Tonight's the Night by Neil Young

Tonight’s the Night by Neil Young

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Tonight's the Night by Neil YoungDuring an era of glam rock and progressive virtuoso, Neil Young delivered a raw and genuine record with Tonight’s the Night. Although released in mid 1975, the music on this album was recorded years earlier, with the bulk of it coming from a single jam session in August 1973. The somber songs were recorded in the wake of the deaths of two professional colleagues of Young’s, former Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten as well as a roadie who worked for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Young found both critical and commercial success with 1972’s Americana-flavored LP Harvest. Young then went on tour with Whitten and member of the backing group “The Stray Gators”, which included pedal steel player Ben Keith. However, it became apparent during rehearsals that Whitten could not function due to his drug abuse.  Shortly after being released from the tour, Whitten died from an overdose in November 1972. Original music from this tour was later released on the 1973 live album Time Fades Away, the first of what would be three consecutive commercial failures later known as the “ditch trilogy”. Young and Keith then formed “The Santa Monica Flyers” with keyboardist and guitarist Nils Lofgren. Following the second drug-induced death in less than a year, roadie Bruce Berry in mid 1973, Young decided to record an album specifically inspired by the incidents.

Tonight’s the Night was recorded quickly, capturing a raw energy and spontaneity. Much of it was recorded in a small rehearsal room behind a music equipment rental shop in Los Angeles in August and September 1973. However, Tonight’s the Night raw sound and dark tone was initially rejected by the Reprise label, causing a two year delay in its release. In the meantime, Young recorded another album, On the Beach in 1974, a more melodic and acoustic effort that also sold poorly (the second of the “ditch trilogy”). After a brief stadium tour with CSNY in late 1974, Young recorded another acoustic album, entitled Homegrown, an album he ultimately decided not to release (many of the songs were later included on other albums by Young). Instead, he fought once again to have Tonight’s the Night released, and it finally was in June 1975.


Tonight’s the Night by Neil Young
Released: June 20, 1975 (Reprise)
Produced by: David Briggs, Tim Mulligan, Elliot Mazer & Neil Young
Recorded: Fillmore East, New York City, Broken Arrow Ranch & Studio Instrument Rentals, Hollywood, March 1970 – September 1973
Side One Side Two
Tonight’s the Night (Pt. I)
Speakin’ Out
World on a String
Borrowed Tune
Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown
Mellow My Mind
Roll Another Number (For the Road)
Albuquerque
New Mama
Lookout Joe
Tired Eyes
Tonight’s the Night” (Pt. II)
Primary Musicians
Neil Young – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano
Ben Keith – Pedal Steel & Slide Guitars
Nils Lofgren – Piano, Guitars, Vocals
Billy Talbot – Bass
Roger Earl – Drums, Vocals

The opening title track has an intro that methodically builds harmonies through repetition of main hook. The song directly references Bruce Berry and talks of how the late roadie would play Young’s guitar late at night after gigs. From the jump, it is unmistakable that this album is sonically raw for a major artist release and this especially true of Young’s lead vocals on this track where he is, at times, too close or too far away from the mic. “Speakin’ Out” features bluesy piano and lead electric with an excellent melody over the dueling instruments, right up to Young saying “alright Nils” to coach the commencement of a guitar lead. “World on a String” is a more straight-forward country/rock track, with “Borrowed Tune” being a straight-up admission of being a derivation of the Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane” from 1966’s Aftermath. This Neil Young version features his fine harmonica intro and slow, emotive, high pitched vocals matching the melody of Lofgren’s piano.

The oldest track on Tonight’s the Night is a 1970 live Fillmore East recording of “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown”. The song was co-written by Whitten, who also provides vocals with the performance by Crazy Horse and this heavy rocker has a Grateful-Dead-like style to provide a different vibe, that still seems to fit perfectly in the sequence of this album. “Mellow My Mind” is first song that really sounds like a Harvest-era Neil Young tune, with a nice blend of folk, rock and country under harmonic and unique vocals, while “Roll Another Number (For the Road)” is more pure country track with a pedal steel lead by Keith, multi-part harmonies throughout, and a spoken word vocal in third verse which reminisces about the Woodstock Music Festival.

Neil Young

While “Albuquerque” has a great Western vibe during extended intro, the rest of the song does not quite live up to its initial promise, and the following track, “New Mama” is also pretty standard and unremarkable. However, the next two songs may be the best overall on the album. “Lookout Joe” is a strong, chord, driven rocker with a fine melody and hook and a slow but strong rock beat by Kenny Buttrey leading to the fine guitar lead by Keith. The spoken word, pleasant, mellow intro and verses of “Tired Eyes” are contrasted by the rich harmonies of the choruses. This song is, effectively, the grand finale as a lazy harmonica plays over the country-esque backing before the final track, “Tonight’s the Night” (Part II) offers a different take on the opener with just a slightly distinctive musical arrangement driven by the pulsating bass by Billy Talbot throughout.

While Tonight’s the Night did reach the Top 30 in the American Pop Albums chart, it’s poor sales solidified this as the third and final installment of the “ditch trilogy”. While it received mixed reviews at the time, it is now widely regarded as a classic by Neil Young. For decades there has been speculation that an entirely different version of the album exists that is even more intense than this published version, but as of 2020 that version has not yet seen the light of day.

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Gasoline Alley by Rod Stewart

Gasoline Alley by Rod Stewart

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Gasoline Alley by Rod StewartHis second official solo album, Gasoline Alley, is a critically acclaimed 1970 album by Rod Stewart. It features a diverse mixture of covers and originals that reflect the various styles of Stewart’s various musical projects and this album has been described as one that both celebrates tradition while featuring the rock sensibilities of its present. Ultimately, while the album is a sentimental snapshot of place and time, it has maintained its musical integrity and interest a half century after its creation.

