Emotions in Motion by Billy Squier

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Emotions In Motion by Billy SquierBilly Squier delivered a second straight solid hard rocker with 1982’s Emotions in Motion, the third overall solo release by the Massachusettes native. While continuing much of the solid musical groundwork laid down by his 1981 breakthrough album Don’t Say Know (and with similar commercial success), this album also served to expand Squier’s sound into the sub-genres of funk, new wave as well as other dance-oriented rock.

Like it’s predecessor, Emotions in Motion was co-produced by Squier and Reinhold Mack and it reached the Top 5 of the pop albums charts while eventually gaining multi-platinum levels in sales. The sonic qualities of production tend to tilt towards the high-end of the EQ spectrum with the percussion being a little over-produced. However, the album’s real saving grace is the compositions, all written solely by Squier, and strong enough to avoid sounding dated. The cover art for the album was created by Andy Warhol.


Emotions in Motion by Billy Squier
Released: July 23, 1982 (Capitol)
Produced by: Reinhold Mack & Billy Squier
Side One Side Two
Everybody Wants You
Emotions In Motion
Learn How to Live
In Your Eyes
Keep Me Satisfied
It Keeps You Rockin’
One Good Woman
She’s a Runner
Catch 22
Listen to the Heartbeat
Band Musicians
Billy Squier – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Jeff Golub – Guitars
Alan St. Jon – Keyboards, Vocals
Doug Lubahn – Bass, Vocals
Bobby Chouinard – Drums

 

The album commences with its biggest hit, “Everybody Wants You”, which centers around a catchy, mechanical riff and a perfectly accessible hook. The bridge has a more dramatic feel before the song returns to its contagious, new wave grove. “Everybody Wants You” reached the top of Billboard’s Top Rock Tracks chart, holding that spot for six consecutive weeks. The title song, “Emotions In Motion”, takes a different approach with a bass-driven groove accented by a funky hard rock guitar by Jeff Golub and some of the backing vocal motifs by Queen’s Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor.

After a folksy opening riff which is accented by the saxophone of Dino Solera, “Learn How to Live” breaks into a dramatic hard rock verse and is soon realized as the first song which reaches the level of the better material from In the Dark. “In Your Eyes” continues the best sequence on the album as a pristine, acoustic power ballad with fantastic mood and melody as the song builds to a crescendo with synth counter melodies by Alan St. Jon as well as fine slide guitar licks. “Keep Me Satisfied” ends side one as a pure rock shuffle with almost a Southern feel, while “It Keeps You Rockin'” launches the second side with a slow and heavy musical thump contrasted by Squier’s full-throated wails that give this track a real Zeppelin-esque feel. “One Good Woman” features a bass-driven funk with contrasting, whining guitars and a direct, driving drum beat by Bobby Chouinard. All this makes for a fine and unique rocker and one of the more undervalued gems on the album.

“She’s a Runner” is the album’s final high water mark, starting off with a deliberative electric riff solo accompanied by Squier’s melodic and soulful vocals. When it fully kicks in, this track features a plethora of modern rock sonic treats, including a short but potent piano lead during the bridge. Next comes “Catch 22”, a thumping, methodical rocker with some competing riffs and licks on the periphery, all held together by the glue of Doug Lubahn’s bass. The album closes with a final attempt at hard rock and pop on “Listen to the Heartbeat”, containing some great individual elements like a flanged guitar intro riff and decent hook. However, it seems a bit under-cooked as not everything works cohesively as a whole.

Following the release of Emotions in Motion, Squier hit the road with most of the players on this album and soon moved from a major opening act to an arena-level headliner before his career plateaued in 1984 and declined later in the decade.

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

 

Nine Lives by Aerosmith

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

Aerosmith in 1990s

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

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

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

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Billy Breathes by Phish

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Billy Breathes by PhishAs their sixth official studio album, Billy Breathes is an early indication of Phish moving towards more mainstream rock music. Here, the four-piece group combined folk, rock and psychedelic into standard-length, accessible numbers with a good sense of melody and song craft. As a result, this 1996 release remains one of the most popular albums by a band better known for its jam-band fused live performances and moderately sized by avidly dedicated fan base.

After the release of their first two official studio album, Junta in 1989 and Lawn Boy in 1990, Phish began to design intricate and highly interactive concerts. Guitarist and front man Trey Anastasio led the band in giving musical cues for the audience to react in certain ways and band members would often switch instruments to make their live shows truly original. As a result of the band’s growing popularity,they were signed to Elektra Records with 1992’s A Picture of Nectar being Phish’s first release on that label. This was followed by the studio albums Rift and Hoist in 1993 and 1994 respectively and the live album, A Live One, which became the group’s first gold-selling album in 1995.

After rehearsing at their independent recording studio in Vermont, the group migrated to Bearsville Studios in the Catskill mountains of nearby New York state to record in early 1996. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album features an almost equal split of compositions co-written by Anastasio and lyricist Tom Marshall and songs credited to all members of the band.


