Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Californication by Red Hot Chili PeppersIn 1999, Red Hot Chili Peppers released their seventh studio album, Californication.   This would become the group’s most successful album internationally, selling more than 15 million copies worldwide. Lyrically, this record takes a critical look at many aspects of the group’s home state of California. While musically, it featured fewer rap-driven tunes and instead focused more on the bass lines and textured, melodic guitar riffs of John Frusciante, who returned to the group after a multi-year hiatus.

Frusciante was uncomfortable with the level of fame which resulted following the group’s 1991 Grammy-winning blockbuster Blood Sugar Sex Magik and he abruptly quit Red Hot Chili Peppers during a tour of Japan in May 1992. Guitarists Arik Marshall and Jesse Tobias were brought in as temporary replacements before Dave Navarro, formally of Jane’s Addiction, became the group’s permanent guitarist throughout the mid nineties, including the 1995 album One Hot Minute. In early 1998, Navarro left the band due to creative differences. Around the same time, Frusciante began recovering from a serious a heroin addiction, due in part from support by bassist Flea and was ultimately invited back into the band.

Material for Californication was written in the summer of 1998, with Frusciante an vocalist Anthony Kiedis taking the lead in formulating guitar riffs and lyrical content respectively. Next, the rhythmic aspects of the record were crafted by Flea and drummer Chad Smith before the group entered the studio and recorded with producer Rick Rubin over the Winter of 1998-99. Although Rubin had produced the group’s two previous studio albums, he was not their first choice as they had first unsuccessfully sought David Bowie as producer.


Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Released: June 8, 1999 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Rick Rubin
Recorded: Cello Studios, Los Angeles, December 1998–March 1999
Track Listing Group Musicians
Around the World
Parallel Universe
Scar Tissue
Otherside
Get on Top
Californication
Easily
Porcelain
Emit Remmus
I Like Dirt
This Velvet Glove
Savior
Purple Stain
Right on Time
Road Trippin’
Anthony Kiedis – Lead Vocals
John Frusciante – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
Flea – Bass, Vocals
Chad Smith – Drums, Percussion

Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

The opening track “Around the World” starts with wild, distorted bass frenzy by Flea before it settles into a funk rap for the verses, alternating with a melodic chorus. “Parallel Universe” was released as a single and its structure is built by rapid bass arpeggio and a slow vocal melody drone, making it all sound a bit hollow with no real low end or guitar until later on in wild ending crescendo by Frusciante. The melodic funk/rap/pop of “Scar Tissue” follows as a song highlighted by slow surf guitar interludes. The lead single from the album, this song spent a then record sixteen consecutive weeks on top of the Modern Rock Tracks chart, while peaking in the Top 10 of the American pop chart.

“Otherside” is the most straightforward rock/pop thus far on the album, albeit it does pay large homage to early nineties grunge rock. With choppy, piercing guitars, a signature bass riff and a steady drum beat by Smith, this song about the battles addicts face was another minor hit for the group. Next comes the unabashed funk rap of “Get on Top”, which may well be fun in a live setting but is a bit out of place on this position of the album. On the title track, Frusciante expertly uses two chords to accompany Kiedis’s great vocals in the verses. A break comes in the chorus release followed later by a cool, slight guitar lead, for an expert anthem overall about the dark side of Hollywood and the movie industry. “Easily” follows as a good, solid rock song with great layered guitars throughout, while “Porcelain” is an impossibly slow psychedelic ballad right out of the late sixties. The feedback-laden”Emit Remmus” (“summer time” spelled in reverse) squeals through the intro and verses over simple bass and drum beat.

Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1999

The latter part of the album branches out into more diverse musical territory. “I Like Dirt” moves from rudimentary funk to a rapid groove, “This Velvet Glove” is acoustic with layers on top for a differing musical vibe, and “Savior” could almost be considered a hard rock song with strong, penetrating rhythms. “Purple Stain” is a word-heavy, chanting funk/rap, with a later jam section that is somewhat proficient, while “Right on Time” weirdly alternates a punk style funks with a bit of disco. This all leads to the closer “Road Trippin'”, an acoustic folk with rich harmonies and overdubbed strings, addressing one final time the dark and seedy side of Hollywood and its culture.

Californication reached the Top 5 in both the US and UK, while topping the album charts of four other nations. The band followed its release by embarking on a world tour to support the record, which stretched into the next millennium, concluding a tremendously successful decade Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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1999 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1999 albums.

 

In Step by Stevie Ray Vaughn

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in Step by Stevie Ray VaughnAfter a four year hiatus from recording, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble finally released their fourth studio album, In Step in June 1989. The album’s title refers to Vaughan’s long process of finding sobriety following a lifetime of alcohol and drug abuse which nearly took his life in 1986. This critically acclaimed and Grammy award winning album is considered Vaughn’s best by many as it masterfully blends straightforward lyrics with a musical blend of blues, soul, and rock.

Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn formed Double Trouble in 1978 with bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton. However, they would not achieve mainstream success until the mid 1980s after Vaughn was featured on David Bowie’s platinum-selling 1983 album Let’s Dance. The group was signed to Epic Records and released their debut album, Texas Flood followed quickly by Couldn’t Stand the Weather in 1984, with each peaking in the Top 40 on the album charts. For the group’s third studio album, Soul to Soul, keyboardist Reese Wynans was hired as a fourth member of the band. After constant touring which included several sold out show recordings for the 1986 double live album Live Alive, Vaughan collapsed after a performance in Germany and nearly lost his life. Vaughn went through rehabilitation soon afterwards.

