Reach the Beach by The Fixx

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Reach the Beach by The FixxThe British pop group hit their peak with the 1983 release of the album Reach the Beach, their second studio album and most successful commercially. This record contains accessible songs built on some catchy pop/rock melodies and some innovative use of synthesizers and other effects. Surprisingly, the production of this successful album came during a time of transition as the group was changing bass players with about half of the tracks not including bass at all.

The band originated with the name The Portraits in 1979 when vocalist Cy Curnin and drummer Adam Woods formed the band while in college in London. Along with keyboardist Rupert Greenall, The Portraits had some minor success, releasing a couple of singles before disbanding late in 1980 and soon reforming as The Fixx with guitarist Jamie West-Oram and bassist Charlie Barrett. The group independently released the single “Lost Planes” in February 1981, which caught the attention of MCA Records who offered a contract to the group. Their successful 1982 debut album, Shuttered Room, featured the charting hits “Stand or Fall” and “Red Skies”.

Recording for Reach the Beach began later in 1982 with producer Rupert Hine. Barrett had been replaced on the previous tour by Alfie Agius, who began the recording sessions as the group’s bassist but left the group before the album was completed.

 


Reach the Beach by The Fixx
Released: May 15, 1983 (MCA)
Produced by: Rupert Hine
Recorded: Farmyard Studios, Buckinghamshire, England, 1982-1983
Side One Side Two
One Thing Leads to Another
The Sign of Fire
Running
Saved by Zero
Opinions
Reach the Beach
Changing
Liner
Privilege
Outside
Group Musicians
Cy Curnin – Lead Vocal
Jamie West-Oram – Guitars
Rupert Greenall – Keyboards
Adam Woods – Drums, Percussion

 

The album begins with its (and the group’s) biggest hit. Starting with the funky guitar and bass riffing, “One Thing Leads to Another” has a steady beat and melodic lead vocals accented by effects throughout the verses. Accompanied by a successful MTV video, “One Thing Leads to Another” reached #4 on the US pop charts and topped the charts in Canada. “The Sign of Fire” follows as another upbeat funk/dance tune with an ascending/descending link between its two predominant chords for a pleasant hypnotizing movement effect. There are some inventive passages as we get through the mid section of the song, which is the only one to feature future band member Dan K. Brown on bass. The spastic and disjointed “Running” follows with heavy new wave elements and some more melodic passages.

While as simple and straight forward as other tracks on this album, the futuristic “Saved by Zero” feels much deeper both sonically and lyrically. This is due to strategic synth effects which blend with Curnin’s vocal embellishments along with the jittery guitar riffs of West-Oram. Lyrically, the song is about finding simplicity with the loss of material things and “the release you get when you have nothing left to lose”. “Opinions” closes the fine first side of the record, built on Curnin’s near a-capella vocals in the intro verse and a musical arrangement which slowly emerges underneath until the song finally fully materializes about halfway through.

The Fixx 1983

The album’s original second side features lesser known tracks. The title track “Reach the Beach” is a deliberative synth/pop song, led by the simple keyboard riff and synth bass of Greenall along with several sonic electronic sections. “Changing” is the first real filler but “Liner” works as an electronic representation of funk and soul with Agius adding some proficient slap bass and Greenall replicating a horn section on synth. “Privilege” is a quasi-kraut-rocker with some interesting dynamics and a nice use of disparate, simple motifs as the song progresses, while the closer “Outside” is shepherded by the steady but interesting beat by Woods. This acts as a backbone to the slow and sloshy guitar riffing of Jamie West-Oram and Curnin’s soulful lead vocals.

Reach the Beach peaked in the Top 10 on the Billboard album charts and was eventually certified multi-platinum with sales in the millions. The group continued with modest success through the late 1980s and into the 1990s but never again reached the commercial heights of this album.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Aladdin Sane by David Bowie

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Aladdin Sane by David BowieThe sixth studio album by David Bowie, 1973’s Aladdin Sane furthers the narrative, begun on the previous year’s hit album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, of the fictional Ziggy Stardust character in what Bowie deemed “Ziggy goes to America”. In fact, the majority of the album was written and recorded during the previous album’s tour and it’s music reflects the pros of performing in new found superstardom and the cons of the wear and tear of constant touring.

