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

 

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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.

~

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration 1965 albums.

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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.

~

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

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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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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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Here Are the Sonics!!!

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 Here Are the Sonics by The SonicsHere Are The Sonics!!! is the 1965 debut album by American garage rock band The Sonics. The record features a dozen songs of the days’ most powerful and upbeat rock with some flourishes into shocking and unpolished blues with none of these densely packed tracks eclipsing more than three minutes in length. With this studio recording, the group finely captured their live blend of covers and a few originals while at the peak their power, making it one of the earliest influences of the soon-to-come punk rock genre.

The Sonics were formed in 1960 in Tacoma, Washington by then-teenage guitarist and vocalist Larry Parypa. About a year later, Larry’s brother Andy Parypa joined on bass with three members form another band called The Searchers – keyboardist and vocalist Gerry Roslie saxophonist Rob Lind and drummer Bob Bennett – coming along in 1963. The group developed a sound based around simple chord progressions, speed and tonal aggression, and their live repertoire began to pick up speed in the Seattle area through 1964 with the groups internal goal being to “move the floor and break windows.”

Buck Ormsby, contemporary bassist for the Northwest band the Wailers, signed to his bands’ independent label Etiquette Records and assumed the producer for their debut album. The songs were recorded with a limited number of mics, giving into a highly energetic, lo-fi live feel. Prior to the album’s release, the single “The Witch” was released. Written by Roslie, this original track which would lead off the album featured a doomy riff of combined sax, guitar and organ with Larry Parypa’s strained vocals giving the song an edge which made it ahead of its time. Through airplay on smaller radio stations in the Northwest, and became one of the largest selling independent singles in the region.


Here Are the Sonics!!! by The Sonics
Released: March, 1965 (Etiquette)
Produced by: Buck Ormsby & Kent Morrill
Recorded: Audio Recording, Seattle, 1964
Side One Side Two
The Witch
Do You Love Me
Roll Over Beethoven
Boss Hoss
Dirty Robber
Have Love Will Travel
Psycho
Money (That’s What I Want)
Walking the Dog
Night Time Is the Right Time
Strychnine
Good Golly Miss Molly
Group Musicians
Gerry Roslie – Lead Vocals, Piano, Organ
Larry Parypa – Guitars, Vocals
Rob Lind – Saxophone, Harmonica, Vocals
Andy Parypa – Bass
Bob Bennett – Drums

Following the popular opener comes a pair of covers. Berry Gordy Jr’s “Do You Love Me” is pretty close to original but with slightly differing backing vocals, while Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” is an original interpretation with dual lead vocals and some fine guitar riffing. Roslie’s “Boss Hoss” is the album’s second original, with this steady rocker driven by the consistent beat of Bennett and a nice growling sax lead by Lind.

“Dirty Robber” as a song Ormsby brought with him from the Wailers, followed by the side one closer, “Have Love Will Travel”. Perhaps the album’s most catchy tune, this Richard Berry cover features great riffing and rhythms backing a real showcase for Roslie’s lead vocals. The second side features two originals that appear to be about alcohol and drug abuse, the horror screed “Psycho” and “Strychnine”, the dark, piano-led “ode to poison” rocker with a nice space for instrumentals in between the verses.

The Sonics

The rest of the second side features a mix of contemporary cover songs. “Money (That’s What I Want)” is the first place where the group seems reserved as this version is calmer (and therefore duller) then the excellent John-Lennon led Beatles version from two years earlier. Rufus Thomas’ “Walking the Dog” offers a nice change of pace as a bluesy rock cover, while Roslie fully exhibits his vocal abilities on Lew Herman’s “Night Time Is the Right Time”. This all leads to the apparently logical closer, “Good Golly Miss Molly”, as Roslie fuly pays homage to his idol Little Richard with a nice piano lead adding to the overall effect.

While Here Are the Sonics!!! was not a tremendous commercial success, its influence reverberated through the music industry for more than a decade after its release. The group released a follow-up album, Boom, in early 1966, but by the end of that year their heyday began to diminish.

~

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1965 albums.