Sir Roderick David Stewart was born in war-torn London, 1945 to parents of both Scottish and English ancestry. As a teenager he developed an interest in English folk music and he began playing harmonica in the early 1960s, joining the rhythm and blues group The Dimensions as a harmonica player and part-time vocalist. One of the group’s earlier gigs in 1963 was opening for The Rolling Stones in London. After leaving The Dimensions, Stewart made his recording début with the single “Up Above My Head” in June 1964, and soon signed a solo recording contract with Decca Records, where he recorded several further singles and made some national television appearances through the mid 1960s but found little commercial success.

In early 1967, guitarist Jeff Beck recruited Stewart to front the heavy blues Jeff Beck Group. The group included bassist Ronnie Wood and the 1968 debut album, Truth, featured contributions from future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones and acted as a model for Zeppelin’s own debut album. Stewart co-wrote three of the original tracks on this critically acclaimed album, which spawned a world wide tour in late 1968 into 1969. The Jeff Beck Group’s second album, Beck-Ola, was recorded in April 1969 for release that summer.

The heavily-touring group was slated to play the Woodstock Music Festival before Stewart and Wood abruptly left the group to eventually form Faces with former members of The Small Faces. Meanwhile, Stewart recorded and released his debut solo album, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (known as The Rod Stewart Album in the US) in late 1969, which established his heartfelt mixture of folk, rock, and country blues in both original and cover material. Faces début album, First Step was released in early 1970 with a more straight-forward rock and roll style and this group quickly earned a strong live following. Simultaneously, Stewart entered the studio with producer Lou Reizner to record Gasoline Alley, which struck a balance between the Faces’ sound and Stewart’s solo debut.


Gasoline Alley by Rod Stewart
Released: June 12, 1970 (Mercury)
Produced by: Lou Reizner & Rod Stewart
Recorded: Morgan Studios, London, February–April 1970
Side One Side Two
Gasoline Alley
It’s All Over Now
Only A Hobo
My Way Of Giving
Country Comfort
Cut Across Shorty
Lady Day
Jo’s Lament
You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want To Discuss It)
Primary Musicians
Rod Stewart – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Martin Quittenton – Guitar
Ronnie Wood – Guitar, Bass
Ian McLagan – Piano, Organ
Mick Waller – Drums

Stewart and Wood collaborated on the opening title track, an excellent folk track with a 12-string acoustic topped by dueling lead guitars and Stewart mimicking the lead riffs throughout to create a catchy melody. Stanley Matthews provides a mandolin lead to “Gasoline Alley” to complete the aura of this ode to a simpler past. the cover of Bobby and Shirley Jean Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” follows as an entertaining track with a country rock feel due to Wood’s twangy guitar and the piano style of Ian McLagan.

A cover of Bob Dylan’s “Only a Hobo”, a song Dylan himself would not release until decades later, offers a nice change of pace as a simple acoustic waltz with sad and moody lyrics delivered masterfully by Stewart. “My Way of Giving” soulfully starts with organ, bass and the masterful guitar chording by Wood. The song was co-written by Ronnie Lane for the Small Faces in 1966 and he, along with Faces band mate Kenney Jones on drums, perform on this track. “Country Comfort” is an Elton John / Bernie Taupin composition and the piano of this folk ballad is delivered nicely by guest Pete Sears, The song also features an odd but charming backing vocal by Jack Reynolds.

Rod Stewart

The album’s second side offers more diversity to its solid overall sound. “Cut Across Shorty” was originally written for Eddie Cochran in 1960 and, a decade later, this version features a duo acoustic beginning by Wood and Martin Quittenton, which is cut across by Mick Waller‘s unique drum pattern before everything kicks in for a driving rhythm under and some fiddle sprinkled throughout. Two Stewart acoustic originals follow, the partly surreal but all feeling ballad “Lady Day” with a fine a fiddle lead, and the celtic-feeling “Jo’s Lament”, with layered instrumental arrangement. “You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Discuss It)” wraps things up with a simmering beat and a funk-inflected theme which brings back the Faces’ rhythm section for a final cameo.

While a commercial disappointment in the UK, Gasoline Alley did become the first of 15 consecutive albums for Stewart to chart in the Top 40 in the United States. He would soon reach superstardom with his next 1971 solo record, Every Picture Tells a Story and continue this success for decades as he became one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

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The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting

The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting

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The Dream of the Blue Turtles by StingFollowing a remarkable five years of stellar success with The Police, vocalist and songwriter Sting launched his solo career with his 1985 debut The Dream of the Blue Turtles. With this, Sting worked hard to distinguish his own sound away from the distinct styles of his former trio, bringing in a coterie of jazz, R&B and world style backing musicians. Lyrically, the tunes cover interpersonal as well as topical issues, which work well in some instances but come off a little preachy and pretentious in others.

Sting claims that he decided to leave the Police while onstage at Shea Stadium in New York in August 1983 in support of the group’s top-selling album Synchronicity. The group actually never formally broke up, but all three members focused on their individual projects in the mid 1980s. For Sting, this included working on the 1984 benefit project, Band Aid, and providing the intro vocals for Dire Strait’s hit song “Money for Nothing” from their 1985 album Brothers In Arms.

Co-produced by Pete Smith, the album was recorded both at Eddy Grant‘s studio in Barbados and at LeStudio in Quebec, Canada, a studio used frequently by Rush in the early to mid 1980s. Wanting to move away from the “confines of pop”, Sting’s goal was to erode the boundaries between rock and jazz by using top musicians familiar with both.


