Nimrod by Green Day

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Nimrod by Green DayNimrod is the 1997 fifth studio release by Green Day. Here, the group expanded their style and sound by adding some subtle orchestration and by blending some diverse sub-genres with their core punk rock sound. Overall, this album packs 18 songs composed by vocalist, guitarist and lyricist Billy Joe Armstrong and the other members of the trio, into a relatively short running time of 48 minutes with each track having a distinct character.

The group’s early 1994, Dookie became a huge commercial success and eventually won the group a Grammy award. Green Day’s 1995 fourth studio album, Insomniac, was a dark and heavy reaction to the band’s new found popularity, which brought the band some critical acclaim at the expense of some commercial success. In 1996, the group launched an extensive world tour to promote Insomniac but this quickly took its toll on the band members and they ultimately decided to cancel the European leg of the tour and spend some time at home.

The group recorded Nimrod at Conway Studios in Los Angeles with producer Rob Cavallo, who had co-produced both of their previous two albums. Inspired by The Clash’s London Calling, Green Day wanted to create a more experimental album and branch out from their traditional “three chord” song structure. About 30 songs were recorded for Nimrod over the course of several months with a dozen or so left on the “cutting room floor”.


Nimrod by Green Day
Released: October 14, 1997 (Reprise)
Produced by: Rob Cavallo & Green Day
Recorded: Conway Studios, Los Angeles, March–July 1997
Track Listing Group Musicians
Nice Guys Finish Last
Hitchin’ a Ride
The Grouch
Redundant
Scattered
All the Time
Worry Rock
Platypus (I Hate You)
Uptight
Last Ride In
Jinx
Haushinka
Walking Alone
Reject
Take Back
King for a Day
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
Prosthetic Head
Billie Joe Armstrong – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Mike Dirnt – Bass, Vocals
Tré Cool – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Nimrod by Green Day

 

 

The opener, “Nice Guys Finish Last”, rides on a two chord punk riff before the bass-driven half verse gives way to a more traditional song structure. While offering a nod to the band’s past roots, there is something more definitively contemporary in this track’s sound. After a very slight violin intro by guest Petra Haden, “Hitchin’ a Ride” breaks into a repetitive but catchy riff led by the bass of Mike Dirnt with melodic lead vocals by Armstrong. “The Grouch” reverts back to a standard and straight forward screed about the fear of morphing from an angry young man to a “shitty old man”, while “Redundant” features an interesting, moderate but driving beat and descending riff pattern, making it the best overall song of the early album.

Like punk with rounded edges, “Scattered” bridges towards pop sensibilities with the highlight of the track being a wild, double kick drum beat in the middle section by Tré Cool. “All the Time” takes another sonic turn with crisp guitar riffing setting the upbeat pace, while “Worry Rock” seems to carry some heavy influence from Weezer, as Armstrong adds a unique rockabilly twang to the guitar lead.

“Platypus (I Hate You)” returns to a frenzied pace with fuzzy, sawed guitar notes and profanity-laced lyrics by Armstrong, giving way to Dirnt and Cool, who launch into “Uptight” with a strong bass and drum riff. It is almost to the point of being  faster, harder disco with some layered, deadened guitars added for an interesting sonic effect. The instrumental “Last Ride In” dissolves in from the  end of the previous track with a simple, persistent bass riff, interesting percussion and sixties-style xylophone, horns, strings and picked guitar for an overall surf rock feel and a really cool interlude to the album.

Green Day 1997

That mood is interrupted by the next punk screed, “Jinx”, with a melody seems to borrow heavily from The Platters’ “Great Pretender”. The chiming guitars of “Haushinka” lead a lush wall of sound, while Armstrong’s harmonica riff sub-divides the pop/rock “Walking Alone” 2:45 – harmonica riff through beginning and between verses of this pop/rock track. The album weakest two songs follow with “Reject” and “Take Back”, which really sounds like two sides of the same throwaway coin.

However, the album recovers nicely with three fine tracks to close it out. “King for a Day” features a ska, or even proto-polka sound, lead by celebratory, slightly out of tune horns and a really inventive blend of disparate genres which make for a fun party song, if nothing else. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” may be the most indelible song of Green Day’s career as a simple, acoustic break-up song with minimal arrangement. This song was written by Armstrong around 1990, but refused by the band for inclusion on several albums before they reluctantly accepted it here. Although it was not officially released as a single, it would later sell millions as as a digital download and soon became a sentimental standard. The closer, “Prosthetic Head”, features simple rock with riff similar to MTV theme and crisp and clean verses with bass up front in mix and heavier, anthemic choruses.

Nimod was a worldwide hit and it reached the Top 10 in Green Day’s native USA. Through the rest of 1997 and 1998,The band launched another world tour and took some time before returning to the studio after the new millennium.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

My Own Prison by Creed

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My Own Prison by CreedOver the course of 100+ weeks on the album charts, Creed’s 1997 debut album, My Own Prison steadily grew from a small independent release to a multi-platinum blockbuster which remains their most critically acclaimed work. The album’s sound hearkens back to the grunge classics released earlier in the decade, which stuck a chord with the angst of youth and the musical taste of fans like those of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots.

