Moving Pictures by Rush
35th Anniversary

Buy Moving Pictures

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.

~

1981 Images

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

Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin

1975 Album of the Year

Buy Physical Graffiti

Physical Graffiti by Led ZeppelinToday we cover an album that epitomizes everything that is great about classic rock. Through their dozen years as a band, Led Zeppelin released eight studio albums, all of which were excellent to differing degrees. But Physical Graffiti is the best for two reasons. First is simple math, as it is their sole double studio album, hence twice the normal rock n roll bliss. More importantly is the sheer diversity of this album, which combines newly composed material with outtakes from the group’s three previous studio albums and in the process captures an incredible array of styles, production and compositional methods. All of this, plus the simple fact that the individual performances are brimming with innovative and outstanding musicianship, helped to make Physical Graffiti an easy choice as Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for 1975.

In their first three years as a band, Led Zeppelin recorded and released four albums with sequential numerical titles. Over the course of these albums, the material branched out from heavy blues to acoustic folk and many subtle sub-genres in between. Released in 1973, Houses of the Holy ,was built more in the studio than any of its predecessors, taking advantage of technological advances and use of overdubs to forge the sound. To follow-up, the group went to Headley Grange in East Hampshire, England in late 1973. They had previously recorded, Led Zeppelin IV ,with Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studio at this location but these later sessions were soon abandoned as the new material was underdeveloped and bassist John Paul Jones had fallen ill. Instead, the sessions were turned over to the new group Bad Company, who had recently signed to Led Zeppelin’s new label Swan Song and used the location to record their 1974 eponymous debut album.

The group reconvened at Headley Grange in January 1974 and were much more fruitful, recording eight new tracks over the next several weeks. The running time of these tracks extended beyond the length of a conventional album (at the time, vinyl albums were typically around 45 minutes), so the group decided to extend it out to a double length LP by including several unreleased songs from previous Led Zeppelin albums. This extended the project quite a bit as additional overdubs were required to establish sonic consistency, so final mixing did not take place until October 1974. The album’s title was coined by guitarist and producer Jimmy Page, who wanted to convey how much “physical energy” had gone into producing this album. The title also sparked the idea for its unique, Grammy nominated album packaging, with a die-cut sleeve through which various images can be alternated into the windows of a New York City brownstone tenement.


Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin
Released: February 25, 1975 (Swan Song)
Produced by: Jimmy Page
Recorded: Various Locations in the UK and US, July 1970-February 1974
Side One Side Two
Custard Pie
The Rover
In My Time of Dying
Houses of the Holy
Trampled Underfoot
Kashmir
Side Three Side Four
In the Light
Bron-Yr-Aur
Down By the Seaside
Ten Years Gone
Night Flight
The Wanton Song
Boogie With Stu
Black Country Woman
Sick Again
Group Musicians
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Guitar
Jimmy Page – Guitars, Mandolin
John Paul Jones – Bass, Piano, Keyboards, Mandolin
John Bonham – Drums, Percussion

The album opens unabashedly with “Custard Pie”, which takes the simplest crisp guitar riffs and builds such an infectious groove around it by combining with Jones’ cool clavichord, John Bonham‘s steady but incredible drumming. Lyrically, the song pays homage to a few traditional blues songs – “Drop Down Mama” by Sleepy John Estes and “Shake ‘Em On Down” by Bukka White – with vocalist Robert Plant adding further authenticity with some fine harmonica playing over the otherwise straight-up rock music. “The Rover” was an outtake from a 1972 Houses of the Holy session and it is a wonder why it was ever cut (it would have fit perfectly between “D’Yer Ma’ker” and “No Quarter”). In any case, it remains one of Zeppelin’s most forgotten gems as solid hard rock at its melodic finest. Even more impressive are Plant’s vocals, which soar finely over the rock landscape which crosses both time and space;

Traversed the planet when heaven sent me, I saw the kings who rule them all. Still by the firelight and purple moonlight I hear the rested rivers call…”

“In My Time of Dying” is a rare track with songwriting credits going to all four band members (although the song’s roots date back to the 1920s) and is also distinct as the studio recording with the longest duration. As a slow and deliberate blues, it reverts back to Led Zeppelin’s debut album with Page’s impossibly slow slide guitar being complemented by Jones and Bonham, who are masterful at adding perfectly timed bottom end rhythm to give it all structure. At around four minutes in, a frenzied second part of the song commences, highlighted by Bonham’s incredible drum patterns and Page’s multi-textured multiple guitar solos. Then, after building the tensions as far as possible, the group returns with a heavy rock rendition of the opening part.

The album’s second side starts with “Houses of the Holy”, the title track which was left off the album of the same name. Unlike the aforementioned “The Rover”, this song is actually more at home here as a very basic track with just repeated verses and riff interludes. It never really travels anywhere musically, just gains in Trampled Underfoot by Led Zeppelinintensity in its vibe and sexually charged lyrics as it goes along. Sticking with the sex themes, “Trampled Under Foot” uses car parts as metaphors for female body parts and, much like the previous song, relies on repetition and building intensity. Musically, this track has a great funk groove throughout which never gets old, and features a funky clavichord lead by Jones with Page adding some whining guitar textures underneath.

“Kashmir” is a masterful and innovative track written by Page, Plant and Bonham over the course of three years. It is sonically pleasing and interesting throughout its eight and a half minute duration with several theatrical “scenes’ slowly unfolding in time. The song’s main progression is built on an ascending riff developed by Page with Jones conducting further orchestration performed by session string and horn sections and Bonham’s drums fed through a phaser for effect. Plant actually found inspiration for the lyrics in Morocco but preferred Kashmir (where he had never been) as a mystical, imaginative place which transcends a physical location on Earth;

To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen, they talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed. Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace, whose sounds caress my ear but not a word I heard could I relate, the story was quite clear…”

Side three of Physical Graffiti begins with “In the Light”, one of the oddest but ultimately entertaining songs in the entire Led Zeppelin collection. A long synthesizer and bowed guitar intro by Jones and Page breaks into an enjoyable and upbeat rock section with Jones providing some inspired electric piano. The track was originally a piano-driven ballad called “Everybody Makes It Through” but the verse sections were rewritten with the improvised outro section retained as a canvas for the layers of Page’s guitars. Next comes “Bron-Yr-Aur” the first instrumental since Led Zeppelin II as a pleasant solo acoustic bit by Page which turned out to be the group’s shortest track on record. “Down By the Seaside” is another totally unique song in the Zeppelin catalog as a mellow country/folk track which possibly drew inspiration from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Recorded during the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV in 1971, the song is pleasant and rewarding as a one-off foray into this musical territory and features Jones’ electric piano interludes complemented by Page’s ascending guitar textures.

“Ten Years Gone” is Led Zeppelin at their studio best, as an exquisite song with outstanding contributions by each group member. The opening arrangement is just a simple ringing guitar and bass before launching into a majestic heavy riff which divides the verse stanzas. Started as a pure instrumental piece by Page, the track includes two of his most inspiring leads, which sandwich the heavy middle bridge section and where Jones’ bass and Bonham’s drums are brought out with their best elements. Each subsequent section in this suite builds on the last, reaching for an ultimate emotional crescendo as Page layers guitar upon guitar with distinct voices so that nothing ever gets buried underneath. Finally, there are Plant’s poetic lyrics of love, destination, regret and redemption sung in a very somber and reserved voice as he recalls the heartbreaking decision to abandon his teenage girlfriend in order to pursue his musical dreams. The outro is only real section where he raises his voice with great, desperate improvisation, almost as if he is trying to shout back through time.