The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting
Released: June 1, 1985 (A&M)
Produced by: Pete Smith & Sting
Recorded: Blue Wave Studio, Saint Philip, Barbados and Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec, January 1984–March 1985
Side One Side Two
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free
Love Is the Seventh Wave
Russians
Children’s Crusade
Shadows in the Rain
We Work the Black Seam
Consider Me Gone
The Dream of the Blue Turtles
Moon Over Bourbon Street
Fortress Around Your Heart
Primary Musicians
Sting – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Bass
Kenny Kirkland – Keyboards
Branford Marsalis – Saxophone
Darryl Jones – Bass
Omar Hakim – Drums

The moderate cool jazz/pop with a good hook off “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” starts things off. Steady throughout, the bridge section breaks out of the main groove as an interesting change on this Top 10 hit. “Love Is the Seventh Wave” follows with highly philosophical lyrics above an electronic reggae arrangement. The song’s title is derived from a popular saying among surfers and sailors and it concludes with a brief homage to “Every Breath You Take” from Sting’s former band. Speaking of The Police, there is one remake on this album, “Shadows in the Rain”, originally released on 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta. This version starts with an off-beat drum entry and the shout by someone of “what key is it in?”, building tension until the song breaks into an upbeat blues jam with an impressive sax lead by Branford Marsalis.

Co-written by Sergei Prokofiev, “Russians” features a synthesized and ominous vibe with lyrics that are both profound – (“We share the same biology, regardless of ideology / I hope the Russian love their children too”) – and a bit outdated philosophically. Other topical tracks include “Children’s Crusade” is a ballad with lyrics that speak of the devastation brought about by heroin addiction, and “We Work the Black Seam” with a chanting-like melody over some African beats and lyrics that speak of working men and modern industrialization.

Sting 1985

The jazz-tinged tunes continue with “Consider Me Gone”, with fine drumming by Omar Hakim to accompany Darryl Jones‘s bass, which later temporarily breaks into a fine jazz phrase. The title track is a short but entertaining piano jazz jam, with the title itself coming from an actual dream by Sting where aggressive and quite drunk blue turtles were doing back flips and destroyed his garden. Sting provides fretless bass on “Moon Over Bourbon Street”, while some distant horns give the arrangement lots of atmosphere beneath the narrative vocals. Like it begins, the album concludes with a strong pop song, “Fortress Around Your Heart”. This is, perhaps, the most “Police-like” track on Dream of the Blue Turtles with subtle key changes in the verses, animated drumming under the hook and very profound lyrics throughout. Marsalis’ final sax lead closes out the album on a fine note.

The Dream of the Blue Turtles reached the Top 5 in various countries on both sides of the Atlantic, answering the doubts as to whether it was wise to abandon the uber-successful Police. Later in 1985, a documentary film called Bring On the Night was released, focusing on this jazz-inspired project.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1985 albums.

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Peter Gabriel 1980

“Melt” by Peter Gabriel

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Peter Gabriel 1980Peter Gabriel‘s third solo album was also the third to be officially eponymous, although this 1980 record has been given the unofficial title “Melt”. This album is credited as Gabriel’s artistic breakthrough due to its innovative use of electronic effects and gated drums without any cymbals. In fact, the album was released at different time in the UK and US because the original US distributor, Atlantic Records, refused to release and ultimately dropped Gabriel from their roster because they objected to its unconventional sound.

After departing Genesis in 1975, Gabriel took a unique approach to his new solo career. He wanted his record releases to be like issues of a magazine, all using similar typeface but with unique designs by Hipgnosis. Over time, each album received an unofficial nickname based on these cover designs. Gabriel’s 1977 debut was called “Car” while his 1978 sophomore release was called “Scratch”.

After an extensive tour through the second half of 1978, Gabriel dedicated much of 1979 to recording this third album. Co-produced by Steve Lillywhite, the music is influenced by African music and the recordings make inventive use of drum machines and other sequencers with the songs built up from the rhythm track.


Peter Gabriel (1980) by Peter Gabriel
Released: May 23, 1980 (Charisma)
Produced by: Steve Lillywhite & Peter Gabriel
Recorded: Bath Studio and Townhouse Studio, London, England, 1979
Side One Side Two
Intruder
No Self Control
Start
I Don’t Remember
Family Snapshot
And Through the Wire
Games Without Frontiers
Not One of Us
Lead a Normal Life
Biko
Primary Musicians
Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
David Rhodes – Guitars, Vocals
Larry Fast – Keyboards, Bagpipes
John Giblin – Bass
Jerry Marotta – Drums, Percussion

This album’s innovation is apparent right from the jump with the opening track “Intruder”, featuring Gabriel’s former band mate Phil Collins using a new “gated drum” sound that was developed along with engineer Hugh Padgham. While this may seem slightly dated listening four decades on and realizing the fact that it is more effect than melody, the song does feature a few slight breaks of interesting piano and chorus vocal. “No Self Control” contains slightly more structure than the opener with a lot of rock tension built through its various movements and this is followed by the slight instrumental interlude, “Start”, featuring the saxophone of Dick Morrissey over backing synth pads. “I Don’t Remember” arrives in sharp contrast to the smooth intro as the brash and bright new wave track with one of the catchier hooks on this album. An earlier version of this was recorded to be featured on a 7″ single in Europe, but Charisma Records rejected that version on the basis that Robert Fripp‘s guitar solo was not “radio-friendly” enough.

