Human Clay by Creed

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Human Clay by CreedHuman Clay is the 1999 second album by Creed, which built on the momentum of their fine 1997 debut to reach their climax of popularity. This #1 album was an instant success which surprisingly debuted at the top of the charts. The record rose to prominence by finding the right combination of post-grunge musical theatrics with anthem-laced pop melodies, laying a foundation that helped the group ride high as we entered into a new century and millennium.

The group’s self-financed debut, My Own Prison, became a surprise hit world wide and, at the time, was one of the Top 200 selling albums of all time. With the proceeds from that album, the group instantly began to compose and record music for a follow-up record, using the same formula of music by guitarist guitarist Mark Tremonti and lyrics by vocalist Scott Stapp.

Producer John Kurzweg also returned for this album. In recognition of what fans craved from the first album and not really being concerned with originality, Kurzweg built a continuation of the group’s successful sonic attack, which paralleled the thematic direction. According to Tremonti, this album’s theme (and cover art) is meant to represent our ability to lead our own path and make our own destiny. This, along with the theme of many songs, gives Human Clay a real spiritual feel throughout.


Human Clay by Creed
Released: September 28, 1999 (Wind-Up)
Produced by: John Kurzweg
Recorded: Winter 1998-1999
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Are You Ready?
What If
Beautiful
Say I
Wrong Way
Faceless Man
Never Die
With Arms Wide Open
Higher
Wash Away Those Years
Inside Us All
Scott Stapp – Lead Vocals
Mark Tremonti – Guitars, Vocals
Brian Marshall – Bass
Scott Phillips – Drums

Human Clay by Creed

 

The opening track “Are You Ready?” starts with an Eastern sounding intro before fully breaking into its rock verses, complete with some odd chord combos which at once make it a little clunky and a bit interesting. An issue with the early part of Human Clay is the formulaic song craft and this is almost immediately evident as “What If” sounds very similar to the opening track in sequence. However, this second song reached greater popularity as it was used in the film Scream 3 in 2000 and it’s accompanying video worked off that theme. “Beautiful” is another dramatic track with verses delicately picked in contrast to the sloshy rock choruses, while “Say I” is a choppy and thematic dark rocker.

Things start to get interesting with “Wrong Way”, a mini-suite with multiple forms and musical textures to make for a good overall listen. Here, Stapp exercises various levels of power and restraint vocally while Kurzweg adds B3 organ and guest Kirk Kelsey provides mandolin. “Faceless Man” is another good track, perhaps the best thus far on the album, with measured acoustic and electric combinations picked and strummed expertly by Tremonti along its compositional and some stand out bass by Brian Marshall. On the track “Never Die”, the band adopts some Alice-in-Chains-like simplicity with a grunge approach and hammered-on notes in the riff pattern. This track also features Scott Phillips providing his best drumming thus far.

Creed 1999

The album finishes strong with its most indelible tracks late in the sequence. “With Arms Wide Open” starts with subtle guitar textures with melodic lead vocals, offering the clearest pop sheen on top of the group’s typical hard edge, including some string arrangements in the uplifting arrangement. This song earned Stapp and Tremonti a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 2001, along with several other awards. “Higher” is the group’s ultimate acoustic grunge anthem with a fantastic hook that made this a great hit. Like the previous song, this makes nice use of bridge/outtro to take the song to a “higher” level. “Wash Away Those Years” follows as a quiet and dark ballad, leading to one final anthemic track, “Inside Us All”, to close the album with a theme that speaks to the “peace inside your soul”.

Human Clay sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide and charted all around the world. The album’s success was a mixed blessing as the group’s meteoric rise made them subject to some subsequent derision and Marshall struggled with substance abuse and was out of the group before the group recorded their third album in 2001.
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1999 images

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

 

Euphoria Mourning by Chris Cornell

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

Chris Cornell 1999

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

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

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1999 images

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

 

‘Til the Medicine Takes by Widespread Panic

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

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

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


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

Til the Medicine Takes by Widespread Panic

 

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

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

Widespread Panic in 1999

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

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

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1999 images

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

 

Hours by David Bowie

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

David Bowie

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

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

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1999 images

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

 

Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Californication by Red Hot Chili PeppersIn 1999, Red Hot Chili Peppers released their seventh studio album, Californication.   This would become the group’s most successful album internationally, selling more than 15 million copies worldwide. Lyrically, this record takes a critical look at many aspects of the group’s home state of California. While musically, it featured fewer rap-driven tunes and instead focused more on the bass lines and textured, melodic guitar riffs of John Frusciante, who returned to the group after a multi-year hiatus.

