Blue by Joni Mitchell

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Blue by Joni MitchellThe fourth album by Joni Mitchell, the 1971 release Blue, saw the folk singer reach her highest critical acclaim. The album employs sparse musical arrangements leaning heavily towards the folk genre, with Mitchell playing acoustic guitar, piano, or dulcimer as the primary instrument to accompany her vocals. Lyrically, each of the songs on Blue hone in on a specific feeling, situation or, in many cases, a specific person.

A Canadian native, Mitchell first sang publicly at bonfires before finally pursuing a paid gig at a folk and jazz club in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1962. She intended to pursue a career in art rather than music, but grew disillusioned by the priority given to technical skill over creativity in art school, so she migrated several times (to Toronto, Detroit, New York, and finally Los Angeles) in pursuit of a career as a folk singer. Before receiving widespread notoriety as a performer, Mitchell had success as a composer by writing several songs made popular by other artists, most notably Judy Collin’s Top 10 hit “Both Sides Now” in 1967. The following year, Mitchell released her debut album, Song to a Seagull, followed by Clouds in 1969 and Ladies of the Canyon in 1970, with each release being more popular and critically acclaimed than its predecessor.

Mitchell decided to stop touring for a year and focus solely on writing and painting. During this time she also took an extended tour of Europe, which was fertile ground for some of the “travelogue” songs that would appear on Blue. After recording in early 1971, an original version of the album was set for release in March but Mitchell decided to replace two of the songs with last minute compositions, delaying the album’s release until June.


Blue by Joni Mitchell
Released: June 22, 1971 (Reprise)
Produced by: Joni Mitchell
Recorded: A&M Studios, Los Angeles, 1971
Side One Side Two
All I Want
My Old Man
Little Green
Carey
Blue
California
This Flight Tonight
River
A Case of You
The Last Time I Saw Richard
Primary Musicians
Joni Mitchell – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Dulcimer
James Taylor – Guitars
Russ Kunkel – Drums, Percussion

On of the last minute additions to the album, “All I Want” starts this off with a bright and heavy use of an Appalachian dulcimer and is presented as a pop/folk song with great melody. “My Old Man” follows as the first of several solo piano tune which was presumably written about Mitchell’s former love interest Graham Nash. The sad but beautiful “Little Green” is the first true folk tune on the album, utilizing an Open G tuning to give each note a clean, ringing sound. The song was originally written in 1967 and cryptically spoke of Mitchell’s daughter who she gave up for adoption in 1965 and did not reveal to the world until decades later.

“Carey” is an upbeat tune with a much richer arrangement than most of the tracks on the album. Mitchell’s vocals and dulcimer are backed by bass from Stephen Stills and slight percussion by Russ Kunkel. In a way, the music on this track previews some of Mitchell’s more complex material later in the seventies, while the lyrics straddle the line between idealism and material comfort. The slow and melancholy, piano-fused title track finishes the first side as a slightly anti-drug, “the party’s over” type of lament.

Joni Mitchell in 1971

“California” features a cool acoustic by Mitchell and James Taylor, on top of which the singer employs plenty of lyrical and dynamic improvising. The song’s lyrical theme is based on her longing for home while traveling in France. “This Flight Tonight” has a darker acoustic feel with a descending chord structure in the pre-chorus. The lyric tell of the singer’s regrets as she departs on a flight and the song was later rearranged into a hard rock classic by the band Nazareth.

“River” is a Mitchell solo piano ballad, which borders on being a Christmas song. It is told from the perspective of a person in a warm climate, longing for the cold and frozen ‘river” through poetic and inventive lyrics, with Mitchell slightly incorporating “Jingle Bells” on the ending piano. “A Case of You” is a methodical solo acoustic track with a subtle, second guitar by Taylor and features joyous, love-themed lyrics synonymous of “drinking in” a person like beer or whisky. The album concludes with “The Last Time I Saw Richard”, a piano ballad with ethereal vocals and lyrics which document Joni’s brief marriage to Chuck Mitchell while struggling to be a folk singer in the mid 1960s.

Beyond its many subsequent accolades, Blue was also a commercial success in its time, reaching #15 in the US and #3 in the UK. With the album’s success, Mitchell decided to return to live touring and continued on to develop some of the most interesting music of her career.

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1971 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1971 albums.

Jagged Little Pill
by Alanis Morissette

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Jagged Little Pill by Alanis MorissetteJagged Little Pill is one of the most indelible albums to emerge from the decade of the 1990s. This third overall studio release by Canadian Alanis Morissette was her international breakthrough and had great success in scores of countries around the globe. Co-written by producer Glen Ballard, the soul baring lyrics and grunge-influenced rock songs on this album were a radical departure from those on Morissette’s initial pair of dance/pop oriented albums which were recorded while she was still in her mid-teens.

The debut album Alanis and follow-up Now Is the Time, released in 1991 and 1992 respectively, were each minor successes within Canada. After graduating from high school, Morissette moved from her hometown of Ottawa to Toronto in order to work with more accomplished songwriters for a third album release. However, she had little success there and, at the suggestion of her publisher, she moved on to Los Angeles to meet with Ballard. The two had a strong musical connection and instantly began experimenting and composing new songs.

Starting in 1994, Ballard and Morissette worked on extensive demo recording sessions at Ballard’s home studio in the San Fernando Valley which often lasted up to sixteen hours. The tracks were deliberating constructed with minimal overdubbing in order to capture the raw emotion of the original tracks. Even after the production moved on to a proper recording studio, Morisette’s original demo vocals from the original sessions were retained to maintain that original feel, with polished commercial appeal relegated to a secondary role. In fact, the team expected only moderate success from this album, initially hoping to sell enough copies for Morissette to make a proper pop/rock follow-up.


Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette
Released: June 13, 1995 (Reprise)
Produced by: Glen Ballard
Recorded: Westlake Recording & Signet Sound, Hollywood, 1994–1995
Album Tracks Primary Musicians
All I Really Want
You Oughta Know
Perfect
Hand in My Pocket
Right Through You
Forgiven
You Learn
Head over Feet
Mary Jane
Ironic
Not the Doctor
Wake Up
Your House
Alanis Morissette – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Glen Ballard – Guitars, Keyboards
Benmont Tench – Organ
Lance Morrison – Bass
Matt Laug – Drums, Percussion

 
Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette

The album’s opening track meanders in with harmonica and funky guitar before the signature beat kicks in for the song proper of “All I Really Want”. The verses are delivered in a vocal style halfway between talking and singing (but not quite rapping), while the chorus section contains odd but entertaining harmonies. “You Oughta Know” was the song which sparked the eventual popular inferno of Jagged Little Pill and it features some rapid vocal style changes which build the intensity until the climatic choruses. Lyrically, this track is a scathing, slightly profane indictment of a former love interest, with the vocal delivery being just as important as the words. “You Oughta Know” also features smooth bass throughout by guest Flea, who performed on the track along with his Red Hot Chili Peppers band mate Dave Navarro on guitar.