Many have compared the approach of this album with that of Bowie’s 1970 third album, The Man Who Sold the World, which had a heavier-than-typical rock sound, marking a departure from Bowie’s previous predominant folk rock style. Another similarity is in lyrical content, with The Man Who Sold the World referencing schizophrenia, paranoia and delusion while In contrast, Aladdin Sane is a pun on “A Lad Insane”, believed to have been inspired by the recent diagnosis of David’s brother Terry Jones with schizophrenia.

Co-produced by Ken Scott, most of Aladdin Sane was recorded at Trident Studios in London in early 1973, the album is the fourth to feature a solid rock backing band, led by guitarist Mick Ronson, along with several guest musicians to provide a rich diversity of musical sub-genres.


Aladdin Sane by David Bowie
Released: April 13, 1973 (Columbia)
Produced by: Ken Scott & David Bowie
Recorded: Trident Studios, London & RCA Studios, New York, October 1972-January 1973
Side One Side Two
Watch That Man
Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)
Drive-In Saturday
Panic in Detroit
Cracked Actor
Time
The Prettiest Star
Let’s Spend the Night Together
The Jean Genie
Lady Grinning Soul
Primary Musicians
David Bowie – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Synths, Saxophone, Harmonica
Mick Ronson – Guitar, Piano, Vocals
Mike Garson – Piano, Keyboards
Trevor Bolder – Bass
Woody Woodmansey – Drums

The sloshy opener, “Watch That Man”, features heavily distorted guitars over a steady rock beat. The thick arrangement includes a backing chorus harmony during the hook sections and the overall vibe represents a slight change of musical direction. The title track, fashioned “Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)”, alternates between the ethereal, avant- garde piano verses, musically led by Mike Garson, and the more rocking choruses which combine for a psychedelic feel throughout. Adding a further dimension, the song’s coda includes a short quote from the popular song “On Broadway”.

“Drive-In Saturday” has a doo-wop-like bass line and beat but with a Bowie-esque vocal melody before the tune works towards a more standard pop/rock tune musically. Lyrically, the song describes a post-apocalyptic, futuristic world where inhabitants watch old porn films in a drive in theater to learn how sex is performed. “Panic in Detroit” comes back to the topical present as it is lyrically based  on Iggy Pop’s descriptions to Bowie about experiencing the 1967 Detroit riots. The song employs a Bo Diddley-like “hand-jive” beat by Woody Woodmansey before a more complex bass line by Trevor Bolder takes over in the verses. Closing out the original first side, “Cracked Actor” features straight forward rock music with some raunchy, risque sexual lyrics.

David Bowie in 1973

The burlesque verses of “Time” feature music hall piano by Garson before the track explodes into a full rock arrangement led by Ronson’s strategically clear riffs. The track reaches a nice climax in the long coda section as Bowie provides scat vocals over the guitar lead. “The Prettiest Star” is another old-timey structured song with doo-wop backing vocals and topped with modern sonic rock elements, while the album’s only cover song, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, has a short, spaced out intro before breaking into a jazzed-up, pre-punk version of the Rolling Stones classic. This is slightly interesting upon first listen but ultimately a forgettable version of song.

A refreshing rebound of two fine tracks close album , starting with the sloshy, riff-driven, bluesy rock jam of “The Jean Genie”. Recorded in New York, this is one track with a nice amount of sonic space to let the listener enjoy this simple but entertaining song, which became Bowie’s biggest pop hit to date when it peaked at #2 in the UK. “Lady Grinning Soul” starts with a final long piano intro by Garson before the song proper kicks in with gently strummed acoustic, rapid, staccato piano and high-pitched but soft lead vocals, Compared in style to a James Bond theme, there is a slight flamenco guitar lead before another verse and a climatic coda to complete the album.

With over 100,000 advance orders, Aladdin Sane debuted on top of the UK charts, reaching the Top 20 in the US. Over time, it would go on to sell over 4 million copies worldwide. A few months after the album’s release, Bowie dramatically announced the “death” of the Ziggy Stardust character towards the end of a live concert.

