way to even more abrasive topics on "White Light White Heat." All the VU albums that featured the line up of Cale, Reed, Tucker and bassist Doug Yule are essential listening, this is the first step off a very steep cliff. Even today, it can be a difficult listen, but it is one of those kind of albums that bent the musical direction of bands to follow.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
35 Years Later...
2 Out Of 5 Stars

And Tom Sholz, the notorious perfectionist, is wondering why folks aren't taking to new Boston albums with the fervor of old. He even blames the unspectacular reception given 2002's "Corporate America" on poor promotion instead of the fact that Boston's audience has simply moved on, so much so that there are three re-recorded or re-mixed songs from that album here, even a few featuring the late Brad Delp. Who was, frankly, a major brick in the wall-of-sound Scholz so prefers. So how does "Life Love and Hope" measure up? Let's just say that nobody will be giving up their copies of "Don't Look Back" for this one.

The fault lies mainly with Scholz. He can spend as much time as he wishes in the studio, but the songs need to have a significant hook if he wants them to stick in the memory. On "Life Love and Hope," it seems he forgot that part. He favors the trademark layers of guitars that are a hallmark of Boston's classic sound, and when it clicks (like on "Someone," featuring Delp), it's "More Than A Feeling" all over again. It's telling that the best track does feature Delp, as the new singers are either imitations (Tommy DeCarlo) or the inappropriate female vocalist Kimberly Dahme, who doesn't have the powerhouse voice needed to propel herself above that wall of sound.

What's memorable then? "Heaven On Earth" may be a cliche of a title, but it does kick the album off with fond reminisces of Boston past. "Someday" is noble in its intent, as a song against bullying. "Te Quiero Mia" is another retread (from the reissued Greatest Hits) and again features Delp, and also makes the best of Sholz's studio perfectionisms. After that, it's strictly hit and miss. I might add "The Way You Look Tonight" as a decent love song, and that's about it. Everything else will depend on personal tastes, or just how bad you're jonesing for Scholz's particular brand of classic rock. I'll even give the guy some bonus points for a decent production job, which studiously ignores the loudness wars for a recording that has some sonic depth to it. If that is also an attraction for you to pick up "Life Love and Hope," by all means, dig in.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Did you do it for love? Did you do it for money?
3 Out Of 5 Stars

The last Eagles album of their initial run was also their weakest. Coming off the triumph of "Hotel California," the same pitfalls that they sang about on that album now befell the band. Drugs, dissent and an impossible to meet demand kind of doomed "The Long Run" before it was even released, but then the weakness of the bulk of the album didn't help the situation, either. "The Long Run" is the first album since their debut to feature obvious filler, and some of it was even desperate sounding.

The two initial singles, "Heartache Tonight" and the title song did do the band proud. Don Henley employs his jaded sense into "The Long Run," asking his lady friend if she measures up to her expectations, while teasing that "all the debutantes in Houston, baby, couldn't hold a candle to you." Heartache Tonight" is a chant along number from Glenn Frey and rocks out pretty well.

But then you start getting to the questionable material. "In The City" was already a modest solo hit for Joe Walsh, so there was not much point to adding it here in an Eagle-fied version other than to fill up time. "Teenage Jail/The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks" are kind of goofy, but they'd gone to great lengths on both "Hotel California" and "One of These Nights" proving that they could fill an album without penning songs that ventured into an approximation of self-parody.

That not withstanding, there are three other songs that keep "The Long Run" from being a total dud. Timothy B Schmidt rises to the occasion with his R'n'B inflected "I Can't Tell You Why" while Don Felder and Walsh do a slinky twin talk-box guitar riff on "Those Shoes." Then there's another masterstroke from Henley, who penned what sounds like it could've been an outtake from "Hotel California," the melancholy "The Sad Cafe." Once again, he ruminates on the loss of Californian innocence and wonders where all the good times have gone. After all, Eagles themselves could have been one of those fledgling bands to use the likes of a "Sad Cafe" to get their start. It's kind of ironic that a song lamenting humble beginnings closed out an album that was the sound of Eagles' imminent collapse.

