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.

 

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.

~

1998 Page

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

 

Car Wheels On a Gravel Road
by Lucinda Williams

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Car Wheels On a Gravel Road by Lucinda WilliamsCar Wheels on a Gravel Road, the fifth studio album by Lucinda Williams, is a highly acclaimed, awarded and influential 1998 record. In fact, several have credited its release as a pivotal moment in the course of folk and country roots music as well as the origin of the alternative country sub-genre. Further, this album’s rural lyrics about simple but relate able situations along with the excellent, earthy musical arrangements work to make it fresh and timeless decades after its release.

A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Williams began her music career in Austin and Houston, Texas in the mid 1970s. She developed a distinct blend of country folk and rock that led to her initial record deal and the 1978 release of her debut album Ramblin’ on My Mind. In the 1980s, Williams relocated to Nashville and began receiving critical acclaim and scored a minor hit with her 1988 self-titled album. 1992’s Sweet Old World had even more modest commercial success but was widely recognized for its fine songwriting. It would be six years before Williams, a recording perfectionist, would release her much-anticipated follow-up.

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, commenced recording in 1995, shortly after Williams signed with American Recordings. The original version of the album was made with producer Gurf Morlix in Austin, Texas. However, Williams shelved that version and started over in Nashville with co-producers Steve Earle and Roy Bittan and a large ensemble of Nashville session players.


Car Wheels On a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams
Released: June 30, 1998 (Mercury)
Produced by: Roy Bittan, Steve Earle, Ray Kennedy & Lucinda Williams
Recorded: Room and Board Studio, Nashville, & Rumbo Studio, Canoga Park, CA, 1995-1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Right in Time
Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
2 Kool 2 Be 4-gotten
Drunken Angel
Concrete and Barbed Wire
Lake Charles
Can’t Let Go
I Lost It
Metal Firecracker
Greenville
Still I Long For Your Kiss
Joy
Jackson
Lucinda Williams – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Dobro
Gurf Morlix – Guitars, Vocals
John Ciambotti – Bass
Donald Lindley – Drums, PercussionCar Wheels On a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams

 

 

The album commences with “Right in Time”, a minor hit with a twangy overall sound (but not so overt as modern country) and, ultimately, a moderate and pleasant mixture of layered guitars. The title track “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” has even more refined and methodical musical elements as a patient yet energetic track which melodically has an almost new wave rock approach. “2 Kool 2 Be 4-gotten” starts off with a potent drum shuffle before more subtle guitars, a bass fill in the cool rhythms and a subtle accordion by Bittan. Although the extreme laid back vocals may be a little too staged, overall this is the best song of the opening trio.

“Drunken Angel” makes a strong statement as an Americana alt country staple with pure nineties grunge pop vocals and attitude, while “Concrete and Barbed Wire” reverts to an acoustic country waltz with a building arrangement throughout while staying within the old-time country realm. The storytelling “Lake Charles” features a strong beat with steady, thumping bass by Ciambotti and some slide guitar. The Randy weeks cover “Can’t Let Go” features Mississippi Delta like acoustic blues with a nice shuffle percussion beat and twin slide electric guitars on top.

Lucinda Williams

The album’s second half features an array of quality tracks with the standard alt country pop song “I Lost It”, a post-mordem on a lost relationship on “Metal Firecracker”, and the emotional country ballad “Greenville”, which features Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals. “Still I Long For Your Kiss” was co-written by Duane Jarvis, while “Joy” is built on rotating acoustic and electric bluesy riffs during its long intro and droning song proper. The quiet acoustic closer “Jackson”completes the record in a very moody and beautiful way.

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road became Williams’ first Gold album and won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. The crossover success of this album led to Williams touring with top-notch legends such as Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in support of the album.

~

1998 Page

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

 

Stunt by Barenaked Ladies

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Stunt by Barenaked LadiesIn 1998, the fourth studio album by Barenaked Ladies became their commercial breakthrough and ultimately, their most successful album. Stunt features a refined set of this Canadian group’s brand of quirky and creative lyrics which give the impression that they are either geniuses or on the verge of a nervous breakdown (or both). This is set to a fine array of melodic and musical passages with the use of various styles (jangly pop, alt-country, bossa nova, blue-eyed rap, and even a bit of psychedelic rock) to keep it all interesting. The formula worked as the album sold several million copies and topped the charts in the US.