In late 1988, Double Trouble enlisted producer Jim Gaines to work on their long awaited fourth album, a first for the group which had self-produced their previous albums. After aborted attempts to record in New York City, recording sessions were moved to Memphis and later Los Angeles, where a small horn section was added to augment the sound.


Journeyman by Stevie Ray Vaughn
Released: June 6, 1989 (Epic)
Produced by: Jim Gaines & Double Trouble
Recorded: Kiva Studios, Memphis, & Sound Castle and Summa Studios, Los Angeles, January–March, 1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
The House Is Rockin
Crossfire
Tightrope
Let Me Love You Baby
Leave My Girl Alone
Travis Walk
Wall of Denial
Scratch-N-Sniff
Love Me Darlin’
Riviera Paradise
Stevie Ray Vaughn – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Dobro
Reese Wynans – Keyboards
Tommy Shannon – Bass
Chris Layton – Drums, Percussion

In Step by Stevie Ray Vaughn

 

The album explodes into action with the fun stomp, “The House Is Rockin'”, co-written by Doyle Bramhall, a longtime associate of both Stevie Ray and older brother Jimmy Vaughan of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Ironically, the first real lead on the album is a fine piano solo by Wynans before Vaughn adds his own blistering short guitar lead. “Crossfire” was a group composition with a groovy bass line by Shannon setting the perfect foundation for the bluesy guitar licks between each line. A real highlight of this track which topped the mainstream rock charts comes near the song’s end where Vaughn’s guitar takes off into a choppy crescendo to complete the track.

Bramhall and Vaughan’s “Tightrope” continues the string of entertaining grooves, with Vaughn’s vocals being particularly soulful and potent here on this track with overt lyrics about the struggles to stay clean. Next comes a couple of blues cover tunes – Willie Dixon’s entertaining “Let Me Love You Baby” with great, upbeat movement, and Buddy Guy’s “Leave My Girl Alone”, a slow, traditional blues delivered perfectly, especially with Wynans’ subtle background organ and Vaughn’s fantastic vocals. “Travis Walk” is a short but interesting instrumental with just enough space for piano and guitar lead sections.

Stevie Ray Vaughn

The best track of the latter part of the album is “Wall of Denial”, built on rotating riffs for an upbeat effect to an otherwise moderately paced song. The great rhythmic accents by Layton and the array of differing guitar tones employed by Vaughn along with a cool, ascending effect all work to make this an overall great tune. “Scratch-N-Sniff” delves into old time rock n’ roll, piano and rhythm driven with Vaugn’s vocals falling somewhere between Chuck Berry and Adam Ant, while “Love Me Darlin'” is a perfect rendition of Muddy Waters classic. The album concludes with the deliberative and jazzy instrumental “Riviera Paradise”, which persists for nearly nine minutes but remains interesting due to various lead sections and subtle mood changes.

In Step was Vaughan’s most commercially successful album, spending nearly a year on the charts and being certified gold. Tragically, this would be his final with Double Trouble as Stevie Ray Vaughn was killed in a helicopter crash in August 1990.

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1989 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1989 albums.

 

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
by Neil Young

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Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by Neil YoungNeil Young‘s second solo record, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, was the first of his string of classics. Released in May 1969, this album was also the first to include Crazy Horse, a backing group that Young would employ sporadically for decades to come. On this critically acclaimed album, Young bounces back and forth between rock, folk and country, landing a few times on a custom sweet spot nestled somewhere in between all three genres.

Young migrated from his native Canada to Southern California in 1966 and fortuitously found himself at the founding of the group Buffalo Springfield. After two years and two successful albums, he left the band to launch a solo career, releasing his self titled debut by the end of 1968. That fine psych-tinged folk-rock album was as much uneven as it is interesting. Young would later comment that his debut record was “overdubbed rather than played” and he immediately set out to make a better record.

Prior to recording Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Young recruited a trio of musicians originally from a band called The Rockets to be the first incarnation of Crazy Horse. Young composed all the material, much of which was written in a single day while he was recovering from a high fever, and co-produced the album with David Briggs. However, the members of Crazy Horse did play a large role in the forging and recording of the songs, adding rhythms, backing vocals and a few long and loose instrumental jam sections.


Everybody Knows This is Nowhere by Neil Young
Released: May 14, 1969 (Reprise)
Produced by: David Briggs and Neil Young
Recorded: Wally Heider Recording, Hollywood, CA, January-March 1969
Side One Side Two
Cinnamon Girl
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Round & Round (It Won’t Be Long)
Down by the River
The Losing End (When You’re On)
Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)
Cowgirl In the Sand
Primary Musicians
Neil Young – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Danny Whitten – Guitars, Vocals
Billy Talbot/strong> – Bass
Ralph Molina – Drums, Vocals

 

The album begins with the indelible “Cinnamon Girl”, an innovative combo of riff-based hard rock and pop/folk sensibilities. Along with the signature riff, guitarist Danny Whitten provides co-lead vocal high harmony with Young providing lyrics about a “city girl on playing finger cymbals”. The title track follows “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” features an innovative accident of Young including a temporary scratch vocal sung through the talk-back microphone with no further effects in the final mix. Thematically, this song has some deep influence from Buffalo Springfield.

“Round & Round (It Won’t Be Long)” slows things down as a country-esque waltz complete with exquisite vocals by both Young and guest Robin Lane throughout and some strategic chord changes placed within the consistent acoustic strumming. The epic “Down by the River” finishes off the first side as a classic epic in length and approach. This dark song about a crime of passion features some extended instrumental passages with Young leading the group with staccato-laden guitar leads.