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The Beach Boys Today!

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The Beach Boys TodayThe Beach Boys Today! was the 1965 eighth overall studio album by The Beach Boys. It marked a subtle shift in production technique and lyrical themes for the California based group. These changes were brought together by producer, composer, and vocalist Brian Wilson who had decided to move away from the surfing / cars / girls themes that had brought super-stardom to the group in the early 1960s and moved towards more mature themes with richer accompanying orchestration. This shift did not seem to deter the record’s pop success, as it reached the Top 10 in album charts on both sides of the Atlantic and spawned a trio of hit singles.

The origins of the Beach Boys date back to the late 1950s in when teenage brothers Brian, Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson began mimicking the harmonies of vocal groups such as the Four Freshmen. Soon the Wilsons’ cousin Mike Love and Brian’s high school friend Al Jardine were writing and seeking a publishing deal under the name “The Pendletones”. In 1961, the band recorded a demo of their first original “Surfin'” and the following year the group signed with Capitol Records under their new name, The Beach Boys. Over the next two and a half years the group released seven studio albums and had seven Top 10 hits in the United States, an incredible streak of productivity and success which left the group exhausted. This stress, along with the difficult decision to dismiss the Brothers’ father Murray Wilson as the group’s manager, ultimately contributed to Brian suffering a panic attack in late 1964.

During the recording sessions for The Beach Boys Today! in January 1965, Wilson announced that he would stop touring with the group and concentrate solely on songwriting and record production. Brian also wanted to start separating the Beach Boys from their surfer image and more towards complex music with the use of richer instrumentation. When released in March 1965, The Beach Boys Today! featured a first side with mainly uptempo songs and a second side with mostly emotional ballads.


The Beach Boys Today! by The Beach Boys
Released: March 8, 1965 (Capitol)
Produced by: Brian Wilson
Recorded: United Western Recorders, Gold Star Studios, & RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, CA
Side One Side Two
Do You Wanna Dance?
Good to My Baby
Don’t Hurt My Little Sister
When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)
Help Me, Ronda
Dance, Dance, Dance
Please Let Me Wonder
I’m So Young
Kiss Me, Baby
She Knows Me Too Well
In the Back of My Mind
Bull Session with the ‘Big Daddy
Group Musicians
Brian Wilson – Piano, Organ, Bass, Vocals
Mike Love – Vocals, Percussion
Al Jardine – Guitars, Vocals
Carl Wilson – Guitars, Vocals
Hugh Grundy – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album starts immediately with “Do You Wanna Dance?”, a late fifties song by Bobby Freeman, updated with rich production and featuring drummer Dennis Wilson on lead vocals. Despite being released as the B-side of a single, this Beach Boys’ version reached the Top 20 in the United States. “Good to My Baby” follows with an interesting rotating guitar riff and dual lead vocals by Love and Brian Wilson. “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister” is the most complex composition of the early tracks, an upbeat rocker with a bright guitar riff, that dissolves into an air of sadness as the descending chorus pattern progresses. The lyrics are based on Wilson’s complicated feelings for his wife Marilyn and her younger sisters.

“When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” is a crossroads song lyrically as Brian discusses his anxieties about becoming an adult. Musically this track is rich with melodic harmonies and with the presence of a vibraphone throughout. “Help Me, Ronda” is the definitive hit from the album as well as the first and only song to reach three minutes in length. With Jardine on lead vocals, this single reached number one in the US, the second chart-topper by the group. On “Dance, Dance, Dance” the group progresses further in the pure rock direction with the strong presence of co-writer Carl Wilson’s guitar and a consistently upward motion overall.

The Beach Boys

The ballad filled second side begins with “Please Let Me Wonder”, with this mellow track featuring a Western-like backing and the usual over-the-top harmonies. The William Tyus cover “I’m So Young” is a doo-wop ballad with Phil Spector-like snare/tambourine hits, as “Kiss Me, Baby” vocals are exquisitely delivered. On “She Knows Me Too Well” Brian Wilson stretches the upper limit of his vocal range in the choruses, while “In the Back of My Mind” is a complete departure from the rest of the song as Dennis Wilson providing solo lead vocals on this melancholy track in 6/8 time.