Led Zeppelin in 1975

The fourth and final side begins with “Night Flight”, which dates back to late 1970. After the emotional intensity of “Ten Years Gone”, this bouncy rocker provides a lighter feel and owes much of its musical power to Jones’ Hammond organ with Page just adding strong rhythmic licks on guitar, almost as if their roles are reversed. Plant’s vocals are dynamic and strong throughout this track, almost to the point of straining. On “The Wanton Song” Zeppelin seems to step into the future musically with odd-timed but fierce riffs and Bonham’s unambiguous drumming. Two interludes contain fantastic guitar textures, attained by Page feeding through a Leslie keyboard speaker, which give the start sound just enough flavor and diversity to make it classic.

If there is any weakness on Physical Graffiti it is in the way the album wraps. While interesting in their own way, the final three tracks are rather tame in comparison with the tremendous material which precede them. “Boogie with Stu” was an improvised jam during the Led Zeppelin IV sessions, featuring Ian Stewart on piano with Page on mandolin, leaving Plant with his one and only session on guitar. Page returns to guitar on “Black Country Woman” with Jones moving to mandolin in what would turn out to be the last Zeppelin acoustic song on their original studio records. Recorded in 1972, the song features a truly authentic setting, outside with a passing overhead airplane left on the tape at the beginning. The album wraps with “Sick Again” which, unlike the other three powerful side closers, is a rather common heavy blues rock song to complete the album as a whole. With lyrics about the LA groupie scene, this track musically features a nice overdubbed, whining guitar through the chorus sections and obviously contains some impressive performances but does not seem to be mixed too well, with vocals and bass getting lost behind the guitars and drums.

Physical Graffiti was a success commercially and critically, reaching the top of the album charts upon its release and eventually going 16x platinum in sales. With half the album being like a tour of the multiple phases that this group with incredible musical diversity had gone through during their first five years and five studio albums and the other half showing the band progressing forward with the fusion of funk, heavy pop, soul, and the modern sound that would become new wave, this remains the single best example of what made Led Zeppelin such a tremendous musical force.

~

Led Zeppelin online

Led Zeppelin on Twitter  Led Zeppelin on Facebook
Led Zeppelin official website
Buy Physical Graffiti

1975 Page

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

Moondance by Van Morrison

1970 Album of the Year
Buy Moondance

Moondance by Van MorrisonWe’ve covered more music from the year 1970 than from any other year at Classic Rock Review. Through these nineteen articles covering twenty-three different albums, we’ve observed some of the finest rock groups as they branched out to embrace some roots or otherwise raw musical genres. Through all that great music, we believe that no one hit the sweet spot like Van Morrison and the most and authentic, entertaining and timeless effort of his long career, Moondance. Morrison blends diverse styles such as jazz, folk rock, country, R&B, and American soul with potent melodies and pristine arrangements, all on a cohesive album which always sounds fresh. For these reasons, we have chosen Moondance as our album of the year for 1970.

Morrison’s previous album, Astral Weeks, was filled with impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness tunes and was recorded in just a few sessions in New York City in late 1968. After that recording, Morrison and his wife decided to move to upstate New York, where the composer began writing songs for a follow-up album. Despite the critical acclaim of Astral Weeks, its improvised nature did not lead to much commercial success and Morrison looked to strike a balance between musical integrity and audience accessibility.

Coproduced by Lewis Merenstein, fresh musicians were recruited for Moondance, starting in the summer of 1969. While all the tracks were composed by Morrison on acoustic guitar, he entered the studio with no written arrangements, leaving room for this album to grow organically with any riffs or fills generated spontaneously through jam sessions. The result is a record of renewal and redemption which is every bit as authentic as its predecessor while shedding that album’s dark and gloomy feel, as Morrison employs simple memories and nature motifs lyrically.


Moondance by Van Morrison
Released: February 28, 1970 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Van Morrison & Lewis Merenstein
Recorded: A & R Studios, New York, August–December 1969
Side One Side Two
And It Stoned Me
Moondance
Crazy Love
Caravan
Into the Mystic
Come Running
These Dreams of You
Brand New Day
Everyone
Glad Tidings
Primary Musicians
Van Morrison – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
John Platania – Guitars
Jeff Labes – Piano, Keyboards
Jack Schroer – Saxophones
Colin Tilton – Flute, Saxophone
John Klingberg – Bass
Gary Mallaber – Drums, Percussion

The lyrics of Moondance seem to be symbiotically linked through the individual tracks with certain elemental themes reappearing throughout. One of these primary elements is water and nowhere is it more prominent than on the opening track “And It Stoned Me”. This nostalgic song about a day of adolescence in Ireland, speaks of walking to a fishing hole, getting caught in the rain, and ultimately receiving some H2O rejuvenation. Each lyrical line is filled with vivid yet poetic images and emotions while the moderate yet soulful rock sound features sax accents and a dual lead section featuring Morrison’s acoustic guitar and the piano of Jeff Labes.

The pure jazzy title tune is built on a walking bass pattern of John Klingberg, subtle piano chords by Labes and a great overall melody by Morrison. It later features a jazzy sax lead by Jack Schroer The lyrics of “Moondance” are specifically a tribute to the autumn season as well as romance in general and this hit song did not actually chart until 1977, seven years after its release. “Crazy Love” features Motown inspired, high pitched soul vocals which were accomplished by Morrison getting as close to the microphone as possible. This song is also the  to feature Gospel-style backing singers while the music is very reserved with acoustic, bass, and brushed drums.

“Caravan” is a pure celebration of radio portrayed through a moderate rock backing and very intense vocalization. After two verses comes the first of two improvised bridge sections that bring this song to a new level along with syncopated beats and punching brass. The side one closer “Into the Mystic” paints an indelible picture of life on the water where Morrison again returns to his youth in the port city of Belfast. The mood of this subtle folk tune is driven by a cool but direct bass line, strummed acoustic, and a building array of other instruments added ounthe duration, including a foghorn-mimicking alto saxophone for great effect.

We were born before the wind, also younger than the sun / Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic…”

The album’s second side contains some lesser known but quality songs. The Top 40 hit “Come Running” is upbeat, almost country in its approach, especially with the boogie-woogie piano by Labes, a two chord guitar pattern by John Platania and the first real affirmative presence by drummer Gary Mallaber. The track is not very complex lyrically but this is intentional as it works as an upbeat counter to some of the deeper songs from the first side. “These Dreams of You” portrays upbeat blues with bass rhythm, slide acoustic, and harmonica by Morrison. On “Brand New Day”, the tone is excellent even if the vocal melody seems a bit recycled. Nonetheless, this track is definitely a spiritual, Gospel influenced, song of redemption with rich backing harmonies.

Van MorrisonThe energy returns fully on “Everyone”, which starts with a cool harpsichord by Labes that persists through repetitive, beat driven pattern of this song of pure celebration. Colin Tilton provides flute flourishes throughout this Baroque-styled track which is an ode to the power of music. The album concludes with “Glad Tidings”, featuring the most pronounced bass line, exceptional drumming, subtle saxophones and squeezed out electric guitar notes all behind Morrison’s clarion vocals. While many songs on this album revisit the past, this one is set firmly in the present day of 1970 as Morrison sends “glad tidings” from his new home in New York.

Moondance was a critical and commercial success, peaking in the Top 40 in charts in both the US and the UK. It has continuously sold well during the four and a half decades since its release, eventually certified as triple platinum in sales. Later in 1970, Morrison released the follow-up album, His Band and the Street Choir, which feature “Domino”, the song which ultimately became Morrison’s biggest hit ever. Through the 1970s and into decades beyond, he released a succession of fine albums but none have reached quite the level of esteem as our album of the year, Moondance.

~

1970 Page ad

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.