The roots of Barenaked Ladies began in the late eighties in Toronto with the duo of guitarists/vocalists Steven Page and Ed Robertson. From the start, the two performed in an improvised and nearly comical manner (the group’s name came from one improvised skit) and they often opened for a popular comedy group. By the summer of 1990, bassist Jim Creeggan and drummer Tyler Stewart were part of the group and 1991’s The Yellow Tape, originally recorded as a demo tape, became their initial album release. When the band was taken off the bill for a New Year’s Eve concert in Toronto because a political staffer objected to their name, a media story about political correctness gone too far brought the group a surge in publicity, leading to the band being signed to Reprise/Sire Records in April 1992. Over the next four years the band released three studio albums, Gordon (1992), Maybe You Should Drive (1994) and Born on a Pirate Ship (1996), as well as the 1997 live record, Rock Spectacle.

Co-produced by David Leonard, Susan Rogers and the group, Stunt is the first studio album to feature keyboardist and guitarist Kevin Hearn. Fifteen songs were recorded for the album, with thirteen appearing on the original version and the tracks “Long Way Back Home” and “She’s On Time” appearing as “hidden tracks” on limited edition versions of the album.


Stunt by Barenaked Ladies
Released: July 7, 1998 (Reprise)
Produced by: David Leonard, Susan Rogers & Barenaked Ladies
Recorded: February–March 1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
One Week
It’s All Been Done
Light Up My Room
I’ll Be That Girl
Leave
Alcohol
Call and Answer
In the Car
Never Is Enough
Who Needs Sleep?
Told You So
Some Fantastic
When You Dream
Steven Page – Guitars, Vocals
Ed Robertson – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Kevin Hearn – Piano, Keyboards, Banjo
Jim Creeggan – Bass, Cello, Vocals
Tyler Stewart – Drums, PercussionStunt by Barenaked Ladies

 

 

The album begins with the band’s highest charting single in both the US and the UK, and odd, quasi rap about a lover’s quarrel sandwiched between main hooks, which make it a highly original and unlikely smash hit. During the rapid raps there are alternating passages of pop culture references and personal anecdotes and, ironically, a similar live version of the song never fully materialized. Page’s “It’s All Been Done”, another hit from the album, follows as a jangly power pop anthem, complete with chanting “oohs”. a nice creeping Hammond by organ by Hearn, and some complex harmonies as the song progresses.

“Light Up My Room” is a pleasant folk/rock ballad which starts with a moderate arrangement and features a distinct drum shuffle by Stewart throughout, while “I’ll Be That Girl” has an almost country-esque feel but with a rock edge and just a bit of Barenaked Ladies oddness. Robertson’s “Leave” starts as an almost bluegrass acoustic tune but quickly incorporates rock elements, maturing into one of the more pleasant sounding songs on the album, in sharp contrast to the basic three-chord rock stomp of “Alcohol”, an odd philosophical turn of a drinking song, complete with party chanting and an electric piano lead.

Barenaked Ladies

The second half of the album features several more fine tunes, from the inventive “Call and Answer” to the old Western feel of “In the Car” to the bouncy “Never Is Enough”, featuring some electronic effects for light fun. “Who Needs Sleep?” is a melodic ode to the “pleasures of insomnia”, featuring some slight flute riffs by Page, while “Told You So” is straight-forward acoustic pop. “Some Fantastic” is the best of this bunch as a pleasant, Caribbean flavored rocker with inventive piano riffs by Hearn, a percussive blend by Stewart, and plenty of variety in both music and vocal melody with two lead vocalists trading off throughout. The spacey “When You Dream” completes the album with probably its slowest tempo and a surreal feel throughout

Shortly after Stunt‘s release of the album, Hearn was diagnosed with leukemia and had to be replaced during the subsequent tour. The group’s commercial momentum continued into the new century with several songs featured in television, movies and commercials and additional success on future albums.

~

1998 Page

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

 

Lenny Kravitz 5

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Lenny Kravitz 5The fifth studio album by Lenny Kravitz, released in 1998 is aptly titled 5 and saw the talented artist return to top commercial success as well as expand his world wide audience. This winner of two Grammy Awards, successfully found Kravitz both establishing himself as a genuine funk and R&B artist while also advancing his incredibly diverse fusion of rock and soul which he had established early on in his recording career. The result is an accessible and accomplished work that offers an array of sonic candy.