Frusciante was uncomfortable with the level of fame which resulted following the group’s 1991 Grammy-winning blockbuster Blood Sugar Sex Magik and he abruptly quit Red Hot Chili Peppers during a tour of Japan in May 1992. Guitarists Arik Marshall and Jesse Tobias were brought in as temporary replacements before Dave Navarro, formally of Jane’s Addiction, became the group’s permanent guitarist throughout the mid nineties, including the 1995 album One Hot Minute. In early 1998, Navarro left the band due to creative differences. Around the same time, Frusciante began recovering from a serious a heroin addiction, due in part from support by bassist Flea and was ultimately invited back into the band.

Material for Californication was written in the summer of 1998, with Frusciante an vocalist Anthony Kiedis taking the lead in formulating guitar riffs and lyrical content respectively. Next, the rhythmic aspects of the record were crafted by Flea and drummer Chad Smith before the group entered the studio and recorded with producer Rick Rubin over the Winter of 1998-99. Although Rubin had produced the group’s two previous studio albums, he was not their first choice as they had first unsuccessfully sought David Bowie as producer.


Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Released: June 8, 1999 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Rick Rubin
Recorded: Cello Studios, Los Angeles, December 1998–March 1999
Track Listing Group Musicians
Around the World
Parallel Universe
Scar Tissue
Otherside
Get on Top
Californication
Easily
Porcelain
Emit Remmus
I Like Dirt
This Velvet Glove
Savior
Purple Stain
Right on Time
Road Trippin’
Anthony Kiedis – Lead Vocals
John Frusciante – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
Flea – Bass, Vocals
Chad Smith – Drums, Percussion

Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

The opening track “Around the World” starts with wild, distorted bass frenzy by Flea before it settles into a funk rap for the verses, alternating with a melodic chorus. “Parallel Universe” was released as a single and its structure is built by rapid bass arpeggio and a slow vocal melody drone, making it all sound a bit hollow with no real low end or guitar until later on in wild ending crescendo by Frusciante. The melodic funk/rap/pop of “Scar Tissue” follows as a song highlighted by slow surf guitar interludes. The lead single from the album, this song spent a then record sixteen consecutive weeks on top of the Modern Rock Tracks chart, while peaking in the Top 10 of the American pop chart.

“Otherside” is the most straightforward rock/pop thus far on the album, albeit it does pay large homage to early nineties grunge rock. With choppy, piercing guitars, a signature bass riff and a steady drum beat by Smith, this song about the battles addicts face was another minor hit for the group. Next comes the unabashed funk rap of “Get on Top”, which may well be fun in a live setting but is a bit out of place on this position of the album. On the title track, Frusciante expertly uses two chords to accompany Kiedis’s great vocals in the verses. A break comes in the chorus release followed later by a cool, slight guitar lead, for an expert anthem overall about the dark side of Hollywood and the movie industry. “Easily” follows as a good, solid rock song with great layered guitars throughout, while “Porcelain” is an impossibly slow psychedelic ballad right out of the late sixties. The feedback-laden”Emit Remmus” (“summer time” spelled in reverse) squeals through the intro and verses over simple bass and drum beat.

Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1999

The latter part of the album branches out into more diverse musical territory. “I Like Dirt” moves from rudimentary funk to a rapid groove, “This Velvet Glove” is acoustic with layers on top for a differing musical vibe, and “Savior” could almost be considered a hard rock song with strong, penetrating rhythms. “Purple Stain” is a word-heavy, chanting funk/rap, with a later jam section that is somewhat proficient, while “Right on Time” weirdly alternates a punk style funks with a bit of disco. This all leads to the closer “Road Trippin'”, an acoustic folk with rich harmonies and overdubbed strings, addressing one final time the dark and seedy side of Hollywood and its culture.

