The Final Cut by Pink Floyd

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This guest album review is provided by Merry Mercurial, a writer of fiction, essays, reviews, and the “highly subjective” music blog which you can read at her website, The Music According to Merry.

The Final Cut by Pink FloydPink Floyd’s 12th studio release, The Final Cut, debuted on the heels of a hit-heavy album that had the nerve to recruit schoolkids to chant, in heavy British accents, about not needing “no education”. The Wall would go 23 times platinum in the US, fuel a bizarre but beloved movie, and become a capital-m Moment in rock. In a way, fallout from The Final Cut makes perfect sense. If the titular wall of Floyd’s 11th and best-selling album had been a maximum-security border – penning the narrator in with every last fear passed down from his own mother and Mother England – it came to have more in common with the high, dangerous structure from Humpty Dumpty. There really was nowhere to go but down, a bad break was coming, and nothing would put Pink Floyd, as the world knew and loved them, together again.

The Final Cut was conceived of as soundtrack for the 1982 movie adaptation of The Wall, but a different event in ’82 changed its direction. The UK responded to Argentina’s play for sovereignty of the Falkland Islands with a military assault that many – including bassist and primary songwriter Roger Waters – considered trigger-happy. The themes of war and loss that had been scattered throughout The Wall became the focus of The Final Cut. Of Pink Floyd’s albums dating back to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (’67), this one may have offered the clearest message: the past blood shed by soldiers, including Waters’s father, had been spent like water. The post-war dream was dead.

Production efforts were bruised in the melee of a band that would eventually be known nearly as well for their friction as their giant pig float that lumbered over concertgoers. Guitarist David Gilmour protested that several of the songs had originally been trimmed from The Wall; he couldn’t imagine they’d become album-worthy with time. Tensions between Waters and Gilmour escalated until the two would or could no longer work together. They largely recorded like divorced parents communicating through their children. Completed in the latter months of ’82 across eight studio locations, The Final Cut is the only LP on which all writing is credited to Waters and the only to not feature founding keyboardist Richard Wright.

 


The Final Cut by Pink Floyd
Released: March 21, 1983 (Harvest)
Produced by: James Guthrie, Michael Kamen & Roger Waters
Recorded: Mayfair Studios, RAK Studios, Olympic Studios, Abbey Road Studios, Eel Pie Studios, Audio International Studios, and The Billiard Room, London, 1979-1983
Side One Side Two
The Post War Dream
Your Possible Pasts
One of the Few
The Hero’s Return
The Gunner’s Dream
Paranoid Eyes
Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
The Fletcher Memorial Homee
Southampton Dock
The Final Cut
Not Now John
Two Suns in the Sunset
Group Musicians
Roger Waters – Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Keyboards
David Gilmour – Guitars, Vocals
Nick Mason – Drums

 

The album opens with and continues incorporating the faintly disorienting effects Pink Floyd is known for. While the music is as accomplished and mood-appropriate as ever, there are no hooks, no shower singalongs, no delightful sonic montages to show the fun side of Floyd’s dead-serious subject matter. Furnished by Raphael Ravenscroft, even the saxophone – perhaps the instrument most frequently described as “smooth” – sounds throaty and raw in a way that matches Waters’s vocals.

Waters did some singing on The Wall as well – sometimes to powerful effect – but with him taking lead on 12/13 songs, The Final Cut makes it clear that his abilities lie more in conception, composition, and bass. Which isn’t to say his singing was a bad idea altogether. While Gilmour’s voice transitions liquidly from peacenik lullabies to screw-the-man power anthems, it doesn’t simmer with quiet rage the way Waters’s does. He has a way of sounding as volatile when he whispers as when he belts.

What’s more, there’s something about his untrained voice that works on an album that appears to be purposefully unsmooth – sometimes downright uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable that you can hear the movement of Roger Waters’s mouth during spoken-word sections of songs such as “Paranoid Eyes” and “The Fletcher Memorial Home.” It’s uncomfortable that the music bows so low in deference to his undecorated but also unflinching voice: there’s absolutely no place for the political frustration and depression and fury to hide. But that’s likely the point.

Pink Floyd in 1980s

The musical restraint exercised on most of the songs is effective in exposing subtleties of mood. On “Paranoid Eyes,” for instance, the music feels like a brew being stirred in the background. Things reach a boil with the airplane sound, explosion, and jarringly jaunty opening of “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert,” a short (1:16) song that keeps up an album-long indictment of Margaret Thatcher.

The title song is perhaps the most emotional of a very emotional collection; it’s wisely arranged to give way to “Not Now John,” which besides being the most swear-laden of all Pink Floyd’s songs, reintroduces a bigger and more traditionally Floyd sound: prominent guitar, energetic female chorus, and David Gilmour’s voice. And while it’s a relief by this point to hear him, there is little sense of harmony between his and Waters’s vocals.