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1973 Images

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

 

Walking Into Clarksdale by Page & Plant

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

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

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


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

Walking Into Clarksdale by Page and Plant

 

 

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

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

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

Page and Plant, 1998

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

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

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

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

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1998 Page

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

 

Heavy Horses by Jethro Tull

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Heavy Horses by Jethro TullDuring a the late 1970s, Jethro Tull released a trio of albums with heavy folk influence. The second of this trio and the eleventh overall studio album by the band is 1978’s Heavy Horses. This album features strong and consistent tunes which take a journey into a rural landscape of folklore and the underlying simple theme of an honest day’s work. Further, in spite of going against the day’s prevailing musical trends of punk and new wave, Heavy Horses was a commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic as the album reached the Top 20 on both the UK and US album charts following its release.

Following several successful forays into progressive rock through the early and mid seventies and accompanying large arena tours, Jethro Tull and their primary composer Ian Anderson decided to scale back and develop more simple folk rock songs. The critically acclaimed 1977 album, Songs from the Wood, reflected on English culture and history and was the first to include new member David Palmer, who brought many classical elements into the fold.

Produced by Anderson, Heavy Horses was recorded in London during a time when he was settling into a domestic life with his new wife and son. Just prior to this album’s recording in 1977, Pink Floyd released their classic album Animals, which explored differing human personality types. Heavy Horses may more exactly fit that literal title as it lyrically sees things from the perspective and environment of several rural creatures.


Heavy Horses by Jethro Tull
Released: April 10, 1978 (Chrysalis)
Produced by: Ian Anderson
Recorded: Maison Rouge Studio, Fulham, England, May 1977-January 1978
Side One Side Two
…And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps
Acres Wild
No Lullaby
Moths
Journeyman
Rover
One Brown Mouse
Heavy Horses
Weathercock
Group Musicians
Ian Anderson – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Flute, Mandolin
Martin Barre – Guitars
John Evan – Piano, Organ
David Palmer – Keyboards, Orchestral Arrangements
John Glascock – Bass, Vocals
Barriemore Barlow – Drums, Percussion

 

A tense rhythmic timing drives the acoustic-driven opener “…And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps”, a song which is probably more prog rock than folk, complete with strategic stops and dueling flute and organ solos. The track lyrically describes the movement of a barn cat with creative adjectives, describing the process of the night guard and hunt. “Acres Wild” follows as a mandolin driven, pop-oriented rocker with heavy Celtic influence musically and lyrics which paint a picture of playing long while on a journey.

“No Lullaby” is the first of two extended songs and it starts with a heavy rock guitar intro by Martin Barre, followed by the showcasing of drummer/percussionist Barriemore Barlow as it eases into a slow, methodical rhythm, About two minutes in, this mini-suite takes a radical turn to a more upbeat, tense-filled shuffle before again returning to the methodical verse section and lead flourishes. The bright and pleasant folk tune “Moths” features harpsichord by John Evan along with other ethnic string instrumentation as it expertly alternates keys throughout its short duration. A philosophical creed on living for today, “Moths” displays the scene from different perspectives and with sincere emotion. “Journeyman” starts with a funky bass riff by John Glascock as the rest of the group builds around musically, each finding their own small space within the song.

Jethro Tull in 1978

The album’s original second side starts with “Rover”, a tribute to Anderson’s pet dog which features a more traditional Jethro Tull soundscape. With lyrics telling of story time with a young child, “One Brown Mouse” starts and ends as straight folk/rocker but nicely diverges into a mid-section of folk orchestration. The epic, nine-minute title track plays on differing intensities of the same musical theme, as the song is a literal tribute to the work-horse. It all wraps with “Weathercock”, a theme on the rotational nature of life as album ends at the break of dawn and a simple musical arrangement, built with acoustic, mandolin, organ and other simple elements.

Jethro Tull recorded performances during the European leg of the Heavy Horses tour, and later in 1978 released a live double album called Bursting Out. In March 2018, the group released a five-disc, 40th anniversary version of Heavy Horses, which features several alternate and outtakes, 22 previously unreleased live tracks, and a 96-page booklet with track-by-track annotation by Anderson of the album and its associated recordings.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1978 albums.