"The Long Run" was basically that. Once they squeaked this album out, the infamous Long Beach incident took place and the band would stay apart until, as Henely oft put it, "Hell Freezes Over." But "The Long Run" was the end of a band that went out, not with a bang but a whimper.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Santa Brough)
Hungry and Young Beatles Mount Their Plan for World Domination 2 1/2 Minutes at a Time
4 Out Of 5 Stars

The second edition of The Beatles "On Air - Live at the BBC" is a collection of songs to remind you just how young and hungry The Beatles were in their early days. With a couple of exceptions, you've heard the studio versions of these a million times over, and the most rabid of fans likely have the bootlegs. But it's fascinating to hear how they sink their teeth into "I Saw Her Standing There" (complete with a 1-2-3-Fooour! count-off) or the already precise interlocking harmonies on the likes of "Chains" and "And I Love Her."

The intros and interview profiles also show how the Beatles were already establishing their individual personalities in the band format. George can be heard clowning around in the "Absolutely Fab" segment and Paul has fun with his old school house on "5E." The between songs banter is often as interesting as the songs themselves, but still, this was the height of Beatlemania, and each little 2 minute firecracker was a shout heard everywhere. "On Air - Live At The BBC Vol 2" still has a raw sound to it, and shows that George Martin was a main component to The Beatles' sound, but there's no escaping the amount of energy on display here.

What this disc also does is make me wonder why "Live At The Hollywood Bowl" has yet to see a reissue, or for that matter the compilations "Love Songs" and "Rock and Roll." There's obviously still an audience for all of these, so why are they still in the tape vaults? In the meantime, enjoy this, and Volume One, of The Beatles as they take over the world, one sonic boom after another.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Comes up Short
3 Out Of 5 Stars

A spotty if still relevant compilation of Velvet Underground songs, this entry into the budget "Icon" series is a tough one to categorize. Every song here is revolutionary for its time, but the quality between the recordings was and remains spotty. The young Lou Reed already has the part down of underbelly poet, and songs like "Waiting For My Man," "Heroin" and "Venus In Furs" de-romanticize New York City long before punk rock found it fashionable to do so. But it does so at the expense of Nico, who's voice on "Femme Fatale" would be on my short list for any Velvet's anthology. I also would have preferred the studio versions of "Rock and Roll" and "Sweet Jane" instead of the live versions included.

You're better off getting individual albums, and especially "The Velvet Underground and Nico" (aka "Peel it Slowly and See"). "Icon" makes a good toe-dippper, but it ultimately is not enough.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
This is a Public Service Announcement...With Guitars!
5 Out of 5 Stars

Way back when, some muckity muck in the CBS Records Promo Department had the brilliant idea to slap a sticker across covers of the new Clash double LP that read "The Only Band That Matters." Even if the rest of the artists on the CBS roster might have been wondering a hearty WTF were they, chopped liver moment, but in 1979, The Clash actually felt like they could be that band. The band that all the hopes and dreams of rock and roll prophets whispered about in dark rooms when they quietly mused to themselves that a savior would be born unto them, bearing loud electric guitars, politically savvy lyrics and swagger that would never end. In 1979, it really felt like The Clash just might be that band. Hence, the 5 stars for The Singles.

But we all know how those kind of dreams end up. When Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon kicked Mick Jones out of the band and recorded "Cut The Crap," the world suddenly gave a collective yawn, and the general consensus to "Cut The Crap" was somebody, please pull the plug. But from 1979 to 1985, The Clash charged forth with revolutionary single after single often attached to stunning albums. If you don't have "London Calling," stop reading this review and order it now. They may not have been the best singers or the most proficient musicians, but that didn't stop them from playing fast, loud and even early on, playing with reggae and other influences than their punk roots might suggest.

