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Cloud Nine by George Harrison

Cloud Nine by George HarrisonAfter a long hiatus from the regular recording process, former Beatle George Harrison teamed up with former Electric Light Orchestra front man Jeff Lynne to produce Cloud Nine. This was Harrison’s tenth solo studio album but his first in five years and his last to be released in his lifetime. The album was a surprise, re-establishing Harrison as a radio pop artist as well as a recipient of much critical acclaim. The album fuses much of  Harrison’s signature sound along with Lynne’s richly produced sonic landscapes (which were themselves derived from late-era Beatles) along with some of the slick rock and synth qualities of contemporary 1980s production.

After the lukewarm reception to his 1982 album Gone Troppo, Harrison grew frustrated with the music business and suspended his recording career. He tried his hand at film making and contributed a few single songs to soundtracks and other artist’s projects. He made a rare public appearance at a tribute to Carl Perkins in late 1985 along with former band mate Ringo Starr and friend Eric Clapton which rekindled his desire to make music again.

Production for Cloud Nine began in late 1986 at Harrison’s home studio in England. Along with Lynne, both Starr and Clapton contributed to the album as well as other major recording artists such as Gary Wright and Elton John, who contributed on piano but not vocals as he was on his own career hiatus recovering from vocal surgery at the time. The end result was a sort of “comeback” album for Harrison, who was well aware of this fact. He inserted many vintage references in the lyrics and musical styles and posed with one of his first guitars, a 1957 Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet, for the cover shot.
 


Cloud Nine by George Harrison
Released: November 2, 1987 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: George Harrison & Jeff Lynne
Recorded: FPSHOT, Oxfordshire, England, January−March 1987
Side One Side Two
Cloud 9
That’s What It Takes
Fish On the Sand
Just For Today
This Is Love
When We Was Fab
Devil’s Radio
Someplace Else
Wreck of the Hesperus
Breath Away from Heaven
Got My Mind Set On You
Primary Musicians
George Harrison – Guitars, Keyboards, Sitar, Lead Vocals
Jeff Lynne – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Vocals
Gary Wright – Piano
Jim Horn – Saxophone
Ringo Starr – Drums, Percussion

 
Harrison’s slow and steady title song, “Cloud 9”, starts things off in a trance-like fashion with not much real movement musically but with plenty of sonic décor from the signature Harrison slide guitar to sharp and short brass accents. A collaboration with Lynne and Wright called “That’s What It Takes” follows as a more traditional pop song. This song is acoustic and upbeat but with a definite melancholy edge and signature background vocals by Lynne.

“Fish On the Sand” is the album’s first foray into synth-driven music with near programmic bass and drum beat accented by a simple electric riff and some nice chord progressions. “Just For Today” is a minor key piano ballad by Harrison in the fashion usually reserved for ex-band mates John Lennon and Paul McCartney, while “This Is Love” is a pleasant and accessible pop song with great lead guitars and trends towards the song style of the subsequent Traveling Wilburys project. In fact, the original B-side for this single was “Handle w/ Care”, which itself was the lead track and single for Traveling Wilburys.
 

 
The most interesting song on Cloud Nine is “When We Was Fab”, a collaboration between Harrison and Lynne, which has a very ELO edge while making an overt nod to Harrison’s days with the Beatles. It is complete with many string arrangements, Harrison’s slide guitar, rich vocal harmonies and a sitar section at the end of the song. The lyrics make direct references to original Beatles songs as well as inside stories and the song reached the Top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album’s second side starts with “Devil’s Radio”, a straight out piano-driven rocker with measured guitar interludes and lyrics which express Harrison’s general disdain for the media. “Someplace Else” is a pleasant, acoustic ballad which is a fine listen but contains fairly typical subject matter of melancholy songs. On the contrary, “Wreck of the Hesperus” is an upbeat and fun song with lyrics that invoke various landmarks around the world but the following “Breath Away from Heaven” is an ill-advised, almost painful experiment, which uses many 1980s style synths in its methodical choppiness.
 

 
It is almost a shame that the final song on Harrison’s final solo studio album during his life was written by someone else, as “Got My Mind Set on You” was written by Rudy Clark for James Ray in 1962. But that being said, this is a fun pop song which Harrison performs masterfully and squeezes every ounce of entertainment from this beat-driven simple song. The song features great grawling sax by Jim Horn and it went on to become Harrison’s third and final #1 hit. In fact, as of 2012, “Got My Mind Set on You” was the last #1 hit by any former Beatle.

Although Cloud Nine was the last solo album released in Harrison’s lifetime, it wasn’t his final project and he and Lynne moved on to form The Traveling Wilburys, who released a brilliant debut album in 1988. Harrison spent over a decade on his final album, Brainwashed, released in 2002, a year after his death.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 album.

1987 Images

 

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood MacTango In the Night is the fifth and final studio album by successful quintet that brought sustained stardom for Fleetwood Mac. Like their previous four albums, it found popular success driven by the angst and inner turmoil of the band and resulted in the parting of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham soon after its release. The album went on to become the band’s best selling since Rumours a decade earlier, which was one of the top selling albums of all time. Somewhat ironically, the album sprang from a Buckingham solo project, meant to be his third solo album, and the soon-to-depart Buckingham ended up with the bulk of the songwriting credits on the album.

Following the band’s previous album Mirage in 1982, most members dedicated some time to respective solo careers. Vocalist Stevie Nicks released two albums, while Buckingham and Keyboardist Christine McVie each released one during this era. All met a measure of commercial success, which prompted rumours of a band breakup.

However, by 1985 the band had reconvened for this new album, with Buckingham and Richard Dashut co-producing. Together, they forged a unique sound that used just the right amount of 1980s-style synthesizers along with vast use of diverse rhythms, driven by drummer Mick Fleetwood. The result was a commercially successful album that was also distinct from anything the band had produced previously.
 


Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac
Released: April 13, 1987 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Lindsey Buckingham & Richard Dashut
Recorded: November 1985 – March 1987
Side One Side Two
Big Love
Seven Wonders
Everywhere
Caroline
Tango In the Night
Mystified
Little Lies
Family Man
Welcome to the Room…Sara
Isn’t It Midnight
When I See You Again
You and I (Part 2)
Band Musicians
Lindsey Buckingham – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Christine McVie – Keyboards, Vocals  |  Stevie Nicks – Vocals
John McVie – Bass | Mick Fleetwood – Drums, Percussion

 
The album kicks off with Buckingham’s “Big Love” with its unique driving rhythms and decorated cool soundscapes. The intense, shouting lead vocals are flanked by overdubbed guitars and vocals harmonies and chants throughout. Nicks’ “Seven Wonders” provides an immediate contrast to follow. Co-written by Sandy Stewart, the song was an immediate pop radio hit. Christine McVie’s “Everywhere” completes the initial circuit of pop songs in the style that McVie had composed so often through the 1970s and 1980s. It is decorated with great vocals and harmonies, nice keyboard riffs, and just a touch of mystical sound sequences.

A trifecta of Buckingham penned songs rounds off the first side. “Caroline” is percussion driven with African beats at the start before morphing into a more Caribbean rhythm for the verses and choruses. The title song, “Tango In the Night” is a moody, methodical rocker with distinctive sections. “Mystified” was co-written by Christine McVie and contains Baroque style keys over yet another drum beat.
 

 
“Little Lies” was written by Christine McVie and her current husband Eddy Quintela. Ironically, she kept the surname of her previous husband, bass player John McVie, who has a strong presence in the song. The song contains great vocal parts for each of the band’s singers along with bent-note keyboard effects for its signature riff. The song reached #4 on the Billboard charts in the US and #5 on the UK charts.
The ill-advised “Family Man” follows as a cartoonish 1980s pop caricature.

Stevie Nicks’ “Welcome to the Room…Sara” is a pleasant and moderate ballad with a strong beat but melancholy sentiments about her time in rehab. Her acoustic ballad “When I See You Again” contains a spare arrangement and some duet Buckingham vocals towards the end. “You and I, Part II” concludes the album as a sequel to a non-album B-side to the single “Big Love”.

Shortly after the release of Tango In the Night, tensions came to a head and Buckingham departed the band prior to their scheduled tour in support of the album. Although this classic lineup of Buckingham/Nicks/Fleetwood/McVie/McVie would reunite a decade later for the live album The Dance in 1997, they would not again record a studio album.

~
R.A.

 

Kick by INXS

Kick by INXS

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Kick by INXSThe Australian band INXS reached their absolute commercial peak with the well-crafted pop/rock/dance album Kick in 1997. This was the band’s sixth overall studio album since 1980 and marked a distinct migration from their New-Wave roots towards a more funk and soul oriented refinement of late eighties pop.  It yielded four Top Ten hits,  more than any other album in their career. The album’s sound was perfectly in sync with the visual media and the image forged by iconic front man Michael Hutchence which, in turn, also translated well into the non-visual radio and dance club formats. It ultimately transformed the band from the status of an alternative niche to that of a mainstream pop headliner, a status which they maintained well in the 1990s.

Produced by Chris Thomas, the album was initially rejected by Atlantic records who felt the funk and dance elements would alienate INXS’s traditional rock following. They were reportedly offered $1 million to “go back to Australia and start again” but the band persisted in sticking with their plans and the label eventually relented.

The result is amazingly accessible while still maintaining a level of originality from track to track, with each song possessing a different feel from the one previous. Still there are some common elements throughout, especially the simple, direct, and upfront drum beats of drummer John Farriss and the unambiguous guitar riffs forged by brothers Andrew Farriss and Tim Farris. This mixture proved to be a winning formula which the band soon rode to international stardom.
 


Kick by INXS
Released: October 19, 1987 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Chris Thomas
Recorded: Rhinoceros Recordings, Sydney, & Studio De La Grande Armée, Paris, 1986–1987
Side One Side Two
Guns In the Sky
New Sensation
Devil Inside
Need You Tonight
Mediate
The Loved One
Wild Life
Never Tear Us Apart
Mystify
Kick
Calling All Nations
Tiny Daggers
Group Musicians
Michael Hutchence – Lead Vocals
Andrew Farriss – Guitars, Keyboards
Tim Farris – Guitars
Kirk Pengilly – Saxophone, Vocals
Garry Gary Beers – Bass
Graham Broad – Drums, Percussion

 
The drum infused, monotone “Guns In the Sky” starts the album off, complete with opening grunts by Hutchence. The song barely leaves the repetitive, two-chord structure but sets up as a nice contrasting intro for the subsequent, more melodic pop song “New Sensation”. The first of several funk-infused rockers on Kick, “New Sensation” is a fun ride led by a twangy and flanged guitar riff and containing some direct, shouting vocals and well-timed breaks for effects.

The album then moves to a dance oriented semi-suite which contains some of their most popular songs ever. “Devil Inside” is a cool and riff-driven tune with dynamic vocals in both range and style. The lyrics are sexually-fused and nicely complimented by the crisply distorted guitar riff, which cuts through the otherwise smooth sound scape. The song eventually builds towards a strong, climatic ending with building keyboard presence by Andrew Farriss. “Need You Tonight” continues the same general theme and feel, while adding a bit more funk in it’s constant, rotating riff. A well arranged song with overlapping elements, each catchy and memorable in its own right, which helped to make this the band’s top overall hit. “Mediate” is an interesting extension to “Need You Tonight” with a droning rap set over a constant beat and sunrise key pad, before finishing with a well-placed saxophone lead by Kirk Pengilly. Each of these songs contains strong video counterparts, with “Mediate” intentionally replicating the format of Bob Dylan’s classic video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues” right down to the point of apparently deliberate errors.

The sides are bookmarked with strong but middle-of-the road tunes. “The Loved One” has elements of blue-eyed soul with a more modern 1980s arrangement and beat, which gives the impression it could have been a hit in its own right. “Wild Life” is another funky song with a good pop hook and an anthemic vocal hook.
 

 
On several fronts, Kick is very similar to another 1987 album that we recently reviewed, Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Both albums represent the popular apex of bands who started in the earlier 1980’s and both albums are a bit top-heavy with the bulk of the pop songs on side one and lesser known numbers on side two with the exception of one great, out-of-the-ordinary tune. In the case of Def Leppard that song was “Hysteria”, in the case of INXS, this song is “Never Tear Us Apart”. Driven by fast strings and accented by strategic rests, this song stands out from the band’s other radio hits as a brilliantly composed ballad, complete with counter-harmonized backing vocals and a Pengilly sax solo that doesn’t sound like it was put there just to satisfy some formula. This song proves that the band can, in fact, succeed by stretching the limits of their musical scope.