“Family Snapshot” starts as a dramatic piano ballad complete with some fine fretless bass by John Giblin and builds to a more upbeat tune in later verses. “And Through the Wire” seems to be a natural sequel to “Family Snapshot” until it suddenly awakes with a hook above some thumping bass and percussion. Featuring The Jam’s guitarist Paul Weller, this track closes side one on a strong note. “Games Without Frontiers” is the most indelible track from the album with a French-language chorus of “Jeux Sans Frontières”, which is a popular television show based on pageantry and competition which broadcast in several European countries. This song features a masterful potpourri of a marching percussion, a slide electrical guitar, a rap-like verse and a cool, whistling pre-chorus, all making for a beautiful sound collage. “Games Without Frontiers” became Gabriel’s first top-10 hit in the UK.

Peter Gabriel 1980

“Not One of Us” marks a return to synth-driven experimentation with a message that condemns xenophobia in general and the mentality of cliques, more specifically. Jerry Marotta‘s drumming and percussion pattern shine especially in the latter part of this song. “Lead a Normal Life” is built on a long, deliberate synth and piano arpeggio with only a short vocal section in between two long instrumental sections. This is the track where Atlantic’s founder Ahmet Ertegun reportedly asked, “Has Peter been in a mental hospital?” in rejecting this song in particular and the album overall. Then comes the climatic closer “Biko”. While the song structure itself is simple and steady (in the same vein as the Beatle’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” from Revolver, the inventive overlay of sonic effects makes this it’s own distinct masterpiece. Lyrically, this song is a musical eulogy to black South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died in police custody in 1977, and it was therefore banned in South Africa even while reaching the Top 40 in the UK.

Peter Gabriel‘s third album topped the British charts and charted well in many other places world wide, firmly establishing his career as a solo artist. Another major tour followed the album’s release and extended through late 1980, before Gabriel began work on his fourth (and final) self-titled album, nicknamed “Security” and released in 1982.

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

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I Should Coco by Supergrass

I Should Coco by Supergrass

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I Should Coco by SupergrassSupergrass released their debut album, I Should Coco in 1995. This energetic and eclectic record features an array of rock sub-genres from Brit pop to punk to ska to a dash of trippy psychedelia. The album’s weird title is derived from local English slang for “I should think so” and, being that the group members were still in their teens at the time of writing and recording, this album was advertised as “the sound of adolescence” in its day. As a result, I Should Coco reached the top of the UK Albums Chart and achieved Platinum status in sales.

Guitarist and vocalist Gaz Coombes played in the group The Jennifers with drummer Danny Goffey when both were in their mid teens. This group began to gain local notoriety around Oxford, England and they recorded a 1992 live demo to sell at shows. The Jennifers disbanded in 1993 as some members went on to university and Coombes formed Theodore Supergrass with Goffey bassist Mick Quinn. In mid-1994 the group’s name was shortened to simply Supergrass and they signed with Backbeat Records and issued their debut single, “Caught by the Fuzz”, which achieved the rare feat of being both NME and Melody Maker’s “Single Of The Week” status during the same week.

I Should Coco was recorded throughout much of 1994 with producer Sam Williams. Many of these sessions were specifically to record advance singles (three were released before the album), while the rest was captured during frenzied studio performances as the group wanted to catch the energy and excitement of the songs on tape. All songs on this 13-track album were composed by the members of Supergrass.


I Should Coco by Supergrass
Released: May 15, 1995 (Parlophone)
Produced by: Sam Williams
Recorded: Sawmills Studios, Cornwall, England, February-August 1994
Album Tracks Group Musicians
I’d Like to Know
Caught by the Fuzz
Mansize Rooster
Alright
Lose It
Lenny
Strange Ones
Sitting Up Straight
She’s So Loose
We’re Not Supposed To
Time
Sofa (of My Lethargy)
Time to Go
Gaz Coombes – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Rob Coombes – Keyboards
Mick Quinn – Bass, Vocals
Danny Goffey – Drums, Vocals
I Should Coco by Supergrass

The album opens with “I’d Like to Know”, which is strongly tied to a later song on the album, “Strange Ones”. This opening track features pure thumping modern punk, brimming with energy and unambiguous enthusiasm with Goffey’s drumming especially well done and with a few sonic surprises and rudiment shifts. “I’d Like To Know” was derived from “Strange Ones”, a standard punk rocker albeit with some radical timing changes and vocal effects, played backwards on tape cassette. Next comes “Caught by the Fuzz”, the group’s first single written around the true-life incident of lead singer Gaz Coombes’ arrest for possession of cannabis, in that time it was legal as it now when it has been identified as medicinal treatment with CBD bud products. “Mansize Rooster” is the first track on the album that is much more oriented towards ska than punk and it features very choppy use of piano and guitars. The keyboards are provided by Gaz’s older brother Rob Coombes, who at the time was an unofficial fourth member of the group (later to be made official).

The heavy riff-driven track “Lose It” is sandwiched between two pop hits from I Should Coco. “Alright” is an excellent upbeat track with good melody, interesting chord changes and a harmonized guitar lead, which all worked to make this the group’s biggest hit worldwide. “Lenny” was earlier released and became Supergrass’ first Top 10 hit in the UK, as a track which has some absurd lyrics over a real sixties hard rock feel featuring particular animation by Quinn on bass.

Supergrass

The latter part of the album moves away from the single-ready material and towards eclectic compositions. “Sitting Up Straight” features an early Who-like frantic reggae sound, while “She’s So Loose” finds the more mainstream nineties post-Brit pop feel with extended vocal lines using strategic reverb and just a slight bit of orchestration over the major strummed chord changes. The experimental “We’re Not Supposed To” is the album’s low point with some ridiculous pitched vocals, but they swiftly recover with the excellent, sloshy, Stones-like blues rocker “Time”, where Gaz Coombes delivers a completely distinct vocal style. The epic “Sofa (of My Lethargy)” is the album’s climax with thick vocals, slide guitar, mesmerizing organ tones and a later extended instrumental section for a spacey overall vibe. This more-than-six-minute epic then dissolves into the simple and short acoustic closer, “Time to Go”, as an apt final statement.