Formed in Tallahassee, Florida in 1993, Creed was spawned by the songwriting team of guitarist Mark Tremonti and vocalist Scott Stapp, who had been classmates in both high school and college. After several writing sessions, the duo held auditions for a rhythm section to complete the band’s lineup. With several original songs already written, Creed began playing local gigs, one of which at a club run by Jeff Hanson, who was so impressed by their original material that he signed on to manage the band.

Hanson booked the group with producer John Kurzweg and self-funded their recording sessions starting in 1995. My Own Prison was released independently in 1997 and initially distributed to radio stations in Florida, resulting in about 6,000 copies sold. Later in 1997, the group was signed by Wind-Up Records and the album was remixed for further distribution.


My Own Prison by Creed
Released: August 26, 1997 (Wind Up)
Produced by: John Kurzweg
Recorded: The Kitchen Studio, Tallahassee, FL and Criteria Studios, Miami, FL, 1995
Track Listing Group Musicians
Torn
Ode
My Own Prison
Pity for a Dime
In America
Illusion
Unforgiven
Sister
What’s This Life For
One
Scott Stapp – Lead Vocals
Mark Tremonti – Guitars, Vocals
Brian Marshall – Bass
Scott Phillips – Drums
My Own Prison by Creed

 

The slow grunge of “Torn”, features gently picked electric and elongated vocal patterns before eventually building towards a strong rhythm and melody. Late in the song, the chorus melody is brought down to a very simple arrangement with clean guitar and untreated vocals, which provides the opportunity for one last dynamic blast. “Ode” has an interesting main riff and timing, with Stapp’s doubled vocals in the chorus section as well as some fine harmonies. Tremonti provides chromatic chord movements and harmonic licks. While repetitive, the title song “My Own Prison” is much clearer and easier to grasp than first two tracks. The lead single from the album, it reached the Top 10 of both the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

“Pity for a Dime” has a bright feel through its chording sequence, while “In America” is built on a cool drum roll by Scott Phillips along with socially conscious lyrics and some inventive effects through the melodic choruses. Bassist Brian Marshall commences “Illusion” with a doomy riff, soon joined by the sloshy guitars of Tremonti, while “Unforgiven” is a refreshing, upbeat, succinct jam with an effective verse and chorus.

Creed, 1997

The album wraps with its two most potent and indelible tunes. “What’s This Life For” was written about a friend who committed suicide with lyrics about the quest for meaning in the world. Musically, the track starts with delicate guitars and moves through some grunge progressions, with the highlight of song being an acoustic strummed coda which builds stronger and stronger through each iteration. The closing track “One” contains both the measured bass line of Marshall and the wild, effect driven guitar lead by Tremonti, with Stapp’s strong hook in between. This combo all resulted in “One” becoming a huge hit in 1999, two years after its release.

Once it caught on, My Own Prison became a charting hit world wide as well as being one of the top 200 selling albums of all time in the US. The group soon began developing material for their second album (Human Clay in 1999), which would bring Creed even more success.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

Straight On Till Morning by Blues Traveler

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Straight On Till Morning by Blues TravelerWith a newly found international audience waiting for nearly three years for Blues Traveler to release a follow-up to their breakthrough album, the group ultimately found a mixed reception for their 1997 album Straight On Till Morning. While this album continues along the same basic sonic path as the the group’s 1994 blockbuster, Four, Straight On Till Morning differs in the sense that it contains no big radio hits and the group experiments with differing sub genres.

Four was fueled by the Grammy winning single “Run-Around” and the catchy, quasi-ballad “Hook”, which introduced a more mainstream audience to the formerly jam-band oriented group. This popularity only grew when Blues Traveler appeared at Woodstock ’94, toured with The Rolling Stones and were featured prominently on the popular television shows Roseanne and Saturday Night Live. In addition, several of the group’s tracks were included on film soundtracks as their modern interpretation of classic, Chicago-style blues had become chic in the middle 1990s. In 1996, Live from the Fall, a double live album featuring recordings from the band’s 1995 was released and achieved platinum status in sales.

Straight on Till Morning was produced by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero, the same team that produced Four. The objective with this album was to continue the commercial success of its predecessor while trying not to alienate the group’s core fan base which desired more of their jam band output. On that note, an over
20-minute piece, called ‘Traveler’s Suite”, was composed but ultimately left off the album.


