Secret Samadhi by Live

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

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

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


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

 
Secret Samadhi by Live

 

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

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

Live

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

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

~

1997 Images

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

 

Someday Maybe by The Clarks

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

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

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


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

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

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

the clarks

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

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

~

1996 music celebration image

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

River Songs by The Badlees

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River Songs by The BadleesAfter honing their sound for half a decade, The Badlees found their first real commercial success with River Songs. Originally released as the quintet’s third independent studio album in early 1995, the album was re-released internationally after the group signed with Polydor/Atlas later in the year. Led by guitarist and chief songwriter Bret Alexander, the group produced solid songs with scaled back musical arrangements utilizing an array of acoustic and native percussion instruments as well as a heavy use of harmonica as a lead instrument.

In early 1992, The Badlees released their first full-length album, Diamonds In the Coal, which featured a nice blend of pop, rock, and folk tracks. However, they decided to change directions for the 1993 follow-up, The Unfortunate Result of Spare Time, which had a slicker and more streamlined production style. Although disappointed with the overall result of this second album, the group worked hard to promote it through constant touring. This lead to the band getting the incredible opportunity to be one of the first Western rock bands to perform in mainland China during the 1994 Qingdao Beer Festival in August of that year.

After returning from China, the group started work on their third full length release. The daily 50-mile commute along the Susquehanna River inspired the title, River Songs, as they traveled to Harrisburg, PA to record the album. The deliberate musical intent of this record was to return to the distinct style they began forging in their early years.


River Songs by The Badlees
Released: February 28, 1995 (Rite-Off)
Produced by: The Badlees
Recorded: The Green Room, Harrisburg, PA, September-November 1994
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Grill the Sucker
Angeline Is Coming Home
Fear of Falling
Angels of Mercy
Queen of Perfection
Bendin’ the Rules
Gwendolyn
Ore Hill
Nothing Much of Anything
Song For a River
I Liked You Better When You Hated Yourself
Pete Palladino – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Bret Alexander – Guitars, Mandolin, Dobro, Vocals
Jeff Feltenberger – Guitars, Vocals
Paul Smith – Bass, Vocals
Ron Simasek – Drums, Percussion

River Songs by The Badlees

The brief, 73 second opening instrumental, “Grill the Sucker” was meant to make an immediate statement foreshadowing the tone of the subsequent album. It starts with a fade in of Ron Simasek‘s drum shuffle soon joined by the group in a blue-grass inspired stomp which includes such rustic instruments as the dobro, stumpf fiddle, and jaw harp. Unfortunately, the later release changed the running order so this intended opening statement gets lost in the mix. Co-written by longtime band collaborator Mike Naydock, “Angeline Is Coming Home” would become The Badlees’ highest charting single. Driven by the signature harmonica and fine vocal melodies of Pete Palladino, it features artful lyrics about an addict’s triumphant return from rehab.

A true highlight on the album, “Fear of Falling” is built upon Alexander’s mandolin and melodic lyrics which speak of reaching for lofty goals, failing, and then getting up and trying again. Musically, the mandolin is blended with acoustic and electric guitar as well as some strategic Hammond organ by guest Robert Scott Richardson. Throughout the song, there is a potent mix of backing harmonies by Jeff Feltenberger and Paul Smith with Palladino providing the climatic closing crescendo of harmonica intermixed with vocal ad-libs.

 

Through the middle part of the album, the group alternates between upbeat pop/rock and more somber, folk-influenced tracks. “Angels of Mercy” features intelligent lyrics, chanting hooks, and entertaining guitar riffs, while “Queen of Perfection” features a heavy dose of dark humor along with an opening harmonica that harmonizes with an electric guitar and an interesting, country-like ending. The dramatic and deliberate “Bendin’ the Rules” was co-written by Alexander, Naydock, and Smith and it is notable for containing two of the very few proper guitar leads on the album. The highlight of this part of the album is “Gwendolyn”, a strong pop song with an excellent hook that pulls you right in. The track is pure musical fun and entertainment, starting with the high-pitched wail by Feltenberger and a later strong blues/rock guitar lead.

The Badlees in 1995
“Ore Hill” is Feltenberger’s sole composition on River Songs as a pure folk / Americana track with delicate acoustic guitar complimented by mandolin, harmonica, and interesting drum patterns. The thumping rocker “Nothing Much of Anything” seems a bit out of place at this point in the album but still features a good building chorus section along with interesting guitar textures by Alexander and bass patterns by Smith.

The quasi-title track “Song for a River” is actually about a person, using the “river” as a metaphor for that person’s life. The song was composed by Alexander and Naydock in the early 1990s but was not used because it was difficult to develop due to its length and unique arrangement. Eventually, Alexander decided to simply “talk” through the verses and add a repeating chorus throughout. Ultimately, the song employs three lead singers; Alexander, Palladino, and Feltenberger, whose majestic scat vocal notes were a tip of the hat to Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig In The Sky”. Closing out this eight minute track is a fine outro of pure acoustic folk instruments. The album concludes with the light and entertaining “I Liked You Better When You Hated Yourself”, complete with sarcastic nostalgia and a middle yodeling section which became a fan favorite during subsequent live performances.

Following the success of River Songs, the band embarked on several national and international tours, supporting headlining acts such as Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Bob Segar, Greg Allman, and The Gin Blossoms. They would shoot a Hollywood music video and record a follow-up material in a world class studio before reverting back to being a top-notch independent band for many more years.

~

Check out The Badlees’ Career Profile on Modern Rock Review

1995 page images

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

 

Nervous Night by The Hooters

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Nervous Night by The HootersThe Hooters big label debut was, by far, their most successful album in America. Nervous Night sold over two million copies, achieving multi-platinum status, and spawned multiple Top 40 hits. The album features an eclectic mix of music that uses both traditional acoustic instrumentation and synth/keyboard heavy motifs with slick production. Together, this combination made for a sound that appealed to the pop audiences of the mid 1980’s while still maintaining quality musicianship and interesting arrangements.

Philadelphia musicians Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman had a decade-long musical association before they formed The Hooters in 1980. The group’s name comes from the nickname for the melodica, one of several ethnic instruments that the band plays in addition to traditional rock instrumentation. After gaining a local following in nightclubs and on Philadelphia radio, the group opened for The Who’s farewell tour concert shows at JFK Stadium in 1982. The following year the group independently produced their debut album, Amore, which sold over 100,000 copies through independent channels. Bazilian and Hyman then wrote, arranged and perform on Cyndi Lauper’s debut, She’s So Unusual, which was co-produced by long-time friend, Rick Chertoff, the producer of Nervous Night.

Guitarist John Lilley, drummer David Uosikkinen and newcomer bassist Andy King joined Bazilian and Hyman in the studio to record the album. While employing richer production techniques, the songs on Nervous Night remain true to the roots established on Amore, blending reggae and ska with traditional folk.


Nervous Night by The Hooters
Released: April 26, 1985 (Columbia)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff
Recorded: Studio 4, Philadelphia & Record Plant, New York, 1984-1985
Side One Side Two
And We Danced
Day by Day
All You Zombies
Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight
Nervous Night
Hanging on a Heartbeat
Where Do the Children Go
South Ferry Road
She Comes in Colors
Blood from a Stone
Group Musicians
Eric Bazilian – Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Vocals
Rob Hyman – Keyboards, Melodica, Vocals
John Lilley – Guitars
Andy King – Bass, Vocals
David Uosikkinen – Drums

The album launches with “And We Danced”, which starts with an opening mandolin and melodica section before launching into a rocker with an irresistible beat and lyrics reminiscing about simpler times and memories of having fun with friends. The first major hit by the band, “And We Danced” reached #3 on the Mainstream Rock charts. Bazilian’s mandolin is also prevalent on “Day by Day”, a song co-written with Chertoff two years earlier. This track features some strong synth/keyboards by Hyman and a vibe that hits the ground running and doesn’t stop.

One of the most indelible songs by The Hooters, “All You Zombies” is a remake of a song originally released on Amore. This newer version contains dark and mystical atmospherics blended with a heavy reggae beat, which all seems appropriate for the “zombie” theme. Not literally about zombies, the lyrics contrast the differences between blind belief and having faith. The melodica returns on “Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight” along with sharp tones and sudden staccato beats. This track may have been inspired by the car wreck by former bassist Rob Miller, an incident which cause him to be replaced by King. Side one ends with the title track, “Nervous Night”, a quirky song that could either be about a strange dream or a glimpse into the mind of a mad person. This track also contains a great saxophone by Bazilian.

“Hanging on a Heartbeat” is another track originally released on Amore, featuring an excellent rock riff that repeats throughout the song and easy, repetitive lyrics that work with the tempo. “Where Do the Children Go” is a beautiful but sad ballad about teen suicide, featuring Patty Smyth on backing vocals. This mandolin, driven track was the third and final Top 40 hit from the album.

The album wraps up with three lesser know tracks. “South Ferry Road” is co-written by Hyman, Bazilian, and Chertoff about memories from their younger days, while “She Comes in Colors” is an interesting rendition of a song originally recorded by the band Love’s, but with a completely different feel and tempo than the original. The closer, “Blood From a Stone” ,is the final retread from Amore with a similar arrangement but a bit of jazzed-up production.

Nervous Night reached number 12 on the album charts in the US and was assisted by The Hooters’ being the opening band at the Philadelphia Live Aid benefit concert, which was broadcast to an international television audience just a few months after the album’s release.

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1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.

 

Throwing Copper by Live

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Throwing Copper by LiveThrowing Copper is the second and most popular album by the Pennsylvania rock band Live. A signature album for the genre which would later be termed, “post grunge”, the album includes several radio staples along with tracks that would become live favorites throughout the group’s ensuing career. Throwing Copper contains a blend of heavy and moderate rock tracks, alternating between tight compositions and a freer form by the four-piece band, with many of the lyrics leaning towards the philosophical and the spiritual. The result of this is an indelible work which topped the album charts and has sold over eight million copies, while still sounding vibrant and fresh 20 years on.

The four members of Live had been together since middle school in 1980s, when guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer, drummer Chad Gracey, and vocalist Ed Kowalczyk first got together to perform at a talent show and remained together through high school, playing new wave covers under various band names. Following the production of a self-released cassette of original songs in 1990 and a professionally produced EP in 1990, the group scored a contract with Radioactive Records. Jerry Harrison, keyboardist and guitarist of Talking Heads, produced the group’s 1991 debut album Mental Jewelry, which was lyrically inspired by Eastern philosophy.

Harrison was again at the helm for this album, recorded in Minnesota during the summer of 1993. The group had significantly tightened their sound through extensive touring following their debut, and were able to forge more cohesive yet sophisticated songs, with Kowalczyk writing the lyrics and the other three composing the musical scores. The story-telling lyrics tend to be more tangential than recursive with music layered to create very interesting ambiance, led by Taylor’s guitars.


Throwing Copper by Live
Released: April 19, 1994 (Radioactive)
Produced by: Jerry Harrison & Live
Recorded: Pachyderm Studio, Cannon Falls, Minnesota, July–September 1993
Track Listing Group Musicians
The Dam At Otter Creek
Selling The Drama
I Alone
Iris
Lightning Crashes
Top
All Over You
Shit Towne
T.B.D.
Stage
Waitress
Pillar Of Davidson
White, Discussion
Horse
Ed Kowalczyk – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Chad Taylor – Guitars, Vocals
Patrick Dahlheimer – Bass
Chad Gracey – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Throwing Copper by Live

 

With an odd and distant album beginning, “The Dam at Otter Creek” meanders in a long swell and doesn’t really kick in until about two-thirds through, at which point it becomes so frenzied that it is barely audible. This sound collage of intensity that gives the track an almost progressive feel, may have alienated the casual listener who first tossed this in a CD deck but its ultimate break does set up the next song perfectly. “Selling the Drama” is, by far, the best song on the album. Where the previous track is opaque and uncertain, this is clear and direct with sonic treats ranging from Taylor’s electric riffs and acoustic strums to Gracey’s sock-hop drum beats to Kowalczyk’s melodic and pleasant vocals. However, it is Dahlheimer’s incredibly inventive bass lines which give this balanced song the edge that provides it with infinite potency. “Selling the Drama” was the first of three singles from this album to reach #1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. “I Alone” didn’t quite reach the top of that chart, peaking at #6 with its asymmetrical verse arrangements, which act as conduits for the contrast in dynamics between verse and chorus. The lyric to this song reach deep into the philosophical bag of tricks with lines such as;

The greatest of teachers won’t hesitate to leave you there by yourself chained to fate…”

“Iris” is a fine and original song with a sort of “fire one” approach to the arrangement. Gracey provides shuffle drums throughout with many melodramatic dynamics decorating the track, such as the layered vocals later in the song. This is followed by another great contrast, the slow and methodical “Lightning Crashes”, which became an instant classic and is the most popular song Live ever recorded. Taylor’s flange-drenched riffing compliment’s Kowalczyk’s nearly alien vocals which explicitly tell of a scene of simultaneous life and death in a hospital. Although there isn’t very much variation, save the interesting bridge with three rhythm guitars and bass line, the song was very well received in the mid 1990s, driving it just short of the Top Ten on the pop charts, in spite of not being officially released as a single.

The middle part of the album contains a couple of the more overtly pop songs on the album. “Top” is lesser known and unheralded, built much in the vein of the late 1980s pop/rock, as a rare track on this album which is straight-forward with little variance form standard formulas. “All Over You” is much more popular, perhaps a bit overplayed on radio, although it is pleasant enough due to its main rock riff. The best parts of this song are the instrumental and scat vocals during the bridge and outro parts. The group returns to the unconventional with “Shit Towne”, a rock waltz during the repeated verses of observant lyrics. While these lyrics (and title) leave much to desire, the music and melody are very potent interesting throughout.

A distant bass cut with reverb-laced percussion highlights the intro to “T.B.D.”, which stands for the “Tibetan Book of the Dead”. This song returns to the Eastern philosophy of Mental Jewelry, with inspiration drawn from Aldous Huxley’s writings. “Stage” is a proto-punk song with timely lyrics which seem to speak of the very recent demise of Kurt Cobain, while “Waitress” is almost frivolous while partly preachy, seeming like it was born out of an argument over tipping a waitress, a la the opening scene from Reservoir Dogs.

The album concludes with three solid tracks, starting with the dramatic “Pillar of Davidson”, a nearly seven minute track that is driven by melodic vocals which compensate for the sparse music on the track. “White, Discussion” commences with an interesting and funky groove during the initial verses but  continually builds in intensity as it later breaks into something much harder and rawer, perhaps a bit over the top, before it closes with one of the longest feedback dissolves ever. Like many albums of the era, Throwing Copper finishes with a “hidden track”, which has come to be known as “Horse”. This track is pure country rock, complete with acoustic, pedal steel guitar, and Dahlheimer’s bouncy funk bass, which leaves the album with a good rock vibe.

The success of Throwing Copper built great anticipation for the 1997 follow-up Secret Samadhi, which debuted at number one but failed to match the overall popularity and longevity of this album. Harrison returned to co-produce 1999’s The Distance to Here, but that was even less popular. Ultimately, the original Live came to an acrimonious end when Kowalczyk was fired from the band in 2009 and a major lawsuit followed.

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1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.

 

Rumble by Tommy Conwell and Young Rumblers

Rumble by Tommy Conwell and Young RumblersTommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, a popular Philadelphia area “bar band”, caught the attention of Columbia Records when their 1986 independently released album, Walking on the Water, sold very well regionally. The band, which started as a three piece with band leader Tommy Conwell on lead guitars and vocals, Paul Slivka on bass and Jimmy Hannum on drums, was known for their high energy live performances. Aside from being an accomplished guitarist, Conwell was keenly tuned into his audience and gave them his all at every show by jumping off the stage into the audience and playing guitar while strolling along the top of the bar. When their first major label record, Rumble, was released in 1988, it did a fair job of capturing a bit of this live energy in the recording.

Rumble was produced by Rick Chertoff who had recent successes producing Cyndi Lauper’s multi-platinum debut album, She’s So Unusual and The Hooters’ first two successful major label releases, Nervous Night and One Way Home. He was charged with the task of making a polished, ready for mainstream radio, recording of an unpolished rock and roll band. This was quite a task when a major part of the band’s charm and appeal was the grit of their live energy.

By the time recording started, the band had grown from a simple rockabilly type three piece (albeit more “rock” than “billy”) to a full fledged rock and roll line up of five with the addition of Rob Miller on keyboards and Chris Day on guitar.

 


Rumble by Tommy Conwell and Young Rumblers
Released: July 10, 1988 (Columbia)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff
Side One Side Two
I’m Not Your Man
Half a Heart
If We Never Meet Again
Love’s On Fire
Workout
I Wanna Make You Happy
Everything They Say Is True
Gonna Breakdown
Tell Me What You Want Me To Be
Walkin’ On the Water
Band Musicians
Tommy Conwell – Lead Vocals, Lead Guitars  |  Chris Day – Guitars
Rob Miller – Keyboards  |  Paul Slivka – Bass  |  Jimmy Hannum – Drums

 

The songs on this album are straight up rock and roll with simple themes of youthful rebellion, friendship and love set to bluesy, rock and roll guitars and rhythms. Nothing about this album is really that new or innovative, it is just good old fashioned rock and roll done well by outstanding musicians with great work ethics and riveting stage presence.

The opener, “I’m Not Your Man” dives right in, featuring a bawdy, bad boy rant from Conwell preceded by a bluesy guitar riff. Conwell’s guitar is clear and sharp and shines on this song. This was the most successful single on the album rising to #1 on the Mainstream Rock tracks chart. The other popular song from the album is “If We Never Meet Again”, which has a catchy chorus hook and a very cool, twangy guitar interlude, which highlights Conwell’s versatility on guitar.

“Half a Heart” features Miller’s  keyboards against a steady bass backbeat by the adept rhythm section of Slivka and Hannum. It is easily the most pop oriented tune of the whole album. “Love’s on Fire” continues the energy with driving guitars leading into the boogie beat, keyboard laden, aptly named “Workout”.
 

 
The second side includes “Everything They Say Is True”, which has a heavy keyboard riff, and “Breakdown”, probably the best overall song on the album both musically and lyrically. Its softly strummed intro gradually “breaks down” into a hard rocking ode to redemption that includes some fantastic guitar and earnest vocals from Conwell.  George Thorogood is channeled through Conwell’s gruff and gritty vocals in “Tell Me What You Want Me to Be”. “Walkin On Water” is a rollicking tune that closes the album with a life is just a party vibe.

The Young Rumbers would go on to record two more albums for Columbia. Guitar Trouble, recorded with help from Bruce Hornsby, was released in 1989 to modest success and the final album was passed on by Columbia. Rumble would be the pinnacle of commercial success for this Philadelphia Rock and Roll band.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1988 albums.

1988 Images

 

Out of Body by The Hooters

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Out Of Body by The HootersOut of Body was the fifth studio album by The Hooters, released in 1993, and would be the last before the band’s decade and a half hiatus from recording. As with all previous Hooters albums, the album of all original material was mainly composed by the team of guitarist/vocalist Eric Bazilian and keyboardist/vocalist Rob Hyman, who founded the group in the Philadelphia in 1980. However, Out of Body did mark a series of firsts for the band.  It was their first album for MCA Records and the first to employ Joe Hardy to co-produce along with Bazilian and Hyman. This was also the first album since the band had expanded to become a six-piece after the addition of vocalist, violinist, and multi-instrumentalist Mindy Jostyn, who started performing with the Hooters in 1991 and became a permanent member of the band in early 1992.

Following the band’s previous album, Zig Zag in 1989, the Hooters participated in Roger Waters’ The Wall, Live in Berlin, performing the song “Mother” with Sinead O’Conner and members of the classic group The Band. As the new decade dawned, the band’s popularity in Europe continued to grow as it inversely subsided in the US, something that would be reflected in the sales figures for Out of Body.

Recorded in Memphis, Hardy and the band took a much different approach to the recording process than on any previous band efforts, as Hardy took tracks directly from demos without much rehearsing and reworking. This resulted in a rapid recording process and final production which is sonically pleasing but a bit confused at times. Still, the band showcases their multi-faceted influences and every song contains unique blends of traditional instrumentation with modern rock and pop.
 


Out of Body by The Hooters
Released: May 11, 1993 (MCA)
Produced by: Joe Hardy, Eric Bazilian, & Rob Hyman
Recorded: 1993
Track Listing Band Musicians
Twenty-Five Hours a Day
Boys Will Be Boys
Shadow of Jesus
Great Big American Car
Private Emotion
Driftin’ Away
Dancing On the Edge
All Around the Place
One Too Many Nights
Nobody But You
Eric Bazilian – Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Sitar, Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Rob Hyman – Piano, Keyboards, Accordion, Hooter, Vocals
John Lilley – Guitars, Vocals
Mindy Jostlyn – Violin, Harmonica, Vocals
Fran Smith Jr. – Bass, Vocals
David Uosikkinen – Drums, Percussion
 
Out of Body by The Hooters
 

 
Some of the defining elements of Out of Body is the cross influences with other top-notch pop stars. “Boys Will Be Boys” was co-written by Cyndi Lauper who also provided some vocals, returning the favor a decade after Bazilian and Hyman contributed to her debut album She’s So Unusual and her hit, “Time after Time”. “Dancing On the Edge” was co-written by famed lyricist John Bettis and also has a bit of Celtic influence, which is well camouflaged here by a strong rock arrangement and percussive effects. “Private Emotion” would become the biggest “hit” on the album when it was later redone by Ricky Martin. The original version here is the heart of the album, led by mandolin throughout and very melodic vocals by Bazilian, accented by interesting, minimalist guitar lead and fretless bass.

The opener “Twenty-Five Hours a Day” gives the album its name in the very first verse and is sonically diverse with a mandolin intro, funky electric during the chorus, some synth effects, and an interesting lead section which blends violin, accordion, and the “hooter”. The song is fast paced like an Irish jig, getting off to a running start and the pace never slowing until the final notes.  Jostyn makes an immediate mark in her debut with the band as her violin and vocals add the perfect accent to blend with the folk rock funk of the rest of the group.
 

 
On the opposite end, the closer “Nobody But You” is an unusual yet compelling song. It is a love song, albeit a bit twisted with a back beat and sound that could be a hybrid of The Wallflowers and Tom Petty and quirky lyrics which make one wonder if this is a song of love or an unhealthy obsession –

Well I’m lying in your flower bed, I’m drunk on your perfume Just waiting for the seeds
I planted once to come in bloom
You ravage me, you savage me and you know I love it too…”

Some other fine tracks on the album include “Shadow of Jesus”, which has good ambience in the spirit of “All You Zombies”, with great funky bass by Fran Smith Jr. and harmonica by Jostlyn along with with strings and a dramatic presentation and lyrics.
“Great Big American Car” brings the band right back to the eighties sound with a lyrical nod to psychedelia and nostalgic times past. “One Too Many Nights” is highlighted by a great organ lead by Hyman and more mandolins by Bazilian, while “All Around the Place” is just that, as the aptly titled song moves from a heavy percussive dance beat by David Uosikkinen to mandolin to country chant feel with strings and accordion. Later some funky guitars and “The Memphis Horns” join in, giving the song’s climax an “All You Need is Love” feel.

The Hooters followed Out of Body with a live album the following year before the band would enter an extended hiatus period which would last nearly a decade of no touring or any activity. In 1995, Bazilian and Hyman worked on the debut album by Joan Osbourne called Relish, which produced the worldwide hit “One Of Us”, which was originally intended for an upcoming Hooters album.

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1993 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1993 albums.

 

One Way Home by The Hooters

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One Way Home by The HootersAfter two years of extensive touring in support of their first major label success, Nervous Night, the Philadelphia based group The Hooters returned to the studio to record One Way Home. Like their breakthrough predecessor, this album was co-produced by Rick Chertoff, a former executive at Columbia Records, along with the band’s primary songwriters Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman. Unlike its predecessor, One Way Home was heavily folk and Americana influenced and a testament to the Hooters desire to put the music first as well as experiment with the new influences and instruments they discovered during their extensive touring.

Although there are some similarities in songwriting and instrumentation, One Way Home is a clear step forward from Nervous Night in terms of production. That 1985 is heavy with slick, pop, eighties style production while this 1987 album, although still clearly catchy pop, is closer to the Hooters’ signature rootsy mixed sound.

Along with Bazilian and Hyman, the band consisted of rhythm guitarist John Lilly, bassist Andy King, and drummer Dave Uosikkinen, who had been with the band since its inception in 1980. Uosikkinen’s distinctive drumming is the backbone of The Hooters sound as he hits those drums hard and with an intensity that keeps the sound loud and right up front.
 


One Way Home by The Hooters
Released: July, 1987 (Columbia)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff, Eric Bazilian, & Rob Hyman
Recorded: Various Locations, 1986-1987
Side One Side Two
Satellite
Karla With a ‘K’
Johnny B
Graveyard Waltz
Fightin’ On the Same Side
One Way Home
Washington’s Day
Hard Rockin Summer
Engine 999
Band Musicians
Eric Bazilian – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Harmonica
Rob Hyman – Lead vocals, Keyboards, Accordion, Melodica
John Lilly – Guitars
Andy King – Bass
David Uosikkinen – Drums

 
The album begins with “Satellite”, an example of the Hooters ability to artfully blend modern synth sounds with traditional instruments. The song was inspired by a televangelist broadcasting his message and includes some space aged synthesizer sounds. “Karla with a K” takes this one step further by making a accordion sound really hip and fresh. The song, named after a hurricane, was inspired by a street performer the band met in Louisiana.

The band also included an updated version of “Fightin’ On the Same Side” from their independent album, Amore – still upbeat but with a slower tempo and the awesome addition of accordion. “Johnny B” is a haunting song about fighting addiction with an outstanding guitar solo and harmonica accents. This song remains very popular to this day with the band’s German fans. “Hard Rockin’ Summer” was inspired by a group of “heavy metal” kids who would hang out outside the band’s rehearsal space. The title song, “One Way Home” is perhaps the best on the album. It has a heavy reggae beat, similar to the Nervous Night version of “All You Zombies”. The lyrics are dark and spiritually cryptic similar to Zombies as well.
 

 
“Washington’s Day” is akin to a campfire sing a long and is rumored to be Bob Dylan’s favorite Hooters Song. It has a hook that can get a crowd swaying in unison. “Graveyard Waltz” has the same eerie feeling as that on the earlier “Where Do the Children Go?”, as both songs deal with death, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

Although One Way Home did not enjoy the mass commercial appeal of its predecessor, it did open up the European market for the band due to the popularity of “Satellite” across the Atlantic. In fact, after the band performed the song on Britain’s Top Of the Pops in December 1987, they were privileged to meet their idol Paul McCartney. A month earlier, on Thanksgiving night 1987, The Hooters headlined a show at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, which was broadcast live on MTV and Westwood One radio network simultaneously, perhaps the absolute pinnacle of their American success. Through the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the fan base for the band shifted even larger in Europe, especially in Sweden and Germany, while it declined in America.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums

 

Diamonds In the Coal
by The Badlees

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Diamonds In the Coal by The Badlees At a time when many in the rock world were in the process of re-imaging from the slick 80’s hair band to the grungy 90s alternative, a young Pennsylvania band called The Badlees was forging their own path with a sound called “roots rock” with their first full length album, Diamonds In the Coal. The band, which had been steadily gaining popularity since the release of their initial EP It Ain’t For You in late 1990, had solidified their lineup with the addition of Paul Smith in 1991. With Smith’s addition, the Badlees had the core quintet in place that would drive them through their most productive years. The result is a well-crafted, entertaining, and thoughtful album with fine and exquisite details.

The album was co-produced by guitarist Bret Alexander and contains all original compositions which were mainly written by Alexander with about half being co-penned by band associate Mike Naydock. The songs are augmented by a structure of electric and acoustic guitars, solid rhythms, judicious use of ethic instruments, layered vocals, and thoughtful lyrics.

There are few things easier than to live badly and die well…”

This quote by Oscar Wilde was placed inner sleeve of Diamonds In the Coal, in an obvious play on the band’s name. Further, each song on the lyrics page contained its own special quote from philosophers and artists ranging from Aristotle to Andy Warhol, some of the extra attention to detail the band put into the atmosphere of the album. Topping it off were the authentic pictures that were used for the cover of early 20th century coal miners that drummer Ron Simasek found at a local Historical Society.

 


Diamonds In the Coal by The Badlees
Released: January 14, 1992 (Rite-Off)
Produced by: Bret Alexander & the Badlees
Recorded: Waterfront Recording, Hoboken, NJ / Susquehanna Sound, Northumberland, PA, 1991
Track Listing Band Musicians
Like a Rembrandt
Back Where We Came From
Just One Moment
The Real Thing
Heaven On Earth
Interlude / Badlee Rap
The Next Big Thing
Dirty Neon Times
Spending My Inheritance
Sister Shirley
Mystery Girl
Road to Paradise
Diamonds In the Coal
Pete Palladino – Lead Vocals
Bret Alexander – Guitars, Mandolin, Harmonica, Vocals
Jeff Feltenberger – Guitars, Vocals
Paul Smith – Bass, Vocals
Ron Simasek– Drums & Percussion
 
Diamonds In the Coal by The Badlees

 

“Interlude / Badlee Rap” – Thematically, Diamonds In the Coal is nearly sliced in half by the light intermission of “Interlude/Badlee Rap”, with the rap itself performed by Loose Bruce above some slight guitar and harmonica. Songs previous to this on the album are mainly pop-oriented, with basic structure and strong hooks. This all starts with the opener “Like a Rembrandt”, of which Alexander sets the scene as “a bunch of young kids partying out by an old coal breaker and realizing full well that this may be the greatest summer of their lives”.

“Back Where We Came From” (commonly referred to as “The Na Na Song”) follows with a strong delivery by lead vocalist Pete Palladino. This acoustic-driven tune with electric overtones, was the first single from the album and the first to receive significant airplay. It also shows that the Badlees had perfected a song template that the much more heralded Hootie and the Blowfish would replicate years later. Despite the Bon Jovi-ish hook at the onset, “Heaven On Earth” is still a song with good instrumentation lead by a solid, strummed acoustic while the lighter sound of “The Real Thing” contains serene and solid guitar riffs by Alexander with just a touch of the instrument which would become more predominant in the band, the mandolin. “Just One Moment” is another pop-oriented track with a bouncy and choppy riff, good vocals, and strong back beat by Simasek.

 
The second “half” of the album contains songs that explore deeper subject matter and richer musical structure. Guitarist Jeff Feltenberger provides good vocal interplay with Palladino during “The Next Big Thing”, while upbeat power-pop anthem “Dirty Neon Times” provides more fantastic vocal harmonies by Feltenberger in a pleasant, acoustic driven song.

Alexander’s “Spending My Inheritance” is a well composed, sort of “people’s anthem” tune with some harmonica intertwined with fiddle by guest performer David Rose. “Sister Shirley” is perhaps the most unique song on the album. It includes a picturesque lyrical narrative by Naydock and some sweet, jazzy guitar by Alexander – a rewarding listen, which shows the band’s musical and compositional range. Feltenberger wrote “Road to Paradise”, in an odd time, with steady acoustic strumming against slightly spastic drums all topped by intricate, three-part vocal patterns.

The closing title song is the true masterpiece of Diamonds In the Coal. Here, the listener is brought into the dark, forgotten patch towns of Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Region. The imagery in this song’s lyric is so vivid that you can almost feel the coal dust flying, while the music sets the perfect scene with a methodic, marching rhythm below and some authentic, ethnic instrumentation up above. This song showed the true promise of the band in 1992 and would be the primer for their breakthrough album River Songs three years later.

Recently, Bret Alexander looked back with great fondness on the creation of this album, saying he had a tremendous amount of fun and creative fulfillment writing the songs and producing Diamonds In the Coal. Although he does lament that he doesn’t feel that the overall “sound” of the album has held up sonically through the years. There is a definite early-nineties, polished-up quality with the drum sound snare-centric, the rhythms contain little variation, and the well-compressed vocals always seeming to hang at eye-level. But still, after 20 years, a deeper listener will definitely appreciate the quality of the songs and recognize the watershed of creative music “springs” that began their flow with Diamonds.

~

1992 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1992 albums.