Californication reached the Top 5 in both the US and UK, while topping the album charts of four other nations. The band followed its release by embarking on a world tour to support the record, which stretched into the next millennium, concluding a tremendously successful decade Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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1999 images

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

 

Echo by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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Echo by Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersClosing out the century with their tenth studio album, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers blended folk/rock arrangements with introspective lyrical themes on Echo. The album’s tracks were composed and produced in the wake of Tom Petty‘s divorce from his wife of two decades and his own subsequent bought of depression and the isolation of living alone in a cabin. Petty stated that in this era he didn’t see a lot of people because he wasn’t happy and “didn’t want to lay that on everybody”.

Prior to Echo, Petty had been on a decade-long streak of commercial and critical success. In 1988 he became a member of the impromptu super group The Traveling Wilburys, immediately followed by the phenomenal success of Petty’s 1989 debut solo record, Full Moon Fever. In the 1990s, Petty alternated albums between the Heartbreakers (Into the Great Wide Open in 1991 and She’s the One in 1996) and solo (Wildflowers in 1994), all of which achieved great success in charting and airplay. During this era, the group also released a 1993 Greatest Hits compilation, which reached number 1 on the album charts and went Platinum a dozen times over, as well as Playback, a 1995 six-disc box set.

Echo was produced by Rick Rubin and recorded over the span of 1997 and 1998. Rubin had previously produced Wildflowers and She’s the One and had enlisted the Heartbreakers in backing up the legendary Johnny Cash on his 1996 album , Unchained.


Echo by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Released: April 13, 1999 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Tom Petty, Mike Campbell & Rick Rubin
Recorded: 1997–1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Room at the Top
Counting on You
Free Girl Now
Lonesome Sundown
Swingin’
Accused of Love
Echo
Won’t Last Long
Billy the Kid
I Don’t Wanna Fight
This One’s for Me
No More
About to Give Out
Rhino Skin
One More Day, One More Night
Tom Petty – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Mike Campbell – Guitars, Vocals
Benmont Tench – Piano, Keyboards
Howie Epstein – Bass, Vocals
Steve Ferrone – Drums
 
Echo by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

 

At over an hour of running time, Echo is a 15-song album with the length of a traditional double LP. It is book-ended by tracks which share the common theme of isolation and observation. The opening “Room at the Top” is a melancholy lament of lost love which Petty later described as one of the most depressing songs in rock history”. The closing “One More Day, One More Night” is a bluesy ballad which concludes with Mike Campbell‘s understated blues rock guitar lead. In between these two tracks is an ebb-and-flow of songs of high and low moods and arrangements.

“Counting on You” is a crisp folk-rock track with a fine rotation of sonic ear candy including piercing guitar licks, electric piano and slight fiddle. Harkening back to the group’s late seventies post-punk era, “Free Girl Now” is an upbeat rocker which comes down for a cool third verse with picked electric guitar and choppy organ by Benmont Tench. This song was the lead single from the album and it reached the Top 10 the Mainstream Rock charts. Tench’s country-esque piano introduces the ballad “Lonesome Sundown” which hits some nice chords and features Petty’s vocals at top notch, hitting some of the higher notes in his range. The next track, “Swingin'” is a fine example of Petty’s interpretation of Bob Dylan’s style, while “Accused of Love” is a bright and upbeat acoustic pop song. The title track, “Echo” is a sad acoustic ballad driven by Petty’s melancholy lyrics.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The album’s latter half features some of its more interesting tunes, “Won’t Last Long” features a blend of driving, double strummed acoustic guitars in the verse and complex vocals patterns in the chorus along with a mid section where everything come down to reveal a subtle, penny-whistle organ. The acoustic “Billy the Kid” is topped off by tremolo guitar and backed with strong drum beat by Steve Ferrone, the newest member of the Heartbreakers. Campbell’s “I Don’t Wanna Fight” is a unique song in the Heartbreaker’s catalog, as this quasi-punk hard rocker is the only one to feature a lead vocal from someone other than Petty, while “This One’s for Me” is a bright and melodic ode to self interest. The sad but beautiful ballad “No More” features strings, percussion and other sweet instrumentation and effects in the arrangement, as the mood comes back up on “About to Give Out”, featuring a country-boogie piano lead by Tench. The album climaxes with the profound “Rhino Skin”, with the sharp lyrics accompanied by deadened guitar accompanied by a moody string arrangement and Howie Epstein‘s sharp bass rhythms.