1978 Images

 

Pilgrim by Eric Clapton

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

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

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


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

 

 

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

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

Eric Clapton in 1998

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

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

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

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1998 Page

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

 

Fleetwood Mac 1968 Albums

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Buy Mr. Wonderful

Fleetwood Mac 1968 albumsThe long and multi-faceted recording career of Fleetwood Mac got started in 1968 when the group was producing pure blues music and led by guitarist and vocalist Peter Green. During the year, the group released its initial two studio albums, (Peter Green’s) Fleetwood Mac and Mr. Wonderful. These are a pair of similarly laid out, 12-song records which each had a nice mix of originals and interpretive covers, and helped propel the group to the forefront of Britain’s burgeoning heavy blues scene in the late 1960s.

Fleetwood Mac was formed in April 1967 by three members of the the British blues band John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Here, Green recorded five songs with bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, including an instrumental which Green named after the rhythm section “Fleetwood Mac”. Soon after, Green enticed the pair to form a new band by naming it after the rhythm section and slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer was added by the end of the “summer of love”.

The group was signed to the Blue Horizon label and recorded additional tracks with producer Mike Vernon to make up Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled debut album (often distinguished by the title Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac because of later 1975 self-titled album). Despite the fact that no singles were released, this debut album was successful, reaching the Top 5 in the UK and bringing Fleetwood Mac instant notoriety. The band soon released two singles “Black Magic Woman” (later a big hit for Santana) and “Need Your Love So Bad”. Following the February album release, the group recorded a couple of singles for release, starting with “Black Magic Woman” in March 1968, which later became a huge hit for Santana.

The band’s second album, Mr. Wonderful, was recorded with Vernon in April and released in August 1968. While the song styles remained consistently pure blues, the arrangement expanded to include a horn section as well as a dedicated keyboard player, Christine Perfect of Chicken Shack, who later became the wife of McVie and a permanent member of Fleetwood Mac.


(Peter Green’s) Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac
Released: February 24, 1968 (Blue Horizon)
Produced by: Mike Vernon
Recorded: CBS Studios and Decca Studios, London, April–December 1967
Side One Side Two
My Heart Beat Like a Hammer
Merry Go Round
Long Grey Mare
Hellhound on My Trail
Shake Your Moneymaker
Looking for Somebody
No Place to Go
My Baby’s Good to Me
I Loved Another Woman
Cold Black Night
The World Keep On Turning
Got to Move
Mr. Wonderful by Fleetwood Mac
Released: August 23, 1968 (Blue Horizon)
Produced by: Mike Vernon
Recorded: CBS Studios, London, April 1968
Side One Side Two
Stop Messin’ Round
I’ve Lost My Baby
Rollin’ Man
Dust My Broom
Love That Burns
Doctor Brown
Need Your Love Tonight
If You Be My Baby
Evenin’ Boogie
Lazy Poker Blues
Coming Home
Trying So Hard to Forget
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Peter Green – Guitars, Harmonica, Vocals
Jeremy Spencer – Guitars, Vocals
John McVie – Bass
Mick Fleetwood – Drums, Percussion

 

On the debut album, Green and Spencer alternate originals as well as lead vocal duties. Spencer’s “My Heart Beat Like a Hammer” leads off with an explosion of his signature heavy slide blues guitar and a legit sounding blues right from jump with just enough originality and driving intensity. Green’s “Merry Go Round” is a slower blues by contrast, highlighted by the authentic singing of Green and excited, open hat drumming of Fleetwood. “Long Grey Mare” is the only track to feature bassist Bob Brunning and leans more towards pop/rock while still maintaining a blues core and adding a pretty impressive harmonica by Green.

Fleetwood Mac debut albumThe first classic cover is Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on My Trail”. This features a unique, stripped down arrangement with Spencer providing impressive piano accompanied only by Green’s soulful vocals. Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker” picks up the mood picks again with a full band arrangement and a return to Spencer’s heavy slide guitar as the song builds in frenzied intensity towards a final climax. Bookmarking the end of Side 1 and beginning of Side 2 are two of the original recordings by Green, McVie and Fleetwood while still members of the Bluesbreakers. “Looking for Somebody” feature’s McVie’s heavy thumping bass locked in under Green’s harmonica intro, while Howlin Wolf’s “No Place to Go” is a constant, rotating drone riff and harmonica licks that never relent.