The album concludes with a series of less popular yet very strong songs (there is no filler on this album). “Mystify” is an upbeat swing tune, which is held down to earth by the rock guitars and drums. The title song “Kick” features 1960s style, soul-rock with liberal use of horns throughout and a great driving bass by Garry Gary Beers. “Calling All Nations” returns to the funk formula driven by bright guitars and “Tiny Daggers” is pure 80s pop, keyboard led with slightly interesting vocals.

In total, Kick did just about everything you can expect from a high-end pop/rock album of the 1980s. It forged incredibly catchy and modern sounding songs, while not giving way to the mind-numbing, formulaic trends on many contemporary artists of the time.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1987 albums.


 

Whitesnake album

Whitesnake

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Whitesnake albumWhitesnake‘s eponymous 1987 album bears the dual distinction of being the moment where a rock band finally reaches its full commercial promise and assures its own rapid demise. Both of these achievements could be placed on the lap of the group’s founder, lead vocalist, and all-powerful decision maker David Coverdale. The band was formed in 1978 and named after Coverdale’s first solo album after his short, mid-seventies gig as Deep Purple’s front man. Whitesnake had increasing success with its three previous albums released in 1980, 1982, and 1984 respectively before Coverdale decided to go “all in” with the next release. After the moderate success of the group’s latest album Slide It In, Coverdale teamed up with former Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes to compose new songs with a more aggressive, guitar-oriented sound.

With the exception of two songs that were redone from the 1982 Saints and Sinners album, Sykes co-wrote every song on the the Whitesnake album, which had its release delayed for a year when Coverdale contracted a serious sinus infection which made recording nearly impossible. However, after Coverdale recovered and completed recording, he summarily dismissed Sykes from the band. The subsequent famous music videos would feature new guitarists Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell “miming” Sykes’ guitar parts. The band’s rhythm section faced a similar fate, as bassist Neil Murray and drummer Aynsley Dunbar were replaced with younger, more “video friendly” players post album release and keyboardist Don Airey was never considered part of the touring band. To complete the overall lack of integrity with this album, a different version entitled 1987 was released in Europe with a different running order and two extra tracks.

The bluesy experience which made the album a good listen was discarded and leaving Coverdale in front of a hollowed out faux band to pretentiously soak in the fruits of the multi-year studio effort. The album was by far their most commercially successful and received exponential more radio play than all their previous efforts combined. However, it also alienated many of Whitesnake’s long-time and loyal fans, who viewed this 1987 album as a pander to the mainstream fads of the time.


Whitesnake by Whitesnake
Released: April 7, 1987 (Geffen)
Produced by: Mike Stone & Keith Olsen
Recorded:September 1985-November 1986
Side One Side Two
Crying in the Rain
Bad Boys
Still of the Night
Here I Go Again
Give Me All Your Love
Is This Love
Children of the Night
Straight For the Heart
Don’t Turn Away
Band Musicians
David Coverdale – Lead Vocals
John Sykes – Guitars, Vocals
Neil Murray – Bass
Aynsley Dunbar – Drums & Percussion

The album is best known for the MTV videos which featured actress Tawny Kitaen, Coverdale’s then-girlfriend who he later married. In spite of all the “style over substance” surrounding this album, it does contain some brilliant musical moments, a few of which where Coverdale does a great job channeling some classic-era Robert Plant. The opener “Crying in the Rain” was originally on Saints and Sinners, with this re-recorded version portraying a much heavier, Zeppelin-esque sound.

 

“Still of the Night” is the true highlight of the album, with Sykes and Murray reworking an old demo by Coverdale and Ritchie Blackmore from the Deep Purple days over a decade earlier. The song combines the blues origins of the musicians with a crisper, updated, and harder-driving sound. Coverdale’s vocal call and response to the riffs are classic Page, Plant, and Jones and Dunbar’s hi-hat work during the mid section is pure Bonham, making this song the 1980s heir to classic Zeppelin. Coverdale would later join up with Jimmy Page for a few albums in the early 1990s.

Whitesnake

“Here I Go Again” was the second remake from Saints and Sinners, co-written by Whitesnake’s then-guitarist Bernie Marsden. It became a #1 hit for the band in America and the peak of their commercial appeal. It was also the point at which the band truly “jumped the shark” as the song was re-recorded yet another time for a watered-down “radio-mix” version, which took away absolutely any edge left on this originally fine composition. Much of the rest of the album is unremarkable and formulaic, with the power ballad “Is This Love” also making waves on pop radio. One standout is the closing “Don’t Turn Away”, which is a unique rocker reminiscent to some of the band’s better material on their previous album Slide it In.

That last song leaves the listener with a taste of the Whitesnake’s prior potential which no longer existed even as the band was headlining arenas through 1988. More line-up changes would plague the band moving forward and even with the inclusion of top talent like Steve Vai, the band would never again reach the heights of 1987.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums.

 

A Momentary Lapse Of Reason by Pink Floyd

A Momentary Lapse of Reason
by Pink Floyd

A Momentary Lapse Of Reason by Pink FloydThe first Pink Floyd album not to feature founder and bassist Roger Waters, A Momentary Lapse of Reason represented a definite transition to a new phase in the band’s long history. It came in the midst of a tumultuous period of lawsuits and name-calling between Waters and his former band mates, led by vocalist and guitarist David Gilmour. Waters officially left the band in December 1985 and tried to officially “dissolve” the Pink Floyd name with his departure, but Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason wanted to continue with new projects by the then-two-decades-old band. Later in the A Momentary Lapse of Reason sessions, former band keyboardist Richard Wright was brought on to give the album “more legitimacy” as a Pink Floyd album (although Wright was not re-instated as an official band member until later).