So while you get the fury of "Clash City Rockers," you have the single "White Man in Hammersmith Palais," backing up the guitar roar with a reggae tune...both from their ferocious debut. Even more incredible is just how fast The Clash got better at what they were doing. The big riff of "London Calling" was matched by the almost soulful "Train In Vain" (their US breakthrough single). They were also going deeper into other musical forms, soon cutting rap-influenced songs like "The Magnificent Seven" and "This Is Radio Clash." Even as bloated as "Sandinista" was, the singles "Hitsville UK" and the politically charged "The Call Up" could blow you over.

It's interesting that their final, absolute American breakout was arriving as the band was beginning to fracture; "Combat Rock" delivered the remarkable "Rock The Casbah" and the big guitar attack of "Should I Stay or Should I Go." The album cover itself had the band on train tracks, quite literally at a crossroads. But even after splintering, they still could pull one more ace out of "Cut The Crap," the lovely and ironic "This Is England." Then it was over, except for side projects (Big Audio Dynamite being the most successful). But for the 20 singles collected on this The Singles, the final song sums it up. These were "Groovy Times" indeed.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
The Red Sox, Shane Victorino and Bob Marley
5 Out Of 5 Stars

It was the World Series that drew me back to Bob Marley and The Wailers' "Legend." I hadn't pulled it out for awhile, but then Shane Victorino began using "Three Little Birds" as his walk-on music, and the Boston Crowd would boisterously sing "every little thing's gonna be all right." That was enough for me to put this in the car for a couple of weeks, and reminded me of just how great an anthology "Legend" is. It even surprised me in that I'd forgotten that "One Love" was squeezed into an episode of "Glee." If that doesn't sound of universal appreciation, I don't know what does.

It still boils down to the music. Marley championed reggae as a style that could be more than just the sound of Jamaica. In doing so, he became a global superstar, made even more iconic by his untimely death in 1981, a mere 36 years old. That makes "Legend" all the more amazing when you realize that these sixteen songs came out of a burst of activity that lasted from 1973 till his passing. It's an irresistible mix of songs that included songs that became international hits like "Buffalo Soldier," "Jammin'" and "One Love," among so many others. His music inspired many other artists to take songs and make them popular in other means, like "Jammin'" for Stevie Wonder, "I Shot The Sheriff" for Eric Clapton and "Waiting in Vain" for Annie Lennox, among others.

It's easy to listen to this and feed off the mellow vibes, but Marley was just as much an assertive political figure. "Get Up Stand Up" and "Redemption Song" were as forceful songs as anything from the 60's folk-protest years in America. Every song here is potently powerful, be they the "Songs of Freedom" "Redemption Song" calls for or the lovely "Stir It Up" (also transposed into an American hit by Johnny Nash). "Legend" is a CD that holds together as a single album, where every track matters and you'll not be wanting for any track to end so you can get to better ones. Thanks to the Red Sox for reminding me just why I enjoyed this album in the many years since I first listened to it in the 80's.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Santa Brough)
Songs Of Faith and Devotion
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Coming hot on the heels of their certified metal classic, "Screaming For Vengeance," it would be easy to slag off "Defenders Of The Faith" as sub-par. That would be a fool's errand, because while "Defenders" doesn't have the song for song knockout blows of "Screaming," it still delivers a mighty powerful blow. The twin guitars of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing rip from the opening "Freewheel Burning," while adding sting to a couple of new Priest Classics, "Love Bites" and "Heads Are Gonna Roll."

This was the period in which Judas Priest were at their most aggressive, sometimes outlandishly so. The ode to rough sex, "Eat Me Alive," got the band in hot water with Tipper Gore and her Parents Musical Research Center (remember the PMRC and their obsession with dirty music overall and Prince in particular?) for its particularly graphic narrative. "I'm going to force you at gunpoint to eat me alive" can still rankle those of a sensitive nature, but this came from a band who titled one of their UK albums "Killing Machine." Between the snarling guitars, the double kick drums and Rob Halford's leather skybound howl, subtlety was not their watchword.