Sadly, Echo would be the final album Heartbreakers’ album to feature Epstein,, who died in 2003 from a heroin overdose. Due to the painful memories associated with this album, Petty did not listen to this album for many years after its release, but was pleasantly surprised by its quality when his wife insisted they listen to during a long drive together.

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1999 images

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

 

The Badlees 1999 albums

Buy Amazing Grace
Buy Up There Down Here

The Badlees 1999 albumsIn the mid 1990s, The Badlees were a fast rising group, newly signed to major label Polydor and with a national selling album that spawned a couple of mainstream hits. There was great anticipation for a follow-up by this Pennsylvania based folk rock band and recording for Up There, Down Here, anticipated for release in late 1997, was completed on time. However, some corporate entanglement brought on by rapid changes in the traditional music industry caused several delays in releasing the album until, ultimately, the group made a brash decision to put the music itself ahead of the label concerns. In early 1999, the Badlees independently produced and released a wholly separate album, Amazing Grace, which caused Polydor to immediately sever ties with the group. A few months later, the group signed with Ark 21 Records and finally released Up There, Down Here, meaning the space between the group’s fourth and fifth albums was just four months while it had been over four years between their third and fourth LPs.

That third album, 1995’s River Songs was originally released independently but then re-released internationally following the group’s record deal. The group toured relentlessly in support of the album, opening up for several major acts through 1995 and 1996. The following year, the group turned their attention to writing and recording material for their next album, a second national release on Polydor that was originally slated for late 1997 but soon pushed moved back to a planned February 1998 release. Recording took place at Bearsville Recording Studio near Woodstock, New York with producer Joe Alexander for the album that would ultimately be titled Up There, Down Here. Guitarist Bret Alexander and bassist Paul Smith added some overdubs and did some mixing at Alexander’s home studio in Pennsylvania in time for the anticipated February release. However, the date of album release got pushed back three more times, the final time to “date uncertain”. Still under contract and restricted in the actions they could take to further their career, the group requested and received permission to release a 5-song “unplugged” EP called The Day’s Parade in July 1998.

The quickly recorded and unplanned release of the EP was confusing to the Badlees fans and critics alike, who were expecting a new full length production and didn’t know about the corporate wrangling going on behind the scenes. The band was confused as well, as an already-bought-and-paid for high-end production remained on the shelf through late 1998 and into 1999. After several inquiries were ignored by the label, they decided to simply start from scratch with a new full-length album independently produced without consent or input from the label.

Amazing Grace Up There, Down Here
Released: April 2, 1999 (Rite-Off)
Produced by: Bret Alexander
Recorded: Bret Alexander’s Studio, Wapwallopen, PA, Early 1999
Released: August 24, 1999 (Ark 21)
Produced by: Joe Alexander & The Badlees
Recorded: Bearsville Recording Studio, Bearsville, NY, 1997
I’m Not Here Anymore
Long Goodnight
Poison Ivy
Ain’t No Man
Amazing Grace to You
Beyond These Walls
Time Turns Around
Appalachian Scream
A Fever
Gone
In a Minor Way”
Don’t Let Me Hide
Luther’s Window
Thinking in Ways
Which One of You
Little Hell
34 Winters
Middle of the Busiest Road
Cellarbird & Zither
Running Up That Hill
Love All
Silly Little Man
The Second Coming of Chris
A Little Faith
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Pete Palladino – Vocals, Harmonica
Bret Alexander – Guitars, Mandolin, Dobro, Dulcimer, Banjo, Vocals
Jeff Feltenberger – Guitars, Vocals
Paul Smith – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Ron Simasek – Drums, Percussion

 

Amazing Grace was recorded, mixed, mastered, and pressed in just two months at Alexander’s home studio and it features the most diverse array of songwriting and styles of any Badlees’ album. It also features lead vocals by four of the five group members, a strong departure from all previous material where vocalist Pete Palladino sang lead on nearly all previous songs.