I Should Coco is credited with impacting the Britpop music scene as a whole and its success launched the group into a year and a half of heavy touring. They would not return to studio for a follow up for a few years and, even though In It For The Money was a platinum-selling success in the UK, they would not again quite reach the heights of their debut album.

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Animal Tracks by The Animals, both versions

Animal Tracks by The Animals

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Animal Tracks by The Animals, both versionsIn 1965, The Animals released a pair of albums that were each titled Animal Tracks, a May 1965 release in their native UK and a September release in the US. Aside from sharing a title these two records bore little resemblance in either song selections or effective approach. The UK release was filled with fresh recordings of mainly R&B covers, while the US version featured recent hit singles, B-sides along with other recordings previously released in Britain but not in America, making this a fine compilation of the group’s early career.

The Animals were formed in 1965 in Newcastle, England when vocalist Eric Burdon joined a group led by keyboardist Alan Price. The nickname “animals” was informally applied due to the group’s wild stage act and eventually they made the name official. After much success in their home region, the group moved to London in 1964, a timely move to catch the British Invasion wave. They performed original, dramatic versions of staple rhythm and blues songs from a variety of artists. The group’s 1964 debut was a reinterpreted version of the standard “Baby Let Me Take You Home”, followed by their haunting version of “House of the Rising Sun”, which became a worldwide hit for the group.

Producer Mickie Most shepherded all the group’s recordings through their initial two years in the studio. This included a US-only release titled The Animals On Tour, released in February 1965. Songs that landed on the UK version of Animal Tracks were recorded over the winter of 1964-1965


Animal Tracks (UK version) by The Animals
Released: May 1965 (Columbia)
Produced by: Mickie Most
Recorded: November 1964 – March 1965
Side One Side Two
Mess Around
How You’ve Changed
Hallelujah I Love Her So
I Believe to My Soul
Worried Life Blues
Roberta
I Ain’t Got You
Bright Lights, Big City
Let the Good Times Roll
For Miss Caulker
Road Runner

Animal Tracks (US version) by The Animals
Released: September 1, 1969 (MGM)
Produced by: Mickie Most
Recorded: July 1964 – June 1965
Side One Side Two
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Take It Easy Baby
Bring It On Home to Me
The Story of Bo Diddley
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
I Can’t Believe It
Club A-Go-Go
Roberta
Bury My Body
For Miss Caulker
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Eric Burdon – Lead Vocals
Hilton Valentine – Guitars, Vocals
Alan Price – Keyboards, Vocals
Chas Chandler – Bass, Vocals
John Steel – Drums, Percussion

 

The UK version of Animal Tracks sets the energetic and confident pace with the opening cover of “Mess Around”, a boogie tune composed by Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun for Ray Charles, who made it a hit in 1953. The Animals also recorded the Ray Charles 1956 jubilant original “Hallelujah I Love Her So” and his slow blues track “I Believe to My Soul” for this album.

Animal Tracks UK by The AnimalsOther covers on the UK version include a a reflective, downbeat rendition of Chuck Berry’s “How You’ve Changed”, the Major Merriweather blues standard “Worried Life Blues”, a surging and angry version of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City”  and a cover of Calvin Carter’s “I Ain’t Got You”, a song also covered in 1965 by The Yardbirds. Animal Tracks (UK) also includes a couple of lighter covers, “Let the Good Times Roll” by Shirley Goodman and the closing Bo Didley track “Road Runner”, a tribute to the popular cartoon character.

Only two songs were featured on both versions of Animal Tracks, Al Smith’s “Roberta” a boogie rocker complete with call and response backing vocals and a twangy guitar lead by Hilton Valentine and Burdon’s “For Miss Caulker”, the only original song on the UK album, which is highlighted by Price’s blues club wild, minor-key piano. Price left the Animals due to personal and musical differences in early 1965, making the Animal Tracks sessions his last with the group until they reunited over a decade later.

Animal Tracks US by The AnimalsThe US version of the album featured an eclectic mix of songs recorded and released in the past year with just a few new recordings made in the summer of 1965. The earliest songs on this album date back to the summer of 1964 with the Burdon / Price original “Take It Easy Baby”, a swinging pop B-Side, as well as two tracks from their 1964 self-titled UK debut album, “Bury My Body” and “The Story of Bo Diddley”. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was an early 1965 single that was a trans-Atlantic hit as an original rendition of a song originally recorded by Nina Simone. The US version also includes the thumping original B-Side of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “Club A-Go-Go”, and also a soulful cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me”.

In June 1965, the Animals returned to the studio with new keyboardist Dave Rowberry. Here they recorded the Burdon original, “I Can’t Believe It”, a fun bluesy track highlighted by rhythms by John Steel, a descending bass line and bright organ by Rowberry, complete with a fine lead ending with Burdon’s vocals nicely mimicking the organ notes. The highlight of the album is the indelible “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, a song which reached #2 on the UK charts. Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the Animals’ version is highlighted by the bass line of Chas Chandler, which intensely backs Burdon’s vocal dynamics and dramatics, which drive the song.

The Animals in 1965

With the departure of Price, the prime early days of the Animals began to rapidly morph. By the end of 1965, the group ended its association with Most and signed a new record deals starting with the 1966 MGM compilation, The Best of the Animals, which became their best-selling album in the US. By September of 1966, the group’s classic lineup had dissipated and they were re-branded Eric Burdon & the Animals, effectively an on-going solo project for the lead vocalist.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration 1965 albums.