"Defenders Of The Faith" also marked the end of a creative run for Priest. After this, they got the jitters from the emerging new wave of metal and - oddly enough - hair bands, too. It lead to the underrated synth heavy "Turbo," an album that took the band several more albums afterwards to recover from. But when you look at the line-up of "Hell Bent For Leather," "British Steel," "Screaming For Vengeance" and then "Defenders of The Faith," it's a creative metal run matched only by the first four Black Sabbath albums.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Eagles Rock
4 Out Of 5 Stars

In the documentary, "History Of The Eagles," band members repeatedly griped that their first two albums, produced by Brit Glyn Johns, were being held back from the band's desire to rock. That lead to the ditching of Johns after two songs for "On The Border," and bringing in Joe Walsh's producer, Bill Szymczyk for the rest. Then came the real magic touch when the band gained Don Felder as an additional guitarist. The chemistry clicked and "On The Border" became Eagles' first album to convincingly rock.

When I say that, I believe that the band may have wanted to think of themselves as rockers, but up to "On The Border," had yet to write a convincing rock song. Say what you want about Glyn Johns, but "Chug All Night" and "Out Of Control" from the first two albums were songs so generic that any bar band in America could've written them. "James Dean" (written by Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and J.D. Souther) and "Already Gone" (which the band did not write) changed that completely. With the addition of Felder, they had a new twin guitar attack that kicked the songs into a higher gear than before. So yes, Eagles finally got their wish. They rocked.

They rocked for exactly two songs. The rest of "On The Border" still captured the country rock leanings of the first two albums, with Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon turning in a banjo powered bluegrass rocker for "Midnight Flyer" and Leadon's "My Man" (alleged to be written about the late Graham Parsons) is pure country. They also made the interesting choice to cover Tom Waits' "Ol' 55." Then, even with their slagging of Johns, the album's biggest hit and the band's first number one single was countrified ballad "The Best of My Love," one of the two songs John's produced. Then, as a precursor to both "One Of These Nights" and "Hotel California," the title track uses a funky bassline and a political lyric to set itself apart from any prior Eagles' song.

All of this makes "On The Border" a transitional album for the Eagles. The new line-up and producer partnership would yield serious fruit a year later when "One Of These Nights" made its debut. But for now, "On The Border" stepped one up from the "Desperado" concept and made the Eagles feel more like a band than ever before.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Lou Reed. March 2, 1942 - October 27, 2013
5 Out Of 5 Stars

There aren't too many figures in America Rock and Roll that have a footprint quite like Lou Reed's. From his start as part of Andy Warhol's factory band to his later status as a sort of NYC Poet Laureate, to even recording and album in cahoots with Metallica (not represented here, though), he is one of the USA's predominant rock icons. Or as he put it on one of his live albums, a Rock and Roll Animal. This "Essentials" set is a repackaging of "NYC Man," but still a great set if you don't already own that older package.

The tracklist is a varied set and covers most of his time with various incarnations and major labels (RCA, Arista and Warners). There are excellent liner notes courtesy of Lou himslef, describing the thought processes behind the songs. The sequencing is a bit odd, as the first song here is from "The Raven" (his adaptations of Edgar Alan Poe) and then ends on disc two with "Transformer's" "Pale Blue Eyes." Reed describes his concept for the sequencing as "the point of view which songs relate to each other in the best fashion." Because of the really sweet remastering job (mostly from 2003), many of the songs, even from the Velvets, slip into the others sounding as contemporary as ever. There's the basic rock of "Dirty Boulevard" to the atmospheric guitar the grinds through "Rocket Minuet," which Reed viewed as worthy of following each other. (Minuet" also featured his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson, on violin.) He could make any sound he wanted, and he did, without compromise.

