Euphoria Mourning by Chris Cornell

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Euphoria Morning by Chris CornellAfter a long but whirlwind career as the front man for Soundgarden, Chris Cornell forged his own musical direction with his 1999 debut solo record, Euphoria Mourning (originally titled Euphoria Morning). While still primarily a hard rock album, this work varies greatly from the grunge metal style of Soundgarden’s prime, with the organic compositions textured with rootsy and bluesy sounds throughout. With this altering of musical direction, while critically acclaimed, the album did not sell as well as previous Soundgarden releases.

Cornell co-founded Soundgarden in the mid 1980s, with the group breaking through with Badmotofinger in 1991 and ultimately reaching their commercial pinnacle with the success of 1994’s Superunknown, which topped the album charts and won multiple awards including a pair of Grammys. The highly anticipated follow up, Down On the Upside, was released two years later and featured a more experimental approach that caused creative tensions within the group and ultimately led to Soundgarden’s break up in 1997.

In collaboration with Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider of the band Eleven, Cornell began working on material for a solo album in 1998. Recording was done at their Los Angeles home studio, with the song “Sunshower” (a bonus track on some versions of Euphoria Mourning, being contributed to the Great Expectations soundtrack that year. Another song, “Heart of Honey” was recorded for the film Titan A.E., but it was not used for the soundtrack nor released on Euphoria Mourning. Cornell debated the album’s title, initially capitulating to his manager at the time, who favored “morning” but later reverting back to the ironically poetic “mourning” as the title’s cannon.


Euphoria Mourning by Chris Cornell
Released: September 21, 1999 (Interscope)
Produced by: Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider & Alain Johannes
Recorded: 11 AD Studios, Los Angeles, 1998-1999
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Can’t Change Me
Flutter Girl
Preaching the End of the World
Follow My Way
When I’m Down
Mission
Wave Goodbye
Moonchild
Sweet Euphoria
Disappearing One
Pillow of Your Bones
Steel Rain
Chris Cornell – Lead Vocals, Guitars, harmonica
Alain Johannes – Guitars, Bass, Mandolin, Vocals
Natasha Shneider – Keyboards, Bass, Vocals
Josh Freese – DrumsEuphoria Morning by Chris Cornell

 

Cornell wrote all the lyrics to the songs, while Johannes and Shoeider composed the music on select tracks. The first of these is the opener
“Can’t Change Me”, which starts with a dramatic intro before quickly dissolving into the rock/waltz verse. The first single released from Euphoria Mourning, this opener features very melodic vocals over deliberative chord structure put forth in a pop/rock way. “Flutter Girl” follows with a slightly more alternative bent led by treated rhythms and guitar effects. This song originated during the Superunknown sessions, half a decade earlier. The introspective, acoustic ballad “Preaching the End of the World” is beautifully composed and produced with plenty of diverse textures and sound effects above the melancholy singer/songwriter core of the track, while “Follow My Way” is a moderate and deliberative rocker with some odd time signatures and a few upper gear’s of Cornell’s vocal intensity.

Next comes the bluesy jazzy club tune “When I’m Down”, featuring Cornell’s slightly crooning vocals along with light backing vocals. “Mission” reverts back to harder alternative rock, while “Wave Goodbye”, a tribute to the late great Jeff Buckley, is a slow and sloshy melodic blues tune. “Moon Child” cleverly adds country/psycedelic guitar leads to a moderate and consistent pop/rocker, followed by the acoustic “Sweet Euphoria” which features plenty of divergent chord structures.

Chris Cornell 1999

“Disappearing One” brings us back to a classic Soundgarden sound with great vocals above super-produced sound textures. “Pillow of Your Bones” has a unique title with a unique stylistic blend of traditional blues and Indo/Eastern elements along with fine execution of rhythmic elements by Josh Freese. With droning, slow alt/acoustic verses and choruses that have majestic vocals while maintaining tempo and feel, “Steel Rain” ends the original album at an unexpected place with an upbeat bass line, extra percussion and electronic effects accompanying the whining guitars. The later added “Sunshower” may be Cornell’s definitive solo work as an extraordinary melancholy romantic tune driven by a classical sounding dual acoustic soon topped by persistent modulating electric guitar. This song’s chord composition employs both moody descending and unique divergent patterns all to complement Cornell’s classic rock vocals.

While Euphoria Mourning sold over 75,000 in its first week reaching the Top 20 in both the US and Canada, the album ultimately proved commercially unsuccessful. Still, this album was critically acclaimed and acted as an important stepping stone between Cornell’s work with Soundgarden and the future group Audioslave, formed early in the new century.

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1999 images

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

 

Joe’s Garage by Frank Zappa

Buy Joe’s Garage Acts I, II & III

Joes Garage by Frank ZappaFrank Zappa is one of those musical figures that people either get or they don’t. If you happen to fall in the latter category and want to give his music another try, a good place to start would be Joe’s Garage. Zappa is very demanding. He makes little effort to be approachable. However this particular ‘project/object’ collection contains all of the Zappa benchmarks that his fans love: Musical virtuosity, social parody, pop satire, compositional complexity, stylistic diversity, crude lyrics and a wicked sense of humor. JOE’S GARAGE is a semi-political rock opera containing a variety of styles. But the primary focus on this particular outing is story-driven rock and roll in the tradition of The Who’s Tommy. Joe’s Garage, Act I and Acts II & III are release numbers 28 & 29 in Zappa’s 62-album discography.

1979 was a very productive year for Zappa. He released seven LPs’ worth of new material in the course of a year. Joe’s Garage was comprised of 3 records – Act I was released in September and Act II & Act III were released together two months later. This particular outing is a brilliant mix of stellar musicianship, social commentary, melodic pieces, scathing lyrics, guitar improvisation, detailed production and humor. It is highly creative, imaginative and above all, quite a bit of fun. Joe’s Garage is noted for its use of “Xenochrony”, a recording technique created by Zappa that takes guitar solos from older live recordings and overdubs them onto newer studio recordings to produce random musical coincidences. Zappa described this album as a stupid little story about how the government is going to do away with music.