The Beach Boys Today! was a commercial success as it climbed into the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. Brian Wilson was replaced temporarily by Glen Campbell and then permanently Bruce Johnson for live performances while he delved even deeper into developing new studio methods.

~

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration 1965 albums.

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Young Americans by David Bowie

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Young Americans by David BowieFor his ninth studio album, David Bowie decided to move in a radically new direction with the soul and R&B infused 1975 album Young Americans. On this record, which was recorded mainly in Philadelphia, Bowie collaborated with diverse musical legends such as Luther Vandross and John Lennon in fulling his legitimate quest to produce a solid cross-genre album. The result was a commercial success which resulted in a Top 10 album on both sides of the Atlantic.

Following the release of 1974’s Diamond Dogs, Bowie embarked on a North American tour, complete with a high-budget stage production and theatrical special effects. Ultimately, this tour spawned a documentary entitled Cracked Actor as well as the live album, David Live, which was a worldwide hit and is highly acclaimed as a live album. During the tour, Bowie also became deeply enamored in American Soul music and during a break in the tour he convened some recording sessions.

These initial sessions were from August through the Fall of 1974 with producer Tony Visconti and a variety of musicians loosely called the Sound of Philadelphia, including Vandross and guitarist Carlos Alomar. Much of these sessions were recorded live in studio for a more authentic feel and during these sessions several non-album tracks were recorded, including the single “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)”, a sequel to a 1972 non-album single. Later sessions during the winter of 1974-1975 (including those where Lennon contributed) took place in New York City with engineer Harry Maslin.


Young Americans by David Bowie
Released: March 7, 1975 (RCA)
Produced by: Tony Visconti, Harry Maslin, & David Bowie
Recorded: Sigma Sound, Philadelphia, August 1974 – January 1975
Side One Side Two
Young Americans
Win
Fascination
Right
Somebody Up There Likes Me
Across the Universe
Can You Hear Me?
Fame
Primary Musicians
David Bowie – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Carlos Alomar – Guitars
Earl Slick – Guitars
David Sanborn – Saxophone
Willie Weeks – Bass
Andy Newmark – Drums

The consistent sax David Sanborn along with the excellent chorus backing vocals lead the opening title track. “Young Americans” proved to be a commercial breakthrough for Bowie in the United States as a Top 40 hit due in part to its cynical and timely lyrics and overall catchy energy. “Win” follows as a steady Soul ballad topped with Bowie’s slightly contrasting English folk which makes the whole effect a bit psychedelic. Vandross co-wrote the song “Fascination”, which derived from a song called “Funky Music”. This version prominently features the clavinet of Mike Garson and is a real showcase for bassist Willie Weeks.

While less cohesive than much of the previous material, the first side closer “Right” does feature an excellent short guitar lead by Alomar. The beginning of side two starts with much of the same style. “Somebody Up There Likes Me” is the album’s longest and (seemingly) most vocally improvised of the album tracks as Bowie’s vocals reach for the next level, even briefly going falsetto in the coda section. Then, in a break in genre, comes a bluesy rock cover of The Beatles’ “Across the Universe”. However, there are some distinct divergences, such as the chorus mantra “jai guru deva om” omitted and the song changing keys for the third verse and newly extended coda section.

David Bowie

The album ends strong with two distinctive tracks. “Can You Hear Me?” is an excellent Soul ballad with cool rhythms and a potent outro which dissolves to solo vocals. The closing track “Fame” was a smash hit written by Bowie, Alomar and John Lennon. This catchy dance track at the forefront of disco became Bowie’s first number 1 single in the US and Canada as it explored the mixed blessings of being famous.

Bowie’s foray into Soul music partially persisted into his transitional follow-up Station to Station in early 1976, after which he reflected back with the compilation Changesonebowie later that year.

