Chicago V

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Chicago VContinuing an incredible run of musical output and commercial success, Chicago released their fifth overall album in a 39 month span with 1972’s Chicago V. The fourth studio album by the seven-piece ensemble, this release is notable for actually being the first that was of standard, single-LP length. Keyboardist Robert Lamm stepped to the forefront more than any single band member on this album, composing eight out of the ten songs on Chicago V.

By the time this record was recorded in the Fall of 1971, Chicago had recorded three successful double-length studio albums – Chicago Transit Authority in 1969, Chicago II in 1970, and Chicago III in January 1971. The group had also toured almost continuously during these years, which spawned their fourth release, Chicago at Carnegie Hall late in 1971.

Chicago V was recorded in New York City in just over a week with producer James William Guercio, who had produced each of Chicago’s albums to date. This one would be the most successful yet, reaching the top of the charts where it spent a total of nine weeks as well as achieving longstanding regard as one of Chicago’s finest albums ever.


Chicago V by Chicago
Released: July 10, 1972 (Columbia)
Produced by: James William Guercio
Recorded: 52nd Street Studios, New York, September 1971
Side One Side Two
A Hit by Varèse
All Is Well
Now That You’ve Gone
Dialogue (Part I)
Dialogue (Part II)
While the City Sleeps
Saturday In the Park
State of the Union
Goodbye
Alma Mater
Group Musicians
Terry Kath – Guitars, Vocals
Robert Lamm – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Peter Cetera – Bass, Vocals
Lee Loughnane – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Vocals
James Pankow – Trombone, Brass Arrangements, Vocals
Walter Parazaider – Saxophones, Flute, Vocals
Danny Seraphine – Drums, Percussion

“A Hit by Varèse” starts things off as a tribute to French-American composer Edgard Varèse, who was a huge influence on Lamm and known to experiment with new musical technology early in the 20th century. This track works in that spirit with some “free form” distorted guitar by Terry Kath in the intro along with a jazzy beat accented by horns in the verses and a cool sax trade-off lead by Walter Parazaider later on. “All Is Well” follows as a more standard pop “break up” song by Lamm, while trombonist James Pankow offers his sole composition with “Now That You’ve Gone”, a track ushered in by the rolling drums of Danny Seraphine and reaching a nice blend of funk and soul along with Chicago’s already diverse sound.

Finishing off the original first side is Lamm’s two part suite “Dialogue”. In Part I, the song’s lyrics are a musical dialogue between lead singers Kath and bassist Peter Cetera, while Part II features a repeated groove along with a chorus hook sung by multiple band members. Side two begins with the tension-filled, horn-led, politically-charged “While the City Sleeps”, which later features an antagonistic guitar lead by Kath.

Chicago in 1972
Following the stark side opener comes the refreshing contrast of “Saturday in the Park”, a bright celebration of a summer day. Lamm was inspired to write the song after walking through New York City’s Central on the Fourth of July, 1971 (actually a Sunday) and he immediately documented the action of various musicians, merchants and passers-by. The indelible piano along with melodic vocal duet of Lamm and Cetera, helped propel this song to #1 for the band. The next two tracks, the funky “State of the Union” and the cool, Latin-influenced “Goodbye”, each feature Cetera taking solo lead vocals, something he would do much more regularly in later years. The album concludes with Kath’s somber “Alma Mater”, a piano and acoustic guitar driven track with rich harmonies that  give it a Gospel feel.

Through the mid 1970s, Chicago continued to release successful albums enumerated by Roman numerals (Chicago VI in 1973, Chicago VII in 1974, etc…), ultimately becoming the the top US singles charting group of the decade according to Billboard magazine.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1972 albums.

