Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd
by Lynyrd Skynyrd

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Lynard Skynard - PronouncedLynyrd Skynyrd burst onto the national scene with their 1973 debut Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd, which not only featured many of the band’s most popular songs but also defined the genre of “Southern Rock” more than any other album. This six-piece group out of Jacksonville, Florida fused blues, country, and straight-forward rock to forge an edge that is totally unpretentious and unassuming. Produced by Al Kooper, there are few debut records which express such confidence and drive, with a balanced diversity between upbeat honky-tonk rock and the delicate jam songs, which would Be the prime templates for the “power ballads” which proliferated a decade or more later.

The grouped was formed nine years earlier, in the summer of 1964. High school friends Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, and Gary Rossington formed a band with two other friends called “The Noble Five”. Through many personnel and name changes in the late 1960s, these three remained the core. In 1970, the band changed their name to “Leonard Skinner” as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a strict phys-ed teacher at their high school in Jacksonville, who constantly harassed them because of their long hair (which played a big part in Rossington dropping out of school). The more distinctive spelling was adopted at the suggestion of Kooper in 1972 when he signed the band his Sounds of the South, a subsidiary of MCA Records.

The band had grown notoriety by opening for the band Strawberry Alarm Clock and that band’s guitarist Ed King joined Lynyrd Skynyrd to play bass on the debut album (later switching back to guitar, giving the band three guitarists). One day the band was playing a high school prom when their then roadie Billy Powell played what would become the intro piece to “Free Bird”, the band’s most famous song. Powell was immediately invited him to join the band as keyboardist and the classic lineup of Lynyrd Skynyrd was established.

 


Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Released: August 13, 1973 (MCA)
Produced by: Al Kooper
Recorded: Studio One, Doraville, Georgia, March 27-May 1, 1973
Side One Side Two
I Ain’t the One
Tuesday’s Gone
Gimme Three Steps
Simple Man
Things Going On
Mississippi Kid
Poison Whiskey
Freebird
Band Musicians
Ronnie Van Zandt – Lead Vocals
Gary Rossington – Guitars
Allen Collins – Guitars
Billy Powell – Keyboards
Ed King – Bass
Bob Burns – Drums

 
“Freebird”‘s majestic organ intro leads to one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock history, as Rossington used a glass Coricidin bottle for a slide to emulate his hero, the late Duane Allman. The poignant yet melancholy lyrics were written by Collins when he then-girlfriend (and later wife) spoke the opening lines verbatim;

If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me?”

The moody ballad gives way to a frantic ending jam led by the dual guitar leads and ever-more creative ways to grind out the three backing chords and even contains a drum roll by Bob Burns that lasts nearly a minute. The song completes the band’s debut album in climatic fashion.

The album begins with some backward percussion effects that introduce “I Ain’t the One”. Although this intro is rather awkward, the song finally catches its groove with the Rossington riff and piano embellishment from Powell, saving the song from bring too ordinary. “Tuesday’s Gone” then provides an immediate contrast to the opener, instantly displaying the band’s range and penchant for differing moods. The great harmonized guitars throughout serenade the lyrical theme of changing times with guest Robert Nix filling in on drums and producer Al Kooper providing bass and Mellotron.

Aside from the later hit “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Gimme Three Steps” may the be the quintessential Southern Rock song for all time. Led by a great riff sequence by Collins and just the right amount of lead guitar activity between verses, the storytelling song became the band’s first charting hit. The lyrics are based on an actual experience by Van Zant in a biker bar in Jacksonville when he had a gun pulled on him. That bar was actually called The Pastime Bar, but was renamed “The Jug” (from the song’s lyrics) in September 2012. “Simple Man” finishes off side one as a rather “simple” song, which somehow stretches three chords for nearly six minutes, using some sonic dynamics which saves it from getting too mundane.

Aside from the closer, side two contains some lesser known yet interesting tunes. “Things Goin’ On” at times seems a bit and unsure of itself, especially due to its lack of a strong beat, but the song contains some very entertaining elements such as the alternating instrumental leads between Rossington and Powell. “Mississippi Kid” is the most unique song on the album while being a definite nod to southern blues. It was constructed by Burns and producer Al Kooper, who also adds the signature mandolin while Ed king plays a respectable slide for his only guitar part on the album. “Poison Whiskey” is a short, funky song with more use of the nice double guitar harmony by Rossington and Collins.

A shortened version of “Free Bird” was released as a single and the full song received heavy airplay for decades to come. After the band’s devastating plane crash, which took the life of Van Zant in 1977, a live version of the song re-charted with even greater success.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1973 albums.