The remainder of Fleetwood Mac covers familiar ground, with Spencer penning “My Baby’s Good to Me” and “Cold Black Night” and Green contributing “I Loved Another Woman” and “The World Keep On Turning”. The latter of which is a low key solo acoustic and vocal performance by Green and a true highlight of the latter part of the album because of its shear authenticity. The closes with the upbeat, full arrangement of James’ “Got to Move”, which has a real live feel throughout.

Fleetwood Mac in 1968

Mr. Wonderful is essentially a live studio album which was written and recorded much quicker than its predecessor. As a result, it has not stood up as well critically or commercially, although there are some real gems on the album. The album also features several songs co-written by Green and band Manager C.G. Adams, starting with the fine opener, “Stop Messin’ Round”, which would go on to be often covered. “I’ve Lost My Baby” is the first track by Spencer, as a blues ballad with plenty of slide in between each vocal line. “Rollin’ Man” is upbeat, almost rock with inclusion of Perfect’s piano and the call and response between the lead guitar and saxophone lead along with great rhythms by Mcvie and Fleetwood throughout.

Mr. Wonderful by Fleetwood Mac“Dust My Broom” was recorded and contributed to by both Robert Johnson and Elmore James and Fleetwood Mac does great heavy rendition of this classic here. “Love That Burns” is a long blues ballad with bleeding emotion throughout, highlighted by Christine Perfect’s nice piano lead during the fade-out.

But then there’s the less than stellar tracks. “Doctor Brown” and “Need Your Love Tonight” sound like essentially the same song while “If You Be My Baby” follows the pattern of the previous Green/Adams compositions, being a bit edgy and a bit upbeat and excitable. The upbeat instrumental “Evenin’ Boogie” and fun “Coming Home” add some life to the album’s second side before the sparse but fine closer “Trying So Hard to Forget” features harmonica-laden slow porch blues with a laid back arrangement that gives room for Green’s vocals.

Shortly after the release of Mr. Wonderful, Fleetwood Mac added guitarist Danny Kirwan, the first of many lineup shifts which would mark the multiple phases as this bands long and successful career.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1968 albums.

 

Axis: Bold As Love by Jimi Hendrix Experience

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Axis Bold as Love by Jimi Hendrix ExperienceThe second album from the trio’s explosive and productive 1967, Axis: Bold as Love, was released in the United Kingdom by The Jimi Hendrix Experience in December 1967. The album wasn’t released in the United States until early 1968 in order to not interfere with the charting success of the group’s debut album, Are You Experienced?. In comparison to that highly successful debut, this second album has more complex  sonic compositions, although the tracks may not be as indelible.

Axis: Bold As Love was started immediately after the completion of Are You Experienced? in the Spring of 1967 as it was necessary to fulfill the Jimi Hendix led group’s two album contract with UK-based Track Records, a contract which also stated that both albums had to be produced in the year 1967.

The album was recorded at Olympic Studios with producer Chas Chandler, who had also produced the debut. During the first two days of album sessions in May 1967, the group recorded basic tracks for seven compositions (although less than half of these were ultimately included on the album). The recording sessions were sporadic over the next five months as the group became more and more in demand as a live attraction. During the latter sessions in October, Hendrix took on a larger role in producing, a role he would fully assume on the group’d next LP, Electric Ladyland.