Moving on, “Perfect” starts as an acoustic ballad in seventies-singer-songwriter mode but elevates with a good mixture of guitars, bass, and natural drums as the song kicks in, while the lyrics address the pressures of high expectations on children. “Hand in My Pocket” works as an anthemic dissertation on conflicting emotions and pivot points in young adulthood as portrayed by a series of paired contradictions. It is musically pleasant with subtle but strong rock guitars, bouncy bass, dry but punctual drum programming, a slight harmonica lead and an intensifying organ through later stages of song.

“Right Through You” starts as strummed acoustic but quickly morphs to a richer rock arrangement, while the music is pleasant throughout. This is followed by the four songs which make up the climatic heart of the album. “Forgiven” may be the true forgotten classic from this album, featuring multiple sections with nice sonic dynamics and vocal inflections, an overall good arrangement with rock instrumentation and great rock drumming throughout by Matt Laug. “You Learn” may be the most pop accessible track on Jagged Little Pill as well as the quasi-title track and philosophical heart of the album. Musically, it features a smooth rock/jazz arrangement by Ballard while lyrically the song speaks of the important life lessons.

“Head Over Feet” is a complete break from the prevailing cynicism as a pleasant love song with sweet lyrics and a direct, repetitive hook. The song also features a slight, Dylan-esque harmonica lead by Morissette. Jangly guitars accompany the opening vocals, soon accompanied by waltz-like bass by Lance Morrison and shuffling drums by Laug. The lyrics seem to address a young woman who has fallen into an emotional slump;

I hear you’re counting sheep again, Mary Jane,
What’s the point of trying to dream anymore? I hear you’re losing weight, Mary Jane – I wonder who you’re losing it for…”

Starting as pleasant, quiet acoustic ballad but exploding into a melodic rock screed during the choruses, “Ironic” was an extremely popular song and video. The song reached the Top 10 in several national charts and is Morissette’s highest charting song to date in the United States, where it topped out at #4. As the album winds down, it does repeat over well-tread grounds lyrically, vocally, and musically, especially on “Not the Doctor” and with “Wake Up” just slightly better than previous track due to its smooth musical approach. A hidden track deemed “Your House” is fascinating as an outtake of beautifully haunting a-capella vocals, which is actually an apt way to close in the spirit of this album.

Alanis Morissette

As of 2016, Jagged Little Pill has gone on to sell over 33 million copies worldwide along with winning a total of 5 Grammy Awards. Following its initial success, Morissette launched an 18-month worldwide tour before taking a long break from music, which may have halted her chances of repeating its massive success.

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1995 page images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1995 albums.

 

Moving Pictures by Rush
35th Anniversary

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NOTE: This article was originally published in April 2011 and re-purposed for the album’s 35th anniversary on February 12, 2016.

Moving Pictures by RushSince the arrival of drummer Neil Peart in the summer of 1974, Rush had produced six consecutive quality albums rock albums, up to and including Permanent Waves in 1980. Then came Moving Pictures which, in many ways, was their musical masterpiece and in all ways would become the most popular album they ever released. This album also would represent a crossroads for the band, at once showcasing many elements of the sound that they had forged throughout the late 1970s while also mildly previewing their new wave influenced sound of the early 1980s. In this sense, it may well be the most diverse album that Rush ever produced as well as the most complete and rewarding album overall of 1981, making it Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for that year.

Following the success of the 1976 concept album, 2112, the group delved further into progressive rock with the “Cygnus X-1” concept which spanned two albums and culminated with the 12-part instrumental “La Villa Strangiato” from the 1978 album Hemispheres. With Permanent Waves, released on the first day of the new decade, Rush began to alter their style with some reggae and new wave elements to complement the hard rock core, a sound they expanded upon when production began on this album in late 1980.

Moving Pictures was the seventh consecutive album produced by Terry Brown, who played a huge role in forging Rush’s sound during this classic phase of the career. It is also the first album where Geddy Lee plays some keyboards and bass on each and every song, complementing Alex Lifeson‘s guitar style and sound, which is distinct on every song. As a premiere rock drummer, Peart had long experimented with different styles and time signatures, and he continues to do so on Moving Pictures. But as the band’s primary lyricist, Peart explores more diverse subjects than he had in the past, finding lyrical inspiration in classical literature as well as contemporary events.

 


Moving Pictures by Rush
Released: February 12, 1981 (Mercury)
Produced by: Rush & Terry Brown
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, Canada, Oct-Nov 1980
Side One Side Two
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
YYZ
Limelight
The Camera Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
Musicians
Geddy Lee – Bass, Synths, Vocals
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Synths
Neil Peart – Drums & Percussion

 
The final song on the album, “Vital Signs”, contains a dual reggae/electronica influence that would have fit perfectly on their next studio album, Signals. “Witch Hunt” features dramatic sound effects, a deliberate arrangement, and guest keyboardist Hugh Syme, who also designed the album’s signature covers. This song would later be revealed as the third part of the “Fear” series, released chronologically in reverse. As Peart explained in an interview;

The idea for the trilogy was suggested by an older man telling that he didn’t think life was ruled by love, or reason, or money, or the pursuit of happiness, but by fear.

Moving Pictures is also the last album from the era to include an extended piece, “The Camera Eye”. The track paints a lyrical and musical picture of the metro activity of New York City and London, with the title deriving from works by American author John Dos Passos. To this point in their career, Rush had included a track of seven minutes or more in length on each of their first eight albums (including Moving Pictures), but would not do so again for over 30 years. Another rarity on future Rush albums would be a pure instrumental. “YYZ” is a fantastic and thrilling little jam that showcases each of the trio’s musical virtuosity. Musically, the song displays a steady, trance-like motif with many showcase sections for each musician, with its title coming from the airport code from the group’s hometown Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Tom Sawyer singleThe best known song on the album, and probably the band’s most popular song ever, is “Tom Sawyer”. The song was co-written by Canadian lyricist Pye Dubois, who gave a poem to the band entitled “Louis the Lawyer” and asked if the band would be interested in putting it to music. Peart then added “the themes of reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be”, by using the American literary metaphor. Musically, this steady but complex song incorporates a heavy use of synths, differing time signatures and accessible melodies. “Limelight” was another hit off the album, which portrays Peart’s uneasiness with fame. It contains one of rock music’s most famous riffs, delivered by Lifeson in a perfectly cultivated crunch of distorted guitar that sounds as good as any sound he had ever cultivated. Peart’s lyrics speak of his slight disillusionment with fame and the growing intrusions into his personal life, complete with Shakespearian references.