Though The Final Cut did well in England and climbed as high as number six in the US, it was also the group’s lowest-selling since Meddle, released in ’71. Its lyrics deserved and received praise.  Its overall sound, execution, and very existence were subject to bitterly mixed reviews. This is the last studio album Roger Waters would make with Pink Floyd. The others would continue under the Floyd mantle, against his wishes, without him. They would not come together again until the Live 8 concert at Hyde Park, London, in July 2005. At the time, drummer Nick Mason would emphasize that the performance was a one-time thing. It didn’t spell reunion. He would also, however, make it clear that if the band were to reunite properly, his bags were already packed.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

 

Dire Straits

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Dire Straits 1978 debutBritish quartet Dire Straits launched their fruitful career in 1978 with an impressive self-titled debut studio album. This album features nine tracks composed by guitarist/vocalist Mark Knopfler who blended elements of American roots music with a distinct guitar style and a reserved, husky vocal for an appealing overall style which found receptive audiences worldwide. The multi-platinum selling Dire Straits topped the album charts in several countries and reach the Top 5 in several more, including the US and the UK.

The group was formed in the mid 1970s by Mark and his younger brother, rhythm guitarist David Knopfler. Originally from Newcastle, England, the brothers migrated to London where Mark was working as a teacher while performing with pub bands at night. Bassist John Illsley and veteran drummer Pick Withers were eventually recruited and the band was formed with a name that referenced to their current financial situation. The band borrowed money to record a five-song demo tape, which was well received by a local disc jockey and the airing of “Sultans of Swing” led to a recording contract with the Vertigo Records division of Phonogram Inc.

The debut, Dire Straits, was recorded in early 1978 with producer Muff Winwood. Following its recording (but months prior to its release), the group began heavily promoting the songs with a European summer tour which created much anticipation for the album.


Dire Straits by Dire Straits
Released: October 7, 1978 (Vertigo)
Produced by: Muff Winwood
Recorded: Basing Street Studios, London, February-March 1978
Side One Side Two
Down to the Waterline
Water of Love
Setting Me Up
Six Blade Knife
Southbound Again
Sultans of Swing
In the Gallery
Wild West End
Lions
Group Musicians
Mark Knopfler – Lead Vocals, Guitars
David Knopfler – Guitars, Vocals
John Illsley – Bass, Vocals
Pick Withers – Drums

 

“Down to the Waterline” features a methodical entry to the album before the full band arrangement kicks in with a bit of a western swing and direct, narrative vocals with ever-present guitar licks. Right from the jump, the rhythm and lead dynamics of the Knopfler brothers is established as a dynamic on this album. Withers introduces “Water of Love”with some methodical percussion. Soon the rootsy, acoustic song proper arrives with methodical vocals for an overall pleasant effect. “Six Blade Knife” is a rhythm-fronted textural song which seems to draw much influence from Fleetwood Mac rhythms on their then-recent Rumours album. Released as a single, this song actually charted on Country charts in both the US and Canada. The Southern rock influenced “Southbound Again” completes the original first side with a repeated riff motif played much during its short, less than three-minute duration.

Dire Straits in 1978

“Sultans of Swing” is the best and most popular track on the album, a true masterpiece from beginning to end. Each group member is at top form in support of Knopfler’s mastery on lead guitars and vocals with variety, movement and distinction between verse licks and solo leads. The song became the group’s first international hit in 1979 with its descriptive lyrics inspired by Knopfler witnessing a jazz band playing in the corner of a deserted pub in South London, and is uniquely delivered as they describe a musical genre much unlike the excellent, rhythmic rock song, right up to the rather ironic lyrics;

they don’t give a damn about any trumpet playing band, it aint what they call rock n’ roll…”

The duration of the album features three quasi-jam tracks of differing sub-genres. After a pleasant intro, “In the Gallery” morphs into a quasi-reggae beat for the verses with interesting drum fills and lyrics written as a tribute to Leeds sculptor/artist. “Wild West End” is a pleasant acoustic ballad with a repeated riff under the verse and chorus hooks, along with some sparse vocal harmonies. The closer “Lions” has a walking rhythm guitar and a bluesy lead guitar above a strong, rhythmic rock storyteller.

Dire Straits spent no time enjoying the success of their debut record. Soon after its release, they jumped on the circuit with Talking Heads on their first North American tour and before the end of 1978 they traveled to the Bahamas to begin work on their second album, Communiqué.

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1978 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1978 albums.

 

Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates

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Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall and OatesFor all the success that this Philadelphia-based duo would experience later on in their career, Daryl Hall and John Oates struggled to find a commercial footing early on. That’s not to say that they didn’t produce interesting and creative music as demonstrated brilliantly on their second album, Abandoned Luncheonette, released in late 1973. Despite only reaching #33 on the album charts during its initial run, this album slowly grew in stature and would finally reach platinum-selling status about three decades after its release.

The duo first met in 1967 while each was leading a separate group during a band competition. They later discovered that they had common musical interests and that both attended Temple University. The Hall & Oates musical duo was officially formed in 1970, with a recording contract at Atlantic Records. Their debut album, Whole Oates, was produced by Arif Mardin and released in November 1972 but failed to have any commercial success.

For Abandoned Luncheonette, the group and production team moved from from Philadelphia to New York where their disparate influences of folk, rock and soul were refined with the help of expert session players to forge the album’s musical tapestry as well as the group’s signature sound for the next decade. Much like on their album, the compositions and to a lesser extent lead vocals are split between the two with Hall & Oates penning just a few co-written songs.


Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall and Oates
Released: November 3, 1973 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Arif Mardin
Recorded: Atlantic Studios and Advantage Sound Studios, New York City, 1973
Side One Side Two
When The Morning Comes
Had I Known You Better Then
Las Vegas Turnaround (Stewardess Song)
She’s Gone
I’m Just A Kid
Abandoned Luncheonette
Lady Rain
Laughing Boy
Everytime I Look At You
Primary Musicians
Daryl Hall – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
John Oates – Guitars, Vocals
Chris Bond – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Steve Gelfand – Bass
Bernard Purdie – Drums, Percussion

The album begin’s with Hall’s “When the Morning Comes”, a subtle acoustic reggae beat sprinkled with a cool mellotron by Chris Bond . It allows plenty of room for Hall’s vocals to expand through his generous range. Rhythmically, the song is kept moving by the drums of the legendary Bernard Purdie. Oats provides his initial composition with “Had I Known You Better Then”, a folk singer/songwriter type song with just a hint of the rock n’ soul sound driven by a slight electric piano by Hall. “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)” has a fine, unique musical groove, highlighted by the saxophone lead of Joe Farrell and the main lyrical subject appears to be Hall’s girlfriend Sara Allen, the later subject of the 1976 hit song “Sara Smile”.

Another future hit for the duo is the fantastic “She’s Gone”, the true classic song from album. With a building arrangement starting with Steve Gelfand‘s bass and the subtle soul piano. A true duet, the atmosphere continues building atmosphere through its duration with horns introducing the strong outro section. Although released in 1974 as a single, it wouldn’t chart until it was re-released two years later, when it became a Top Ten hit in 1976. “I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)” revisits the somewhat tacky acoustic folk/rock by Oates, albeit with good harmonies throughout and an interesting use of keyboards.

Hall and Oates, 1973

The album’s title song commences the original side two, as a nostalgic storyteller suite interesting arrangement of piano, horns and further orchestration. “Abandoned Luncheonette” rapidly shifts a few times in style and shift, expressing the past moments of the now defunct location. “Lady Rain” is a funky folk tune with good combined vocals and an interesting dark string arrangement and bluesy guitar licks by Hugh McCracken, while the simple ballad “Laughing Boy” features Hall solo on piano and vocals and just some very subtle orchestration, providing a mood which sounds like it would fit better in a thematic or concept album. The extended closer
“Everytime I Look At You” starts as an upbeat funk/rocker with a heavy guitar and bass presence that make this heavier than anything else on this album. Hall provides an excellent guitar lead before Hall’s climatic vocal part followed by and unexpected outro of banjo and fiddle to an escalating tempo to finish the album.

Both Hall & Oates have allegedly cited Abandoned Luncheonette as their favorite album in their catalog. The duo released their third album, War Babies, in 1974 before moving on to RCA Records and much success in subsequent years.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

Infidels by Bob Dylan

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Infidels by Bob DylanIn 1983, Bob Dylan released his studio album, Infidels. With this, Dylan received his highest critical and commercial success in nearly a decade. Still, through time, Infidels received criticism for not including some classic tracks like “Foot of Pride”, “Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart” and “Blind Willie McTell”, which were both recorded for this album but ultimately omitted. The latter of these would not be released until an outtakes album in 1991 but has come to be considered a true classic in Dylan’s expansive portfolio.

Late in the 1970s, Dylan became an evangelical Christian and, after dedicating three months of discipleship, he decided to release a trilogy of Gospel influenced music. Slow Train Coming (1979) was well-received critically, won Dylan a Grammy award for the song “Gotta Serve Somebody”, and marked his first work with Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler. The subsequent albums Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981) were less regarded by critics and fans.

Co-produced by Knofler, Infidels was seen as a return to Dylan’s secular music roots. He initially wanted to self-produce the album but capitulated due to his lack of knowledge of emerging recording technology. Dylan had spoken with David Bowie, Frank Zappa, and Elvis Costello about producing this album before hiring Knopfler.

 


Infidels by Bob Dylan
Released: October 27, 1983 (Columbia)
Produced by: Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan
Recorded: The Power Station, New York City, April-May 1983
Side One Side Two
Jokerman
Sweetheart Like You
Neighborhood Bully
License to Kill
Man of Peace
Union Sundown
I and I
Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight
Primary Musicians
Bob Dylan – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Harmonica
Mark Knopfler – Guitars
Mick Taylor – Guitars
Alan Clark – Piano, Keyboards
Robbie Shakespeare – Bass
Sly Dunbar – Drums, Percussion

 

The album begins with its strongest tune, “Jokerman”, which is musically led by Robbie Shakespeare‘s thumping bass and the subtle duo guitars of Knopfler and former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. Meanwhile, Dylan provides potent lyrics and great melody and, although very repetitive, the song has much forward motion due to the increasing vocal intensity as well as the subtle building of musical arrangement and fine harmonica leads late in the song. Released as a single in 1984, “Jokerman” simultaneously spawned Dylan’s MTV-era music video. “Sweetheart Like You” follows as a rather standard ballad with a good hook. Knofler’s influence is very evident in its arrangement which also features keyboardist Alan Clark.

Much of the material on Infidels has a solid rock or pop arrangement, displaying how far musically Dylan had strayed from the folk or roots based music he proliferated in the 1960s while still touching on the topical issues of the day. “Neighborhood Bully” has a new wave edge with a bit of Southern-style guitar slide while lyrically using sarcasm to defend Israel’s right to exist. “License to Kill” closes the first side as a slow and steady rocker with plenty of twangy and guitar motion with lyrics that address man’s relationship to the environment.