Frank Zappa moved into Village Recorders on April 11, 1979 planning to record a couple of songs and leave. By the first of June, he and his entourage had completed a dozen tunes. According to one studio staffer, Zappa claimed to have exhausted his supply of written material, but asked to extend his stay nonetheless. “I’m going home and writing an opera this weekend,” he told the skeptical staff. The following Monday, he was back in the studio with Joe’s Garage. This concept piece wove the material Zappa had already recorded with other songs he’d written over the weekend.


Joe’s Garage Acts I, II & III by Frank Zappa
Released: Act I released on September 17, 1979 (Zappa Records)
Acts II & III released on November 19, 1979 (Zappa Records)
Produced by: Frank Zappa
Recorded: Villiage Recorders, Hollywood, CA, April-August, 1979
Joe’s Garage, Act I
Act I, Side 1: Joe’s Exploits Act I, Side 2: Sex and Side Gigs
The Central Scrutinizer
Joe’s Garage
Catholic Girls
Crew Slut
Wet T-Shirt Nite
Toad-O Line
Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?
Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up
Scrutinizer Postlude
Joe’s Garage, Acts II & III
Act II, Side 1: The Closet Act II, Side 2: Prison
A Token of My Extreme
Stick It Out
Sy Borg
Dong Work for Yuda
Keep It Greasy
Outside Now
Act III, Side 1: Dystopian Society Act III, Side 2: Imaginary Guitar Notes
He Used to Cut the Grass
Packard Goose
Watermelon in Easter Hay
A Little Green Rosetta
Musicians
Frank Zappa – Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar
Warren Cuccurullo – Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Denny Walley – Slide Guitar, Vocals
Peter Wolf – Keyboards
Tommy Mars – Keyboards
Arthur Barrow – Bass, Guitar
Patrick O’Hearn – Bass
Ed Mann – Percussion, Vocals
Vinnie Colaiuta – Drums, Combustible Vapors, Optometric Abandon
Jeff Hollie – Tenor Sax
Earle Dumler – Baritone Sax
Bill Nugent – Bass Sax
Craig Steward – Harmonica
Ike Willis, Dale Bozzio, Al Malkin, Terry Bozzio, and The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen – Vocals & Chorus

 

The rock opera starts with a spoken word narrative by “The Central Scrutinizer”. The narrator tells us what can happen if we choose a career in music. He warns us that it will not be an easy life if we chose to go down that path. The protagonist, Joe, doesn’t heed the government’s warning and sets out on his journey on the title track, “Joe’s Garage”. This song accurately describes a typical teenager’s first trip to his friends’ garage to jam with his buddies. The plot chronicles the journey from the first band practice to the eventual record deal, followed by changing musical trends, the subsequent loss of the record deal, and then nostalgia for the innocence of the old garage days.

Joe’s band starts getting their first gigs at church functions and Joe sings about the virtues of their original fans, the “Catholic Girls”, in this intricate drum-workout song with the 9/16 time signature breaks. Zappa name checks two members of his band, master drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, later of Missing Persons and Duran Duran fame. The story introduces a new character, Mary, who is the innocent “Catholic Girl” of the aforementioned song, and chronicles her ominous evolution in the next song; the raucous blues number “Crew Slut”. Portrayed by Dale Bozzio, a later founding member of Missing Persons. Mary is also the central figure in the following funk-rock-pop-samba, “Wet T-shirt Nite”. Even if the lyrics offend, there is always the brilliantly complex music chugging underneath. Mary’s character arc is now complete. This composition contains a marvelous Carlos Santana-like guitar jam outro.

He Used to Cut the Grass

Following the trajectory of Joe’s story so far, the next song asks the obvious question, “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?” This is a purposely juvenile, AOR-type rock song with lavatory lyrics but with a complex bridge that reminds you of Genesis or King Crimson at their most bombastic. The song is quite the juxtaposition of 3 distinctly different styles that Zappa loves to combine to create his own unique genre. “Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up” is a semi-serious reggae song about a girl that seduced Joe then abandoned him after he developed feelings for her. Joe is getting pretty discouraged in this light, soulful ballad. This is really the only song on the record without ‘eyebrows’ on it. That is the term Zappa used to add his distinct personality to all of his music from synclavier solos to large orchestral pieces.

Frank Zappa Joes Garage Acts II and IIIActs II & III opens with “A Token of My Extreme”. This song has a gorgeous melody and an impossibly cool drum and bass section that people still study. JOE looks to find comfort from the toil of musical disappointments, relief from the heartache of broken relationships and a remedy from the onslaught of disease by joining a new age church – “The First Church of Appliantology”, owned by L. Ron Hoover (Scientology founder). With salvation promised to him, Joe goes to a dance club to celebrate his new found joy in the turgid disco song, “Stick It Out”. Partially sung in German, this is an upbeat dance song that pushes good taste to the limit (don’t play this for your mom!) Joe picks up a partner, “Sy Borg”, at the club and romances his new date over a quiet storm of funky reggae and trippy avant-jazz moog solos. This song may make you uncomfortable the first time around, but you’ll get used to it. It’s good for you.

The lifestyle finally caught up with him. Joe eventually got arrested for deviant behavior and met a man in jail named Bald-Headed John. The melody, rhythm section, production and imaginative lyrics in the song “Dong Work for Yuda” is Zappa at his peak. The puerile lyrics are 9th grade humor; also the way Zappa liked it. Drummer Terry Bozzio narrates in a made up language (based on the speech patterns of Zappa’s road manager) and the song is peppered with in-jokes from the band. It is impossible to feel gloomy while listening to this slow-paced, doo wop melody. I dare you. “Keep It Greasy” is Joe trying to adapt to a solitary life in jail over a drum beat that alternates between 19/8 and 21/8 making it ridiculously impossible for most humans to play or even tap their feet to the groove. Zappa often used funny or crude lyrics as a tool to get people to pay attention to his more complex serious music (Case in point – The considerable profits from Zappa’s 1982 comedy-rock song “Valley Girl” paid for his hugely expensive classical LPs. London Symphony Orchestra Recordings, Voumes 1 & 2).