Billy Breathes by Phish
Released: October 15, 1996 (Elektra)
Produced by: Steve Lillywhite
Recorded: Bearsville Studios, Bearsville, NY, February–June 1996
Track Listing Group Musicians
Free
Character Zero
Waste
Taste
Cars Trucks Buses
Talk
Theme from the Bottom
Train Song
Bliss
Billy Breathes
Swept Away
Steep
Prince Caspian
Trey Anastasio – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Page McConnell – Keyboards, Vocals
Mike Gordon – Bass, Vocals
Jon Fishman – Drums, Vocals
Billy Breathes by Phish

The only song that can be considered a “hit’ from Billy Breathes is the opening track “Free”, which reached #11 on the Mainstream Rock charts. Starting with a straight and direct droning rock background, this inventive song crams a lot of differing musical phrases into its less-than-four-minute duration. The start of “Character Zero” is a sparse blues arrangement before breaking in with heavy rock elements, including a driving drum beat by Jon Fishman and a bouncy bass by Mike Gordan. “Waste” is mainly quiet acoustic ballad, with a kind of “slacker love story” theme. As the song progresses, there is a subtle building in arrangement and a good sense of melody by Anastasio. The bridge is the first real place where the song fully realizes its dynamics and is followed by an exquisite piano lead by Page McConnell.

Almost like a musical exercise in maintaining odd timing and rudiments, “Taste” gives the impression that all band members seem to be playing contrasting parts but somehow this all works at a certain tension-filled level. In contrast, McConnell’s short instrumental, “Cars Trucks Buses”, falls into a nice groove throughout and gives much space for his organ and piano leads. The same dreaming, descending acoustic riff is repeated through the entirety of “Talk”, with differing musical accompaniment along with a sing-songy vocal melody. At just under six and a half minutes, “Theme from the Bottom” is the longest track on the album. It starts with a simple, dark and dissonant piano which is soon joined by upbeat rhythmic groove for a nice counter-effect. The second half of the song comes a mainly instrumental blistering rock section. The urban-folk sounding “Train Song” was co-written by guest Joe Linitz and Gordon, who provides whimsical lead vocals for the track.

Phish

The latter part of the album features the products of many improvisations during the album’s pre-production. “Bliss” features slow acoustic textures which gradually fade into an atmospheric instrumental. The title track, “Billy Breathes” hearkens back to seventies soft folk with modest, understated vocals along with rich harmonies in the chorus. Then comes the excellent and unique bridge section with banjo joined by slight and sharp brass songs before Anatasio’s top level guitar lead ushers the song with interesting chord pattern behind to make it a high point on the album. The final three tsongs complement each other and sound like they could’ve been a single, cohesive suite. “Swept Away” is quiet and reserved acoustic folk in a very short moment of mood, like it could have been an intro to some television or theatrical performance. “Steep” is pure psychedelic driven by keyboard and pedal effects before a rich vocal section dominates the second half of short track. “Prince Caspian” meanders in before an electric riff acts as bedding for the song’s main hook. The song proper of this closer is quite repetitive to get its lyrical point across before it again slowly dissolves into a fade with one final “shock” rock riff reprise to end the song and album.

When recording was wrapping for Billy Breathes, the band made a snap decision to use a a closeup shot of Mike Gordon’s face as the album’s cover, something Anastasio later said he regretted. Nonetheless, the album sold very well and remains, along with 2000’s Farmhouse, as one of the commercial peaks of Phish’s long career.

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

Toys in the Attic
by Aerosmith

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Toys in the Attic by AerosmithAerosmith scored their first real commercial success with their third album, Toys in the Attic. Released in 1975, this album establishes a distinct rock sound for the group with more attention paid to mass appeal and represents the high-water mark of the group’s initial 1970s phase. Beyond the spawning of a couple of big hits, the album is filled with solid tracks, which are mainly solid blues-based rock with just enough sub-genre edge to make it a very interesting listen from cover to cover.

Having signed with Columbia, Aerosmith released their self-titled debut early in 1973, which closely reflected the live sound the group had been forging through their first three years together. While the album was not a commercial success, it laid the groundwork for their core blues rock sound. The following year, the band released their second album, Get Your Wings, which was the first of five Aerosmith albums to be produced or co-produced by Jack Douglas. The production and approach showed a slight move by the group towards more pop/rock arrangements.

Douglas brought the band to New York at the beginning of 1975 to start work on Toys in the Attic. Lead vocalist Steven Tyler co-wrote most of the original material along with several of the group’s musicians. Tyler also came up with the ideas for the album’s theme and cover when he found a disfigured teddy bear in the attic of his home.


