Frogstomp by Silverchair

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Frogstomp by SilverchairAustralian grunge rockers Silverchair launched their recording career when all three members were still teenagers in 1995 with the debut album Frogstomp. The compositions and sound of this record continue the popular heavy sound of early nineties groups like Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots while also forecasting some of the post-grunge sound that emerged later in the decade, a formula which worked well in giving the trio world wide notoriety following its release.

The group was formed under the name Innocent Criminals in Newcastle, New South Wales in 1992 by then-12-year-old classmates Daniel Johns (guitar, vocals) and Ben Gillies (drums). Bassist Chris Joannou later joined to round out the trio which won an Australian national competition for school-based bands in 1994. With this, the group recorded early demos of original tracks, with the song “Tomorrow” receiving national radio play. With an accompanying television appearance, the trio changed their name to Silverchair after a C.S. Lewis novel from The Chronicles of Narnia series. The group soon signed a three-album recording contract with Sony Music subsidiary Murmur Records and began recording their debut in late 1994.

Frogstomp was recorded in just nine sessions with producer Kevin Shirley. Much of the recordings were performed live in the studio to capture the group’s live sound. The album was titled by Johns when he discovered an obscure song from the 1960s while exploring a record execs record collection.


Frogstomp by Silverchair
Released: March 27, 1995 (Epic)
Produced by: Kevin Shirley
Recorded: Festival Studios, Pyrmont, Australia December 1994–January 1995
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Israel’s Son
Tomorrow
Faultline
Pure Massacre
Shade
Leave Me Out
Suicidal Dream
Madman
Undecided
Cicada
Findaway
Daniel Johns – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Chris Joannou – Bass
Ben Gillies – Drums
Frogstomp by Silverchair

Most of the tracks on Frogstomp were written by Johns and Gillies, with some credited individually, starting with Johns’ opener “Israel’s Son”. This track was built mostly on a repeating guitar and distorted bass riff.  The song only slightly changes direction in coda as it works its way into a closing frenzy. The indelible ‘hit’ track “Tomorrow” follows as a moderately paced anthem that finds a melodic intersection somewhere between Alice in Chains and Creed. The authentic rawness of this track is the real charm that propelled this track (and ultimately the teenage band) to radio stations worldwide.

“Faultline” instantly launches in a full pace and pretty much stays there until breaking into a series of short bridges near the end and the closing riff is completely different from  the beginning. “Pure Massacre”, with its mesmerizing, rotating riff that drives this vibe, is one of the more rewarding songs sonically on the early part of the album. This became the second single from Silverchair’s debut record and it was later performed by the group on Saturday Night Live. “Shade” follows as strummed acoustic/clean electric ballad with Johns providing a jazz guitar lead preceding the final chorus.

Silverchair

The second half of the album offers even less pretension and more raw, pure rock. “Leave Me Out” has a classic Black Sabbath feel, while the vibe swiftly returns to the mid 1990s with the off-timed riffing and shoe-gaze vocals of “Suicidal Dreams”. “Madman” is a short instrumental with frantic riffing and potent drumming by Gillies as “Undecided” features a very effective use of a two-chord riff, led by the buzz bass intro of Joannou. The rhythmic track “Cicada” offers some interesting melody and movement, leading to the closing “Findaway”, a frantic, punk-laden anthem which wraps things up in a strong way.

Frogstomp topped the album charts in Australia while reaching the Top 10 on the American charts. It has since been certified double platinum in sales, which saw a resurgence in 2015 when a remastered 20th anniversary edition of the album was released.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1995 albums.

 

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Duke by Genesis

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Duke by GenesisDuke was the tenth overall studio album by Genesis and their second since contracting to a trio. The album is made of twelve songs mainly composed by individual members of the band while remaining inter-related in a thematic way (although not presented in sequence). This mix of pop and prog was a commercial and critical success at the time of its release and it masterfully displays this pivotal musical era of the group at the beginning of the 1980s.

Following the massive success of 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and its equally massive world tour into 1975, lead vocalist Peter Gabriel departed from Genesis. Rather than replace Gabriel, the group decided to continue as a quartet with drummer Phil Collins assuming the role of lead vocalist. The group recorded and released two well received albums in 1976, A Trick of the Tale and Wind & Wuthering. The tours following these two albums made up material for the group’s 1977 live album, Seconds Out. However, guitarist Steve Hackett decided to become the second member to leave the group and embark on a solo career and the remaining members of the group decided not to replace him. Instead, bassist Mike Rutherford played most of the guitar parts. Collins, Rutherford and keyboardist Tony Banks soon recorded and released And Then There Were Three followed by another world tour in 1978.

Entering 1979, the group decided to take an extensive break with Banks and Rutherford working on solo albums and Collins relocating to Vancouver. Later in the year, the group got back together to rehearse and record the material that would become Duke. The album was recorded at Polar Studios in Stockholm with David Hentschel co-producing along with the band.