In the alienation anthem, “Outside Now”, Joe dreams of being released from jail. This is an oft -covered song by Zappa enthusiasts. This one is in 11/4 and has a beautiful ostinato pattern that flows over the symmetrical vocal round at the end of the piece. At this point, a totalitarian twist is introduced to the story in “He Used to Cut the Grass”. While Joe was in jail, the government outlawed music in America (following Iran’s lead in 1979) to save us from depravity and to control the population. This song is somber and reflective and mostly instrumental guitar improvisation.

If you only listen to two songs on this record, they should be the next two. “Packard Goose” is Frank’s critique of rock journalism. Because he doesn’t have any instrument to play, Joe imagines music in his head in his jail cell. Then he imagines reviewers’ critiques of his imaginary music. Funny. The hidden meaning is that fans opinions matter, not the opinions of journalists that tell fans what is good and what isn’t. (Zappa had a hostile relationship with the rock press, even though they typically fawned over his work.) This piece is a top-tier composition with beautifully constructed complex music, thought-provoking lyrics, and a prog-rock instrumental section reminiscent of 70’s Return to Forever or Gentle Giant. Another amazing Vinnie Colaiuta workout is showcased on this track. This song has the oft-quoted, ‘Music is the Best’ poem that shows up on Zappa social media memes and T-shirts. Bitterness never sounded so righteously beautiful;

Maybe you thought I was the Packard Goose
Or the Ronald MacDonald of the nouveau-abstruse
Well f**k all them people, I don’t need no excuse
For being what I am. Do you hear me, then?
All them rock ‘n roll writers is the worst kind of sleaze
Selling punk like some new kind of English disease
Is that the wave of the future? Aw, spare me please!
Oh no, you gotta go
Who do you write for?
I wanna know
I believe you is the government’s whore
And keeping peoples dumb (I’m really dumb)
Is where you’re coming from
And keeping peoples dumb (I’m really dumb)
Is where you’re coming from
F**k all them writers with the pen in their hand
I will be more specific so they might understand
They can all kiss my ass
But because it’s so grand
They best just stay away. Hey, hey, hey
Hey, Joe, who did you b**w?
Moe pushed the button boy
And you went to the show
Better suck a little harder or the shekels won’t flow
And I don’t mean your thumb (Don’t mean your thumb)
So on your knees you bum
Just tell yourself it’s yum (Yourself it’s yum)
And suck it till you’re numb
Journalism’s kinda scary
And of it we should be wary
Wonder what became of Mary?
VOICE OF MARY’S VISION:
Hi! It’s me . . . the girl from the bus . . .
Remember? The last tour? Well . . .
Information is not knowledge
Knowledge is not wisdom
Wisdom is not truth
Truth is not beauty
Beauty is not love
Love is not music
MUSIC IS THE BEST . . .
Wisdom is the domain of the Wis (which is extinct)
Beauty is a French phonetic corruption
Of a short cloth neck ornament
Currently in resurgence . . .
JOE:
If you’re in the audience and like what we do
Well, we want you to know that we like you all too
But as for the sucker who will write the review
If his mind is prehensile (Mind is prehensile)
He’ll put down his pencil (Put down his pencil)
And have himself a squat
On the Cosmic Utensil (Cosmic Utensil)
Give it all you got
On the Cosmic Utensil (Cosmic Utensil)
Sit ‘n spin until you rot
On the Cosmic Utensil (Cosmic Utensil)
He really needs to squat
On the Cosmic Utensil (Cosmic Utensil) (Cosmic Utensil)
Now that I got that over with
I’ll just play my imaginary guitar again
Hey . . . hah . . . soundin’ pretty good there, me!
Ah . . . get down . . . UH!
Boy, what an imagination!
Love myself better than I love myself . . . I think . . .
What tone! Sounds like an Elegant Gypsy!
What is that? Musk? It’s hip!

“Watermelon in Easter Hay” is possibly the most beautiful instrumental that Zappa ever wrote. It’s a guitar melody, in the style of David Gilmore that Joe hears in his head but cannot play since he is still in jail. The expressive guitar line soars over a beat in 9/4 and builds to a climax with gongs, marimbas, chimes and mallets. This haunting emotional odyssey is atypical for Frank since his guitar playing is more commonly in the ‘mangle it, strangle it’ style of the solo section. Even Zappa’s harshest critics confessed that it was one of the most gorgeous pieces of music ever produced.

The final track, the goofy coda “A Little Green Rosetta”, tells of Joe’s decision to quit the music business in order to restore his sanity. He gets a new job making cupcakes at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen (Zappa’s newly completed recording studio.) This pleases the Central Scrutinizer, who’s narrated the entire story up until this song. The song has a cast-party sing along from the band members and staff and concludes the story on a happy note.

Joe’s Garage was released at the mid-point of Zappa’s career and expanded his reach to a new generation of rock fans. The record peaked at number 27 on the Billboard charts. It has been called one of Zappa’s most important late ’70s works and overall political statements. Highly recommended for lovers of liberty. For his performance on Joe’s Garage, Vinnie Colaiuta was named ‘the most technically advanced drummer ever’ by Modern Drummer, which ranked the album as one of the top 25 greatest drumming performances of all time. If you are offended by George Carlin’s list of 7 dirty words, it’s best to skip this fine collection and check out Hot Rats, Zappa’s Grammy-winning, 1969 instrumental jazz-fusion album. No bad words on that one. Freedom of speech can get gross at times.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible”.
– Frank Zappa

Ron Simasek is a profession drummer, former member of The Badlees and current member of Gentlemen East, who has performed with dozens of artists and played on hundreds of recordings.