 

Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer

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Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and PalmerEmerson, Lake, & Palmer reached their progressive climax with their fourth studio album Brain Salad Surgery. It was the group’s most ambitious and commercially successful album, with a mixture of rock and classical along with some cutting edge electronic sounds, used for the first time on any of the group’s records. The album was the first on the trio’s new Manticore label and was produced by the group’s guitarist, bassist, and lead vocalist Greg Lake. Lake co-wrote the album’s lyrics with former King Crimson bandmate Pete Sinfield, who was also signed to the group’s new label. This was the first time any outside musician appeared on an album by the trio.

Brain Salad Surgery was a concerted effort by the group to produce an album which could be performed in its entirety live, unlike the highly overdubbed material of their previous album Trilogy. Employing some of the tactics used by Pink Floyd, the band wrote some of the music in a cinema, “live” on stage, reworking arrangements to capture the emotion of the film. Most of the material was composed as instrumental pieces with lyrics added to some later on. Three instrumentals remained on the final album, while three more (“When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I’ll Be Your Valentine”, “Tiger In a Spotlight”, and the title song “Brain Salad Surgery”) were omitted because of time constraints.

The album’s unique title came from a lyric in Dr. John’s song “Right Place, Wrong Time”, released earlier in 1973 which stated; “just need a little brain salad surgery, got to cure this insecurity.” The album cover artwork was done by the artist Giger, integrating an industrial mechanism with a human skull along with the latest ELP logo (which Giger also created).

 


Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer
Released: November 19, 1973 (Manticore)
Produced by: Greg Lake
Recorded: Advision Studios and Olympic Studios, London, June–September 1973
Side One Side Two
Jerusalem
Toccata
Still, You Turn Me On
Benny the Bouncer
Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 1
Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 2
Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression
Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression
Band Musicians
Greg Lake – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass
Keith Emerson – Piano, Organ, Keyboards, Accordion
Carl Palmer – Drums, Percussion

This album packed with dynamic flourishes of musical virtuosity begins in a rather subdued, if not standard way. “Jerusalem” is an adaptation of Hubert Parry’s hymn with lyrics Taken from the preface to William Blake’s “Milton” poem. This only managed to get it banned by the BBC for potential “blasphemy”. Musically, the organ is a little overwhelming in the mix with not much bass presence at all, but it is also notable as the first known track to use the Moog Apollo, the first polyphonic synthesizer still in prototype at the time. The album quickly picks up with the instrumental “Toccata”, sounding more like the top-end prog rock of the era, which the group was known for. Keith Emerson‘s deeper rudiments are of the type that would be replicated by the band Rush on guitar and bass years later, and the mid-section contains a long percussive solo by Carl Palmer with more synth effects mixed in. “Toccata” draws from the Fourth Movement of Alberto Ginastera’s 1st Piano Concerto, whom Emerson flew to Geneva to discuss his arrangement with in order obtain permission.

Lake’s acoustic ballad “Still, You Turn Me On” is poetic and beautiful with layered riffs and a nice counter-balance of melody and song craft to the furious instrumental which precedes it. This short but poignant song contains profound yet romantic lyrics which earned it a fair share of radio play;

Do you wanna be an angel, do you wanna be a star, do you wanna play some magic on my guitar / Do you wanna be a poet, do you wanna be my string, you could be anything…

Sinfield’s first lyrical contribution comes with “Benny the Bouncer”, an electronic honky-tonk of sort with comical lyrics which are oddly vocalized, giving a bit of light fare before the album moves into its side-plus extended piece.

“Karn Evil 9” is a suite whose three movements comprise roughly a side and a quarter of the album where the band pulls out all the sonic stops. The most well-known section is “1st Impression, Part 2” with the famous “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends…” lyric, which was later used as a title for a live album. The story of “Karn Evil 9” tells of a futuristic world from which “all manner of evil and decadence had been banished.” The decadence of the old world is preserved through exhibits that are part of a futuristic carnival show, which exhibits depravities. This story is told lyrically through the first and third impressions, with the second impression being a three piece jazz improv with Emerson on piano, Lake on Bass, and Palmer on drums. The piece also includes its share of synthesizers with a steel drum part and Emerson’s voice fed through a modulator to sound like a child’s voice, Emerson’s only official vocal credit on an ELP record.

Following the success of Brain Salad Surgery, Emerson Lake, and Palmer went on some very successful (albeit extravagant) tours through 1974, including one performance broadcast nationwide in the United States. Then then went on an untimely three-year break to re-invent their music, but never again were able to capture their momentum, leading to the group’s break by the end of the decade.