I have my own personal favorites here, especially from the albums "Magic and Loss" and "New York," which in my opinion, were brilliant even if it took a few years for an audience to catch up to them. And while the Arista albums tended to get slagged, selections from the likes of "The Blue Mask" and "Legendary Hearts" are here and deserve a re-listen. Of course, there are the magical songs from "Transformer," including "Perfect Day." As a compilation, it's a great starter kit, although I'd recommend any of the albums mentioned here (and "The Velvet Underground and Nico") as perfect albums in their own right. "The Essential Lou Reed" is a terrific overview of one of Rock's greatest cantankerous characters, and the world is a slightly less interesting place because of his passing.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Don't Hate Yourself for Loving Her
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Joan Jett is a true rock and roll survivor. After the crash of The Runaways, who were often derided as some kind of stunt/joke from Kim Fowley, she rose from the ashes, got rock impresario Neil Bogart to sign her, and released "Bad Reputation." While it was the second album, "I Love Rock and Roll" to really make the breaks happen, Joan rose from the ashes and has kept her career going into the next century. This two disc Greatest Hits anthology is a super way to find out just how (and why) she never went down without a fight.

First off, she dusts off a couple of Runaways tracks, "Cherry Bomb" "School Days" and "You Drive Me Wild" show that The Runaways were perfectly capable of turning out decent rock songs, and Jett takes them over with authority. She's had a knack for doing that from the start, as her choice selection of cover songs has always shown. Here you get "Do You Wanna Touch," "Crimson and Clover," "Everyday People," "AC/DC" (the Sweet song, not the band, although her version of "Dirty Deeds" could have fit nicely), and her explosive version of a song Bruce Springsteen handed over to her, "Light Of Day." Oh yeah, and an obscure song from a band called The Arrows, "I Love Rock and Roll." OK, so we've established that Jett has eclectic tastes in rock artists, but what about her own songs?

"Why should I care about a Bad Reputation?" she barked out on her debut LP. Indeed, she rocks without giving a darn about what the world thought of her. She mixed hard rock, punk energy and glam, sometimes in the same song. There's a direct line from "Do You Wanna Touch" to "I Hate Myself for Loving You." You can't deny the kiss off of "Fake Friends." Or a subversive sense of humor by recording "Love Is All Around" (the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore show) and punking it up. Jett proves she can still cook with a pair of songs from 2006's "Sinner," one of which is a gas of a redo of The Replacements' "Androgynous."

"Greatest Hits" has 21 songs between the two CD's, so there's not much to quibble about (and I am guessing Epic records kept control as very little of those years are represented). But for an enduring talent of Joan Jett's caliber, you'll get your money's worth from this set.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
The D.E.A.'s Got a Chopper in The Air
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Steve Earle had two well received and critically acclaimed country albums under his belt, but he had been saying all along that he didn't consider himself a country singer. Being a big lefty liberal wasn't endearing him to the staid conservatism of the Music Row establishment. With these worlds colliding, Earle went all in for his third album, 1988's "Copperhead Road." MCA Nashville and MCA Los Angeles were so befuddled by it that they resurrected the old UNI Records imprint to try and find a bridge between the two worlds. And for his part, Earle hit a park on "Copperhead Road" that took him almost a decade to recover from.

The album is, at its absolute best, a perfect ahead of its time blend of rockin' with the new country crew that Earle was initially batched in with. Rock as hard as he wanted to, but he couldn't escape that southern drawl and many of the lyrical tropes of the genre. At the same time, the guitars, drums and overall sound were closer to John Mellencamp than George Strait. The epic title song is all but a Mellencamp record with a tougher lyrical punch; a story about a moonshiner's son who comes back from Vietnam with a bag of pot plants and post traumatic stress disorder. With that kind of content, it's no wonder that the Suits in Nashville didn't know what the fox to do with him. The same with the unknown soldier who is angry about how his Grandfather came home a hero, but he's disabled, standing alone on a runway in San Diego and "there's nobody here, maybe know body knows" (in "Johnny Come Lately").