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Fire and Water by Free

Fire and Water by Free

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Fire and Water by FreeThe 1970 album Fire and Water was the third studio album by Free and it proved to be the breakthrough of the group’s short but prolific career. The album showcases the British quartet at the peak of their blues rock talents and is at once strongly roots oriented while being sonically innovative. Fire and Water achieved worldwide commercial success, reaching the Top 20 in the US and climbing to #2 on the UK album chart, while staying on that chart for a total of 18 weeks.

Free was formed in London, England in April 1968 when guitarist Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke of the band Black Cat Bones joined vocalist Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser to form the new group. All four members were teenagers at the time of formation but their sparse, straight forward blues rock sound got them quickly noticed and the band was signed to Island Records within the year. Free recorded and released two albums in 1969, their debut Tons of Sobs and their self-titled follow-up, but these failed to achieve any notable commercial success or chart movement. However, the group was quickly becoming renowned for their live shows and non-stop touring. In fact, the group gained an American audience not from their studio albums but due to successful tours opening for Delaney and Bonnie and Blind Faith.

Fire and Water was recorded in London during early 1970 and it was largely self-produced by the group members with the assistance of John Kelly and future Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker. These sessions stretched out over several months as the group continued its relentless touring schedule.


Fire and Water by Free
Released: June 26, 1970 (Island)
Produced by: Roy Baker, John Kelly & Free
Recorded: Trident Studios & Island Studios, London, January–June 1970
Side One Side Two
Fire and Water
Oh I Wept
Remember
Heavy Load
Mr. Big
Don’t Say You Love Me
All Right Now
Group Musicians
Paul Rodgers – Lead Vocals
Paul Kossoff – Guitars
Andy Fraser – Keyboards, Bass
Simon Birke – Drums, Percussion

Most of the tracks on Fire and Water were written by Fraser and Rodgers, starting with the opening title track, a song frequently covered through the years. “Fire and Water” sets the pace by featuring simple riffing and beat to back Rogers’ soulful rock vocals, with Kossoff’s droning lead section and Birke;s closing drum solo addsing much needed contrasts to make this an interesting rock anthem. Next comes “Oh I Wept”, the real highlight of the album’s first side. Here Fraser’s electric piano backs Rogers’ excellent Stevie Wonder-like vocals as this moderate ballad builds some power through the choruses and a short, bluesy guitar lead.

“Remember” is a reworking of an unused song originally titled “Woman by the Sea” from the debut Tons of Sobs recording sessions in late 1968 where Rogers shows yet another element to his vocals. “Heavy Load” is a piano ballad where Fraser shines on both bass and piano as the rhythms nicely fade to the background for a dreamy lead guitar section. Written by all four group members, “Mr. Big” is a slow jam structured to have a more intense instrumental section sandwiched between the definitive rock verses and choruses, while “Don’t Say You Love Me” is a slow, blues ballad with Rodgers vocals oriented towards soul complete with a Gospel-like choir in the background later in the song.

Free

The indelible number from this album is saved for the closer. “All Right Now” is a simple anthem built from a well-defined riff, beat and love song lyrical motifs. However, the unique element for this classic is the mid section which starts with a slight guitar lead over a drum shuffle before Kossoff’s second, more bluesy lead guitar is placed on top of Fraser’s signature bass and piano rhythms. The song was written on the spot following a show where the group was dissatisfied with their performance and audience response and decided they needed an uptempo rocker to close shows. Initiated by Fraser, the group composed this anthem in about “ten minutes” right there in the post-show dressing room and “All Right Now” went on to be a worldwide chart-topper and Free’s most popular song.

With the success of Fire and Water, Free appeared destined for superstardom in the 1970s. However, the road would not be so smooth as the group broke up temporarily in 1971 and permanently the following year as Fraser departed and Kossoff developed a drug addiction which ultimately took his life at age 25. In 1973, Rodgers and Kirke became half of the new group Bad Company, a band which fully realized the top-level potential that Free had shown earlier in the decade.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1970 albums.

Kamakiriad by Donald Fagen

Kamakiriad by Donald Fagen

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This album review is provided by Mike Fishman, who has written about Van Morrison for the Mystic Avenue blog and writes about film for IndependentFilmNow.com.

Kamakiriad by Donald FagenKamakiriad (1993) was Donald Fagen‘s second solo album, part of a trilogy book-ended by The Nightfly (1982) and Morph The Cat (2006) and was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year. The eight-song cycle of Kamakiriad relates the futuristic adventures of the narrator’s journey in his high-tech car, the Kamakiri (Japanese for praying mantis). Kamakiriad was produced by Fagen’s musical partner, Walter Becker, who also provides impressive bass and guitar throughout. The album marked the first collaboration between Fagen and Becker since 1980’s Gaucho, which at the time was the most recent album by Steely Dan. Fagen handled the horn arrangements, working with latter-day Steely Dan stalwarts Cornelius Bumpus, Roger Rosenberg and Jim Pugh. The songs follow the Steely Dan template of cool swing horns and tasty solos (though more lyric-heavy than typical Steely Dan) and the blending of the sardonic and sincere that defined such classics as “Charlie Freak” and “Deacon Blues.”

The album kicks off in jaunty style with “Trans-Island Skyway,” Fagen singing in his high range, occasionally reminiscent of late-period Ray Charles. Horns swing in for background support while Christopher Parker‘s drums drive the proceedings. The song hits an infectious groove as Fagen and the back-up singers repeat the line, “Come on, daddy, get in let’s go.”