After the band’s previous release of The Final Cut in 1983, Waters, Gilmour, and Mason each composed solo albums, with Waters and Gilmour following up with respective solo tours. It was during Waters’ 1985 tour for The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking that Mason approached him about his desire to continue with a new Pink Floyd project. However, Waters had already decided to break up the group and was not swayed even after Gilmour threatened to continue without him. Lawsuits ensued over the use of the Pink Floyd name, images, and the performance of certain songs, which were not settled until late 1987, after the release of A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

The album’s music originated from sessions for a new Gilmour solo album in 1985, which were recorded primarily on Gilmour’s converted houseboat, called Astoria, anchored on the River Thames. Gilmour changed his mind in 1986 and decided to use the material for a new Pink Floyd album when Mason joined the project. Bob Ezrin, who co-produced the band’s 1979 blockbuster The Wall, was brought on to produce shortly after he had turned down a similar offer from Waters to produce his new solo album, Radio K.A.O.S., which added further fuel to the feud. Ezrin used new digital technologies, MIDI synchronization, and drum machines throughout the album, a significant change from the more traditionally recorded previous Floyd albums.
 


A Momentary Lapse of Reason by Pink Floyd
Released: September 7, 1987 (Arista)
Produced by: Bob Ezrin & David Gilmour
Recorded: Astoria Houseboat Studio, England, October 1986-May 1987
Side One Side Two
Signs of Life
Learning to Fly
Dogs of War
One Slip
On the Turning Away
Yet Another Movie / Round and Around
A New Machine (Part 1)
Terminal Frost
A New Machine (Part 2)
Sorrow
Primary Musicians
David Gilmour – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion, Vocals   |  Rick Wright – Keyboards, Vocals
Tony Levin – Bass   |  Bob Ezrin – Keyboards, Percussion

 
There is no doubt that part of the “Pink Floydization” of the album was to nod back to previous song names, themes, and structures. This is evident in the song titles “A New Machine” (a song “Welcome To the Machine” appeared on 1975’s Wish You Were Here and “Dogs of War”, which is a quasi-sequel to the Roger Waters Animals track “Dogs”. Co-written by Anthony Moore, “Dogs of War” suggests the silent hand behind all war is money, describing political mercenaries in particular.

Mason played a big role in the opening track, “Signs of Life”, by adding some synthesized effects and spoken word in the background. It sets the houseboat scene beautifully with the underlying sound of a boat rowing down a calm river, which was an actual recording of Gilmour’s boatman rowing across the Thames. The result is a cross between the early Pink Floyd experimental sound collages like “Speak to Me”, and the mood-setting long intro to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. “Signs of Life” serves to set up the listener for the sudden and sharp contrast of “Learning To Fly”, where the rock n roll portion of the album really begins.

Perhaps better than any other recording, “Learning to Fly” has the absolute perfect mechanical sound, built to perfection during the verse rhythm by Ezrin, who co-wrote the song along with Gilmour, Moore, and Jon Carin. The theme was inspired by Gilmour’s passion for flying, as he is a licensed pilot, but also symbolizes his new role as the undisputed leader of the band after Waters’ departure. The song put Pink Floyd back on the radio as well as music television for the first time with a professional music video, and reached #1 on the Billboard album rock tracks chart.
 

 
The album’s first side wraps up with a couple of radio-friendly, pop-influenced songs, something very rare on previous Pink Floyd albums. “One Slip” contains a synthesized arpeggio in similar style to some tracks on The Wall. Co-written by Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, the lyrics describe a one-night love affair (another rare theme for Floyd), with the chorus hook providing the title for this album. “On the Turning Away” is another #1 album rock tracks song, with lyrics that explore deeper issues of poverty and oppression, and the tendency of people to forget about those afflicted by such conditions. Musically, the song starts of very calm and ballad-like but transitions to sections of extended biting and wailing signature guitar leads by Gilmour.

The album’s second side contains much less rich songcraft and much more ethereal soundscape and experimental tracks, harkening back to the band’s mid-era prior to Dark Side Of the Moon. These include a mixture of instrumentals and non-traditional sounding pieces, including “Yet Another Movie”, which features some dialogue lifted from the classic film Casablanca. The electrically distorted, noise-gate and vocoder dominated “A New Machine” bookends the smooth-jazz-like instrumental of “Terminal Frost”, which features dueling saxophones by Tom Scott and John Helliwell, the latter of Supertramp fame. The album’s closer, “Sorrow”, contains an opening guitar piece by Gilmour which was recorded live in a large, empty arena, with the sound piped through the public address system. The rest of the song diverges, with a steady beat and electronic effects providing a backdrop for the slicker lead guitars and calm vocals.

After the release, of A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Roger Waters derided his old bandmates’ material on this album as “third rate”. A bit of a rivalry ensued through the subsequent year when both acts toured and sometimes ended up in the same city at the same time. Waters continued his fight on this front by threatening to sue several promoters if they used the Pink Floyd name. In the end, the overwhelming fan response to the Pink Floyd tour, which sold out several large stadiums, re-established the new, truncated lineup of this long established band as an entity, which would carry on for several more years.

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1987 Images

 

In the Dark by Grateful Dead

In the Dark by Grateful Dead

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In the Dark by Grateful DeadIn the Dark was the first studio album by the Grateful Dead in over seven years (their twelfth overall) and was a comeback album on several levels. It was a return to the style of the band’s most famous albums in the earlier 1970s and became an unexpectedly popular success reaching the top ten on the Billboard album chart making it the highest charting album of the group’s long career. Further, the album comes in the wake of serious health issues with guitarist and primary front man Jerry Garcia. Garcia’s health declined through the early 1980s and he nearly lost his life in 1986 when he slipped into a diabetic coma for several days. Although he survived this incident, it caused some permanent memory loss and it is said that Garcia had to re-learn many of his established guitar techniques.

The album was recorded in an unusual fashion.  The band was constantly touring and had been performing much of the new material live for years so they decided to record the basic tracks live on stage in an empty and darkened Marin Veterans Auditorium. This process gave the album its title and helped the band achieve a more authentic sound, something the Dead had long struggled with on studio albums. Later overdubs were added in the studio, which gave the album’s sound a sonic, blended edge. In an interview, Garcia spoke about the recording process on this album;

Marin Vets turns out to be an incredibly nice room to record in. There’s something about the formal atmosphere in there that makes us work. Going in [Marin Vets] without an audience and playing just to ourselves was in the nature of an experiment…”

The band’s sound in the 1980s was also unique to any other era due to the unique talents of Brent Mydland, who possessed both a unique voice and great piano and keyboard skills. Mydland joined the Grateful Dead in 1980 and stayed with the group until his death from a drug overdose in July 1990, making him the third keyboardist in the band to die. Mydland also became a prominent songwriter on both 1980’s Go To Heaven and 1989’s Built To Last, but only contributed one song, “Tons of Steel”, to In the Dark.
 


