Alice In Chains 1995 album

Alice In Chains

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Alice In Chains 1995 albumAlice in Chains took a whole bunch of personal turmoil and spun it into a fine album with their 1995 self-titled release. Informally referred to as “The Dog Record”, this third release saw the band building on their established atonal style as well as branching out with some accessible pop/rock tracks that helped the album sell over three million copies and reach double platinum status. This album is also notable as the group’s final studio release with original vocalist Layne Staley, as they would not complete another studio album before his death in 2002.

Following the massive success of their 1992 album, Dirt, Alice In Chains worked through a grueling tour schedule. However, bassist Mike Starr longed for home and was replaced by Mike Inez in advance of their acoustic-based, chart-topping album, Jar of Flies, released in early 1994. Soon after its release, Staley entered rehab for heroin addiction, which caused the group to cease touring and be replaced during the Woodstock ’94 festival.

Through the Spring and Summer of 1995 the group recorded Alice in Chains in Seattle with producer Toby Wright. Few of the songs had been written before the recording sessions began and, as Staley continued to struggle with addiction, guitarist Jerry Cantrell stepped up as chief composer as well as lead vocalist on several of the earliest tracks. Cantrell was facing his own turmoil after the break-up of his long time girlfriend, but this lent to helping him create some of the album’s signature tunes.


Balance by Van Halen
Released: November 7, 1995 (Columbia)
Produced by: Toby Wright & Alice in Chains
Recorded: Bad Animals Studio, Seattle, April–August 1995
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Grind
Brush Away
Sludge Factory
Heaven Beside You
Head Creeps
Again
Shame In You
God Am
So Close
Nothin’ Song
Frogs
Over Now
Layne Staley – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Jerry Cantrell – Guitars, Vocals
Mike Inez – Bass
Sean Kinney – Drums

 
Alice In Chains 1995 album

The album’s opening track as well as lead single, “Grind” is both slow and doomy, yet infectiously catchy. Cantrell made heavy use of wah effect on his guitars and Staley provided good harmonies to Cantrell’s lead vocals during the chorus breaks. “Brush Away” is less effective than the opener but does contain a nice effect of dual guitars. “Sludge Factory” follows with a slow drudge through initial sections and cool overdubs during the ‘B’ section. The song drifts into a long middle section which includes some distant spoken words and impressive drum patterns by Sean Kinney.

Cantrell’s “Heaven Beside You” is the first really great song on the album. It has a classic rock approach while maintaining an alternative edge, built on the acoustic guitar throughout with some later overdubbed electric guitar riffs and slight lead sections, all adding to the overall majesty of the song. The track was released as a single and reached the Top 5 of the Mainstream Rock chart in 1996.

 
“Head Creeps” has a nice vibe with animated rhythms by Inez and Kinney and a wild effect on Staley’s vocals all through its theatrical passages. Another successful mainstream rock track, “Again” employs the most direct heavy metal approach with its deadened hard guitar texture, rolling drums, thumping bass, and chanting vocals. “Shame In You” features a steady but deliberate drum pattern by Kinney before it breaks in with a fuller arrangement, ultimately finishing.

This album does descend to a nadir during the next three tracks. After a feedback drenched intro works its way into a freaky, slow groove. “God Am” becomes rather dry and listless for the duration. “So Close” continues much of this same vibe, albeit in a more succinct fashion, while on “Nothin’ Song” the vocals follow guitar through the verses while the choruses change direction in tone and tempo.

Alice In Chains

Wrapping things up are a couple of stronger tracks. The eight minute acoustic epic “Frogs” is slow, dark, and theatrical with Inez’s slicing bass and potent musical interlude between providing the early highlights. Later, a long outro section is quite entertaining, even though it remains very slow and steady with no deviation. The closer “Over Now” may be the most pop-oriented track on the album, with its pleasant guitar textures complementing the simple but effective vocal melodies and lyrics. The slight bridge and outro section bring a little more sonic candy to this song which features Cantrell on lead vocals.

Tracks from Alice In Chains received Grammy nominations in 1996 and 1997 and the album was up for several other industry awards. Debuting at number one, the album stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for nearly a year. While no tour followed the album release, the group did perform a single show in April 1996, which was recorded for a live MTV Unplugged album later that year.

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1995 Images

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

 

Balance by Van Halen

Balance by Van Halen

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Balance by Van HalenThere is no doubt that the decade-long Sammy Hagar experiment had run its course by the time Van Halen had gotten to their tenth studio album (the fourth with Hagar), Balance. Released in early 1995, this album did continue their commercial streak by giving the “Van Hagar” lineup a perfect 4-for-4 when it comes to #1 albums in the USA. However, while still interesting and entertaining, this album was the less cohesive than any of the group’s previous efforts, probably due to the internal fighting within the band.

Following the late eighties success of 5150 and OU812, Van Halen started the 1990s by producing and releasing the album, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, which was marketed as the “return” to Van Halen’s hard rock roots. This was particularly due to Eddie Van Halen‘s abandonment of synth sounds in favor of guitar riff driven or, at the very least, hard rock piano tunes. In 1992, the album won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance and the band continued to enjoy top-level success in the rock world. However, with the emergence of grunge and alternative music, the rock world was drastically changing throughout the early nineties.

In 1994, the band got together at Eddie’s 5150 Studios with producer Bruce Fairbairn, dedicating eight hour days to write, rehearse, and record this new album. However, this dedication was less cohesive as Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony were less able to dedicate as much time as Eddie and his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen. Nevertheless, Balance was one of the quickest records the group had made to that date and Alex cites it as one of his favorites.