“Countermoon” follows in a darker mood with horns and bass prominent and some powerful drumming again from Parker. Spare guitar floats throughout and a bleating tenor sax solo (attributed to Illinois Elohainu, actually Fagen himself playing a saxophone sample on keyboards) leads the song to its conclusion. The somewhat static melody is enlivened by Fagen biting off lines such as “Gotham shudders/There’s a chill in the air,” while growing tender on the lines “At every pay phone there’s somebody cryin’/All the streets are slick with tears/There’s a heartquake on the way.” Amy Helm humorously chimes in with the line, “You’re not my Jackie, my Jackie was the best.”


Kamakiriad by Donald Fagen
Released: May 25, 1993 (Reprise)
Produced by: Walter Becker
Recorded: 1990-1993
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Trans-Island Skyway
Countermoon
Springtime
Snowbound
Tomorrow’s Girls
Florida Room
On the Dunes
Teahouse on the Tracks
Donald Fagen – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Walter Becker – Guitars, Bass
Randy Brecker – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Cornelius Bumpus – Saxophone
Leroy Clouden – Drums, Percussion

Kamakiriad by Donald Fagen

 
Becker’s funky bass drives the third song, “Springtime,” which features strong backing horns and a smattering of evocative keyboards. Fagen’s sweet and sour sensibility, not to mention his fondness for pulpy sci-fi, is apparent in the opening lines about a “spicy new attraction” where “you can scan yourself for traces of old heartache.” Fagen notably name-checks Coltrane.

The album hits the first of two high points with “Snowbound,” a gorgeous jazzy outing with shimmering Hammond B3 Organ from Paul Griffin and tantalizing guitar. Percussion adds flavor as Fagen basks in his particular version of nice and easy that may remind some listeners of “Maxine” from The Nightfly. The song features an extended coda, ending with a crash of cymbals that feels ironic. A line about a critic opining “The work seduces us with light” may be a reference to Anthony Hecht’s poem “More Light! More Light!” Fagen studied poetry with Hecht at Bard College in the 1960’s and references the poem on “Slinky Thing” from Sunken Condos (2012), his fourth solo release.

“Tomorrow’s Girls” is the albums most overtly science fiction song, warning of girls from outer space, “a virus wearing pumps and pearls” hunting lonely guys. Strong drumming from Leroy Clouden propels the tune with spare horns swelling in and out. Becker’s insistent guitar makes the song feel as if it could fit on his own solo album, the superb Circus Money (2008). A gentle break in the song’s latter half finds Fagen crooning about “warm night breezes start rolling in off the sea.”

Donald Fagen

The album hits its second high point with the bouncy “Florida Room,” showcasing tight swinging horns, an extended tenor sax solo from Cornelius Bumpus and warm keyboards. The album’s most breezy tune, it features a memorable, pleasingly-earworm chorus.

Clocking in at eight minutes, the longest song on the album, “On The Dunes,” continues the smooth jazz mood but with a hint of the blues and a downbeat theme of loneliness. Percussion adds texture and Parker tosses in a few drum rolls as Becker provides some funky bass lines. Cornelius Bumpus’s tenor sax sounds like it’s blowing across a peaceful beach at sunset and melds with Fagen’s heartfelt vocalizing to recall “Deacon Blues.” An extended ending allows for a full three minutes of gentle jamming and might have made for the perfect album closer.

Instead the album closes with the danceable if not completely exhilarating “Teahouse On The Tracks,” with our protagonist back in his Kamakiri and heading “for the light.” A lengthy trombone solo from Birch Johnson, some funky keyboards, good time party background vocals and a line from Fagen about “the groovessential facts” help enliven the song. The concept album thus ends neatly, with our protagonist back on the road heading for further adventures.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1993 albums.

Frogstomp by Silverchair

Frogstomp by Silverchair

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Frogstomp by SilverchairAustralian grunge rockers Silverchair launched their recording career when all three members were still teenagers in 1995 with the debut album Frogstomp. The compositions and sound of this record continue the popular heavy sound of early nineties groups like Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots while also forecasting some of the post-grunge sound that emerged later in the decade, a formula which worked well in giving the trio world wide notoriety following its release.

The group was formed under the name Innocent Criminals in Newcastle, New South Wales in 1992 by then-12-year-old classmates Daniel Johns (guitar, vocals) and Ben Gillies (drums). Bassist Chris Joannou later joined to round out the trio which won an Australian national competition for school-based bands in 1994. With this, the group recorded early demos of original tracks, with the song “Tomorrow” receiving national radio play. With an accompanying television appearance, the trio changed their name to Silverchair after a C.S. Lewis novel from The Chronicles of Narnia series. The group soon signed a three-album recording contract with Sony Music subsidiary Murmur Records and began recording their debut in late 1994.

Frogstomp was recorded in just nine sessions with producer Kevin Shirley. Much of the recordings were performed live in the studio to capture the group’s live sound. The album was titled by Johns when he discovered an obscure song from the 1960s while exploring a record execs record collection.


Frogstomp by Silverchair
Released: March 27, 1995 (Epic)
Produced by: Kevin Shirley
Recorded: Festival Studios, Pyrmont, Australia December 1994–January 1995
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Israel’s Son
Tomorrow
Faultline
Pure Massacre
Shade
Leave Me Out
Suicidal Dream
Madman
Undecided
Cicada
Findaway
Daniel Johns – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Chris Joannou – Bass
Ben Gillies – Drums
Frogstomp by Silverchair

Most of the tracks on Frogstomp were written by Johns and Gillies, with some credited individually, starting with Johns’ opener “Israel’s Son”. This track was built mostly on a repeating guitar and distorted bass riff.  The song only slightly changes direction in coda as it works its way into a closing frenzy. The indelible ‘hit’ track “Tomorrow” follows as a moderately paced anthem that finds a melodic intersection somewhere between Alice in Chains and Creed. The authentic rawness of this track is the real charm that propelled this track (and ultimately the teenage band) to radio stations worldwide.

