State Of Confusion by The Kinks

State of Confusion by The Kinks

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State Of Confusion by The KinksThe Kinks reached the climax of their second major success phase with State of Confusion in 1983. This album comes at the heart of the band’s early eighties “renaissance” when they once again embraced the more direct, straight-forward, “garage rock” sound which the group initially forged in the 1960s. Although this album is not quite as solid as its predecessor, 1981’s Give the People What They Want, it did stick with the same general formula and produced what would become The Kinks’ last batch of charting hits. The album was produced by the band’s lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter Ray Davies, who was perfecting the post-punk rock sound at the time.

Following the success of Give the People What They Want, the band spent the better part of a year touring relentlessly throughout America, England, Australia, and Japan. The climax of this tour was at the US Festival in San Bernardino, California, where the Kinks performed for a crowd of over 200,000.

This was the group’s 19th studio album, a collection which included many works where the band took alternative paths into folk, theatrical, and progressive music. While State of Confusion has a solid rock core, many of those previous styles are reflected in small doses, making for a unique listen. Davies also added just a tad bit more synthesizers and production refinements than on the previous recent albums. Lyrically, the album is filled with mature songs about growing older (Davies was pushing 40 at the time) and many of the issues faced through middle age. Davies, who practically invented and perfected the melodic scream, barely relented musically from his rock core with some minor nods to the music hall influences of his youth.


State of Confusion by The Kinks
Released: June 10, 1983 (Arista)
Produced by: Ray Davies
Recorded: Konk Studios, London, September 1982 – March 1983
Side One Side Two
State of Confusion
Definite Maybe
Labour of Love
Come Dancing
Property
Don’t Forget to Dance
Young Conservatives
Heart of Gold
Clichés of the World (B Movie)
Bernadette
Band Musicians
Ray Davies – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Synthesizers, Piano
Dave Davies – Guitars, Vocals
Jim Rodford – Bass
Ian Gibbons – Keyboards
Mick Avory – Drums

 

Being that the Kinks may very well have been the band that invented punk a decade before its proliferation and the opening title song, “State of Confusion” may be the ultimate post-punk pop song. It begins with choppy, head-banging beat and later contains topical musical melodies (like the spooky sounding synths) and a great bridge with keyboard orchestration and deep harmonies. This first song dually displays Davies production skills as well as his songwriting talent with the lyrics depicting numerous sources of frustrations –

but back on planet Earth they’ve shattered the illusion, the world’s going around in a state of confusion…”

“Definite Maybe” starts with a deep bass line by Jim Rodford which leads to a unique guitar and piano mix in the strange verse riff which makes this otherwise unfocused song just interesting enough. “Labour of Love” starts with a wailing guitar rendition of “The Wedding March” by Dave Davies. This song’s theme is for marriage what the J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks” was to love, a scathing indictment.

The album’s biggest hit is “Come Dancing”, which reached the Top 20 in several countries and peaked at #6 in the US, tying it with “Tired of Waiting for You” from 1965 as the band’s highest charting hit. Acoustic built but dominated by a signature organ riff from Ian Gibbons, the composition is a mixture of waltz and early rock and makes for a potent combo. The story-telling lyrics, which sound innocent and happy-go-lucky on the surface, have a much deeper meaning because Davies’ older sister died of heart attack while dancing at a ballroom on Ray Davies’ thirteenth birthday (June 21, 1957) after she surprised him with a gift of a Spanish guitar.
 

 
“Property” is driven by the big drum beat of Mick Avory, who along with the Davies brothers is the last remaining founding member of the Kinks. Lyrically, the song is about the somber duty of splitting possessions after a relationship ends. The second side begins with “Don’t Forget to Dance”, an almost a more somber counterpart to “Come Dancing”. This melancholy and moderate pop ballad with slick 1980s production techniques contains interesting changes in key and great guitar technique by Dave Davies during the verses. The song was the band’s final single to make the Top 40 in the US, peaking at #29.

The Kinks, 1983

“Young Conservatives” is a brilliant bit of satire with a great vibe, a punk song for the early 1980s. In an ironic twist, the new rebels are the counter-counter-culture in this edgy song with its great compositional structure and excellent bridges. The song references the 1967 song “David Watts” from the album Something Else By the Kinks. “Heart of Gold” is an upbeat acoustic folk song with great chord progressions and twangy lead guitars. Although it is a bit weak lyrically, the music more than makes up for it. The album drifts more towards eighties-type rock in structure and sonic quality for the final two tracks. “Clichés of the World (B Movie)” harkens back to the bands’ mid-1970s theatrical work, while “Bernadette” is a pure rocker, which finishes the album on an upbeat note.

Following the commercial success of State of Confusion, the band’s fortunes began to unravel. Ray Davies started work on a film project which caused tension between the other founding members. Mick Avory left the group halfway through recording the next album, Word of Mouth, released in late 1984. While the Kinks continued to release studio album into the early 1990s, the never again recaptured the popular momentum.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

90125 by Yes

90125 by Yes

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90125 by YesAn unplanned reformation of Yes in 1983 led to 90125, their most successful album commercially. What became their the eleventh studio album overall, was initially intended to be the debut album for a new rock trio called Cinema, featuring (then) former Yes members bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White, along with South African guitarist and songwriter Trevor Rabin. The album ultimately introduced Yes, which had originally disbanded in 1981, to a new crop of music fans during the MTV generation. 90125 also spawned several hit songs, including the band’s first and only #1 hit along with their only Grammy winning track.

