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.

 

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.

~

1997 Images

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

 

Disciplined Breakdown by Collective Soul

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

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

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


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

 
Disciplined Breakdown by Collective Soul

 

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

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

Collective Soul

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

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

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

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1997 Images

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

 

Secret Samadhi by Live

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

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

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


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

 
Secret Samadhi by Live

 

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

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

Live

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

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

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1997 Images

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

 

Ixnay On the Hombre by The Offspring

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

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

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


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

 

Ixnay On the Hombre by The Offspring

 

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

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

The Offspring

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

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

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

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1997 Images

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

 

No Code by Pearl Jam

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No Code by Pearl JamIn 1996, Pearl Jam created a stoner rock classic with their fourth studio album, No Code. Here, the alternative grunge pioneers branched out with diverse music tracks which incorporated elements of blues, country, psychedelia and world music. The resulting record is not quite as forward and accessible as previous efforts by the band but does feature subtle, droning riffs, layered percussion, and philosophical lyrics all mixed with Pearl Jam’s established signature, hard rock sound.

As Pearl jam gained fame in the early 1990s, they grew increasingly uncomfortable with their success and began to rebel against the industry by refusing make music videos, issuing CDs in non-standard jackets and boycotting the Ticketmaster agency, which resulted in limiting the venues where the band was able to play and eventually led to the cancellation of their 1994 summer tour. There was also some internal strife within the band. After Pearl Jam finished the recording their third album, Vitalogy, drummer Dave Abbruzzese was fired for “political differences” when he disagreed with the Ticketmaster boycott. Abbruzzese was replaced by former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, who joined the band in backing Neil Young on his 1995 album Mirror Ball, which in turn spawned two songs which landed on Pearl Jam’s 1995 EP, Merkin Ball.

On No Code, the group worked with producer Brendan O’Brien, with whom they had worked on 1993’s Vs. as well as Vitalogy. Work on the album began in Chicago during the summer of 1995 with other recording sessions taking place in New Orleans and their home studio in Seattle.


No Code by Pearl Jam
Released: August 27, 1996 (Epic)
Produced by: Brendan O’Brien & Pearl Jam
Recorded: Chicago Recording Company, Chicago, July 1995 – May 1996
Track Listing Group Musicians
Sometimes
Hail, Hail
Who You Are
In My Tree
Smile
Off He Goes
Habit
Red Mosquito
Lukin
Present Tense
Mankind
I’m Open
Around the Bend
Eddie Vedder – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Sitar, Harmonica
Stone Gossard – Guitars, Piano, Vocals
Mike McCready – Guitars
Jeff Ament – Bass, Chapman, Vocals
Jack Irons – Drums

No Code by Pearl Jam

Written by vocalist Eddie Vedder, the opening track “Sometimes” is subtle and quiet, almost jazzy, as it feels like it is on the verge of exploding any moment but never does. In contrast, “Hail, Hail” is a strong rocker with a sound like the Pearl Jam of old in their full glory. Released as a single, this track reached the Top 10 on both the Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts. An odd but cool percussive intro by Irons ushers in “Who You Are” before Vedder’s vocals and a guitar riff by Stone Gossard cut through in a simple song structure, which gradually progresses and builds as it goes along. This track has a very Eastern feel in its vibe and lyrical message.

“In My Tree” works as another rhythm-driven track with more animated and soulful vocals than anything presented thus far. While most of this song feels distant and slightly under baked, near the very end it builds into a driving and droning hard rocker. Bassist Jeff Ament wrote the music for “Smile”, a Neil Young inspired driving rocker, complete with harmonica and a consistent, solid beat. “Off He Goes” is a pleasant acoustic ballad with reserved lead vocals and a fine mixture of lead guitars by Gossard and Mike McCready on top. This song unfolds in a very methodical way, making it a nice reliever of the tensions of some of the more potent, shorter tunes on the album. Speaking of tension, “Habit” is tight knit rocker where some heavy blues meets strong alternative vibes, while “Red Mosquito” was inspired by Vedder’s bought of food poisoning and features a buzzy lead guitar played by McCready using a Zippo lighter.