Straight On Till Morning by Blues Traveler
Released: July 1, 1997 (A&M)
Produced by:Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Carolina Blues
Felicia
Justify the Thrill
Canadian Rose
Business As Usual
Yours
Psycho Joe
Great Big World
Battle of Someone
Most Precarious
The Gunfighter
Last Night I Dreamed
Make My Way
John Popper – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Guitar
Chan Kinchla – Guitars
Bobby Sheehan – Bass
Brendan Hill – Drums, Percussion

Straight On Till Morning by Blues Traveler

 

A moderate but infectious slide riff by guitarist Chan Kinchla introduces the opening track, “Carolina Blues”. Here, the verses have a growling, bluesy melody and the bridge section builds to a crescendo before settling into final verse section. This song was also the first single released from Straight On Till Morning. “Felicia” follows as a track built on cool, slightly funky bass riff by Bobby Sheehan and the song is performed just a bit more rapidly than it should but this works on a kind of spastic groove level. “Justify the Thrill” is another funk screed, which seems a bit underdone melodically but is worthwhile due to the extended harp solo by front man John Popper. Compared to previous albums, Popper does less of his signature harmonica playing on this album but he certainly makes due with his opportunities.

A penny-whistle intro aptly introduces the light, candy store rocker “Canadian Rose”, a song Popper wrote about a fictional character when he realized he had not spent any real time in Canada. On “Business as Usual”, the guitar, bass and harmonica form a really tight funk jam to introduce a quasi-rap song, while “Yours” is delivered as a tradition love song. This latter song starts as low-fi solo-acoustic-folk diddy before softly reaching a richer arrangement complete with a string section with a later highlight being Kinchla’s souring, feedback-laden guitar lead. “Psycho Joe” was co-written by Sheehan and is one of the more straight-out pop oriented tunes on the album, with a slightly reggae rhythm. In contrast, “Great Big World” was co-written by drummer Brendan Hill and finds the band back in the familiar territory of a heavy blues jam vibe.

Blues Traveler

Hidden away later on the album are some musical gems, which probably get lost in the album’s excess running time. “Battle of Someone” is probably the most interesting song of the latter part of the album due to its atypical, jazzy rhythm which gives all the band members plenty of room to embellish throughout its six minute duration. “Most Precarious” is a bright acoustic, pop-oriented track with a “La Bamba”-like shuffle throughout, while “The Gunfighter” returns to some well tread territory and lacks in any real originality. “Last Night I Dreamed” was composed solely by Kinchla and features a rapid mariachi, three-chord jam with Hill’s cool drum beat and some excess percussion throughout. “Make My Way” concludes the album and unfolds like a Southern R&B / Gospel track, complete with electric piano, funky organ and a chorus of female backing vocals.

By the end of the 1990s, Blues Traveler met with some personal hardship when Popper had emergency heart surgery followed by the tragic death of Sheehan due to a drug overdose. Although the band decided to carry on into the new millennium, they would not again achieve the high level of success like they did in their nineties heyday.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

Days of the New

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Days of the NewDays of the New came out of the gate in 1997 and forged their own style of dark acoustic rock. This style is expertly exhibited throughout the group’s debut album which features a dozen tracks written by lead vocalist and guitarist Travis Meeks. The first of three self-titled albums, Days of the New was relevant and successful in 1997 due to its fresh acoustic approach and catchy vocal hooks.  The album has held up well over the course of the two decades since it was first released.

The group got its start in the Indiana suburbs of Louisville, KY as a rock trio called Dead Reckoning. At the time of its formation and recording of this debut album, Meeks, bassist Jesse Vest and drummer Matt Taul were all still teenagers. Soon the group turned towards an exclusively acoustic sound and added a second guitarist, Todd Whitener.

After just three live performances in 1996, the freshly named Days of the New was signed by producer Scott Litt and recorded this debut album the Fall of that year. In time, this initial release would be nicknamed the “Orange” or “Yellow” album after the color of its cover and would sell over a million and a half copies worldwide.


Days of the New by Days of the New
Released: June 3, 1997 (Geffen)
Produced by: Scott Litt
Recorded: Woodland Studios, Nashville, Tennessee, October-November 1996
Track Listing Group Musicians
Shelf in the Room
Touch, Peel and Stand
Face of the Earth
Solitude
The Down Town
What’s Left for Me?
Freak
Now
Whimsical
Where I Stand
How Do You Know You?
Cling
Travis Meeks – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Todd Whitener – Guitars, Vocals
Jesse Vest – Bass
Matt Taul – Drums

Days of the New

 

The opening hit track “Shelf in the Room” stays mellow and moderate throughout while maintaining enough melody and mood to propel it to sustain its pop viability. The song would reach the Top 5 of the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 1998 and become a radio staple for several years. Another popular song, “Touch, Peel and Stand” features a more dynamic approach and a bit more tempo than the opening track. During the verses, Meeks’ vocals mimic Vest’s bass line, while the choruses feature some fine harmonized vocals, which all helped make this the group’s biggest charting hit. “Face of the Earth” follows with a bit more complex arrangement and some lead vocal effects, while “Solitude” has an odd-timed, waltz like beat as a backdrop for the now common acoustic riffs and vocal-drone motifs.