Neil Young

“The Losing End (When You’re On)” is slightly psychedelic, but mostly country in approach and a much less interesting song than anything previous as it really doesn’t go anywhere unexpected and the words are delivered painfully slow, Diddo for “Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)” a reserved, haunting and dark folk tune featuring squeaky violin by guest Bobby Notkoff. The album wraps with the classic “Cowgirl in the Sand”, a true highlight for the rhythm section of Crazy Horse, namely bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina. In between the extended jams lie two well constructed melodic sections with nicely doubled lead vocals to accent the fine melodies of this song, which buttons up the album as a classic.

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere peaked in the Top 40 in the United States and remained on the charts for nearly 100 weeks. During that time, Young joined Crosby, Stills & Nash for the 1970 album Déjà Vu before resuming his solo career later in that year.

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1969 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1969 albums.

 

Is Dylan a Prophetic Entrepreneur?

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Gotta Serve Somebody single by Bob DtlanIf art is always open to interpretation and art can be examined from a new prism for deeper meaning; then we might ask a simple question. Could Bob Dylan have had an entrepreneurial mindset when he wrote “Gotta Serve Somebody”? The opening track on Dylan’s 1979 album Slow Train Coming, the song could be seen in a new context even if it was conceived to mean something different through constantly revolving artistic reinterpretation.

Let us start with the most basic premise, that most successful people create a service or product and its main purpose is generally about serving others. The service or idea etc. helps provide awareness to a problem or is a product that makes things easier for someone or something simple it makes them laugh and forget about their daily problems. These are all services designed for the benefit of others. Dylan’s song basically points out you are serving somebody. It does not really matter who or where you are in life. Some of Dylan’s lines:

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed”

The chorus then continues after with the hook “Gotta Serve Somebody”. In the song, whether you are rich or poor may not be the only important thing; it can also be an indirect to ‘How you serve?’ or ‘who do you serve?’ What Dylan doesn’t maybe realize even himself is that this is a basic part of the entrepreneurial mindset. What is your motivation for serving others? Why are you doing this? In order to make a living you “gotta serve somebody”. An entrepreneur knows who their target audience

Yes, Dylan does refer to the spiritual component of either serving the Good or the Dark side of spiritual faith. But this may further the point. We have the choice! No matter what industry it is in it is a service. And the idea of why are we doing it either to be helpful or just further our bank account. No matter what it is. Whether it stories, characters, products they are all geared toward creating fulfilling a need. The best created products find a way to relate to someone else.

Bob Dylan in 1979

Sometimes we go through a stage where ego gets in the way. We feel our ideas are just so original people will fawn over us our talent is so great we will be discovered. That is not how most things work and this leaves us cold and empty ideas that get lost in translation. There needs to be a connection with some audience. Zig Ziglar once famously said, “You can’t get what you want until you help others get what they want!” No matter what stunts your try in the end. Doesn’t matter if you try to scheme. You will be found out. The audience or purchaser will figure you out. It can’t be faked. Dylan can point out the phony. In the song he comments further:

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name”

You can’t really fool people either you are really trying to be helpful or just an opportunist. The point is to be genuine. So think of your products, ideas, characters, as it relate to others. What are the connections between you and the purchaser not just what are the features but what are the benefits as well? It is a major contributing factor to building a successful concept or business.

What they are concerned about what problem do they have and how are you going to solve it, it is all about them. No one pays you twenty dollars because you are special and cool and they just want to hang out with you well at least not most of us. It does something for them that they want. Let’s think of an actor, who is a part of a team, their purpose is to be a part of the ensemble and help the show or play itself become successful. They either can think of furthering their ego or the show is more important to be a part of it. No matter how we play the game. We end up serving someone anyway. The chorus begins to ring with a repeated truth, “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are. You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

We might conclude from the Dylan song it is your choice on what kind of person you want to be, the one who simply takes advantage of others, or the one who really genuinely wants to help and not just to fill your pocket. Better to fill yourself with a deep sense of helpful and a deep satisfaction as well. Simply put “To err is human to serve is divine. We only have what we give.” ― Isabel Allende

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Article by Edgar Rider

 

Echo by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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Echo by Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersClosing out the century with their tenth studio album, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers blended folk/rock arrangements with introspective lyrical themes on Echo. The album’s tracks were composed and produced in the wake of Tom Petty‘s divorce from his wife of two decades and his own subsequent bought of depression and the isolation of living alone in a cabin. Petty stated that in this era he didn’t see a lot of people because he wasn’t happy and “didn’t want to lay that on everybody”.

Prior to Echo, Petty had been on a decade-long streak of commercial and critical success. In 1988 he became a member of the impromptu super group The Traveling Wilburys, immediately followed by the phenomenal success of Petty’s 1989 debut solo record, Full Moon Fever. In the 1990s, Petty alternated albums between the Heartbreakers (Into the Great Wide Open in 1991 and She’s the One in 1996) and solo (Wildflowers in 1994), all of which achieved great success in charting and airplay. During this era, the group also released a 1993 Greatest Hits compilation, which reached number 1 on the album charts and went Platinum a dozen times over, as well as Playback, a 1995 six-disc box set.

Echo was produced by Rick Rubin and recorded over the span of 1997 and 1998. Rubin had previously produced Wildflowers and She’s the One and had enlisted the Heartbreakers in backing up the legendary Johnny Cash on his 1996 album , Unchained.