Following the success of Kravitz’s 1989 debut, Let Love Rule and the 1991 follow-up record, Mama Said, Kravitz advanced his songwriting and production projects for multiple artists. In 1993 he released Are You Gonna Go My Way, which reached number 12 on the album charts and spawned several singles. This album was also the initial to feature guitarist Craig Ross and was partially recorded in The Bahamas where Kravitz would eventually build a recording studio. Kravitz’s fourth album, Circus, was released in 1995 but was a bit of a commercial disappointment.

With 5, Kravitz both aimed to return to commercial relevance and, for the first time, he embraced digital technology and sampling. The album was recorded in both Kravitz-owned studios in New York City and The Bahamas with the assistance of engineer Terry Manning.


5 by Lenny Kravitz
Released: May 12, 1998 (Island)
Produced by: Lenny Kravitz
Recorded: Ghetto Lounge Studios and Compass Point Studios, Bahamas, 1997–1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Live
Supersoulfighter
I Belong to You
Black Velveteen
If You Can’t Say No
Thinking of You
Take Time
Fly Away
It’s Your Life
Straight Cold Player
Little Girl’s Eyes
You’re My Flavor
Can We Find a Reason?
American Woman
Without You
Lenny Kravitz – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Drums
Craig Ross – Guitars, Keyboards
Jack Daley – BassLenny Kravitz 5

 

 

“Live” was co-written by Kravitz and Ross as a riff driven guitar rocker with a Rick-James–like funk approach. The rich arrangement includes a brass section, a choppy bass rhythm by Jack Daley and a long saxophone lead by Harold Todd late in the song. “Supersoulfighter” finds Kravitz fully immersing in the genre of old as he personally provides soul synths, sound effects, a cool clavichord and a steady drum beat. In contrast, “I Belong to You” starts with electronic percussion soon accompanied by some R&B bass with not too much more variation.

A heavy synth rhythm and some electronic treatment on vocals are prevalent on the track “Black Velveteen”, which later features a Bowie-like vocal delivery. “If You Can’t Say No” employs maximum modern R&B and strategically placed sonic décor (clav, piano, organ, etc.) and a fantastic bluesy guitar lead, while ultimately still being a singer’s song. The sad and emotional ballad “Thinking of You” was dedicated to Kravitz’s mother, Roxie Roker, who died of cancer in 1995, while “Take Time” features a slow, sloshy drum beat accompanied by psychedelic keys and an overall mechanical background to soulful vocals, There is obviously a heavy Prince influence on this latter one, especially during the heavy rock guitar lead.

While 5 is pretty solid throughout,  the second half of the album is where real gems lie with rock, funk and soul musical diversity. The guitar driven rocker “Fly Away” was an immediate hit with its catchy melody, interesting slap bass and a potent drum beat. Originally composed as a ballad, this revised funky track also makes great use of effects on the vocals, which helped it ascend to the Top 20 and won Kravitz a Grammy Award in 1999 for Best Male Rock Performance. Though much less popular, “It’s Your Life” is equally as excellent as its predecessor as a heavy funk rocker with some synth horns and melodic verses over a pointed bass line. “Straight Cold Player” is a quasi-instrumental driven by a complex drum beat by guest Cindy Blackman, while “Little Girl’s Eyes” is a slow soul ballad with much synth atmosphere and a long outro with a guitar lead.

Lenny Kravitz, 1998

The original release of 5 wrapped up with two more excellent tunes. “You’re My Flavor” features a unique blend of rock with bass moving faster than guitars in verses and a melodic hard guitar riff in choruses. “Can We Find a Reason?” is an acoustic track with trippy lead guitar overtones, a heavy Hammond organ and a Gospel like backing vocals to augment Kravitz’s droning, alternative rock guitar lead and soulful, peacenik vocals. In 1999, the album was re-issued to include Kravitz’s smash hit cover of The Guess Who’s “American Woman” and the acoustic ballad “Without You”.

A Top 40 album, 5 spawned further commercial success for Kravitz, with the subsequent 2000 Greatest Hits album being his most successful album, selling nearly 11 million copies worldwide.