Pearl Jam

“Lukin” is a very short, two verse, one chorus punk rocker where Vedder strains his voice to the point of nearly being unrecognizable, followed by “Present Tense”, a slow and moody, almost dark track featuring differing guitar textures by McCready. The most unique song on the album is “Mankind”, written and sung by Gossard, with a sound approximating seventies glam rock. The artsy “I’m Open” has spoken vocal narration with wild guitar effects, synths and some piano for a New Age atmosphere, while “Around the Bend” wraps the album as an acoustic, almost country arrangement, save for the unique, tom-fused drum beat by Irons.

No Code debuted at number one in the US and topped the charts in several countries. In spite of this, much of the band’s fan base were dissatisfied with the change in musical direction and this album ultimately became the first Pearl Jam album to not reach multi-platinum status.

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1996 music celebration image

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1996 albums.

Mechanical Resonance by Tesla

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Mechanical Resonance by TeslaMechanical Resonance is the 1986 debut album by hard rock quintet Tesla. The original album sides were distinctive in approach, with the first side containing garden-variety hair-metal anthems complete with easily chant-able hooks. The second side features more mature and original compositions which, ironically, found much greater popularity at the time and persist to the modern day.

Hailing from in Sacramento, California the group originated from an early eighties band called City Kidd, formed by guitarist Frank Hannon bassist Brian Wheat. Later vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarist Tommy Skeoch and drummer Troy Luccketta joined the group that gained popularity through the mid 1980s, leading to a record deal with the Geffen label.

During recording of this debut with producers Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero, the band members decided to change their name in honor of inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla and the title Mechanical Resonance comes from one of the scientist’s experiments. During this time, the group also began to migrate their sound in a ‘rootsier’ direction.

 


Mechanical Resonance by Tesla
Released: December 8, 1986 (Geffen)
Produced by: Steve Thompson & Michael Barbiero
Recorded: Bearsville Studios, Bearsville, New York, 1986
Side One Side Two
EZ Come EZ Go
Cumin’ Atcha Live
Gettin’ Better
2 Late 4 Love
Rock Me to the Top
We’re No Good Together
Modern Day Cowboy
Changes
Little Suzi
Love Me
Cover Queen
Before My Eyes
Group Musicians
Jeff Keith – Lead Vocals
Frank Hannon – Guitars, Keyboards, Mandolin, Vocals
Tommy Skeoch – Guitars, Vocals
Brian Wheat – Bass, Vocals
Troy Luccketta – Drums, Percussion

 

The opener “EZ Come EZ Go”features a staccato bass entry by Wheat accompanying a steady drum beat and a blistering guitar lead to open the album on a high musical note. It soon settles into a quasi-melodramatic setting with Keith’s voice and heart beat-like bass thumps before the song finally gets to the hook, which is almost an afterthought compared to the other sonic elements. “Cumin’ Atcha Live” starts with another dramatic guitar lead-in with the overall vibe being similar to classic Van Halen with an upbeat jam.

“Gettin’ Better” is the best song on the first side and it starts with nice finger-picked soft intro where Hannon’s delicate playing and Keith’s soulful vocals shine. It then breaks into a riff-driven rocker with a thematic chant for the rest of the song. “2 Late 4 Love” starts with a drum roll by Luccketta along with some guitar effects for another dramatic entry, but becomes rather ordinary beyond this.  “Rock Me to the Top” is co-written by Skeoch and the contrast in style is evident musically with its slightly darker textures. “We’re No Good Together” is the album’s first power ballad and is slow-dance ready with a slow beat and bluesy rock guitar licks. Midway through, the song takes a pleasantly surprising sonic turn and becomes an excitable, upbeat blues rock jam for the duration.