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1973 Images

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

 

Bruce Springsteen 1973 Albums

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Buy The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle

Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ amp; The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle by Bruce SpringsteenBruce Springsteen started off his recording career with two albums in 1973, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, released in January, and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, released in September. Both albums were produced by the team of Mike Appel & Jim Cretecos and both were well-received critically but had little commercial success at the time. Both albums also used musicians that would be later make up the E Street Band (at the time known as the “Bruce Springsteen Band”), however Springsteen’s best friend guitarist Steve Van Zandt was all but shut out from the sessions due to budgetary constraints. The pair would not perform again together for several years.

Springsteen had been playing acoustic guitar, in the tradition of early Bob Dylan style folk, for more than half a decade before his management signed a record deal with Columbia Records in June 1972. When planning began for the debut album, Springsteen had advocated for a band arrangement but the label’s A&R man John Hammond wanted a more solo-dominated album, reflecting the live sound. Eventually a compromise was reached where the album would consist of five “band” recordings and five solo recordings. However, when then-CBS President Clive Davis listened to the ten tracks he commented that not he strongly preferred the band tracks, and also felt that the album lacked a potential hit single. Springsteen composed two more commercial-sounding songs (“Blinded By the Light” and “Spirit In the Night”) and reached out to saxophonist Clarence Clemons of a rival North Jersey band to add a new element to these new songs. Three Springsteen solo tracks were omitted from Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ bringing the total track count to nine, seven band and two solo tracks. Despite this effort to further “commercialize” the album is was a major flop sales-wise upon its release. According to a local Freehold, NJ record store owner, the Partridge Family far outsold the hometown Springsteen during the very first week that the album was released and it wouldn’t be until years later when Springsteen became nationally famous that anyone would even hear of this album.

Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band in 1973

Recording sessions for The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle took place exactly a year later, during the summer of 1973. On every level (critically, commercially, and sonically), this sophomore album is superior to the debut, although together they form a fine evolution in advancement. Still, initial sales were still slow and, like its predecessor, this album would not get widespread listens until after the huge breakthrough of Springsteen’s third album, Born to Run. Expanding on the basic approach of his debut album, The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle offers multi-strains of other musical styles, and is much more a “band” effort, with keyboard player David Sancious (whose home on the E Street gave the album and group its name) stepping in to play a major role in musical arrangements. Lyrically, this may have been Springsteen’s nod of nostalgia and final goodbye to the small-town street life as he was moving on to higher ground. It was also a signature album for drummer Vini Lopez, who offered a busy Keith Moon style approach for his final album with the that was lacking in later E Street material.

Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
Released: January 5, 1973 (Columbia)
Produced by: Mike Appel & Jim Cretecos
Recorded: 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY, July-September 1972
Side One Side Two
Blinded By the Light
Growin’ Up
Mary, Queen of Arkansas
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
Lost In the Flood
The Angel
For You
Spirit In the Night
It’s Hard To Be a Saint In the City
The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle
Released: September 11, 1973 (Columbia)
Produced by: Mike Appel & Jim Cretecos
Recorded: 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, NY, May-September 1973
Side One Side Two
The E Street Shuffle
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Kitty’s Back
Wild Billy’s Circus Story
Incident On 57th Street
Rosalita
New York City Serenade
Primary Musicians (Both Albums)
Bruce Springsteen – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Harmonica
David Sancious – Piano, Keyboards
Clarence Clemons – Saxophone, Vocals
Garry Tallent – Bass
Vini Lopez – Drums, Vocals

Springsteen’s debut album started with a song written intentionally to provide it with a radio-friendly hit. “Blinded by the Light” contains a barrage of words above a loose, almost lost musical jam. The song is almost all verse until it finally reaches the distant breaks of the chorus hook. Session piano man Harold Wheeler joins in on piano along with Clemons, Lopez, and Springsteen playing the remainder of instruments. Like the album, the single didn’t make many waves upon release, but three years later a re-arranged version of the song was recorded by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and it reached #1 in both the US and Canada, ironically becoming the highest charting song of all that Springsteen wrote through his long career.

Greetings from Asbury Park NJ by Bruce Springsteen“Growin’ Up” is a true early classic by Springsteen, a bit sharper and better organized than the opening track. The song that doesn’t quite receive the production quality it deserves on this recording but still resonates through the years. “Mary Queen of Arkansas” is one of the two “solo” songs on the debut album, along with the side two opener “The Angel”. Both are a bit melodramatic for the sophisticated listener with Springsteen’s naked voice wearing a little thin, but “Mary Queen of Arkansas” does have a bit of charm and spontaneity. “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” is a linear story told in a furious stream of advice lines, all fed out in a brief but entertaining musical blitz. The bouncy bass by Garry Tallent is particularly entertaining in this slight-but-fun romp. “Lost In the Flood” finishes side one of Greetings as slow piano ballad that builds tension before eventually breaking into a full arrangement about two minutes into the song. It is also notable as the only track on these first two albums to feature Steven Van Zandt, who dubbed in sound effects for the song.