“The Down Town” is the best overall song on the album with its unique chord progression and infectious rhythms. The second single from the album, this song topped the Mainstream Rock charts in 1998 and is one of the more upbeat tracks. “What’s Left for Me?” features a finger-picked intro with strong rhythmic rudiments later joining, while “Freak” plays on a musical arpeggio and repeated, honed in lyrical themes.

Days Of the New

Later in the album there are a few more interesting moments before it all begins to lose steam. “Now” comes close to being a sad ballad, softer and more introspective than much of other material, and it features great variations of pick and strums and an extended, multi-part acoustic lead with slightly Spanish style by Whitener. “Whimsical” has additional fine musicianship and unique arrangements, while “Where I Stand” comes in with an acoustic / Western like jam before the song proper steers it back into the grunge direction – this also features some layered vocal motifs and arrangements and some hand percussion during the later jam section.
Unfortunately, by the time we reach “How Do You Know You?”, we’ve reached the point where everything becomes repetitive and even slightly annoying. The low-fi closer “Cling” does little to remedy this, save for the chiming guitars which, while still acoustic, have an almost electric feel.

Shortly after releasing Days of the New, the group got on the touring circuit with Metallica and Jerry Cantrell starting in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 24, 1998. Meeks later criticized this billing, stating that, due to their acoustic sound, Days of the New should have toured with a group like Dave Matthews Band. However, inner discord between Meeks and the other band members caused some cancelled shows and, ultimately, this original incarnation of the band split in 1999. Meeks formed a new band under the name Days of the New and recorded a second album in late 1999.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

The Colour and the Shape by Foo Fighters

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The Colour and the Shape by Foo FightersOne could argue that Foo Fighters are a better overall group than Nirvana and that their sound is an evolution of the sound that was started earlier in the decade by Dave Grohl‘s former band. As for this new band, 1997’s The Colour and the Shape was the first Foo Fighters group album, as the 1995 self-titled debut carried the band name but was mainly a solo effort by Grohl. This album also contains tunes which are a bit more introspective than the material on the debut.

After the success of that debut album, Grohl assembled a proper band which included guitarist Pat Smear formally of The Germs, bassist Nate Mendel from Sunny Day Real Estate, and drummer William Goldsmith, who let Grohl move out from behind the drums during the live performances.

After over a year of extensive touring, Foo Fighters and producer Gil Norton set out to create a full rock record in classic style. The earliest sessions were at a studio in Washington state with Goldsmith as part of the group but these recordings were unsatisfactory and mainly discarded. Soon Goldsmith left the group, which made it a necessity for Grohl to return to his traditional role as drummer in addition to his primary role as lyricist and vocalist during the initial recording phase in California.


The Colour and the Shape by Foo Fighters
Released: May 20, 1997 (Columbia)
Produced by: Gil Norton
Recorded: Bear Creek Studios, Woodinville, WA, WGNS Studios, Washington, DC, & Grandmaster Recorders, Hollywood, November 1996–February 1997
Track Listing Group Musicians
Doll
Monkey Wrench
Hey, Johnny Park!
My Poor Brain
Wind Up
Up in Arms
My Hero
See You
Enough Space
February Stars
Everlong
Walking After You
New Way Home
Dave Grohl – Lead Vocals, Drums, Guitars
Pat Smear – Guitars
Nate Mendel – Bass

 
The Colour and the Shape by Foo Fighters

 

The short track “Doll” starts things off with a very low-fi, demo-style intro leading to the full-fledged pop/rocker “Monkey Wrench” with a sharp and unambiguous approach through the verses and a tad more ambient noise in the choruses. On “Hey, Johnny Park!” we get the initial dose of Grohl really exercising his vocal chops while Norton still uses some creative production techniques during the fully arranged choruses, but not to the detriment of the overall tune. This song got its title from Grohl’s childhood friend.

“My Poor Brain” features some really really creative contrast between the smooth, bouncy verses and the raging, unhinged choruses and this is especially true in the contrasting vocal styles. “Wind Up” is a heavy alternative rock track about the music press, while “Up in Arms” is textural and mellow with fine bass playing by Mendel. The anthemic “My Hero” starts with a rich, mechanical drum pattern with bass, rhythm and lead guitars layering before the first verse. The great vocal hook and chorus riff makes for one of the most indelible phrases of the late nineties while Grohl has stated that this majestic theme is really about ordinary people he has known through his life.

Foo Fighters 1997
The fun and sonically pleasant “See You” is a fun, bouncy folk-rock acoustic track and is followed by “Enough Space” with heavy distorted bass, screeching guitars and thumping drums during its potent intro. The melancholy “February Stars” is a sort of a drug out power ballad, very emo but with not much reward overall.

Perhaps the overall highlight of the album, “Everlong” features a sound which is at once smooth and hard and features a good melody and a heavy romantic lyric. Grohl stated, “That song’s about a girl that I’d fallen in love with and it was basically about being connected to someone so much, that not only do you love them physically and spiritually, but when you sing along with them you harmonize perfectly.” Overall, this song is celebratory but with just enough edge to make it a rock classic. “Walking After You” has an acoustic, calm, almost country approach with the slightest bit of laid back percussion and sonic effects. “New Way Home” closes the record as a pleasant, upbeat rocker which summarizes everything from the journey of this album.