The tour-de-force of the album is the fantastic “Red Barchetta”, a vivid action story about a joyride in a car taken during a dystopian future where such actions are unlawful. The song was inspired by the futuristic short story “A Nice Morning Drive,” by Richard Foster, published in 1973, which Peart adapted with his own love of classic automobiles. A true classic jam, this complex song was recorded in one take and contains some of the best bass playing by Lee, who really shines on this track.

Rush in Studio, 1980

Moving Pictures was the first Rush album to top the Canadian album charts and nearly did the same in the US and the UK, reaching the Top 3 in both those countries. The album went on to reach quadruple platinum status world wide and it still sounds as fresh and relevant, multiple decades after its release. During Rush’s 2010–11 Time Machine Tour, the album was played live in its entirety for the first and only time.

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1981 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1981 albums.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns
by Joni Mitchell

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The Hissing of Summer Lawns by Joni MitchellJoni Mitchell continued her musical evolution from folk and pop towards free form jazz with her adventurous 1975 album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. The album incorporates a plethora of musical elements ranging from native African instrumentation to the latest synthesizer technology and various elements in between, all nicely accenting Mitchell’s songwriting and vocal melodies. Mitchell also brought in over a dozen musicians from various rock and jazz genres to record on the 10 tracks of this album.

After a prolonged break from touring at the beginning of the decade, Mitchell decided to return to live performances after the success of the 1971 album Blue. With this, she also started to move towards more pop oriented material starting with the Top 40 hit “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” from the album For the Roses. In early 1974, Mitchell released Court and Spark, which included her first Top 10 hit “Help Me” while also slightly incorporating jazz elements. During the subsequent tour for that album, several Los Angeles shows were recorded for the commercially successful live album, Miles of Aisles.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns was the second album which Mitchell self-produced (following Court and Spark). She entered the studio in early 1975 to record acoustic demos of songs written during extensive touring of the previous years. Over the next several months, these songs expanded with ever complex arrangements and a wider range of instruments. Speaking of the album, Mitchell stated; “this record is a total work conceived graphically, musically, lyrically and accidentally…the whole unfolded like a mystery….”


The Hissing of Summer Lawns by Joni Mitchell
Released: Novewmber 23, 1975 (Asylum)
Produced by: Joni Mitchell
Recorded: A&M Studios, Hollywood, 1974
Side One Side Two
In France They Kiss on Main Street
The Jungle Line
Edith and the Kingpin
Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow
Shades of Scarlett Conquering
The Hissing of Summer Lawns
The Boho Dance
Harry’s House / Centerpiece
Sweet Bird
Shadows and Light
Primary Musicians
Joni Mitchell – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Keyboards
Larry Carlton – Guitars
Victor Feldman – Keyboards, Percussion
Max Bennett – Bass
John Guerin – Drums

The opener “In France They Kiss On Main Street” starts with solo acoustic strumming before the verse breaks in with a complex arrangement, led by the bouncy fretless bass of Max Bennett and the reserved but timely guitar licks by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. Mitchell delivers the nearly stream-of-consciousness lyrics about differences in cultural norms on this song which was released as a single. The innovative track “The Jungle Line” uses a field recording of the African Drummers of Burundi along with other creative percussive effects built on a synthesizer and deadened acoustic strings. This all makes for an odd, unique backing which serves as a nice canvas to bring out the fine melodies that persist throughout the track.

“Edith and the Kingpin” next settles into a mellow groove with exquisite production that brings the various elements which make a potpourri of sonic flourishes to complement the basic melody and acoustic strumming. The cool vibe continues on “Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow”, which features nice chord changes, a direct bass line and a percussive orchestra, including congas by Victor Feldman. Best of all on this track is the swelling, pedal effected guitars by Larry Carlton, which serve to bring out the beauty of Mitchell’s great vocal melody. “Shades of Scarlett Conquering” is a club-like, minor key piano ballad with eventual accompaniment by laid back jazz group and string arrangement. A long instrumental section, led by the electric piano of Victor Feldman finishes the song and original first side of the album.

Joni Mitchell in 1975

Co-written by John Guerin, “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” has a bass-driven groove with plenty of percussion and keyboards for its own little mellow rock orchestra. The track also features an acoustic guitar by James Taylor and the subtle addition of wind and reed instruments, which work to push this title track over the top. “The Boho Dance” starts as a piano ballad but kicks in with a jazzy arrangement as it progresses, with a slight flugle horn and bass flute adding just enough atmosphere during the song proper. Mitchell got the title from a passage in the Tom Wolfe novel, The Painted Word.

“Harry’s House / Centerpiece” is built around a decent acoustic ballad with its share of cool guitar and trumpet effects by Robben Ford and Chuck Findley respectively. The middle part of the song incorporates the pure club jazz song “Centerpiece” and features the piano of Joe Sample and harmonized, high-pitched vocals, which work very well for this part. “Sweet Bird” has a very reserved arrangement with slow and steady acoustic chords and distant electric guitar effects by Carlton. “Shadows and Light” is a very creative (and weird) way to conclude the album as a solo performance, built by Mitchell in the studio. Solo vocal lines are accented by rich, multi-tracked harmonies and slight synths, almost like Medieval monk chants.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1977. Following the album’s release, Mitchell participated in several all-star concerts and took an extensive cross country trip which supplied the inspiration for her 1976 album, Hejira. That album also had a heavy jazz influence as did much of the material Mitchell composed throughout the remainder of the decade.

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1975 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1975 albums.

 

Rush 1975 Albums

Buy Fly By Night
Buy Caress Of Steel

Rush 1975 albums1975 was the year when Rush truly became Rush with the first recordings following the arrival of drummer and lyricist, Neal Peart. During the course of that year, the group released two albums, Fly By Night and Caress of Steel, which document the Canadian trio’s remarkable evolution from straight-forward hard rockers to a distinct style of complex, progressive rock featuring dynamic musical arrangements and a multitude of lyrical depth. Over the course of this year, the group also experienced a dramatic rise and fall in mainstream popularity, as these albums had vastly different receptions in terms of sales and critical response. This fact would ultimately forge the band’s musical vision for years to come.

After a half decade of building their following in the Toronto area, Rush released their independently produced self-tiled debut album in early 1974 with drummer John Rutsey backing up bassist and lead vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. In the summer of 1974, Rutsey was forced to depart due to health difficulties. Peart had recently returned to his native Ontario after several years in England and auditioned for the newly opened position with Rush. The group desperately needed to find a replacement for Rutsey in order to fulfill their tour obligations, which launched with a show as an opening act in front of 11,000 in Pittsburgh just two weeks after Peart joined the band. Now signed to Mercury Records, Rush was able to enter the studio with a proper producer in late 1974.