 

Straight On Till Morning by Blues Traveler

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

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

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


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

Straight On Till Morning by Blues Traveler

 

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

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

Blues Traveler

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

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

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1997 Images

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

 

Days of the New

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

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

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


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

Days of the New

 

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

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

Days Of the New

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

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

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1997 Images

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

 

The Colour and the Shape by Foo Fighters

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

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

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


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

 
The Colour and the Shape by Foo Fighters

 

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

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

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

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

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

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1997 Images

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

 

Little Queen by Heart

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Little Queen by HeartIt wasn’t easy for Heart to follow-up their brilliant 1976 debut Dreamboat Annie. They started and stopped an album for Mushroom Records, which was later patched together as the release Magazine, but this was hardly an apt follow-up. Finally, in the Spring of 1977, the six-piece group recorded and released the eclectic, classic folk-rock Little Queen on Portrait Records. The album was well received critically and it sold well commercially, ultimately reaching triple platinum status.

Following the success of their debut album, Heart wanted to get back to the studio quickly and soon recorded some tracks with producer Mike Flicker in Vancouver. Meanwhile, Mushroom ran a suggestive full-page advertisement featuring lead vocalist Ann Wilson and her sister, guitarist Nancy Wilson. This infuriated the band members and led to their defection from that label and the subsequent legal battles over Heart’s next album. Mushroom compiled five unfinished tracks along with two live recordings and a previously released B-side to forge the Magazine album in early 1977.

Meanwhile, the band started over,  recording for Little Queen with Flicker in Seattle and delivered ten fresh tracks of differing rock and folk styles in just about three weeks. Eventually, the court allowed Heart to release the album with the caveat that they deliver a proper second album to Mushroom by re-recording and remixing Magazine for a 1978 release.


Little Queen by Heart
Released: May 14, 1977 (Portrait)
Produced by: Mike Flicker
Recorded: Kaye Smith Studios, Seattle, February–April 1977
Side One Side Two
Barracuda
Love Alive
Sylvan Song
Dream of the Archer
Kick It Out
Little Queen
Treat Me Well
Say Hello
Cry to Me
Go On Cry
Group Musicians
Ann Wilson – Lead Vocals, Flute
Nancy Wilson – Guitars, Mandolin, Piano, Vocals
Roger Fisher – Guitars, Mandolin
Howard Leese – Guitars, Piano, Keyboards
Steve Fossen – Bass
Michael DeRosier – Drums, Percussion

 

The album launches with its most recognizable and indelible track, “Barracuda”. The inception of this track began with Ann Wilson’s anger towards Mushroom’s attempted publicity stunt involving her and her sister Nancy. Musically, this is an apt attempt at Zeppelin-style heavy metal with Wilson’s vocals nicely cutting into the dry deadened rock rhythms by guitarist Roger Fisher and bassist Steve Fossen for an overall masterful effect.

“Love Alive” makes a big change in sonic direction with a slow, harmonized acoustic and electric guitar medley during the long intro and an overall fine folk/rock track that breaks out slightly into standard rock later in the song. On the instrumental “Sylvan Song”, Fisher and Nancy Wilson provide acoustic guitar and mandolin respectively with plenty of forest atmosphere, acting as intro to “Dream of the Archer”, which seems to pay homage to Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore”. “Kick It Out” completes the first side by rotating back to pure rock, electric riff-driven with a good, strong hook, animated bass and choppy piano by Howard Leese.

Heart in 1977

On the title track “Little Queen”, a long guitar textural intro gives way to a funk/rock song proper, making for a potent and enjoyable musical combination. “Treat Me Well” features Nancy Wilson on lead vocals for her acoustic jazz composition with plenty of melancholy moodiness throughout, accented by slight harmonica and later orchestral strings arranged by Leese. The album’s diversity expands with the Caribbean feel of “Say Hello” with Fossen and drummer Michael DeRosier providing the distinct rhythms. The album loses a bit of steam through its closing mini-suite, the acoustic ballad “Cry to Me” and the long, repetitive sequences of “Go On Cry”, which feels mainly like filler to end this otherwise fine album.

Little Queen reached the Top Ten in the US and Canada and charted well in several other countries. Heart’s momentum continued through the late 1970s and well into the 1980s.

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1977 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.