The Colour and the Shape was a hit around the world, reaching the the Top 10 in seven countries including the USA and achieving double platinum in sales. Its arrival in 1997 came at the moment when the grunge era began to give way to the heavy pop rock of the late 1990s, which made this timely and important as well.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

Flaming Pie by Paul McCartney

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Flaming Pie by Paul McCartneyAfter spending a few years working on The Beatles Anthology project, it was clear that Paul McCartney wanted to continue revisiting the sounds and styles of the past when he resumed his solo career. Flaming Pie, McCartney’s tenth solo album, was a success in achieving this goal as it features an array of styles which pinpoint musical moments with and without the Beatles. This was also an album where McCartney collaborated with Ringo Starr as well as a couple of his own immediate family members.

Coming into the decade of the 1990s, McCartney was one of the highest grossing rock acts. Still, he decided to branch out into orchestral and opera music with Liverpool Oratorio in 1991 and electronica music the final year with Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest. In 1993, McCartney released the pop/rock album Off the Ground, which would be his last studio album for the next four years.

Following the completion of the Anthology project, McCartney teamed up with co-producer and multi instrumentalist Jeff Lynne with the intention of producing something “pure and easy”. The album was recorded over the course of two years and included new material as well as some songs initiated in previous years. These sessions also produced excess material, most notably the “Oobu Joobu” series of rare tracks.


Flaming Pie by Paul McCartney
Released: May 5, 1997 (Parlophone)
Produced by: George Martin, Jeff Lynne and Paul McCartney
Recorded: Sun Valley, Idaho and Abbey Road Studios, London, September 1992 – February 1997
Track Listing Primary Musicians
The Song We Were Singing
The World Tonight
If You Wanna
Somedays
Young Boy
Calico Skies
Flaming Pie
Heaven On a Sunday
Used to Be Bad
Souvenir
Little Willow
Really Love You
Beautiful Night
Great Day
Paul McCartney – Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Drums, Percussion
Jeff Lynne – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Steve Miller – Bass, Chapman Stick
Ringo Starr – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 
Flaming Pie by Paul McCartney

 

The album’s opener, “The Song We Were Singing”, is instantly rewarding and pleasant as it alternates between softly picked acoustic folk verses and the strong, Scottish-folk influenced choruses. Philosophically it centers around the core of McCartney’s existence, the “song”, and it appears to allude to his relationship with John Lennon. The pop radio hit “The World Tonight” features verses with interesting harmonies before McCartney breaks out vocally in the pre-chorus as well as a slight but excellent piano later.

As the album settles in, we have “If You Wanna”, an acoustic rocker with some strong late seventies, early eighties pop elements along with some excellent lead guitars, followed in contrast by the picked acoustic ballad “Somedays”, the first of two tracks produced and orchestrated by Sir George Martin. “Young Boy” is a standard, but pleasant, pop / rock track where McCartney teamed up with the legendary Steve Miller. Later on the album, the duo returns on the bluesy “Used to Be Bad” where Miller shares lead vocals and proves that he has the better blues pedigree as McCartney’s lines sound more like a novelty.

The acoustic picked “Calico Skies” was written in 1991 during a hurricane blackout while the title track, “Flaming Pie” features a sound that is pure late-era Beatles, with boogie piano accented by crisp, distorted guitar riffs. “Heaven on a Sunday” takes a soft jazz approach with pleasant melodies, backing vocals by Linda McCartney and a great contrasting, whining rock lead guitar by son James McCartney.

Paul McCartney

The album’s final stretch features some of the more interesting tracks. “Souvenir” is a sonic masterpiece from beginning to end, using some classic rock motifs and a melancholy ballad approach, while “Little Willow” is a sad ballad which McCartney wrote for the children of the late Maureen Starkey, wife of Ringo. Next comes a unique composition by Paul and Ringo,”Really Love You”, with a kicking rhythm focused on the strong bass and drum beat and a classic blues / soul / R&B feel. “Beautiful Night” is a grandiose song with grandiose production by Martin and soaring vocals and lyrics by McCartney. His strained vocals through the later half of this power ballad makes it an instant classic. Wrapping up the album is “Great Day”, acting almost as the reciprocal of “Beautiful Night” with simple finger-picked guitar and hand percussion. This closing track features Linda McCartney joining on backing vocals, which would sadly be her last collaboration with Paul as she passed away a year after the album’s release.

Flaming Pie was a success on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking at number two in both the UK and US. It has grown to become one of McCartney’s most critically acclaimed albums of his long solo career.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

Nine Lives by Aerosmith

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Nine Lives by AerosmithThe last in a string of albums over a decade long commercial run, Nine Lives saw Aerosmith return to their traditional record label as well as return to their core blues-rock sound. Released in Spring 1997, a year later than originally intended, this album was produced through an arduous process, which included two distinct recording processes with two different producers as well as some internal personnel issues which further delayed its release.