 

Shake Your Money Maker
by The Black Crowes

Album of the Year, 1990

Buy Shake Your Money Maker

Shake Your Money Maker by Black CrowesThe Black Crowes’ impressive debut brought old-school, blues-flavored rock to the forefront in 1990. A quarter century after its release, Shake Your Money Maker is still the group’s best-selling album and its timeless qualities and genuine song-craft have helped it to maintain its sonic potency. With a blend of classic British blues and American Southern music elements, The Black Crowes released an authentic and original record, which Classic Rock Review has chosen as our Album of the Year for 1990.

In the mid-eighties, vocalist Chris Robinson and guitarist Rich Robinson formed the original incarnation of the group called Mr. Crowe’s Garden. Based in
Marietta, Georgia the group played pop and classic southern rock before eventually turning towards 1970s-era blues rock. Through the late eighties, the brothers Robinson remained at the core of the band which had several revolving supporting members, including rhythm guitarist Jeff Cease.

In 1989, The Black Crowes successfully auditioned with Def American records and began recording their debut with producer George Drakoulias. The group recorded original compositions which the Robinsons’ had written during the previous half decade, including a few tracks that were omitted from the album, such as “Don’t Wake Me”. Drakoulias brought in veteran musician Chuck Leavell, formally of the Allman Brothers Band, to add session piano and keyboards to the album.


Lawn Boy by Phish
Released: January 24, 1990 (Def American)
Produced by: George Drakoulias
Recorded: Soundscape Studios, Atlanta & several studios in Los Angeles, 1989
Track Listing Group Musicians
Twice As Hard
Jealous Again
Sister Luck
Could I’ve Been So Blind
Seeing Things
Hard to Handle
Thick n’ Thin
She Talks to Angels
Struttin’ Blues
Stare It Cold
Live Too Fast Blues
Chris Robinson
Lead Vocals
Rich Robinson
Guitars
Jeff Cease
Guitars
Johnny Colt
Bass
Steve Gorman
Drums

Rich Robinson’s big guitar riff sets the album’s tone from the top with “Twice As Hard”. The slow, bluesy riffs are complemented by a slight touch of slide guitar by Cease through this excellent and entertaining pure rocker. “Jealous Again” is a more pop-oriented, in the Rolling Stones-vein, and presents a more dominant presence for vocalist Chris Robinson. Critics of the time tended to typecast The Black Crowes, were immediately typecast as descendants of the Stones and other British rockers, such as the Faces.

That critique was certainly merited as “Sister Luck” returns to the Stones’ vibe, this time as a ballad. In fact, this track comes dangerously close in title and temperament to the Stones’ classic “Sister Morphine” from Sticky Fingers. in contrast, “Could I’ve Been So Blind” is definitely a more modern, straight-forward rock track with good rhythmic rudiments by bassist Johnny Colt and drummer Steve Gorman. This particular song dates all the way back to the Mr. Crowe’s Garden era. “Seeing Things” is an impossibly slow Southern blues ballad, with a strong piano and keyboard presence by Leavell to complement the core rock elements. Chris Robinson vocals are exceptional on this track and he is joined by a background Gospel chorus, forecasting arrangements of future Black Crowes’ albums.

 
While the cover song “Hard to Handle” is driven by the rock drumming of Gorman, this song’s underlying structure is classic funk. Although originally recorded by of Otis Redding, its inclusion is an implicit shout out to Grateful Dead fans, as that group made the track a live mainstay a couple of decades earlier. In any case, The Black Crowe’s version is masterful and was a hit, reaching number 26 on the Billboard pop charts. “Thick n’ Thin” follows as a frenzied, upbeat blues rocker with heavy guitar chorus riffs and a very entertaining mid-section pushed along by the groovy bass of Colt. Written by Rich Robinson when he was a teenager, the solo intro to “She Talks to Angels” is an intricate acoustic guitar part. Chris Robinson wrote the lyrics about a “goth girl” in Atlanta who was “into heroin” and it contains some profoundly sad lines;

She keeps a lock of hair in her pocket, she wears a cross around her neck, the hair is from the little boy and the cross is someone she has not met, not yet…”

After this dramatic high point, the album does lose some momentum down the stretch. “Struttin’ Blues” seems to bring the album back up too quickly and feels really frivolous in comparison to the previous track. “Stare It Cold” is in much the same Stones-vein as “Jealous Again” but with plenty of room for short guitar licks in between the verses. It all concludes in the tradition of hidden tracks on nineties albums, with a distant rehearsal-like bluesy track with slight arrangement that fades in and out quickly in less than a minute and a half.

Shake Your Money Maker peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200 and has sold more than 5 million copies. It launched The Black Crowes into top-tier status with national tours and further successful albums throughout the 1990s.

~

1990 Page ad

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1990 albums.

Back In Black by AC/DC

Buy Back In Black

1980 Album of the Year

Back In Black by AC-DCWho would have guessed that out of the ashes of tragedy would rise the rock n’ roll classic, Back In Black? Recorded just a few weeks following the untimely death of their lead singer, AC/DC forged an indelible album of work whic, 35 years after its release, is the second best-selling album of all time worldwide (behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller). For the first time, we have put our Album of the Year up for popular vote, with three hard rock classics from 1980 nominated for this honor. Through January and February you have voted and your choice was overwhelmingly in favor of Back In Black as Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for the year 1980.

Formed in Australia in 1973 by brothers Angus Young and Malcom Young, AC/DC found significant success at home with the domestic release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in 1976. This led to an international record deal with Atlantic and continued momentum through the late seventies as the group toured extensively throughout Europe and the successful releases of the albums High Voltage, Let There Be Rock, and Powerage, the latter of which marked the debut of bassist Cliff Williams. The group’s first major breakthrough came in 1979 with the album Highway To Hell, which was also the band’s initial collaboration with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange.

Highway To Hell reached the Top on the US album charts and the group was ambitious about following this up with an even more accessible heavy rock album. Unfortunately, vocalist Bon Scott would not see this realized, as he died after a night of heavy drinking in February 1980. After briefly considering retirement, the surviving members of AC/DC emerged with renewed determination in March of 1980 and various candidates were auditioned for Scott’s replacement. 32-year-old rock journeyman Brian Johnson was brought in when Angus Young recalled Scott citing admiration for the then-vocalist of the band, Geordie, years earlier. After locating Johnson, the singer successfully passed the audition for AC/DC, who were impressed by the fact that he didn’t try to merely mimic Scott’s style but reinterpret it with a soulful style.

After hiring their new front man, the band then immediately headed to the Bahamas to compose and record the new album. Despite riding out several tropical storms which knocked out the electricity, Lange and the band rehearsed and recorded the album in just seven weeks. The result is a direct, hard rock record with Johnson-penned lyrics about sex and parties driven by crisp riffs and direct, snare-centered beats by drummer Phil Rudd. While the album’s title and all-black cover was designed as a respectful tribute to Scott, the music itself was far from somber or mournful.

 


Back In Black by AC/DC
Released: July 25, 1980 (Jet)
Produced by: Robert John “Mutt” Lange
Recorded: Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas, April-May 1980
Side One Side Two
Hells Bells
Shoot to Thrill
What Do You Do for Money Honey
Given the Dog a Bone
Let Me Put My Love Into You
Back in Black
You Shook Me All Night Long
Have a Drink on Me
Shake a Leg
Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution
Primary Musicians
Brian Johnson – Lead Vocals
Angus Young – Guitars
Malcolm Young – Guitars, Vocals
Cliff Williams – Bass, Vocals
Phil Rudd – Drums, Percussion

An ominous drone of bell tolls commence the album as a not-so-subtle memorial to AC/DC’s fallen member. “Hells Bells” acts not only as a tribute but as an ironic terminal from the previous Highway to Hell, which turned out to be Scott’s swan song. Johnson’s lyrics speak of his angst while trying to adjust to his sudden change of environment and pressure to deliver with his new band. Despite the doomy beginning, the song’s body is really more of an upbeat and intense party chant. Continuing the early album momentum, “Shoot to Thrill” is an interesting little screed with many of the group’s seventies-type grooves and an inventive use of space by adding variation in style rather than substance. This track’s final sequences features Angus Young’s whining guitar mimicking Johnson’s lead vocals as in an updated Page-Plant action.