Echo by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Released: April 13, 1999 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Tom Petty, Mike Campbell & Rick Rubin
Recorded: 1997–1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Room at the Top
Counting on You
Free Girl Now
Lonesome Sundown
Swingin’
Accused of Love
Echo
Won’t Last Long
Billy the Kid
I Don’t Wanna Fight
This One’s for Me
No More
About to Give Out
Rhino Skin
One More Day, One More Night
Tom Petty – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Mike Campbell – Guitars, Vocals
Benmont Tench – Piano, Keyboards
Howie Epstein – Bass, Vocals
Steve Ferrone – Drums
 
Echo by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

 

At over an hour of running time, Echo is a 15-song album with the length of a traditional double LP. It is book-ended by tracks which share the common theme of isolation and observation. The opening “Room at the Top” is a melancholy lament of lost love which Petty later described as one of the most depressing songs in rock history”. The closing “One More Day, One More Night” is a bluesy ballad which concludes with Mike Campbell‘s understated blues rock guitar lead. In between these two tracks is an ebb-and-flow of songs of high and low moods and arrangements.

“Counting on You” is a crisp folk-rock track with a fine rotation of sonic ear candy including piercing guitar licks, electric piano and slight fiddle. Harkening back to the group’s late seventies post-punk era, “Free Girl Now” is an upbeat rocker which comes down for a cool third verse with picked electric guitar and choppy organ by Benmont Tench. This song was the lead single from the album and it reached the Top 10 the Mainstream Rock charts. Tench’s country-esque piano introduces the ballad “Lonesome Sundown” which hits some nice chords and features Petty’s vocals at top notch, hitting some of the higher notes in his range. The next track, “Swingin'” is a fine example of Petty’s interpretation of Bob Dylan’s style, while “Accused of Love” is a bright and upbeat acoustic pop song. The title track, “Echo” is a sad acoustic ballad driven by Petty’s melancholy lyrics.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The album’s latter half features some of its more interesting tunes, “Won’t Last Long” features a blend of driving, double strummed acoustic guitars in the verse and complex vocals patterns in the chorus along with a mid section where everything come down to reveal a subtle, penny-whistle organ. The acoustic “Billy the Kid” is topped off by tremolo guitar and backed with strong drum beat by Steve Ferrone, the newest member of the Heartbreakers. Campbell’s “I Don’t Wanna Fight” is a unique song in the Heartbreaker’s catalog, as this quasi-punk hard rocker is the only one to feature a lead vocal from someone other than Petty, while “This One’s for Me” is a bright and melodic ode to self interest. The sad but beautiful ballad “No More” features strings, percussion and other sweet instrumentation and effects in the arrangement, as the mood comes back up on “About to Give Out”, featuring a country-boogie piano lead by Tench. The album climaxes with the profound “Rhino Skin”, with the sharp lyrics accompanied by deadened guitar accompanied by a moody string arrangement and Howie Epstein‘s sharp bass rhythms.

Sadly, Echo would be the final album Heartbreakers’ album to feature Epstein,, who died in 2003 from a heroin overdose. Due to the painful memories associated with this album, Petty did not listen to this album for many years after its release, but was pleasantly surprised by its quality when his wife insisted they listen to during a long drive together.

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1999 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1999 albums.

 

Crimson and Clover by
Tommy James & the Shondells

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Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the ShondellsTommy James and the Shondells hit their creative and commercial climax  in 1969 with their sixth studio album, Crimson and Clover. This album combines some heavy psychedelic elements with the group’s core pop/R&B sensibilities for a potent cross-section of authentic fine sixties music. Crimson and Clover is also the first album in which the group’s leader, vocalist and guitarist Tommy James, played a large part in composing the bulk of the material.

The group’s roots stretch back a decade to 1959 in Michigan, when a 12-year-old James formed Tom and the Tornadoes, with the group releasing its first single, “Long Pony Tail”, in 1962. James renamed the band the Shondells in 1964 when they recorded the single “Hanky Panky” for local label Snap Records, which was a modest local hit in the Midwest but not big enough to keep the original Shondells together past high school graduation. The following year, a Pittsburgh dance promoter discovered the single and played it at various events and on radio stations, generating enough interest to attract James to play shows in Western Pennsylvania. A second version of the backing band was recruited in Greensburg, PA, including keyboardist Ron Rosman and bassist Mike Vale.

With this new touring group, James made a deal with Roulette Records to receive national promotion, which drove “Hanky Panky” to number 1 on the pop charts in July 1966. More success quickly followed, including the Top Ten hits “I Think We’re Alone Now” (1967), “Mirage” (1968) and “Mony Mony” (1968), all of which were penned by outside writers. In late 1968, the group was given artistic control by Roulette and decided to take a new direction by writing their own songs and self-producing their next album, Crimson and Clover.


Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells
Released: January, 1969 (Roulette)
Produced by: Tommy James and the Shondells
Recorded: 1968
Side One Side Two
Crimson and Clover
Kathleen McArthur
I’m a Tangerine
Do Something to Me
Crystal Blue Persuasion
Sugar on Sunday
Breakaway
Smokey Roads
I’m Alive
Group Musicians
Tommy James – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Eddie Gray – Guitars, Vocals
Ron Rosman – Keyboards, Vocals
Mike Vale – Bass, Vocals
Peter Lucia – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

Co-written by drummer Peter Lucia, the album’s opening title track is a juxtaposition of James soulful vocals and the heavily treated tremolo guitar effect. This sets the stage for the overall vibe of “Crimson and Clover”, which was recorded by James, Vale and Lucia as an intended single, released ahead of the album in late 1968 and topped the US pop charts in February 1969. The song was also a hit internationally, reaching number one in six other nations. The next track, “Kathleen McArthur”, is an English folk style tune complete with harpsichord, flute and lyrics about a servant falling secretly for the daughter of his aristocratic employer, while “I’m a Tangerine” appears to be an overt attempt at psychedelic pop with strong influence from early Pink Floyd.