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

1979 Images

 

Into the Music by Van Morrison

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Into the Music by Van MorrisonVan Morrison completed his impressive 1970s output with his classic 11th studio album, Into the Music in 1979. The album features a large ensemble of musicians and singers to back Morrison’s distinctive, soulful and oft-improvised vocals, with many of the lyrics celebrating life, love and other positive themes. The album’s title was taken from a 1975 biography of Morrison by Ritchie Yorke, which is a play on the song title “Into the Mystic” from 1970’s Moondance album.

Moondance was Van Morrison’s first million selling album and it was quickly followed by a couple more albums which were critically and commercially successful, His Band and the Street Choir later in 1970 and Tupelo Honey in 1971. Both of those albums also produced hit singles but Morrison decided to break from that formula with a trio of meditative, poetic and experimental albums, Saint Dominic’s Preview in 1972, Hard Nose the Highway and Veedon Fleece in 1974. By this point the artist had been working almost non stop for nearly a decade, so he decided to take an extended hiatus. He returned in 1977 with the release of A Period of Transition, a collaboration with New Orleans legend Dr. John, followed by the synth-heavy album Wavelength in 1978.

Morrison wrote most of the songs for Into the Music while staying in a rural English village and would often compose while walking through the fields with his guitar. The album was recorded in early 1979 at the Record Plant in Sausalito, CA with co-producer/engineer Mick Glossop and released in the summer of that year.


Into the Music by Van Morrison
Released: August 1979 (Mercury)
Produced by: Mike Glossop & Van Morrison
Recorded: Record Plant, Sausalito, CA, 1979
Side One Side Two
Bright Side of the Road
Full Force Gale
Steppin’ Out Queen
Troubadours
Rolling Hills
You Make Me Feel So Free
Angeliou
And the Healing Has Begun
It’s All In the Game
You Know What They’re Writing About
Primary Musicians
Van Morrison – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Herbie Armstrong – Guitars, Vocals
Mark Jordan – Piano
David Hayes – Bass
Peter Van Hooke – Drums

 

One of the more upbeat tracks, “Bright Side of the Road”, opens the album. The song is a lyrical and musical celebration to its core and is both expertly performed and produced, even if its single release failed to reach the Top 40. “Full Force Gale” continues the upbeat trend but with a more country flavor due to the prolific fiddle by Toni Marcus and a slide guitar lead by Ry Cooder. The lyrics by Morrison are explicitly spiritual as he describes the feeling of encounters with “the Lord”.

“Steppin’ Out Queen” is a jazzy pop track featuring fine piano by Mark Jordan and a rich arrangement with brass and backing vocals are excellent additions to make this a rich arrangement which still leaves plenty of space for Morrison’s soulful vocals. “Troubadours” is a rather unique ballad with instrumentation that includes fanfare, flutes, and violin all over Jordan’s simple piano and the bass rhythms of David Hayes, while “Rolling Hills” is a pure Irish folk song with fiddle, mandolin and perfectly executed vocal delivery. The celebratory first side concludes with the melodic and pop-oriented “You Make Me Feel So Free”, a stellar example of well-produced late seventies sound, complete with a sax lead by Pee Wee Ellis.

Van Morrison

For this album, Morrison set out to “return to something deeper and once again take up the quest for music”, and this is most evident on the spontaneous and transcendent second side. On “Angeliou”, an otherwise very English folk song with harpsichord, the repetitive lyrics are beautifully delivered by Morrison’s summoning every vocal trick at his disposal, while later spoken word sections are accompanied by the distant, beautiful vocalizing by Katie Kissoon. “And the Healing Has Begun” is another Gospel ballad with a simple, rotating chord structure, leading to the climatic medley built on the 1951 cover “It’s All in the Game”, with a very relaxed and subtle unfolding of the song and arrangement. “You Know What They’re Writing About” is, essentially, the long outro to the previous track which offers Morrison a final opportunity for dramatic vocal gymnastics, where he fluctuates from a whisper to a crescendo.

Into the Music reached the Top 30 on the UK Charts and received widespread acclaim with some critics listing it as one of the year’s best albums. The release finished off a legendary decade of output for this artist who continues to perform 40 years later.

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

1979 Images

 

‘Til the Medicine Takes by Widespread Panic

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Til the Medicine Takes by Widespread PanicThe 1999 release of ‘Til the Medicine Takes was Widespread Panic‘s sixth studio album and it finely displays the musical breadth of this Athens, Georgia based Southern rock/jam sextet in their prime. Here, the group refined their legendary live performances into a dozen succinct tracks which do well to maintain their diversity and dynamics. The result is a fine mixture of blues, country, Americana, psychedelia, and standard hard rock which is still a fresh and pleasant listen two decades later.

The origins of Widespread Panic date back to the early eighties when vocalist John Bell and guitarist Michael Houser formed a duo at the University of Georgia. Later on in the decade, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Todd Nance and percussionist Domingo Ortiz joined to officially initiate the group Widespread Panic, named for panic attacks frequently experienced by Houser. Through these years the group developed a fusion of Southern rock, alt country and Grateful Dead-like improv techniques in their live shows. After producing an independent album called Space Wrangler, the group signed with Capricorn Records and released their self-titled debut in 1991. Soon the group expanded regionally and nationally and expanded their lineup by adding keyboardist John “JoJo” Hermann in 1992. A series of subsequent studio releases followed through the mid 1990s, with the group releasing their much heralded live album, Light Fuse, Get Away, released in 1998 in conjunction with a free concert in their hometown of Athens Georgia.

‘Til the Medicine Takes was recorded at producer John Keane‘s studio in Athens, the same studio the group had previously used for Space Wrangler as well as their 1995 studio album Ain’t Life Grand. Keane brought in several guest musicians to contribute to several tracks on the album.