Axis: Bold As Love by Jimi Hendrix Experience
Released: December 1, 1967 (Track)
Produced by: Chas Chandler
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, May-October 1967
Side One Side Two
EXP
Up from the Skies
Spanish Castle Magic
Wait Until Tomorrow
Ain’t No Telling
Little Wing
If 6 Was 9
You Got Me Floatin’
Castles Made of Sand
She’s So Fine
One Rainy Wish
Little Miss Lover
Bold as Love
Primary Musicians
Jimi Hendrix – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Noel Redding – Bass, Vocals
Mitch Mitchell – Drums, Vocals

 

Axis: Bold as Love opens with the short experimental track “EXP”, which employs feedback and stereo panning of Hendrix’s guitar, leading to the space/rock track ,”Up from the Skies”, a song recorded on the last day of recording at Olympic Studios. The lyrics to “Spanish Castle Magic” were inspired by a club outside Seattle where Hendrix performed early in his career. It became one of the few songs on this album which was regularly performed live later in Hendrix’s career.

The pop-flavored single “Wait Until Tomorrow” drew influence from The Isley Brothers and features some fine musical interplay between Hendrix and bassist Noel Redding. The original first side completes with two of the album’s more indelible tracks. The oft-covered “Little Wing” features a unique bluesy guitar progression which evolved from a 1966 song that Hendrix recorded with the R&B duo, The Icemen, and is finely decorated through the progression with a glockenspiel. “If 6 Was 9” was one of the initial tracks developed for this album and features a plethora of studio effects adding to a very psychedelic sound.

Jimi Hendrix Experience 1967

The rocker “You Got Me Floatin'” opens the second side and features some backing vocals from members of the British group The Move, who toured with Hendrix on a package tour through Britain during winter 1967, supplied backing vocals. The melancholy “Castles Made of Sand” follows, laced with philosophical lyrics, while Redding’s “She’s So Fine” offers a sixties Brit-pop break in the album. “One Rainy Wish” features Hendrix using some jazz guitar, as “Little Miss Lover” features an early use of muted wah-wah effect. The closing title song, “Bold as Love” was recorded with over twenty different takes and with four different endings before settling on a version which features drummer Mitch Mitchell with a short solo along with several more sonic effects.

While not as celebrated as the other two Jimi Hendrix Experience studio, albums Axis: Bold As Love has nonetheless received much critical acclaim as well as commercial success in its day, as it peaked in the Top Ten.

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1967 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1967 albums.

 

Homecoming by America

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Homecoming by AmericaAmerica‘s second studio album, Homecoming, showcases the trio hitting their folk-rock stride with a slight nod to some diversified musical sub-genres. Released in late 1972, this album features group added richer instrumentation, particularly with more pronounced guitar and keyboard layers to top off the acoustic guitar-based compositions. Lyrically and thematically, the songs build on America’s penchant for yearning and wanderlust.

The group was formed in London by vocalists and composers Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Buckley and Dan Peek, who chose the name because they all had American fathers. They got some plum gigs opening for the likes of Pink Floyd, The Who and Elton John, which led to a brief contract with UK-based Kinney Records before they signed to Warner Bros. Their self-titled debut was released in 1971 and the lead single “Desert Song”, eventually re-titled “A Horse with No Name”, became a minor hit locally but a much larger hit worldwide.

With this success, the trio relocated to Los Angeles and opted to self-produce the second album, Homecoming. The recording was delayed a bit due to an arm injury by Peek, but once it got rolling the trio enlisted Joe Osborn on bass and Hal Blaine on drums to round out the group arrangement for this album.


Homecoming by America
Released: November 15, 1972 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: America
Recorded: The Record Plant, Los Angeles, 1972
Side One Side Two
Ventura Highway
To Each His Own
Don’t Cross the River
Moon Song
Only in Your Heart
Till the Sun Comes Up Again
Cornwall Blank
Head and Heart
California Revisited
Saturn Nights
Primary Musicians
Dewey Bunnell – Guitars, Vocals
Dan Peek – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Gerry Buckley – Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
Joe Osborn – Bass
Hal Blaine – Drums, Percussion

The album commences with its most popular and indelible track, “Ventura Highway”. This is a unique classic with a fine, distinct and optimistic vibe and rhythm. It was written by Bunnell and features poetic lyrics inspired by a family trip through Southern California a decade earlier. Musically, Beckley and Peek provide the distinct harmonized guitars throughout, which helped elevate the song to a Top Ten hit in the US.