The remainder of the album’s first side contains three of the most disposable tracks on Back In Black. “What Do You Do for Money Honey” has a great adolescent chant about a gold-digging woman but not much more substantively. “Given the Dog a Bone” is similar in temperament. Aside from the catchy use of call-and-response vocals, there’s really no “here” here, as the track’s riffs, beats, and lead sound just like those on other tracks of this album. “Let Me Put My Love Into You” does contain a nice thumping bass by Williams, which carries the slight riffs that gradually build and, given some room to breathe, Johnson’s voice really does soar here. However, this moderate bluesy track does have a hook which seems a bit forced.

 
One of the most famous count-offs in rock history commences the spectacular second side of Back In Black as Rudd’s hat ignites the title song with a fantastic marching beat. The track’s verses feature a quasi-rap by Johnson and the choruses build to a crescendo with the duo guitar riffs fantastic throughout this song of pure energy. The song peaked in the US Top 40 in 1981 but did not officially chart on the UK charts until 2011, over 3o years after its release. An even bigger hit, “You Shook Me All Night Long” has grown into the most indelible AC/DC tune. Malcom Young’s intro perfectly sets up this hard rock dance-oriented track, while the chorus hook and counter-riff work in perfect harmony. For his part, Angus Young adds one of his most potent guitar leads on this track which saw a whole new life when it was featured on the 1986 soundtrack Who Made Who. The slightly tragic and slightly morbid “Have a Drink on Me” is a sideways tribute to Bon Scott, starting with a cool blues slide before finding a steady rock beat. While still presented as an upbeat party screed, the song’s pre-chorus contains some ironic philosophy;

Don’t worry about tomorrow, take it today, forget about the check we’ve got hell to pay…”

“Shake a Leg” contains a fantastic intro section, launching into a faux verse that ends with a majestic vocal screed by Johnson which leads into the actual song riff and launch. Everyone is at their absolute best on this track – the vocals seem to elevate to an even high plane of frenzy while Rudd’s drums are a steady prime mover in this song about movement. After a blistering guitar lead, Johnson reprises the intro over the multi modal exchanges of Angus and Malcolm Young’s guitars. After the frenzy comes “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, a steady barroom blues which eventually builds into a fantastic rock track that works perfectly to conclude the album. Williams’ bass thumps as a heartbeat between the twin guitar riffs on either side of the mix on this song which reached number 15 on the UK singles charts, placing it higher than any track on the album.

Despite never reaching the top of the album charts in The US, Back In Black has been a charting phenomenon, re-entering charts several times throughout the decades, even as recently as 2014. The album has sold 22 million albums worldwide and set the group up for further success through the 1980s and beyond.

~

Classic Rock Review 1980 promo

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

Breakfast In America
by Supertramp

Buy Breakfast In America

1979 Album of the Year

Breakfast In America by SupertrampBreakfast In America is, at once, an artistic statement and a pure pop record. This sixth overall album by Supertramp was composed and recorded after the British group relocated to Los Angeles. Much like their three previous albums, the songs on Breakfast In America were split between founding members Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, who have contrasting musical and vocal styles but have a knack for blending these styles into interesting and cohesive albums. Here, the chemistry and talent reaches an apex and the result is Supertramp’s best selling, most critically acclaimed and highest charting album, as well as Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for 1979.

While Supertramp started as a purely progressive rock act in 1970, their mid seventies albums started to inch towards more pop/rock song craft. Released in early 1977, Even In the Quietest Moments, which contained the group’s first worldwide Top 40 hit “Give a Little Bit”. After that album’s release, the band decided to permanently relocate to America’s west coast and each member found fresh influence in the prolific pop music culture which was booming in late seventies Los Angeles.

Prior to the extended recording sessions, the group recorded a couple of demo sessions to sort out the best material. Originally, Davies and Hogdson were planning on doing a concept album, which would examine their conflicting personalities and world views called “Hello Stranger”. However, the group eventually decided on abandoning this concept and focusing more on the songs they considered more fun to perform. In this light, the album’s title was changed to reflect the bouncy, upbeat song introduced by Hodgson. Along with producer Peter Henderson, the group forged a fantastic sound for the album by focusing more on capture and performance than mixing and mastering techniques. This process took months and was only completed when the December 1978 deadline arrived.


Breakfast in America by Supertramp
Released: March 29, 1979 (A&M)
Produced by: Peter Henderson & Supertramp
Recorded: The Village Recorder, Los Angeles, May–December 1978
Side One Side Two
Gone Hollywood
The Logical Song
Goodbye Stranger
Breakfast In America
Oh Darling
Take the Long Way Home
Lord Is It Mine
Just Another Nervous Wreck
Casual Conversations
Child of Vision
Group Musicians
Rick Davies – Keyboards, Harmonica, Vocals
Roger Hodgson – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
John Helliwell – Woodwinds, Reeds, Keyboards, Vocals
Dougie Thompson – Bass
Bob Siebenberg – Drums

Breakfast in America is bookended by two dramatic and theatrical extended tracks which give a sense of the group’s earlier work. “Gone Hollywood” starts with long fade of carnival-like piano before strongly breaking in as a duet of Davies and Hodgson harmonized vocals. After two short verses, a long middle section starts with a subtle but haunting saxophone lead by John Helliwell before Davies takes over lead vocals and tension slowly builds with rhythmic accents of the consistent piano arpeggio. After a climatic Hodson-led section, the song returns to a final verse and concludes with an optimistic musical outro.

“The Logical Song” is a brilliant song lyrically, melodically, and especially musically by Hodgson. The album’s first single, the song reached the Top 10 is several countries and became the group’s most successful hit. The song is highlighted by the later progressions, including the brighter piano notes under Helliwell’s first sax lead and the outro led by the bass riff of Dougie Thompson under the second sax solo. Lyrically, Hodgson critiques the structured education system and society’s unbalanced focus on true knowledge. The dynamics of the Wurlitzer piano are on full display during “Goodbye Stranger”, Davies’ ode to rock groupies. Beyond anything else, this song has exceptionally great sonic aesthetics with some cool guitar textures by Hodgson, including a cool rock outro with a refined guitar lead.

The album’s title song was written by Hodgson while still a teen in the late sixties. “Breakfast in America” is almost frivolous in subject matter, but quite powerful musically with an interesting, English band march beneath the contemporary rock vocals. The song was a hit in the UK but failed to chart in the States. The side one close “Oh Darling” is an unheralded romantic ballad where Davies uses expert chord progressions and diminishment to perfectly set the beautifully melancholy mood. Hodgson makes his own significant contributions, starting textured electric guitar riffs and acoustic accents to compliment the Wurli piano and vocals perfectly, and climaxing with the closing vocal duet that builds to a crescendo before nicely fading out.