In the Dark by Grateful Dead
Released: July 6, 1987 (Arista)
Produced by: Jerry Garcia & John Cutler
Recorded: San Rafeal, California, January-March 1987
Side One Side Two
Touch Of Grey
Hell in a Bucket
When Push Comes to Shove
West L.A. Fadeaway
Tons Of Steel
Throwing Stones
Black Muddy River
Band Musicians
Jerry Garcia – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Bob Weir – Guitars, Vocals
Brent Mydland – Keyboards, Vocals
Phil Lesh – Bass
Bill Kreutzmann – Drums
Mickey Hart – Drums

 
The album commences and is most identified with “Touch of Grey”, one of four compositions by Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter, a long time collaborator. This song became the band’s first and only Top 40 hit in their three decade-long career. Hunter had originally intended this song for a solo album in 1981, which was never completed. It was picked up by the Dead for their live shows starting in 1982 and serendipitously carried the central message of the band (and especially Garcia) in 1987 – “I will get by, I will survive”. Although the song became a live favorite by fans before it was issued on album, there was a later backlash after the song’s popularity brought an influx of pop-oriented faux “deadheads”, sometimes referred to as “touchheads” after this song.

The other Garcia/Hunter tunes on the album are the groove-driven “When Push Comes to Shove”, the John Belushi tribute “West L.A. Fadeaway”, and the closing ballad “Black Muddy River”. This last track contains some Gospel influence and great guitars, while “When Push Comes to Shove” contains a good rhythm driven by dueling drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart.
 

 
Guitarist Bob Weir also co-wrote and provided lead vocals for a couple of tracks. “Hell In a Bucket” is the best song on the album overall, as it fuses entertaining lyrics and a melodic hook with an excellent mixture of sound by all band members, especially Garcia on lead guitar and Phil Lesh on bass. Co-written by Brent Mydland, the song also contains a unique electric piano riff. “Throwing Stones” is an extended yet repetitive piece which became a minor hit on album-oriented radio. Lyrically, this song is written in much the same style of early Bob Dylan, but musically the band is able to add some real flavor, especially the long guitar lead by Garcia.

In the Dark was received like no other Grateful Dead album and gave the band a pop commercialism and acceptance like they had never received before. The band did eventually settle back into a regular touring routine and lived out their final years as a live jam band right up until Garcia’s death in 1995.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums.

 

Hysteria by Def Leppard

Hysteria by Def Leppard

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Hysteria by Def LeppardAfter the great success of their 1983 album Pyromania which sold 6 million copies, Def Leppard set out to achieve even loftier goals. They wanted to write an album made of “greatest hits” of “all killer, no filler” and wanted to chart at least seven singles. Amazingly, they pretty much achieved these goals, but in doing so they may have produced the most expensive record ever made in the U.K. This was due to a toxic mixture of bad decisions and tragedy, which would delay the album for nearly three years before it was finally released in August 1987. A bad decision was attempting to have Meatloaf songwriter Jim Steinman produce the album in lieu of Pyromania‘s producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who ultimately returned and started again from scratch. A tragedy occurred on December 31, 1984, when drummer Rick Allen was in a near fatal car crash which cost him left arm.

The band relocated to Dublin, Ireland in February 1984 as “tax exiles” from the UK and each bought a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder and drum machine to work on new song ideas. The first song to be written was “Animal” and the record company forwarded them production funds based on the strength of this single song. Initially the album was to be named “Animal Instinct” but Lange dropped out after pre-production sessions, and Steinman was brought in to replace him. However, Steinman’s vision of making a raw rock record did not jive with the band’s interest in making a big and pristine pop production and the band decided to “buy out” Steinman, causing the production budget to instantly sky rocket. When Lange returned in 1986, the initial recordings sessions were entirely scrapped. Also that year, Allen notified the band that he had developed a modified drum kit to allow him to play with only one arm. The band decided to hear him as a courtesy, but were blown away when he played the intro to Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” and it was clear that he would not be replaced.

Lange’s production was a painstaking obsession which used dense sonic detail and required the band members to do hundreds of takes. Lange also encouraged the band to simplify their riffs and fills, so that each detail could be easily picked out by crowds in large arenas. However, this does not mean that the band was devoid of high talent, especially when it came to the layered vocal harmonies which they performed live (with no artificial enhancements) to supplement their  hooks and riffs.
 


Hysteria by Def Leppard
Released: August 3, 1987 (Mercury)
Produced by: Robert “Mutt” Lange & Def Leppard
Recorded:Various Locations, February 1984-January 1987
Side One Side Two
Women
Rocket
Animal
Love Bites
Pour Some Sugar On Me
Armageddon It
Gods Of War
Don’t Shoot Shotgun
Run Riot
Hysteria
Excitable
Love and Affection
Group Musicians
Joe Elliot – Lead Vocals
Phil Collen – Guitars, Vocals
Steve Clark – Guitars
Rick Savage – Bass, Vocals
Rick Allen – Drums

 
Def Leppard did release their goal of seven singles from Hysteria and, in the American market, the first six went in the exact sequence of the album’s first side. The opener “Women” seems, in retrospect, a curious choice being it is not nearly as strong as some of the other tracks and that was reflected in its modest chart success. “Rocket” followed, as a lyrical sequence of old record titles, built on a strong drum shuffle rhythm. The arrangement was forged by lead vocalist Joe Elliot and included a quasi-psychedelic middle section laced with many sound effects and backwards masking.

“Animal” was the third single released and became the band’s first Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. In total, the song took over two and a half years to get right, the most difficult of their career. Like many songs on the album, “Animal” contains well produced layered guitar riffs by guitarists Steve Clark and Phil Collen and musically, it is the closest extension to Pyromania and signaled to many long-time fans that the band was truly back. Still, at this point album sales were lagging behind those of the predecessor and it looked like Hysteria may actually lose money.