Tesla in 1986

The heart of album is the first three songs on side two, starting with their popular anthem, “Modern Day Cowboy”. Composition wise, this is more thorough than anything else on the album with acoustic and electric textures throughout, dark imagery, and a great melody and hooks. “Changes” starts with a classical piano intro before a choppy guitar riff introduces the dramatic song proper. This emotionally charged song crafts a great sonic atmosphere and a line from this track was ultimately used for the group’s greatest hits collection a decade later. The album’s only cover is “Little Suzi”, an expert acoustic/electric adaptation of the early eighties synth song by Ph.D. It starts with a really cool acoustic folk intro, while later the song has a methodical but powerful drive of multiple textures all held together with Wheat’s bass

“Love Me” is a pure riff-driven rocker with Keth’s vocals soaring over the methodical music and beats, in a style which sounds like it could have been a really big hit a few years earlier. The bridge section adds a surprise with some talk box while the later lead has nice blend of harmonized guitars. Winding down the album, “Cover Queen” features a slightly interesting arrangement, while the closer “Before My Eyes” has a doomy and dramatic intro where the group’s talents are given space to shine a bit as the song unfolds slowly and leaves plenty of room for instrumental atmosphere.

Mechanical Resonance reached the Top 40 on the US album charts and was certified platinum by the end of the decade. Tesla would reach even greater success with their next album, Great Radio Controversy, but still hold this debut in such regard that they released Mechanical Resonance Live in August 2016.

1986 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1986 albums.

 

Rainbow Rising

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Rainbow RisingRainbow returned with a revamped lineup and fresh approach for the group’s second studio album, Rising. The record is comprised of six solid compositions which are comparable to the material the band had done before with dynamic and tight performances. The quintet started as a project by former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore after he departed from that group.

Blackmore established Rainbow when he joined with the American rock band, Elf, in 1975. Blackmore wanted to record some material that was rejected by Deep Purple members and he enlisted Elf vocalist Ronnie James Dio who in turn suggested his band mates to back up on the recordings. Soon, this project turned into the album Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, with the album name (and ultimately the band name) inspired by the famous Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood, CA. However, Blackmore was unhappy about the live performances of many in the Elf line-up and he fired everybody except Dio.

Keyboardist Tony Carey, bassist Jimmy Bain, and drummer Cozy Powell were recruited to complete this second incarnation of Rainbow. Further, Blackmore began constructing interesting chord progressions, inspired by his new found interest in playing cello and composing material with Dio supplying mythical lyrics. Rising was recorded in less than month in Munich, Germany with producer Martin Birch in early 1976.

 


Rising by Rainbow
Released: May 17, 1976 (Polydor)
Produced by: Martin Birch
Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany, February 1976
Side One Side Two
Tarot Woman
Run with the Wolf
Starstruck
Do You Close Your Eyes
Stargazer
Light In the Black
Primary Musicians
Ronnie James Dio – Lead Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
Tony Carey – Keyboards
Jimmy Bain – Bass
Cozy Powell – Drums

 

From the jump, the sound of this album features sonic elements which are beyond its time. “Tarot Woman” starts with a long, wild synth intro by Carey, which sets a dramatic stage before Blackmore’s guitar riff gradually fades into the song proper. This opening track has a definitive Deep Purple quality especially during Blackmore’s soaring guitar lead. “Run with the Wolf” settles into a more conventional rock sound, still employing dramatic and satisfying overtones, but much more compact and succinct in its delivery.

“Starstruck” follows as the best overall rocker on the first side, based on classic heavy blues rock constructs and the rollicking rhythms by Bain and Powell and an excited melody by Dio, whose vocals soar and shout with great emotion. The most ordinary song on the album, “Do You Close Your Eyes” is a pretty standard hard rock song in the vein of mid seventies contemporaries like Kiss, and it does suffer slightly from compositional underdevelopment and sonic overproduction.

rainbow in 1976

The album’s second side features two extended tracks, each with a duration of over eight minutes. “Stargazer” is the epic track from Rising, starting with an interesting and inventive drum intro and working its way through several slow but powerful sections, with potent lead vocals by Dio and fantastic lead trade-offs by Blackmore and Carey. The song features mystical lyrics which tell the fable of a wizard who builds a tower from which to fly only for him to fall and die like any mortal man and includes a contribution by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. The rudiment-filled hard rocker “A Light in the Black” completes the album and sets a template for the future sounds of groups like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. This closer is highlighted by an incredible instrumental section with multiple keyboard and guitar leads.