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1998 Page

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

 

Walking Into Clarksdale by Page & Plant

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Walking Into Clarksdale by Page and PlantNearly two decades after they recorded the final Led Zeppelin studio album with 1979’s In Through the Out Door, guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant  collaborated on an album of new original music with Walking Into Clarksdale. With a blend of world music and alternative rock elements along with modern production techniques, this is not a Zeppelin album in any sense nor was it designed to be so. Instead this stands as a unique work within the long solo catalogs of either artist.

Page and Plant re-united in 1993 after casual discussions between the two about performing on the popular MTV Unplugged television series, which had been a rousing success for artists ranging from Eric Clapton to Tesla to Nirvana. Producer Bill Curbishley, who had been managing Plant since the 1980s and began managing Page in 1994, was able to close the deal and, in August 1994, they recorded performances in London, Wales, and Morocco of several re-arranged Led Zeppelin tunes along with four new tracks. These performances were aired on MTV in October, with the album No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded released in November 1994. Following the successful release of this album, Page and Plant launched a world tour backed by bassist Charlie Jones, drummer Michael Lee, and a small orchestra of musicians and background singers.

Walking Into Clarksdale was recorded and produced by Page and Plant along with engineer Steve Albini over the course of five months at Abbey Road Studios in London. Albini, an indie rock producer known for his harsh and brutal recordings, took some dynamic chances in mixing the guitar phrases, Mideastern drones, sawing strings, and repetitive drum patterns which proliferate this album’s sound.


Walking Into Clarksdale by Page & Plant
Released: April 21, 1998 (Columbia)
Produced by: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, 1997-1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Shining in the Light
When the World Was Young
Upon a Golden Horse
Blue Train
Please Read the Letter
Most High
Heart in Your Hand
Walking into Clarksdale
Burning Up
When I Was a Child
House of Love
Sons of Freedom
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals,
Jimmy Page – Guitars, Mandolin
Charlie Jones – Bass, Percussion
Michael Lee – Drums, Percussion

Walking Into Clarksdale by Page and Plant

 

 

The album begins with “Shining in the Light”, featuring an interesting acoustic progression along with the rhythmic feel of a rotating riff. The string sections in between verses help build the musical momentum of this track. “When the World Was Young” follows, built with a gently thumping bass by Jones and methodical guitar motifs by Page, Quiet tension is built for about two and a half minutes before the song explodes into a Zeppelin-like heavy section where drummer Michael Lee finally gets to perform a full rock beat, The song’s lyrics, while slightly obscure seem to focus on a mystical afterlife. “Upon a Golden Horse” starts with a full-fledged electric intro which gives way to calmer, waltz-like verses as Plant attempts to hit the vocal stratosphere (but doesn’t quite reach it) while Page provides the record’s first heavy blues guitar lead before being overtaken by the rich string arrangements of Lynton Naiff. “Blue Train” is a sad ballad led by Page’s uniquely structured guitar lead and Plant’s melancholy lyric;

Lost in my darkness now, the rain keeps falling down
Light of my life, where have you gone?
Love’s true flame dies without the warmth of your sun…”

On “Please Read the Letter”, Plant provides harmonies with himself through most of the track, previewing the prevalent arrangements on the later album Raising Sand, where he will team up with Alison Krauss, re-record this track and win a Grammy in 2009. On this original version, while Page provides his signature heavy rock riffing in the verse, while the overall feel has a more country/folk vibe. The indelible “Most High” features an electronic percussion loop accompanied by droning guitar as a song that finally realizes the Eastern rock fusion that Page and Plant had been loosely experimenting with for a quarter century. Further, the guest musicians Ed Shearmur and Tim Whelan give the track a bit of crisp sonic candy, much needed on this album of subtle arrangements.

Page and Plant, 1998

A calm, Western guitar sound by Page, accompanied by Plant’s soft but soulful vocals make “Heart in Your Hand” an atmospheric tune with very calm rhythms. This is vastly contrasted by the heavy rocking title song, “Walking into Clarksdale”, which celebrates the duos history and love of the blues. While musically a throwback with little spurts of Zeppelin-esque blues-rock flourishes, the song may be the most potent lyrically with references to being born with blues in the soul as well as the infamous “Devil at the crossroads” legend which is tied to the physical location;

And I see twelve white horses walking in line
Moving east across the metal bridge on highway forty-nine
And standing in the shadows of a burnt out motel
The King of Commerce Mississippia waited with his hound from hell…”

After the final highlight of the title track, the album winds down with some slightly interesting, albeit weaker material. “Burning Up”, while decent musically, seems to be one of the more under-cooked or disjointed tracks on the album, followed by “When I Was a Child” with a heavy use of tremolo/volume effects on the atmospheric guitars and soaring, soulful vocals by Plant throughout. “House of Love” returns to the electronic percussion but with less effect than “Most High” as the guitar and bass parts don’t quite jive with the percussion and give it more of a demo feel. The closer “Sons of Freedom” is a spastic, proto-punk track with differing sonic qualities through its duration.