Then came the huge, chart-topping hits. “Love Bites” was written by Lange as a near-country song and transformed to a power ballad for Def Leppard. It was the cross-over hit that the band had long wanted and opened them up to a pop audience like no song before. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was written last, when much of the band (but not Lange) thought the album was completed. It originated from a hook by Elliot and was built like a rap song along with Lange. The ultimate success of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” sent sales of Hysteria through the roof as it sold nearly four million copies during the single’s run on the charts. The first side concludes with another charting single, “Armageddon It”. The tongue-in-cheek joke title came from a literal studio conversation when Lange asked Clark “Are you getting it?” To which Clark replied “I’m a-gettin’ it”.
 

 
The album’s best song (although far from the most popular) is the title song “Hysteria”. The music was based on an acoustic riff from bassist Rick Savage, with the title being suggested by drummer Rick Allen after his auto accident and the media coverage that followed. The most mellow song on the album, this unique and moody song is a true musical gem, not just on this album or by this band, but for the era in total.

Def Leppard

Unfortunately, the rest of side two is not nearly as satisfying. “Gods of War” starts out sounding interesting, with a unique intro by Clark, but it turns into another boilerplate “we hate war” hollow screed. Hysteria would be the last album to feature Steve Clark, who died in 1991. Although the band had vowed “no filler” on this album, there is plenty on side two. “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” is the worst song on the album (and maybe the band’s entire career) while “Run Riot” and “Excitable” are not much better. There is some slight redemption in the moody closer “Love and Affection”, but this still pales in comparison to the better track on the album.

The story of the events during making of Hysteria was told in the book Animal Instinct by rock journalist David Fricke. One assertion made by Fricke is that Hysteria is the album that Def Leppard intended to make when they were just getting started at age 14 or 15. They accomplished this magnificent feat in a little more than a decade, but would never come close again.

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1987 Images

Pat of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums.

 

Classic Rock Review's 1967 Album of the Year

Are You Experienced?
by Jimi Hendrix Experience

Classic Rock Review's 1967 Album of the Year

Buy Are You Experienced?

Are You Experienced? by The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceAn extraordinary debut by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Classic Rock Review has named Are You Experienced? as our Album of the Year for the phenomenal music year of 1967. On this album, the sound is harder and heavier than anything else from 1967, yet it is not in the slightest bit unfocused. Led by the extraordinary talent of Jimi Hendrix, the Experience was an unheralded act as a group, especially when it came to the wild and entertaining drumming of Mitch Mitchell. Along with bassist Noel Redding, this power trio released the most stunning debut in rock history and one of the greatest albums of all time.

The sound forged on the album synthesized elements of 1967 psychedelic rock with traditional rock, blues, and soul. This was all topped off by the proficient and original guitar work by Hendrix, who used cutting edge techniques and technology to create sounds never before heard. Hendrix also composed solid songs, rooted in heavy blues and roots rock. This, along with the frantic but solid rhythm by Redding and Mitchell, gave Hendrix the perfect canvas on which to paint his guitar masterpieces.

Producer Chas Chandler helped form the Jimi Hendrix Experience in England in 1966 and signed the group with Track Records, a label run by The Who’s managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. The group started with three singles, recorded in-between tours of England in late ’66 and early ’67. All three (“Hey Joe”, “Purple Haze”, and “The Wind Cries Mary”) reached the top 10 on the UK charts. The original album was released in the UK in May, 1967 without the three singles (or B-sides), but the subsequent US version did include the singles in order to maximize the impact of the group in the States, where they were still relatively unknown. At the suggestion of Paul McCartney, the Experience debuted in America at the Monterrey Pop Festival on June 18, 1967.

Some of the tracks not included on the US version (but available on other versions) include the pure blues “Red House” with its wailing lead guitar and the Cream-influenced “Can You See Me”, with double-tracked vocals over a strong, riff-driven rocker. “Stone Free” is frenzied but with a good hook and “Highway Chile” has a more modern sound with a funky shuffle and R&B pattern.
 


Are You Experienced? by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Released: May 12, 1967 (Track)
Produced by: Chas Chandler
Recorded: De Lane Lea & Olympic Studios, London, December 1966-April 1967
Side One Side Two
Purple Haze
Manic Depression
Hey Joe
Love Or Confusion
May This Be Love
I Don’t Live Today
The Wind Cries Mary
Fire
Third Stone From the Sun
Foxy Lady
Are You Experienced?
Tracks On Alternative Album Versions
Red House
Can You See Me
Remember
51st Anniversary
Highway Chile
Band Musicians
Jimi Hendrix – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano
Noel Redding – Bass, Vocals
Mitch Mitchell – Drums, Percussion

 
Are You Experienced? starts with a classic anthem from the late 1960s, “Purple Haze”. A rather simple rock song that takes on a much higher aura (especially the acid era), the song is Hendrix’s best known composition. It was adapted from a poem he wrote called “Purple Haze, Jesus Saves” and contains the classic lyric; “excuse me while I kiss the sky”. But the true signature of this song is the instantly recognizable classic guitar riff which instantly signals the tone and tenor of the album.

“Manic Depression” contains hypnotic and frantic drums by Mitchell, under a driving rock riff by Hendrix and Redding. This song set the stage for all the future heavy blues and heavy metal song textures of the coming decades. Lyrically was more an expression of romantic frustration than the clinical definition of manic depression. “Hey Joe” is a riff-driven version of a very popular folk song by Billy Roberts. As we pointed out last year in our review of Love’s debut album, “Hey Joe” seemed to be a mandatory in those days, as it was covered by The Surfaris, The Leaves, The Byrds, Tim Rose, Wilson Pickett, Cher, Deep Purple, The Mothers of Invention, and The Band of Joy. However, none of these versions are as popular as the version by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, which made the song their own through this memorable version.

Jimi Hendrix Experience 1967

The album’s first side concludes with three lesser known tracks. “Love Or Confusion” is a good and solid rock song, heavy throughout but yet somewhat psychedelic with overdubbed guitars and rotating bass and drum backing. “May This Be Love” contains soft, double-tracked vocals with Mitchell’s marching drums holding together the slow moving, tidal song with slow yet wild guitars with phasing effects. “I Don’t Live Today” has a call and response with riff and verse line, but is overall one of the weaker songs on the album.