Rush in 1975

Terry Brown first worked with the group when he remixed the debut album for larger release (the original pressings for Rush were only 3500 copies). Impressed by his talents, the group asked him to produce their sophomore effort, Fly By Night. This album was recorded in bits and pieces between the group’s various gigs on the tour circuit over the Winter of 74-75. Aside from his percussive talents, Peart (an avid reader) had many lyrical ideas which made him chief (and eventually sole) lyricist and added more dimensions to the group’s sound and imagination. However, with the exception of one extended suite and one acoustic folk tune, Fly By Night stayed pretty much within the heavy rock/blues bounds established on the debut album, but with a richer, hi-fidelity sound.

In contrast, Caress of Steel, showed the group quickly moving towards progressive rock with two mult-part suites accompanying three traditionally arranged rock tracks. These longer pieces used various textures and sonic dynamics to portray the desired dramatic effect, which worked in some places but not so much in others. The group was very ambitious and enthusiastic about this third album, following the commercial triumph of the second, but it sold fewer copies and has become one of Rush’s most overlooked recordings. Both Fly by Night and Caress of Steel were recorded at the state-of-the-art Toronto Sound Studios on 24-track analog tape, which would remain the highest professional recording standard through the mid 1990s. Including these two albums, Brown would produce ten consecutive releases by Rush through 1982’s Signals.


Fly By Night by Rush
Released: February 15, 1975 (Mercury)
Produced by: Terry Brown & Rush
Recorded: Toronto Sound Studios, Toronto, December 1974–January 1975
Side One Side Two
Anthem
Best I Can
Beneath, Between, and Behind
By-Tor and the Snow Dog
Fly By Night
Making Memories
Rivendell
In the End

Caress of Steel by Rush
Released: September 24, 1975 (Anthem)
Produced by: Terry Brown & Rush
Recorded: Toronto Sound Studios, Toronto, June–July 1975
Side One Side Two
Bastille Day
I Think I’m Going Bald
Lakeside Park
The Necromancer
The Fountain of Lamneth
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass
Alex Lifeson – Guitars
Neal Peart – Drums, Percussion

 

The world’s first introduction to Peart both lyrically and percussively comes with “Anthem”, which opens Fly By Night. A frenzied beginning with oddly-timed riff and beat gives way to the musical main phrase of “Anthem”, with the verses highlighted by Lee’s animated bass underneath his soaring, high-pitched vocals. During the lead section, Lee and Peart show how tight they keep the rhythms as Lifeson goes off in a Jimmy Page bluesy lead on a song which features lyrics inspired by elements of the philosophy of Ayn Rand. “Best I Can” was composed solely by Lee and sounds closer to material from the debut than the opening song. However, there is enough edge here with just the slightest flourishes by Peart on the drums and Lifeson providing a wah-wah laced lead, to make it all interesting. Lifeson contributes Zeppelin-esque, bluesy double guitars on “Beneath, Between & Behind”, with Peart adding some lyrics which appear to be about the rise and decline of the United States as it headed for its Bicentennial;

Ten score years ago, defeat the kingly foe, a wondrous dream came into being / Tame the trackless waste, no virgin land left chaste, all shining eyes, but never seeing…”

Fly By Night by Rush“By-Tor and the Snow Dog” is the first of many sci-fi/fantasy inspired epics by Rush during the late 1970s. The eight and a half minute track works well as a good narrative accompanied by upbeat, almost funky hard rock throughout and with plenty of dramatic pause for theatrical flourishes. There is a wild, triple guitar lead by Lifeson during the “battle scene” after the second verse, which concludes with a tremendous rudiment section with each successive phrase being slightly shortened than the previous. A calm, effect-driven section takes up some time in the middle before Lifeson returns with his “victorious” lead prior to the concluding final verse. Overall, this track is the best production by Terry Brown on this album.

“Fly by Night” starts the original second side as the most popular and successful track on the album of the same name. Musically driven by Lifeson’s riffs and progressions, the song’s lyrics were written by Peart when departing for London in 1971 in an attempt to “make it” in music, an endeavor which ultimately failed but, ironically, led to his getting the gig with Rush back in Canada. “Making Memories” is a simple acoustic funk about the group’s early experiences on the supporting group touring circuit. Eventually released as a single in 1977, the track features great electric guitar overtones and a later blistering lead by Lifeson.

After six consecutive fast-charged songs, the platinum selling Fly By Night concludes with two relatively laid back numbers. “Rivendell” features Lee on finger-picks acoustic, with Lifeson adding some pedal-effected guitars throughout. Although there are no drums on this track, Peart added the poetic lyrics on Tolkein’s fictional paradise, which Lee delivers in a reserved, folk-singer like method. “In the End” is, unfortunately, the weakest song on the album as its finale. Not terrible, but essentially acoustic and electric versions of the same repeated song stretched to seven minutes with simple, pre-Peart lyrics.

Rush in 1975

Caress of Steel kicks off with “Bastille Day”, a very heavy rock song musically, but with some interesting time changes and style caveats. Lifeson’s first lead is quite jazzy, with a back-to-back second lead being pure heavy metal. Lyrically, Peart throws in plenty of historical and poetry references about societal turmoil  and the French Revolution specifically. “I Think I’m Going Bald” is a bit less effective than the opener. Almost a joke song, but with some philosophical undertones. In this musically moderate tune, Peart got the idea for its title and theme from both the track “Goin’ Blind” by fellow touring mates Kiss and due to LIfeson’s obsession with his hair. The third and final standard length song is the exquisite and excellent “Lakeside Park”. This song portrays the simplicity and magic of fun events during childhood and adolescence and features a simple vibe with more complexity in its structure. Of particular note are the pauses between verses and prior to the outro section, where Peart adds very interesting drum fills that somehow fit into the slight time allotted without missing a beat.

Caress of Steel by Rush“The Necromancer” is the side one closing epic fantasy, which incorporates the members of Rush (three travelers, men of Willowdale) into the narrative as they face an evil supernatural force in the forest. Peart’s spoken narration introduces each of the suite’s three distinct sections, starting with Lifeson’s multiple guitar textures of “Into the Darkness”. This is followed by the hard-rock oriented “Under the Shadow”, with a single, uni-directional verse followed by a strong jam section, leading to the moderate finale with simple chords called “Return of the Prince”.

The entirety of Caress of Steel‘s second side is the over nineteen minute “The Fountain of Lamneth”, which in reality is not not a cohesive long piece, but several short pieces wrapped by a common intro and reprise theme. In fact, each of the six parts of this were listed as separate “songs” on some later cassette versions, and not even in the same running sequence. The intro “In the Valley” has three distinct musical phrases with Lee providing distinctive “voices” for each. It starts as a pleasant folk acoustic song, then breaks into a thunderous electric-driven heavy metal part which alternates with interlude sections which are cool and jazzy. For the concluding chapter, “The Fountain”, the arrangement repeats in reverse order, giving an arc of symmetry to the whole piece.