Balance by Van Halen
Released: January 24, 1995 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Bruce Fairbairn
Recorded: 5150 Studio, Studio City; CA, May–September 1994
Album Tracks Group Musicians
The Seventh Seal
Can’t Stop Lovin’ You
Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)
Amsterdam
Big Fat Money
Strung Out
Not Enough
Aftershock
Doin’ Time
Baluchitherium
Take Me Back (Déjà Vu)
Feelin’
Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

 
Balance by Van Halen

An apocalyptic chorus of polyphonic chants by The Monks of Gyuto Tantric University starts off the opener “The Seventh Seal”, before the song breaks into a steady and standard rock beat and riff. The mystical overtones of this track were inspired by Eddie Van Halen’s newfound sobriety and his first attempt in twenty years to write songs without the aid of alcohol. “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” was inspired by Hagar’s relationship with his wife and features bright guitars and a moderate, pleasant and accessible approach with thumping rhythms and slight harmonies in the background. The song was commissioned by Fairbairn who wanted a more pop-oriented song, and this was successful as it was the only single from this album to reach the Top 40. “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)” is another accessible pop song but with some extra-intensive lead vocals by Hagar and the first real traditional guitar lead by Eddie Van Halen. The lead single from Balance released in late 1994, the song reached #1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.

With its overt promotion of marijuana and prostitution, “Amsterdam” was a bit controversial in 1995. Musically, Eddie’s verse riff and slow-walk interludes are the highlights in an otherwise clunky arrangement. “Big Fat Money” is a frantic rockabilly song with an energy that harkens back all the way to their debut album, 17 years earlier. A bizarre but entertaining hyper-jazz guitar lead accompanied by odd rhythmic rudiments by Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen makes this a unique track for Van Halen. A plethora of old, out-of-tune orchestral instruments fashion the avant garde instrumental “Strung Out”, with the plucking and sawing effects acting as an intro to the ballad “Not Enough”. This final pop-oriented track features a grand piano intro in a somber, minor key before building into a full rock arrangement to make it a pleasant overall power ballad. “Aftershock” features a cool intro by Eddie Van Halen and, during the song proper, Anthony’s rapid bass pattern gives it a definite edge which elevates this track above standard rock fare.

Van Halen in 1995

The album winds down strongly with four unique tracks, starting with back-to-back instrumentals. “Doin’ Time” features a percussive orchestra by Alex Van Halen, perhaps meant to symbolize the “aftershock”. The second part of this piece has an interesting Caribbean flavor and leads in to “Baluchitherium”, which seems more like filler to extend the album beyond traditional album length (< 45 minutes) to CD length (> 50 minutes). “Take Me Back (Déjà Vu)” starts as an excellent acoustic, down-home ballad with excellent vocal melodies by Hagar. It eventually kicks in to being another standard pop/rocker but does feature a slow, bluesy, and moody guitar lead and an equally impressive closing section where Eddie craftily doubles acoustic and electric guitars. The closing track “Feelin'” features a dark, solo electric intro by Eddie Van Halen. Later comes a very rich backing vocal chorus and an intense crescendo section before Eddie’s quiet guitar phrase gently puts the song and the album to rest.

With Balance, Van Halen successfully took the honor of being the first act to debut at #1 in 1995 and the album eventually went triple platinum in sales. However, tensions between Hagar and the Van Halen brothers boiled over in 1996 while planning a career-long Greatest Hits album, which led not only to Hagar’s permanent departure but also to a very short (initial) reunion with original vocalist David Lee Roth. Van Halen’s third lead singer, Gary Cherone, would span the group’s next release, Van Halen III in 1998.

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1995 Images

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

 

Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters

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Foo FightersWith the suicide of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain abruptly ending what looked like a promising rise for the rock trio in 1994, the group’s drummer, Dave Grohl, decided to write and record independent material as a “cathartic experience”. The resulting work, Foo Fighters, an album and act which derived its name from a term World War II aircraft pilots would use to describe various UFOs. No one (even Grohl) at the time knew that this album would act as the commencement of a highly successful rock band for decades to come.

The name originally served as a proxy, intentionally used by Grohl to preserve his anonymity after recordings were completed. Those recordings took place over just one week in October 1994 at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle, with Grohl frantically recording all instrumentation and vocals himself. Along with producer Barrett Jones, the duo spent long days recording up to four songs each day in the order that they would ultimately appear on the album. Having never been a front man, Grohl was initially insecure about his singing so he often double-tracked and applied added effects to his voice. Many of the compositions were initiated during Grohl’s time in Nirvana, as he would often bring a guitar along on tour. However, there were many parts composed on the fly during the short studio time.

Grohl originally pressed a limited number of LPs and cassettes to pass out among fellow musicians and friends. He had been offered a permanent gig as drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and briefly considered taking it before Petty heard one of his tapes and encouraged Grohl to pursue “the solo thing”. Soon these tapes reached some major labels and Grohl signed with Capitol, who accepted the original recordings but had them remixed. Grohl then recruited a full band to forge a live show and fulfill Capitol’s request for a photo of a full band.


Foo Fighters by Foo Fighters
Released: July 4, 1995 (Capitol)
Produced by: Barrett Jones and Dave Grohl
Recorded: Robert Lang Studios, Seattle, October 1994
Album Tracks Primary Musician
This Is a Call
I’ll Stick Around
Big Me
Alone + Easy Target
Good Grief
Floaty
Weenie Beenie
Oh, George
For All the Cows
X-Static
Wattershed
Exhausted
Dave Grohl – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Drums

Foo Fighters

The opener, “This Is a Call”, is actually one of the more recent songs written by Grohl and, right from the jump, his sense of melody and accessibility is evident along with his penchant for unabashed, hard-edged rock. the song starts with some double vocals above strummed electric for one line before the song explodes into a full and intense rock arrangement and it peaked at #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. “I’ll Stick Around” is more like a traditional Nirvana song with rotating riffs and a quasi-punk feel. The song’s vocal vibe ranges from detached whine to emotional screed with the music following perfectly throughout. The third song, “Big Me”, displays a third distinct type of talented musical style by Grohl. As a calm and melodic pop song, the track displays a knack for effective use of repetition and arrangement in getting the songs message out in a quick and effective way.