“Do Something to Me” is the album’s only cover track but this Top 40 hit takes a refreshing turn back to straight-forward rock n’ roll with an Elvis inspired revival complete with a “fake” live audience reaction such as whistling, hooting and hollering. The album’s best overall song is “Crystal Blue Persuasion”, co-written by guitarist Eddie Gray, features a unique and excellent blend of psychedelic guitar, soul bass, hand percussion, flamenco acoustic and melodic vocals. Later on Vale’s bass leads into a key change upward that completes this song as a classic,which made it to #2 on the charts.

Tommy James and the Shondells

The rest of the album features a diverse set of interesting songs. “Sugar on Sunday” dips back into the psychedelic bubblegum, although this one does have some interesting elements, with an almost Gospel-like feel from the backing vocals. “Breakaway” is harder rock and experimental with a combination of fuzz guitar and basic soul piano providing dueling arrangements and a slight mid section led by bass. Backwards-masked spoken vocals leads to the ballad “Smokey Roads”, featuring some interesting drum transitions by Lucia, while “I’m Alive” features sharp guitars that break through the thumping rhythms and is thematically celebratory. The album concludes with an alternate take of the title track’s coda section to bring it all full circle.

In the year it was released, Crimson and Clover reached the Top 10 of the album charts and maintained its esteem through the next half century. However, the group did not persist much longer, as the Shondells disbanded in early 1970 when Tommy James collapsed after a show and was initially pronounced dead. He did recover and launched a solo career shortly after.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1969 albums.

 

Motörhead’s 1979 albums

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Buy Bomber

Motorhead 1979 albumsDuring the year 1979, Motörhead released their second and third albums, Overkill and Bomber, two records that put this hard rock trio on the map. Overkill was an unexpected success and has gone on to be considered a major leap forward in both style and critical acclaim. Led by bassist and vocalist Lemmy Kilmister, the group forged a raw and heavy but somewhat melodic and accessible sound which forged elements of heavy blues and punk rock.

Kilmister joined the group Hawkwind in the early 1970s, which spawned some successful albums and a Top 5 single in the UK. However, he was fired by the band in 1975 after being briefly jailed on drug charges when entering Canada and forcing the band to cancel some scheduled shows. Lemmy immediately decided to form a new band and named it Motörhead after a song he had recently written. The band quickly found success and a contract with United Artists. Material for the eventual album On Parole was recorded but the label initially refused to release it because they were dissatisfied with the sound (it was ultimately also released in 1979, after Motörhead’s breakthrough success). Drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke, both of whom would remain as the group’s core trio as some original group members departed in coming years. In August 1977, the group’s self-titled debut record was released and it spent a brief time on the UK Albums chart. In 1978, the group signed with Bronze Records and released a cover of the Kingsmen classic “Louie Louie”, followed by a tour to promote the record.

With the minor success from this single, the group commenced recording for a new album in December 1978 with producer Jimmy Miller. The resulting Overkill album became a Top 30 album on the charts and it sparked a tour and a quick follow-up record, Bomber, which was also produced by Miller.


Overkill by Motorhead
Released: March 24, 1979 (Bronze)
Produced by: Jimmy Miller & Neil Richmond
Recorded: Roundhouse and Sound Development Studios, London, December 1978-January 1979
Side One Side Two
Overkill
Stay Clean
(I Won’t) Pay Your Price
I’ll Be Your Sister
Capricorn
No Class
Damage Case
Tear Ya Down
Metropolis
Limb From Limb

Bomber by Motorhead
Released: October 27, 1969 (Bronze)
Produced by: Jimmy Miller
Recorded: Roundhouse Studios and Olympic Studios, London, July-August 1979
Side One Side Two
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Lawman
Sweet Revenge
Sharpshooter
Poison
Stone Dead Forever
All the Aces
Step Down
Talking Head
Bomber
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Lemmy Kilmister – Lead Vocals, Bass
Eddie Clarke – Guitars, Vocals
Phil Taylor – Drums

 

Overkill begins with its fine title track, a song of genuine energy and release. Notable for Taylor’s an early use of double kick pedals the track employs minimal overdubs through its head banging parade. The next track, “Stay Clean”, has an almost punk vibe to it along with some electronic treatment on Kilmister’s vocals along with his cool buzzy bass and slight bass lead while “(I Won’t) Pay Your Price” has a Southern rock feel blended with straight-ahead energy and layered guitar textures by Clarke.

Overkill by Motorhead“I’ll Be Your Sister” returns to the pop/punk energetic rock, but with a bit different and interesting twist. “Capricorn” begins with drum rhythms and a dramatic guitar build up, later culminating with some of the later reverb-drenched guitars have a Hendrix-style effect. The album’s second side starts with the crisp rock riffing of “No Class” then returns to the punk style of “Damage Case”, with just enough classic rock swing to make it interesting and anthemic. “Tear Ya Down” releases more energy, “Metropolis” features slightly bluesy riffing and some harmonized vocals and the album closer “Limb From Limb” is built on a hypnotic, rotating riff between each verse line.