Take the Long Way Home singleThe second side starts with the album’s most philosophical track. The lyrics of “Take the Long Way Home” may be about “stepping out” or growing old or re-examining your life or a combination of these. Hodgson again finds a fine melody to accompany the piano progressions, which dominate the verses and choruses and are accented perfectly by Thomson’s bass. During the bridge, there is an exciting tradeoff between the tenor saxophone and Davies’s bluesy harmonica and during the haunting final descent the song slowly marches away into an echoed darkness, completing the overall effect. “Lord Is It Mine” follows as a sweet and sad piano ballad by Hodgson, who uses his highest falsetto voice to carry the tune with minimal arrangement above the guiding piano. Later, there is a nice clarinet lead by Helliman leading to a climatic final section. Lyrically, the track contains nice little motifs such as,

You know I get so weary from the battles in this life and there’s many times it seems that you’re the only hope in sight…”

Next come a couple of tracks by Davies. “Just Another Nervous Wreck” is a building pop/rock song about the struggle of the everyman. It starts with an animated electric piano and vocals and builds with many traditional rock elements including a fine harmonized guitar lead and chorus vocals, before the strong, climatic outro with Davies’s vocals becoming ever more desperate and strained. “Casual Conversations” takes the opposite approach to the previous track, as a short, jazzy, mellow tune. Cool piano carries this along, with not much movement elsewhere, just a guide cymbal beat by drummer Bob Siebenberg. “Child of Vision” closes things out as a seven-plus minute track with an epic feel. Employing some newer musical styles and elements, the track is Helliwell’s only partial songwriting credit on the album and it ends with a long piano solo with a improvised feel. This ending, unfortunately, seems mainly there to take up some time and “run out the clock”, which makes for a less than satisfying conclusion to this otherwise flawless album.

Breakfast in America won two Grammy Awards in 1980, and topped the album charts in several countries, including France where it became the biggest-selling English language album of all time. The group followed the album with a 120-date world tour which broke concert attendance records in Europe and Canada. In 1980, the band released the double live album Paris, another huge success worldwide. The group did not follow up Breakfast in America with another studio release until Famous Last Words was released in late 1982, nearly four years later. Although that album was a commercial success, the subsequent tour led to Hodgson’s departure from the group, breaking up the classic lineup of Supertramp.

~

1979 Images

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

 

Born In the U.S.A.
by Bruce Springsteen

Buy Born In the U.S.A.

1984 Album of the Year

Born In the USA by Bruce SpringsteenBorn in the USA marked the height of commercial success for Bruce Springsteen. It sold over 30 million copies worldwide and spawned seven Top 10 singles, a record met but not surpassed. The album also spent a record 84 consecutive weeks in the Billboard Top 10. But here at Classic Rock Review, commercial success is but a minor factor in which albums we cover and how we cover them. To us, it is all about the quality of the music, especially in naming our albums of the year. Born In the USA contains traditional story-driven songs with contemporary production and entertaining melody and hooks, making it, in our opinion, the best album of 1984.

Springsteen had experienced vast commercial success with the Top 5 double album The River in 1980. In 1981, Springsteen was asked to write music for a film originally called “Born In the U.S.A.” (but eventually released as Light of Day in 1987). While working on his solo, introspective, album Nebraska, Springsteen merged the melody for a song called “Vietnam” with the film’s title and originally wanted to include it on that 1982 album but eventually concluded that it was out of place.

Recording sessions for Born In the USA date back to January 1982, nearly two and a half years before the album’s release. These sessions predate the release of Nebraska, as Springsteen was composing and recording a number of songs specifically intended for an album besides that dark folk album. In fact, by mid-1982 most of Born In the USA was already recorded with a few more tracks added in 1983 and a final track added in early 1984. In total, Springsteen wrote an estimated 70 songs for the album, with 12 making the final cut and several more used for B-sides such as “Shut Out the Light”, “Johnny Bye-Bye”, “Stand On It”, “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart”, and “Pink Cadillac”, which became a minor radio hit on its own.

After a new CD manufacturing plant was opened in Indiana, Born In the USA was the first compact disc manufactured in the United States (actually “born in the USA”!) All previous CDs had been manufactured in Japan.


Born In the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
Released: June 4, 1984 (Columbia)
Produced by: Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Bruce Springsteen, & Steven Van Zandt
Recorded: The Power Station and The Hit Factory, New York, January 1982–March 1984
Side One Side Two
Born In the U.S.A.
Cover Me
Darlington County
Workin’ On the Highway
Downbound Train
I’m On Fire
No Surrender
Bobby Jean
I’m Goin’ Down
Glory Days
Dancing In the Dark
My Hometown
Primary Musicians
Bruce Springsteen – Lead Vocals, Guitars 
Roy Bittan – Piano, Synths, Vocals
Steven Van Zandt – Guitars, Mandolin, Vocals
Clarence Clemons – Sax, Percussion
Garry Tallent – Bass, Vocals
Max Weinberg – Drums, Vocals

The title track kicks off the album with spacey synths by Roy Bittan and a sanitized drum snare by Max Weinberg, world’s away from the folk of the past album. These intro sounds are nicely contrasted by Springsteen’s rough and strained rock vocals which belt out lyrics that deal with the cruel mistreatment of Vietnam veterans on their arrival back home. “Cover Me” is a bright pop song , albeit warmer than the opener and with some real bass presence by Garry Tallent. Springsteen originally wrote the song for Donna Summer but was urged by his manager, Jon Landau, to include it on the album and it peaked at #7 on the pop charts as a result.

“Darlington County” is a down-home track which seems to be slightly influenced by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was recorded in the spring of 1982 and gets its title from an actual county in South Carolina. “Working on the Highway” is the weakest song on the first side, almost a cheap attempt at rockabilly. In contrast, “Downbound Train” is an excellent dark, folk song with the added bonus of an eerie synth organ in the background. One of the more legitimate Springsteen songs on the first side, the song is a melancholy lament to a lost spouse with vivid imagery throughout.

 
“I’m On Fire” is a short but potent ballad with great production techniques on the voice, synths, picked guitar, and brushed drums, making it an overall masterpiece of arrangement. One of the earliest songs recorded for the album, the song came together in an impromptu jam between Springsteen, Bittan, and Weinberg. The second side is more solid throughout than the first and starts with a couple of songs which would’ve fit perfectly on Springsteen’s late seventies albums. “No Surrender” is an upbeat song of youth that was originally cut from the album but was reinstated at the insistence of guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who was very keen of the song. “Bobby Jean” is the most underrated Springsteen song, well constructed with a piano riff, a driving bass, great melody and romantic lyrics. The vocals are delivered masterfully with lyrics that are pure Jersey and the bonus of being the first song to include a sax solo by Clarence Clemens. Some have interpreted the lyrics to be a goodbye tribute to Van Zandt, who had decided to leave the E Street Band by the time of its recording. “I’m Goin’ Down” contains Clemons’ second sax solo and, like “Working on the Highway”, this is totally retro (but done much better here).

The album’s stretch run has three of its most popular hits. “Glory Days” is an infectious pop song with a great hook and story-telling lyrics. There is a cool mandolin track buried deep in the mix and a unique, improvised ending that helped fuel interest in this otherwise simple song. “Dancing In the Dark” was the last song recorded for the album and the first released as a single. This is a pure 80’s synth pop song, but so unlike anything Springsteen had done before, that it has got to be respected. The melody and arrangement is masterful (with the possible exception of the mind-numbing drums), making this experiment deep into the realm of radio-friendly an overall success. The album concludes with the folk ballad “My Hometown”, which is a darker look at the scenes and characters in “Born to Run”, a decade earlier. While talking about riots and unemployment in a very Wood-Guthrie-like approach, the serene backing vocal chorus through the final verse gives a sense of hope through the despair. This last song was also the last Top 10 single from the album, reaching #6 in late 1985.

Born In the USA was nominated for three Grammy Awards and won one for Best Rock Vocal Performance. With this unprecedented level of success, Springsteen went on a major tour which helped spawn a five-record box set called Live/1975–85. Springsteen has continued to record and tour through the present day, but has not again reached the level of success or overall quality in the intervening three decades.