 

Flaming Pie by Paul McCartney

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

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

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


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

 
Flaming Pie by Paul McCartney

 

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

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

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

Paul McCartney

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

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

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1997 Images

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

 

Argus by Wishbone Ash

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Argus by Wishbone AshArgus is the most commercially successful album for Wishbone Ash and is considered by many to be their high-water mark musically. This third album by the British rock quartet features a medieval-themed lyrical concept which is complemented by a musical blend of heavy blues, folk, and progressive hard rock. Further, with dual lead guitarists Andy Powell and Ted Turner, this album was one of the first to employ the harmonized lead guitars method which would later become popular among hard rock groups.

Wishbone Ash was formed as a trio in 1969 in Torquay, England by bassist Martin Turner (no relation to Ted) and drummer Steve Upton. When the original guitarist departed the group, they had a hard time deciding between the final two competing candidates, and ultimately they hired both Powell and Ted Turner to become a four-piece rock band. In 1970, the band landed on a tour opening for Deep Purple, whose guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore was impressed with their sound and helped the band sign a record deal with Decca/MCA Records. Both the albums Wishbone Ash in late 1970 and Pilgrimage 1971 received favorable reviews but less than favorable sales.

For the recording of this third album, producer Derek Lawrence teamed with Deep Purple’s engineer (and future big-time producer) Martin Birch at De Lane Lea studios in Wembley, which had just installed a state-of-the-art 16-track desk console. The album was recorded in less than a month in early 1972.


Argus by Wishbone Ash
Released: April 28, 1972 (Decca)
Produced by: Derek Lawrence
Recorded: De Lane Lea Studios, London, January 1972
Side One Side Two
Time Wa
Sometime World
Blowin’ Free
The King Will Come
Leaf and Stream
Warrior
Throw Down the Sword
Group Musicians
Martin Turner – Bass, Vocals
Andy Powell – Guitars, Vocals
Ted Turner – Guitars, Vocals
Steve Upton – Drums, Percussion

 

While the songs on Argus are solid throughout, the best material is positioned on the original first side of the record. “Time Was” is a nearly ten-minute epic which starts with a long picked, acoustic folk section, building the tension nicely before the full band arrangement finally kicks in at around the 3:00 mark. From here, the song rocks quite aptly with no fewer than three guitar lead section, weaving between solo and harmonized guitars in between the verses and bridge section.

“Sometime World” features bluesy lead guitars over a solid, rounded bass line through this quasi rock/ballad. Like the opener, this song also takes a turn towards harder rock part way through with an energetic jam and good leads built on Turner’s prog-based bass riff. “Blowin’ Free” begins with a couple of coordinated, choppy riffs which work to create a really cool sonic pattern in the intro. Next, the drum rolls in to a thumping rhythm for the song proper and, working in the opposite direction of the previous two tracks on side one, the song breaks down to a fine, mellow mid-section before returning for a blistering guitar lead and the final verse.

Wishbone Ash

Side two is escorted in with the marching drum and regal-like tones of “The King Will Come”. Unfortunately, the song proper here is much less interesting than the unique intro. “Leaf and Stream” follows as a pure folk song with the lead vocals accompanied by picked electric and a fine bass line. The album winds down with a mini-suite by Martin Turner and Andy Powell. “Warrior” has sparse vocals in between long stretches of atmospheric music before a full rock jam commences. “Throw Down the Sword” offers the perspective after the fight from “Warrior” is over. After a few brief verses, song and album complete with a duo guitar lead, leaving the listener on a high note.

The success of Argus propelled Wishbone Ash into the arena headliners and set the stage for further success through the mid seventies, before frequent lineup shifts chilled their momentum.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock review’s Celebration of 1972 albums.