Amazing Grace by The BadleesPalladino does provide vocals on the sad and melancholy opener, “I’m Not Here Anymore”, where Alexander accents the mood with a whiny guitar and subtle piano riff. “Long Goodnight” is one of two songs on the album written by Smith. This fast-paced, upbeat, catchy rocker, would soon become a crowd favorite at shows and got some regional airplay. Smith’s other contribution is the soulful “Ain’t No Man”, featuring creative drums and percussion by Ron Simasek and lead vocals by the bassist himself.

The catchy “Poison Ivy” is the first of several showcases by Alexander. Led by a banjo riff, the music moves briskly while the harsh words speak of dealing with a toxic personality. The title track “Amazing Grace to You” is the most inventive and rewarding track on the album with wild, spoken word verses accompanied by wild and unruly guitars, a Hammond organ by guest Robert Scott Richardson and a tense 5/4 time signature by Simasek which breaks free for Alexander’s desperate wailing during the choruses.

The rest of Amazing Grace features a diverse array of short songs. “Beyond These Walls” is a classic Badlees pop rocker, while “Time Turns Around” is a distinct jazzy ballad led by Alexander’s crooning vocals. Guitarist Jeff Feltenberger composed and took lead vocals on the blue-grass tinged “Appalachian Scream”, followed by the subtle beauty of “A Fever”, co-written by Palladino and long time band collaborator Mike Naydock. The album wraps with two more Alexander-led tunes, the slightly psychedelic ballad “Gone” and the Tom-Petty-esque rocker “In a Minor Way”.

The Badlees in 1999

Amazing Grace was released on the band’s independent Rite-Off label on April 2, 1999 and the Badlees were dropped from Polydor on that very day. Alexander referred to this as the Badlees “White Album” because of its eclectic styles and diversity of voices. At the time, it was assumed that the recordings for Up There, Down Here were casualties of the move. However, some other personnel from Polydor were now at a new label called Ark 21, owned by Miles Copeland, who had previously co-founded I.R.S. Records and by May 1999 a deal was in place for the Badlees and their nearly two-year old record, with the provision that they would stop any promotion of their recently-released Amazing Grace album.

Up There Down Here by The BadleesThe opening track on Up There, Down Here, “Don’t Let Me Hide” is the highest quality and most well-known song on the album, with a profound lyric, subtle, moody guitars and excellent high harmonies that complement the strong lead vocals of Palladino. “Luther’s Window” follows with interesting musical changes and lyrics about examining different perspectives;

Turn your back to the sun, you see only shadows, look beneath the stars and you see only night…”

The beautifully atmospheric “Thinking in Ways” features fine orchestration, precise yet intricate drumming by Simasek and subject matter which may refer to a prepaid funeral? This followed by a trio of catchy, pop-oriented tunes, “Which One of You”, “Little Hell” and “Middle of the Busiest Road”. Feltenberger’s “34 Winters” is another beautiful but melancholy song with Jeff providing some fantastic vocal trade-offs between himself and Palladino. After Alexander’s interesting but odd instrumental “Cellarbird & Zither” comes the darkly inspirational “Running Up That Hill” and the catchy “Love All”. The album concludes with three interesting tracks, the Beatle-influenced “Silly Little Man” with great drums and guitars, the mechanical and quirky “The Second Coming of Chris”, and stripped-down acoustic ballad, “A Little Faith”, a nice break on this otherwise richly produced album.

With the album that the band had prepared for and worked on for nearly half a decade finally released in August 1999, the Badlees were once again disappointed when Ark 21 was unable to help promote the record nationally. The label soon declared bankruptcy and the group returned to their roots as an independent band as they continued off and on for the next decade and a half.