‘Til the Medicine Takes by Widespread Panic
Released: July 27, 1999 (Capricorn)
Produced by: John Keane
Recorded: Athens, GA, January 1999
Track Listing Group Musicians
Surprise Valley
Bear’s Gone Fishin’
Climb to Safety
Blue Indian
The Waker
Party at Your Mama’s House
Dyin’ Man
You’ll Be Fine
One Arm Steve
Christmas Katie
All Time Low
Nobody’s Loss
John Bell – Vocals, Guitar
Michael Houser – Guitar, Vocals
John Hermann – Keyboards, Vocals
Dave Schools – Bass
Todd Nance – Drums, Vocalss
Domingo S. Ortiz – Percussion

Til the Medicine Takes by Widespread Panic

 

The longest track on the album is the six-minute opener “Surprise Valley”, it slowly works its way into a groove through a long intro and guitar lead. Then, after a single verse enters another long break for riffing, guitar lead, percussion interlude and organ lead before a second verse leads nicely to diffused outro. On “Bear’s Gone Fishin'”, the funky jazz with ethereal keys sets the stage for the verses with baritone vocals by Bell and choruses that are much more rock-oriented to make this song very interesting and entertaining, While most songs are collectively composed by the group, the exception on this album is “Climb to Safety”, written by Jerry Joseph and Glen Esparanza, with a heavier sound built on a rock riff and artistically strained vocals.

With the lyric that gives ‘Til the Medicine Takes its title, “Blue Indian” is folksy with classic country elements throughout and driven mainly by Hermann’s piano. The tightest and best executed recording thus far, this song also features a lazy guitar lead by Houser which works with the overall classic American sound with plenty of subtle sonic candy. “The Waker” follows with an upbeat Western style complete with banjo provided by Keane, while “Party at Your Mama’s House” is a pleasant and mellow instrumental built on acoustic and layered electric riffing and fine drum/percussion backing throughout. Changing pace once again, “Dyin’ Man” is a funky track with looped rap-record scratches and other background effects in contrast to the rock guitars and harmonized vocals, while “You’ll Be Fine” is a short, mellow, sad ballad with exquisite vocal arrangements and terrific sonic execution at every level, topped by the tone of Houser’s guitar lead.

Widespread Panic in 1999

A real gem from this album is “One Arm Steve”, featuring simple, layered riffs and accent notes joined by Schools’ effective bass and Hermann’s animated piano throughout. The double vocal effects deliver the storyteller lyrics, which tell the story of a junky’s adventures and hardships with an array of supporting characters ranging from baseball legend Willie Mays to the mysterious title character. “Christmas Katie” further expands the group’s array of styles as a New Orleans-flavored track featuring convincing vocal delivery and an array of guest players known as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. “All Time Low” is a pure Southern rocker highlighted by the excited, Gospel-influenced vocals of guest Dottie Peoples in the song’s coda, while the duo percussion attack by Nance and Ortiz takes a break for the stripped down closer, “Nobody’s Loss”, a pure acoustic country waltz with rich vocal harmonies and Keane providing pedal steel guitar.

While ‘Til the Medicine Takes only peaked at #68 on the Billboard 200 chart, it was an overall success for this mainly non-commercial group. As the new century began, Widespread Panic developed their own label Widespread Records for the follow-up album Don’t Tell the Band in 2001. Sadly, that would be Michael Houser’s final studio album with the group as he died from pancreatic cancer in 2002.

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1999 images

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

 

Hours by David Bowie

Buy Hours

Hours by David BowieFor the 21st studio album of his incredibly eclectic career, David Bowie forged a collection of songs written as the soundtrack for a new video game. Hours was released in October 1999 and features tracks co-written by guitarist Reeves Gabrels for the adventure game Omikron: The Nomad Soul. The material on this album ranges from soft, lush acoustic ballads to poignant, layered classic riff-driven rock with the slightest moments of reflection to Bowie’s early 1970s heyday.

During much of the 1990s, Bowie’s output focused on electronic music. 1993’s Black Tie White Noise made prominent use of electronic instruments while this the soul, jazz, and hip-hop influence album reunited him with producer Nile Rodgers, who had helped forge great success a decade earlier with Let’s Dance. Another reunion took place with 1995’s industrial-laden Outside, as Bowie once again worked with Brian Eno, who had collaborated on each of the late seventies “Berlin Trilogy” albums. This was followed by the experimental 1997 album Earthling, which spawned a couple of Top 40 singles, proving David Bowie remained commercially viable as he bypassed his 50th birthday.

Spawned from dedicated writing sessions, Bowie and Gabrels had actually recorded much of the material for Hours twice, with the original rough cut of the album being rejected. Beyond the 10 album tracks, Gabrels also wrote and recorded over 3 hours of instrumental pieces exclusively for the video game.

In September 1998, BowieNet was launched as an Internet service provider which offered exclusive content for fans. This would soon be the exclusive home of Hours for two weeks before the album was released elsewhere, making this album the first by a major artist available to download on the Internet.


Hours by David Bowie
Released: October 4, 1999 (Virgin)
Produced by: David Bowie & Reeves Gabrels
Recorded: 1998–1999
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Thursday’s Child
Something In the Air
Survive
If I’m Dreaming My Life
Seven
What’s Really Happening?
The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell
New Angels of Promise
Brilliant Adventure
The Dreamers
David Bowie – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Synths
Reeves Gabrels – Guitars, Synths
Mark Plati – Bass, Guitars, Synths
 
Hours by David Bowie

 

Smooth to the point where it feels like elevator psychedelia, “Thursday’s Child” opens the album with lush, synthesized orchestration and fine backing vocals by guest Holly Palmer. This also acted as the album’s first single. The interesting “Something in the Air” is fashioned much more like a classic Bowie song, highlighted by Gabrels’ various guitar tones and a thumping bass by Mark Plati. The acoustic ballad “Survive” is slightly melancholy with beautifully layered electric guitars added strategically throughout, while the slow rocker “If I’m Dreaming My Life” features vocals which seem to be interjected intentionally off time.

Rich, strummed acoustic guitars highlight “Seven”, a track which is musically steady throughout. The lyrics and overall feel of this song has a definitive Pink Floyd vibe with ethereal sustained electric guitar layers added on top. A similar vibe is continued on “What’s Really Happening?”, albeit with all electric and electronic instrumentation and featuring lyrics by Alex Grant, making this the only track not composed solely by Bowie and Gabrels.