Earle could still do convincing country, like the gunslinger's lament "Devil's Right Hand" and the pedal steel ballad "Once You Love." All the same, Earle had reached a crossroads, personally and musically. "Copperhead Road" remains his commercial apex and is among his best albums, but his decline into addiction and his overall distrust of the music industry left him stranded until 1995 and "Train a'Comin'." But for the sheer raw power of a battle waged and won, Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road" remains a must listen.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Your won't hear me, but you'll fear me
3 Out Of 5 Stars

Probably the most misunderstood of the Judas Priest albums featuring frontman Rob Halford, "Turbo" was 1986 Priest trying to march to the pop metal success if the likes of Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. It also started life as a double album, with half being regular Priest and the other the revised Priest. The record label nixed that idea, and this version of "Turbo" was the end result. Fans did a serious freak out when the synthesized drums and dance beat of "Turbo Lover" opened the album, and the CD soon went platinum all the same, but stalled the momentum of the band for a brief spell.

I have a secret fondness for this CD. Despite the dance leanings, I love "Turbo Lover." It's the mist successful of the album's attempts to meld the twin personalities on "Turbo." For classic Priest, Halford lets loose on the heavy "Rock You Around The World." However, you can't escape that some of the songs here seem confused and schizophonic, like "Wild Nights and Hot Crazy Days," which sounds like just about every hair metal band of the 80's. Purist Priest never sounded generic before, and this time did, as "Parental Guidance" which was just a trendy slap at the rock hating Congressional hearings of that moment.

Still, this is Judas Priest. Even at their most off kilter, they still could kick the poo out of about any other rock band. "Turbo" may be the most average album of their 80's recordings, but it took them till 1990's "Painkiller" to right them back on the metal line. Seriously, I found "Ram It Down" to be a lesser album than "Turbo," so here's to playing with expectations.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Guitars and Gunslingers.
4 Out Of 5 Stars

I'm not sure why so many rock bands feel that they absolutely must write a song that equates being in a band to being western outlaws. But from Bon Jovi to Thin Lizzy, they all need to write a cowboy song. So you really have to hand it to Eagles. They skipped the single song part and went for a concept album, "Desperado." On their second full length album, yet. This also marked the beginning of Don Henley's ascent to the front of the band. On "Eagles," the band kind of democratically split the singing and songwriting. For "Desperado," Don Henley took writing or co-writing credit on 8 of 11 songs.

The singing was still split among the members (with Leadon getting on of the better album tracks, "Bitter Creek"). However, the partnership between Henley and Glenn Frey was starting to bear serious fruit, with the two most memorable songs being their co-compositions, "Desperado" and the album's hit, "Tequila Sunrise." Oddly enough, it was Linda Ronstadt's version of the title song that originally got to be well known, although Eagles' now can probably claim that prize. The overall western theme is tied in the title song and another one of the band's work with Jackson Brown, "Doolin' Dalton," which appears in three forms on "Desperado." It leads the album off, then Leadon banjo picks a reprise just before "Outlaw Man," and then a medley reprise with the title track to bring the album to a satisfying close. Also, the harmonies remained one of the band's biggest draws, with songs like "What Ever Happened to Saturday Night" and "Tequila Sunrise."

What was still holding Eagles back was they had yet to show they could convincingly rock. To their credit they've repeatedly blamed producer Glynn Johns for that, but one listen to "Out Of Control" also points out that they still didn't have the material that was up to the task. That hardly matters, as "Desperado" was an early peak for Eagles, and their albums would keep getting stronger. By the time they'd next explore the concept album, they'd be more than ready.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
3 Out Of 5 Stars

Convened as refugees from Linda Ronstadt's backing band, the 1972 "Eagles" was a calling card of the easy going California rock scene. At this point, the Eagles were something of a democratic quartet, with the members each getting shots at lead vocals and writing credits. Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner all came from varying backgrounds and different bands, including Bob Seger (Frey), Flying Burrito Brothers (Leadon) and Poco (Meisner) in addition to Ronstadt, so the dominant musical theme was countrified mellow rock. Having Jackson Browne as a friend and co-writer kind of cemented that deal.