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1999 images

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

 

Supernatural by Santana

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Supernatural by SantanaThe amazing thing about Supernatural is how popular and commercially successful it became in spite of its plethora of styles, multiple lead vocalists and bi-lingual lyrical content. Released in 1999, this was the eighteenth studio album by Santana, the Latin-style rock project led by guitarist Carlos Santana.  It was, by far, Santana’s biggest commercial success, selling about 30 million copies worldwide and topping the album charts in eleven countries, including a total of twelve weeks at #1 in the US.

By the time of Supernatural‘s production, Santana already had a career that spanned over thirty years, commencing in the mid sixties with spurts of innovation, commercial success, experimentation, decline and hiatus. In 1991, Santana’s record deal with Columbia Records came to an end and subsequent albums on the Polydor/Island labels did not fare well commercially. However, Carlos Santana’s involvement in a 1995 documentary about executive and Arista Records founder Clive Davis (who was at Columbia when Santana was first signed in 1969), led to a deal with Arista.

Supernatural was forged with a desire to produce more radio friendly songs and its sound is a blend of elements that combine “vintage Santana” with contemporary influences from several genres. Along with the plethora of guest performing artists, the twelve original album tracks were put together by a total of thirteen co-producers.


Supernatural by Santana
Released: June 15, 1999 (Arista)
Produced by: Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, Jerry Duplessis, The Dust Brothers, Alex González, Charles Goodan, Lauryn Hill, Art Hodge, Wyclef Jean, K.C. Porter, Dante Ross, Matt Serletic & Stephen Harris
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA, 1999
Track Listing Primary Musicians
(Da Le) Yaleo
Love of My Life
Put Your Lights On
Africa Bamba
Smooth
Do You Like the Way
Maria Maria
Migra
Corazón Espinado
Wishing It Was
Primavera
The Calling
Carlos Santana – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Ross Childress – Guitars, Vocals
Chester D. Thompson – Keyboards
Benny Rietveld – Bass
Rodney Holmes – Drums

 
Supernatural by Santana

 

 

The opener “(Da Le) Yaleo” is a Spanish language song that delves right in with the Carlos Santana signature guitar lead over the fine Latin percussion, with “Love of My Life” instantly changing direction. This second track is driven by the drums of Carter Beauford and topped by a smooth, jazzy arrangement with long, serene keys and good vocals by co-writer and lead vocalist Dave Matthews. The acoustic ballad “Put Your Lights On” slowly builds in arrangement with lyrics of existentialism by Everlast, ultimately making this a minor hit single. “Africa Bamba” follows and features acoustic and electric lead guitars for nice atmosphere.

By far the most popular single from Supernatural was “Smooth”, co-written by Itaal Shur and Rob Thomas and featuring Thomas on lead vocals. The track opens with a definitive Santana lead but eases into a groove of fine rhythms, proficient horn accents, enhanced vocals and overall great production. “Smooth” topped the pop charts (having the distinction of being the number one song when the century ended) and, ultimately, won three Grammy Awards. The next couple tracks have a definitive R&B vibe, Lauryn Hill‘s hip hop leaning “Do You Like the Way” and “Maria Maria”, another chart-topping and Grammy winning tune produced by Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis.

Santana in 1999

The album’s second half, while still entertaining, features more repetitive and less groundbreaking songs. “Corazón Espinado” is almost like a Spanish language counterpart to “Smooth”, highlighted by Karl Perazzo on timbales, as “Wishing It Was” is another jazzy Latin ballad, featuring Eagle-Eye Cherry on vocals. The instrumental “El Farol” has plenty of atmosphere to tease out the beauty of Santana’s lead guitar, while “Primavera” is a standard Latin pop track. A highlight of this section of the album is “Migra”, driven by a strong drum beat and wild electric lead throughout, finding space between each vocal track, along with an excellent accordion by K.C. Porter and harmonized trumpets and trombones. “The Calling” is the original album closer, featuring Eric Clapton and starting with a long, Miles Davis like improvised section with Clapton and Santana trading guitar licks before the song proper of electronic drums backing a Gospel-like rendition with vocals by Tony Lindsay and Jeanie Tracy. Hidden within the track is “Day of Celebration”, a shuffle rhythmically, but it maintains a similar Gospel feel of uplift.