Duke by Genesis
Released: March 24, 1980 (Charisma)
Produced by: David Hentschel & Genesis
Recorded: Polar Studios, Stockholm, Sweden, November–December 1979
Side One Side Two
Behind the Lines
Duchess
Guide Vocal
Man of Our Times
Misunderstanding
Heathaze
Turn It On Again
Alone Tonight
Cul-de-sac
Please Don’t Ask
Duke’s Travels
Duke’s End
Group Musicians
Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitars, Vocals

The group originally planned to record a side-long suite but ultimately the piece was broken up into six tracks. The main riff leads the majestic instrumental opening of “Behind the Lines”. Complete with deliberative accents on its three-chord main riff, the vocals finally enter about two and a half minutes in for this popular song that opened many concerts in years to come. The opener dissolves into “Duchess”, with a long electronic intro as Banks slowly works in a piano arpeggio. The song was released as single but barely missed the Top 40 on the UK Singles charts. “Guide Vocal” is a short electric piano ballad by Banks followed by Rutherford’s “Man of Our Times”, with a tension filled, heavy synth riff and deliberative drumming.

Continuing the streak of solo compositions comes Collins’ first contribution, “Misunderstanding”. This upbeat lover’s lament pop rock with doo-wop elements and Rutherford’s rollicking bass line with a main riff that heavily borrows from Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 hit “Hot Time In the Summertime”. The song became a worldwide hit and their highest charting single to date in the United States. “Heathaze” is an uplifting ballad written by Banks with Collins definitely channeling Gabriel and some excellent musical phrasing throughout. Banks later went on to describe Duke as his favorite Genesis album.

Genesis in 1980

Side two begins with “Turn It On Again”, the next phase of the underlying suite and a song which best encapsulates the Genesis sound at the turn of the decade and is all encapsulated in a less than four minute track. This upbeat synth-driven with great vocal melody features complex time signatures, with a forward motion where the song’s hook doesn’t appear until the end coda. Next comes a trio of solo compositions – Rutherford’s ballad “Alone Tonight”, Banks’ potent and profane “Cul-de-sac”, and Collin’s emotional “Please Don’t Ask”, with fine instrumental backing throughout and a forgotten gem as far as Genesis ballads go. This all leads to the climatic conclusion. “Duke’s Travels” is a long and deliberative, synth-led mainly instrumental with later vocals to deliver the final narrative of the underlying theme, with “Duke’s End” being one last frantic deluge of the main riff theme from “Behind the Lines” to encapsulate the album.

Duke was the first album by Genesis to reach the top of the UK Album charts and it has been certified Platinum on both sides of the Atlantic. With this commercial success, the band built their own dedicated studio in Chiddingfold, known as “The Farm”, where further successful projects were recorded throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1980 albums.

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Here Are the Sonics!!!

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 Here Are the Sonics by The SonicsHere Are The Sonics!!! is the 1965 debut album by American garage rock band The Sonics. The record features a dozen songs of the days’ most powerful and upbeat rock with some flourishes into shocking and unpolished blues with none of these densely packed tracks eclipsing more than three minutes in length. With this studio recording, the group finely captured their live blend of covers and a few originals while at the peak their power, making it one of the earliest influences of the soon-to-come punk rock genre.

The Sonics were formed in 1960 in Tacoma, Washington by then-teenage guitarist and vocalist Larry Parypa. About a year later, Larry’s brother Andy Parypa joined on bass with three members form another band called The Searchers – keyboardist and vocalist Gerry Roslie saxophonist Rob Lind and drummer Bob Bennett – coming along in 1963. The group developed a sound based around simple chord progressions, speed and tonal aggression, and their live repertoire began to pick up speed in the Seattle area through 1964 with the groups internal goal being to “move the floor and break windows.”

Buck Ormsby, contemporary bassist for the Northwest band the Wailers, signed to his bands’ independent label Etiquette Records and assumed the producer for their debut album. The songs were recorded with a limited number of mics, giving into a highly energetic, lo-fi live feel. Prior to the album’s release, the single “The Witch” was released. Written by Roslie, this original track which would lead off the album featured a doomy riff of combined sax, guitar and organ with Larry Parypa’s strained vocals giving the song an edge which made it ahead of its time. Through airplay on smaller radio stations in the Northwest, and became one of the largest selling independent singles in the region.


Here Are the Sonics!!! by The Sonics
Released: March, 1965 (Etiquette)
Produced by: Buck Ormsby & Kent Morrill
Recorded: Audio Recording, Seattle, 1964
Side One Side Two
The Witch
Do You Love Me
Roll Over Beethoven
Boss Hoss
Dirty Robber
Have Love Will Travel
Psycho
Money (That’s What I Want)
Walking the Dog
Night Time Is the Right Time
Strychnine
Good Golly Miss Molly
Group Musicians
Gerry Roslie – Lead Vocals, Piano, Organ
Larry Parypa – Guitars, Vocals
Rob Lind – Saxophone, Harmonica, Vocals
Andy Parypa – Bass
Bob Bennett – Drums

Following the popular opener comes a pair of covers. Berry Gordy Jr’s “Do You Love Me” is pretty close to original but with slightly differing backing vocals, while Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” is an original interpretation with dual lead vocals and some fine guitar riffing. Roslie’s “Boss Hoss” is the album’s second original, with this steady rocker driven by the consistent beat of Bennett and a nice growling sax lead by Lind.