The debut album ends strong with three upbeat songs which forecast the approach expanded upon on the second album. “For You” is upbeat and romantic, driven by the bouncy organ by Sancious and the heartfelt melodies of Springsteen. “Spirit in the Night” is a fun and adventurous song with the the strongest early presence by Clemons, who provides saxophone, hand claps, and backing vocals on this track. The closer, “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” is the most Dylan-esque of all songs on this album with a nice mixture of acoustic guitar and piano providing a fine bedding to the frantic, poetic lyrics in a very entertaining way, making for a great way to end the album.

The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle by Bruce SpringsteenSpringsteen’s second album, The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, begins with the de facto title song “The E Street Shuffle”, which was allegedly inspired by a snowy night when the band’s rented truck broke down after a gig in New York City and they decided to walk the short distance to Sancious’ mother’s home in the vicinity. It begins with some off-tune horns before breaking into a very funky guitar and clavinet riff, which makes it clear right away that the sound is more refined on this album. It has a definitive 1970s sound with some baritone added by Albany “Al” Tellone.

“4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” continues the Jersey shore scenery promised in the debut’s title. Romantic lyrics line this mostly pleasant and enjoyable song with the slight exception of the over-exaggerated “breath-y” vocals by Springsteen in the opening verses. Beyond that, Springsteen’s acoustic and electric guitar mixes are excellent with some accordion added by future E Street Band member Danny Federici. “Kitty’s Back” is an extended, multi-part song which opens with a slow moving bluesy guitar lead which abruptly morphs to a more upbeat, jazzy verse with boogie bass by Tallent and some great horns. Later, there is a wild, almost psychedelic jam section in the middle which includes a great organ solo by Sancious.

“Wild Billy’s Circus Story” is a cool song which really strikes a chord to end the first side. It evolved from a previous song called “Circus Town”, which was recorded for the Greetings album but never released. Flipping the original LP over, is the side two opener “Incident on 57th Street”. A distorted piano kicks off this absolutely brilliant song, perhaps the most polished and melodic song on the album. Lyrically, “Incident” tells a romantic story set against a New York street fight, in the spirit of “West Side Story”, with fully developed characters and setting, something Springsteen would revisit often in the future.

Speaking of characters, one of Springsteen’s most enduring is “Rosalita”, a song which elaborately tells of a love forbidden because the girl’s parents don’t approve of the boy’s rock and roll lifestyle. Although never released as a single, it was Springsteen’s first song to receive significant airplay, especially on FM radio as anticipation grew for the release of Born to Run two years later. This was in spite of its over seven-minute running length. The song also received a second popular life during the 1980s when a vintage video of the song became one of the most played videos on MTV. The ten-minute “New York City Serenade” completes the album with a bit of subtle melodrama but nice use of instrumentation, especially the acoustic guitar. The song never gets lost or mundane over its extended length.

By the end of 1973 and the release of Springsteen’s second album, critics were starting to take note of his approach of absurdist energy and heart-on-sleeve pretension, and would soon be crawling over each other the sing his praises. Much of this praise was well-deserved but some was down-right overblown. Still, the was little doubt that Springsteen was just getting started and would be around for years to come.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1973 albums.

 

There Goes Rhymin’ Simon by Paul Simon

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There Goes Rhymin Simon by Paul SimonFor his second post-Garfunkel effort, Paul Simon found a nice sonic balance with There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. This album is bookmarked by two of his top pop hits with a sandwich of soft-rock songs in between, covering such diverse styles as R&B, gospel, reggae, folk, and jazz. The album was both a commercial and critical success and firmly established Simon as a top-notch solo artist. After the deep, introspective, and often depressing tone of Simon’s 1972 debut album, this sophomore effort takes a decidedly positive approach with optimistic songs about faith, romance, family, and commitment, making it both enjoyable and uplifting.

For this album, the native New Yorker went south. Most of the album was recorded between Jackson, Mississippi and the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, with Simon employing the prolific “Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section” on several of the tracks. The compositions by Simon are contemporary narratives (something he would establish as his signature) yet there is enough variety that these songs were ripe pickings for other artists.

Simon co-produced the album with the legendary Phil Ramone, who was near the beginning of his brilliant career. Also helping out with production duties were former Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, Simon and Garfunkel producer Roy Halee, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.