Beckley’s “To Each His Own” is a sweet, rotational piano ballad with some harmonized vocals in the chorus, while Peek’s Top 40 hit “Don’t Cross the River” has a very county/rock feel which seems to parallel the sound on the Eagles’ debut album, also released in 1972. The compositional roundabout returns to Bunnell with “Moon Song”, an asymmetrical tune which migrates from pure folk to an electric coda featuring a fine guitar lead by Peek. “Only In Your Heart” complete the original first side of the album as a choppy piano with smooth vocals by Beckley.

America

“Till the Sun Comes Up Again” returns to the soft folk/rock for which America is best known as an acoustic tune with a slight arrangement in verses and harmonized vocals and good rhythms during choruses. “Cornwall Blank” branches out towards a Southern / Allman Brothers Band feel with a darker feel with much reverb and layers of electric guitars while the album’s only cover song, “Head and Heart” written by John Martyn, includes a slightly funky electric piano. The aptly titled “California Revisited” acts as a late album counter-point to “Ventura Highway” featuring early seventies, moving soft folk sound with heavy harmonies. The album concludes with Peek’s “Saturn Nights”, features soft piano and deep harmonies, eventually warming up with fine rhythms and more direct melodies.

Homecoming reached the Top 10 on the Pop Albums charts and helped propel America towards ever greater success throughout the decade of the 1970s.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.

 

Close to the Edge by Yes

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Close to the Edge by YesThe group Yes reached their progressive pinnacle with the 1972 album Close to the Edge. Containing just three extended tracks, the album became Yes’s greatest commercial success to date, reaching the Top 5 on both the US and UK album charts. However, this success did not come without cost as the complex arrangements and stressful studio situation ultimately led to the departure of drummer Bill Bruford.

Following the success of the group’s fourth LP, Fragile, Yes went on an extensive tour. In early 1972, they recorded a cover of Paul Simon’s “America” for an Atlantic Records compilation album and by the Spring of that year, they were back at Advision Studios in London with audio engineer and co-producer Eddy Offord.

None of the tracks on this album were fully written prior to entering the studio and there were several instances where the arrangements had gotten so complex that the band members forgot where they left off the previous day. Offord had worked with Yes on tour and tried to replicate their live energy by building a large stage in the studio. However the arduous process took its toll, especially on Bruford and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who felt like “innocent bystanders” to the thematic vision of the record.


Close to the Edge by Yes
Released: September 13, 1972 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Eddy Offord & Yes
Recorded: Advision Studio, London, February–July 1972
Side One Side Two
Close to the Edge And You and I
Siberian Khatru
Group Musicians
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Steve Howe – Guitars, Vocals
Rick Wakeman – Keyboardss
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Bill Bruford – Drums, Percussion

Close to the Edge opens with the ambient noise of nature and a world at ease before this vibe is quickly demolished by a piercing, psychedelic guitar lead by Steve Howe, which is impressive technically and interesting in its style. In contrast are Bruford’s rhythms and a punchy baseline by Chris Squire, which make for a tension-filled listen at first, until the song breaks around the three minute mark with a more melodic and atmospheric guitar lead that shepherds the listener into the catchy heart of this 18-minute title track. Composed by Howe and lead vocalist Jon Anderson, the vastly differing textures and moods are taped together in an atmospheric dream-like presentation, with funk based guitar riffs giving way to a hymn-like section and church organ solo before the main theme is reprised (albeit with differing instrumental arrangement) to close out the track.

The album’s original second side, features extended tracks clocking in at ten and nine minutes respectively. “And You and I” is a brilliant suite which offers listeners a completely different feel than that of the side-long title track. It opens with a beautiful, chime-filled acoustic guitar piece by Howe, somber in tone, but quickly picked up by a strong backing rhythm. Through its four distinct sections, the song transitions from folk to rock to a spacey, atmospheric piece with Wakeman’s synths, Squire’s pointed bass, and Howe’s guitars playing hand-in-hand. Eventually the song wraps brilliantly by returning to its folksy roots but with a differing rhythm to give the whole experience a forward motion.