Motorhead in 1979

Less than four months after the release of Overkill, Motörhead began working on their next album, Bomber. Without having much opportunity to develop the songs and with Miller struggling with substance abuse during the sessions, this third album turned out to be less edgy and more formulaic. The album is bookmarked by, perhaps, its strongest songs. The opener “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is both refined and energetic as a slightly raw hard rocker, while the closing title song is an obvious classic track with the energy and freshness of much of the material on Overkill, making for a hit Top 40 single on the UK singles chart.

Bomber by Motorhead“Lawman” features some cool chord changes while basically hitting on main riff and lyrical hook which scoffs at the police. “Sweet Revenge” changes things up as methodical sludge rocker with a cool, bluesy slide by Clarke during the choruses. “Sharpshooter” again returns back to riff-rock, while “Poison” and “Stone Dead Forever” trend towards a fusion of punk and metal. “All the Aces” revives the definitive Motörhead sound while “Step Down” reverts to a real classic Black Sabbath vibe, making it one of the better tracks on the album.

In spite of being a bit rushed and underdone, Bomber peaked at #12 on the UK albums chart, making it their strongest showing on the charts up to that point. A tour of Europe followed, complete with a spectacular aircraft bomber-shaped lighting rig, as the group headed into the new decade of the 1980s with the promise of more success.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1979 albums.

1979 Images

 

Supernatural by Santana

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Supernatural by SantanaThe amazing thing about Supernatural is how popular and commercially successful it became in spite of its plethora of styles, multiple lead vocalists and bi-lingual lyrical content. Released in 1999, this was the eighteenth studio album by Santana, the Latin-style rock project led by guitarist Carlos Santana.  It was, by far, Santana’s biggest commercial success, selling about 30 million copies worldwide and topping the album charts in eleven countries, including a total of twelve weeks at #1 in the US.

By the time of Supernatural‘s production, Santana already had a career that spanned over thirty years, commencing in the mid sixties with spurts of innovation, commercial success, experimentation, decline and hiatus. In 1991, Santana’s record deal with Columbia Records came to an end and subsequent albums on the Polydor/Island labels did not fare well commercially. However, Carlos Santana’s involvement in a 1995 documentary about executive and Arista Records founder Clive Davis (who was at Columbia when Santana was first signed in 1969), led to a deal with Arista.

Supernatural was forged with a desire to produce more radio friendly songs and its sound is a blend of elements that combine “vintage Santana” with contemporary influences from several genres. Along with the plethora of guest performing artists, the twelve original album tracks were put together by a total of thirteen co-producers.


Supernatural by Santana
Released: June 15, 1999 (Arista)
Produced by: Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, Jerry Duplessis, The Dust Brothers, Alex González, Charles Goodan, Lauryn Hill, Art Hodge, Wyclef Jean, K.C. Porter, Dante Ross, Matt Serletic & Stephen Harris
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA, 1999
Track Listing Primary Musicians
(Da Le) Yaleo
Love of My Life
Put Your Lights On
Africa Bamba
Smooth
Do You Like the Way
Maria Maria
Migra
Corazón Espinado
Wishing It Was
Primavera
The Calling
Carlos Santana – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Ross Childress – Guitars, Vocals
Chester D. Thompson – Keyboards
Benny Rietveld – Bass
Rodney Holmes – Drums

 
Supernatural by Santana

 

 

The opener “(Da Le) Yaleo” is a Spanish language song that delves right in with the Carlos Santana signature guitar lead over the fine Latin percussion, with “Love of My Life” instantly changing direction. This second track is driven by the drums of Carter Beauford and topped by a smooth, jazzy arrangement with long, serene keys and good vocals by co-writer and lead vocalist Dave Matthews. The acoustic ballad “Put Your Lights On” slowly builds in arrangement with lyrics of existentialism by Everlast, ultimately making this a minor hit single. “Africa Bamba” follows and features acoustic and electric lead guitars for nice atmosphere.

By far the most popular single from Supernatural was “Smooth”, co-written by Itaal Shur and Rob Thomas and featuring Thomas on lead vocals. The track opens with a definitive Santana lead but eases into a groove of fine rhythms, proficient horn accents, enhanced vocals and overall great production. “Smooth” topped the pop charts (having the distinction of being the number one song when the century ended) and, ultimately, won three Grammy Awards. The next couple tracks have a definitive R&B vibe, Lauryn Hill‘s hip hop leaning “Do You Like the Way” and “Maria Maria”, another chart-topping and Grammy winning tune produced by Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis.

Santana in 1999

The album’s second half, while still entertaining, features more repetitive and less groundbreaking songs. “Corazón Espinado” is almost like a Spanish language counterpart to “Smooth”, highlighted by Karl Perazzo on timbales, as “Wishing It Was” is another jazzy Latin ballad, featuring Eagle-Eye Cherry on vocals. The instrumental “El Farol” has plenty of atmosphere to tease out the beauty of Santana’s lead guitar, while “Primavera” is a standard Latin pop track. A highlight of this section of the album is “Migra”, driven by a strong drum beat and wild electric lead throughout, finding space between each vocal track, along with an excellent accordion by K.C. Porter and harmonized trumpets and trombones. “The Calling” is the original album closer, featuring Eric Clapton and starting with a long, Miles Davis like improvised section with Clapton and Santana trading guitar licks before the song proper of electronic drums backing a Gospel-like rendition with vocals by Tony Lindsay and Jeanie Tracy. Hidden within the track is “Day of Celebration”, a shuffle rhythmically, but it maintains a similar Gospel feel of uplift.