“Dirty Robber” as a song Ormsby brought with him from the Wailers, followed by the side one closer, “Have Love Will Travel”. Perhaps the album’s most catchy tune, this Richard Berry cover features great riffing and rhythms backing a real showcase for Roslie’s lead vocals. The second side features two originals that appear to be about alcohol and drug abuse, the horror screed “Psycho” and “Strychnine”, the dark, piano-led “ode to poison” rocker with a nice space for instrumentals in between the verses.

The Sonics

The rest of the second side features a mix of contemporary cover songs. “Money (That’s What I Want)” is the first place where the group seems reserved as this version is calmer (and therefore duller) then the excellent John-Lennon led Beatles version from two years earlier. Rufus Thomas’ “Walking the Dog” offers a nice change of pace as a bluesy rock cover, while Roslie fully exhibits his vocal abilities on Lew Herman’s “Night Time Is the Right Time”. This all leads to the apparently logical closer, “Good Golly Miss Molly”, as Roslie fuly pays homage to his idol Little Richard with a nice piano lead adding to the overall effect.

While Here Are the Sonics!!! was not a tremendous commercial success, its influence reverberated through the music industry for more than a decade after its release. The group released a follow-up album, Boom, in early 1966, but by the end of that year their heyday began to diminish.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1965 albums.

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The Beach Boys Today!

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The Beach Boys TodayThe Beach Boys Today! was the 1965 eighth overall studio album by The Beach Boys. It marked a subtle shift in production technique and lyrical themes for the California based group. These changes were brought together by producer, composer, and vocalist Brian Wilson who had decided to move away from the surfing / cars / girls themes that had brought super-stardom to the group in the early 1960s and moved towards more mature themes with richer accompanying orchestration. This shift did not seem to deter the record’s pop success, as it reached the Top 10 in album charts on both sides of the Atlantic and spawned a trio of hit singles.

The origins of the Beach Boys date back to the late 1950s in when teenage brothers Brian, Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson began mimicking the harmonies of vocal groups such as the Four Freshmen. Soon the Wilsons’ cousin Mike Love and Brian’s high school friend Al Jardine were writing and seeking a publishing deal under the name “The Pendletones”. In 1961, the band recorded a demo of their first original “Surfin'” and the following year the group signed with Capitol Records under their new name, The Beach Boys. Over the next two and a half years the group released seven studio albums and had seven Top 10 hits in the United States, an incredible streak of productivity and success which left the group exhausted. This stress, along with the difficult decision to dismiss the Brothers’ father Murray Wilson as the group’s manager, ultimately contributed to Brian suffering a panic attack in late 1964.

During the recording sessions for The Beach Boys Today! in January 1965, Wilson announced that he would stop touring with the group and concentrate solely on songwriting and record production. Brian also wanted to start separating the Beach Boys from their surfer image and more towards complex music with the use of richer instrumentation. When released in March 1965, The Beach Boys Today! featured a first side with mainly uptempo songs and a second side with mostly emotional ballads.


The Beach Boys Today! by The Beach Boys
Released: March 8, 1965 (Capitol)
Produced by: Brian Wilson
Recorded: United Western Recorders, Gold Star Studios, & RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, CA
Side One Side Two
Do You Wanna Dance?
Good to My Baby
Don’t Hurt My Little Sister
When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)
Help Me, Ronda
Dance, Dance, Dance
Please Let Me Wonder
I’m So Young
Kiss Me, Baby
She Knows Me Too Well
In the Back of My Mind
Bull Session with the ‘Big Daddy
Group Musicians
Brian Wilson – Piano, Organ, Bass, Vocals
Mike Love – Vocals, Percussion
Al Jardine – Guitars, Vocals
Carl Wilson – Guitars, Vocals
Hugh Grundy – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album starts immediately with “Do You Wanna Dance?”, a late fifties song by Bobby Freeman, updated with rich production and featuring drummer Dennis Wilson on lead vocals. Despite being released as the B-side of a single, this Beach Boys’ version reached the Top 20 in the United States. “Good to My Baby” follows with an interesting rotating guitar riff and dual lead vocals by Love and Brian Wilson. “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister” is the most complex composition of the early tracks, an upbeat rocker with a bright guitar riff, that dissolves into an air of sadness as the descending chorus pattern progresses. The lyrics are based on Wilson’s complicated feelings for his wife Marilyn and her younger sisters.

“When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” is a crossroads song lyrically as Brian discusses his anxieties about becoming an adult. Musically this track is rich with melodic harmonies and with the presence of a vibraphone throughout. “Help Me, Ronda” is the definitive hit from the album as well as the first and only song to reach three minutes in length. With Jardine on lead vocals, this single reached number one in the US, the second chart-topper by the group. On “Dance, Dance, Dance” the group progresses further in the pure rock direction with the strong presence of co-writer Carl Wilson’s guitar and a consistently upward motion overall.