Toys in the Attic by Aerosmith
Released: April 8, 1975 (Columbia)
Produced by: Jack Douglas
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, January–March 1975
Side One Side Two
Toys in the Attic
Uncle Salty
Adam’s Apple
Walk This Way
Big Ten Inch Record
Sweet Emotion
No More No More
Round and Round
You See Me Crying
Group Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass
Joey Kramer – Drums

Co-written by lead guitarist Joe Perry, the title track “Toys in the Attic” sets an unambiguous heavy metal vibe, which may even verge on the edge of punk with its forward approach. This works well as a hard rock opener but does sort of deceive the listener as for the overall tone of this album. That deception is short-lived, as the moderate and jazzy “Uncle Salty” commences with a custom approach and great sonic dynamics which bring out every instrument. This track was co-written by bassist Tom Hamilton, who adds a steady and melodic bass to compliment Tyler’s fine melodies throughout and multiple vocal parts in the outro.

One of the group’s most overlooked and underrated tracks, “Adam’s Apple” is an upbeat blues rocker with some great riffs by Perry and Hamilton and an interesting lyrical take on the Biblical story of Eden. The hit “Walk This Way” got its start with a pre-concert warm up riff by Perry. On the recording, Douglas does his finest production work from the opening simple but effective dance beat by Joey Kramer through the crisp intro/interlude riffs, which feature perfectly mirrored guitars by Perry and Brad Whitford. This track may also be the source of invention of rap, with Tyler rhythmically delivering his lyrics on young lust and loss of virginity through the verses. The overall great arrangement which uses each element to maximal effect for commercialization, which resulted in the song reaching #10 on the pop charts in 1977.

Aerosmith in 1975The only cover on the Toys in the Attic is “Big Ten Inch Record”, a song written by Fred Weismantel and recorded by Bull Moose Jackson in 1952. The band pretty much stuck to the original rockabilly approach complete with piano, a horn section and an impressive harmonica lead by Tyler. “Sweet Emotion” starts with Hamilton’s cool and haunting bass line accompanied by Perry’s slow but effective talk box. During the verses, Tyler delivers another quasi rap with Kramer’s steady drum beat holding the steady pace until the song concludes with heavy section featuring a full band arrangement of intro section complete with several overdubbed guitars. The lead single from the album, “Sweet Emotion” was Aerosmith’s first Top 40 hit.

The album concludes with three diverse gems which tip the scales to make this an absolute classic. “No More No More” is a simple and bright rock gem with elements of everything Aerosmith does best. The music is straight-forward and direct, while lyrics about the trials and rewards of being in a working rock and roll band with the final verse features ascending chord changes climaxing with the song’s underlying theme lyric;

time’s there a changin’, nothing ever stands still, if I stop changin’ they’ll be writing by will, it’s the same ol’ story never get a second chance to advance to the top of the hill…”

“Round and Round” is built around Whitford’s doomy, Black Sabbath-like riff, with the bridge sections featuring a nice use of overdubbed, soaring guitars that give this otherwise repetitive track some real flavor. The song’s outro builds a lot tension which is not relieved before the song ends. The heavily orchestrated closing ballad, “You See Me Crying” is a fantastic closer with a whole different sonic signature than rest of the songs. However, this was also  a source of frustration within the band, which left a few members off this track and which would not be performed live by the band for over three decades. Still, the result of this layered piano ballad is a tremendous closer for the album featuring a tone that is melancholy but with music that is animated and bursting at the seams, leaving nothing to wither here.

Toys in the Attic reached #11 on the US charts and has sold over 8× Platinum since its release. The album’s popularity launched Aerosmith into the upper echelon of contemporary rock acts in the mid to late seventies and even sparked the group’s older material (such as the track “Dream On” from the 1973 debut album) to reemerge into prominence.

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1975 Page

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

 

Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday

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Voices Carry by Til Tuesday‘Til Tuesday had a short but fruitful career encapsulated within the bonds of the mid 1980s music scene. Their 1985 debut album, Voices Carry, features the famous, indelible title track which put the band on the map and has since given them a permanent position on the pantheon of eighties “one hit wonders”. However, all of the songs on this album have a pop approach and each displays the distinct skills of the four band members as they stick closely to those elements in which they are most comfortable and perform masterfully.

Fronted by lead vocalist and bassist Aimee Mann, ‘Til Tuesday was formed in 1982 in Boston. A few months after their formation, the group won a 1983 radio station competition which resulted in their original demo “Love In a Vacuum” receiving significant airplay in the Boston area. Soon the group was signed to Epic Records and they entered the studio with producer Mike Thorne.

The group went to New York city to record the album. All songs on Voices Carry credit Mann with the lyrics and the musicians – guitarist Robert Holmes, keyboardist Joey Pesce, and drummer Michael Hausman – with composing the music.


Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday
Released: June 25, 1985 (Epic)
Produced by: Mike Thorne
Recorded: R.P.M. Sound Studios, New York
Side One Side Two
Love in a Vacuum
Looking Over My Shoulder
I Could Get Used to This
No More Crying
Voices Carry
Winning the War
You Know the Rest
Maybe Monday
Are You Serious?
Don’t Watch Me Bleed
Sleep
Group Musicians
Aimee Mann – Lead Vocals, Bass
Robert Holmes – Guitars, Vocals
Joey Pesce – Piano, Synths, Vocals
Michael Hausman – Drums, Percussion

Voices Carry begins with a re-recorded version of “Love in a Vacuum”, the group’s radio hit from 1983. Here Mann’s funky bass adds variety to the otherwise steady rhythm and beat and some cool interjections of scat backing vocals are added between many of the lead vocal lines. In a similar vein, “Looking Over My Shoulder” features a funky slap bass, steady drums, and just a bit of flavoring from Holmes’ guitar and Pesce’s keyboard motifs. This track much more interesting vocally than the opener with nice, ascending melodies by Mann.

On “I Could Get Used to This”, the group delves full-fledged into a solid mid eighties sound while still sounding somewhat interesting in arrangement and melody. Although some of the synths are a bit overbearing, “No More Crying” returns to a more standard, rock-based new wave vibe with a rhythmic, punchy edge. Of course, the most popular song on the album is the classic “Voices Carry” with lyrics about a controlling relationship and saving face in public. Actually, the antagonist in the song was originally a woman but the gender pronouns were changed at the request of the label. Musically, there are cool intervening synth lines between each vocal line and the delivery of the chorus hook is excellent and true highlight of the album. Fellow label mate Cyndi Lauper had originally wanted to record the song before the group decided to release it as their lead single where it peaked at #8 on the Billboard pop charts.

 
The album’s second side begins with “Winning the War”, which features a long instrumental intro led by Holmes’s guitar riffing. When the first verse finally kicks in, Mann’s vocals are delivered at near the highest register of her range. “You Know the Rest” is slow and steady with Pesce’s heavy use of electric pianos and synths and a slow but creative drum beat by Hausman. “Maybe Monday” is another song with a new wave groove along with an interesting mix of topical guitars, a basic bass which locks in well with the rhythm, and more excellent vocals.

“Are You Serious?” is a guitar-driven, funk-rocker during verses, while being more synth driven during the choruses and both trade parts in a decent instrumental interlude during the bridge. The steady “Don’t Watch Me Bleed” is a close sister to “Voices Carry”, at least during the verses, while the duration contains ethereal guitar soundscapes and vocals. The steady closer “Sleep” ends the album on a high note musically but on a lyrical sad note, with a theme of saying goodbye to an ailing loved one. Beyond that, the song was well constructed and arranged and should’ve been another hit for the band in 1985.

Voices Carry found some critical acclaim and reached the Top 20 on the album charts. The 1986 follow-up, Welcome Home, saw more individual songwriting but less commercial success and ‘Til Tuesday essentially broke up upon the release of of their third and final album, Everything’s Different Now in 1988.

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Lawn Boy by Phish

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Lawn Boy by PhishContinuing to forge their unique fusion rock sound, Phish‘s sophomore effort, Lawn Boy, is chock full of diverse diddys and extended jams. Predating the group’s major label signing, the album was originally released on vinyl and independent, using different independent labels for each medium. Led by guitarist and vocalist Trey Anastasio, the resulting work is laid back, and light throughout, but not without moments of real musical prowess and intensity, especially during the instrumental jams.

Following the self-release of the group’s 1989 debut double LP, Junta, Phish was rapidly becoming a favorite live act in New England. They had developed a unique rapport with their dedicate audience, which would come to be known as “Phans”. These antics included secret cues and special jams initiated by the four “granola rockers”.

Phish won the studio time used to record this album when they finished first-place in a “Rock Rumble” contest in Burlington, VT. Subsequently, the songs were recorded and mixed at Archer Studios in Winooski, VT on 2″ analog tape, with the group performing mostly of the takes live with few overdubs or extra effects. Lawn Boy was the first of many Phish albums to enlist Tom Marshall, a childhood friend of Anastasio’s, as lyrical composer. Marshall would go on to co-write nearly 100 Phish original compositions.


Lawn Boy by Phish
Released: September 21, 1990 (Rough Trade)
Produced by: Phish
Recorded: Archer Studios, Winooski, VT, May–December 1989
Track Listing Group Musicians
The Squirming Coil
Reba
My Sweet One
Split Open and Melt
The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony
Bathtub Gin
Run Like an Antelope
Lawn Boy
Bouncing Around the Room
Trey Anastasio
Lead Vocals, Guitars
Page McConnell
Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Mike Gordon
Bass, Vocals
Jon Fishman
Drums, Vocals

“The Squirming Coil” begins the album, initially as piano/vocal ballad. After the brief intro, the song has a classic Genesis feel and approach with odd, quiet, but excellent musical interludes. The track ends with solo piano by Page McConnell, which lasts for about a minute. “Reba” is side one’s extended track, starting as a rather frivolous sing-songy tune with the repeated catch line; “bag it, tag it, sell iot to the butcher in the store…” The extended, jazz inspired jam in the mid-section is really quite impressive, including an extended guitar lead by Anastasio which is a highlight of the earlier part of the album. The song’s main theme returns in a creative way as a faded-in, Patriot-like march with drum rolls and whistles that lead to the final outro.