Bob Dylan in 1983

The surprising rock arrangements continue into the second side with the layered electric guitar riffs, Hammond organ of “Man of Peace” and the crisp rocker “Union Sundown”, with Clark providing some nice rocking piano in mix and guest Clydie King adding some backing vocals. “I and I” is an interesting tune with subtle verses and more forceful choruses, making it perhaps the best song on the album’s second side. The album concludes with the pleasant, upbeat ballad, “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight”, a purely traditional love song.

A gold selling record, Infidels Reach the Top 20 in the US and the Top 10 in the UK. This achievement would mark the artist’s best success in the decade of the 1980s up until the 1989 release of the classic Oh Mercy.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Wake of the Flood by The Grateful Dead

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Wake of the Flood by Grateful DeadThe Grateful Dead‘s long awaited sixth studio album, Wake of the Flood, marked a new era for the California band. Their first studio album in nearly three years, this was the first album on their independent Grateful Dead Records label as well as the first to feature the couple Keith Godchaux on piano and keyboards and Donna Jean Godchaux on backing vocals. This seven track album features compositions which draw from a blend of influences, ranging from the roots genres of country, folk and ragtime to a seventies modern fusion of funk and jazz rock.

In 1970, the Grateful Dead released two critically acclaimed studio albums, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, where they scaled back their sound with heavy folk and country influences. Following this breakthrough success, the band did extensive worldwide touring and would release three live albums in three years – Grateful Dead in 1971, Europe ’72 in 1972, and Bear’s Choice in 1973. Keith Godchaux joined the group in 1971 as a pianist alongside founding keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, when Pigpen was moved exclusively to Hammond B3 organ at the time. In 1972, McKernan’s health deteriorated, leaving him unable tour, and  ultimately lose his life in March 1973 due to complications from liver damage. Percussionist Micky Hart also temporarily left the band during this era, leaving drummer Bill Kreutzmann as the sole member behind the skins.

In August 1973, the Grateful Dead took a break from touring to record studio versions of new songs which had been in live rotation. The band chose to record Wake of the Flood at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, near their Bay area home base. The band self produced the album along with help from staff engineers and recorded everything is less than two weeks.


Wake of the Flood by The Grateful Dead
Released: October 15, 1973 (Grateful Dead)
Produced by: The Grateful Dead
Recorded: The Record Plant, Sausalito, CA, August, 1973
Side One Side Two
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Let Me Sing Your Blues Away
Row Jimmy
Stella Blue
Here Comes Sunshine
Eyes of the World
Weather Report Suite
Group Musicians
Jerry Garcia – Guitars, Vocals
Bob Weir – Guitars, Vocals
Keith Godchaux – Keyboards, Vocals
Phil Lesh – Bass
Bill Kreutzmann – Drums, Percussion

Sonically, Wake of the Flood moves from very simple to more complex as the album moves along. The opening “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” has a real loose, live feel as a down-home bluegrass track featuring the fiddle of guest Vassar Clements throughout. Jerry Garcia‘s lead vocals are somewhat low in the mix of this track which likely got its title as a play on “Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champs”, a mid-sixties bluegrass group started by Garcia, McKernan and guitarist Bob Weir. “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” introduces Keith Godchaux to the listening audience as lead vocalist and co-writer with lyricist Robert Hunter. The first single from this album, this song has some strong melodic ideas and harmonies which are not completely formed on this recording.

Garcia’s complex and rhythmic “Row Jimmy” is the first sonically satisfying song on the album as a ballad accented with clavichord and percussion to complement the usual fine bass by Phil Lesh along with dual guitar licks. The exquisite “Stella Blue” is the best showcase of Garcia’s emotional vocals and is an overall well produced and tight ballad with an original and beautiful vibe with Hunter’s lyrics telling a story of lost love and sadness.

Grateful Dead in 1973

The album’s second side starts with the song that gives album its title. “Here Comes Sunshine” features another rich musical mix with an optimistic story of better days to come. The funky track “Eyes of the World” furthers the group’s sonic advancement into the fine mixes which they would display later in the 1970s, with great chord progressions, rudiments, rhythms and lead guitar. This leads to the album closer, Weir’s fantastic, three part “Weather Report Suite”, which showcases incredible, layered guitars and a smoothly put together and exquisitely produced jazz-influenced musical journey throughout. The “Prelude” section is an acoustic instrumental with slowly building rhythmic accompaniment, leading to “Part I”, featuring lyrics by guest Eric Andersen. The song addresses the seasons, and their relationship to the narrator’s state of mind. “Part II (Let it Grow)” feature’s Weir’s longtime lyrical partner John Perry Barlow and is the most upbeat part of the suite with music is perfectly laid out with various elements, including rich horns and a closing dual sax and harmonica lead, all making for a fine closing of this album.