There Goes Rhymin’ Simon by Paul Simon
Released: May 5, 1973 (Warner)
Produced by: Paul Simon and Phil Ramone
Recorded: Muscle Shoals Studios, Alabama, & Malaco Studios, Jackson, MS, 1972
Side One Side Two
Kodachrome
Tenderness
Take Me to the Mardi Gras
Something So Right
One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor
American Song
Learn How to Fall
Was a Sunny Day
St. Judy’s Comet
Loves Me Like a Rock
Primary Musicians
Paul Simon – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Pete Carr – Guitars
Barry Beckett – Piano, Keyboards
David Hood – Bass
Roger Hawkins – Drums, Percussion

“Kodachrome” plays like a commercial thematically, but is absolutely masterful sonically. The song is named after a Kodak product, causing it to be banned by the BBC because that name is trademarked. However the song was a major hit in the United States, peaking at #2. The image of color photography is a metaphor for imaginative vitality, setting the positive theme for the album. The song’s original working title was “Going Home” but Simon thought that title was too conventional. “Tenderness” follows as a totally retro ballad that is really the only throwaway on the album, once you get past the brief curiosity of a late-Fifties-styled doo-wop ballad.

“Take Me to the Mardi Gras” starts as an acoustic ballad with interesting deadened electric notes before ending with some legitimate Dixieland instrumentation. Reverend Claude Jeter contributed unique falsetto vocals to the mix. “Something So Right” contains a nice potpourri of instruments including an electric and acoustic piano, and a bass and double bass. These all provide the surface for Simon’s signature acoustic guitar and melodic vocals on this early classic. “One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor” is a showcase for Barry Beckett, whose unique piano run bookends the song, an otherwise upbeat rocker with great background vocals.

Paul Simon in 1973

The second side begins with “American Tune”, which is right out of the Simon & Garfunkel playbook. It is a folk-based motif on on the American experience with references to struggle, weariness, and hard work. The song was released as a single but failed to make any ripples on the charts. “Was a Sunny Day” is a hybrid of folk and reggae with a bouncy, McCartney-esque bass line by David Hood. “Learn How to Fall” is an upbeat acoustic jazz tune with some great instrumental sections packed into its brief two minutes and 44 seconds.

“St. Judy’s Comet” is the best song on the album, a lullaby of pure musical beauty. Beckett’s electric piano and vibraphone along with subtle electric guitar overtones by Pete Carr, accent the perfect, calm melody and hypnotizing acoustic riff by Simon. The album concludes with “Loves Me Like a Rock”, a pop song with heavy Gospel influence, especially with the background vocals of The Dixie Hummingbirds. This was the second song on the album to peak at #2 and remains one of Simon’s most famous songs.

There Goes Rhymin’ Simon proved to be a bigger hit than its predecessor (ironically peaking at #2 on the album charts and gave Paul Simon the latitude to continue his mix of pop and experimentation with future albums.

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1973 Images

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

 

Aerosmith

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Aerosmith 1973 debut albumAerosmith emerged as a blues rock alternative in a music sea of glam rock and prog rock of the early 1970s. Their impressive 1973 debut album doesn’t contain anything particularly innovative musically, but still manages to forge some unforgettable moments. The album is also the band’s most authentically bluesy release (something they’d try to replicate three decades later with the 2004 cover album Honkin’ On Bobo) and some of these extended blues numbers were the longest songs the band would ever release. Band leader and lead vocalist Steven Tyler wrote the bulk of the original material and uses a bit of an exaggerated “blues” voice, something he would soon abandon.

Tyler began performing as a drummer in his native New Hampshire as early as 1964. In nearby Massachusetts, guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton formed a free-form and blues group called the Jam Band (commonly known as “Joe Perry’s Jam Band”). Eventually the performers were united in 1970 in Boston by drummer Joey Kramer, a Berkley student who had gotten to know all the above musicians. With Kramer on drums, Tyler moved to “frontman” and the new band chose a name inspired by Harry Nilsson’s album Aerial Ballet. Another Berkley student, Brad Whitford joined as rhythm guitarist in 1971, completing the classic quartet which makes up the band to this day.

By the time their debut album was released, the band had been playing constantly for nearly three years, helping to forge a confident boogie-blues and riff-based hard rock sound. Producer Adrian Barber captured this sound in a raw yet professional manner, avoiding the typical stumbles and haziness that normally comes with a debut.


Aerosmith by Aerosmith
Released: January 5, 1973 (Columbia)
Produced by: Adrian Barber
Recorded: Intermedia Studios, 1972
Side One Side Two
Make It
Somebody
Dream On
One Way Street
Mama Kin
Write Me a Letter
Movin’ Out
Walkin’ the Dog
Group Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass
Joey Kramer – Drums

Aerosmith’s recording career begins with an excellent example of their early sound. “Make It” is a mixture of fuzzy but clean riffs and some distant whining guitars above a solid rhythm with about medium quality recording. “Somebody” a pure, riff-driven rocker follows. It appears the band was going for the accessible radio hit (which probably would have worked for the later, more polished Aerosmith) but it never did quite catch on and just lays there for the enjoyment of us future music lovers. This song has an interesting middle section, which slowly develops but works towards a whiny, bluesy guitar mimicked in sync by Tyler’s ad-libbed voice.