"Eagles" reflects that combination of talents. The calling card first single, "Take It Easy," was the perfect blend. Frey sings it as a breezy song about just relaxing into what comes your way while Leadon adds a banjo solo. "Witchy Woman" highlighted Henley's gruff singing style and was the first of many Eagles songs about wicked women. Then there was the ballad, "Peaceful Easy Feeling," which again was a precursor to many of the Eagles' greater successes. The formula worked for the bulk of the album, with the true wonder of the band being their exquisite vocal harmonies.

However much "Eagles" wanted to be a rock band album, though, the band just wasn't there yet. The most memorable non-single is "Train Leaves Here This Morning," a country ballad sung by Leadon (and one of the few non-hits played on the 40th Anniversary tour). The one attempt at a bona-fide rocker is "Chug All Night," which is generic bar-band stuff. Meisner's "Tryin'" fairs just a bit better. Tack on the dreadfully annoying bird whistle intro on "Earlybird," and you hear a band still finding its footing. They'd make a major leap when releasing "Desperado" (which also began Henley's ascent into the groups main voice) the following year, but "Eagles" remains a decent album of it's time and an interesting introduction to a band that would ultimately evolve into one the biggest bands in history.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Default)
It's Just a Silly Phase I'm Going Through.
4 Out Of 5 Stars

I have posited on other album reviews that I believe 10cc to be the kind of band Monty Python would have dreamed up if they'd decided to take on modern pop in the 70's, instead of the wonderfulness of The Rutles. Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme were already experienced pop writers and performers in other peoples' bands before they joined forces as studio musicians in what was basically a bubblegum hit machine studio. From those beginnings, they became one of the most respected bands of the 70's, seeming to effortlessly blend elements of pop music with progressive rock all while maintaining an often dry wit and cheeky humor. This single "Very Best Of" disc gathers the best of their 45's from their first six studio albums and bonuses you the Godley and Creme hit "Cry."

The band's origins as writers for hire on on display for the songs from their debut, "Donna," "The Dean and I" and "Rubber Bullets." The first two are borderline parody in that they so closely approximate bubblegum singles that it's hard to believe that anything would come of merit in the future. "Rubber Bullets," while still aping the Jailhouse Rock genre, satirically upends the style by having the song delivered from the standpoint of the prison staff. ("I love to hear those convicts squeal, it's a shame these slugs ain't real.") If there was any indication of the brilliance to come, that was where you'd find it.

By "Sheet Music," the band was going full-steam. "Silly Love" and "The Wall Street Shuffle" threw so many styles in the blender that trying to explain the band was an impossibility, even if American audiences weren't catching on as yet. But by the next album, "The Original Soundtrack," that would change. The double bladed "I'm Not In Love" floated all the way to number two in 1975 and broke the band in the states. Sung from both sides of the story, the singer delicately kisses off a love affair - or is he? and that made the enigmatic song such a charmer. The goofy "Life Is a Minestrone" is also included, but the album is sold short.

Having finally broken the states, the band delivered their artiest album yet, with "How Dare You!" While "I'm Mandy Fly Me" and "Art For Art's Sake" were both brilliant singles (and "I'm Mandy" may have been one of the best 'mini-opera' songs of the decade), they missed the top 40, but are definitely among the band's best. That also was when creative tensions caused the rift between Godley/Creme and Stewart/Gouldman to reach a breaking point. Stewart and Gouldman decided to keep the name 10cc and soldier on with "Deceptive Bends." They were obviously eager to please, because the ultra catchy "The Things We Do For Love" became the band's second top ten single and "People In Love" (which tried very hard to find the clever spot "I'm Not In Love" achieved) squeaked to number 40.

Sadly, it seemed that each team needed the other more than they wanted to let on. "Bloody Tourists" tried to capture the old magic, but the main single, "Dreadlock Holiday," was the first time the humor sounded forced. "For You and I," the album's ballad, just couldn't quite match the majesty of earlier, similar songs. Further albums went to a different label, but it didn't much matter as they continued on a slide of diminishing returns. Godley and Creme became video pioneers, directing for the likes of Duran Duran and The Police. It's no surprise then, that their big hit as a duo, "Cry," rose on the charts on the back of an eye-popping video. It was one of the first videos to use the face-morphing technique that eventually became famous on Micheal Jackson's "Black and White."