~

1984 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis

1974 Album of the Year

Buy The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by GenesisPerhaps the most “out there” album by Genesis as well as out Classic Rock Review Album of the Year, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, is a rich double-length concept rock opera. The complex album was built in two phases with the overall story arc and lyrics written by front man Peter Gabriel and much of the music composed earlier by the other band musicians. Serendipitously, it all came together with some truly brilliant moments both musically and lyrically. However, this was not enough to prevent the ultimate parting of ways between the group and Gabriel, who departed Genesis about a year after this album’s release.

After the success of their 1973 album Selling England by the Pound and the subsequent tour, Genesis headed to the famous Headley Grange mansion (which Led Zeppelin and Bad Company had previously inhabited) to write and develop material. However, the building was in poor condition and, believing the house was haunted, several band members found it difficult to sleep. Gabriel was absent from these sessions due to personal problems and most of the music was worked out by keyboardist Tony Banks, bassist.guitarist Mike Rutherford and drummer Phil Collins. In fact, Rutherford had began composing a theme based on Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince but Gabriel insisted on composing an original story himself to the point where there was friction at the mere suggestion of a lyrical adjustment.

Lead guitarist Steve Hackett, who was a standout on the previous two albums, admitted he was pretty much “an innocent bystander” on this album, although he did manage to conjure a handful of impressive guitar leads. In contrast, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was probably the finest overall musical effort for Banks and Collins. Banks’ range on this album stretched from his use of both the nearly outdated Mellotron and some brand new synthesizers, while this may be Collins’ best overall performance as a drummer on an album which is highly rhythm driven.

Co-produced by John Burns, the album contains some advanced musical techniques and some very modern compositional approaches that touch on the yet-to-be formalized genres of punk and new wave. The album also features Brian Eno, who is credited with the “enossification” of several tracks with his mastery of synthesizers.


The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis
Released: November 18, 1974 (Atco)
Produced by: John Burns & Genesis
Recorded: Island Mobile Studios, Wales, August–October 1974
Side One Side Two
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Fly On a Windshield
Broadway Melody of 1974
Cuckoo Cocoon
In the Cage
The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
Back in N.Y.C.
Hairless Heart
Counting Out Time
The Carpet Crawlers
The Chamber of 32 Doors
Side Three Side Four
Lilywhite Lilith
The Waiting Room
Anyway
Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist
The Lamia
Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats
The Colony of Slippermen
Ravine
The Light Dies Down on Broadway
Riding the Scree
In the Rapids
It
Group Musicians
Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Flute, Oboe
Steve Hackett – Guitars
Tony Banks – Piano, Keyboards
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitars
Phil Collins – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

Banks has a long classical piano intro to the title track, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, which persists throughout behind the rock arrangement. Gabriel’s new vocal style for this album is also established here, as is Rutherford’s aggressive bass approach. Lyrically, the song introduces the protagonist Rael, who emerges from a night of mischief to witness an odd occurrence, and includes a slight rendition of The Drifters’ “On Broadway” in its outro. “Fly on a Windshield” is a direct sequel to title song, with strummed acoustic and spooky backing effects. Rutherford described the original inspiration as “Pharaohs going down the Nile” prior to Gabriel’s lyrics being added. In the story, Rael witnesses a big cloud solidify like a screen and follow him as he flees up Broadway, showing up pictures of what existed around it in the past. These images are described in “Broadway Melody of 1974”, a short but highly excellent track with a simple, choppy rock riff.

“Cuckoo Cocoon” is the first song on the album set up like a recent Genesis song, with picked guitar, melody, flute, and good vocal melodies. In the story, Rael regains consciousness to find himself wrapped in a cocoon and in some sort of dark cave. On the album’s first side, the group seems to try too hard to link songs in a continuum, However, the intro to “In the Cage” contains an exception link as it builds towards driving rhythms. The song itself builds tension with odd timings and beats, as all the instruments seem to be doing their own independent thing but yet somehow all jive together. There are exception rhythms by Rutherford and Collins and fantastic, multi-part leads by Banks in the long mid section. Noticing he is trapped in one of several linked cages, Rael sees his brother John for the first of several encounters that add metaphor to the deeper story. Next, Rael is spun into an empty modern hallway with a highly polished floor. much like a modern department store for “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging”. Musically, this is a radical turn from the dramatic to the light and entertaining as this marching song builds with each verse, employing grand effects and instrumentation along the way.

Genesis In 1974The album’s second side begins with “Back in N.Y.C.”, which was way ahead of its time musically. Gabriel’s vocals are at their most desperate and strained in an excellent rock manner above the synth motifs and pounding rhythms. Much tension is built through the music of Banks, Rutherford, and Collins, especially in the bridge section. This is the first of three tracks where we learn of Rael through retrospective stories, here revealed to have been a thug and pyromaniac in his past. “Hairless Heart” is the first instrumental of the album with some English style acoustic slight pedal guitar by Hackett and a thicker synth lead by Banks. The title reverts back lyrics in “Back in N.Y.C.” and seems to indicate a softer side to the character. “Counting Out Time” is the last of the retrospective trio, a light and entertaining pop song with just a touch of funk and wild, synth-effected guitar lead in the most “enossified” of any song thus far on the album. This lighter song speaks of Rael’s first intimate encounter, which he tried to execute through specific instructions from a book entitled Erogenous Zones.

“The Carpet Crawlers” brings us back to the present and the main plot, and is one of the most heralded tracks on the album. This pleasant and moody contains good harmonies by Collins and Gabriel’s lead vocals get more and more animated as the song goes along as more and more is being discovered by Rael in this dark room. Here, the protaganist finds himself among others for the first time as they point upwards towards an endless staircase that leads to a chamber which they “got to get in to get out”. “The Chamber of 32 Doors” starts with dramatic intro and guitar lead until the song proper is driven by bouncy bass of Rutherford, which slow to three-note measured rhythm during next desperate post-verse section. This fine, multi-part composition finds Rael facing the difficult choice of choosing the appropriate door. Here there is a bit of editorializing on the types of people to trust in this endeavor;

I’d rather trust a countryman than a townman, You can judge by his eyes, take a look if you can, He’ll smile through his guard, Survival trains hard. I’d rather trust a man who works with his hands, He looks at you once, you know he understands, Don’t need any shield, When you’re out in the field…”

The person Rael chooses to lead him is the blind “Lilywhite Lilith” who feels her way through but leads him to a cave that he believes will bring him death. Musically, the song contains dual lead vocals in a pretty heavy rock song with multiple rock guitars and an outro refrain that revises “Broadway Melody 1974” but with more dynamic vocals. “Lilywhite Lilith” is also the only track credited solely to Gabriel and Collins. “The Waiting Room” is the wildest, sound-effect laden piece of experimental music, which Collins called “The Evil Jam” when it was started by Hackett and Banks back at Headley Grange. “Anyway” was deveoped from an unused 1969 composition called “The Light” and is often overlooked as a classic. This beautiful and desperate piano tune captures the mood and the various thoughts when it appears that Rael’s death is imminent. Just a hint of synths compliment the piano and later rock section with harmonized guitar lead by Hackett and great philosophical lyrics by Gabriel;

Does Earth plug a hole in Heaven or Heaven plug a hole in Earth, how wonderful to be so profound when everything you are is dying underground…”

By contrast, “Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist” is short, light and with little substance lyrically but its rock jam makes it entertaining overall. in all, the latter part of side three is the weakest part of the album, where it doesn’t quite seem to flow well. “The Lamia” contains a quirky intro as it really doesn’t fit with previous track. This long, story-telling piano ballad is very poetic and profound and probably the best song lyrically, but is slow developing musically until it finally ends with good lead by Hackett that seems to be cut off too soon. Here Rael faces death again in an erotic act that kills his seductive attacker. The most overt filler, “Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats” is all effect-laden, slow and surreal, but a weak way to end a side of a record.