Aerosmith had re-signed to a $30 million contract with their early career label, Columbia Records in 1991, but first needed to fulfill their contractual obligation with Geffen Records. Hence, the 1993 blockbuster studio album Get a Grip as well as the 1994 quasi compilation, Big Ones (which included the new hits “Dueces Are Wild” and “Blind Man”) were released on Geffen. The next studio album was originally slated to be released by Columbia in 1996 and the band entered the studio with producer and composer Glen Ballard in Miami.

However, Aerosmith’s drummer Joey Kramer needed to leave these sessions due to medical reasons and these early versions of the songs were deemed unsatisfactory by the record label. During this same period, the group also fired their long time manager and they appeared to be in disarray before re-grouping in New York in September 1996 along with Kramer and new producer Kevin Shirley. Here, the band decided to scrap the previous tracks and re-record the album from scratch.


Nine Lives by Aerosmith
Released: March 18, 1997 (Columbia)
Produced by: Kevin Shirley and Aerosmith
Recorded: Avatar Studios and The Boneyard, New York City, September–November 1996
Track Listing Group Musicians
Nine Lives
Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)
Hole in My Soul
Taste of India
Full Circle
Something’s Gotta Give
Ain’t That a Bitch
The Farm
Crash
Kiss Your Past Good-Bye
Pink
Attitude Adjustment
Fallen Angels
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Paino, Keyboards, Percussion
Joe Perry – Guitars, Dulcimer, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass, Chapman Stick
Joey Kramer – Drums
Nine Lives by Aerosmith

 

Each song on Nine Lives features a co-writer from outside the quintet. Things do not start strong with the title song’s multi-tracked cat wails nearly ruining the entire album when it is a mere 15 seconds old and, what’s even more offensive, this meow effect is not even original, as vocalist Steven Tyler had used it before on the song “Cheshire Cat” from the 1982 Rock In a Hard Place. Co-written by Ballard, “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)” is an accessible bluesy rocker with a comic edge and a generous use of horn arrangements, which all worked to make it a radio hit.

The album really starts to become interesting with the Desmond Child 6:10 – an underrated power ballad, “Hole in My Soul”, with an excellent melody in the pre-chorus and chorus and a slightly unhinged slide lead by Joe Perry. Desmond Child, who also helped pen the equally excellent “Ain’t That a Bitch”. This later track features a cinematic entrance with strings and distance brass before the song proper kicks in as pure blues rock with Tyler’s vocals stealing the show above much musical atmosphere. This includes several subtle guitar licks, just enough strings to maintain the slightly surreal atmosphere and a slight but effective descending bass solo by Tom Hamilton.

Aerosmith in 1990s

“Taste of India” is a sixties-style psychedelic twist during a wild intro before finding an interesting beat and hard rock riff by rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford. This fusion of several styles and the pointed sarangi by guest Ramesh Mishra, make this a true original. Further sub-genres are explored through the album’s heart with the country-tinged Southern rocker “Full Circle”, the harmonica-laden heavy blues of “Something’s Gotta Give”, the urban atmospherics of “The Farm” and the frenzied, driving punk rocker, “Crash”.

The true climax of the album comes with the clever and entertaining “Pink”. Co-written by Richard Supa, this track is accessible, bluesy and original.  The song found both international commercial success as well as scored the band their fourth Grammy award of the decade for best song by a duo or group. The album’s remaining tracks, “Kiss Your Past Goodbye”, “Attitude Adjustment”, and “Fallen Angels” are all fine tunes on their own but suffer due to the album’s vast length as well as the juxtaposition to other fine tracks like “Pink”, which far overshadow these more standard tunes. In this sense, less may have been more for this album.

Nine Lives topped the US album charts and reached the Top 10 in nearly a dozen other countries, making it a worldwide hit by any commercial standard. The momentum carried into the next year when the non-album single, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” became Aerosmith’s first and only number one pop song, marking the ban’s final high-water mark of a long and fruitful career.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

Disciplined Breakdown by Collective Soul

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Disciplined Breakdown by Collective SoulAfter exploding onto the international rock scene in the middle of the 1990s with the success of their first two albums, Collective Soul released their much anticipated third studio album, Disciplined Breakdown, in 1997. While much of the music on this album replicates the alt/pop/rock formula and production techniques of 1993’s Hints, Allegations, & Things Left Unsaid and 1995’s Collective Soul, there are some experimental areas on Disciplined Breakdown which show a bit of musical maturity.

The triple platinum selling, self-titled second album by Collective Soul spent well over a year on the Billboard album charts, fueled by a handful of radio hits. In the wake of this success, however, the band had a falling out with with their manager which led to some cancelled tour dates and, ultimately, a year-long legal battle.