The four middle parts of “The Fountain of Lamneth” are each rather interesting and original, starting with “Didacts and Narpets”, Peart’s wild drum piece with shouted vocal lines and sounds is very new wavish in approach. “No One at the Bridge” has a dark feel initially, which slightly gives way to patient musical interludes and gentle sonic swells. This piece uses a ship lost at sea as a metaphor for a feeling of being lost on a personal level. “Panacea” and “Bacchus Plateau” are both solo compositions by Lee, something that will become exceedingly rare over time. “Panacea” features Lee playing a classical acoustic with Lifeson slowly adding electric overtones with very cool pedal effects during the verses, with a fuller band arrangement during the choruses. “Bacchus Plateau” is a more pop oriented rock song with an upbeat sound and vibe that somewhat betrays the lyrical theme of demise;

Draw another goblet from the cask of ’43, crimson misty memory, hazy glimpse of me / Give me back my wonder – I’ve something more to give. I guess it doesn’t matter, there’s not much more to live…”

To the dismay of the band and their label, Caress of Steel, would not attain gold certification for nearly twenty years after its release. The effect of this “commercial failure” on Rush was immediate, as they were soon playing smaller concerts and given an ultimatum by the record company for success on their next release. They delivered in a big way with 1976’s classic 2112, which combined the better elements of both Fly by Night and Caress of Steel. The rest, as they say, is history.

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1975 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1975 albums.

 

Déjà Vu by
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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Deja Vu by Crosby Stills Nash and YoungDéjà Vu is the sophomore effort by the super group with the expanded name of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, after the addition of Neil Young to the group. Each of the four named members of the group contributed an original composition to each side of the original LP, which worked to give this album a very diverse musical and textual feel overall. following its release, the album topped the charts in the US and went on to be the most successful record overall for the group as a four piece.

The 1969 self-titled debut by Crosby, Stills & Nash was a critical and commercial success. On that album, Stephen Stills played the bulk of the instruments with drummer Dallas Taylor being the only player outside the core trio. After the album’s release and success, the band looked to add more players, at first trying to recruit Steve Winwood (to no avail). At the urging of Atlantc Records founder Ahmet Ertegün, Young was brought on as a fourth member, reuniting him with Stills, his Buffalo Springfield bandmate. This updated group then embarked on their initial tour in the summer of 1969.

Through late 1969, great anticipation was building for another album by the group. Ultimately, the album took a long time to record, with over 500 studio hours logged over the course of five months. The end result is an album filled with precise playing, rich harmonies, and strong rhythms, with three charting singles and several more tracks which have sustained throughout the decades.


Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Released: March 11, 1970 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Recorded: Wally Heider’s Studios, San Francisco and Los Angeles, July-December, 1969
Side One Side Two
Carry On
Teach Your Children
Almost Cut My Hair
Helpless
Woodstock
Déjà Vu
Our House
4 + 20
Country Girl
Everybody, I Love You
Primary Musicians
David Crosby – Guitars, Vocals
Stephen Stills – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Vocals
Graham Nash – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Neil Young – Guitars, Keyboards, Harmonica, Vocals
Greg Reeves – Bass
Dallas Taylor – Drums

The songs through most of Déjà Vu are great Americana classics which, if they are flawed at all, are just a bit too short in duration. “Carry On” has an upbeat acoustic folk intro. Still’s thumping bass and some hand percussion are present through much of the opening verses. The later section changes direction a bit while still giving room for harmonies to fully shine along with some great electric guitar licks. “Teach Your Children” is a pure, steady country tune by Graham Nash, featuring exquisite harmonies throughout. This track also has some impressive pedal steel by guest Jerry Garcia, who made this signature arrangement in return for the CSNY teaching members of the Grateful Dead how to effectively harmonize for their upcoming 1970 albums.

“Almost Cut My Hair” is a bluesy, hippie anthem by David Crosby, featuring a triple guitar attack by Crosby, Stills, and most especially Young on lead guitar. This track is also the most ‘live’ sounding on the album and features no harmonies, with Crosby alone supplying the soulful lead vocals throughout. The album again changes direction with Young’s “Helpless”, where Neil plays acoustic, electric, piano, and harmonica along with the lead vocals. This track was originally recorded by Young with Crazy Horse in early 1969. The album’s first side concludes with “Woodstock”, a song written by Joni Mitchell as a folk song but adapted by CSNY as a rocked out version with potent, electric guitar motifs and exceptionally harmonized counter-melodies during the choruses. Mitchell did not play at the actual Woodstock festival, but wrote the song based on accounts from then-boyfriend Nash, and recorded her own version for the album, Ladies of the Canyon.

Crosby Stills Nash Young

Side two of the album contains five more fine tracks, although not quite at the level of the first side. Crosby’s title track, “Déjà Vu”, may be the oddest song on the album, as it slowly works its way into an acoustic groove for the intro section but then abruptly breaks into a slow, bluesy rock for the duration. Nash’s “Our House” is a very British pop, piano love tune, unlike anything this band had done before or since. The song simply portrays a day in the life of Nash and Mitchell verbatim. “4 + 20” is a short acoustic folk tune by Stills, followed by Young’s “Country Girl”, a loose medley with a waltz-like beat, deep organ textures in the background, and slight harmonies. The album concludes with “Everybody I Love You”, the only collaboration on the album (between Stills and Young), which seems like the least finished track on the album overall.

Within a year after the successful release of Déjà Vu, each of the four members recorded solo albums — Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name, Stills’ self-titled debut, Nash’s Songs for Beginners and Young’s After the Gold Rush, all four of which reached the Top 20 on the charts. However, there would not be another CSNY studio album by all four until American Dream in 1988, nearly two decades later.

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The Guess Who 1970 Albums

Buy American Woman
Buy Share the Land

The Guess Who 1970 albumsThe year 1970 saw the apex of popularity for The Guess Who as well as the initial cracks in their band unity. The two albums they released that year, American Woman and Share the Land showed the progression of their sound from the strictly pop-oriented output of the late sixties to their more diverse fusion sound of the early seventies. In between these albums, founding guitarist Randy Bachman left the group and some studio recordings were abandoned as the group started over with two new guitarists.

The Guess Who started as Allan and the Silvertones in Winnepeg, Canada way back in 1958. Bachman, bassist Jim Kale, and drummer Garry Peterson were all on board from the jump and this original incarnation of the group released several singles through the early sixties but with minimal success. In 1965 the group adopted the name “Guess Who?” and added then 18-year-old Burton Cumming as lead singer and keyboardist. The late sixties saw the group find Top 40 success in Canada and beyond, due in part to their extended run as house band on a CBC radio show. The group’s 1968 album, Wheatfield Soul, and 1969 album, Canned Wheat, primed The Guess Who for the rock mainstream.

Peaking in the Top 10 of the album charts, American Woman is the most commercially successful album ever put out by the group. In part influenced by the sound of Led Zeppelin’s 1969 albums, a harder-edged rock sound was introduced on this album, led by Bachman’s fuzz-tone guitars and Cummings’ ever more dynamic and bluesy vocals. This album also included a few suite-style medleys as well as slight forays into prog rock.