A long, minute and a half instrumental intro with Eastern musical influence using various sound effects and percussion starts the extended “The Colony of Slippermen”. Soon, it breaks into upbeat and bouncy theatrical sound, in the same vein as “The Battle of Epping Forest” from their previous album. Rael is a little disillusioned, when the grotesque Slipperman reveal that the entire colony have one-by-one been through the same glorious romantic tragedy as he and now Rael shares their physical appearance and shadowy fate. The only escape from this colony is through a dreaded visit to the notorious Doktor Dyper who will remove the source of his “desire” problem. During the long middle section, the story turns but music remains upbeat and entertaining. After a most dramatic loss, Rael calls for his brother John to help him, but he refuses.

After “Ravine”, another link song with little substance, comes “The Light Dies Down on Broadway”, a recurrence of the opening song, but much more calmer and moderate. This is the only track where Gabriel did not write the lyrics (Banks and Rutherford took care of that) and it offers Rael a choice to “escape” back through a portal to New York City or save his drowning brother who had fallen in the rapids. He chose the latter, which carries through the next two tracks and the climax of the story. “Riding the Scree” is funky with odd-timed beats and carnival elements under a long synth lead by Banks. “In the Rapids” contains good guitars by Hackett throughout with layers as the piece builds in intensity. The moral of the story revealed here as Rael hauls his brother’s limp body out of the water and looks to find it is not John’s face, but his own. Collins remarked that the entire concept was about split personality, as Rael believed he is looking for John but is actually looking for a missing part of himself.

The closing track “It” contains fastly strummed guitars and is upbeat and optimistic. This track is almost an epilogue outside of the main theme, as a song of discovery and revelation and directly quotes the Rolling Stones (then brand new) “It is only rock and roll but I like it” for it’s final line. Ultimately, the entire meaning of this complex story is defined by “It”, and “It” appears everywhere, either you get “It” or you don’t.

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway reached number 10 in the UK, but didn’t cracking the US Top 40. Upon its release, Genesis went on a world concert tour and, at Gabriel’s insistence, performed the album in its entirety over 100 times. Gabriel had already revealed to the band that he was leaving before the tour commenced, but did not make this public until after the tour in Summer of 1975. Although the album was hardly a success at the time, it is now considered a Genesis classic.

~

1974 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1974 albums.

 

Four by Blues Traveler

1994 Album of the Year

Buy Four

Four by Blues TravelerLabeled as a “jam band” since their inception in the late 1980s, many have contended that Blues Traveler does not translate well on standard studio recordings. Their 4th album, Four seems to dispute this assertion as it strikes a nice balance of sonic aptitude, classic sounding blues rock and compositional originality. The album was also the New Jersey group’s commercial breakthrough, fueled by the radio appeal of a couple well-record simple pop songs. But the truly rewarding material on four are the more complex works where songwriting genius meets inspired performance to reach that higher level of indelible entertainment. It is for this reason, that Classic Rock Review has chosen Four as best among all the great works of 1994 and our Album of the Year.

The four members of Blues Traveler started together while still in high school in Princeton, New Jersey in 1987. John Popper was a multi-instrumentalist who aspired to be a stand up up comedian but found his calling on harmonica after an in-class solo performance. Guitarist Chan Kinchla was a promising football player who committed to playing music after a knee injury. Rounding out the quartet was bassist Bobby Sheehan and drummer Brendan Hill. The group was originally called Blues Band but changed their name to Blues Traveler when they moved to Brooklyn, New York following their collective graduation from high school.

While in New York, Blues Traveler began playing gigs and shared resources with Spin Doctors, another group that Popper originally founded. By the end of the decade, the group signed to A&M Records and Blues Traveler released their self-titled debut in 1990. This was followed by Travelers and Thieves, a live EP tribute to Bill Graham called On Tour Forever and their critically acclaimed third album Save His Soul. Blues Traveler also got some national exposure through their appearances on the David Letterman show and their initiative in founding of the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) festival in 1992.

The production team of Michael Barbiero and Steve Thompson, who first worked with Blues Traveler on Save His Soul in 1993, stayed on for the production of Four in early 1994. This time, the crew got the full benefit of a public relations campaign by A&M Records, starting with the release of the lead single “Run-Around” and the accompanying Wizard-of-Oz-man-behind-the-curtain themed video, which introduced the group to the MTV crowd for the first time. A long bass slide by Sheehan introduces the album and its most popular song, which is no doubt catchy and entertaining although it never relents from its four chords.


Four by Blues Traveler
Released: September 13, 1994 (A&M)
Produced by: Michael Barbiero & Steve Thompson
Recorded: A&M Studios, Hollywood, February-June 1994
Track Listing Group Musicians
Run-Around
Stand
Look Around
Fallible
The Mountains Win Again
Freedom
Crash Burn
Price To Pay
Hook
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Just Wait
Brother John
John Popper – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Chan Kinchla – Guitars, Mandolin, Vocals
Bobby Sheehan – Bass Vocals
Brendan Hill – Drums, Percussion

Four by Blues Traveler

 

“Stand” is a funk/rap track which features a harmonica and guitar in sync post chorus and Popper’s first great harmonica solo on the record. The bridge is backed by Kinchla’s drenched guitar chords while Sheehan and Hill bring up the speed with clever use of rhythm, adding a progressive rock jam element to the otherwise standard funk rhythm. The ballad “Look Around” could not be more different as a soft rock piano ballad, featuring guest Chuck Leavell on piano. Solidifying the effect is the eighties style power guitar by Kinchla and slow tom fills by Hill. “Fallible” starts with a crazed harmonica solo before it breaks into a rock oriented groove with a distorted to wah-wah guitar. The lyrics speak of taking ownership with the limited life you have;

In the name of all the power that’s centered in your hand
If you crave some revolution take possession of your stand
It’s the only one you’ll get to make, in a moment come and gone
So do your best to stay awake and own the path you’re on…”

Sheehan’s sole composition on the album is the calm, acoustic tune, “The Mountains Win Again”, with moderate bass pattern which is mimicked by vocal melody. Some of the best sounding guitars on this record are in the subtle deep blues riffs by guest Warren Haynes, who sustains absolutely every note and makes it count to the max. Everything else in this song is measured perfectly, even the reprise of the intro harmonica riff, which only lasts a single line to set up the single guitar chord which closes the song beautifully. After an odd and awkward bass intro, “Freedom” breaks into full-fledged rap/rock ala Red Hot Chili Peppers. Lyrically, the song tackles the slippery slope of statism in lieu of freedom;

I’ll defend what’s mine cause what’s mine will be all mine
It’s what I’d fight for it’s for what I’d bleed
I roll the dice on the grand experiment, while I am strong I will get what I need
You take it for granted, I guess that’s what it’s for
But before you demand it take a look out your back door…”

The next three songs on the album are its best sequence, solidifying Four as a bonafide classic. “Crash Burn” is a short and fantastic, riff-driven jam showcase. Starting with a harmonized guitar/harmonica riff, then followed by the frenzied, rhythm-driven verses and then a lead section where each musician takes his moment to shine. Although largely unheralded, “Price to Pay” is the best song on this best overall album from 1994. It starts with a moody harmonica, picked guitar and bass notes and then kicks into a catchy rock/funk for effect and tactfully alternates between the two. Driven by Popper’s potent story-telling, the middle part of the song builds emotionally into very intense rock sections which eventually give way back to the soft melody.