“Alone + Easy Target” dates back to 1991 and is another good jam, albeit not quite as innovative as the first three songs. “Good Grief” is driven by steady, upbeat drums and drilling guitar textures and the choruses get a little punk intensive, while “Floaty” contrasts with a pleasant 12-string acoustic intro before launching into a flange-drenched steady rock sway during the verses. “Weenie Beenie” brings the effects to a nearly absurd level with its textures and heavily treated vocals. While this is all fun as a headbanger, there is not much in terms of musical substance. “Oh, George” returns to melodic hard rock and is a loose tribute to George Harrison, who he calls his “favorite Beatle”.

Dave Grohl

Coming down the stretch, Foo Fighters maintains its energy and vibrancy while offering more diverse selections. “For All the Cows” is another Nirvana-esque track, starting with calm, jazzy verses and exploding into heavy punk screeds during the choruses. “X-Static” is notable as the only track with an outside musician, as Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs plays guitar. “Wattershed” is a punk jam with nearly screamed vocals that rail against mailmen, banks, record contracts, and other divergent subjects. “Exhausted” closes things out and works great with its title as the closing track to this rapidly recorded collection. The track is notable for an extremely long “feedback” section in the middle, before the main musical riff reprises to shepherd out the album.

Foo Fighters charted well throughout the world and was promoted through several tours domestically and internationally. These tours served to gel the members as a proper “group” and much success would follow, starting with the 1997 second album, The Colour and the Shape, and continuing well into the next century.

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1995 Images

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

 

Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt

Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt

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Tragic Kingdom by No DoubtNo Doubt offered an upbeat breath of fresh air to the mid nineties with their dynamic masterpiece, Tragic Kingdom. This third overall studio album by the California-based rock band found tremendous commercial and chart success and sustained seven singles over the period between late 1995 and early 1998. Led by the dynamic vocals of Gwen Stefani, the group composed songs blending a diverse array of musical genres including blues, rock, ska, reggae, grunge, new wave and punk.

The group was formed in 1986 by keyboardist Eric Stefani, with his sister Gwen occasionally joining in on backing vocals when they practiced in their parents’ garage. Bassist Tony Kanal later joined after catching one of the band’s early shows and began a (initially) secret relationship with Gwen. In early 1988, guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young joined No Doubt, rounding out the band’s long-standing lineup. Impressed by the group’s rabid live following, No Doubt was signed to a multi-album deal by Interscope Records in 1990. However, the group’s initial two releases, their 1992 self-titled debut and the self-produced The Beacon Street Collection failed to gain widespread success.

Producer Matthew Wilder was brought on board to produce Tragic Kingdom. The album included recordings made over a two and a half year period between March 1993 and October 1995, with recordings made in nearly dozen studios in and around Los Angeles. This album would also be the last to feature Eric Stefani, who was the primary composer of the material on the first two albums. After Eric officially left the band in 1994, most of the other group members stepped up to co-write the new material.


Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt
Released: October 6, 1995 (Interscope)
Produced by: Matthew Wilder
Recorded: Los Angeles, March 1993–October 1995
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Spiderwebs
Excuse Me Mr.
Just A Girl
Happy Now?
Different People
Hey You
The Climb
Sixteen
Sunday Morning
Don’t Speak
You Can Do It
World Go ‘Round
End It On This
Tragic Kingdom
Gwen Stefani – Lead Vocals
Tom Dumont – Guitars
Eric Stefani – Piano, Keyboards
Tony Kanal – Bass
Adrian Young – Drums, Percussion

Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt

The opener “Spiderwebs” starts with a steady reggae show piece with some brass before it quickly changes into a more frenzied and rock-oriented ska groove. Dumont’s crisply squeezed guitar chords and Kanal’s thumping bass lines accompany a steady beat by Young. Released as a single, the song reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. “Excuse Me Mr.” features a more frenzied ska riff and is especially entertaining during the bridge section where a frantic drum shuffle is accompanied by honky tonk piano and some fat brass. This song was originally composed as an acoustic folk song but the recording was lost in a studio accident, causing the group to re-write and re-record a punked-up version. “Just a Girl” features a wild sounding guitar riff accented by slight bass and steady hi-hat fused drums through the intro and verses and, later on, Eric Stefani adds a soaring synth lead over the ever-intensive rhythms. The lead single from the album, the song charted twice in the Top 40, eventually peaking at number 3. The lyrics, written by Gwen Stefani, tell of her own experiences dealing with female stereotypes;

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes, I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise / Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand, this world is forcing me to hold your hand…”

“Happy Now?” is a more vocal and lyric driven track with strong guitar riffing and chords. This is one of several tracks which lyrically deal with Gwen Stefani’s recent breakup with Kanal, after a seven year relationship. “Different People” features strong rudiments and a great animated bass line, while “Hey You!” has a unique and excellent arrangement with a heavy sixties vibe brought on by the overt sitar and harpsichord as well as the more subtle structuring of the rock groove. “The Climb” is a dramatic blues song written by Eric Stefani and it features cool penny-whistle organ parts under the verses with several guitar textures by Dumont. The song goes through several trans-formative sections and a long ending dissolve where each musician gets to add bits of embellishment in turn. Following the standard ska of “Sixteen”, a drum shuffle fades in along with a driven bass which makes it closer to pure reggae with heavy rock guitars and dynamic, dramatic vocals.

The album’s first and only ballad, “Don’t Speak”, offers one its most indelible moments. The song starts with Eric Stefani’s slow, rocking electric piano in verses but breaks into jazzy acoustic choruses complete with a later excellent flamenco acoustic lead by Dumont. Slight use of strings and brass are just enough to bring out the emotions without getting overly sappy, shining the spotlight on Gwen Stefani’s vocals, which are best at their very best on this album. The song would go on to become the breakthrough single. received tremendous airplay, and helped elevate the album as well as previously released singles. It would also go on to be nominated for Song of the Year at the 1998 Grammy Awards.