While Walking Into Clarksdale reached the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic and achieved Gold record status, it was an overall commercial disappointment in comparison to its predecessor. Page planned on continuing with a follow-up album and reportedly began writing over a dozen tunes. However, Plant grew tired of the larger arena and decided he wanted to get back to playing clubs, there by disbanding the partnership. To date (20 years later), Walking Into Clarksdale is the last studio recording by Jimmy Page.

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1998 Page

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

 

Boggy Depot by Jerry Cantrell

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Boggy Depot by Jerry CantrellAfter over a decade in Alice in Chains, guitarist Jerry Cantrell set out to forge his debut solo record in 1998 with Boggy Depot. This was done more out of necessity than by choice, as Alice in Chains was in a period of musical hiatus due to the substance and health issues of lead vocalist Layne Stanley, making a group album impossible. The Cantrell album features a collection of tracks fused with simple riffs treated with methodical sonic textures and some expert lead guitar sections.

Cantrell and Staley founded Alice in Chains in 1987 and the group reached international recognition in the nineties with the albums Facelift (1990), Dirt (1992), Jar of Flies (1994), and Alice in Chains (1995). Through these successful albums, Cantrell began to share a minor lead vocal role in addition to his composing and guitar work. However, the group rarely played live during the mid 1990s especially after Staley was hospitalized from an overdose in July 1996.

Around the same time, Cantrell reluctantly began work on his first solo record in 1996, enlisting the help of producer Toby Wright. Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney both contributed to its recording. Together, they worked on the album through 1997 with release dates delayed a few times before Boggy Depot finally dropped in April 1998 and got its title from a ghost town in Oklahoma


Boggy Depot by Jerry Cantrell
Released: April 7, 1998 (Columbia)
Produced by: Toby Wright & Jerry Cantrell
Recorded: Studio D, Sausalito, CA and Studio X, Index, WA, April–November 1997
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Dickeye
Cut You In
My Song
Settling Down
Breaks My Back
Jesus Hands
Devil by His Side
Keep the Light On
Satisfy
Hurt a Long Time
Between
Cold Piece
Jerry Cantrell – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Rex Brown – Bass
Sean Kinney – Drums

Boggy Depot by Jerry Cantrell

 

 

Boggy Depot‘s opening track, “Dickeye”, starts with some intense mechanical effects before breaking into a bright and steady, hard rock groove with melodic vocals throughout. This is followed by the hit song “Cut You In”, which is built on a choppy, unplugged riff that repeats throughout the entirety of the song, varying only in its level of intensity and with some cool sonic elements thrown in here and there. The song’s lyrics are directed at a subject who rides along during the good times but quickly bails when the situation sours.

“My Song” is the closest thus far to an Alice in Chains tune with philosophical lyrics sung to a cool, moody and grungy vibe that eventually elevates to a sonic crescendo. This was the second single from the album and it reached the Top 10 of the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. “Settling Down” takes a different turn from previous songs, built on Cntrell’s piano and fretless bass by John Norwood Fisher, while still having an overall haunting feel and featuring a fine extended bluesy guitar lead in the song’s heart. “Breaks My Back” was another mellow and methodical tune with some dark beauty but also unfortunately treated vocals that do get burdensome after a while.

Jerry Cantrell in 1998

The remainder of the album features some lesser known songs that vary in degrees of quality. “Jesus Hands” is slow, sloshy, hypnotic grunge, with “Devil by His Side” and “Keep the Light On” more upbeat and melodic. “Satisfy”. Originally introduced during the recording sessions for the 1995 Alice in Chains album, “Hurt a Long Time” was written about the suicide of Cantrell’s cousin. “Between” incorporates piano, organ, and country elements with sparkling electric leads, while the closer “Cold Piece” uses of horns and saxophone by Angelo Moore and features a guest appearance by Primus bassist Les Claypool.