Reaching the Top 20, Wake of the Flood fared better on the pop charts than any previous studio album. The Grateful Dead Records did not last all that long, collapsing in 1976, which resulted in this album all but disappearing from the marketplace for about a dozen years until it was issued on CD in the late 1980s.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

Rattle and Hum by U2

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Rattle and Hum by U2With some major commercial success in the bag by 1988, U2 decided to try something different. The ambitious double length LP Rattle and Hum is a hybrid of new studio tracks and live recordings comprised of select cover songs and previously released originals and this record was released along with a companion documentary film. The result is a collection that is both interesting and entertaining as well as uneven and disjointed, all of which was reflected in the album’s mixed critical reception.

The idea for this album was spawned in mid 1987 during the tour supporting their highly acclaimed and commercially successful The Joshua Tree. Film director Phil Joanou pitched the idea to the band and they ultimately chose a late 1987 show  at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado as the concert to film and record the bulk of the live material. The project’s title was derived from a lyric from the song “Bullet the Blue Sky”, which appears here as one of the live tracks.

Rattle and Hum was produced by Jimmy Iovine, with studio tracks recorded at several studios, including the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Much of this new studio material incorporated elements of American roots music such as folk, blues, Gospel and soul into U2’s distinct rhythmic sound.


Rattle and Hum by U2
Released: October 10, 1988 (Island)
Produced by: Jimmy Iovine
Recorded: Sun Studio, Memphis, TN; Point Depot, Danesmoat & STS Studios, Dublin, Ireland; A&M Studios & Ocean Way, Los Angeles; McNichols Arena, Denver, CO; Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ; 1987-1988
Side One Side Two
Helter Skelter (Live)
Van Diemen’s Land
Desire
Hawkmoon 269
All Along the Watchtower (Live)
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Live)
Freedom for My People
Silver and Gold (Live)
Pride (Live)
Side Three Side Four
Angel of Harlem
Love Rescue Me
When Love Comes to Town
Heartland
God Part II
The Star Spangled Banner
Bullet the Blue Sky” (Live)
All I Want Is You
Group Musicians
Bono – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
The Edge – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Adam Clayton – Bass
Larry Mullen, Jr. – Drums, Percussion

The album opens with an odd sequence of songs, starting with a live cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”, which is a bit smoother, cleaner and calmer than McCartney’s original. Next comes “Van Diemen’s Land”, featuring guitarist The Edge on lead vocals for this sparse arrangement with picked electric and much reverb. The lead single from the album, “Desire” is the first place where the heart of the album is reached with a Bo Diddley-like rhythm working well as bedding for Bono‘s soaring vocals and fine harmonica. The song reached the Top 5 in the US and later won a Grammy Award. “Hawkmoon 269” finishes the original first side as a methodical track, built on repeated rhythms and lyrical motifs along with fine overdubbed, layered guitars.

The album’s second side features all live tracks, starting with a cover of Bob Dylans‘s “All Along the Watchtower”, recorded in San Francisco. Although upbeat throughout, the overall vibe is rather lethargic, not even coming close to capturing the magic of the Hendrix version on Electric Ladyland. “Silver and Gold” is a strong rocker with a folk-like lyrical delivery and a strong bass presence by Adam Clayton along with an explosive ending guitar lead by The Edge. Also included on side two are live versions of previous U2 hits “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, with the former track featuring a Gospel-like arrangement with a chorus by The New Voices of Freedom.

U2 in 1988

The third side of Rattle and Hum is the album’s finest, starting with the exquisite “Angel of Harlem”, a fine, lyrically rich Soul rendition which shows the group’s musical versatility. Released as the album’s second single, the song was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. “Love Rescue Me” was co-written by Bono and Bob Dylan and it slowly fades in with harmonica and picked electric guitar. Arranged like a classic ballad, the track is quiet during the verses, exploding during choruses where Dylan joins Bono on vocals, and later on features The Memphis Horns. “When Love Comes to Town” features B.B. King on lead guitar and co-lead vocals and is held together with Clayton’s thumping bass and rolling drums by Larry Mullen, Jr., all adding further unique elements to this album’s potpourri of sound. “Heartland” closes the side through a slow, methodical intro before slowly building towards a full-throated, high octave chorus and arrangement.

The fourth and final side commences with “God Part II”, an intense, rhythmic rocker with some dance elements and the chorus hook “I Believe In Love”. The song was written by Bono as a sort of sequel to John Lennon’s song “God” from his 1970 album Plastic Ono Band. After a short inclusion of Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock performance of “The Star Spangled Banner”, comes the climatic live track “Bullet the Blue Sky”, recorded at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, featuring a persistent, mechanical motion. The album concludes with the ballad “All I Want Is You” with fine sonic effects over simple, strummed guitars along with an orchestral arrangement which adds to the song’s beauty.

Despite the critical panning, Rattle and Hum topped the charts in over a half dozen countries and went on to sell over 14 million copies worldwide. It also marked the end of an era for the group as they headed into the 1990s and forged a new sound on future albums.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1988 albums.

1988 Images

 

Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo Dolls

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Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo DollsIt took six albums and over a decade for Goo Goo Dolls to be propelled into international success and 1998’s Dizzy Up the Girl was that ultimate catalyst. This album features more upbeat and pop-oriented compositions than the group had recorded on their five previous albums and no doubt this helped the record to achieve its stellar commercial success. It has sold more than four million copies and reached the Top 20 on album charts in several countries.