The Beach Boys

The ballad filled second side begins with “Please Let Me Wonder”, with this mellow track featuring a Western-like backing and the usual over-the-top harmonies. The William Tyus cover “I’m So Young” is a doo-wop ballad with Phil Spector-like snare/tambourine hits, as “Kiss Me, Baby” vocals are exquisitely delivered. On “She Knows Me Too Well” Brian Wilson stretches the upper limit of his vocal range in the choruses, while “In the Back of My Mind” is a complete departure from the rest of the song as Dennis Wilson providing solo lead vocals on this melancholy track in 6/8 time.

The Beach Boys Today! was a commercial success as it climbed into the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. Brian Wilson was replaced temporarily by Glen Campbell and then permanently Bruce Johnson for live performances while he delved even deeper into developing new studio methods.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration 1965 albums.

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Young Americans by David Bowie

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Young Americans by David BowieFor his ninth studio album, David Bowie decided to move in a radically new direction with the soul and R&B infused 1975 album Young Americans. On this record, which was recorded mainly in Philadelphia, Bowie collaborated with diverse musical legends such as Luther Vandross and John Lennon in fulling his legitimate quest to produce a solid cross-genre album. The result was a commercial success which resulted in a Top 10 album on both sides of the Atlantic.

Following the release of 1974’s Diamond Dogs, Bowie embarked on a North American tour, complete with a high-budget stage production and theatrical special effects. Ultimately, this tour spawned a documentary entitled Cracked Actor as well as the live album, David Live, which was a worldwide hit and is highly acclaimed as a live album. During the tour, Bowie also became deeply enamored in American Soul music and during a break in the tour he convened some recording sessions.

These initial sessions were from August through the Fall of 1974 with producer Tony Visconti and a variety of musicians loosely called the Sound of Philadelphia, including Vandross and guitarist Carlos Alomar. Much of these sessions were recorded live in studio for a more authentic feel and during these sessions several non-album tracks were recorded, including the single “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)”, a sequel to a 1972 non-album single. Later sessions during the winter of 1974-1975 (including those where Lennon contributed) took place in New York City with engineer Harry Maslin.


Young Americans by David Bowie
Released: March 7, 1975 (RCA)
Produced by: Tony Visconti, Harry Maslin, & David Bowie
Recorded: Sigma Sound, Philadelphia, August 1974 – January 1975
Side One Side Two
Young Americans
Win
Fascination
Right
Somebody Up There Likes Me
Across the Universe
Can You Hear Me?
Fame
Primary Musicians
David Bowie – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Carlos Alomar – Guitars
Earl Slick – Guitars
David Sanborn – Saxophone
Willie Weeks – Bass
Andy Newmark – Drums

The consistent sax David Sanborn along with the excellent chorus backing vocals lead the opening title track. “Young Americans” proved to be a commercial breakthrough for Bowie in the United States as a Top 40 hit due in part to its cynical and timely lyrics and overall catchy energy. “Win” follows as a steady Soul ballad topped with Bowie’s slightly contrasting English folk which makes the whole effect a bit psychedelic. Vandross co-wrote the song “Fascination”, which derived from a song called “Funky Music”. This version prominently features the clavinet of Mike Garson and is a real showcase for bassist Willie Weeks.

While less cohesive than much of the previous material, the first side closer “Right” does feature an excellent short guitar lead by Alomar. The beginning of side two starts with much of the same style. “Somebody Up There Likes Me” is the album’s longest and (seemingly) most vocally improvised of the album tracks as Bowie’s vocals reach for the next level, even briefly going falsetto in the coda section. Then, in a break in genre, comes a bluesy rock cover of The Beatles’ “Across the Universe”. However, there are some distinct divergences, such as the chorus mantra “jai guru deva om” omitted and the song changing keys for the third verse and newly extended coda section.

David Bowie

The album ends strong with two distinctive tracks. “Can You Hear Me?” is an excellent Soul ballad with cool rhythms and a potent outro which dissolves to solo vocals. The closing track “Fame” was a smash hit written by Bowie, Alomar and John Lennon. This catchy dance track at the forefront of disco became Bowie’s first number 1 single in the US and Canada as it explored the mixed blessings of being famous.

Bowie’s foray into Soul music partially persisted into his transitional follow-up Station to Station in early 1976, after which he reflected back with the compilation Changesonebowie later that year.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1975 albums.

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Against the Wind by Bob Seger

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Against the Wind by Bob SegerIn early 1980, Bob Seger completed his trifecta of commercial smash hit albums with the release of Against the Wind. It was his eleventh overall studio album, the fourth to feature (in part) the Silver Bullet Band and the second to include some tracks recorded by the Muscle Shoals Ryhthm Section. While building on the tremendous success of his previous two releases, this record ultimately became Seger’s only number one album as it spent six weeks on top of the American album charts.

With a long and winding career that dated back to the early 1960s, Seger finally achieved his widespread commercial breakthrough the 1976 album Night Moves and this was followed up with the nearly-equally as successful 1978 album Stranger in Town. Seger also rose as a cross-over composer as he co-wrote the Eagles’ #1 hit song “Heartache Tonight” from their The Long Run and his song “We’ve Got Tonight” later became a worldwide hit for Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton in 1983.

Co-produced by Seger with Punch Andrews and Bill Szymczyk, Against the Wind alternates between Seger’s reflective, mid-tempo acoustic ballads and upbeat, slick old-time rockers with simpler themes.