Boggy Depot reached the Top 40 in the US and Canada and, after selling over 40,000 copies in its first week, stayed on the album charts for 14 weeks. More importantly, the album filled a void left by Alice in Chains during the group’s extended hiatus which stretched into the new century.

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1998 Page

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

 

Pilgrim by Eric Clapton

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Pilgrim by Eric ClaptonThe thirteenth overall studio album of his then-decades long solo career, Pilgrim was the first record by Eric Clapton in nearly a decade to feature all new studio material. The songs on this album trend towards refined and stylish adult-oriented rock with heavy pop sensibilities and nods towards R&B, soul and the blues. This lengthy album features 14 tracks, totaling over 75 minutes of mostly original music which was composed and compiled by Clapton over several years through the mid 1990s.

The previous studio album by Clapton with all new material was Journeyman in 1989. The early 1990s brought much tragedy, first when fellow blues guitarist and then current tour member Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed in a helicopter crash in August 1990, then in March 1991 Clapton’s four-year-old son Conor died after falling from the 53rd-floor window of a New York City apartment at 117 East 57th Street. Clapton expressed the grief of losing his son in the 1991 Grammy-winning song “Tears in Heaven”, which also anchored his successful 1992 live Unplugged album. In 1994, Clapton released Cradle, an album of reinterpreted versions of blues standards, followed by highly successful singles in 1995 (“Love Can Build a Bridge”) and 1996 (“Change the World”).

Co-produced by Simon Climie, Pilgrim was recorded throughout 1996 and 1997 for release in early 1998, with the title track being the initial composition. Clapton’s goal was reportedly to make “the saddest record of all time” with more personal songs about his son and others close to him.


Pilgrim by Eric Clapton
Released: March 10, 1998 (Reprise)
Produced by: Simon Climie & Eric Clapton
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London & Ocean Studios, Los Angeles,1996-1997
Track Listing Primary Musicians
My Father’s Eyes
River of Tears
Pilgrim
Broken Hearted
One Chance
Circus
Going Down Slow
Fall Like Rain
Born in Time
Sick and Tired
Needs His Woman
She’s Gone
You Were There
Inside of Me
Eric Clapton – Guitars, Vocals
Dave Bronze – Bass
Steve Gadd – DrumsPilgrim by Eric Clapton

 

 

The album begins with the subdued reggae rhythms of “My Father’s Eyes”, a song which advances methodically with some blues slide guitar throughout and more overt blues lead later. The song, which reached the Top 40 as the album’s lead single, features lyrics inspired by the fact that Clapton never met his father, who died in 1985. “River of Tears” is a pure, slow blues song with an electronic synth base, a fretless bass, and some machine-generated drumming, with an extended intro which contributes to its seven minute running time.

“Pilgrim” has a more distinct R&B feel due to Clapton’s breathy, higher-register vocals and a heavy Curtis Mayfield inspiration, while “Broken Hearted” was co-written by keyboardist Greg Phillinganes and has the feel of a traditional Clapton pop song with very melodic vocals throughout. “One Chance” begins with a scratchy-record effect to set the intended context for this funky R&B track with distinctly blues vocals. “Circus” is a haunting and beautiful acoustic shuffle with slightly weepy vocals by Clapton. He wrote the song about the last night he spent with his son Conor (when the two attended a circus) and it was originally written and recorded for the 1992’s Unplugged, but that version was ultimately left off that album.

Eric Clapton in 1998

Jimmy Oden’s “Going Down Slow” is one of two covers on the album and features great heavy blues guitar. Bob Dylan’s “Born in Time” is the other cover and returns to the predominant sound arrangement, which works well here behind Clapton’s vocal interpretation. “Fall Like Rain” has an upbeat shuffle with pleasant sonic elements, such as layered acoustic and electric guitars, which provide a more organic feel in contrast to the electronic instrumentation.

Coming down the stretch of the album are songs which mainly cover familiar ground. “Sick and Tired” has a live feel with a traditional blues arrangement with some surprising strings added towards the end of the song. “Needs His Woman” starts off as a pure, quiet acoustic ballad before full, slick arrangement, which actually distracts from the underlying beauty, while the closing track “Inside of Me” returns to the electronic R&B sound. The best track of the latter part of the album is “You Were There”, a pleasant, methodical ballad with consistent rhythms augmented by moody chords and melody. As this song progresses it has a strong uplifting effect, complemented by Clapton’s fine closing guitar lead.