Rising did well on the UK charts but not quite as well in the US. However, the influence of this album would reverberate for decades and it is considered by most to be Rainbow’s best overall album.

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1976 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1976 albums.

 

Someday Maybe by The Clarks

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Someday Maybe by The ClarksAlthough this group has had a long and fruitful career which continues to this day, The Clarks only had one major label release. The 1996 record Someday Maybe is a solid and steady effort full of steady rock/pop tracks crafted in multiple sub-genres. While neglected its due amount of promotion, this album is on par with some of the highly popular albums of the same era, making it a largely unknown or forgotten gem of the mid nineties.

Based in and around the Pittsburgh area, the group derived from a college band called The Administration, featuring vocalist/guitarist Scott Blasey, guitarist Robert James Hertweck and drummer David Minarik. After several lineup changes and the addition of bassist Greg Joseph in 1986, they changed the name to “The Clarks” as a generic nod to a common name in Western Pennsylvania. Next, the group began to focus more on original material and in 1988, the Clarks began independently recording their first album, I’ll Tell You What Man…, which sold modestly well in the Pittsburgh area. Two more independent albums followed, a self-titled release in 1991 and Love Gone Sour, Suspicion, and Bad Debt in 1994.

The steadily growing popularity of The Clarks finally scored them a major label deal for two albums with MCA Records in 1996. The group immediately began working with LA-based talent, producer Tim Bomba and engineer John Siket, to record Someday Maybe.


Someday Maybe by The Clarks
Released: November 25, 1996 (MCA)
Produced by: Tim Bomba
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Stop!
Courtney
Mercury
Rain
Caroline
Never Let You Down
Fatal
The Box
One Day In My Life
No Place Called Home
Everything Has Changed
These Wishes
Last Call
Hollywood
Lost and Found
Scott Blasey – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Rob James – Guitars, Vocals
Greg Joseph – Bass, Vocals
Dave Minarik – Drums, Vocals
 
Someday Maybe by The Clarks

In a bit of irony, the opening track “Stop!” starts abruptly as a solid rocker throughout. This strong opener features a choppy rhythm guitar riff and bluesy lead licks, while the chorus lyrics borrow from Buffalo Springfield’s hit “For What It’s Worth”. “Courtney” follows as a catchy, pure nineties pop/rock track with a bright acoustic and electric arrangement. “Mercury” leans towards folk/rock or almost alt country with plenty of fine riffs and hooks to accent the overall vibe, while “Rain” is a slow acoustic ballad which moves like a waltz and features slight desperation in Blasey’s lead vocals as well as a short but excellent ending guitar lead by James.

The heart of the album begins with the radio single “Caroline”, which is presented as pure new wave pop with rapid lyric delivery and much energy throughout. “Never Let You Down” may be the hardest rocking song on the entire album, due to the rapid riffing and relentless rhythms by Joseph and Minarik. Next comes the most unique track on Someday Maybe, the excellent, soft jazz “Fatal”, with some very interesting changes and rewarding musical interludes and duet lead vocals by guest Kelsey Barber.

the clarks

Coming down the stretch, the album returns to simple and straight-forward form. “The Box” and “One Day In My Life” are strong and steady rockers, with the latter one highlighted by the rich backing harmonies in the choruses. “No Place Called Home” is a folk/Americana acoustic ballad with dramatic lyrics from the point of view of a reluctant outlaw, while “These Wishes” is built on Minarik’s interesting drum shuffle. The album concludes with “Last Call”, a late night barroom anthem with a catchy sing-along hook.