This Buffalo, New York based group was formed in the mid 1980s by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Rzeznik and bassist/vocalist Robby Takac. Their name was inspired by an ad for a toy. Once they signed with Mercury Records they used that name for their 1987 self-titled debut album. They had a loyal but mostly local fan base around the Buffalo music scene as they released several more albums through the early 1990s. Their 1995 album, A Boy Named Goo, was the first to receive national attention due to the success of the single “Name”, ultimately fueling that album towards double-platinum success. Shortly before that album’s release, drummer Mike Malinin became a permanent member of the trio.

The production of Dizzy Up the Girl followed a legal battle over earned royalties and through this time Goo Goo Dolls underwent a fundamental change in sound from strictly alternative rock to a more pop and mainstream music. The album was produced by Rob Cavallo and recorded during 1997 and 1998.


Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo Dolls
Released: September 22, 1998 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Rob Cavallo & Goo Goo Dolls
Recorded: 1997–1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Dizzy
Slide
Broadway
January Friend
Black Balloon
Bullet Proof
Amigone
All Eyes on Me
Full Forever
Acoustic #3
Iris
Extra Pale
Hate This Place
Johnny Rzeznik – Guitars, Vocals
Robby Takac – Bass, Vocals
Mike Malinin – Drums

Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo Dolls

 

 

The opening track “Dizzy” has a T-Rex-like vocal delivery by Rzeznik with more modern, nineties rock instrumentation and, although a short track, time is given for a nice instrumental break. “Slide” is an upbeat love song built on some finely picked guitar riffing and later echoed chording. The song reached the Top 10 on the US pop charts in early 1999 and topped the charts in Canada. “Broadway” follows as a local anthem for Buffalo topped by upbeat music and melodic pop vocals.

The first of four songs written by Takac where he takes lead vocals, “January Friend” has an upbeat, new wave rock vibe like the other three tracks later in the album. “Black Balloon” is a unique track with layered electric and acoustic guitars before eventually breaking into stronger rhythmic arrangement while maintaining a dreamy atmosphere throughout. The song is also one of many to feature string arrangements by David Campbell. “Bullet Proof” is a slightly dark, romantic and dramatic track with soaring vocals and much atmosphere, while Takac’s “Amigone” features a strong and present drum beat by Malinin. Following the Takac new wave track “Full Forever”, “Acoustic #3” lives up to its title as purely acoustic track by Rzeznik with some slight string arrangements which may be a bit superfluous in the otherwise simple elegance of the short track.

Goo Goo Dolls

“Iris” is the ultimate culmination of the album’s vibe with its acoustic with waltz-like beat and odd but appealing arrangement. The song was originally composed for the soundtrack of the film City of Angels and as the lead single from Dizzy Up the Girl, the song topped the pop charts in several countries. The album concludes with a couple of upbeat electric rockers, Takac’s slightly punk “Extra Pale”, and the full-fledged rocker “Hate This Place”, which completes the journey of this fine album.

With five successful singles released, Dizzy Up the Girl was far more successful than any previous or subsequent Goo Goo Dolls album. Following its release, the group took their time following up, with the seventh album Gutterflower arriving in 2002.

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1998 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1998 albums.

 

Vagabonds of the Western World
by Thin Lizzy

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Vagabonds of the Western World by Thin LizzyThe 1973 release Vagabonds of the Western World, the third studio album by Thin Lizzy, is a cohesive collection of original style and substance by this group from Ireland. The songs are presented in a range of rock sub-styles from British style blues-rock to their own style of Irish folk rock with some slight psychedelic and jazz tinged numbers. The album would prove to be the high water mark for the original trio of Phil Lycott (bass, vocals), Eric Bell (guitars) and Brian Downey (drums, percussion).

Lynott and Downey knew each other since school in the early 1960s and they played together in the Dublin area band, The Black Eagles, through 1967. After heading out in differing music adventures for a few years, they came back together and formed Thin Lizzy with Bell in 1969. The following year they signed with Decca Records and relocated to London where they recorded their self-titled debut album in early 1971. TShades of a Blue Orphanage followed a year later but neither of these first two albums charted or sold very well. Later in 1972, the band released a single of their original rock arrangement of the Traditional Irish folk song “Whiskey In the Jar”. Led by Bell’s excitable lead guitar and Lynott’s steady, matter-of fact vocal delivery, this song became a a UK Top Ten hit,

The surprise success of the “Whiskey In the Jar” single gave Thin Lizzy a larger recording budget and studio time to record Vagabonds of the Western World. The album was recorded in London during the summer of 1973 and was co-produced by Lynott and Nick Tauber.


Vagabonds of the Western World by Thin Lizzy
Released: September 21, 1973 (Decca)
Produced by: Nick Tauber & Phil Lynott
Recorded: AIR Studios and Decca 4, London, July 1973
Side One Side Two
Mama Nature Said
The Hero and the Madman
Slow Blues
The Rocker
Vagabond of the Western World
Little Girl in Bloom
Gonna Creep Up on You
A Song for While I’m Away
Group Musicians
Philip Lynott – Lead Vocals, Bass
Eric Bell – Guitars
Brian Downey – Drums, Percussion

The album starts with the excited slide guitar over thumping rhythms on “Mama Nature Said”. Here Lynott’s raspy vocals add a further sonic level to this fun stomp with an obvious environmental lyrical overtone. “The Hero and the Madman” begins with an odd spoken intro provided by guest Kid Jensen over the music built on bass and drums rhythm along with Bell’s guitar finely floating in a wah-wah like haze before exploding into an astronomical closing guitar lead. “Slow Blues” is an aptly titled track by Downey and Lynott with several distinct sections, including a funk-based verse and a folksy/psychedelic mid-section.