The original recording of “Dream On” is unique, surreal, and timeless song, which can often be overlooked as the classic signature song that it is. This may be due to the fact that it has been way overplayed on rock radio and, let’s face it, the band kind of butchers it live. The song is unique on this album, driven by piano, mellotron, and high pitched vocals by Tyler, and ringing guitar notes by Perry. It was the band’s first single, but only reached #59 in 1973. It did much better during a second release in 1976, reaching the Top Ten after Aerosmith had broken through to the main stream.

The first side closes with “One Way Street”, the perfect fusion of blues and rock which represents the heart of the album. Whitford takes over lead guitar on this one, which is a multi-part jam with some finer details touched up by Hamilton’s bass and Tyler’s harmonica. “Mama Kin” is the second song on the album which remained a signature throughout their career. It starts with a long intro section of Perry’s steady but strong riff and works in much stop/start action by the rest of the musicians. Guest David Woodford provides saxophone to the mix and Perry adds some backing vocals.

Aerosmith, 1973

The rest of side two contains solid yet relatively unknown tracks. “Write Me a Letter” was recorded with a real live feel to it, sounding like it was done in a club. The guitars are crisp and Kramer’s drumming is especially sharp and dynamic, rising above the rest of the band. “Movin’ Out” was co-written by Perry and is another strong blues with a real Celtic undertone to it. The album completes with “Walkin’ the Dog”, the only cover song on the album, written by Rufus Thomas. It may also be the most Zeppelin-esque of any song on the album, very upbeat and entertaining and a strong way to finish the album.

By all commercial metrics, Aerosmith was a flop upon its release and, like its top single, was issued new life only after the band broke through with success on their mid 70s albums. However, musically this album stood the test of time and decades later sounds fresh and entertaining.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1973 albums.

 

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John We’ve been down this road before of critiquing double albums which would have worked better as a single album. See our recent review of Exile On Main Street by The Rolling Stones or stayed tuned for our look at The Beatles’ White Album later this year. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, the 1973 double-length album by Elton John may also fit this mold. The album starts extremely strong, with deeply produced and thoughtful compositions through the first side and a half, but then the bottom falls out with a barrage of trite filler before a slight recovery towards the end of side four. The album comes at the end of an incredibly prolific, four and a half year span for John and lyricist Bernie Taupin. In that span which began in mid-1969, the pair had composed and recorded a live album, a film soundtrack, and six studio albums before this double seventh album.

After a failed attempt to record in Jamaica, the album was recorded in a 18th century castle outside Paris, France called the Château d’Hérouville, where Elton John had recorded his previous two albums, Honky Château in 1972 and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player earlier in 1973. Taupin reportedly wrote all the lyrics to the album’s 17 songs in two and a half weeks while John composed most of the music in three days while in Jamaica.

The album was produced by Gus Dudgeon, who was not initially expecting to produce a two-record collection. However, John and Taupin had composed 22 tracks for the album and ended up recording 18 of these (two of which were fused together for the opening medley). This diverse double album recapped many of the styles (for good and bad) which John explored through his first four years in the spotlight and even added a bit of prog rock with the epic opener “Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding)”. This eleven minute epic starts with a long, multi-part instrumental with doomy organs accented by synths performed by engineer David Hentschel, and of course plenty of piano, all meant to replicate the type of music John envisioned played at his own funeral. When the song proper finally kicks in, it is riff-driven and melodic with a backing vocal chorus and a very active guitar by Davey Johnstone.


Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Released: October 5, 1973 (MCA)
Produced by: Gus Dudgeon
Recorded: Château d’Hérouville, Hérouville, France, May 1973
Side One Side Two
Funeral For a Friend
Love Lies Bleeding
Candle In the Wind
Bennie and the Jets
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
This Song Has No Title
Grey Seal
Jamaica Jerk-Off
I’ve Seen That Movie Too
Side Three Side Four
Sweet Painted Lady
The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)
Dirty Little Girl
All the Girls Love Alice
Your Sister Can’t Twist
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Roy Rogers
Social Disease
Harmony
Primary Musicians
Elton John – Lead Vocals, Piano, Organ, Mellotron
Davey Johnstone – Acoustic, Electric, & Slide Guitars, Banjo, Vocals
Dee Murray – Bass, Vocals
Nigel Olsson – Drums, Vocals

The ballad “Candle In the Wind” was a recurring theme throughout Elton John’s career, with three separate versions released as singles and reaching the pop charts in 1974, 1988, and 1997. This original version has the most rock “decor” with a strongly distorted guitar above the piano melody and more great harmonies, fitting the epic theme of this album. It’s lyrics pay homage to Marilyn Monroe, with the actual phrase “candle in the wind” first used in tribute to Janis Joplin.