Against the wind by Bob Seger
Released: February 25, 1980 (Capitol)
Produced by: Punch Andrews, Bill Szymczyk & Bob Seger
Recorded: 1979
Side One Side Two
The Horizontal Bop
You’ll Accomp’ny Me
Her Strut
No Man’s Land
Long Twin Silver Line
Against the Wind
Good for Me
Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight
Fire Lake
Shinin’ Brightly
Primary Musicians
Bob Seger – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Drew Abbott – Guitars
Chris Campbell – Bass
David Teegarden – Drums, Percussion

“The Horizontal Bop” starts things off as a heavy blues rocker with an extended jam towards the end. This song was later released as the fourth single from the album, but failed to reach the Top 40. In great contrast to the opener in both style and success, “You’ll Accomp’ny Me” is a fine acoustic ballad with dynamic vocals by Seger, which reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The cool, riff-driven hard rocker “Her Strut” is the real highlight of Side One, with Seger’s treated lead vocals delivering catchy lyrics along with the potent bass by Chris Campbell and the indelible guitar riff Drew Abbott.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm section comes in for the next two tracks, the pleasant acoustic folk “No Man’s Land” with a fine closing guitar lead by Pete Carr and the upbeat rocker “Long Twin Silver Line”, which features an interesting ascending verse melody. While the Silver Bullet Band returns to back the masterpiece title track, the song is musically highlighted by the piano of guest Paul Harris. This masterful composition with a dedicated coda features lyrics which compare Seger’s high school days as a long distance runner with the rat race and duplicity of the music industry.

Bob Seger live

For the rest of Side Two, the album thins out a bit in quality with a pleasant country waltz of “Good for Me”, the old time rock-n-roll of “Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight” and the Eagles-like country folk of “Shinin’ Brightly”, which finishes the album with an upbeat, positive message and prominently features saxophone by Alto Reed. The best of these lot is “Fire Lake”, a song originally written for Seger’s 1975 album Beautiful Loser and featuring Glen Frey and Don Henley from the Eagles on backing vocals. Released as the lead single from the album, “Fire Lake” was a Top 5 hit in both the US and Canada.

Against the Wind reached 5x Platinum in sales and won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. This high-water commercial mark was something Seger later admitted as his goal for this album as he was “gunning for nothing less than a chart-topping hit when he entered the studio”.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1980 albums.

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Bridge Over Troubled Water
by Simon & Garfunkel

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Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and GarfunkelSimon & Garfunkel saved their best for last with the early 1970 release of Bridge over Troubled Water, the fifth studio album by the New York based folk duo. The record shows the artists branching out to new musical avenues with smooth production featuring warm sonic elements to showcase the exquisite compositions of chief songwriter Paul Simon. Despite the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel later in 1970, the album’s success reverberated for several years as it received multiple Grammy awards and even briefly became the best selling record of all time as it topped album charts worldwide.

The duo’s highly successful third album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme was issued in October 1966 and followed by a series of non-album singles including “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “At the Zoo”, both of which made the Top 20 on the pop charts. However, Simon developed a bout of writer’s block which delayed any follow-up album in 1967. Then Hollywood came knocking as director Mike Nichols, a big fan of Simon & Garfunkel’s previous records, sought the duo to record some songs for the soundtrack to his new film, The Graduate, in 1968 with the single “Mrs. Robinson” becoming the first rock n’ roll song to win the Record of the Year Grammy. Simon & Garfunkel’s fourth studio album, Bookends was also released in 1968 and reached the top of the album charts. Both Simon and Art Gurfunkel were invited to audition for acting roles in Nichols’ next film, Catch 22, but only Garfunkel got the role.
This caused a bit of a rift between the two musicians, especially as filming took up much of 1969 with much taking place in Mexico.

Production of Bridge Over Troubled Water took place in New York and Los Angeles studios with the help of producer Roy Halee, who Garfunkel once referred to as the third member of the group. This album also partly abandoned their traditional style by incorporating further elements of rock, R&B, gospel, and world music as well as using more singular lead voices by each singer, rather than the traditional blended harmonies.


Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
Released: January 26, 1970 (Columbia)
Produced by: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel & Roy Halee
Recorded: Columbia Studios, New York City & CBS Columbia Square, Los Angeles
Side One Side Two
Bridge over Troubled Water
El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)
Cecilia
Keep the Customer Satisfied
So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright
The Boxer
Baby Driver
The Only Living Boy in New York
Why Don’t You Write Me
Bye Bye Love
Song for the Asking
Primary Musicians
Paul Simon – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion
Art Garfunkel – Vocals, Percussion
Fred Carter Jr. – Guitars
Larry Knechtel – Piano, Keyboards
Joe Osborn – Bass
Hal Blaine – Drums, Percussion

Like most previous material by Simon & Garfunkel, the songs here were initiated by Simon and next he would work on the harmonies with Garfunkel. However, with the title track “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Simon basically gave the song as his acoustic composition was transformed with Garfunkel on solo vocals and Larry Knechtelon piano dominating most of the recording. The payoff does come with the exquisitely harmonized third verse followed by the orchestra crescendo to close out this opening title track, which topped the Pop charts and won a Grammy for Song of the Year in 1971. “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)” follows as a traditional Peruvian instrumental, centuries old onto which Simon added lyrics on top< This interesting track starts with a distant flamenco guitar with the verse proper containing a European waltz beat and a flute mimicking the lead vocals throughout, an arrangement that carries an air of psychedelia.