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

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Against the Wind by Bob Seger

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Against the Wind by Bob SegerIn early 1980, Bob Seger completed his trifecta of commercial smash hit albums with the release of Against the Wind. It was his eleventh overall studio album, the fourth to feature (in part) the Silver Bullet Band and the second to include some tracks recorded by the Muscle Shoals Ryhthm Section. While building on the tremendous success of his previous two releases, this record ultimately became Seger’s only number one album as it spent six weeks on top of the American album charts.

With a long and winding career that dated back to the early 1960s, Seger finally achieved his widespread commercial breakthrough the 1976 album Night Moves and this was followed up with the nearly-equally as successful 1978 album Stranger in Town. Seger also rose as a cross-over composer as he co-wrote the Eagles’ #1 hit song “Heartache Tonight” from their The Long Run and his song “We’ve Got Tonight” later became a worldwide hit for Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton in 1983.

Co-produced by Seger with Punch Andrews and Bill Szymczyk, Against the Wind alternates between Seger’s reflective, mid-tempo acoustic ballads and upbeat, slick old-time rockers with simpler themes.


Against the wind by Bob Seger
Released: February 25, 1980 (Capitol)
Produced by: Punch Andrews, Bill Szymczyk & Bob Seger
Recorded: 1979
Side One Side Two
The Horizontal Bop
You’ll Accomp’ny Me
Her Strut
No Man’s Land
Long Twin Silver Line
Against the Wind
Good for Me
Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight
Fire Lake
Shinin’ Brightly
Primary Musicians
Bob Seger – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Drew Abbott – Guitars
Chris Campbell – Bass
David Teegarden – Drums, Percussion

“The Horizontal Bop” starts things off as a heavy blues rocker with an extended jam towards the end. This song was later released as the fourth single from the album, but failed to reach the Top 40. In great contrast to the opener in both style and success, “You’ll Accomp’ny Me” is a fine acoustic ballad with dynamic vocals by Seger, which reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The cool, riff-driven hard rocker “Her Strut” is the real highlight of Side One, with Seger’s treated lead vocals delivering catchy lyrics along with the potent bass by Chris Campbell and the indelible guitar riff Drew Abbott.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm section comes in for the next two tracks, the pleasant acoustic folk “No Man’s Land” with a fine closing guitar lead by Pete Carr and the upbeat rocker “Long Twin Silver Line”, which features an interesting ascending verse melody. While the Silver Bullet Band returns to back the masterpiece title track, the song is musically highlighted by the piano of guest Paul Harris. This masterful composition with a dedicated coda features lyrics which compare Seger’s high school days as a long distance runner with the rat race and duplicity of the music industry.

Bob Seger live

For the rest of Side Two, the album thins out a bit in quality with a pleasant country waltz of “Good for Me”, the old time rock-n-roll of “Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight” and the Eagles-like country folk of “Shinin’ Brightly”, which finishes the album with an upbeat, positive message and prominently features saxophone by Alto Reed. The best of these lot is “Fire Lake”, a song originally written for Seger’s 1975 album Beautiful Loser and featuring Glen Frey and Don Henley from the Eagles on backing vocals. Released as the lead single from the album, “Fire Lake” was a Top 5 hit in both the US and Canada.

Against the Wind reached 5x Platinum in sales and won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. This high-water commercial mark was something Seger later admitted as his goal for this album as he was “gunning for nothing less than a chart-topping hit when he entered the studio”.

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

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Bridge Over Troubled Water
by Simon & Garfunkel

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Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and GarfunkelSimon & Garfunkel saved their best for last with the early 1970 release of Bridge over Troubled Water, the fifth studio album by the New York based folk duo. The record shows the artists branching out to new musical avenues with smooth production featuring warm sonic elements to showcase the exquisite compositions of chief songwriter Paul Simon. Despite the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel later in 1970, the album’s success reverberated for several years as it received multiple Grammy awards and even briefly became the best selling record of all time as it topped album charts worldwide.