David Bowie

“The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell” is like proto-punk for older folks, with plenty of new wave effects over some simple and steady guitar riffs and a song title which suggests a sequel to “Oh! You Pretty Things” from the 1971 album Hunky Dory. “New Angels of Promise” begins with synth flutes and other orchestration before settling into a Boomtown Rats-like rock screed with a psychedelic backing to the later guitar lead, Following the short, jungle-influenced instrumental “Brilliant Adventure”, we reach the closing track and initial title for the album, “The Dreamers”. Here, some rich synths back Bowie’s deep crooning before the song eventually picks up with various sections getting more rhythmic and melodic before we reach an abrupt ending to the song and album.

While infamous for being first David Bowie studio album to not reach the US Top 40 since the early 1970s, Hours was (on balance) a worldwide hit as it reached the Top 10 in more than half a dozen nations. As the new millennium began, Bowie continued his experimentation with a planned 2000 album called Toy, which was intended to feature new versions of some of Bowie’s earliest pieces. However, that album was never released and Bowie moved on to produce a new album of original songs with 2002’s Heathen.

~

1999 images

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

 

Highway to Hell by AC/DC

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Highway to Hell by AC DCThe first era of the group AC/DC climaxed with their sixth studio album in 1979, Highway to Hell. Displaying the group’s signature riff-driven hard rocker from cover to cover, this album was both the first to find commercial success in the United States, reaching the Top 20 on the album charts, and the last to feature lead vocalist Bon Scott. Highway to Hell went Platinum in five nations around the world and would ultimately become the group’s the second highest selling album.

Australian guitarist brothers Angus Young and Malcom Young formed the group in late 1973. They first portrayed a glam rock image and found minor local success with a rotating lineup of vocalists and rhythm players. When veteran Melbourne promoter Michael Browning later became the group’s manager, he suggested abandoning the glam rock image for a harder rock sound. Scott and drummer Phil Rudd joined as permanent group members in Autumn 1974 and AC/DC soon quickly recorded their debut album, High Voltage. Starting by becoming a successful act in Australia, the group methodically built an international following through the late 1970s. Bassist Cliff Williams debuting on the critically acclaimed 1978 release Powerage which, like all previous releases, was produced by George Young, older brother of Angus and Malcom.

The group’s label, Atlantic Records, wanted a more radio-friendly sound and insisted on a more mainstream producer for the record that would become Highway to Hell. Eventually, Mutt Lange got the gig and spent close to three months in England developing the material and perfecting the sound.


Highway to Hell by AC/DC
Released: July 27, 1979 (Atlantic)
Produced by:Robert John “Mutt” Lange
Recorded: Albert Studio, Sydney, Roundhouse, London, Criteria Studio, Miami, December 1978–April 1979
Side One Side Two
Highway to Hell
Girls Got Rhythm
Walk All Over You
Touch Too Much
Beating Around the Bush
Shot Down in Flames
Get It Hot
If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
Love Hungry Man
Night Prowler
Group Musicians
Bon Scott – Lead Vocals
Angus Young – Guitars
Malcom Young – Guitars, Vocals
Cliff Williams – Bass, Vocals
Phil Rudd – Drums

 

The album takes off with its definitive title track, which portrays the group’s bluesy hard rock at its best and features great vocal melodies by Scott. The theme of “Highway to Hell” reflects the incredibly stressful nature of touring and the song became so successful that it was named the “Most Played Australian Work Overseas” in 2009. Next comes perhaps the most accessible pop/rocker on the album, “Girls Got Rhythm”, which was later released as both a single and the title track of a four-song EP.

“Walk All Over You” tries a bit too hard to be an anthem, especially with its shifting rhythms and intensities, but the song does gain some momentum in third verse, post lead section. “Touch Too Much” has more typical AC/DC good guitar tones by the brothers Young, along with call-and-response vocals in the later verse ad intense vocals by Scott in song’s coda. The first side concludes with “Beating Around the Bush” is an interesting, upbeat blues track influenced by early Fleetwod Mac, featuring stop/start timing in the music arrangement and strong sexual lyrical connotation.

AC DC

Much like the first side, the second begins with tight, catchy rocker. “Shot Down in Flames” has great riffs throughout to back strained hard vocals during song’s hook. After the highly formulaic “Get It Hot”, “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” provides social commentary on “living in the human zoo” and features potent bass by Williams and a slow, bluesy but effective guitar lead. The funky “Love Hungry Man” adds some overall variety, leading to the closer “Night Prowler”. This moderately paced, dramatic song with a tone of fear and loathing became controversial when it was cited by serial killer Richard Ramirez, who murdered more than 15 souls in California in 1985.

With the breakthrough success of Highway to Hell, the group began work on a highly anticipated follow-up in early 1980. Sadly, Scott died during a night off from recording in February 1980, leaving AC/DC the tough decision to disband or carry on with a new vocalist. With encouragement from Scott’s family, the group continued with new vocalist Brian Johnson and the ultimate result, Back In Black, would ultimately become the group’s most successful album.

~

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

1979 Images

 

Get the Knack by The Knack

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Get the Knack by The KnackGet the Knack was one of those rare debut albums that became the singular phenomenal success defining  a band’s career. Released in the beginning of summer 1979, this album by The Knack was, at the time, one of the most successful debut records in history. The dozen tunes that make up this shooting star of an album combine timely, glossed-up pop/punk aesthetics with suggestive and borderline risque lyrics to make a potent combination which struck at chord among the youth at the end of the 1970s.

In May 1978, less than a year before recording their successful debut, the quartet was formed in Los Angeles. Vocalist Doug Fieger and guitarist Berton Averre had previously formed a songwriting partnership and were able to hit the ground running with the new band and quickly gain a following. By the end of 1978, The Knack was courted by several major record labels and the group decided to sign with Capitol Records in January 1979.

In April 1979, the album was recorded in just two weeks with producer Mike Chapman. Upon its release and aggressive marketing campaign, Get the Knack was an immediate success. It went Gold in less than two weeks, sold more than a million copies in less than two months, and spent five weeks at number one on the US album charts, ultimately becoming one of the best selling albums of 1979.