Share the Land saw the arrival of guitarists, Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw and slightly richer overall arrangements. Recording began almost immediately after Bachman’s departure, but producer Jack Richardson found a cohesive sound for the now five piece band. Being how it was so quickly written and recorded, the group was pleasantly surprised when Share the Land reached the Top 20 on the album charts and spawned a few successful singles.


American Woman by The Guess Who
Released: January, 1970 (RCA Victor)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: RCA Mid-America Recording, Chicago, August-November, 1969
Side One Side Two
American Woman
No Time
Talisman
No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Cumberland 969 (The Oldest Man)
When Friends Fall Out
8:15
Proper Stranger
Humpty’s Blues/American Woman (Epilogue)

Share the Land by The Guess Who
Released: October, 1970 (RCA Victor)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: RCA Mid-America Recording Center, Chicago, 1970
Side One Side Two
Bus Rider
Do You Miss Me Darlin’?
Hand Me Down World
Moan For You Joe
Share the Land
Hang On to Your Life
Coming Down Off the Money Bag
Song of the Dog
Three More Days
Group Musicians
Burton Cummings – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar, Flute, Harmonica
Jim Kale – Bass, Vocals
Garry Peterson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Randy Bachman – Guitars, Vocals (American Woman only)
Greg Leskiw – Guitars (Share the Land only)
Kurt Winter – Guitars (Share the Land only)

 

The opening title track of American Woman starts with an acoustic blues intro before stopping completely and re-starting as a droning, hard rocker, led by Bachman’s distinctive riffs. The song would go on to be one of the most popular and distinct in the Guess Who library. “No Time” is actually a remade version of a song originally released on Canned Wheat the previous year. This version starts with the distinct drum beat of Peterson and features call and response with backing vocals during the verses and great harmonies throughout. The 1970 single of “No Time” peaked at #5 in the U.S. and topped the charts in Canada.

American Woman by The Guess WhoThe album drastically changes up with “Talisman”, a pure folk song by Cummings and Bachman with dark acoustic elements and traditional English folklore-like vocal melodies. The medley “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” may actually be more like a two part suite. It is acoustic throughout with an introductory riff starting each section. Kale’s bass sets the rhythms for each of these sections with a slight variation between each and Cummings’ piano makes an appearance during the “New Mother Nature” section. The lyrics morph from those of regret in “No Sugar Tonight” to a quasi-party theme during “New Mother Nature”.

The second side of American Woman contains more obscure material. Bachman’s double-track guitar rock instrumental “Cumberland 969” later morphs into a jazzy, Jethro Tull-style flute solo by Cummings before returning to the strong rock elements to complete the track. The album’s second remake, “When Friends Fall Out”, dates back to a 1968 release as a marching pop track with repetitive verses and a psychedelic ending. “8:15” is a funky rocker with deep Hammond organ and a unique vocal approach by Cummings, while “Proper Stranger” somewhat returns to the vibe of the first side with duo acoustic, sharp bass notes and animated rhythmic drumming later accompanied by electric riffs and lead. The closing “Humpty’s Blues/American Woman (Epilogue)” starts as slow blues with crying guitars and heavy harmonica before the song dissolves awkwardly into a reprise of the intro section of “American Woman” to encapsulate the album in a thematic way.

Share the Land saw Kurt Winter step up as a primary composer in his new band. The opening track “Bus Rider” was penned by Winter as a fifties-style rocker with seventies-style rock riffs to make it overall fun musically, albeit a bit trite lyrically. “Do You Miss Me Darlin’?” is a bit richer and deeper as a ballad with nice, whining guitar and soulful and dynamic vocals by Cummings, accompanied by rich harmonies between the verses and during the softer, piano driven mid-section.

Share the Land by The Guess WhoWinter’s “Hand Me Down World” is one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album with a descending electric guitar riff, bright acoustic chords, driving rhythms, and pleasant vocal melodies. The song reached the Top 20 as a single in The US. “Moan for You Joe” is a jazzy tune with odd timings and a an exceptional overall drumming performance by Peterson along fine guitar and piano work, especially an extended lead by Cummings. The title track “Share the Land” is a fine “hippie” anthem by Cummings featuring dual lead guitar riffs by Leskiw and Winter. This sing-along ballad features dynamic and soulful lead vocals with Cummings almost taking on a revival preacher role.

“Hang on to Your Life” is riff driven with frantic vocals during the rock-oriented verses while the chorus leans back slightly towards pop. An extended outro has guitar leads over the chorus hook before it breaks down in feedback backing with a spoken recital of the biblical Psalm 22. “Coming Down Off the Money Bag”/”Song of the Dog” is perhaps the most unique Guess Who song ever with the first section, written and sung by Leskiw, having an Americana/Country vibe with plenty of cool instrumentation. After a single verse, the song breaks into a rock interlude before morphing into the acoustic driven bluesy “Song of the Dog” by Cummings. Closing out Share the Land is the nearly nine-minute track, “Three More Days”. Led by Kale’s bass, this moderate blues rocker contains lyrics about death and the philosophy of a finite life and musically moves through different sections including a chant about “freedom” and a flute lead.

Although The Guess Who were still high on the pop/rock echelon at the end of 1970, further personnel shifts would undermine and ultimately dissolve the group. Leskiw left the group early in 1972, followed by Kale shortly after. Eventually, it was Cummings who grew weary of the band and departed himself to start a solo career in the mid seventies.

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After the Gold Rush
by Neil Young

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After the Gold Rush by Neil YoungFor his third studio album, Neil Young embraced the Country/rock fusion style for which he would  become best known. After the Gold Rush is a moderate to slow paced album, which may require a certain type of mood to enjoy, But once tuned in, the music is an infusion of genres a nice variety of electric and acoustic guitars along with steady rhythms and just enough intense edge to make it artistically viable. Every track is good, all showing some value with very little filler, making the album solid as a whole.

Young first found mainstream success with the group Buffalo Springfield, a band which had a successful but very short existence. For that group’s 1967 second album, Young wrote and recorded three solo tracks apart from the rest of the group which , in essence, was the beginning of his solo career. Released in late 1968, Young’s self-titled debut received mixed reactions and reviews, while his next release Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere was the first to feature his backing band, Crazy Horse. Released in 1969, this second album was a raw and energetic rock record which was recorded in just two weeks and found some mainstream success. Later that year, Young became the fourth member of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young and recorded the early 1970 Déjà Vu with the group.

Much of After the Gold Rush was recorded in Young’s basement studio in California. Young set out to find a middle ground between the Crazy Horse and Crosby, Stills, Nash sound and even enlisted CSNY bassist Greg Reeves and drummer Ralph Molina of Crazy Horse. The album got its title from an unpublished screenplay by Dean Stockwell-Herb Berman, for which Young wanted to write the soundtrack. However, the film was never produced and the actual script has been lost to time.