Coming down the stretch, Tragic Kingdom features more entertaining tracks such as “You Can Do It”, which is funky, seventies style soul with heavy brass, disco strings, wah-wah guitar and rounded bass patterns. “World Go ‘Round” returns to the upbeat reggae with horns and Hammond organ and plenty of brass, while the closing title song is a strong and steady, guitar and vocal driven rocker which is set up like a theatrical mini-suite complete with horn sections and a rapid fingerboard guitar lead. The best of this lot is “End It on This” (which should have been the album closer). This last, great song on the album has a definitive new wave feel with rapid guitar riffs and bass notes accented by melodic piano patterns. The choruses feature especially potent keyboards and bass which work together to give a feel of rapid melodic motion. The song then steadies into a traditional guitar lead section before an intense and fantastic outro section.

No Doubt

Following Tragic Kingdom‘s release and success, No Doubt embarked on a an extensive tour which lasted about two and a half years. A 1997 performance from this tour was recorded in the group’s home city of Anaheim and released as a Live in the Tragic Kingdom DVD. The band would not follow-up with another studio album until Return of Saturn was released in 2000, a half decade after Tragic Kingdom.

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1995 Images

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

 

Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

The 1965 Album of the Year

Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

As a final wrap up of our final classic year review, 1965, we still needed to decide on an Album of the Year for that year. This was a unique situation, because all other classic years reserved the Album of the Year until the end of the review period but, in the case of 1965, we’ve gone with the “50 Years Ago Today” process of reviewing each album on (or near) the anniversary of each album’s release date.

For quite a while, we had decided that one of the two Bob Dylan classics from that year, Bringing It All Back Home or Highway 61 Revisited, would fill this top honor for 1965. For most of this year, I had championed the album that I personally reviewed (and my longtime favorite of all Dylan’s works), Bringing It All Back Home. There were two simple reasons for this – it came first and it perfectly intersects at the point of Dylan’s folk climax and rock n’ roll inception.

On the other hand, J.D. Cook had reviewed and championed Highway 61 Revisited as the album which “honors his past but also points a big bright burning finger towards works yet to come”. At one point, I had challenged Mr. Cook to debate the merits of each album and put it up for a public survey vote (much like we had for 1980’s Album of the Year). However, you really can’t put the two up against each other like a sporting competition so, after careful consideration I have decided to capitulate and concede Mr. Cook’s position. After all, this is Classic “Rock” Review, and there is little doubt that Highway 61 Revisited is closer to a traditional “rock” album out of the pair.

Like a Rolling Stone single by Bob DylanBeyond that, Highway 61 Revisited contains incredible musical benchmarks, from the innovative “Ballad of a Thin Man” to the exquisite gem “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” to the epic folk/Western “Desolation Row”. Further, this album is the first to include a heavy piano and keyboard presence, not only blazing the path in this regard, fully setting the template for countless rock albums to follow. Then there is the true classic part of this album, the opening track “Like a Rolling Stone”, a composition with a perfect balance of structure and improvisation, freak and thought, poetry and melody, which makes this song one of the very finest of the entire 20th century.

Finally, there is the true tipping point of the decision – the story behind the album’s title. As told in this River of Rock article; “as a teenager near Duluth, Minnesota, a young Robert Zimmerman used to daydream about riding down Highway 61 to the legendary musical locales of America.” Here, I believe, lies the true heart of rock n’ roll, not just the static situation, but the ongoing journey, whether it be in retrospective reflection or introspective vision. Highway 61 must always be revisited.

Merry Christmas 2015!
…..Ric Albano, Editor

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Turn Turn Turn by The Byrds

Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds

Buy Turn! Turn! Turn!

Turn Turn Turn by The ByrdsThe Byrds finished their breakout year of 1965 with their second highly acclaimed and commercially successful album of that year. Turn! Turn! Turn! built on the group’s distinct, multi-guitar-timbre, folk/rock sound with a fine mixture of original, cover, and reinterpreted traditional tunes. Of the originals on this album, guitarist and vocalist Jim McGuinn‘s contributions were on par with those by Gene Clark, who had been The Byrd’s primary composer of original material up to that point in time.

McGuinn, Clark, and David Crosby formed the group as a folk trio called, The Jet Set, in early 1964. However, McGuinn had become a fan of the Beatles early music and began to fuse his solo folk repertoire with acoustic/rock versions of their songs. While rehearsing new material, the band began to bridge the gap between folk music and rock and soon drummer Michael Clarke was added to the band. The group made some demos and released one single on Elektra Records, “Please Let Me Love You”, under the name, “The Beefeaters”, in October 1964. Bassist / mandolin player Chris Hillman joined the band in late 1964, rounding out the original five-piece lineup. Next, with a recommendation from jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, the group was signed to Columbia Records and decided to rename themselves (one final time) to The Byrds. In early 1965, the group reached immediate fame with an original cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, followed by their debut album of the same name, which reached the Top 10 on the album charts during the summer of 1965. That same summer, the group toured England and was being promoted as “America’s answer to the Beatles”.

With this international success, The Byrds returned to Columbia Studios in Hollywood with producer Terry Melcher to record a second album. By now, folk rock was becoming a growing trend and the group was primed to fully capitalize on their momentum. However, the recording of Turn! Turn! Turn! was not without its tensions, as Crosby (who had one co-writing credit on the album) accused McGuinn and Melcher of conspiring to keep his songs off of the album. Crosby had written a handful of originals which were rejected for this album, as had Clark, who had three additional tracks rejected. Most of these songs were included in the extended 1996 CD reissue of the album.


Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds
Released: December 6, 1965 (Columbia)
Produced by: Terry Melcher
Recorded: Columbia Studios, Hollywood, June – November, 1965
Side One Side Two
Turn! Turn! Turn!
It Won’t Be Wrong
Set You Free This Time
Lay Down Your Weary Tune
He Was a Friend of Mine
The World Turns All Around Her
Satisfied Mind
If You’re Gone
The Times They Are a-Changin’
Wait and See
Oh! Susannah
Group Musicians
Jim McGuinn – Guitars, Vocals
David Crosby – Guitars, Vocals
Gene Clark – Guitars, Harmonica, Vocals
Chris Hillman – Bass, Vocals
Michael Clarke – Drums, Percussion

The signature guitar orchestra led by McGuinn’s jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker dominates the music of the opening title track, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”. These guitars are complimented by perfectly harmonized vocals, and Clarke’s rolling drum pattern under the chorus sections. While it is filled with so much sustained guitar textures, it stops on a dime several times between each verse/chorus sequence, including a false ending before a coda with extra intensity. The song was originally composed by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s, with many of the lyrics were lifted from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, possibly written by King Solomon in the 10th century BC. With that, the song holds the distinction as the #1 pop hit with the oldest lyrics.

Like the opener, “It Won’t Be Wrong”, is another upbeat track but with more standard love song style lyrics. Cowritten by McGuinn and Harvey Gerstand, this track features some interesting style changes which make it unconventional and a bit strange. Clark’s, “Set You Free This Time”, is a country/pop flavored track, especially in its vocal approach. In fact, this is the first song to feature solo lead singer, with harmonies used sparingly and with Clark’s fine harmonica solo as the song fades out. “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”, is the first of two Bob Dylan covers on the album and is set up like a spiritual with the chorus/hook featuring heavy harmonies. Musically, this song has much the same jangly vibe and strong drums as previous tracks, but with an added heavy bass presence by Hillman. The first side concludes with an original rendition of the traditional folk tune, “He Was a Friend of Mine”, a finger-picked acoustic song with stripped down arrangement and a slight, distant organ by Melcher under the later verses.

The Byrds in 1965

“The World Turns All Around Her”, is a fine, pop-oriented composition by Clark which may only suffer from lack of strong rhythm presence in production mix. “Satisfied Mind”, follows as a country-esque cover of a folk song by Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes. Along with the fine sparse instrumentation and harmonica lead, this track is highlighted by profound and philosophical lyrics;

Money won’t buy back your youth when you’re old, a friend when you’re lonely or a love that’s grown cold / The wealthiest person is a pauper at times compared to the man with a satisfied mind…”

Clark’s, “If You’re Gone”, is different than any other track on the album. Vocal-centric with a slow-rock backing, the song has distinct and interesting, almost haunting, chanting low-register vocals. While not quite as potent as their cover of, “Mr Tambourine Man”, the Byrds’ cover of, “The Times They Are a-Changin'” ,still dekuvers somewhat of an interesting arrangement of the Dylan classic. Further, the group members were pleasantly surprised when Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney showed up during the recording of this track. “Wait and See”, is the only song to feature Crosby as a co-writer, along with McGuin, while the group chose to do a souped up version of the popular campfire song, “Oh! Susannah”, to close the album.

Turn! Turn! Turn! peaked in the Top 20 of album charts in both the US and UK. However, The Byrds wasted little time moving forward musically, as they released their controversial breakthrough single, “Eight Miles High”, just two and a half weeks after this album’s release. Just two months later, Gene Clark left the group in February 1966, commencing a wave of personnel shifts which would continue through the duration of the group’s career.

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

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Do You Believe In Magic by The Lovin Spoonful

Do You Believe in Magic
by The Lovin’ Spoonful

Buy Do You Believe in Magic?

Do You Believe In Magic by The Lovin SpoonfulThe Lovin Spoonful had a meteoric career which climaxed shortly after it began in the mid 1960s. Do You Believe in Magic is the 1965 debut album by the group. It displays an incredible diversity of styles, ranging from folk to blues to country, bluegrass, and jug band. Led by composer and vocalist John Sebastian, this debut contains tracks which are equal parts original and innovative along with a healthy amount of reinterpreted standards  traversing many American genres.

Sebastian grew up as the son of a studio session harmonica player (of the same name) and he launched his own music career playing the folk circuit in Greenwich Village, New York City in the early 1960s. Along with guitarist Zal Yanovsky and two future members of The Mamas and The Papas, Sebastian formed a group called The Mugwumps in 1964. Later bassist Steve Boone and drummer Joe Butler joined Sebastian and Yanovsky to form The Lovin’ Spoonful. Starting in 1965, the group began recording for Elektra Records before Kama Sutra Records exercised a previous option to sign the Lovin’ Spoonful.

Beyond the 12 tracks which appear on Do You Believe In Magic, the band recorded some of their biggest hit singles in 1965. Sebastian’s “Daydream” is a moderate pop/folk song which reached #2 in both the US and the UK. The rock-oriented chart topper “Summer In the City” was written by Sebastian and Boone and features a signature Hohner electric piano, further expanding the group’s palette.


Do You Believe In Magic by The Lovin Spoonful
Released: November 26, 1965 (Kama Sutra)
Produced by: Erik Jacobsen
Recorded:June-September, 1965
Side One Side Two
Do You Believe In Magic
Blues In the Bottle
Sportin’ Life
My Gal
You Baby
Fishin’ Blues
Did You Ever Have to…
Make up Your Mind?
Wild About My Lovin’
The Other Side of This Life
Younger Girl
On the Road Again
Night Owl Blues
Primary Musicians
John Sebastian – Guitars, Keyboards. Vocals
Zal Yanovsky – Guitars
Steve Boone – Bass, Vocals
Joe Butler – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album aptly begins with its title song, “Do You Believe In Magic”, an upbeat folk tune with nicely layered guitars and a backing vocal chorus provided by Yanovsky and Butler. Thematically, the “magic” is about the power of music and this certainly resonated in 1965 as this, oft-covered, debut single from the group reached the Top 10 in the US.

As was the custom for debut albums of the time, the bulk of Do You Believe In Magic is cover songs, including the remainder of the original first side. “Blues in the Bottle” features bending, descending notes with Sebastian’s vocals being deep and rustic. “Sportin’ Life” is a slower blues number with some legitimate lead guitars for that genre, while “My Gal” is a fun, rocked up folk song about an alcoholic girlfriend who can “get drunk on shoe polish”. Co-written by Phil Spector, Barry Mann and, Cynthia Weil, “You Baby” is a somber, crooning folk song centering on the vocals, sort of in the realm of Roy Orbison with good mixture of guitar riffs. “Fishin’ Blues” closes out the side by adding a blue grass dimension to the group’s sound, with Sebastian’s vocals matching the country mood and Yanovsky’s consistent pick/slide guitar overtones bring the tune to a new level.

The Lovin Spoonful in 1965

A picked guitar intro gives way to a bright organ rhythm on Sebastian’s “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” with the singer adding vocals with a dynamic range. The second single released from the album, this song reached #2 on the American Billboard charts in 1966. “Wild About My Lovin'” follows as a simple blues track with a moderate rhythm and beat, with the philosophical “Other Side of This Life” featuring a good bass-driven rhythm by Boone.

The album finishes strong with three Sebastian originals, starting with the romantic ballad, “Younger Girl”. “On the Road Again”, is one of the harder rocking songs – in the manor of traditional rock and roll, at least – not too much in way of substance, but a fun song nonetheless. The closing instrumental, “Night Owl Blues”, is the only one credited to all four band members. It is led by a proficient harmonica through the first section, where Sebastian shows off his talent on this instrument for the first time (he would later do some memorable harp for other artists like The Doors), later followed by a quality lead guitar section by Yanovsky, complemented by some ever intensive playing by the rhythm section.

Do You Believe in Magic reached the Top 10 on the album charts and sparked an avalanche of further hit singles, albums and soundtrack themes over the next two years. Yanovsky departed from the band in mid-1967, followed by Sebastian’s decision to go solo in early 1968, which effectively ended The Lovin’ Spoonful.

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

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One of These Nights by The Eagles

One of These Nights
by The Eagles

Buy One of These Nights

One of These Nights by The EaglesA very diverse record which proved to be The Eagles major breakthrough album, One of These Nights, presents the band at a junction between their country/rock past and pop/rock oriented future. The album is also the first to feature guitarist Don Felder, who permanently joined the four founding members to make The Eagles a quintet (which they would remain even through further lineup shifts). Further, this is the only release by the group to feature songwriting contributions and lead vocals by all of the five members.

Established as a country and folk/rock group, the group released their eponymous debut album in June, 1972, which spawned three Top 40 hits and instantly put the group on the map. This was quickly followed by the quasi-concept album, Desperado, with songs that made comparisons between modern (1970s era) rock stars and outlaws from the American West a century earlier. While less successful than the debut, this second album saw guitarist/vocalist Glen Frey and drummer/vocalist Don Henley collaborate as a songwriting team for most of the material. For The Eagles’ 1974 third album, On the Border, the band turned to producer Bill Szymczyk who brought in Felder for a couple tracks in order to give the group a slightly harder-edged sound. The album also spawned, “Best of My Love”, which became the Eagles’ first number one single and established them in the upper echelon of touring groups.

One of These Nights had a relatively long production span, with sessions taking place in both Miami and Los Angeles, as Szymczyk and the band wanted to fully capitalize on their heightened commercial success. The group worked hard to find the perfect arrangements, fine musicianship, and pitch perfect multi-part harmonies. They ultimately achieved the desired end result, as this would become the group’s first chart topping album.


One of These Nights by The Eagles
Released: June 10, 1975 (Asylum)
Produced by: Bill Szymczyk
Recorded: Criteria Studios, Miami, & Record Plant, Los Angeles, 1974-1975
Side One Side Two
One of These Nights
Too Many Hands
Hollywood Waltz
Journey of the Sorcerer
Lyin’ Eyes
Take It to the Limit
Visions
After the Thrill Is Gone
I Wish You Peace
Group Musicians
Glen Frey – Guitars, Piano, Vocals
Bernie Leadon – Guitars, Banjo, Mandolin
Don Felder – Guitars, Vocals
Randy Meisner – Bass, Vocals
Don Henley – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Built on the animated bass line of Randy Meisner along with Henley’s smooth lead vocals and disco drum beat, the opening title track shows the group in a pop music light not quite seen before. The chorus section features high-pitched vocal harmonies on this sexually charged song which was a far cry from the country/rock feel of The Eagles’ traditional songs to that point. Released as a single ahead of the LP, “One of These Nights” hit number one later in the summer of 1975. Meisner takes lead vocals on “Too Many Hands”, a song which he co-wrote with Felder and featuring a chorus of acoustic and electric guitars with strong bass beats to give the overall mix a consistent thump.

“Hollywood Waltz” is a true country waltz and acoustic ballad, co-written by Bernie Leadon who also adds mandolin and pedal steel to the mix. From the beginning, Leadon was the true heart of the group’s country sound and the side one ending instrumental, “Journey of the Sorcerer”, offers a full showcase for Leadon as he slowly works a banjo phrase before the piece reaches full arrangement with strings and rhythm for the main theme. This pattern repeats a few times as the arrangement dissolves to minor banjo picking a few times before coming back full again on this piece which became the theme music for Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series.

The Eagles in 1975

The album’s second side begins with “Lyin’ Eyes”, featuring perfectly arranged instrumentation to back the story-telling vocals provided by by Frey (lead) and Henley (harmony). Leadon adds a beautiful country lead guitar throughout with thumping bass by Meisner and dual acoustic guitars. Released as the second single from One of These Nights, the song reached the Top 10 of both the US pop and Country charts and received a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Group.

One of the finest overall songs by The Eagles and a true highlight on this album, “Take It to the Limit” was a collaborative composition among Meisner, Henley, and Frey, with Meisner taking lead vocals. The song is musically fueled by a country waltz throughout with a heavy presence of orchestral strings and piano by guest Jim Ed Norman. The song, which became the group’s thir chart topper, ends with a climatic vocal outro where Meisner hits some tremendous sustained high notes. After a fine rock intro which features some bluesy lead guitars, “Visions” kicks in with the only recorded lead vocal by Felder, albeit slightly buried in the mix. Layered background vocals guide the upbeat rhythms moving along through the entire duration of this overall decent and entertaining track.

“Time passes and you must march on, half the distance takes you twice as long, so you keep on singing for the sake of the song after the thrill is gone…”

“After the Thrill Is Gone” is a slow country ballad by Frey and Henley, who also share lead vocals through the track. This fine song features tremendous lead guitar and pedal steel by Felder and Leadon respectively and is one of the finest forgotten gems by the Eagles. The album ends with “I Wish You Peace”, co-written by Leaden and his then-girlfriend Patti Davis, daughter of future president Ronald Reagan. Leaden performs folky lead vocals in a song with electric piano, acoustic guitars, and a heavy presence of strings. A later lead guitar by Leadon offers what would turn out to be his swan song as he departed from the group shortly after the album’s release.

Leadon would eventually be replaced by Joe Walsh for the Eagles’ next studio album, Hotel California, which received even higher acclaim for the group. But before that, the group released the compilation, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, which included the three hits from the recently released One of These Nights and would go on the be the best overall selling album of the 20th century.

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1975 Images

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

Blues For Allah by Grateful Dead

Blues for Allah by
TheGrateful Dead

Buy Blues for Allah

Blues For Allah by Grateful DeadA unique album in the Grateful Dead‘s vast catalog, Blues for Allah, is made up of four proper songs, three instrumentals, and the bizarre, Avant Garde title suite. Produced and released following a year-long break by the group (the first such hiatus of their then 10-year career), the music features a crisp and energetic approach which captures the band’s seven members at their most natural while still maintaining an inspired edge which is usually only associated with the Grateful Dead’s live performances.

Mickey Hart temporarily left the Grateful Dead in early 1971, following their two hugely successful 1970 albums. This left Bill Kreutzmann as the sole drummer/percussionist for nearly four years. During this same time, keyboardist Ron “Pigman” McKernan lost his life and was replaced by Keith Godchaux, with his wife Donna Jean Godchaux later joining as a vocalist. The Dead released a couple of critically acclaimed live albums during the early 1970s as well as the studio albums, Wake of the Flood (1973) and From the Mars Hotel (1974), both of which were released on their new Grateful Dead Records label.

In the Spring of 1975, the band convened at Ace Studios, owned by guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir, to begin production on Blues for Allah, which would become their eighth studio album and the first to feature Hart since 1970’s American Beauty. The album’s (and song’s) title was a tribute by lyricist Robert Hunter to Saudi King Faisal, a fan of the Grateful Dead who was assassinated during the time of recording.


Blues for Allah by Grateful Dead
Released: September 1, 1975 (Grateful Dead)
Produced by: Grateful Dead
Recorded: Ace Studio, San Rafael, CA, February–May 1975
Side One Side Two
Help On the Way
Slipnot!
Franklin’s Tower
King Solomon’s Marbles
The Music Never Stopped
Crazy Fingers
Sage and Spirit
Blues for Allah
Group Musicians
Jerry Garcia – Guitars, Vocals
Bob Weir – Guitars, Vocals
Donna Jean Godchaux – Vocals
Keith Godchaux – Keyboards, Vocals
Phil Lesh – Bass
Bill Kreutzmann – Drums
Mickey Hart – Drums

The album commences with the pleasant and melodic, “Help On the Way”, complete with plenty of complex riffing by Weir and bassist Phil Lesh and a clear and assertive lead vocal by Jerry Garcia. The fusion of riffs and melodies, licks and leads soon morphs into the jazzy, “Slipnot!”, where Keith Godchaux gets into the act with a short electric piano lead before a searing electric guitar by Garcia. This fine interlude climaxes with the danceable funk of “Franklin’s Tower”, the third tune in the opening medley and, ultimately, the most popular song from this album. Here Garcia again takes the lead vocals, softly crying out Hunter’s fine lyrics on music and freedom, albeit with a slight foreboding tone;

“God help the child who rings that bell,
it may have one good ring left, you can’t tell…”

“King Solomon’s Marbles” is an exciting and upbeat jam, built from the bottom up by the group’s rhythm section, Lesh, Hart, and Kreutzmann. Distinguished in two parts, the second part builds intensity with additional layers, while maintaining the same complex rhythmic patterns. “The Music Never Stopped” starts with a basic drum beat followed by Lesh’s bass and the two rhythm guitars as it reaches an orchestrated groove. Weir takes lead vocals through the verses with Donna Godchaux leading the chorus sections and a slight saxophone added throughout by guest Steven Schuster. This track features lyrics by John Perry Barlow and breaks into a bit of a waltz after the final chorus before coming back to the main rhythm for one final guitar lead. The original second side starts with the fantastic “Crazy Fingers”, featuring a very slow reggae musically with Garcia reciting some of Hunter’s best lyrics. On this track, every musician plays a pleasant riff or phrase which at once clash and harmonize for a beautiful musical effect. There is a freedom and easiness about the whole song as well as a theme of serenity to one’s place;

“Gone are the days we stop to decide where we should go, we just ride…”

From this point, the fine danceable grooves and rock arrangements dissipate. “Sage and Spirit” is an asymmetrical piece by Weir, featuring mainly acoustic guitar and piano throughout and lacking any sort of real rhythmic definition. The piece does seem to dip into a mellow bit in the middle, before coming back with full folk intensity. This all leads to the totally off-the-wall title track which starts with a very short, harmonized riff before falling into monk-like chants harmonized by Garcia and Donna, along with some Indian-style hand percussion. The interesting middle section, credited to all seven members of the group, is an ad hoc jam of no form before the track reaches the third and final phase of the suite, which is closest to an actual song with richer harmonies accompanying Donna’s scat vocals, a loose guitar and bass riff, and an actual drum beat. The opening chants do return at very end but with some traditional rock instrumentation to close out the album.

Blues for Allah reached number 12 on the pop albums chart in 1975 but, until recently, had not been heralded as a Grateful Dead classic. The group resumed touring in 1976 and returned to more traditionally formatted albums in the years to follow.

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1975 Images

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

Toys in the Attic by Aerosmith

Toys in the Attic
by Aerosmith

Buy Toys in the Attic

Toys in the Attic by AerosmithAerosmith scored their first real commercial success with their third album, Toys in the Attic. Released in 1975, this album establishes a distinct rock sound for the group with more attention paid to mass appeal and represents the high-water mark of the group’s initial 1970s phase. Beyond the spawning of a couple of big hits, the album is filled with solid tracks, which are mainly solid blues-based rock with just enough sub-genre edge to make it a very interesting listen from cover to cover.

Having signed with Columbia, Aerosmith released their self-titled debut early in 1973, which closely reflected the live sound the group had been forging through their first three years together. While the album was not a commercial success, it laid the groundwork for their core blues rock sound. The following year, the band released their second album, Get Your Wings, which was the first of five Aerosmith albums to be produced or co-produced by Jack Douglas. The production and approach showed a slight move by the group towards more pop/rock arrangements.

Douglas brought the band to New York at the beginning of 1975 to start work on Toys in the Attic. Lead vocalist Steven Tyler co-wrote most of the original material along with several of the group’s musicians. Tyler also came up with the ideas for the album’s theme and cover when he found a disfigured teddy bear in the attic of his home.


Toys in the Attic by Aerosmith
Released: April 8, 1975 (Columbia)
Produced by: Jack Douglas
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, January–March 1975
Side One Side Two
Toys in the Attic
Uncle Salty
Adam’s Apple
Walk This Way
Big Ten Inch Record
Sweet Emotion
No More No More
Round and Round
You See Me Crying
Group Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass
Joey Kramer – Drums

Co-written by lead guitarist Joe Perry, the title track “Toys in the Attic” sets an unambiguous heavy metal vibe, which may even verge on the edge of punk with its forward approach. This works well as a hard rock opener but does sort of deceive the listener as for the overall tone of this album. That deception is short-lived, as the moderate and jazzy “Uncle Salty” commences with a custom approach and great sonic dynamics which bring out every instrument. This track was co-written by bassist Tom Hamilton, who adds a steady and melodic bass to compliment Tyler’s fine melodies throughout and multiple vocal parts in the outro.

One of the group’s most overlooked and underrated tracks, “Adam’s Apple” is an upbeat blues rocker with some great riffs by Perry and Hamilton and an interesting lyrical take on the Biblical story of Eden. The hit “Walk This Way” got its start with a pre-concert warm up riff by Perry. On the recording, Douglas does his finest production work from the opening simple but effective dance beat by Joey Kramer through the crisp intro/interlude riffs, which feature perfectly mirrored guitars by Perry and Brad Whitford. This track may also be the source of invention of rap, with Tyler rhythmically delivering his lyrics on young lust and loss of virginity through the verses. The overall great arrangement which uses each element to maximal effect for commercialization, which resulted in the song reaching #10 on the pop charts in 1977.

Aerosmith in 1975The only cover on the Toys in the Attic is “Big Ten Inch Record”, a song written by Fred Weismantel and recorded by Bull Moose Jackson in 1952. The band pretty much stuck to the original rockabilly approach complete with piano, a horn section and an impressive harmonica lead by Tyler. “Sweet Emotion” starts with Hamilton’s cool and haunting bass line accompanied by Perry’s slow but effective talk box. During the verses, Tyler delivers another quasi rap with Kramer’s steady drum beat holding the steady pace until the song concludes with heavy section featuring a full band arrangement of intro section complete with several overdubbed guitars. The lead single from the album, “Sweet Emotion” was Aerosmith’s first Top 40 hit.

The album concludes with three diverse gems which tip the scales to make this an absolute classic. “No More No More” is a simple and bright rock gem with elements of everything Aerosmith does best. The music is straight-forward and direct, while lyrics about the trials and rewards of being in a working rock and roll band with the final verse features ascending chord changes climaxing with the song’s underlying theme lyric;

“time’s there a changin’, nothing ever stands still, if I stop changin’ they’ll be writing by will, it’s the same ol’ story never get a second chance to advance to the top of the hill…”

“Round and Round” is built around Whitford’s doomy, Black Sabbath-like riff, with the bridge sections featuring a nice use of overdubbed, soaring guitars that give this otherwise repetitive track some real flavor. The song’s outro builds a lot tension which is not relieved before the song ends. The heavily orchestrated closing ballad, “You See Me Crying” is a fantastic closer with a whole different sonic signature than rest of the songs. However, this was also  a source of frustration within the band, which left a few members off this track and which would not be performed live by the band for over three decades. Still, the result of this layered piano ballad is a tremendous closer for the album featuring a tone that is melancholy but with music that is animated and bursting at the seams, leaving nothing to wither here.

Toys in the Attic reached #11 on the US charts and has sold over 8× Platinum since its release. The album’s popularity launched Aerosmith into the upper echelon of contemporary rock acts in the mid to late seventies and even sparked the group’s older material (such as the track “Dream On” from the 1973 debut album) to reemerge into prominence.

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1975 Images

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