“Bennie and the Jets” is a choppy piano song with glam overtones about a fictional band (much like David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars). It would go on to become one of John’s most popular songs, but the artist was against releasing it as a single in the first place because original version in its first carnation was too “dry”. Some live effects were added by Dudgeon to give the song some atmosphere, which livened it up enough for John to capitulate.

The title song “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is the finest composition on the album. It was written by Taupin, playing homage to the first movie he even saw as a child, The Wizard of Oz, and facing the realities of life as he had now grown up. John performs a signature vocal part in an extraordinarily high register, which Dudgeon claims is totally natural and completely improvised by John in the studio. The slowly-building arrangement reaches a full orchestral climax that leaves the listener wanting for more.

Side two has a couple of more fine tunes, the piano folk “This Song Has No Title” with light flute and soaring vocal melodies, and the upbeat “Grey Seal”, with a driving bass by Dee Murray to complement John’s boogie piano, with a definite 70s pre-disco sound. Then the album reaches its first song to not feel cohesive nor epic, like a bad joke in a serious drama, called “Jamaica Jerk Off”, a dreadful mock-reggae. “I’ve Seen That Movie Too” finishes the side in an attempt at another mellow classic that doesn’t quite measure up to the brilliance of “Rocket Man” or “Tiny Dancer”.

Elton John band

The album’s third side is, by far, the most forgettable, “Sweet Painted Lady” is a “shock” song about a prostitute where Taupin uses explicit and cheap lyrics (“getting paid for being laid, I guess that’s the name of the game”) in a lame attempt to add some sleaze to the act. “The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)” has a slight “The Night Chicago Died” or “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” quality, but is otherwise very forgettable. “Dirty Little Girl” is essentially “Bennie and the Jets” reformed in both music and melody to present a screed against a promiscuous woman. The only somewhat interesting song on the side is “All the Girls Love Alice”, about a young groupie with lesbian appeal, that musically returns to the higher quality.

The final side starts with “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll)”, a totally retro tune right down to the bad Sha-Na-Na-style harmonies, with the only really interesting element being John’s Fafsa organ lead during the bridge. A much more convincing rocker is “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, a straight-up hard rock song with drummer Nigel Olsson shining brightest along with the driving, riff-driven electric guitar of Johnstone. The song was a surprise hit single, reaching the top 10 in the UK and the top 20 in the US, despite being banned on many radio stations fearing that the title would incite violence.

The final three songs on the album gains back some of the credibility built up earlier. “Roy Rogers” is a lazy country waltz with guitar pedal effects meant to replicate a steel guitar. “Social Disease” is also country-tinged with barking dogs and inclusion of banjo and twangy guitars by Johnstone above the choppy piano of John. “Harmony” closes the record finely with acoustic guitar, thoughtful, melodic progressions, and (of course) fine vocal harmonies. The song was considered as a fourth single, but by then it was too close to Elton John’s eighth album, 1974’s Caribou.

In all, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was a very good album (filler and all) and was the climax of Elton John’s early, artistically lucrative, peak years. His output is terms of quality and quantity began to thin out through the late 1970s, but he would come back strong in the 1980s with another successful phase in his career.

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1973 Images

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

 

Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin

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Houses of the Holy by Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin took stock of their phenomenal fame with Houses of the Holy, with deep contributions from each member of the rock quartet. This fifth album was released in 1973, nearly a full year after it was recorded in the Spring of 1972 at Stargroves, an English country estate owned by Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. The major reason for the album’s delay was trouble with designing and printing the unique album cover by the artistic company Hipgnosis, with the band completely rejecting the initial artwork and the first prints of the final artwork accidentally coming out with a strong purple tint. When they finally got the artwork correct, the album was banned from sale in many locations because of the naked children on the cover who pay homage to the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood’s End.

Produced by guitarist Jimmy Page (like all Zeppelin albums), the album featured sophisticated layered guitars, the addition of obscure instrumentation, and other rich production techniques. Beyond the Stargroves recordings, the album contains recordings from Headley Grange (site of recordings of their previous album Led Zeppelin IV) with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, along with Olympic Studios in London and Electric Lady Studios in New York. There were also several recorded songs not included on Houses of the Holy but released on later albums such as Physical Graffiti and Coda.