At nearly 75 minutes in length, the 1999 original version was a monster-size listening experience in of itself. However, the 2010 Legacy Edition added a second disc of outtakes, remixes and covers, clocking in at over two hours in total length of music. Supernatural went on to win nine Grammy Awards as an album and it sustained its popularity to the degree that it was the the ninth best-selling album of the decade of 2000s, despite being officially released in the 1990s. The album also gave Santana a unique entry into the Guinness book of World Records, as his previous number one album was Santana III in 1971, making the 28 year gap between number one albums for an artist the longest in history.

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1999 images

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

 

Dosage by Collective Soul

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Dosage by Collective SoulCollective Soul finished their nineties output by making a return to the mid nineties sound that brought their greatest success. In early 1999, the group released their fourth album, Dosage, with both a step back towards familiar styles and some addition of slight sophistication in the song composition and arrangement. The results of this strategy were somewhat mixed as the album was not quite as successful commercially as past releases, but it did pose as a bit of a comeback critically.

Collective Soul was formed after the production of a high quality demo by guitarist/vocalist Ed Roland made some serious waves, eventually becoming the group’s 1993 debut, Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid. Collective Soul’s self-titled sophomore record became their pinnacle of success, spawning several radio hits and spending over a year on the album charts. However, 1997’s Disciplined Breakdown, which followed a split with management and some legal wranglings, fared significantly lower critically and commercially.

Roland produced Dosage and derived the title from a common catchphrase the group used to describe burnout from touring. The album was meticulously recorded in Atlanta and Miami over a six-month period in 1998 and was the first to feature keyboardist and orchestra arranger Anthony Resta, who played a significant role in forging this record’s sound.


Dosage by Collective Soul
Released: February 9, 1999 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Ed Roland
Recorded: Tree Studios, Atlanta & Criteria Studios, Miami, 1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Tremble for My Beloved
Heavy
No More, No Less
Needs
Slow
Dandy Life
Run
Generate
Compliment
Not the One
Crown
Ed Roland – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Ross Childress – Guitars, Vocals
Dean Roland – Guitars
Anthony J. Resta – Keyboards
Will Turpin – Bass, Vocals
Shane Evans – Drums, PercussionDosage by Collective Soul

 

 

The album’s opening track, “Tremble for My Beloved”, was also one of the first songs written for the album. Ironically, this would take nearly a decade to find widespread fame after it was featured in the 2008 film Twilight. “Heavy” was a more immediate hit, as rose to the top of the Mainstream Rock Tracks for nearly four months in 1999. With a theme about outside pressure, “Heavy” features a catchy guitar riff and fine lead by Ross Childress. The intro to “No More, No Less” is driven by electronic percussive effects along with fine bass riff by Will Turpin, while “Needs” starts with finger picked acoustic and strings and picks up intensity from there.

“Slow” was co-written by Ed’s brother and band guitarist Dean Roland, featuring a wild main riff with barked out vocals during the verses, making this tune very catchy and entertaining overall. Conversely, “Dandy Life” was penned by Childress, who also takes over lead vocals on this sticky-sweet dance-styled pop tune. The hit track “Run” follows, featuring steady acoustic strumming guided by piano leads and a strong but short guitar lead.

Collective Soul

As the album winds down there are a few more interesting moments. The synth-driven track “Generate” features an odd-time percussive effect and a very mechanical vibe throughout, making this unique on the album and one of the better tracks on it’s latter half. “Compliment” starts with cool synth arpeggio before breaking into a standard moderate rocker, much the same as “Not the One”, a ballad driven by the steady beat of drummer Shane Evans. “Crown” is the last official track as a slow and methodical acoustic ballad with plenty of electronic décor and a fine guitar lead. After this fades and about a minute of silence, the “hidden” track “She Said” kicks in as a quality song with nice, alternating use of synths in chorus.

Dosage peaked at near the Top 20 on the Billboard albums chart, making it a moderate overall hit for Collective Soul. This album would find temporary new life in 2012 when the group performed the album in its entirety during their “Dosage” tour.

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1999 images

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