 

Nine Lives by Aerosmith

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

Aerosmith in 1990s

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

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

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

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1997 Images

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

 

Disciplined Breakdown by Collective Soul

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

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

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


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

 
Disciplined Breakdown by Collective Soul

 

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

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

Collective Soul

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

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

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

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1997 Images

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

 

Peter Gabriel 1977 debut album

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Peter GabrielAfter departing from Genesis, the group he founded and fronted for nearly a decade, Peter Gabriel slowly worked his way into launching a solo career. His 1977 debut album (the first of four self-titled releases) features nine tracks of diverse music which reflects back on his extensive work with the band and looks forward to Gabriel’s new musical approach as a distinct solo artist. Commercially, the album reached the Top Ten in Gabriel’s native U.K. and the Top 40 in the U.S.A.

Gabriel decided to leave Genesis after the band completed their 1974 double album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The group kept this revelation secret as Gabriel joined them on a massive world tour to promote the album and Gabriel finally revealed his departure in a 1975 published letter to fans entitled “Out, Angels Out”.

When Gabriel was ready to start recording solo material in 1976 he enlisted producer Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked mainly with hard rock acts such as Aerosmith, Kiss and the Alice Cooper Band. Production wise, Ezrin worked on some of the dynamic passages of the songs, using not just rock elements but also string and brass orchestration and lofty, layered synths. Meanwhile, Gabriel focused on the more “quiet” parts of the album. The two enlisted a strong assembly of backing musicians, including Robert Fripp and bassist Tony Levin of King Crimson.


Peter Gabriel by Peter Gabriel
Released: February 25, 1977 (Atco)
Produced by: Bob Ezrin
Recorded: The Soundstage, Toronto, Morgan Studios and Olympic Studios, London, July 1976–January 1977
Side One Side Two
Moribund the Burgermeister
Solsbury Hill
Modern Love
Excuse Me
Humdrum
Slowburn
Waiting for the Big One
Down the Dolce Vita
Here Comes the Flood
Primary Musicians
Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Flute
Robert Fripp – Guitars, Banjo
Steve Hunter – Guitars
Jozef Chirowski – Keyboards
Tony Levin – Bass, Tuba
Allan Schwartzberg– Drums

 

The album begins with wild, synth-like rhythms during the intro and verse of “Moribund the Burgermeister”, which soon explodes into a full-fledged rock orchestra for the chorus section, as Gabriel uses character voices which seem to be left over from some of his character interpretations on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. “Solsbury Hill” follows as the most indelible track on the album. This bright acoustic track features exquisite vocals delivering poetic lyrics which depict a seemingly religious-like experience that led to his decision to cut ties with Genesis. Released as the lead single from the album, the song failed to chart initially but has long grown in stature as an absolute classic by Gabriel.

“Modern Love” is a pure rocker where Levin provides great bass throughout and Ezrin applies an Alice-Cooper-like theatrical approach while maintaining a hard rock edge. Cowritten by Martin Hall, “Excuse Me” is, by far, the weirdest track as it utilizes classical British dance hall pop harmonies and carnival-like rhythms, complete with a tuba to accompany the lyrical emotional creed of a loner. In contrast, “Humdrum” is a very low-fi recording of piano and vocals with minimal arrangement added later on in the song.

The album’s original second side begins “Slowburn”, another instrumentation rich rock theatrical piece, although this one seems to be more disjointed than earlier ones on the album. “Waiting for the Big One” is a fine soulful, jazz piano track where Gabriel employs a vocal style different than anything else. The song has a bit of false ending before reviving to include an instrumental section with an excellent blues/rock guitar lead by Steve Hunter and inventive drum fills by Allan Schwartzberg. “Down the Dolce Vita” starts with pure orchestration before breaking into a disco-like beat and rhythm, led by a distinct clavichord throughout, while the closing ballad “Here Comes the Flood” features plenty more sonic decor and orchestration with vivid, poetic lyrics and guest Dick Wagner providing a great guitar lead to complete the album on a high note.

Peter Gabriel

Being that Gabriel did not title his first four solo albums, they soon gained aliases based on their cover art, with this 1977 debut being nicknamed “Car”. Following this album’s release, Gabriel enlisted many of the studio musicians for a touring band which performed through much of 1977 before Gabriel returned to the studio for his 1978 follow-up album.

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1977 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.