Drummer Jon Fishman compose “My Sweet One”, with a unique Bluegrass melody built on his rapid drumming. Between the verses there is some variety in phrasing and style, also returning to the good, down home harmonies which drive this track. “Split Open and Melt” is built on the funky bass riff of Mike Gordon while Fishman maintains a complex beat. The song employs the group :Giant Country Horns”, which are a bit off key (apparently intentional) to give the song a wild ambiance and assure that it probably couldn’t be played the same way twice.

The album’s original second side begins with “The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony”, Anastasio’s Country/jazz fusion instrumental with odd, added ambient party noise in the background. “Bathtub Gin” was co-written by Suzannah Goodman and is infectious an groovy in its musical approach. Here, chord changes are used for maximum effect while the beats are steady and consistent and the main melody is fine and enjoyable. “Run Like an Antelope” is the second side’s extended track and is built on a long intro that features deadened guitar notes, bouncy bass and an entertaining piano lead by McConnell, Next, a subtle but fantastic guitar lead by Anastasio drives the heart of this near-instrumental as the vocals do not arrive until way late in the song after the intense and extremely frenzied jam session.

“Lawn Boy” is a lounge-type song which remains true to its style throughout the two and a half minute duration. This title track was later re-mastered and remained a fan favorite throughout their career. The album ends with its strongest track. “Bouncing Around the Room” has great rhythms and harmonies, all built on Gordon’s crisp bass line and Fishman’s clicking percussion. This backdrop works well to showcase the fine vocals and, after two short verses, the song enters its extended climax as it subtly builds both complex vocals and musical intensity to end the album superbly.

Lawn Boy was re-released on Electra Records in 1992 and was eventually certified gold in 2004. This followed their 1991 major label debut of A Picture of Nectar and the group’s rapid national and international rise in popularity.

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

 

Bossanova by Pixies

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Bossanova by PixiesOne who appreciates an album which flows in a seamless order from track to track will not be happy with Bosanova, a collection of short tracks that change radically from one track to the next. The third studio album by Pixies, the album’s original material was written by frontman Black Francis. The sound includes elements of punk, new wave, Brit pop, surf rock and 60s pyschedelia. Although the album only reached #70 in the US, it fared much better in the UK, reaching the Top 5 on their charts.

The group formed in Amherst, Massachusettes in 1984 when Francis began jamming with guitarist Joey Santiago. In early 1986, bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering joined to round out the quartet which chose their name from randomly arriving at “pixies” in the dictionary. In 1988, the band recorded and released their critically acclaimed first full-length album, Surfer Rosa. Producer Gil Norton produced their second full album, Doolittle, which employed a much cleaner sound than the debut but found similar critical acclaim.

In early 1990, the band members relocated to Los Angeles to write an record the album. With little time to rehearse along with a few some studio issues, some of the material may have been underdeveloped. While Francis admitting to writing lyrics on napkins just “five minutes” before he sang on some of the tracks, he has also stated that this is his favorite Pixies album.


Bossanova by Pixies
Released: August 13, 1990 (Elecktra)
Produced by: Gil Norton
Recorded: Hollywood, Berlin, & London, 1990
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Cecilia Ann
Rock Music
Velouria
Allison
Is She Weird
Ana
All Over the World
Dig for Fire
Down to the Well
Happening
Blown Away
Hang Wire
Stormy Weather
Havalina
Black Francis
Lead Vocals, Guitars
Joey Santaigo
Guitarss
Kim Deal
Bass, Vocals
David Lovering
Drums, Percussion

The surf-infused “Cecilia Ann”, written by Frosty Horton and Steve Hoffman, is a cool instrumental with heavy distorted guitars by Santaigo. This is followed by “Rock Music”, a literal screed with more than its share of distortion and feedback effects in its less-than-two-minute duration. In contrast, the vocals are smooth and the music is subtle on “Velouria”. The song also features s subtle theremin by guest Robert F. Brunner. “Velouria” was the first single by Pixies to reach the UK Top 40.

“Allison” is an extremely short, almost pop song which seems like the start of a something that was abandoned when one’s attention span was diverted. “Is She Weird” is built on Deal’s driving bass and bright guitar riffs in the verses, while “Ana” is a spacey ballad with fine guitars over the odd chord structures and breathy vocals, all compressed into 129 seconds. The longest track on the album, “All Over the World” has a real new wave feel with the drums of Lovering right up front, along with harmonized vocals in the verses. This track is one of the few with a proper mid section, and it is laced with distant, spoken vocals behind the dueling guitar chops which lead to the outro of the track.