The inventiveness continues with “Cecilia”, a low-fi dance song driven by the harmonized vocals over a totally unique percussion arrangement that was recorded at home and placed on a loop. “Keep the Customer Satisfied” is an upbeat, acoustic-driven pop song with rich harmonies and a later horn section to complete to fine effect. “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” hearkens back to their early sixties folk style, but with just a touch of mellotron to give it a “modern” edge along. “The Boxer” is another gem of production, from the perfectly Travis-style finger-picked acoustic guitars by Simon and Fred Carter Jr to the contra bass and tuba by Bob Moore to the wild percussion effects recorded on location at a cathedral at Columbia University by the legendary Hal Blaine.

Simon and Garfunkel

While not quite as interesting, the latter part of the album does include some unique moments. “Baby Driver” is a bluesy acoustic folk track in a style later mastered by Jim Croce, while “Why Don’t You Write Me” is upbeat acoustic folk with Joe Osborn laying down some excellent bass. Osborn also shines on “The Only Living Boy in New York”, a song written by Simon about Garfunkel flying off to Mexico to film Catch 22 and featuring a chorus of backing vocals recorded live in an echo chamber in Los Angeles. The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” is an odd live inclusion here with some treated hand clapping by the audience, recorded at multiple gigs, before the closing “Song for the Asking”, a pure Paul Simon style folk with an edge to become a very short soliloquy to complete the duo’s final studio album.

Bridge Over Troubled Water topped the charts in ten countries around the world and was on the best-selling album list for the years 1970, 1971 and 1972. With this massive success, both musicians decided to pursue independent projects and ultimately solo careers as Simon & Garfunkel dissolved into musical history.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1970 albums.

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Veedon Fleece by Van Morrison

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This album review is provided by Mike Fishman, who has written about Van Morrison for the Mystic Avenue blog and writes about film for IndependentFilmNow.com.

Veedon Fleece by Van MorrisonAny musician with a career spanning 50 years is going to hit at least a few major milestones and when you’re talking about an artist as prolific as Van Morrison the milestones inevitably start piling up. This past Fall of 2019 found many longtime fans celebrating 45 years since the release of Veedon Fleece, Morrison’s eighth studio album and one of his lesser-discussed yet just as affecting works. This October 1974 studio release, heavily influenced by Morrison’s Irish roots and personal life, shares a special kinship with 1968’s Astral Weeks as two albums that mirror and complement each other, in both subtle and overt ways.

While critically acclaimed upon it’s release, Astral Weeks did not initially sell well during a time when Morrison was financially struggling. His next (third) solo album, Moondance, would become his million-selling commercial breakthrough in 1970. Here, Morrison abandoned the previous record’s abstract folk compositions and composed more accessible and rhythmic songs. This commercial and/or critical success continued with his subsequent albums – His Band and the Street Choir (1970), Tupelo Honey (1971), Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972) and Hard Nose the Highway (1973).

All of the songs on Veedon Fleece were composed and produced by Morrison with most written in his native Ireland in October 1973. The album features prominent acoustic guitar, bass, flute and strings with the vocals delivered with an intensity and a narrative approach in the lyrics that is seen less frequently elsewhere. While Morrison would continue to mine sites of remembrance from his youth in Belfast, few other albums are as steeped in that setting as this one.


Veedon Fleece by Van Morrison
Released: October, 1974 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Van Morrison
Recorded: Mercury Studios, New York & Caledonia Studios, Oakland, CA, November 1973-Spring 1974
Side One Side Two
Fair Play
Linden Arden Stole the Highlights
Who Was That Masked Man
Streets of Arklow
You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River
Bulbs
Cul de Sac
Comfort You
Come Here My Love
Country Fair
Primary Musicians
Van Morrison – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Ralph Walsh – Guitars
James Trumbo – Piano
David Hayes – Bass
Dahaud Shaar – Drums

 

Veedon Fleece opens with the second longest song on the album. “Fair Play,” and introduces a markedly consistent sound and feel that will inform the rest of the album with a mix of folk, jazz, blues and soul as well as lyrics incorporating Morrison’s Irish roots. Here, James Trumbo‘s piano is at the forefront, playing off of Morrison’s committed vocals with a gentle melody that falls into place than charges ahead. “Linden Arden Stole the Highlights” continues the album in an introspective mood. Trumbo’s piano opens the song tenderly, with notes of melancholy and regret until Morrison enters, assured and conversational with the lyrics now directly narrative and naming the main character. Morrison sings hard, barking out words, biting them off at times, and utilizing a falsetto that soars over acoustic guitar and strings. His impassioned vocals grow intense when he darkly draws out the word “hatchet.” Across just two and half minutes a story emerges of a hard-drinking man hiding out in San Francisco after having “stole the highlights” with “one hand tied behind his back.”