The duo’s highly successful third album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme was issued in October 1966 and followed by a series of non-album singles including “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “At the Zoo”, both of which made the Top 20 on the pop charts. However, Simon developed a bout of writer’s block which delayed any follow-up album in 1967. Then Hollywood came knocking as director Mike Nichols, a big fan of Simon & Garfunkel’s previous records, sought the duo to record some songs for the soundtrack to his new film, The Graduate, in 1968 with the single “Mrs. Robinson” becoming the first rock n’ roll song to win the Record of the Year Grammy. Simon & Garfunkel’s fourth studio album, Bookends was also released in 1968 and reached the top of the album charts. Both Simon and Art Gurfunkel were invited to audition for acting roles in Nichols’ next film, Catch 22, but only Garfunkel got the role.
This caused a bit of a rift between the two musicians, especially as filming took up much of 1969 with much taking place in Mexico.

Production of Bridge Over Troubled Water took place in New York and Los Angeles studios with the help of producer Roy Halee, who Garfunkel once referred to as the third member of the group. This album also partly abandoned their traditional style by incorporating further elements of rock, R&B, gospel, and world music as well as using more singular lead voices by each singer, rather than the traditional blended harmonies.


Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
Released: January 26, 1970 (Columbia)
Produced by: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel & Roy Halee
Recorded: Columbia Studios, New York City & CBS Columbia Square, Los Angeles
Side One Side Two
Bridge over Troubled Water
El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)
Cecilia
Keep the Customer Satisfied
So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright
The Boxer
Baby Driver
The Only Living Boy in New York
Why Don’t You Write Me
Bye Bye Love
Song for the Asking
Primary Musicians
Paul Simon – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion
Art Garfunkel – Vocals, Percussion
Fred Carter Jr. – Guitars
Larry Knechtel – Piano, Keyboards
Joe Osborn – Bass
Hal Blaine – Drums, Percussion

Like most previous material by Simon & Garfunkel, the songs here were initiated by Simon and next he would work on the harmonies with Garfunkel. However, with the title track “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Simon basically gave the song as his acoustic composition was transformed with Garfunkel on solo vocals and Larry Knechtelon piano dominating most of the recording. The payoff does come with the exquisitely harmonized third verse followed by the orchestra crescendo to close out this opening title track, which topped the Pop charts and won a Grammy for Song of the Year in 1971. “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)” follows as a traditional Peruvian instrumental, centuries old onto which Simon added lyrics on top< This interesting track starts with a distant flamenco guitar with the verse proper containing a European waltz beat and a flute mimicking the lead vocals throughout, an arrangement that carries an air of psychedelia.

The inventiveness continues with “Cecilia”, a low-fi dance song driven by the harmonized vocals over a totally unique percussion arrangement that was recorded at home and placed on a loop. “Keep the Customer Satisfied” is an upbeat, acoustic-driven pop song with rich harmonies and a later horn section to complete to fine effect. “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” hearkens back to their early sixties folk style, but with just a touch of mellotron to give it a “modern” edge along. “The Boxer” is another gem of production, from the perfectly Travis-style finger-picked acoustic guitars by Simon and Fred Carter Jr to the contra bass and tuba by Bob Moore to the wild percussion effects recorded on location at a cathedral at Columbia University by the legendary Hal Blaine.

Simon and Garfunkel

While not quite as interesting, the latter part of the album does include some unique moments. “Baby Driver” is a bluesy acoustic folk track in a style later mastered by Jim Croce, while “Why Don’t You Write Me” is upbeat acoustic folk with Joe Osborn laying down some excellent bass. Osborn also shines on “The Only Living Boy in New York”, a song written by Simon about Garfunkel flying off to Mexico to film Catch 22 and featuring a chorus of backing vocals recorded live in an echo chamber in Los Angeles. The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” is an odd live inclusion here with some treated hand clapping by the audience, recorded at multiple gigs, before the closing “Song for the Asking”, a pure Paul Simon style folk with an edge to become a very short soliloquy to complete the duo’s final studio album.

Bridge Over Troubled Water topped the charts in ten countries around the world and was on the best-selling album list for the years 1970, 1971 and 1972. With this massive success, both musicians decided to pursue independent projects and ultimately solo careers as Simon & Garfunkel dissolved into musical history.

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

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