At nearly 75 minutes in length, the 1999 original version was a monster-size listening experience in of itself. However, the 2010 Legacy Edition added a second disc of outtakes, remixes and covers, clocking in at over two hours in total length of music. Supernatural went on to win nine Grammy Awards as an album and it sustained its popularity to the degree that it was the the ninth best-selling album of the decade of 2000s, despite being officially released in the 1990s. The album also gave Santana a unique entry into the Guinness book of World Records, as his previous number one album was Santana III in 1971, making the 28 year gap between number one albums for an artist the longest in history.

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1999 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1999 albums.

 

The Guess Who’s 1969 albums

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Buy Canned Wheat

The Guess Who 1969 albumsAlthough the group was already over a decade old and had already released three albums, the pop career of The Guess Who really got underway with the release of two albums in 1969; Wheatfield Soul and Canned Wheat. These albums spawned several hit singles and ignited the group’s meteoric span at the heights of the pop and rock world internationally, which continued into the early seventies. Both of these albums were produced by Jack Richardson.

Formed in Winnipeg in 1958, The Guess Who recorded their debut single, “Tribute To Buddy Holly”, in 1962 as “Chad Allan and the Reflections”. Three years later the group produced their debut album, Shakin’ All Over and corresponding title song which topped the Canadian charts and reached the Top 30 in the United States. Two more albums, Hey Ho (What You Do to Me!) and It’s Time were released in the next year and a half through 1965 and 1966, before Allen was replaced by 18-year-old Burton Cummings. In 1967, The Guess Who were hired as the house band on the CBC radio show The Swingers as well as the television program Let’s Go, giving the group vast exposure in Canada and eventually leading to their international record deal with RCA Records.


Wheatfield Soul by The Guess Who
Released: March, 1969 (RCA)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: A & R Studios, New York, September 1968
Side One Side Two
These Eyes
Pink Wine Sparkles in the Glass
I Found Her in a Star
Friends of Mine
When You Touch Me
A Wednesday in Your Garden
Lightfoot
Love and a Yellow Rose
Maple Fudge
We’re Coming to Dinner

Canned Wheat by The Guess Who
Released: September, 1969 (RCA)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: RCA Studio A, New York, New York, 1969
Side One Side Two
No Time
Minstrel Boy
Laughing
Undun
6 A.M. or Nearer
Old Joe
Of a Dropping Pin
Key
Fair Warning
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Burton Cummings – Lead Vocals, piano, keyboards, flute, harmonica
Randy Bachman – Guitars, Vocals
Jim Kale – Bass, Vocals
Gary Peterson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

Wheatfield Soul was recorded in New York City in September 1968 with most songs co-written by Cummings and guitarist Randy Bachman. The album offers an odd but interesting mix of structured sixties Brit-pop and roaming experimental songs, some which work and some which don’t. Standing above all else is the fantastic opening track, “These Eyes”, a song of perfect sonic execution. It starts with simple electric piano riff by Cummings along with choppy electric and lightly strummed acoustic by Bachman and then slowly adds arrangement and orchestration matched by Cummings’ vocal intensity to make for a perfect pop song for the late 1960s. The song became the group’s first single to reach the top ten in the US and it has individually sold over one million copies.

Wheatfield Soul by The Guess WhoPink Wine Sparkles in the Glass” is a short but rather complex rocker with differing tempos and homages to contemporaries like the Beatles and the Bee Gees, while “I Found Her in a Star” is a more standard ballad with plenty of sonic décor including both smooth orchestration and buzzy electric guitar. The freaky psychedelic rock suite “Friends of Mine” has multiple section built on simple jam riffs with Cummings adding somewhat improvised poetic motifs which seem to be influenced by The Doors’ Jim Morrison and include a contemporary reference of Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour with the statement;

Kurt is the walrus and the walrus does funny things to the veins in his left arm….”

The second side of Wheatfield Soul is equally as diverse, starting with “When You Touch Me”, which starts with Gary Peterson‘s animated drums and settles into a pop-oriented groove but may be a little underdone to become a hit. Bachman’s “A Wednesday in Your Garden” is a pretty and pleasant jazz rock ballad with lead vocals remaining high in rock intensity, while “Lightfoot” is a pure folk tribute song with multiple acoustics and lyrics that call Gordon Lightfoot “an artist painting Sistine masterpieces”. “Love and a Yellow Rose” starts as an Eastern-style chant accompanied by single, buzzy guitar before fully kicking in as an entertaining funk rocker, followed by the happy-go-lucky, bouncy, bubblegum rock of “Maple Fudge”. The closer “We’re Coming to Dinner” is a cool jazz rocker with plenty of groovy elements led by an effective rebellious hook which should’ve made this a hit in the late sixties.

The Guess Who

Outside of Canada where it reached the Top Ten, Wheatfield Soul was not a commercial success. However, it did set a standard to be built upon and improved upon for a follow-up album. Canned Wheat was recorded through 1969 and features tracks which are more evenly spread out in temper and quality. The opener “No Time” is an early “alternate” version of the later re-recorded hit featured on the 1970 album American Woman. It starts with weird, dissonant guitars before breaking into the moderate rock groove. Later, Bachman’s extended guitar lead reaches into psychedelia a bit, making this distinct recording pretty interesting. “Minstrel Boy” follows as slightly jazzy folk track with bouncy bass by Jim Kale along with definitively strummed chords and darkly-tinged lyrics.