The album featured styles and sub-genres not heard on previous Led Zeppelin albums, such as funk, reggae, and doo-wop. The album is an indirect tribute to their fan base, who were showing up in record numbers to their live shows.  It perfectly straddles the band’s early, more blues-based period from their later work, which consisted of more richly produced studio albums that tilted more towards pop and modern rock. Bass player and keyboardist  John Paul Jones temporarily left the band for a few days during this album’s recording but soon returned and stayed with the band until the end.


Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin
Released: March 28, 1973 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Jimmy Page
Recorded: Various Locations, January-August 1972
Side One Side Two
The Song Remains the Same
The Rain Song
Over the Hills and Far Away
The Crunge
Dancing Days
D’Yer Ma’ker
No Quarter
The Ocean
Band Musicians
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals
Jimmy Page – Guitars, Theramin
John Paul Jones – Bass, Keyboards
John Bonham – Drums, Percussion

The fact that this album features different sounds is evident right from the top with “The Song Remains the Same”. This song is odd on several fronts, from the pitch-effect vocals of Robert Plant to the extremely bright multi-tracked guitars of Page. Still, the song is great and is set up as a sort of journey, not a rotation. The song is a jam that feels loose yet does not get lost for one second, due mainly to the steady and strong drumming of John Bonham. The song was originally an instrumental which was given the working title “The Overture”, before Plant added lyrics and the title to it. It was originally going to be an intro for “The Rain Song”, and these songs were often coupled together in concert. “The Rain Song” Is an extended piece with eloquent acoustic and electric guitars weaved together. The song also features a long mellotron section (some would say too long) played by Jones, adding a surreal orchestral effect above Page’s guitar before returned to the climatic final verses and soft and excellent guitar outtro.

Parts of “Over the Hills and Far Away” written by Page and Plant during the 1970 sessions at the Welsh cottage Bron-Yr-Aur for the album Led Zeppelin III. The song is mostly acoustic throughout but works into a harder rock section during the middle, making it one of the most dynamic Led Zeppelin songs ever. Jones and Bonham add a tight rhythm to Page and Plant’s etheral dynamics. The song was released as a US single, but failed to reach the “Top 40”, faring much better on classic rock radio through the decades. Over the Hills and Far Away single“The Crunge” is a funk tribute to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and James Brown and evolved out of a jam session built around Bonham’s off-beat drums and a bass riff by Jones. This song features an overdubbed VCS3 synthesizer to replicated the funk “horn” section, which gives it a totally unique sound of its own. During the jam Plant calls for a “bridge” (imitating Brown’s habit of shouting instructions to his band during live recordings). When no such section materializes, the song (and first side) uniquely ends with the spoken “Where’s that Confounded Bridge?”

The closest Led Zeppelin ever came to writing a pure pop song, “Dancing Days” was actually inspired by an Indian tune that Page and Plant heard while traveling in Mumbai. The guitar overdubs are simply masterful in this upbeat song about summer nights and young love. It was played live as early as November 1971 and, although not officially released as a single, it received heavy radio play in the UK. “D’Yer Ma’ker” was released as a single and became the band’s final Top 40 hit (although they didn’t have many of those). The song has a unique sound with Bonham’s exaggerated drum pounding backing a reggae-inspired riff by Page and Jones and Plant’s bubblegum pop vocals. The distinctive drum sound was created by placing three microphones a good distance away from Bonham’s drums, giving him much natural reverb to make the banging sound more majestic. The name of the song is derived from an old joke about Jamaica, and was often mispronounced as “Dire Maker” by those not privvy to the joke.

Led Zeppelin in 1973

John Paul Jones centerpiece “No Quarter” provides a great contrast with a much darker piece about viking conquest, with the title derived from the military practice of showing no mercy to a vanquished opponent. The song features a distinct, heavily treated electric piano throughout with an acoustic piano solo by Jones in the long mid-section. Page doubles up with electric guitars and a theremin for effect, while Plant’s voice is deep and distorted. The album concludes with the upbeat rocker “The Ocean”, which refers to the “sea of fans” at the band’s concerts. Launching from a voice intro by Bonham, the song returns to the heavy riff-driven anthems that were popular on their earlier albums. But this song does contain its own unique parts, including an overdubbed vocal chorus, performed a Capella, by Plant in the middle and a doo-wop outro section that contains a boogie bass with strong guitar overdubs, bringing the album to a climatic end.

Houses of the Holy has been certified eleven times platinum and is often included on “greatest albums” lists. It is an odd but brilliant album by Led Zeppelin which finds a balance uncommon by hard rock bands of any era.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1973 albums.