Get the Knack by The Knack
Released: June 11, 1979 (Capital)
Produced by: Mike Chapman
Recorded: April 1979
Side One Side Two
Let Me Out
Your Number or Your Name
Oh Tara
(She’s So) Selfish
Maybe Tonight
Good Girls Don’t
My Sharona
Heartbeat
Siamese Twins (The Monkey and Me)
Lucinda
That’s What the Little Girls Do
Frustrated
Group Musicians
Doug Fieger – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Berton Averre – Guitars
Prescott Niles – Bass
Bruce Gary – Drums

 

By far the record;s most popular track, “My Sharona” features a riff built on  an infectious beat by drummer Bruce Gary, with My Sharona single by The Knacka melody and repeated lyrical motifs that made this the number one pop song of the year. The song further features a cool instrumental break with an extended guitar lead that gives it much classic rock cred and helps make it an indelible listen even after 40 years. The song was written by Fieger for his then 17-year-old girlfriend Sharona Alperin, who appeared on promotional copies of the single.

Unfortunately, “My Sharona” is the only true highlight of the album’s second side, which includes a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat”, the new wave spaz of “Siamese Twins (The Monkey and Me)”, the jangly power pop of “That’s What the Little Girls Do” and the anthemic closer “Frustrated”. The only slightly original track on Side 2 is “Lucinda”, which features cleverly built guitar phrases.

The first side is much more interesting overall, starting with the relentless drive of “Let Me Out”, a quasi punk teen anthem with definite Cheap Trick influence. “Your Number or Your Name” has a calmer melody while maintaining the fast and upbeat rhythms of the opener, while “Oh Tara” introduces a more complex arrangement with animated bass by Prescott Niles which helps give this upbeat new wave song an overall feel like a ballad. The first and only actual ballad on the album is Fieger’s “Maybe Tonight”, with a finely strummed electric guitar is joined by an acoustic and some strategic overdubs and tape effects, including backwards masked drum cymbals, pedal-laden guitar effects, double-vocal effects and rich harmonies.

The Knack in 1979

Then there’s the two most controversial songs on the album, both of which originally contained explicitly vulgar lyrics which were later changed to make these suitable for airplay. “(She’s So) Selfish” features a deliberately slow drum beat through its long intro before getting to the lyrics which have been criticized as being sexist and downright nasty. The hit song “Good Girls Don’t” is built an intro harmonica riff with an overall excellent melody and chorus hook as a pure example of late seventies pop rock. Originally written by Fieger in 1972, the song was made radio-friendly by altering the lyric “wishing you could get inside her pants” to “wishing she was givin’ you a chance”.

With the overnight success of Get the Knack, a strong backlash materialized against The Knack in the music industry. This was magnified when their quickly recorded follow-up album, …But the Little Girls Understand and its related single releases were all commercial flops in 1980. This sharp contrast of endeavors soon led to internal dissent within the group and, by mid-1982, the Knack split up.

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

1979 Images

 

Pink Floyd in 1969

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Buy Ummagumma

Pink Floyd 1969 albumsThe recorded output by Pink Floyd during the year 1969 was ubiquitous, original, creative and disjointed. During the year, the group released the LP soundtrack to the film More and the double length half live, half studio record Ummagumma, and also recorded material which would appear on future projects. The group’s musical transformation became clear as they moved from the psychedelic pop that defined the group earlier to a more refined style which would bring the group their greatest success in years to come.

The group found success with their first two albums, The Piper At the Gates of Dawn in 1967 and A Saucerful of Secrets in 1968, even as they had vastly different styles due to the departure of chief songwriter and vocalist Syd Barrett. As that year ended, lead vocal duties were shared among three of the group members while bassist Roger Waters began to emerge as primary composer. Early in 1969 the band developed a pair of multi-part suites called “The Man” and “The Journey”, which included the earliest carnations of songs which would appear on More, Ummagumma and other projects. In total, about a dozen future tracks originated from “The Man” and “The Journey”, which would not find its way to the public until the 2016 box set, The Early Years 1965-1972.

Released in June of 1969, More became the third studio album by Pink Floyd on the EMI label and it was recorded during the same months as the live performances used on Ummagumma during the Spring of 1969. Used as the soundtrack for the 1969 film of the same name directed by Barbet Schroeder, More features a mix of acoustic folk ballads, several instrumental tracks, as well as some heavy rock tracks. More also has the distinction of being the only Pink Floyd album with all lead vocals by guitarist David Gilmour until A Momentary Lapse in Reason in 1987.

Getting its name from a Cambridge area slang word, Ummagumma was completed by the end of June 1969 but not released until November. The album contained two sides of live material and two sides of studio recordings subdivided into four sections of solo compositions by each of the group members. The album’s live recordings were recorded at clubs in Birmingham and Manchester while the studio portion was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and co-produced by Norman Smith.


More by Pink Floyd
Released: June 13, 1969 (EMI Columbia)
Produced by: Pink Floyd
Recorded: Pye Studios, London, February–May 1969
Side One Side Two
Cirrus Minor
The Nile Song
Crying Song
Up the Khyber
Green Is the Colour
Cymbaline
Party Sequence
Main Theme
Ibiza Bar
More Blues
Quicksilver
A Spanish Piece
Dramatic Theme

Ummagumma by Pink Floyd
Released: November 7, 1969 (Harvest)
Produced by: Norman Smith & Pink Floyd
Recorded: Mothers Club of Birmingham, Manchester College of Commerce, & Abbey Road Studios, London, April-May 1969
Venue
Side One Side Two
Astronomy Domine
Careful with That Axe, Eugene
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
A Saucerful of Secrets
Side Three Side Four
Sysyphus
Grantchester Meadows
Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict
The Narrow Way (Parts 1–3)
The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party
Part 1: Entrance
Part 2: Entertainment
Part 3: Exit
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
David Gilmour – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Richard Wright – Piano, Organ, Vibraphone, Vocals
Roger Waters – Bass, Guitars, Tape Effects, Percussion, Vocals
John Bonham – Drums, Percussion

 

A long intro of bird sound effects gives way to the dark acoustic descriptive landscape of “Cirrus Minor”, the opening track on More. Later on, Richard Wright’s inventive, overdubbed organ chorus is featured in the coda. Much unlike the opening track, Wright is absent on “The Nile Song”, a driving hard rocker, which had some “punk” tendencies many year before that genre was coined. Considered to be one of the heaviest songs that Pink Floyd ever recorded, this track features a chord progression that repeats through six different keys, giving it a sinking. swirling effect overall. Next “Crying Song” pleasantly fades in as an acoustic ballad with a repeated verse and no chorus with only Gilmour’s ending guitar lead providing a break from the repetition.