Canned Wheat by The Guess WhoTwo of the more popular tracks on Canned Wheat, “Laughing” and “Undun” were actually recorded twice due to quality issues. “Laughing” alternates between a sad ballad and a more upbeat pop love song, a combination which propelled the track to the top of the Canadian Singles Chart and the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bachman’s “Undun” was originally issued as the B-side of “Laughing” and this jazzy track features excellence all around – unique, bright guitar chording by Bachman, the best bass playing yet by kale, bossa-nova style drumming by Peterson, and vocals which stretch the ranges by Cummings – along with a very cool and unique bridge. While a little disjointed in direction, “6 A.M. or Nearer” is a very pleasant listen nonetheless to complete the original first side.

“Old Joe” is a track by Cummings with an intro that features backward-masked piano and haunting chords before breaking into a folk piano ballad with fine, dynamic vocals and good, animated rhythms, while “Of a Dropping Pin” is a decent rocker with a profound lyrical hook. “Key” is the album’s eleven-minute extended track which starts with sitar before breaking into a rhythmic rock section during the initial three verses. Then, after a standard guitar lead comes an interesting drum/percussion section topped by various guitar textures before Peterson goes into a full-fledged drum solo which takes up the second half of this extended suite. The album concludes with the short track, “Fair Warning”, with jazzy guitar chords and spoken words.

By the time Canned Wheat was released in September 1969, The Guess Who had already begun recording material for their next album, American Woman, the first of two albums released in 1970 by the group.

1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1969 albums.

 

George Harrison

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George HarrisonReleased in early 1979, George Harrison’s eponymous studio album is a light and breezy work of bliss and contentment by the ex-Beatle as he started a new family in his late 30’s. Adding to the overall atmosphere, much of this record was composed while on an extended hiatus in Hawaii, which followed a full year away from any activity  in the music industry. Since it’s release 40 years ago, George Harrison has generally been received well as may be considered one of this artist’s top solo releases.

Harrison had immediate post-Beatles success with the 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass and, to a lesser extent with 1973’s Living In the Material World. Late in 1974, Harrison became the first ex-Beatle to tour North America in conjunction with the release of the album Dark Horse. However, Harrison considered this the least satisfactory of his three post-Beatles studio albums and this, combined with the demise of the Apple Records label, led Harrison to launch his own label called Dark Horse Records. The 1976 album, Thirty Three & 1/3, became the first album release for this label, and it produced a couple of minor hit singles; “This Song” and “Crackerbox Palace”.

Harrison spent much of 1977 following Formula 1 racing and traveled to Hawaii in early 1978 to begin writing for this album, which he would co-produce with Russ Titelman. Recording for the album took place at both Harrison’s suburban home studio and London’s AIR Studios and the sessions included cameos by contemporary artists Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Gary Wright.


George Harrison by George Harrison
Released: February 20, 1979 (Dark Horse)
Produced by: Russ Titelman & George Harrison
Recorded: FPSHOT, Oxfordshire & AIR Studios, London, 1978
Side One Side Two
Love Comes to Everyone
Not Guilty
Here Comes the Moon
Soft-Hearted Hana
Blow Away
Faster
Dark Sweet Lady
Your Love Is Forever
Soft Touch
If You Believe
Primary Musicians
George Harrison – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Dobro, Mandolin, Sitar, Bass
Neil Larsen – Piano, Keyboards
Willie Weeks – Bass
Andy Newmark – Drums

The album begins with the single “Love Comes to Everyone”, a nice fusion of styles between Harrison’s signature slide guitar of the early seventies and the bass-driven bright pop of the late seventies led by Willie Weeks. The whole vibe of this song is accented nicely by Winwood’s sharp synth lead. “Not Guilty” is a track originally written for the Beatles’ White Album a decade earlier with lyrics referring to Harrison’s ever-straining relationship with his band mates following the failed pilgrimage to India to follow the Maharishi. Due to the tense subject matter, the original 1968 completed recording was not included on the Beatles’ double album. The late seventies version features a jazzy electric piano Neil Larsen and an overall feel that justifies giving this one ten years to mature.

George Harrison 1979

Another nod back to his Beatles’ years, “Here Comes the Moon” acts as a natural sequel to “Here Comes the Sun” from the Abbey Road album. This subtle, acoustic track features fine methodical accompaniment including vocal effects and a vocal chorus. Inspired by the hallucinatory effects of some Hawaiian “magic mushrooms”, the good-timey ragtime tune “Hard Hearted Hannah” features a fine acoustic lead and some call and response vocals. Perhaps the finest overall track, “Blow Away” features an exquisite combo of electric piano and slide electric guitar in the lead in along with a very catchy chorus hook and great guitar link back from chorus to verse. The song was the lead single from the album and became a hit in the United States and Canada.

The album’s second side starts with “Faster” an upbeat, celebratory tribute to Formula 1 racing which also served as the early title for this record. Next comes two subtle love songs, “Dark Sweet Lady” with a beautiful Caribbean style and the methodically strummed acoustic of “Your Love Is Forever”. A leftover from Thirty Three & 1/3, “Soft Touch” was re-written in Hawaii with a tropical theme and musical arrangement, while the closing track “If You Believe” wraps things up with an upbeat and positive message.

The feeling of bliss demonstrated on George Harrison would be shocked by reality during the production of Harrison’s follow-up album Somewhere in England, with the murder of former band mate John Lennon in December 1980. Harrison rewrote a track to pay tribute to Lennon and invited the remaining Beatles to play on the track “All Those Years Ago”, a Top Ten hit in 1981.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1979 albums.

1979 Images