The second side starts with the fantastic ballad “The Wind Cries Mary”. Written by Hendrix following an argument with his girlfriend, the lyrics use a hurricane as an allegory for a relationship;

A broom is drearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life / Somewhere a queen is weeping, somewhere a king has no wife…”

These lyrics are every bit as poetic as Bob Dylan while every bit as romantic as Otis Redding, but presented as a pure, bona fide rock ballad. Musically Hendrix’s laid back and bluesy guitar is backed by a steady, driving bass by Redding. The soft and somber playing and singing by Hendrix masks a moderately fast underlying rhythm, giving the song an edge unlike any other.

The album once again picks up with “Fire”, a frantic, highly charged pop/soul song complete with a backing chorus hooks by the band members. There is a nice key jump under the guitar lead, a great drum rhythm by Mitchell, and almost novelty lyrics. The song showcased the raw energy of this power trio and their ability to perform at breakneck speed. “Third Stone From the Sun” is a cool and interesting piece, multi-part, with an almost soundtrack like quality. It contains some strong jazz elements with extremely spacy guitars and an excellent drum improvisation coupled with a three note repeating bass line. This extended piece would be a pure instrumental were it not for a haunting, spoken vocals and wild vocal sound effects.

“Foxy Lady” is another popular rock song with a definite signature of psychedelia. Built around a howling guitar and inspired drumming, the sexually-charged song is full of passion and desire and would go on to become one of Hendrix’s most popular songs. The album concludes with the purely psychedelic title song. Drawing strong influence from Beatles songs like “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Are You Experienced?” employs backwards-masked drums and other sonic and surreal sounds along with classically 1967 lyrics such as; “not necessarily stoned but beautiful”. Although unlike anything else of the album which shares its name, the song is a fitting conclusion to this totally original album, even as it fades into psychedelic oblivion at its conclusion.

With uncompromising energy yet delicate artistic flair, Are You Experienced was an immediate classic that has not faded one iota 45 years later. While later punk bands took on the pretentiousness of offering uncompromising rock, the truth is not a single one had anywhere near the talent of Hendrix and there may never be a true talent of his equal again.

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1967 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1967 albums.

 

The Who Sell Out

The Who Sell Out

Buy The Who Sell Out

The Who Sell OutAfter establishing themselves as a successful singles band in the mid 1960s, The Who made a concerted effort to concentrate on making cohesive albums. This all commenced with the 1966 album A Quick One and continued with their 1967 album The Who Sell Out. Differing from later (and more famous) concept albums by the band, The Who Sell Out is a collection of unrelated songs joined together by public service announcements and original commercial jingles composed by the band using actual commercial products. Another aspect of the album is its nod to pirate radio. Differing opinions have the album either tributing or mocking (or both) the pirate radio station Radio London, which operated for three years on a ship before it was shut down earlier in 1967.

Like the bulk of The Who’s material, the album was mainly conceived and written by guitarist Pete Townshend, but did include songwriting and vocal contributions from all band members. The band had originally tried to gain endorsement fees from some of the products named in the album’s “commercials”, but were unsuccessful in this attempt. In fact, the deodorant company Odorono took offense by this request for endorsement dollars. The Who Sell Out back coverThe album’s cover is divided into panels featuring a photograph of each of the band members, two on the front and two on the back. On the front is Townshend applying Odorono brand deodorant and lead vocalist Roger Daltrey sitting in a bathtub full of Heinz baked beans (from which he allegedly caught pneumonia after sitting for a prolonged period). On the back is drummer Keith Moon applying Medac and bassist John Entwistle appearing as Charles Atlas. All products shown in these pictures were exaggerated in size.

The album was recorded in several cities and over several months in 1967, a year of many legendary milestones for the band. In June they put on a memorable performance at the Monterrey Pop Festival. During the subsequent North American tour Moon drove a car into a swimming pool at a Holiday Inn (establishing his reputation as rock’s wild man) and during a performance on The Smothers Brothers television show, Moon packed his drums with explosives (unbeknownst to the other band members of the show’s producers) and the resulting explosion caused permanent damage to Townshend’s ear and hearing.
 


The Who Sell Out by The Who
Released: December 15, 1967 (Track)
Produced by: Kit Lambert
Recorded:London, New York, & Los Angeles, May-November 1967
Side One Side Two
Armenia City In the Sky
Heinz Baked Beans
Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand
Odorono
Tattoo
Our Love Was
I Can See for Miles
I Can’t Reach You
Medac
Relax
Silas Stingy
Sunrise
Rael 1
Additional Tracks
Rael 2
Glittering Girl
Melancholia
Someone’s Coming
Jaguar
Early Morning Cold Taxi
Hall Of the Mountain King
Girl’s Eyes
Glow Girl
Band Musicians
Roger Daltry – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Pete Townshend – Guitars, Keyboards, Banjo, Vocals
John Entwistle – Bass Guitar, Horns, Vocals
Keith Moon – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 
The album starts with the first of several “Radio London” jingles, this first one using a device called the Sonovox with the days of the week simply spoken. This segues to “Armenia City In the Sky”, a song by written by John Keene, a friend of the band and future member of Thunderclap Newman. Keene shares lead vocals with Daltrey above a very psychedelic sound with a driving rhythm. The comical “Heinz Baked Beans”, written and arranged by Entwistle follows with marching band horns and drums.

Townshend’s “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand” was recorded in three different versions with the album and single version featuring a driving acoustic guitar and much percussive overdubs, concluding with a frantic drum section by moon. An alternate version (included as a bonus track on most modern CDs) features a cool organ sound by session keyboardist Al Kooper. Following Moon’s drum chorus, the album version morphs into a full-fledged commercial for “Premier Drums” before breaking into the choppy and entertain, guitar-driven “Odorono”, which is structured much more like a proper song than one of the filler “commercials”.

“Tattoo” was written by Townshend and sung by Daltry, and was autobiographical of their sometimes rocky relationship. The song features complex harmonies and moody guitars throughout. Another Radio London public service announcements bridges “Tattoo” with “Our Love Was”, a fine song with judicial use of brass and more fine guitar work by Townshend, including an innovative ‘slide’ guitar solo.