The third song on Veedon Fleece connects directly to its predecessor with the first line of “Who Was That Masked Man” echoing the closing line of “Linden Arden Stole the Highlights,” now detailing the loneliness of “livin’ with a gun.” Morrison again adopts a falsetto that lends urgency to the mournful melody as acoustic guitar dances around the sung lines. The title can’t help but evoke the Lone Ranger; a symbol of the America that Morrison was taking a respite from but the protagonist here is no hero in the traditional sense. There is a palpable sense of paranoia and of being watched with the image of a fish inside a bowl, an image Morrison would return to years later on one of his many songs about the pitfalls of fame, “Goldfish Bowl.” “Streets of Arklow” is notable as a culmination of the intermingling of the folk, soul and blues of its preceding three songs and the first song on the album where Morrison starts to really let loose. It’s a song enraptured with beauty and the sharing of beauty with another. “Streets of Arklow” is supported by gliding strings, at times murmuring in the background, then swelling darkly, to give the song a strong sense of movement until it comes to an abrupt stop that feels immediately picked up by the next song, “You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push The River”. The centerpiece of the album, this side one closer is the longest song on the album with hard-strummed acoustic guitar and scat singing as strings swirl and a flute trills against probing piano. The journey in “You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River” is partly down memory lane but mostly in the clear present, possibly conjoining images of Ireland and America.

Van Morrison in 1974

Opening Side Two of Veedon Fleece, “Bulbs” is strikingly jaunty with Morrison’s vocals featuring a country-blues “hey, hey, hey” along with some deep grunting that suggests a tuba. “Cul De Sac” marks a return to the more introspective feel of the album. Bluesy piano and guitar drive the song as Morrison delivers one of his most impassioned vocals on record, as he emphasizes nearly every word, enunciating, stretching vowels and repeating syllables. “Comfort You” descends gently, with Morrison singing sweetly, a guitar fluttering and strings entering, caressing the melody, while “Come Here My Love” opens with spare guitar and finds Morrison singing in a more direct manner, almost conversational although occasionally elongating a word. “Country Fair” closes the album with guitar, bass and synthesizer whispering behind Morrison’s wistful vocals as Jim Rothermel‘s recorder remains prominent throughout. The delicate melody and impassioned singing create an atmosphere both restless and calming to close the album.

Veedon Fleece has been referred to as Van Morrison’s “forgotten masterpiece” and its influence reverberated through the music of scores of artists for decades to come. After a decade without taking any time off, Morrison took a hiatus from music following the album’s release and would not release a follow-up album for three years.

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1974 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1974 albums.

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Brand New Day by Sting

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Brand New Day by StingSting‘s sixth solo record, Brand New Day was a 1999 critical and commercial success that ultimately earned a Grammy Awards for both Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The album is filled with tracks of generous length composed through an easy approach and recorded with expert studio production. The result is a multi-million selling Top 10 album that closed out the decade and century on a high note for the former Police front man.

Sting decided to leave the Police (albeit unofficially) after the tremendous success of 1983’s Synchonicity II and the subsequent stadium tour. The trio agreed to next concentrate on solo projects with Sting’s 1985 debut The Dream of the Blue Turtles achieving multi-platinum success. Sting was now an established solo artist who collaborated on several other pop projects and allowed him to transcend the Police as a pop icon. 1987’s Nothing Like the Sun was nearly as successful as its predecessor as was the Grammy winning 1993 album (his fourth solo effort), Ten Summoner’s Tales. However Sting’s 1996 album, Mercury Falling was a commercial disappointment.

Producer Hugh Padgham was originally slated to produce the album which would become Brand New Day, but Sting changed direction and decided to co-produce it with Kipper. The album was recorded in various European studios throughout 1999.


Brand New Day by Sting
Released: September 27, 1999 (A&M)
Produced by: Sting & Kipper
Recorded: Il Palagio, Italy, Studio Mega, Paris, Right Track Recording and Avatar Studios, New York City, Air Lyndhurst Hall, London, 1999
Track Listing Primary Musicians
A Thousand Years
Desert Rose
Big Lie, Small World
After the Rain Has Fallen
Perfect Love… Gone Wrong
Tomorrow We’ll See
Prelude to the End of the Game
Fill Her Up
Ghost Story
Brand New Day
Sting – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synths
Dominic Miller – Guitars
Kipper – Keyboards
Manu Katché – Drums
Vinnie Colaiuta – Drums

Brand New Day by Sting

 

A long synth swell intro leads to the percussion driven verse of “A Thousand Years”, with Sting’s voice oft mimicking the string melody. The hit “Desert Rose” follows and the world influences are evident with an Arabian feel to it throughout. This song, which features a duet performance with Algerian singer Cheb Mami, was a hit worldwide including the Top 20 in the UK and the US.

“Big Lie, Small World” is a jazzy song throughout with choppy guitar and bouncy bass under a fine melody leading to an equally fine horn lead to complete the track. “After the Rain Has Fallen” is the most upbeat and most intense song thus far as a funk/rock arrangement with strong hook and more subtle use of synths, while “Perfect Love… Gone Wrong” ranges from cool jazz to French rap but the novelty wears thin pretty quickly.