“Dig for Fire” is another interesting track with choppy but entertaining phrases and Talking Heads-like lead vocals. This song is almost danceable in comparison to other tracks and it peaked at #11 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. After the emo drone of “Down to the Well”, the eclectic track “The Happening” starts as a dance track built with punk toppings but takes a quick and drastic turn during the first chorus and never really returns to its roots. “Blown Away” is a spacey, sixties type rock with upbeat rhythms and distant vocals and guitars, while “Hang Wire” returns to the new wave and gives the album its title;

Every morning and everyday, I’ll bossanova with ya…”

“Stormy Weather” is measured and sing-songing with Santiago’s bluesy guitars cutting through> The entirety of lyrics is one repeated line, offered in different variations much like the Beatles’ “You Know My Name, Look Up My Number”. Rounding out the album, “Havalina” is a fine sonic piece with bright guitar chords and duo vocals in the distance by Francis and Deal.

A year after Bossanova, the band released their final album before Francis abruptly announced that Pixies was finished as a band (with no explanation) in early 1993.

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

Extreme II: Pornograffitti
by Extreme

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Extreme II, Pornograffitti by ExtremeThe rock quartet Extreme reached their popular climax with Extreme II: Pornograffitti. Sub-titled “A Funked Up Fairy Tale”, the album is a quasi-concept album with loosely-related songs that explore themes of sex and vice with lyrics primarily written by lead vocalist Gary Cherone. Musically, the album is dominated by the guitar textures and techniques of co-composer Nuno Bettencourt. The double-platinum selling result was an album which peaked at #10 on the Billboard album charts.

Extreme was formed in suburban Boston in 1985 by Cherone and drummer Paul Geary. Bettencourt and bassist Pat Badger were in rival bands and the four met after an altercation among the groups backstage at a multi-band local concert. Starting in 1986, the band gradually developed a strong local following and, during this time, Cherone and Bettencourt composed several original songs. They were signed to A&M Records in 1988 and recorded and released their self-titled debut album in 1989.

For their second album, veteran rock producer Michael Wagener was brought in. A mixture of funk, pop and hair metal sounds, the group’s hard sound was heavily influenced by Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen. However, the group is not done any great favors by the production style, which buries some of the finer elements of the playing in favor of the mind-numb beats and top-end “shearness”. Also, the band tries to take some kind of social stand or social commentary, which often comes off as adolescent, shallow or both. Ironically, it was two of the tracks which bucked these sonic and lyrical trends that became the band’s most successful.


Extreme II: Pornograffitti by Extreme
Released: August 7, 1990 (A&M)
Produced by: Michael Wagener & Nuno Bettencourt
Recorded: Scream Studios, Studio City, CA, 1990
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Decadence Dance
Li’l Jack Horny
When I’m President
Get the Funk Out
More Than Words
Money (In God We Trust)
It ‘s a Monster
Pornograffitti
When I First Kissed You
Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)
He-Man Woman Hater
Song for Love
Hole Hearted
Gary Cherone
Lead Vocals
Nuno Bettencourt
Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Pat Badger
Bass, Vocals
Paul Geary
Drums, Percussion

The album begins with “Decadence Dance”, which gives the listener a good sampling of what’s to follow both musically and thematically. Released as a single, the opener was a minor success in the UK, peaking at #36. “Li’l Jack Horny” features intro guitar harmonics for melodic effect by Bettencourt before he changes direction with a strong, bluesy riff. A fine track overall with good melody of lyrics that use nursery rhymes and fables, the song borrowed its title from the six member “Li’l Jack Horn Section”, who performs on this track and “Get the Funk Out”. The latter track is driven by the bass pattern of Badger and features Pat Travers on co-lead vocals.

“More Than Words” is a fine finger-picked ballad where Cherone and Bettencourt are free to fully display their talents at the fullest. For how over-produced most of the rest of the album is, the sparse arrangement here is a brilliant break in the action, and worked well to make this a quasi-classic. Lyrically, the song examines the diminished meaning of phrase “I love you”, as actions speak louder. The song became a #1 smash on the Billboard charts in the US. The subsequent single, “Hole Hearted”, another acoustic track, was also successful, rising to No. 4 on the same popular music chart.

Extreme II: Pornograffitti has some weak moments through the middle of the album. “Money (in God We Trust)” starts with a slight dialogue about the tooth fairy before the upbeat core tries to be anthemic and preachy at the same time. Not very original or interesting and, in fact, the hook borrows heavily from AC/DC’s “What Do You Do for Money Honey”. Likewise, “It’s a Monster” 4:28 – really covers no new ground at all and, while the title track “Pornograffitti” begins with some blistering guitar riffs by Bettencourt and eventually settles into a rudiment-fused groove with steady beat, it really amounts to more Van Halen-style cloning.