The popular song ,”Hook” is a song that is quite cynically (and brilliantly) baited to prove the psychological point of falling for the frivolous “hook”. With lyrical lines such as “I’ve said nothing so far and I can keep it up for as long as it takes” and “I don’t mean any of this, still my confession draws you near”, the song is lyrically an intentional farce. Yet, it is a performance masterpiece for the group led by Popper’s vocals and harmonica over the chord pattern and tempo similar to the classical Canon in D” by Pachelbel. Solidifying this instant classic is the rapid-fire lyrical rant through the final verse, which makes the song indelible.

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is an odd and short instrumental, which really seems out of place in this late sequence on the album. This is followed by “Just Wait”, where Popperplays a 12-string acoustic in a folk song of hope and encouragement, almost religious in its sense of redemption. the album closes with
“Brother John”, a group collaboration in the tradition of Southern Gospel. The song features a wild classic bass riff by Sheehan and many rudimentary shifts, almost like Blues Traveler goes Blues Brothers. There is a  middle vocal section over drums with all band members provide backing vocals in the call and response to the soulful vocals of guest Jono Manson.

Four reached the Top Ten on the U.S. album charts and has sold over 6 million copies worldwide. Blues Traveler continued their rise through popular culture, with songs appearing on several television shows and movies in subsequent years. Beyond this commercial success, the album has held up beautifully over the past two decades and has earned its place in the pantheon of classic rock albums.

~

1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums and our album of the year.

 

Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty

1989 Album of the Year

Buy Full Moon Fever

Full Moon Fever by Tom PettyThis week marked the 25th anniversary of Full Moon Fever, which is listed the first official “solo” album by Tom Petty. However, the circumstances surrounding the production of this album are far too unique to really classify it as solo, especially when you consider the large contributions by members from both of Petty’s (then) current groups – The Heartbreakers and The Traveling Wilburys. From that latter group came Jeff Lynne, who co-wrote and co-produced the album, which became Petty’s greatest critical and commercial success of his career, spawning seven radio singles which kept material from the album on the airwaves for years to come. More impressively, the material from this album has stood the test of time.  This was the major deciding factor in our naming Full Moon Fever as Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for 1989.

While Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had found top-level fame in the early 1980s, they began to stagnate a bit by the middle part of the decade. Their 1987 release Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) had crept towards the metallic eighties pop style, deviating from the Southern-flavored roots pop/rock which had forged the band’s earlier sound. Early in 1988, Petty decided to record a solo album in the vein of what Bruce Springsteen and Phil Collins were doing outside of their respective groups. Petty brought in Lynne as a collaborator, but soon after they got started on this album, they were asked by George Harrison to help him record some B-side material for singles from his most recent album, Cloud Nine. This simple goal soon ballooned into the forming of the “super-group” , Traveling Wilburys, to which Petty and Lynne dedicated much of the remainder of that year in producing the fantastic album ,Volume One (which also happened to be our Album of the Year, from 1988). The experience of working with this group of legendary musicians had a profound effect on the direction of Petty’s solo album once work on that resumed.

The third producer and major contributor to Full Moon Fever was Mike Campbell, Petty’s guitarist from the Heartbreakers. Although Petty’s decision to do a solo album outside of the Heartbreakers was not received very well by the group members, all but one contributed in some way to this album. The recording process was reportedly laid back and low-key, with Petty finding contributing roles for many musician friends that stopped by Campbell’s garage studio where much of the recording took place. Like many great albums, there were some recorded tracks which did not make the final cut. These included the single b-sides “Down the Line” and “Don’t Treat Me Like A Stranger”, “Waiting for Tonight” featuring the female group The Bangles, and “Indiana Girl”, an early version of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, which became a hit five years later.


Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty
Released: April 24, 1989 (MCA)
Produced by: Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, ↦ Mike Campbell
Recorded: Various Studios, Los Angeles, 1988-1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Free Fallin’
I Won’t Back Down
Love Is a Long Road
A Face in the Crowd
Runnin’ Down a Dream
I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better
Yer So Bad
Depending On You
The Apartment Song
Alright for Now
A Mind with a Heart of Its Own
Zombie Zoo
Tom Petty – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Mike Campbell – Guitars, Mandolin, Keyboards
Jeff Lynne – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Phil Jones – Drums, Percussion

Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty

 

The album commences with “Free Fallin'”, which would ultimately become the most popular song associated with Petty. With beautifully blended acoustic guitars and wistful, sarcastic lyrics. Using vivid scenery from California’s San Fernando Valley, Petty speaks of breaking free from a past love, but is freely falling a good thing or not? Although the song never leaves the core chord structure, there is much variety to vocal inflections and various guitar riff variations and arrangements.

Not far behind in popularity is “I Won’t Back Down”, a simple song about things worth fighting for with a syncopated bass line, vibrant guitar licks and good harmonies on the chorus. Harrison joins in along with Howie Epstein, making the lineup simultaneously three-fifths Wilburys and three-fifths Heartbreakers on the recording. The first single released from Full Moon Fever, the song reached the Top 20 on the charts. Co-written by Campbell, “Love Is a Long Road” employs classic Heartbreakers’ style rock and roll. With driving guitars backed with hard driving drum and bass and sharp production, the song continues the theme of salvation through fighting for things worthwhile.

After the calm and steady Americana of “A Face in the Crowd”, a song of anonymity with little variation, the album reaches its dynamic climax with “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. Frenzied rock compared to the rest of this album, this riff-driven tune sounds like a relentless car chase with some outstanding guitar solos and a signature reference to Del Shannon. The song reached the top of the Billboard Album Rock Tracks and has since found a residency on classic rock stations. Following “Running Down a Dream” on CD versions, Petty gives a tongue-in-cheek monologue about the marking of the end of the first side of the LP. .

While not as punchy and driven as the original “Side 1”, the songs on the second side shift towards more personal themes. The cover “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” is a nod to one of Petty’s favorite bands, The Byrds, with doubled vocals and twangy guitars, its nothing new or different from the original, but it does introduce younger Petty fans to one of his influences. The Wilburys sound returns with “Yer So Bad”, an upbeat acoustic folk tune with layered guitars, harmonized vocals, some sarcastically cute lyrics and a catchy chorus. “Depending On You” is a bit Beatlesque, with its toe tapping beat and a chorus that sticks in your head, while “The Apartment Song” is a throwaway,  but fun with an interesting ‘interlude’.

“Alright for Now” may be the best forgotten gem on the album, as a short and sweet lullaby performed on acoustic. The song shows the true range of compositions Petty and Lynne utilized on this album. “A Mind With a Heart of It’s Own” is another highlight of side two, with a jangly Bo Diddley beat and an overall retro feel to the production and vocals. The lyrics on this song are glimpses of memories and connections tangentially strung together. The closer ,”Zombie Zoo” ,may be considered Tom Petty’s “Monster Mash”. Set in a nightclub with an overall theme of substance vs. style, with modern sock-hop rock, penny whistle organ, and rich sound and vocal arrangements. The late Roy Orbison even joined in on backing vocals on this song.  This is the closest the production comes to having an ELO-type vibe, showing Lynn’s great restraint at refraining from past production practices.

Full Moon Fever peaked in the Top Ten on both sides af the Atlantic and has gone well past 5× platinum on both continents. The following year, Petty returned to the Wilburys, releasing their second album oddly titled Volume 3 (leaving many to call this album “Traveling wilburys, Volume 2”). In 1991, Petty reunited with the Heartbreakers and found renewed success with Into the Great Wide Open, as Petty’s success cascaded well into the next decade.

~

1989 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums and our Album of the Year from 1989.