After the Gold Rush by Neil Young
Released: September 19, 1970 (Reprise)
Produced by: Neil Young, David Briggs, & Kendall Pacios
Recorded: Sunset Sound, Sound City, & Redwood Studios, California, December 1969–June 1970
Side One Side Two
Tell Me Why
After the Gold Rush
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Southern Man
Till the Morning Comes
Oh, Lonesome Me
Don’t Let It Bring You Down
Birds
When You Dance I Can Really Love
I Believe in You
Cripple Creek Ferry
Primary Musicians
Neil Young – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Harmonica
Nils Lofgren – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Greg Reeves – Bass
Ralph Molina – Drums, Vocals

The acoustic track with plenty of hammer-ons along with bright strumming guitar action drives the opening track “Tell Me Why”, which also includes some sparse but nice harmonies. This song was originally performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young during their tours earlier in 1970. The indelible title track is a classic ballad, simple and measured with the sparse arrangement of a distant piano and near lead vocals, with session man Bill Peterson adding a pleasant flugelhorn lead. The lyrics to “After the Gold Rush” are at once disparate and yet very poetic in a song that reflects contemporary life.

Peaking at #33, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” was the only real radio hit on the album, as it returns to the Country sound with strong pop elements. This Tin-Pan-Alley like song has a wistful melody and a waltz-like beat with a simple arrangement. In contrast, “Southern Man” contains a solid rock groove featuring Young on electric guitar and then-18-year-old Nils Lofgren on piano. There are harmonized vocals during hook, solo vocals during the verses and an extended jam in the middle. The lyrics vividly describe the racism towards blacks in the American South, with a sweeping accusation which sparked a direct response by Lynard Skynard on their later hit “Sweet Home Alabama”.

Neil YoungAfter the abruptly cut “Till the Morning Comes” completes side one, the second side starts with the album’s only cover track, Don Gibson’s classic Country song, “Oh, Lonesome Me”. While remaining moderately slow paced, “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” contains strong variations in mood, adding its own diverse slice of uniqueness. This original track contains excellent melody and a bit of a dark tenor, which elevates the simple Country beats to a much higher level which was expanded upon on Young’s 1972 album Harvest.

Dating back to the days of Buffalo Springfield, “Birds” is a slow piano ballad, a bit sappy but with great harmonies during the choruses. Then comes “When You Dance I Can Really Love”, a very Byrds-esque jangly rocker, which seems to work a bit too hard to try and be a relevant rock song, falling just a bit short. “I Believe in You” is one final, sweet Country ballad with complex harmonies and plenty of mellow sonic treats dispersed throughout the straight-forward, traditional love/heartache song. The album concludes with “Cripple Creek Ferry”, a way-too-short song which is nonetheless deep and effective.

After the Gold Rush peaked at number eight on the American Pop Albums chart and spawned an acoustic solo tour by Young. A solo act would remain his status for the better part of a decade as CSNY split up and Crazy Horse signed their own independent record deal as a group.

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Permanent Waves by Rush

Buy Permanent Waves

Permanent Waves by RushOn the very first day of the new decade, Rush launched an evolved sound for the 1980s with Permanent Waves, their seventh studio album. The group approached this album differently than previous efforts by designating specific time and space to compose and rehearse. The result is a strong collection of songs more succinct than those on the group’s most recent efforts, such as 1977’s A Farewell to Kings and 1978’s Hemispheres, which were among Rush’s most progressive-oriented releases. While Permanent Waves maintained some of the core elements and rudiments of previous work, the group now ventured into fairly uncharted rock sub-genres such as new wave and reggae.

Both of those previously listed Rush albums were recorded in South Wales during the summers of their respective years of release. After Hemispheres was released in October 1978, the group went on an extensive eight-month tour into mid 1979. They decided to take some time off for the first time in several years to recoup and plan their next album. According to lyricist and drummer Neil Peart, this was the first time they had ever taken time off prior to recording an album and the group retreated to a farmhouse on the Georgian Bay in Northern Ontario. Later, the group also performed some of the tracks from Permanent Waves (primarily the three from ‘Side A’) live in late 1979, prior to the album’s release.

In fact, the album’s tracks were pretty much completed in the same sequence as they appear on the final product. When Rush moved into Le Studio in Quebec in the Autumn of 1979, they had nearly a full album’s worth of material, including an extensive, medieval-inspired track called “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” However, the group decided this was too “out of place” and the song was eventually discarded with short sections appearing elsewhere. The album was produced Terry Brown, who had worked with Rush on each of their previous five albums (and would also do so on two future albums). The album’s title was coined by Peart when discussing “cultural waves” with vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee and exclaiming that “a big album was like a permanent wave”.


Permanent Waves by Rush
Released: January 1, 1980 (Mercury)
Produced by: Rush & Terry Brown
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, September-October 1979
Side One Side Two
The Spirit of Radio
Freewill
Jacob’s Ladder
Entre Nous
Different Strings
Natural Science
Group Musicians
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synths
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Synths
Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion

Permanent Waves launches with the wild fingerboard action of guitarist Alex Lifeson, introducing the exciting and unique opener “The Spirit of Radio”. Inspired by the slogan of a local Toronto rock radio station, the song transcends into a pure celebration of music, showcasing a perfect blend of Rush past and present. Funky rudiments lead to the main riff, which bookmark the accessible verse sections where Lifeson’s guitars ring out like a chorus of triumphant bells across a landscape. The track also uses effects and hard production untypical of any previous Rush track, such as the inclusion of steel drums by guest percussionist Erwig Chuapchuaduah, an atypical but fantastic method that introduces the Rush of a new decade.

As fine as the opener is, “Freewill” is the best song on the album. Lyrically superb as Peart’s words are dripping with wisdom and philosophy, Lifeson’s guitar strikes the perfect balance between a ring and a crunch while remaining cool and even throughout. The bass led mid-section is the real highlight that puts this song over the top, with perfect timings and a potent jam as good as any of the group’s historic instrumental flourishes. Like on much of the album, Lee’s voice is reserved, direct, and sung at a lower register than on previous albums. However, during the final verse Lee lets loose the highest part of his vocal range for a dynamic climax to the song. “Jacob’s Ladder” comes in with a pure march joined by all three members, and only employs one single verse before a fine instrumental section is kicked off. Led by Lifeson’s harmonized guitar leads, the song goes from here through the final five minutes or so on a soundscape of morphing textures. From hard rock jam to synth ensemble to repetitive rudimentary pattern which builds in intensity until reaching the songs climatic outro. There is so little spoken word on this extended track that it is almost although the musical and sonic motifs speak to the listener.