The second break from form, “When I First Kissed You”, is jazzy piano ballad, completely sans guitar. Here, Badger appears to be using a stand-up, double bass which adds to the song’s feel of authenticity as well along with the fine orchestral strings over the bridge. “Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)” is another hard rock narrative, while “He-Man Woman Hater” includes an excellent guitar intro that borrows from “Flight of the Bumblebee” with Bettencourt’s guitar accompanied by rapid, percussive tapping by Geary. Dweezil Zappa makes a cameo with the cartoonish voice of the title character. This is followed by “Song for Love”, a slow ballad with a dark feel throughout.

The album concludes with its finest track, “Hole Hearted”, which lifts the mood tremendously following the droning previous track. A stomp built on the ringing 12-string acoustic of Bettencourt, this track also has some of the finest melodies by Cherone, accompanied during the pre-chorus and chorus. The song is pure pop majesty and never needs to embellish on its simple arrangement to exude its pure rock energy. The fourth and final single from the album, “Hole Hearted” reached #4 on the US charts.

For his proficient playing on Extreme II: Pornograffitti, Bettencourt
was named “Most Valuable Player” of 1991 by Guitar World magazine.
The band followed up with the album III Sides to Every Story in 1992, but it failed to sell nearly as well. More than two decades later, Extreme performed Pornograffiti in its entirety on their 2014 tour.

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1990 Page ad

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

Candy-O by The Cars

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Candy-O by The CarsFollowing up on a massively successful debut album is a daunting task. A group may want to build on their most successful musical elements while still leaving room to explore new directions. The members of The Cars found themselves in such a place in 1979 as they followed up their fantastic self-titled debut with their sophomore effort, Candy-O. Led by composer, guitarist and vocalist Ric Ocasek, the band blended their rock rhythms with topical new wave styles to make an album that alternates between radio and art rock. The resulting album is a sustainable second record that stands above the shadows to be in the conversation with The Cars’ best early work.

Although there was an excess of material after the production of , The Cars, in 1978, most of the songs on Candy-O were freshly composed specifically for this second album. While Ocasek was undoubtedly the leader of the musical direction, much of the true performance talent rested with the other four band members, starting with the lead instrumentalists, Elliot Easton on guitars and Greg Hawkes on keyboards.

Like the debut album, Candy-O was produced by Roy Thomas Baker and peaked at #3 on the Billboard album charts during its initial run, briefly re-entering the charts five years later in 1984. The album is also visually notable for the classic “pin-up girl” cover, painted by artist Alberto Vargas of a model coincidentally named Candy Moore.


Candy-O by The Cars
Released: June 13, 1979 (Harvest)
Produced by: Roy Thomas Baker
Recorded: Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles, 1979
Side One Side Two
Let’s Go
Since I Held You
It’s All I Can Do
Double Life
Shoo Be Doo
Candy-O
Night Spots
You Can’t Hold on Too Long
Lust for Kicks
Got a Lot on My Head
Dangerous Type
Group Musicians
Ric Ocasek – Lead Vocals, Guitars  |  Benjamin Orr – Lead Vocals, Bass
Elliot Easton – Guitars, Vocals  |  Greg Hawkes – Keyboards, Saxophone, Percussion, Vocals
David Robinson – Drums, Percussion

The album starts strong with the upbeat and catchy “Let’s Go”, sung by bassist Benjamin Orr, who shares lead vocal duties with Ocasek throughout the album. With a wild synth riff, percussive effects, and a cool pre-chorus with rolling drums by David Robinson, “Let’s Go” serves as the perfect extension of the first album’s vibe and entertaining quality. As a result, the single peaked at #14, making it the highest charting song by The Cars to that point. “Since I Held You” is a more guitar-based rock song, even a bit bluesy in its intro. While this song does not have as much movement as the one that precedes or follows it, it does have a steady vibe with great guitar riffs.

“It’s All I Can Do” is based on a rotating riff, built with electric piano and bass. The chorus soars into a fine mixture of square synths and catchy vocals hooks, followed by a short but entertaining lead guitar section by Easton. However, the true genius of the song is the interplay between Orr’s vocals and Hawkes subtle keyboard textures. “Double Life” is built on a lazy riff, a chanting melody, and building sonic textures until it climaxes with a raw and potent guitar lead. At the end, the song breaks down into this psychedelic synth of “Shoo Be Doo”, which is really just stereo filler without much real substance. The order quickly breaks from the chaos with the synth and dance-oriented title song. “Candy-O” has some rock elements through the interlude riff and drum parts but, in the end, is really a canvas for synth fonts and soon became a classic rock radio staple.

On the second side opener, “Night Spots”, the group advances a bit into the eighties in style, showing how influential The Cars actually were in their day. This syncopated arpeggio track was the only song left over from the debut that was included on Candy-O. “You Can’t Hold On Too Long” is the only song on the album not written solely by Ocasek, but a true band collaboration. This is a pure new wave rock with a refreshing return to guitar riffs musically, along with good drumming, a mixture of rhythms and a bluesy guitar lead in the coda. At first, “Lust for Kicks” sounds like another section of a multi-part song, but with a stripped back arrangement led by Hawkes’ bouncy, high organ patterns. “Got a Lot On My Head” is the weakest song on the album (with the possible exception of “Shoo Be Doo”), as a frantic but weakly composed track. The album recovers to finish strong with the steady rocker “Dangerous Type”. Once again, the pop craftsmanship is masterful by Ocasek and the rest of the band brings their musical “A” game. The song and album ends with a nice coda and long fade to make the listener want for more.

Following the success of Candy-O, The Cars faced a bit of disappointment with third studio album, Panorama in 1980. However, the band would recover strongly and find more great success with a string of hit albums and songs through the middle of the decade before the their breakup in early 1988.

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1979 Images

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

The Last In Line by Dio

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The Last In Line by DioAfter stints in several rock groups, Ronnie James Dio found his popular groove in the early eighties with the founding of the group, Dio. Although this band was named after the veteran vocalist and songwriter, it was approached as a true rock group with each member contributing to the original compositions. Dio’s second release, The Last In Line, was released in mid 1984 and reached great critical acclaim within the rock and metal community. The album was also a mainstream crossover hit, reaching the Top 10 on several album charts fueled by three tracks which landed in the Top 10 of the American Mainstream Rock tracks chart.

Dio’s music career began way back in 1957, when he founded the band, The Vegas Kings, as a teenager in his hometown of Cortland, New York. This group went through various changes in name and personnel through the 1960s, with a few singles released along the way. In 1967, that group transformed into The Electric Elves, later shortening its name to Elf. Through the early seventies, Elf recorded three albums and toured with major acts such as Deep Purple. When Ritchie Blackmore left that group to form Rainbow in 1975, he recruited members of Elf, including Dio. While with Rainbow, Dio wrote most of the lyrics for the first three albums. However, when given the opportunity to replace Ozzy Osbourne in the legendary Black Sabbath, Dio jumped ship in 1979. Three years later, disagreements within that band resulted in the departure of Dio and drummer Vinny Appice, who formed Dio in October 1982. The following May, the band released their debut album, Holy Diver, which featured two MTV hits.

The original quartet of Dio included Vivian Campbell on guitar and Jimmy Bain on bass. Later on keyboardist Claude Schnell was recruited for live shows and ultimately became a permanent member of the band.


The Last In Line by Dio
Released: July 2, 1984 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Ronnie James Dio
Recorded: Caribou Ranch, Colorado, 1984
Side One Side Two
We Rock
The Last In Line
Breathless
I Speed at Night
One Night In the City
Evil Eyes
Mystery
Eat Your Heart Out
Egypt (The Chains Are On)
Group Musicians
Ronnie James Dio – Lead Vocals, Keyboards  |  Vivian Campbell – Guitars
Jimmy Bain – Bass  |  Vinny Appice – Drums, Percussion

The Last In Line followed the same basic pattern as Holy Diver, leading these albums to later be packaged together. The album comes in strong with “We Rock”, led by the frenzied drums by Appice throughout, including a beat-driven post lead section. Co-written by bassist Bain, the most quality track on the album is the title track, “The Last in Line”. The laid back intro section allows for a nice setup to the driving song proper, with its steady and heavy approach. However, it is Dio’s philosophical and fascinating lyrics that shine brightest on this track, finding the line between good and evil like a heavy metal counterpart to “Hotel California”,

We don’t come along, we are fire, we are strong, we’re the hand that writes and quickly moves away…”

“Breathless” sounds much like Rainbow-era material, built on the interesting riffing by Campbell and the melodic hooks by Dio. “I Speed at Night” may be the most overtly concocted tune (perhaps to take advantage of the recent success of Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55”). In any case, this is not a good showcase for Dio and Appice. The side one closer “One Night In the City” is heavy pop, starting with a couple of interesting riff sections before it breaks into pristine rock with repeatable hooks. “Evil Eyes” forges the high-end 80’s heavy rock where Campbell adds some of his finest guitar work during the brief verses and frantic, hammer-on lead.

“Mystery” is the most accessible song on the album and a true Dio classic. Everything comes together on this collaboration between Dio and Bain, as it is melodic and musically sweet, with a hook, guitar lead, and keyboard riff that it puts in firmly within the boundaries of pop/rock radio. “Eat Your Heart Out” follows as one last accessible hard rock song and a true band collaboration with good rock rudiments. The album closer “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” adds a theatrical and dramatic element to the album with opening wind effects and a slow and deliberative thumping in the verses.

Within two months of its release, The Last In Line was certified Gold and would later go on to become the first Dio album to be certified Platinum. A third album followed soon in 1985, along with more later in the decade, but the group would not again achieve this level of success.

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

1984 Images