Yes, 1972

The closing “Siberian Khatru” is the most straight-forward and, perhaps, the the easiest listen on the album. It features Yes’s unique combination of funk bass with more beautifully prominent guitar work, which really drives the song through from beginning to end. To achieve the unique sound of Howe’s guitar, Offord used two microphones, one stationary and a second swinging around to replicate a “Doppler effect”.

Bruford left to join King Crimson following the album’s completion and was replaced by Alan White, formerly of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, for the the subsequent tour and albums in the immediate future. Impressed with the commercial and critical success of Close to the Edge, Atlantic Records owner Ahmet Ertegun signed the band to a new five-year contract, which carried Yes through the rest of the decade of the 1970s.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.

 

“Security” by Peter Gabriel

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Peter Gabriel 1982 albumIn 1982, Peter Gabriel released his fourth self-titled solo album, which was labeled “Security” on the shrink wrap of some early LP pressings. While this album lacked an original title, it certainly took an original approach as it heavily uses electronic instrumentation, sampling, and other innovative recording techniques and was one of the first to be a fully digital recording. The result is a wide ranging album which ranges from some very brilliant moments to experimental motifs with varying degrees of potency and musical relevance.

After departing genesis in 1975, Gabriel decided to launch a solo career, starting with the release of his initial self-titled album in 1977. A second, more experimental, solo LP followed in 1978 with his third album in 1980 reuniting Gabriel with drummer Phil Collins and being noteworthy as the first to innovate the “gated” drum sound.

After a long tour to promote that third album, Gabriel began composing and recording at his rural home with a mobile studio that included the costly Fairlight CMI sampling computer. Producer David Lord added technical support as Gabriel deleted all presets from the machine in order to start fresh with new sonic constructs. In all, work on this album took about a year and a half with several versions of each track recorded as well as a full alternate version of the album recorded with German lyrics.


Peter Gabriel by Peter Gabriel
Released: September 6, 1982 (Charisma)
Produced by: David Lord & Peter Gabriel
Side One Side Two
The Rhythm of the Heat
San Jacinto
I Have the Touch
The Family and the Fishing Net
Shock the Monkey
Lay Your Hands on Me
Wallflower
Kiss of Life
Primary Musicians
Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Piano, Synths, Drums
David Rhodes – Guitars
Larry Fast – Synthesizers
Tony Levin – Bass, Chapman Stick
Jerry Marotta – Drums, Percussion

 

A dramatic representation of a native landscape and rituals shines through on the opener “The Rhythm of the Heat”. Sparse, distant rhythms are topped with melodic, descriptive vocals with lyrics which emulate surrender to ancient customs. The song’s ending percussion ensemble may be a bit over the top, but overall this track is a true keeper of the Genesis legacy. “San Jacinto” is a bit brighter and less dramatic, being slower and more deliberative (albeit less cohesive) than the opening track.

Peter Gabriel

“I Have the Touch” is structured more like a typical eighties pop track and offers a timely break from the more in-your-face electronica of the earlier tracks. Lyrically, this song about the desire for contact and closeness in the paradox of modern urban life. “The Family and the Fishing Net” seems to return to the vibe of the opening track but with more methodical effects over a consistent, slow drum beat by Jerry Marotta. Later on, guitarist David Rhodes adds some strategic riffs and rich, harmonized vocals to move the track more towards standard rock territory.

The second side starts with “Shock the Monkey”, by far the most memorable track from this album and a surprise Top 40 pop hit. Funky, beat driven, and with a nice mixture of synths and guitars above a great, smooth bass line by Tony Levin, this song features some real musical and sonic assets which all work to make it original, unique and entertaining.

Though the duration of this album, the tracks, while still inventive, seem to lose some steam. “Lay Your Hands On Me” commences as a quiet rap before the song morphs into an almost Gospel-like recital while lyrically touching on the absurdities of modern life. “Wallflower” starts with slight flute solo by Gabriel before settling into an electric piano ballad, while the closer “Kiss of Life” takes a more upbeat turn with strong synths and percussion.

“Security” reached the Top 10 in the U.K. and the Top 30 in the U.S. and would be the last of his self-titled studio albums. While it would take several years to follow-up, the momentum accelerated for Gabriel recorded with his chart-topping fifth studio album, So, released in 1986.

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1982 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1982 albums.