“The Rocker” is the only track on the original album credited to all three group members and this thematic track may be the record’s most indelible. Here, the guitar and bass lock in for a fine series of riffs and pretty much all of the final three minutes of the song are reserved for an extended guitar lead. The title song begin’s with the traditional Irish greeting “Tora Lora Lora” over Downey’s floor tom beat. Eventually, “Vagabond of the Western World” breaks into moderate but dramatic verse and more straightforward choruses.

Thin Lizzy in 1973

“Little Girl in Bloom” features cool, odd beats and some overlapping vocals and fine harmonies, all provided by Lynott. The song is built mainly on pairs of bass notes that make it simple but very original until about three minutes in when the complete rhythm kicks in with a bit of guitar harmonizing, a preview the sound of Thin Lizzy in future years. “Gonna Creep Up on You” is another basic but interesting rocker, leading to the album’s original closer, “A Song for While I’m Away”. This unique track is vocally like a sixties pop ballad complete with strings and orchestration but with strong drum rhythms that are much harder rocking and give it a duplicate sound. When the album was later released for CD, four additional tracks were added including, “Whiskey In the Jar”, the Zeppelin-esque riff-driven blues rocker “Black Boys on the Corner”, the rock/reggae/bosa nova fusion of “Randolph’s Tango”, and the heavy blues rocker “Broken Dreams”.

Just a few months after the release of Vagabonds of the Western World, Bell abruptly left the band citing ill-health and disillusionment with the music industry. Thin Lizzy used several guitarists in the subsequent years before forging their signature dual-lead sound that brought them to even higher fame in the mid 1970s.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

Sports by Huey Lewis & the News

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Sports by Huey Lewis and the NewsHuey Lewis and the News found their peak of commercial success with their third album, Sports. Released in the Autumn of 1983, the album topped the Billboard album charts the following year and spawned five Top 20 hits which remained on the charts and mainstream pop radio well into 1985. The album is a collection of original songs by Lewis and the band as well as songs written or co-written by composers outside the group, while maintaining an astonishing cohesion throughout.

The roots of the group date back to 1972 when Lewis, a vocalist and harmonica player joined the San Francisco area jazz-funk group Clover along with keyboardist Sean Hopper. Clover had a lengthy career through the 1970s and recorded several albums with minor success in the US And UK. When Lewis departed in 1977, the group became the original backing band for Elvis Costello’s debut album, My Aim Is True. Meanwhile, Lewis and Hopper began collaborating with another Bay Area jazz-funk group called Soundhole, with members including saxophonist and guitarist Johnny Colla, bassist Mario Cipollina and drummer Bill Gibson. In 1978, Huey Lewis & The American Express was officially formed with lead guitarist Chris Hayes becoming the sixth and final member in 1979. After a record deal with Chrysalis Records was secured, the group modified their name with the release of the self-titled LP Huey Lewis and the News in 1980. A second studio album, Picture This was self-produced and released in 1982 with gold-level success fueled by the breakout singles “Do You Believe in Love” and “Workin’ for a Livin'”.

Recording for Sports began immediately after the completion of Picture This with producer Bill Szymczyk assisting in production. Due to reorganization at Chrysalis, the band employed the strategy of holding back the master tapes and biding their time performing at small venues while the label got their affairs in order and were in a position to fully promote the album.

 


Sports by Huey Lewis & the News
Released: September 15, 1983 (Chrysalis)
Produced by: Bill Szymczyk, Huey Lewis and the News
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA; Record Plant, Sausalito, CA & The Automatt, San Francisco, 1983
Side One Side Two
The Heart of Rock n’ Roll
Heart and Soul
Bad Is Bad
I Want a New Drug
Walkin’ On a Thin Line
Finally Found a Home
If This Is It
You Crack Me Up
Honky Tonk Blues
Group Musicians
Huey Lewis – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Chris Hayes – Guitars, Vocals
Johnny Colla – Saxophone, Guitars, Vocals
Sean Hopper – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Mario Cipollina – Bass
Bill Gibson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

“The Heart of Rock n’ Roll” starts the album with a thumping heartbeat sound to launch the thematic (albeit somewhat tacky) anthem. Musically, it employs the faux eighties funk rock that permeates this album but worked well in the mid eighties pop scene. While equally as popular, “Heart and Soul” is of much higher quality overall. Co-written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn of the band Exile, this classic rocker uses a repeated riff but with strategic arrangements throughout, including the mid section where the deadened guitar and bass make for a simple but effective bridge. Further, the song features probably the best vocals by Lewis overall on the album.