A quick medley of three more “Radio London” spots, lead into “I Can See For Miles”, perhaps the most popular song from The Who Sell Out. Although the song reached the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic, it was a big disappointment for Townshend, who felt it was the “ultimate” Who record yet. The song is intense throughout with a low, sustaining guitar through the verses accompanied by Moon’s brilliant drum beats. The tension is broken by the soaring release of the melodic hook during the chorus, which is accented by twangy guitar notes like a beacon through space.

The Who in 1967

The (original) album’s second side all but abandons the commercials and PSA’s for more Artistic Who songs that preview some of their upcoming rock operas, especially 1969’s Tommy. “I Can’t Reach You” was one of the first songs Townshend wrote on the piano, and provides a very melodic and easy-going counterpart to the intense “I Can See for Miles”. “Relax” features Townshend on organ, adding yet another element to the band’s increasing sound spectrum. Entwistle’s “Silas Stingy” is written in the traditional English folk song about his own “penny pinching” to buy his first home, while “Sunrise” is a solo track by Townshend featuring jazz chords on an acoustic guitar and very folk-like vocals and lyrics.

“Rael 1” (or simply “Rael”) is a mini-suite which closes the original album. Starting with a marching beat and verse lead by Daltrey’s strong vocals. The song’s second section changes melody, guided by a constant organ and Moon’s driving drums. It then enters a section which would be reused on the next album Tommy as the instrumental “Underture” before returning to the original theme.

Nearly as many tracks were left off The Who Sell Out as were included on the original album and most modern collections some or all of these. “Rael 2” is a short, church-hymn counterpart to the album’s closer, while “Melancholia” is an excellent and haunting song with layered guitars and a driving rhythm. Entwistle’s “Someone’s Coming” has a nice brass arrangement while the band’s psychedelic arrangement of “Hall Of The Mountain King” is a true lost gem in their catalog. Among these bonus tracks are several unused “commercials” such as “Top Gear”, “Coke”, “John Mason’s Cars” and “Jaguar”, the original composition that sparked the album’s idea in Townshend in the first place.

Although not as coherent and focused as the band’s next three albums (the finest of their career), The Who Sell Out definitively shows where they were heading at the end of 1967.

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1967 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1967 music.

 

Just For You by Neil Diamond

Just For You by Neil Diamond

Buy Just For You

Just For You by Neil DiamondNeil Diamond broke through in a big way in 1966 and 1967, both as a performer and a respected songwriter (although he had been writing “hit” songs for other artists for several years). His album Just For You captures much of the highlights from this era in Diamond’s career and includes several songs which were huge hits for other artists, both prior to and following the release of this album. Still, the album has never been considered a classic, nor has it even been issued on compact disc. This may be due to the fact that it  included some tracks from Diamond’s 1966 debut album, The Feel of Neil Diamond (also not yet available on CD).

Every song on Just For You had been on the A-side or a B-side of a single, with five songs becoming Top 40 hits for Diamond and two others, “I’m a Believer” and “Red Red Wine”, becoming huge hits for The Monkees in 1966 and UB40 in 1983 respectively. Another Top 40 hit from the era, “Kentucky Woman”, was curiously left off the album. All in all, this was the first album to consist entirely of original material by Diamond.

It was also the final Neil Diamond album on Bang Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic, with whom he would be in litigation for the following decade before ultimately retaining the rights to all this early material. The songs and recordings originated at the legendary Brill Building in New York City, where some of the most famous pop songs of the 1960s originated. It was produced by legendary songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who also provided may background vocals, although records of other musicians backing Diamond are not readily available.
 


Just For You by Neil Diamond
Released: September 16, 1967 (Bang)
Produced by: Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich
Recorded:Brill Building, New York, 1966-1967
Side One Side Two
Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon
The Long Way Home
Red, Red Wine
You’ll Forget
The Boat That I Row
Cherry, Cherry
I’m A Believer
Shilo
You Got To Me
Solitary Man
Thank The Lord For The Night Time
Primary Musicians
Neil Diamond – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Multi-instruments

 

The album begins with the top ten hit “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”, with its melodramatic hook and driving verse lines. A 1992 remake of the song by Urge Overkill brought the song to a new generation with its inclusion in the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. “Red, Red Wine”, on the other hand, remained a relatively obscure song for many years until a rearranged, reggae version was recorded by UB40 in 1983, becoming that band’s biggest hit and prompting Diamond to adopt this newer version for his own live performances from the late 1980s on.

“The Boat That I Row” was the third single released by Diamond in 1966. It contains a Latin, uptempo rhythm and uptempo acoustic and hand claps like its predecessor “Cherry, Cherry”, which was Diamond’s first ever Top Ten hit as a recording artist. The song was influenced by Bert Berns, the head of Bang Records, who influenced the song’s title and arrangement and features some memorable keyboard hooks by session player Artie Butler.

After hearing the hit “Cherry Cherry”, Don Kirshner asked Diamond if he had a similar song that could be used by a group assembled for a new television series called The Monkees. Diamond played him “I’m a Believer”, a song he had planned to record on his debut album. The Monkees rode the song to the top of the charts where it remained for a remarkable seven weeks, becoming the #1 charting song of 1966. By contrast, Diamond’s own version went relatively unnoticed when it was finally released on Just For You.

Neil Diamond also wrote some personal, introspective songs. “Shilo” tells of solitude and loneliness during childhood, in a mysterious and haunting song. Berns refused to release “Shilo” as a single, believing it was too different from anything that Diamond had previously recorded and might stain his “brand”. “Solitary Man” was the very first single by Diamond in early 1966 and was included on both the debut and this album. With somber lyrics about isolation and a full yet subtle brass arrangement, this initial recording would remain one of the finest throughout his long career. The album concludes with “Thank the Lord for the Night Time”, an uptempo sixth single, which ends the album on a high note. The song peaked at #13 on the charts.

Neil Diamond straddled the worlds on 1960s pop music and the 1970s singer/songwriter. Although never quite recognized as a great album, Just For You may be the one original album by Neil Diamond which best reflects his most prolific songwriting period.

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1967 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1967 music.