More by Pink FloydDrummer Nick Mason supplies animated jazz drums for the instrumental “Up the Khyber”, joined only by some slight piano and organ improvisation by Wright. In contrast, “Green Is the Colour” is a bluesy acoustic sans drums but with an interesting dual lead by Wright on piano and Farfisa organ. Nick’s wife Lindy Mason also provides a tin whistle to complete the effect. The smooth yet intense “Cymbaline” is, perhaps, the most cohesive recording on this album and one that strongly forecasts the group’s stylistic compositions later in the 1970s. Waters lyrics tell of a nightmare while Wright’s organ and piano gain full control as song enters its long fade.

Most of the second half of More is comprised of instrumentals, including Mason’s chorus on percussive bongos encapsulating “Party Sequence”, the hip, spacey quality of “Main Theme”, the reverb-laden “More Blues”, the improvised extended piece “Quicksilver” and the rotating bass riff accompanied by Bosa Nova drums and whining guitar for the closing “Dramatic Theme”. Aside from Gilmour’s frivilous “A Spanish Piece” where he spouts gibberish through a poorly exaggerated Spanish accent, the only other sng with vocals on the second side is “Ibiza Bar”, a hard-driving song with pre-punk impulses.

The first two sides of Ummagumma consisted of two extended live tracks each. The best of these is the opener “Astronomy Domine”, the only composition by Barrett in the collection, and an excellent update to the original version from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. This version really highlights the group’s discipline and tightness live and, most especially, Gilmour’s guitar work (he was not present on the original studio version). “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” follows where the repeated two bass notes provide a steady heartbeat for this haunting instrumental led by Wright’s organ-based motifs, which was originally released as a single ‘B’ side in late 1968. “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” provides more hypnotic consistency, this time held by Mason’s tribal toms and Wright’s Eastern-favored keyboards, with the piece getting more and more intense until Gilmour comes in for a wild psychedelic jam. Finally, “A Saucerful of Secrets”, the most unsatisfying live cut on Ummagumma with its only real redemption being the wild drumming section by Mason.

Ummagumma by Pink FloydThe studio album portion of Ummagumma was done at Wright’s suggestion as each of the four members created solo work with no involvement from Pink Floyd members. Wright’s section come first with “Sysyphus”, a four part instrumental suite composed on piano and various keyboards, synths and effects mechanisms. Like the story of the Greek character this was named after, the piece ends exactly where is begins. Waters wrote two separate pieces for his section, which closes side three. “Grantchester Meadows” is an atmospheric folk song with slow picked acoustic laid onto a backdrop of electronic nature effects topped with poetic lyrics of a pastoral bliss from his childhood. In contrast, “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” is a totally Avent Garde piece performed solely by overdubbed, inventive use of voice and hand effects. The closing gibberish rant by the “Pict” is a real masterpiece of artful sound unparalleled in rock music.

The final side commences with Gilmour’s three distinct parts of “The Narrow Way”. The first part is a musically satisfying instrumental as overdubbed acoustic guitars and slight, piercing electric groove on with an occasional rotating sound effect passing through the scene. Part 2 has a doomy electric which seems to forecast the soon-to-come-sounds of King Crimson and/or Black Sabbath, while the third part features a full song arrangement with vocals, piano, mellotron, drums and guitar all performed by Gilmour for an overall decent ballad. Nick Mason’s contribution is “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party” where repeated reverb effects on tympani are slowly joined by extra repeated effects and a background mellotron to add some counter-melody. The heart of this three-part suite is bookmarked by two short flute melodies, performed by Lindy Mason, including the overdubbed piece which concludes the album.

Pink Floyd

While neither resembles a popular music album in any way, amazingly both More and Ummagumma were Top Ten hits in the UK, with the latter album eventually selling over a million copies in the US. Further, with both albums fully recorded and mixed by mid year, Pink Floyd moved on to other projects later in 1969.

In early July, they recorded the song “Biding My Time”. Once a part of “The Man and the Journey”, this jazzy track written and sung by Waters is a fine showcase for the band’s talents and versatility. Each member has room to shine from Mason’s drumming to Wright’s piano and trombone playing to Gilmour’s jazz guitar in the verses and later extended heavy rock lead to close out the track, With so much other material being released, this fine song was held back until it appeared on the 1971 compilation album, Relics. On July 20th, Pink Floyd performed a live televised jam entitled “Moonhead” with actors Ian McKellan and Judi Dench also starring on the special. In October, the group was filmed for another television documentary entitled Music Power, which included Frank Zappa joining the group for a rendition of “Interstellar Overdrive”.

Pink Floyd next recording project began in mid-November, where they traveled to Rome for the soundtrack to director Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Zabriskie Point. Three of the group’s songs (“Heart Beat, Pig Meat”, “Crumbling Land” and “Come in No. 51, Your Time Is Up”) were ultimately included on the 1970 soundtrack, while several more were rejected by the filmmaker and unreleased. Among the rejected pieces was a Richard Wright instrumental called “The Violent Sequence”, which was later re-purposed as “Us and Them” on the group’s 1973 blockbuster The Dark Side of the Moon. This project closed out the prolific year for the group.

1969 Images

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

 

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.