Sting

The real heart of the album comes on its original second side, starting with “Tomorrow We’ll See”, a fine track which builds in intensity as it maintains its cool jazz format throughout. “Fill Her Up” is where the album takes its biggest left turn with a lyric heavy Western arrangement with catchy melodies and rhythm, featuring guest James Taylor and pedal steel guitar by BJ Cole. “Ghost Story” at first sounds like Medieval English folk but then morphs into a more pop oriented love song for another interesting track, This all leads to the closing title track “Brand New Day”, as Sting saved the best pop song for last, with Stevie Wonder‘s harmonica adding a perfect compliment.

Following the success of Brand New Day, Sting found continued success as a solo artist into the new century and finally reunited with the Police for a world tour in 2007.

1999 images

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

 

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Fullfillingness’ First Finale by Stevie Wonder

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Fullfilligness First Finale by Stevie WonderAt the age of just 24, Stevie Wonder released his 17th studio album with 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale. This record came when the composer, musician and vocalist was in the heart of his prime creative output  and features Wonder playing most of the instruments along with an array of backing vocalists. The result is a refined blend of pop, jazz and soul using economical musical arrangements along with a somber and reflective lyrical tone overall.

In 1971, Wonder had allowed his Motown contract to expire after nearly a decade on the famed label as an adolescent star. After two independently recorded albums, he negotiated a new contract with Motown Records which gave him more musical autonomy starting with the 1972 Music of My Mind, a full-length artistic statement with some lyrics that dealt with social and political issues. Talking Book followed later that year and featured a couple of number 1 hits, “Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”, which also won three Grammy Awards between them. In 1973 won three more Grammy Awards with the epic social consciousness of the record Innervisions.

Wonder nearly lost his life when he was in a serious car accident while on tour in August 1973. After months of recovering and a renewed sense of faith and personal strength, he got back on tour and developed songs through improvisation and introspection in early 1974. Fulfillingness’ First Finale was co-produced by Wonder along with Robert Margouleff & Malcolm Cecil and was recorded at multiple studios in New York City and Los Angeles.


Fullfillingness’ First Finale by Stevie Wonder
Released: July 22, 1974 (Tamla)
Produced by: Stevie Wonder, Robert Margouleff & Malcolm Cecil
Recorded: Record Plant Studios and Westlake Recording Studios, Los Angeles; Media Sound and Electric Lady Studios, New York, 1974
Side One Side Two
Smile Please
Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away
Too Shy To Say
Boogie On Reggae Woman
Creepin’
You Haven’t Done Nothin’
It Ain’t No Use
They Won’t Go When I Go
Bird of Beauty
Please Don’t Go
Primary Musicians
Stevie Wonder – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards, Harmonica, Drums, Percussion
Michael Sembello – Guitars
Reggie McBride – Bass
Deniece Williams, Minnie Riperton, Shirley Brewer – Backing Vocals

 

The smooth pop/jazz ballad of the opener “Smile Please” sets the warm vibe for the album, led by Wonder’s Fender Rhodes piano and the Latin flavored guitar of Michael Sembello. “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away” is ultimately a Gospel song where Wonder conveys confidence in his devotion and is backed by an array of backing vocalists including pop legend Paul Anka. “Too Shy to Say” follows as a different kind of ballad with Wonder’s piano complemented by the steel guitar of Pete Kleinow, adding unique ambiance for this otherwise vocal-driven ballad.

The album takes an upbeat turn with “Boogie On Reggae Woman”, a Top 5 pop hit which melds reggae with mid-seventies and displays Wonder’s incredible mastery of technologically diverse instrumentation. “Creepin'” is a pure soul love song featuring a small array of then-cutting-edge synthesizers, while the political and funky “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” is melodically entertaining with nice horn arrangement and features Wonder’s overdubbed orchestra of percussive elements. This second side opener also features members of The Jackson 5 on background vocals.

Stevie Wonder on stage

The latter part of this record is where the pure genius resides. “It Ain’t No Use” returns to the spiritually driven theme with the expert use of backing vocals in a smooth soul vibe swelling to a stronger hook while maintaining its overall compositional integrity. The haunting “They Won’t Go When I Go” was co-written by Yvonne Wright and features a sound both ancient and modern as well as a chorus of self-harmonizing by Wonder. With a combo of his smooth and upbeat styles along with great melody and strategic backing vocal chants, Wonder delivers a masterpiece with the aptly titled “Bird of Beauty”, which is also rhythmically interesting due to his fine drumming and Moog bass. “Please Don’t Go”, an excellent, upbeat love song closes the album with a style that forecasts the best elements of modern day R&B, including a fine mix of electric piano and synths and a sweet, piercing harmonica lead to climax the mood before the crescendo of the final verse and coda brings it all home.

Fullfillingness’ First Finale was Wonder’s first to officially top the Pop Albums charts and, like its two predecessors, this album received three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal and Best Male Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performance. In fact, when Paul Simon won the Album Of The Year Grammy the following for year for Still Crazy After All These Years, he sarcastically thanked Stevie Wonder for not making an album in 1975.

~

1974 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1974 albums.

 

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