“Bad Is Bad” is a modern doo-wop / soul track with cool organ Hopper, bluesy guitars by Hayes and a potent harmonica solo by Lewis with lyrics that are both jocular and profound. The song was written in the late 1970s while Lewis was working with Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy and that group did perform it live a few times half a decade before it was recorded for Sports. “I Want a New Drug” is another slightly clever theme which at once normalizes and demonizes drug use. Musically, there are dueling guitars over the simplest, cheezy-est synth rhythm, a method later “borrowed” by Ray Parker Jr. for the Ghostbuster theme song. “Walking On a Thin Line” was co-written by Andre Pessis and Kevin Wells of Clover and it starts with a haunting synth bass before breaking into an upbeat pop rocker with good melody and a semi-serious message about a Vietnam veteran’s post-war stress.

Huey Lewis and the News in 1983

The later part of the album tends to thin out on quality material. The lone exception is the hit song “If This Is It”, which features strong guitar-driven rock elements, some doo-wop backing vocals and fantastic lead vocals melody and chorus hook. The song is sandwiched between the pop-rock boilerplate “Finally Found a Home” and the more hyper new-wave synth rocker, “You Crack Me Up”. The album ends quite oddly with a cover of Hank Williams’ late 1940s Country hit “Honky Tonk Blues”, which does little to advance the original but is a nice place to showcase Hopper’s piano playing skills.

Sports was a hit worldwide but Huey Lewis and the News continued their rapid work schedule, scoring the Academy Award nominated theme song for the 1985 film Back to the Future and following up Sports with the similar pop-rocker Fore! in 1986, which was nearly as big of a hit as its predecessor.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Internationalist by Powderfinger

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Internationalist by PowderfingerThe third studio album by Australian rock group Powderfinger, 1998’s Internationalist, features a diverse array of musical genres. Led by the finely crafted compositions and versatile vocals of front man Bernard Fanning, who helped compose songs which range from emo-drenched ballads to proto-punk rock screeds to an original middle style which is moderate, thoughtful, original in approach and, in several cases, musically exquisite.

The group was formed in Brisbane, Australia in 1989 by guitarist Ian Haug and bassist John Collins. The following year Fanning was brought on board along with drummer Jon Coghill.  The quintet was completed in 1992 with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Darren Middleton. After years of honing their sound and gaining a following, Powderfinger signed with Polydor in 1994 and released their debut studio album, Parables for Wooden Ears but it faced a lukewarm reception. The group’s second studio album, Double Allergic, arrived in 1996 and fared much better critically and commercially, being certified triple platinum in Australia.

Through 1997, Powderfinger toured heavily following the success of Double Allergic while Fanning then spent much of that year composing new songs. By the time the group entered Melbourne’s Sing Sing Studios, with producer Nick DiDia, Powderfinger already had 30 or 40 prospects for the album which would become Internationalist. Although this was by far their most experimental work, according to Collins, the album best replicated the group’s live sound.


Internationalist by Powderfinger
Released: September 7, 1998 (Polydor)
Produced by: Nick DiDia
Recorded: Sing Sing Studios, Melbourne, Australia, 1997-198
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Hindley Street
Belter
The Day You Come
Already Gone
Passenger
Don’t Wanna Be Left Out
Good-Day Ray
Trading Places
Private Man
Celebrity Head
Over My Head
Capoicity
Lemon Sunrise
Bernard Fanning – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Keyboards
Darren Middleton – Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Ian Haug – Guitars, Vocals
John Collins – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Jon Coghill – Drums, Percussion, VocalsInternationalist by Powderfinger

 

 

After a false start, the opening track “Hindley Street” starts with potent guitar riff before breaking into a pleasant rhythm and groove to back up the pleasant, melodic vocals by Fanning, In contrast, “Belter” is a relentless, unabashed modern punk / grunge track which instantly displays the wide-ranging contrast o the material on this album.

“The Day You Come” was the first single to be released off Internationalist haunting, utilizes many unique sonic features before reaching the smooth chorus hook and backing vocals from the Brisbane trio Tiddas. This song received the ARIA Music Award for Song of the Year in 1999. “Already Gone” alternates between dynamics of incredibly quiet verses and choppy loud choruses, while “Passenger” is a spacey folk song with pleasant sonic effects that found some slight success on the Australian music charts.

Powderfinger

Co-written by Middleton, “Don’t Wanna Be Left Out” is a surf rock / punk hybrid which incorporates a bit of old INXS in its structure. In contrast, “Good-Day Ray” was co-written by Coghill and moves in a completely different direction with straight-forward punk / new wave, melody, pop and much energy in less than two minutes. “Trading Places” is a more monotone, dark acoustic folk featuring some slight orchestration late in song leading to the fine, subtle but upbeat, “Private Man” with great moving bass and drums under choppy guitars. “Celebrity Head” is a fun, Ramones-like rant including great chants of “Oy”, “Over My Head” is a very short acoustic folk interlude with rich vocal harmonies, and “Capoicity” highlights Fanning’s ability to change vocal tone and style while this latter song also contains some musical and arrangement brilliance as it moves through several sections, the most potent being the pregnant pause before the cool guitar lead. “Lemon Sunrise” closes things with a slow, soulful arrangement with layered guitar effects on top and a slight psychedelic vibe painting a mental vibrant picture.

Internationalist was certified five times platinum in Australia and awarded “Album of the Year” in that nation. At the time of this album’s release, Powderfinger was still strictly a local act on the continent but following this record’s success, they began to set their sights overseas, appearing at music festivals in the US and Canada.

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1998 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1998 albums.