During this tumultuous time in 1996, the band retreated to a cabin near their home town of Stockbridge and began recording with whatever digital devices they could gather. Each of the songs on Disciplined Breakdown were composed and produced by lead vocalist and guitarist Ed Roland, who had founded Collective Soul along with his brother, guitarist Dean Roland, in 1992.


Disciplined Breakdown by Collective Soul
Released: March 11, 1997 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Ed Roland
Recorded: Stockbridge, GA, 1996
Track Listing Group Musicians
Precious Declaration
Listen
Maybe
Full Circle
Blame
Disciplined Breakdown
Forgiveness
Link
Giving
In Between
Crowded Head
Everything
Ed Roland – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Ross Childress – Guitars, Vocals
Dean Roland – Guitars
Will Turpin – Bass, Vocals
Shane Evans – Drums

 
Disciplined Breakdown by Collective Soul

 

While Disciplined Breakdown is a pretty enjoyable listen from start to finish, there is no doubt that the album is a bit top-heavy, with the best material coming earlier in the album. The opening song “Precious Declaration” was also the album’s lead single and it ushers in the album with a catchy beat from the well-treated drums of Shane Evans along with the sharp guitar riffs by the Roland brothers and lead guitarist Ross Childress. “Listen”, the second single, features a cool rock/funk dance beat similar to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” a couple of decades earlier. This infectious groove throughout is accented by some strategically placed effects on vocals during bridge section and a short but stratospheric guitar lead by Childress.

Dedicated to a lost friend, “Maybe” begins with a bright acoustic intro before it settles into a steady and excellent song proper where Rolland’s vocals are particularly subdued in nice contrast to the whining electric guitar overtones and thumping bass by Will Turpin, which persists throughout this track. “Full Circle” is the first song to break the mold of the now-well-established Collective Soul formula, complete with a (faux?) horn section and a few more unique sonic passages. “Blame” is bookmarked by fine, finger-picked acoustic solo sections with the heart of the song featuring an electric groove constructed by a great mixture of guitars and counter-riffs, along with Ed Roland’s best vocal melody on the album.

Collective Soul

The title track, “Disciplined Breakdown”, features another strong rock riff and bass-driven verse sections presented in a funk, almost faux hip hop, fashion. Meanwhile, “Forgiveness” takes a turn towards the cool and jazzy, while Evans’s consistent beat is maintained throughout and Childress’s lead guitar contrasts with this effect a bit but song never loses effect or moodiness. “Link” is an almost eighties style soft rock track, complete with some rich vocal harmonies.

The album’s next two tracks follow suite and remain mellow and somewhat pleasant sonicly but not so potent in terms of composition or originality. “Crowded Head” is a bit harder rock with several strong electric guitars, a rougher, more straight-forward vocal and a creative moment late in the song when a counter-melody to the main hook is delivered through a treated, mid-ranged spoken voice rap. The album wraps up with “Everything”, a slightly interesting rocker with good beats and choppy riffs, which sounds like it could have been a hit right beside the material earlier on the record.

Disciplined Breakdown was not as commercially successful as Collective Soul’s earlier releases. However, it top the Mainstream Rock charts, sold over a million copies, and helped maintain the group’s momentum, which continued into the new century.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

Secret Samadhi by Live

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Secret Samadhi by LiveThe third overall album by the rock quartet Live, the 1997 release Secret Samadhi debuted on the top of the American charts immediately after its release. The album is named after a state of Hindu meditation and features a mix of mainstream rock and alternative Avant Garde. Although the album did not receive the most positive critical reviews, it is an original work which makes a unique statement and draws influence from diverse musical influences from both contemporary and historical rock artists.

Live reached mainstream success in 1994 with the release of their second album, Throwing Copper, along with the band’s inclusion in the Woodstock ’94 festival and other prominent tours. Throwing Copper had a long rise to the top of the album charts in 1995 and sold over eight million copies in the US alone.

The group returned to the studio in 1996 with producer Jay Healy, who had worked with the band years earlier on an EP entitled Divided Mind, Divided Planet. The goal of this album’s production was to achieve a less polished, more hard-edged sound. The result is a slightly darker and more introspective aesthetic than that which they had produced previously.


Secret Samadhi by Live
Released: February 18, 1997 (Radioactive)
Produced by: Jay Healy & Live
Recorded: Hit Factory, New York City, South Beach Studios, Miami & The Record Plant, Los Angeles, 1996
Track Listing Group Musicians
Rattlesnake
Lakini’s Juice
Graze
Century
Ghost
Unsheathed
Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe
Turn My Head
Heropsychodreamer
Freaks
Merica
Gas Hed Goes West
Ed Kowalczyk – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Chad Taylor – Guitars, Vocals
Patrick Dahlheimer – Bass
Chad Gracey – Drums

 
Secret Samadhi by Live

 

The opening track “Rattlesnake” features many differing textures culminating in an almost a dark Western overall feel. The initial verses are calm and refrained and, although this track never reaches full frenzy, there is a wild, unhinged guitar lead by Chad Taylor. On the unique masterpiece “Lakini’s Juice”, the atmospherics of the opener give way to a drilling main guitar riff, oddly paired with orchestral string interludes, provided by arranger Doug Katsaros. Although this song was not released as a single, it received enough airplay to top the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

The next several tracks, while not horrible, collectively form the album’s low point. The slow and methodical “Graze” is apparently a song about aliens who spookily state their intentions, while “Century” is an upbeat acoustic track with some unfortunately amateurish and adolescent lyrics by front man Ed Kowalczyk. “Ghost” starts with a methodical drum beat by Chad Gracey to complement a very refined guitar and bass and whispered vocals throughout, while the uneven “Unsheathed” features a strong presence by bassist Patrick Dahlheimer.