Like the first side closer, the album’s final track, “Natural Science” is an extended track in the spirit of earlier Rush material. This final track was the only one fully constructed in the studio, composed after the band discarded the intended “Green Knight” epic. Peart locked himself in a cabin near Le Studio for three days to come up with the new lyrical concept, which explores the autonomous societies that emerge and decline in tidal pools. Musically, the track starts with a calm, strummed acoustic section with heavy natural reverb on Lee’s vocals along with water sound effects recorded by Lifeson and Peart in a row boat. The song soon launches into an exciting rock part with wild vocals by Lee and tremendous drumming by Peart (but, what else is new?). Late in the song comes the “lesson” lyric from the professor;

Wave after wave will flow with the tide and bury the world as it does, Tide after tide will flow and recede, leaving life to go on as it was…”

While it was written prior to entering the studio, “Different Strings” was reserved for production in order to embellish some sonic qualities and add some piano by artistic collaboratoe Hugh Syme. The interesting “Entre Nous” is about as close to pop/rock as Rush will ever get. With a theme of relationships, the track starts with a rotating electric guitar by Lifeson and a heavy synth by Lee. The verse is pure hard rock with a direct and choppy riff along with a direct beat by Peart. The choruses introduce a quasi-folk element with an acoustic guitar and the refrain of “just between us”, which technically translates to the song’s title.

Permanent Waves became Rush’s highest charting album to date, reaching #4 in the US. This also began a string of releases through the early eighties which continued the band’s commercial success as the rock trio continued to evolve their sound and compositional approach.

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Classic Rock Review 1980 promo

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1980 albums.

 

Rust Never Sleeps
by Neil Young

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Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young and Crazy HorseRust Never Sleeps was a unique recording by Neil Young and Crazy Horse as it was  an album of all new material mainly recorded live but post-produced with some studio overdubbing and most of the audience ambiance removed. This all resulted in a final product that feels at once intimate and intense. The title and overriding theme for this work was a concept for the tour which preceded its production and provided much of tits raw material. Rust Never Sleeps acts almost like a bookmark for the end of the decade that examines the state of contemporary life and the music industry, much like Don McLean’s American Pie did at the beginning of the 1970s.

Following the success of Young’s 1972 album Harvest, he had an uneven career span, marred by struggles with his vocals and performance issues by backing musicians. Although these works sold poorly, most of his albums through the mid 1970s received critical praise, highlighted by the 1975 release of Tonight’s the Night in 1975, which Young later opined was the closest he ever came to true art. Through these years, Young intermittedly used the backing musicians collectively known as “Crazy Horse” with whom Young first worked in 1968. Following the release of  commercially accessible,  Comes a Time, in 1978 Young and Crazy Horse set out on the lengthy “Rust Never Sleeps” tour, where each concert was divided into Young’s solo acoustic set and the full band electric set.

The tour was the basis for the core live elements on the Rust Never Sleeps tracks. The album was produced in a way to minimize the live nature, with some abrupt song starts and quick fade-outs to help mask the audience noise, which is really only audible on the opening and closing songs. Imaginative and bold, the material on this album blends many of Young’s previously established styles while, at points, reaching areas of music unprecedented.


Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Released: July 2, 1979 (Reprise)
Produced by: Neil Young, David Briggs, & Tim Mulligan
Recorded: Various Locations, 1975–78
Side One Side Two
My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)
Thrasher
Ride My Llama
Pocahontas
Sail Away
Powderfinger
Welfare Mothers
Sedan Delivery
“Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)
Primary Musicians
Neil Young – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Harmonica
Frank “Pancho” Sampedro – Guitars, Vocals
Billy Talbot – Bass, Vocals  |  Ralph Molina – Drums, Vocals

The first three songs on the album were recorded live in 1978 at the Boarding House in San Francisco. Co-written by Jeff Blackburn of The Ducks, “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” is the opening acoustic version of the more popular electric album closing track. Here, Young takes a lot around the state of rock n’ roll at the end of the 1970s and pays slight tribute to the late Elvis Presley and the emerging punk genre, while the lyrics philosophically deal life and its reality. “Thrasher” sounds less “live” than the opener, as a more traditional Bob Dylan or even Bruce Springsteen influenced folk song, less concerned with riff and rhyme than with poetry and substance. Lyrically, Young stays on the state of rock stardom while musically the song contains a substantial harmonica lead in the outro. “Ride My Llama” is a short but pleasant and melodic ballad which dates back to Young’s Zuma album in the mid seventies.

Built like a time-traveling, acid-influenced tune from the sixties, “Pocahontas” is dark folk with lyrics that alternate between historic scenes and fantasy meetings. Along the way, Young references Marlon Brando, the Houston Astrodome, and, of course, Pocahontas. Completing the first side, “Sail Away” bucks the production trend of this album as a country-style recording left over from the Comes a Time recording sessions. This well-constructed song with a light but full arrangement would have fit in well with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and contains excellent harmony vocals by Nicolette Larson.

The real brilliance of Rust Never Slepps lies on the electric side two, starting with “Powderfinger”, the best overall song on the album. With great riffing throughout, especially when Young and guitarist Frank Sampedro harmonize guitars between verses. While the compositional approach is still basically the same folk as on the acoustic side, the raw industrial strength rock puts the album in full electric stride. The poetic lyrics of “Powderfinger” tell a first-person story told by an Old West fallen pioneer who failed to defend himself and his family due to several moments of indecision. An acoustic version of the song was originally recorded by Young in 1975 but was unreleased because Young thought at the time it would work better for a band like Lynard Skynard.

Next comes a couple of heavy rock influenced songs. “Welfare Mothers” sounds like it is musically inspired by the late sixties heavy rock, with the lyrical content being more contemporary to the late seventies. The powerful rhythms of Crazy Horse’s drummer Ralph Molina and bassist Billy Talbot drive the mood for the lighthearted lyrics about the rash of economically-strapped divorcées. On “Sedan Delivery” Young shifts between a heavy punk verse and slower, bluesy chorus which may have been influenced by The Who. The stream-of-consciousness lyrics portray the confusion often found in the era’s punk rock.

“Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” is the most popular song on the album and, in a lot of ways, Young’s signature song of his career. A rocked out version of the opening track with slightly altered title and lyrics, Young coins some memorable phrases such as “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”, which John Lennon cited as “garbage” as he did not “appreciate the worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or dead Jim Morrison…No, thank you. I’ll take the living and the healthy” (unfortunately, Lennon was assassinated less than a year after these comments). As the song itself does get a bit too long and repetitive, it does sustain through the final crowd applause, adding nice closure to the album.

Critically acclaimed in its day and for years to come, Rust Never Sleeps was also commercially successful, reaching the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic. Later in 1979, Young and Crazy Horse released the complimentary album Live Rust and Young also released a live concert film of the album under the same title. Beyond these follow-ups, however, Young continued to take radical new musical turns in the early 1980s, which included a documentary film soundtrack, a synth-heavy techno album, and a pure rockabilly album.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1979 albums.