“Faultline” instantly launches in a full pace and pretty much stays there until breaking into a series of short bridges near the end and the closing riff is completely different from  the beginning. “Pure Massacre”, with its mesmerizing, rotating riff that drives this vibe, is one of the more rewarding songs sonically on the early part of the album. This became the second single from Silverchair’s debut record and it was later performed by the group on Saturday Night Live. “Shade” follows as strummed acoustic/clean electric ballad with Johns providing a jazz guitar lead preceding the final chorus.

Silverchair

The second half of the album offers even less pretension and more raw, pure rock. “Leave Me Out” has a classic Black Sabbath feel, while the vibe swiftly returns to the mid 1990s with the off-timed riffing and shoe-gaze vocals of “Suicidal Dreams”. “Madman” is a short instrumental with frantic riffing and potent drumming by Gillies as “Undecided” features a very effective use of a two-chord riff, led by the buzz bass intro of Joannou. The rhythmic track “Cicada” offers some interesting melody and movement, leading to the closing “Findaway”, a frantic, punk-laden anthem which wraps things up in a strong way.

Frogstomp topped the album charts in Australia while reaching the Top 10 on the American charts. It has since been certified double platinum in sales, which saw a resurgence in 2015 when a remastered 20th anniversary edition of the album was released.

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

 

Duke by Genesis

Duke by Genesis

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Duke by GenesisDuke was the tenth overall studio album by Genesis and their second since contracting to a trio. The album is made of twelve songs mainly composed by individual members of the band while remaining inter-related in a thematic way (although not presented in sequence). This mix of pop and prog was a commercial and critical success at the time of its release and it masterfully displays this pivotal musical era of the group at the beginning of the 1980s.

Following the massive success of 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and its equally massive world tour into 1975, lead vocalist Peter Gabriel departed from Genesis. Rather than replace Gabriel, the group decided to continue as a quartet with drummer Phil Collins assuming the role of lead vocalist. The group recorded and released two well received albums in 1976, A Trick of the Tale and Wind & Wuthering. The tours following these two albums made up material for the group’s 1977 live album, Seconds Out. However, guitarist Steve Hackett decided to become the second member to leave the group and embark on a solo career and the remaining members of the group decided not to replace him. Instead, bassist Mike Rutherford played most of the guitar parts. Collins, Rutherford and keyboardist Tony Banks soon recorded and released And Then There Were Three followed by another world tour in 1978.

Entering 1979, the group decided to take an extensive break with Banks and Rutherford working on solo albums and Collins relocating to Vancouver. Later in the year, the group got back together to rehearse and record the material that would become Duke. The album was recorded at Polar Studios in Stockholm with David Hentschel co-producing along with the band.


Duke by Genesis
Released: March 24, 1980 (Charisma)
Produced by: David Hentschel & Genesis
Recorded: Polar Studios, Stockholm, Sweden, November–December 1979
Side One Side Two
Behind the Lines
Duchess
Guide Vocal
Man of Our Times
Misunderstanding
Heathaze
Turn It On Again
Alone Tonight
Cul-de-sac
Please Don’t Ask
Duke’s Travels
Duke’s End
Group Musicians
Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitars, Vocals

The group originally planned to record a side-long suite but ultimately the piece was broken up into six tracks. The main riff leads the majestic instrumental opening of “Behind the Lines”. Complete with deliberative accents on its three-chord main riff, the vocals finally enter about two and a half minutes in for this popular song that opened many concerts in years to come. The opener dissolves into “Duchess”, with a long electronic intro as Banks slowly works in a piano arpeggio. The song was released as single but barely missed the Top 40 on the UK Singles charts. “Guide Vocal” is a short electric piano ballad by Banks followed by Rutherford’s “Man of Our Times”, with a tension filled, heavy synth riff and deliberative drumming.

Continuing the streak of solo compositions comes Collins’ first contribution, “Misunderstanding”. This upbeat lover’s lament pop rock with doo-wop elements and Rutherford’s rollicking bass line with a main riff that heavily borrows from Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 hit “Hot Time In the Summertime”. The song became a worldwide hit and their highest charting single to date in the United States. “Heathaze” is an uplifting ballad written by Banks with Collins definitely channeling Gabriel and some excellent musical phrasing throughout. Banks later went on to describe Duke as his favorite Genesis album.

Genesis in 1980

Side two begins with “Turn It On Again”, the next phase of the underlying suite and a song which best encapsulates the Genesis sound at the turn of the decade and is all encapsulated in a less than four minute track. This upbeat synth-driven with great vocal melody features complex time signatures, with a forward motion where the song’s hook doesn’t appear until the end coda. Next comes a trio of solo compositions – Rutherford’s ballad “Alone Tonight”, Banks’ potent and profane “Cul-de-sac”, and Collin’s emotional “Please Don’t Ask”, with fine instrumental backing throughout and a forgotten gem as far as Genesis ballads go. This all leads to the climatic conclusion. “Duke’s Travels” is a long and deliberative, synth-led mainly instrumental with later vocals to deliver the final narrative of the underlying theme, with “Duke’s End” being one last frantic deluge of the main riff theme from “Behind the Lines” to encapsulate the album.

Duke was the first album by Genesis to reach the top of the UK Album charts and it has been certified Platinum on both sides of the Atlantic. With this commercial success, the band built their own dedicated studio in Chiddingfold, known as “The Farm”, where further successful projects were recorded throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s.

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

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