Live

The second half of the album features some of its strongest tracks. The ballad “Turn My Head” is the closest to a traditional pop song, complete with strings by Katsaros which are elegant and signature to the song. A strong REM influence is most striking here, especially with Kowalczyk’s crooning lead vocals. In striking contrast, “Heropsychodreamer” has a definitive punk/new wave feel. “Freaks” features great rhythms by Gracey and an excellent melody by Kowalczyk complete with ad-lib like extensions at the end of each verse. Meanwhile, Taylor’s atmospheric guitar notes are layered intensely to highlight the song. “Merica” features another cool, odd beat and riff with an overall feel of authentic classic rock, leading to the soulful rock closer “Gas Hed Goes West”, which is slightly repetitive but ends the album strongly.

Secret Samadhi album was certified double platinum and was a hit worldwide. Live continued to record and release albums into the 21st century, but would not again reach this top level of success.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

Ixnay On the Hombre by The Offspring

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Ixnay On the Hombre by The OffspringIn their prime, The Offspring‘s music found the sweet spot somewhere between hard rock and hardcore. Their 1997 fourth overall release and major label debut, Ixnay on the Hombre, features a diverse collection of songs which range from thrashing punk to moody and philosophical rock to the occasional bit of light comical fare. The resulting album found both critical acclaim and worldwide commercial success, as it sold over three million copies across the globe.

After the massive commercial success of their previous album, Smash in 1994, the band was the biggest act on the small Epitaph label. They eventually decided to leave the label and signed a recording contract with Columbia Records, but not before they bought out the rights to their 1989 debut album and re-released it.

The Offspring entered the studio in mid 1996 with producer Dave Jerden and recorded close to twenty songs from the sessions. This was eventually pared back to a dozen album tracks along with a couple of spoken word novelty tracks.


Ixnay On the Hombre by The Offspring
Released: February 4, 1997 (Columbia)
Produced by: Dave Jerden
Recorded: Eldorado Recording Studios, Hollywood, California
Track Listing Group Musicians
Disclaimer
The Meaning of Life
Mota
Me and My Old Lady
Cool to Hate
Leave It Behind
Gone Away
I Choose
Intermission
All I Want
Way Down the Line
Don’t Pick It Up
Amazed
Change the World
Dexter Holland – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Kevin Wasserman – Guitars, Vocals
Greg Kriesel – Bass, Vocals
Ron Welty – Drums, Vocals

 

Ixnay On the Hombre by The Offspring

 

The album begins with one of the spoken word tracks, “Disclaimer”, a sarcastic dissertation on warning labels recited by Jello Biafra. The music starts with “The Meaning of Life”, a rapid punk/pop track which sets the pace for much of the material on the album. After a unique percussive intro by Ron Welty, “Mota” breaks out with a hard-edged ska feel throughout with definite punk overtones and good, edgy rudiments.

Most of the material on the album was written by lead vocalist Dexter Holland, who belts his signature story-telling lyrical rants and unique wails later on the track “Me and My Old Lady”, which also features a really cool groove and is the best song of the early part of album. Unfortunately, this is followed by two of the more forgettable tracks, “Cool to Hate”, which tries to be high-school anthemic, and “Leave It Behind” a standard and forgettable song.

The Offspring

The heart of Ixnay On the Hombre starts with “Gone Away”, an interesting, grunge-inspired track with differing vibes and textures. Greg Kriesel‘s bass fueled verses tradeoff with the piercing guitar riff interludes of Kevin Wasserman on this top Mainstream Rock Track. “I Choose” was another hit from the album built on the fantastic funky riffing and rhythms with Kriesal and Welty’s bass and drums complementing the charged electric riffs by Wasserman, who later provides a traditional hard rock guitar lead.

“Intermission” provides a true point of levity to usher in the latter part of the album, which includes the fastest punk track “All I Want”, the eclectic track “Way Down the Line”, and “Don’t Pick It Up”, an entertaining mixture of ska and surf rock. “Amazed” is another quality track, almost as good as the earlier hits, while the closer “Change the World” comes just a little short of greatness due to the tense punk beat which detracts from the otherwise fine melody and bass line.

Ixnay on the Hombre reached the Top Ten of the US album charts and The Offspring toured relentlessly throughout the world to promote the record.

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1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.