The Clarks’ big label reign was short-lived as MCA fell into financial disarray before Someday Maybe received any notable promotion and, ultimately, their contract was terminated. However, after a short break, the band continued to record independently and remained a strong regional draw for years to come.

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1996 music celebration image

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1996 albums.

The Young Rascals

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The Young RascalsThe 1966 self-titled debut by The Young Rascals is made mostly of cover songs. However, this in no way implies that the album is unoriginal as the quartet’s original blend of rock and soul brands each song with a distinctive quality. In total, The Young Rascals expertly captures the sound of this fun and energetic new band with an advanced talent for escalating the emerging sound of mid sixties music.

The Young Rascals were formed in Garfield, New Jersey in early 1965. Keyboardist/vocalist Felix Cavaliere and vocalist Eddie Brigati, who were previously members of Joey Dee and the Starliters and, with the addition of guitarist Gene Cornish and drummer Dino Danelli, the band originally chose the name “The Rascals” (a name they would eventually adopt in later years). However, upon signing with Atlantic Records, discovered that it clashed with another group called “Harmonica Rascals”.

Just months after their formation, the group recorded and released their first single “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore”, co-written by lyricist Pam Sawyer and singer Laurie Burton. This fun and unique folk track with much range musically from the rich, Phil Spector-like vocal arrangements to the quasi-psychedelic guitar lead. The single and the group’s subsequent national television appearance set the stage for the recording of the group’s debut album.

 


The Young Rascals by The Young Rascals
Released: March 28, 1966 (Atlantic)
Produced by: The Young Rascals
Recorded: September 1965 – March 1966
Side One Side Two
Slow Down
Baby Let’s Wait
Just a Little
I Believe
Do You Feel It
Good Lovin’
Like a Rolling Stone
Mustang Sally
I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore
In the Midnight Hour
Group Musicians
Felix Cavaliere – Keyboards, Vocals
Eddie Brigati – Percussion, Vocals
Gene Cornish – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Dino Danelli – Drums

 

The B-side of The Young Rascal’s lead single, “Slow Down” starts the album as an upbeat and fun jam with plenty of choppy rock elements in this Larry Williams composition from the late 1950s. “Baby Let’s Wait” is another song by Sawyer and Burton written for the group as a long drum roll by Danelli introduces this emotional, R&B-inspired ballad. On the cover “Just a Little”, the bass and acoustic guitar takes the musical forefront on a track which has a Latin overall feel which meshes well with the smooth lead vocals and rich harmonies.

“I Believe” features the most soulful feel yet, highlighted by the very dramatic performance vocally by Brigati and the Hammond organ by Cavaliere. The first and only track written by members of the band, “Do You Feel It” is a dance-oriented, call and response sixties rocker which acts as a good warm up for the album’s climatic centerpiece, “Good Lovin'”. Written by Arthur Resnick and Rudy Clark, this crisp, short and direct rock jam with just enough input by all group members to balance it at just the right level sonically. Highlighting it all is Cavaliere’s distinct, melodic organ solo which soars to a rare level that establishes the song as an all time classic.

The Young Rascals

Much of the rest of side two is comprised of covers of well-known contemporary songs. There is an apt cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”, which sticks pretty close to the original from Highway 61 Revisited and works fine save for the over-the-top harmonized chorus sections and other minor parts where the group tries to be fancy. Next, The Young Rascals play an almost ridiculously slow version of “Mustang Sally”, with a sloshy rock n’ soul groove and vocals which are legitimately soulful throughout. The closer “In the Midnight Hour” is an almost direct copy of Wilson Pickett’s original, which is a pretty impressive feat in itself.

The Young Rascals reached the Top 20 on the album charts and sold well in the U.S. The group had continued success in subsequent years as Brigati and Cavaliere began composing original songs which would establish them as one of the top acts of the late 1960s.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1966 albums.