Although Pilgrim received mixed critical reviews, it sold over 4 million copies worldwide, reached the Top 10 in nearly two dozen countries and was nominated for several music awards, making it one of Clapton’s most commercially successful albums.

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1998 Page

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

 

Yield by Pearl Jam

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Yield by Pearl JamPearl Jam‘s fifth studio album, Yield, has been viewed as a commercial rebound for the band after a slight drop in popularity during the mid 1990s. The album saw a return to the more straightforward grunge/rock of the group’s early work with structured compositions and a deliberative recording process. The album’s title and theme was influenced by Daniel Quinn’s novel Ishmael which proposes the idea of yielding to the gods and nature to “save the world”.

Pearl Jam found instant acclaim with their 1991 debut album Ten and continued this success with further hit albums Vs. (1993) and Vitalogy (1994). Through this period, the band members were never quite comfortable with their success and tried to temper their exposure by refusing to make videos for their single releases. When Ticketmaster refused to waive the service charges on concerts at major venues, Pearl Jam created from scratch outdoor venues in rural areas for several mid nineties tours.

Yied was recorded throughout the year 1997 at multiple studios in Atlanta, Georgia and their home city of Seattle, Washington. Producer Brendan O’Brien, who had worked with the band on their previous three records through 1996’s No Code. This album also continued the band’s revolving drummer situation as it was Pearl Jam’s last release with their third drummer Jack Irons.


Yield by Pearl Jam
Released: February 3, 1998 (Epic)
Produced by: Brendan O’Brien & Pearl Jam
Recorded: Studio Litho & Studio X, Seattle, Southern Tracks Recording & Doppler Studios, Atlanta, February–September 1997
Track Listing Group Musicians
Brain of J.
Faithfull
No Way
Given to Fly
Wishlist
Pilate
Do the Evolution
Untitled
MFC
Low Light
In Hiding
Push Me, Pull Me
All Those Yesterdays
Eddie Vedder – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Stone Gossard – Guitars, Bass Vocals
Mike McCready – Guitars
Jeff Ament – Bass, Vocals
Jack Irons – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Yield by Pearl Jam

 

 

Kicking things off, “Brain of J.” features a cool classic hard rock vibe led by the riffing of guitarist Mike McCready. “Faithfull” is another crisp rocker with a bit of a mid-seventies era Aerosmith feel through most of the track, although after a false ending comes a jazzy final verse coda with strummed guitar and bouncy bass by Jeff Ament. “No Way” follows, driven by a  steady drum beat and rotating guitar riff.

The song’s most indelible track, “Given to Fly” is fueled by a simple but sweet flange-effected guitar riff with marching drums by Irons and somber, alternative style vocal delivery by Eddie Vedder. This instant classic gains some nice intensity as it heads for the climatic hard rock hook and then nicely marches away after just two verses. The song topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks charts as well as peaked in the Top 30 of the U.S. pop charts. Vedder’s “Wishlist” was another minor hit as a simple and somber alternative pop song featuring an atmospheric, pedal drenched guitar lead. This is followed by “Pilate” with droning verses giving way to a Kinks-like rock chant in the chorus. The song is notable as founding member Ament’s first lyrical contribution to a Pearl Jam track to date.

Pearl Jam in 1998

The punk-like barking over two power chords of “Do the Evolution” breaks only for the chorus with Stone Gossard providing both guitar and bass on the track. Next comes a couple of short filler tracks before the fine “Low Light”, a song driven mainly by acoustic guitar with slight guitar effects and atmosphere, philosophical lyrics and a cool, odd waltz rhythm and timing. Gossard also provides music for “In Hiding”, featuring another unique arrangement and change of timing along with a good melody throughout, and the closing quasi-ballad “All Those Yesterdays”, which comes complete with an interesting arrangement and a showy guitar lead.

Yield reached the Top 10 on charts throughout the Western world, peaking at number two in the USA. Former Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog drummer Matt Cameron joined Pearl Jam for the 1998 Yield tour and remains with the group 20 years on.

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1998 Page

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