What makes the addition of "Cry" such a delight is that it that it makes "The Very Best of 10cc" a true representation of the band's work. These were all delightful singles and, at their absolute best, 10cc rivaled any of the 70's hitmakers for style and creativity.


This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
An excellent quickie career overview of Three Dog Night
3 Out Of 5 Stars

Three Dog Night started in the late sixties as a rocking outfit who made their reputation at their concerts. To the point that one of their earliest albums was "Captured Live at the Forum." But they soon evolved into a singles act, racking up 21 top forty hits between 1969 and 1975. What they also had was impeccable tastes in songwriters. They plucked out gems from the likes of Laura Nyro ("Eli's Comeing"), Harry Nillson ("one"), John Hiatt ("Sure As I'm Sitting Here" not included here) and Leo Sayer ("The Show Must Go On"). They really struck gold on what became their standard bearer, the inescapable "Joy To The World." Face it, you just went "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" in your head after reading that last line. Don't fib.

They were buoyed by a trio of lead vocalists, Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron, and Cory Wells. It was one of the qualities that kept the band's sound fresh. They could work their way around a rocker like "Liar," something soulful like "Never Been to Spain," or the inspired silliness of "Joy To The World." If you were an AM radio listener through the early seventies, Three Dog Night were pretty much unavoidable. That also began to work against them; as the band became more popular, the more obvious it became that they were fishing for hits and the albums became wickedly uneven, with the final straw being 1975's "Hard Labor," the band broke up soon after.

This quickie dozen song compilation from the Icon series gets the job done on the cheap, but cuts that string of hits down by a few essentials. "Sure As I'm Sitting Here" and "Play Something Sweet" immediately spring to mind. That's why the three star/C grade is applied here. I will also note that the sound of this CD is heads above any other Three Dog Night re-issue. Worth it for the value, but not for the depth.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Default)
Putt Putt Putt
3 Out Of 5 Stars

An Electric Light Orchestra album in name only, 2001's "Zoom" actually sounds better via this remaster than it did on initial release. If there's one thing Jeff Lynne really comprehends, it's sound. Which means what you're really buying here is a fantastically mastered Jeff Lynne solo album. Factor in that Lynne basically arrested his musical development at The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour," and you'll get a much greater understanding of what "Zoom" is all about.

After all, classic ELO was a band. Only Richard Tandy is on board from the old hands and he is a guest on two of the songs. Ringo Starr shows up just as often as Tandy does. Sadly, some of George Harrison's final work is found on "A Long Time Gone" and "All She Wanted." Harrison gave his Traveling Wilbury buddy some tasty work to go out on, which adds to "Zoom's" charm. And yes, "Zoom" is a charming album. You'll hear a lot of Beatles touchstones, maybe even more than you'll reflect on actual ELO albums. Because after sound, the second thing Lynne understands is his way around a decent pop song.

That's what you'll find scattered around "Zoom." "Easy Money" is Lynne's typical take on rockabilly, while "Just For Love" at least brings in the string section to accompany the Beatles/ELO sound. The leadoff single from 2001, "All Right," is an OK guitar rocker (but it's no "Do Ya"). There's also the lovely "Melting In The Sun," which does sound like latter day ELO. What kind of undermines "Zoom" is the bonus inclusion of a live "Turn To Stone." When you listen to that particular song, it reminds you of what is missing from "Zoom." Lynne used to be able to knock off an entire album of sugary hookfests like that 1977 gem, with a band to make them sound like magic, and there isn't anything on "Zoom" that comes close. Which, again, is what determined my thoughts in the first part of the review. Call "Zoom" an extension of the Wilburys. Call it a decent Jeff Lynne solo project. Just remember that, despite the labeling, this isn't really an ELO album.


This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.


blackleatherbookshelf: (Default)

September 2015

   1 2345


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 10:19 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios