Arc of a Diver by Steve Winwood

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Arc of a Diver by Steve WinwoodArc of a Diver is a true “solo” record by Steve Winwood  as he played every instrument and recorded and produced the album in his private studio. The album was a breakthrough for Winwood as a solo artist and it marked a return for him to the top echelon of pop/rock artists as he adapted technology to forge an original contemporary sound for his compositions. The only real collaboration on Arc of a Diver involved the lyrics of the songs, most of which were penned by American songwriter Will Jennings.

Winwood had been in the public eye since the early 1960s, when at age 14 he joined the Spencer Davis Group. The group had a trio of number one hits before Winwood departed in 1967. Next, he joined forces with Eric Clapton in a couple of “supergroups” – Powerhouse in 1966, and Blind Faith in 1969. In between, Winwood spent two phases with the group Traffic, as a supporting player in the late sixties version and taking the lead in his second stint with classic albums such as John Barlycorn Must Die (1970) and The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys (1971). After departing Traffic in the mid 1970s, Winwood launched his solo career with his self-titled debut album in 1977.

Winwood built Netherturkdonic studio on his farm in Gloucestershire, England and began composing and recording music on keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion. As the compositions matured, he looked outside for lyrics with Jennings, Viv Stanshall, and George Fleming contributing.


Arc of a Diver by Steve Winwood
Released: December 31, 1980 (Island)
Produced by: Steve Winwood
Recorded: Netherturkdonic Studios, Gloucestershire, England, 1980
Side One Side Two
While You See a Chance
Arc of a Diver
Second-Hand Woman
Slowdown Sundown
Spanish Dancer
Night Train
Dust
Musician
Steve Winwood – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Percussion

The complex synth chords swell like a sunrise to launch the opening track, “While You See a Chance”. When it fully kicks in, this track features solid melodies over complex musical passages and rhythms which patiently make their way to the hook and ultimately the outro, a potent mix that found favor with many types of listeners. The song peaked in the Top 10 in 1981, making it Winwood’s first hit as a solo artist. Next comes the title track with lyrics provided by Stanshall and music built through a funk synth array. The sound is tight with a warm feeling of a graceful arc portrayed.

“Second-Hand Woman” has the most evident, thus far, programmed synth music and features a good use of synth fretless bass, while “Slowdown Sundown” changes direction as a fine acoustic and piano ballad with a soulful organ throughout and reflective lyrics about wanting moments to last longer. The groove-laden “Spanish Dancer” has a subtle synth arpeggio in the background which persists throughout with little variation. Lyrically, the song seems to be a metaphor for a feeling that you just don’t want to end.

“Night Train” is an all out funk/dance song and was a minor hit from the second side of the album. A long intro serves to drive the groove home before Winwood’s vocals, equally as patiently, work towards the catchy pop hook. The final track, “Dust”, is a hybrid between the album’s digital and analog approach. This moderate breakup song does seem artificially lengthy, but Winwood’s vocals are at their finest on this one.

Arc of a Diver nearly reached the top of the Billboard 200 album chart and Winwood was established as a commercially viable act in the 1980s, with 1986’s Back In the High Life being the commercial apex of his career.

More on Steve Winwood

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1980 albums.

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Horses by Patti Smith

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Horses by Patti SmithHorses is the 1975 debut album by Patti Smith, an album which has long become considered a breakthrough masterpiece of minimalist originality and poetic improvisation. Smith and her band had no previous recording experience and they developed the album’s songs with simple chord progressions nesting Smith’s lyrics, which ranged from subjects such as family, contemporary rock icons, and imagined narratives. On Horses the group also incorporated a few classic rock tunes into their extended pieces.

Born in Chicago, Smith was a poet and performance Artists in Paris and New York City born in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She provided spoken word soundtracks for artistic films as well as live plays. She was briefly considered to be lead singer for Blue Oyster Cult, a group for which she would provide lyrics for years to come. By 1974, Patti Smith formed her own rock group with guitarist Lenny Kaye, bassist Ivan Král and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty. The band recorded a single, “Hey Joe / Piss Factory”, a hybrid of a rock standard with additional spoken word poetry. Soon, the Patti Smith Group was signed by Clive Davis for his new label, Arista Records.

Recording for this debut album began in August 1975 in New York City with producer John Cale. Smith wanted to make “a record that would make a certain type of person not feel alone” but she did have some differences with Cale on recording methods, which were ultimately worked out.


Horses by Patti Smith
Released: December 13, 1975 (Arista)
Produced by: John Cale
Recorded: Electric Lady, New York City, August-September, 1975
Side One Side Two
Gloria
Redondo Beach
Birdland
Free Money
Kimberly
Break It Up
Land
Elegie
Primary Musicians
Patti Smith – Lead Vocals
Lenny Kaye – Lead Guitar, Bass
Ivan Král – Bass, Rhythm Guitar
Richard Sohl – Piano
Jay Dee Daugherty – Drums

The opening track is a quasi-cover of “Gloria”, a popular song first recorded by Van Morrison and his group, Them, a decade earlier. This unique version features Smith’s poetry over slower chord progression that eventually works into faster frenzy with the hook release finally coming over three minutes into the song. Cowritten by keyboardist Richard Sohl, “Redondo Beach” is a change up where the music is more in focus due to the fine reggae elements of the tune. The poetic lyrics are based on a fight that Smith had with with her sister Linda, after which her sister disappeared for days, causing Patti to worry that she had committed suicide (fortunately, she did not). “Birdland” is the first of two extended pieces where Sohl’s lazy piano plays behind Smith’s spoken-word narrative in verses, alternating with sung choruses. The stream of consciousness lyrics were inspired by memoir of Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich.

Starting as deliberative and poetic but quickly building to a proto-punk frenzy, “Free Money” is a fantasy about winning the lottery and the song closes the original first side. Starting side two is “Kimberly” a song which is very musically interesting as perhaps an early example of the new wave style, while “Break It Up” is a moderate ballad written as a tribute to Jim Morrison, following Smith’s visit of Morrison’s grave in Paris.

Patti Smith Group

The centerpiece of Horses is the nine and a half minute track “Land”, which incorporates the sixties soul classic “Land of a Thousand Dances”, This melodramatic piece which builds into a classic rock dance tune is counterbalanced by explicit and violent lyrics that layered masterfully through overdubbed poetry and melodies. In Smith’s later memoir, she reveals that primary characters in this song refer to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and author William Burroughs. Piano, bass and whining guitar make a perfect haunting effect for the closing track “Elegie”, purposely recorded on the 5th anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix, with the song also generally paying tribute to several deceased rock musicians such as Morrison, Brian Jones, and Janis Joplin.

While Horses received little to no airplay, it was instantly met with critical respect upon release and the album has grown to be a classic over time. The album solidified Smith’s influence on the New York punk rock and some have cited it as the first real punk rock album, although it is obvious that this record was not so genre-specific.

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Hi Infidelity by REO Speedwagon

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Hi Infidelity by REO SpeedwagonReleased in late 1980, Hi Infidelity hit commercial pay-dirt for the Illinois-based group REO Speedwagon. The album strikes a nice balance of accessible pop rockers and ballads as the quintet forged a sound which was at once contemporary and featuring some roots rock elements and, with six of the album’s ten tracks landing on the American pop charts, this chart-topping album became the biggest-selling rock album of 1981 in the US and was eventually certified 10 times platinum.

The group’s origins date back to 1966 in Champaign, Illinois when keyboardist Neal Doughty and drummer Alan Gratzer formed a cover band that took the name REO Speedwagon the following year. The band signed to Epic Records in 1971 with their self-titled debut album being the first of annual studio albums they released between 1971 and 1976. Vocalist Kevin Cronin briefly joined the group in 1972 before departing for four years and returning in 1976 as their permanent front man. REO found their first real success with their platinum-selling live album Live: You Get What You Play For in 1977, and their 1978 seventh studio record You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish, which was the group’s first to make the Top 40. However, 1979’s Nine Lives was a bit of a commercial disappointment.

Hi Infidelity was produced during a time when several group members were struggling with their personal lives. Cronin claimed this made the bond between the band members really strong and forged a sort of continuity between the songs composed by multiple songwriters going through similar experiences. About half the songs were developed during a three-day rehearsal period with the later studio recordings produced by Cronin, Gratzer, guitarist Gary Richrath and engineer Kevin Beamish.


Hi Infidelity by REO Speedwagon
Released: November 21, 1980 (Epic)
Produced by: Kevin Beamish, Kevin Cronin, Alan Gratzer, & Gary Richrath
Recorded: June-October 1980
Side One Side Two
Don’t Let Him Go
Keep On Loving You
Follow My Heart
In Your Letter
Take It on the Run
Tough Guys
Out of Season
Shakin’ It Loose
Someone Tonight
I Wish You Were There
Group Musicians
Kevin Cronin – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Gary Richrath – Guitars
Neal Doughty – Keyboards
Bruce Hall – Bass, Vocals
Alan Gratzer – Drums, Vocals

The opener “Don’t Let Him Go” begins with an intro with feedback guitar over pointed, “hand-jive” like rhythm, building a tension which is released during the chorus hook. The song was the first Cronin composed for Hi Infidelity and it was released as a single and reached the Top 40. However, it was Cronin’s next track “Keep on Loving You” that became the album’s biggest hit and REO Speedwagon’s first #1 song. While in many ways a classic piano ballad but, “Keep on Loving You” resists being formulaic as full group kicks in during the first pre-chorus section and Richrath provides a fantastic, bluesy lead guitar.

Written by Richrath and band associate Tom Kelly, the pop-oriented “Follow My Heart” is catchy but not quite as high quality as rest of the material on the first side. “In Your Letter” is a much better effort by the guitarist as a fine mixture of first wave rock with a doo-wop like hook. Doughty adds much with his middle, dual piano and organ leads being the most rewarding part of this song, which was released as the fourth single from the album and made the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Take It on the Run” completes Richrath’s trio of songs to complete the original first side as an adolescent acoustic anthem bookmarked by the classic lyric “heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another you’ve been messing around”. In between are some great guitar riffs and lead and a harmonized hook that propelled the song into the Top 10 in 1981.

REO Speedwagon in 1980

With the exception of a few strong points, the album’s second side isn’t nearly as potent as its hit-drenched first. “Tough Guys” starts with Little Rascals clip from 1937 before exploring into a pop rock screed, while “Out of Season” features choppy rock verses and good guitar riffin’. “Shakin’ It Loose” returns back to fifties themed rock n’ roll with heavy dance implications, a great piano lead and solid rhythms by drummer Alan Gratzer, while “Someone Tonight” is a new-wave influenced track by bassist Bruce Hall, who also takes on lead vocals for the song. The album wraps with the excellent and dramatic “I Wish You Were There”, where Cronin displays his best vocals on the record and Richrath offers the best of his many guitar leads on this record.

The success of Hi Infidelity launched a 1980s decade where they found more pop stardom, especially as they moved towards a softer, ballad-centric approach on subsequent albums. In October 2004, the band revisited their 1980 classic as they recorded the songs of Hi Infidelity live from beginning to end for an XM Radio special.

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Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by Smashing Pumpkins

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Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by Smashing PumpkinsSmashing Pumpkins went all in on their third release, the super-sized, 28-track Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and remarkably this worked both critically and commercially. With five hit singles, this two-disc CD / triple LP features a wide variety of styles and musical sub-genres as well as balanced input from all group members. This 1995 album debuted at number one in the US and, in spite of its inflated price as compared to single LPs, has sold more than 10 million units to date.

The group was formed in Chicago in 1988 by vocalist/guitarist Billy Corgan and guitarist James Iha and slowly built a dedicated audience. With the mainstream breakthrough of alternative rock, Smashing Pumpkins had an immediate breakthrough with their 1991 debut Gish and even greater success with their sophomore effort Siamese Dream in 1993. While both of those successful albums were produced by Butch Vig, the group wanted to move in a totally new direction for this third album.

Corgan wrote over 50 songs in early 1995 before the band went into the studio with producers Flood and Alan Moulder, who worked hard to capture the energy of their live shows. Corgan described their ambition to deliver “The Wall for Generation X”, with the songs loosely tied conceptually with the cycle of life and death and the contrast between night and day.


Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by Smashing Pumpkins
Released: October 24, 1995 (Virgin)
Produced by: Alan Moulder & Billy Corgan
Recorded: Chicago Recording Company, Chicago & The Village Recorder, Los Angeles, March-August 1995
Disc One, Dawn to Dusk Disc Two, Twilight to Starlight
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Tonight, Tonight
Jellybelly
Zero
Here Is No Why
Bullet with Butterfly Wings
To Forgive
Fuck You (An Ode to No One)
Love
Cupid de Locke
Galapogos
Muzzle
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans
Take Me Down
Where Boys Fear to Tread
Bodies
Thirty-Three
In the Arms of Sleep
1979
Tales of a Scorched Earth
Thru the Eyes of Ruby
Stumbleine
X.Y.U.
We Only Come Out at Night
Beautiful
Lily (My One and Only)
By Starlight
Farewell and Goodnight
Group Musicians
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Keyboards
James Iha – Guitars, Vocals
D’arcy Wretzky – Bass, Vocals
Jimmy Chamberlin – Drums, Vocals

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness features subtitles for each of its two discs, with the first named “Dawn to Dusk”. After the mellow, title instrumental comes the orchestral arrangement of “Tonight, Tonight”. Corgan has said that the song pays homage to Cheap Trick while the song’s lyrics have been compared to the poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick. All of the various guitars on the album were tuned down a half-step from standard to give it an edgier sound with “Jellybelly” using an even lower sixth string. “Zero” was the first song recorded for the album and it has six acoustic and rhythm guitars while “Here Is No Why” features a fine guitar solo. “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” ultimately became the group’s first Top 40 hit on its way to receiving a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance with it’s signature hook;

despite all my rage, I’m still just a rat in a cage…”

The simple track “To Forgive” is followed by the raw power and intensity of “Fuck You (An Ode to No One)”, backed by the rhythms of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.  “Cupid de Locke” is an inventive, psychedelic ballad and “Galapogos” is a methodical piece that slowly builds but never really explodes. One of the last songs written for album was “Muzzle”, the fifth and final single from this album. At nine and a half minutes, the deliberative “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” is one of the most musically awarding pieces on the album with a long intro, interesting rhythms by bassist D’arcy Wretzky and vast guitar overdubs. Iha’s “Take Me Down” wraps up the first disc as the most mellow of ballads.

Smashing Pumpkins on stage

Disc two is subtitled “Twilight to Starlight” and here the album gets more delicate, inventive and overall easier to listen to. “Thirty-Three” was the fifth and final single from the album, and was another Top 40 hit, while “In the Arms of Sleep” is a fine, romantic ballad. The undisputed classic on the album is “1979”, with all the best elements of 1990s alternative. Written as a nostalgic coming of age story, features sample vocals looped throughout or and distinct, ethereal effect.

The rich, musically superior “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” unfortunately lacks in good melody, while “We Only Come Out at Night” has a good, chanting hook over a medieval-like harpsichord and a distant beat. Wretzky offers harmonized vocals on the Prince-like electro-ballad “Beautiful” as “Lily (My One and Only)” is a fine sing/songy tune with a good, lo-fi piano along with some mellotron for further effect and a bit of an insane feel which is solidified by the final line “as they were dragging me away, I swear I saw her raise her hand and wave goodbye”. “By Starlight” builds into a fine piece due to its layered guitars leading to the album’s final track “Farewell and Goodnight”, which features lead vocals by all four band members.

Praised as an ambitious and accomplished work, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was a worldwide success as it topped or neared the top of the charts in several countries. The group embarked on a world tour to support the album, during which time Chamberlain left the ban due to personal issues. It would be three years before Smashing Pumpkins would release their next album, Adore, which featured another significant change of style.

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Making Movies by Dire Straits

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Making MoviesIn 1980 Dire Straits made a theatrical rock masterpiece with their third studio album, Making Movies. This record features many extensive, personally themed compositions by Mark Knopfer with complex arrangements finely performed by the trio. Featuring a subtle yet substantial move away from the group’s roots rock origins and into a fusion of jazz, folk and country-rock methods, the record was the keystone marking the excellent career of this British band.

Initially known as the Café Racers, London-based Dire Straits was formed by Mark and his younger brother David Knopfler in the mid 1970s. The group’s self-titled debut album was released in 1978 to worldwide commercial success. The group relentlessly toured Europe, North America and eventually the world to promote their music through 1978 and 1979, taking a break only to record the group’s second album, Communiqué, released in June 1979. to continuing critical and commercial success. in early 1980, the group took several months to write new material.

Recording for Making Movies began in July 1980 with producer Jimmy Iovine, who had worked on Bruce Springsteen’s classics Born to Run and Darkness On the Edge of Town. Iovine brought in E-Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan for the sessions, adding much to the theatrical vibe of Making Movies. However, there were creative tensions between the brothers and this ultimately led to David Knopfler leaving the group midway through recording, with none of his parts being used on the final product.


Making Movies by Dire Straits
Released: October 17, 1980 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Jimmy Iovine & Mark Knopfler
Recorded: Power Station, New York, June – August 1980
Side One Side Two
Tunnel of Love
Romeo and Juliet
Skateaway
Expresso Love
Hand in Hand
Solid Rock
Les Boys
Group Musicians
Mark Knopfler – Lead Vocals, Guitars
John Illsley – Bass, Vocals
Pick Withers – Drums, Vocals

The album opens with a short extract from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Carousel Waltz” as part of a complex entry to the over-eight minute suite “Tunnel of Love”. The scene is set with carnies and bad ass tattoos as they pull the lever and start your ride.  Knopfler’s guitar is really strong in this song (as with most of the album) and after the unique introduction the song is pretty steady for for the verses and choruses until it really starts to get creative starting with the pre-solo section where it pauses for choppy rudiments and several drum fills by Pick Withers. Later it completely breaks down in Springsteen-like fashion (kind of coincidental that he made his own Tunnel of Love later in the decade), before it then finally comes back up for a very long and excellent guitar coda to close the song. The fantastic, bittersweet “Romeo and Juliet” follows with a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s story of young star crossed lovers who “come up on different streets.” The music ebbs and flows as it kind of gets soft with Knopfler’s signature riff backing when he’s telling the story and then pointed emotionally as the music gets loud and the arrangement comes in stronger. Released as a single in 1981, the song reached the Top Ten in the UK and it has grown in stature over the years as it’s been featured in several major motion pictures.

The album’s best moment comes at the end of the original first side with “Skateaway”, perhaps the best overall song by the group through their career. Lyrically, it focuses on a young Hollywood starlet who goes against convention and tries to be a free spirit whether she is succeeding or not. There’s a rebelliousness to her skating through traffic going the wrong direction, which may be a parable for the difference between her perception of life and the observable outside reality, which gives the story  a sense of melancholy that shines through the fantastic musical arrangement. It comes in and fades out like a train chugging along with a mix between a synthesized and real drumbeat and  some layered percussion including a tambourine. Withers and bassist John Illsley hold it together rhythmically, leaving enough room for Knopfler  to deliver the lyrics.

Dire Straits

The original second side of Making Movies features four songs less complex and closer to standard running times. “Expresso Love” is just straight up rock n’ roll with strong guitar riffing and lyrics about a sad life of some glamorous woman getting ready to go out on the town, perhaps a prostitute. In contrast, “Hand in Hand” is a mellow ballad about looking back and reminiscing over a relationship and how it morphed from a simple “hand-in-hand” situation to something more complex with a lot of little variables. The aptly named revivalist rock of “Solid Rock” is the band at its simplest and basically an attempt at a radio hit, leading to the odd “Les Boys”. This closer is a departure in a way but it still stays on the same theme of theatrics, while it explores the cabaret scene and the queens that grace the stage.

Making Movies was a worldwide success and was later certified platinum in the US and double-platinum in the UK. The group continued to build their success through the 1980s with the 1982 album Love Over Gold and, most especially, the blockbuster Brothers In Arms in 1985, which ultimately became one of the best selling albums ever worldwide.

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Abraxas by Santana

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Abraxas by SantanaWith their second studio album, Santana brought a plethora of musical influence to forge the acclaimed Abraxas. This record fuses on multiple levels, blending reinterpreted covers with distinct originals and offering bits of Latin music, blues, jazz, and prog rock. And then there’s the spiritual element, from album’s title (which originates from a line in Hermann Hesse’s book Demian) to the nature of the cover art and it’s ties to ancient Greek mysticism.

Based in San Francisco, the group was formed in 1966 as the Santana Blues Band by guitarist Carlos Santana and keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie. Santana had a heavy Latin musical influence which he infused into the band, which was initially met with some resistance by some rock-based promoters. However, Bill Graham was impressed with the group, signed on as their manager and secured them a record deal with Columbia Records in early 1969. Their self-titled debut album was released in May of 1969 and featured mostly of instrumental tracks along with their first two singles, “Jingo” and “Evil Ways” which became the group’s first Top 10 hit. Santana’s 45-minute set at the original Woodstock festival brought international attention to the group.

In April 1970, Santana returned to the studio with producer Fred Catero to record their second album. Carlos Santana used his influence from contemporaries like Peter Green and B.B. King and mixed it with traditional elements in a quest to make Abraxas a classic.


Abraxas by Santana
Released: September 23, 1970 (Columbia)
Produced by: Fred Catero & Carlos Santana
Recorded: Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco & Pacific Recording Studios, San Mateo, CA, April-May 1970
Side One Side Two
Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen
Oye Como Va
Incident at Neshabur
Se a Cabo
Mother’s Daughter
Samba Pa Ti
Hope You’re Feeling Better
El Nicoya
Group Musicians
Gregg Rolie – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Carlos Santana – Guitars, Vocals
David Brown – Bass
Michael Shrieve – Drums
José Areas – Percussion
Michael Carabello – Percussion

Written by percussionist Michael Carabello, “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts” begins with doomy orchestration including sparse piano notes and chimes before Santana’s guitar cuts through in the intro. The main section then features a Latin beat with further Avant Garde, jazzy musical textures and a slightly psychedelic vibe before the piece fades for the into to the hit song “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen”, The cover of a Fleetwood Mac tune starts with Rollie’s delicate organ accompanying Santana’s deliberative guitar through the extended intro before Rollie’s smooth vocals arrive for the verse. The “Gypsy Queen” section of the piece is built on frantic percussion played along with David Brown‘s thumping bass line with accents of pure rock riffing.
The single version reached the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1971, Santana’s highest-charting song until “Smooth” on 1999’s Supernatural.

Tito Puente’s “Oye Cómo Va” follows with a pointed bass and organ riff joined by a distinctive guitar and drums by Michael Shrieve in the intro before the short Spanish language verses. Between the verses is an instrumental section where Santana provides not so much a guitar solo as some very distinct and memorable licks, while Rollie went for a more improvised organ lead. Aside from the preponderance of Latin percussion, the instrumental jam “Incident at Neshabur” is very similar to some of the instrumentals provide by the Allman Brother’s Band in the day, fusing blues, jazz, and a bit of musical originality. “Se Acabó” starts the original second side with a quick, upbeat jam by percussionist José Areas.

Santana 1970

Rolie composed two quality rock-based songs on Abraxas which add some real diversity to the record. “Mother’s Daughter” is a soulful rocker and an entertaining and accessible tune with enough prog rock features to make it interesting, while “Hope You’re Feeling Better” is a hard rocker which starts with a John Lord-like organ riff and maintains its energy throughout. In between the two Rollie tunes is the exquisite instrumental “Samba Pa Ti”, where Carlos provides a slow, deliberative and emotional blues lead and, while this tune gets a bit more intense in the middle with the other group members joining in, it never relinquishes this beautiful vibe. The album closes with “El Nicoya”, a short percussive showcase for Areas and Carabello.

Abraxas became the Santana’s first album to top the US charts and it eventually reached quadruple platinum in sales. The group offered a similar follow-up with Santana III in 1971, which also topped the charts, before their classic line-up began to fracture, most notably when Rollie departed to form his new band, Journey.

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Ted Nugent

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Ted Nugent 1975After nearly a decade leading the Amboy Dukes, Ted Nugent embarked on a solo career and released his self-titled debut album in 1975. With a newly formed group that featured the most recent rhythm section of the Amboy Dukes, Nugent developed an impressive set of steady hard rock tunes which are at once accessible, cutting edge and a fine showcase for Nugent’s guitar leads. The album was a minor hit on both sides of the Atlantic and reached multi-platinum sales status in the United States.

A native of Michigan, Nugent formed the Amboy Dukes while still in high school in 1964. The group released their self-titled debut album in 1967 and found minor success with the follow-up Journey to the Center of the Mind and the single of the same name. The group shifted through many lineup changes through the early 1970s, with several more album releases and constant touring, but with no real commercial breakthrough. Finally, Nugent decided to disband the group and he took a three-month hiatus to the Colorado wilderness to renew his energy. When he returned to civilization, Nugent decided to join a new band and enlisted vocalist/guitarist Derek St. Holmes to front the group.

After securing a deal with Epic Records, Nugent and co. entered the studio with producers Tom Werman and Lew Futterman. The primary goal was to develop a definitive rock and roll album, and recorded the albumin a spontaneous and uninhibited fashion to capture the energy of the moment.


Ted Nugent by Ted Nugent
Released: September, 1975 (Epic)
Produced by: Tom Werman & Lew Futterman
Recorded: The Sound Pit, Atlanta, GA, 1975
Side One Side Two
Stranglehold
Stormtroopin’
Hey Baby
Just What the Doctor Ordered
Snakeskin Cowboys
Motor City Madhouse
Where Have You Been All My Life
You Make Me Feel Right at Home
Queen of the Forest
Group Musicians
Derek St. Holmes – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Ted Nugent – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Rob Grange – Bass
Cliff Davies – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album begins with the deliberate but powerful anthem, “Stranglehold”. This extended (eight-plus minutes) and indelible track, which was released as the album’s lead single, is a real guitar showcase for Nugent while also displaying the talent of other group members, from the majestic lead vocals by St. Holmes to Grange’s distinct flange bass to the backwards cymbals and Bolero rhythms by Davies. “Stormtroopin'” is of a more traditional rock length and features great crisp production and a later percussion section to set up backing for Nugent’s next guitar lead showcase. “Hey Baby” was a solo composition by St. Holmes and it became the second single from the album. This bluesy rocker has a bit of Skynard-like Southern rock vibe with some organ provided by guest Steve McRay.

Next up is “Just What the Doctor Ordered”, built on variations of Nugent’s riff arpeggio throughout along with rhythmic rudiments and drum rolls executed by Davies. “Snakeskin Cowboys” is a very solid rocker that starts with a deliberative guitar and bass riff before fully kicking in. A frantic tune to match its name, “Motor City Madhouse” features lead vocals by Nugent, double bass drums and a backing chorus for title hook.

Ted Nugent Band

The latter part of Ted Nugent features some musical diversity. “Where Have You Been All My Life” is an upbeat blues rocker with a fine riff and distinct, scratchy rock vocals by St. Holmes. “You Make Me Feel Right at Home” starts with a brief drum intro before breaking into a jazzy tune, complete with lead vocals and vibraphone by Davies. The closing track, “Queen of the Forest” returns to the hard rock blueprint with plenty of rhythmic rudiments to complete the LP.

With the momentum from this debut, Nugent and the group took off with further success through the late 1970s, starting with the subsequent hit albums Free-for-All (1976), Cat Scratch Fever (1977) and the multi-platinum live album Double Live Gonzo! (1978).

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1975 albums.

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Ritual de lo Habitual by Jane’s Addiction

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Ritual de lo Habitual by Jane's AddictionReleased in the summer of 1990, Ritual de lo Habitual was the third overall album and second studio release by Jane’s Addiction. This critically acclaimed album was at once on the razor’s edge of the emerging alternative movement and the last release by the group before their initial breakup in 1991. Stylistically, Ritual de lo Habitual is loosely divided into two halves with a group of frenzied rockers early and some extended and theatrical tracks later on the record.

Jane’s Addiction was formed in Los Angeles in 1985 by lead vocalist Perry Farrell and bassist Eric Avery. Soon drummer Stephen Perkins and guitarist Dave Navarro joined the group to the round out the quartet. The group was wildly successful on the LA club scene and, after releasing their self-titled 1987 live album on an independent record label, they entertained offers from many major labels before signing with Warner Bros. Records. In 1988, the group recorded and released Nothing’s Shocking.

Producer Dave Jerden worked with the group on Nothing’s Shocking and stayed on for Ritual de lo Habitual. While the sessions produced quality music, they were marred by internal conflicts over drug use and royalty splits. Upon release of Ritual de lo Habitual, there was controversy over its album cover and so two packaging versions were created with one having a “clean” cover.


Ritual de lo Habitual by Jane’s Addiction
Released: August 21, 1990 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Dave Jerden & Perry Farrell
Recorded: Track Record, North Hollywood, CA, 1989-1990
Track Listing Group Musicians
Stop!
No One’s Leaving
Ain’t No Right
Obvious
Been Caught Stealing
Three Days
Then She Did …
Of Course
Classic Girl
Perry Farrell – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Dave Navarro – Guitars
Eric Avery – Bass
Stephen Perkins – DrumsRitual de lo Habitual by Jane's Addiction

In a bit of irony, the song that starts things off is entitled “Stop!” and, after a spoken word intro by guest Cindy Lair, the tune comes in with pure energy and it doesn’t relent until the moderately timed mid section before it comes back with equal fury during Navarro’s frenzied guitar lead. “No One’s Leaving” is more rhythmically based than the opener but with equal energy, especially during a blistering guitar lead. “Ain’t No Right” is a short track built on Avery’s solo bass to accompany Farrell’s amoral lyrics.

The next track, “Obvious”, features a rich, psychedelic like beginning over a steady rhythm by Perkins. This song has different approach and vibe than anything previous on album and it features guest Geoff Stradling on piano. “Been Caught Stealing” is the most indelible tune on the album with plenty of inventive production, from the opening dog barks to the wild riffs and simultaneous counter-riffs to the funky dance rhythms to direct, storytelling confessional lyrics.

Jane's Addiction, 1990

Next comes a series of extended tracks that make up the richly produced second half of the album. The best of these is “Three Days”, a nearly eleven minute track which constantly builds in intensity. It begins with a haunting and deliberative first section before it gets rhythmic with the intense drumming of Perkins at about three and a half minutes in. Navarro adds an ethereal guitar lead over this before the piece migrates to its intense final section. The next two extended tracks are not quite as interesting. The eight minute long “Then She Did…” starts fine as a moody ballad with interesting riffs and charms but the rest of the song doesn’t do much beyond adding some additional musical arranging. The seven minute, Eastern flavored “Of Course” is dominated by the violin of Charlie Bisharat. The album concludes with the traditional rock ballad, “Classic Girl”, featuring great guitar textures throughout that help close the album out.

Ritual de lo Habitual has been certified 2× Platinum in the US and the band embarked on a lengthy tour to support the album from late 1990 well into 1991, which included headlining the first Lollapalooza festival, which Farrell co-created. Later in the year Avery and Navarro left the group and Jane’s Addiction disbanded for the initial time.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1990 albums.

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Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

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Ritchie Blakmore's RainbowOriginating as a side project for Ritchie Blackmore while he was still the guitarist for Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow turned out to be the debut studio album for Rainbow, the new group that would be Blackmore’s sole focus for nearly a decade to come. This album, which found critical acclaim and notoriety for its fantasy based lyrics combined with it’s more direct heavy rock sound, was composed and delivered by Blackmore along with members of the American band Elf.

Blackmore co-founded Deep Purple in 1968 and saw that group through stylistic and personnel changes before they reached the top of the rock world with the 1972 classic album Machine Head. However, tensions in the group led to the departure of lead vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover the following year and the pair were replaced by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes respectively. This new lineup of Deep Purple released a pair of 1974 albums, Burn and Stormbringer, which saw a stylistic shift towards seventies style funk rock, a style of which Blackmore was not all too fond.

In late 1974, Blackmore entered a studio in Florida with members of Elf, a group fronted by Ronnie James Dio which had opened for Deep Purple on a previous tour and of whom Blackmore had been very impressed. The intent was to record and release a solo single, but Blackmore found the experience so satisfying that he decided to extend the sessions to a full album. The group traveled to Musicland Studios in Munich, West Germany with producer Martin Birch to record Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. With this further positive recording experience, Blackmore decided to leave Deep Purple and become a full time member of Rainbow.


Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow by Rainbow
Released: August 4, 1975 (Polydor)
Produced by: Ritchie Blackmore, Martin Birch, & Ronnie James Dio
Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, February – March 1975
Side One Side Two
Man on the Silver Mountain
Self Portrait
Black Sheep of the Family
Catch the Rainbow
Snake Charmer
Temple of the King
If You Don’t Like Rock n’ Roll
Sixteenth Century Greensleeves
Still I’m Sad
Primary Musicians
Ronnie James Dio – Lead Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
Micky Lee Soule – Piano, Keyboards
Craig Gruber – Bass
Gary Driscoll – Drums

Right from the start, “Man on the Silver Mountain”, seems at least a half decade ahead of its time as it delivers a style common in the 1980s, with Dio’s dynamic vocals over simple rock riffing and rhythms. This became the debut single by Rainbow and remains one of their best known radio tracks. “Self Portrait” features a complex time signature due to the execution by drummer Gary Driscoll and bassist Craig Gruber and this track is highlighted by Blackmore’s fantastic, bluesy lead.

“Black Sheep of the Family” is a cover of a song by the band Quatermass and it adds a fine upbeat, almost conventional pop break on the first side. This song was the intended single that Blackmore originally recorded in ’74. “Catch the Rainbow” is an extended bluesy ballad to end the original first side, highlighted by surprising co-lead vocals / medley by Shoshana and Blackmore’s long guitar-lead outro. To start Side 2, “Snake Charmer” is built with some interesting guitar riffs and layers.

Rainbow in 1975

“Temple of the King” is a real highlight of the second side, as a track with a medieval tenor and tone with a calm, moderate delivery. This song features more great bass playing by Gruber along with harmonized vocals to accompany Blackmore’s crisp, moody guitar lead and later dissolve into a classical style acoustic in outtro. “If You Don’t Like Rock n’ Roll” is a good time, pure rocker with choppy piano by Micky Lee Soule, who also adds a later piano lead. “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves”is a hard rocker with more medieval lyrics (albeit no real musical interpretation of the traditional English folk song from 1580). Here, Soule plays a clavinet to add to the rock effect as Dio expertly delivers the lyric. The album ends rather oddly with an instrumental cover of the Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad” from their 1965 album Having a Rave Up. This instrumental features a hyper blues riff with tremendous percussion by Driscoll throughout.

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow was a fairly successful commercial album, reaching the Top 30 in the USA and nearly hitting the Top 10 in the UK. Ronnie James Dio has cited this release as his favorite Rainbow album. Beyond Dio however, Blackmore was unhappy with the rest of the former Elf line-up and he soon released everybody except for Dio for the 1976 follow-up release, Rainbow Rising, and subsequent international tours.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1975 albums.

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Voices by Hall & Oates

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Voices by Hall and OatesHall and Oates finally reached commercial pay dirt with their ninth studio album, Voices. Released in the summer of 1980, this record was on the Billboard album charts for over 100 weeks as it slowly became a massive hit peaking about a year after it was released and being a catalyst for phenomenal commercial success through the mid 1980s. Voices is split musically, with its original first side featuring new wave pop and side two reverting to more classic elements of rock, funk and soul.

This duo from Philadelphia delivered a critically acclaimed album, Abandoned Luncheonette, in 1973 but had no hit singles through their first three albums (although “She’s Gone” from Abandoned Luncheonette would be re-released in 1976 and become a hit). After signing with RCA Records they released their 1975 self-titled fourth album, which contained the Top Ten ballad “Sara Smile”, a song Daryl Hall wrote for his girlfriend and future songwriting collaborator Sara Allen. The late seventies saw four more album releases – Bigger Than Both of Us (1976), Beauty on a Back Street (1977), Along the Red Ledge (1978), and X-Static (1979) – all of which found moderate Top 40 success with Bigger Than Both of Us spawning their first number one hit, “Rich Girl” in early 1977. Still, with this wide output and near constant touring, Hall and Oates felt like they were not maximizing their potential during this period.

The new decade brought a new approach for the duo as Hall and John Oates decided to self-produce their next album as well as use their own touring band, including bassist John Siegler and drummer Jerry Marotta, in the studio. They also decided to record in New York City (their then hometown) instead of Los Angeles, where they had recorded much of their late seventies albums. What would become Voices was written and arranged over a short period of time and recorded in early 1980.


Voices by Hall & Oates
Released: July 29, 1980 (RCA)
Produced by: Daryl Hall & John Oates
Recorded: Electric Lady Studios, New York City, November 1979 – April 1980
Side One Side Two
How Does It Feel to Be Back
Big Kids
United State
Hard to Be in Love with You
Kiss on My List
Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
You Make My Dreams
Everytime You Go Away
Africa
Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)
Primary Musicians
Daryl Hall – Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
John Oates – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
G.E. Smith – Guitars
John Siegler – Bass
Jerry Marotta – Drums

It is clear by the first four tracks what the group and label wanted to portray as their sound on Voices and, perhaps even more surprising,  the two Oates led tracks are the higher quality of this group. “How Does It Feel to Be Back” kicks things off with lead vocals by Oates, a jangly guitar and a strong beat which makes it feel like a cross  between Springsteen and Eddie Money. Hall’s “Big Kids” is more new wave flavored than the opener and has an odd effect on his vocals which is not needed at all. “United State” is another new wave track with a stronger rock presence while “Hard to Be In Love with You” features some interesting guitar and synth layers and duo lead vocals by Hall and Oates.

The hit “Kiss On My List” has the most interesting back story of any song on the album. It was written by Janna Allen (Sara’s sister) and, having never recorded a song before, Hall agreed to cut a demo as a product for her songwriting portfolio. However, the production team liked the demo so much that they decided to add vocals and instrumentation to the demo, including a fantastic guitar lead by guest Jeff Southworth. Released as the third single from the album, “Kiss On My List” became a number one hit song. For her part, Sara Allen co-wrote two other songs on Voices, including “Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)”, which features a choppy mix of ska beats and R&B vocal motifs and the funky hit “You Make My Dreams”. This latter song features Hall’s choppy electric piano contrasted by his excited vocal melodies as it reached the Top 5 of the charts in 1981.

Hall and Oates

The retro-sounding second side of the album starts with a cover of the classic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. This oft covered track, written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector, may have it’s best effort at modernizing the 1964 Righteous Brothers classic sound with Oates and Hall replicating the vocals of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield nicely and the instrumentation does not try to replicate the original “wall of sound” but uses a tasteful modern rock arrangement. Hall’s “Everytime You Go Away” is an excellent soulful ballad which was recorded live in the studio to try and capture the sound like that of the classic Stax Studios in Memphis. This song comes complete with rich organ by guest Ralph Schuckett and, although this version was not released as a single, it was covered by Paul Young in 1985 and became another number 1 hit. “Africa” is a fun track by Oates who provides native-like lead vocals over a chanting backing chorus and a hand-jive like drum beat with a later sax lead by Charlie DeChant. The closing track, “Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)”, is a bass-driven final attempt at a pop hit, deriving from a mass murderer who was circulating in the New York subways at the time, giving it a dark comedic quality.

Voices debuted at number 75 in August 1980 and slowly climbed to its Top 20 peak nearly a year later. By that time, Hall and Oates had already recorded and released their 1981 follow-up, Private Eyes, which continued their meteoric commercial momentum.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1980 albums.

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