Yes officially disbanded in 1981 at which time Squire and White attempted to start a supergroup called XYZ (ex-Yes and Zeppelin) with former Led Zeppelin members Robert plant and Jimmy Page. XYZ did compose several tracks but only really had one rehearsal, after which Plant decided not to continue. With that project’s future in limbo, Squire and White recorded a Christmas 1981 single called “Run With the Fox” before forming Cinema with Rabin in early 1982. Producer Trevor Horn was also a brief member of Yes, as their lead singer on the 1980 album Cinema. Along with the trio, Horn decided the group needed a keyboard player and Squire invited original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye who had been fired from the group in 1971 during the recording of The Yes Album. Recording of the Cinema “debut” began in November 1982. In April 1983, former Yes front man Jon Anderson heard some of the “Cinema” recordings and was very much impressed. He suggested joining the project as a reformation of Yes.

Rabin, the only member of the group without a history in Yes, wrote the bulk of the material for 90125 and was at first dubious about the Yes reunion idea. He also didn’t want to be considered as simply the replacement of former guitarist Steve Howe, who was now in the group Asia. However, he did compromise and let Anderson and Horn re-write much of the material to suit the full lineup and Yes style.


90125 by Yes
Released: November 14, 1983 (Atco)
Produced by: Trevor Horn
Recorded: Sarm Studios, London, November 1982 – July 1983
Side One Side Two
Owner of a Lonely Heart
Hold On
It Can Happen
Changes
Cinema
Leave It
Our Song
City of Love
Hearts
Group Musicians
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Trevor Rabin – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Tony Kaye – Keyboards
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Alan White – Drums, Vocals

The album’s original first side was filled with charting singles. “Hold On” reached #27 On the Mainstream Rock chart and starts as kind of an upbeat bluesy ballad with later added sonic textures including a choppy organ, a heavy guitar and plenty of vocal motifs. The tune was actually a combination of two songs by Rabin and the two distinct parts of the song are held together nicely by the simple but effective drumming by Alan White. “It Can Happen” may be a song either of hope or foreboding and uses a synthesized sitar sound for the main riff. The song, which gets a bit more intense towards the end, reached the Billboard Top Forty in 1984. “Changes” has a long xylophone-like intro playing a very syncopated riff, similar to Yes of yesterdays, until it breaks into a standard rock beat with bluesy overtones.

The lead single from 90125 and the band’s first and only #1 hit was “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. The song originated from a solo demo by Rabin in 1980 and was originally written as a ballad. Trevor Horn later developed this album version as a final addition for commercial purposes. The song contains excellent production which includes plenty of orchestral and odd instrumental samples above the crisp guitar riff, strong rhythm, and soaring vocals.

 
The second side begins with a track named after the original group name for this project. “Cinema” developed from a twenty minute-long track with the working title “Time”, but was paired back to a barely two minute final product. The song is driven by White’s intensive drumming and Squire’s fretless bass, which topical instrumentation that gives it a sound more like old Genesis than old Yes. In 1985 it won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental, the Yes’s only Grammy. A half decade before Bobby McFerrin made it popular, the a cappella vocals of “Leave It” drove the early choruses of this fine pop song with precision polyphonic vocal effects. Above this orchestra of vocals, Squire and Anderson alternate lead vocal duties on this popular radio hit which peaked at number 24 on the American pop chart.

The fun continues with the exciting intro of “Our Song”, which sounds like a cross between Rush and Dire Straits stylistically. It is the hardest rocking track on the album, led by Kaye’s intense organ riff. The song references a 1977 Yes concert in Toledo, Ohio, where the temperature inside the arena reportedly reached over 120 °F, resulting in the song being a big hit in that area (while a moderate hit everywhere else). “City of Love” starts with doomy bass and synth orchestral effects and is decorated by 1980s sounds while maintaining an entertaining rock core. The album’s closer “Hearts” works off a simple Eastern-sounding verse with vocal duet sections and a couple of inspired guitar leads by Rabin. After abandoning this initial riff, the seven-minute track morphs into many interesting sections, with Anderson firmly taking over vocally while building on the general feel of the song.

90125 reached #5 on the album charts and has sold over three million copies, by far the band’s most successful album commercially. This same incarnation of the band and production team returned with Big Generator in 1987, another successful album of contemporary and catchy with the edge that only Yes provides.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

 

The Principle of Moments by Robert Plant

The Principle of Moments by Robert Plant

The Principle of Moments by Robert PlantThe 1983 release of The Principle of Moments was the second solo album by Robert Plant, following the disbandment of Led Zeppelin in late 1980. The album follows close on the heels of Plant’s debut, Pictures At Eleven and employs the same musicians and production team. Recorded in Wales, the production was polished and clinical while maintaining enough rock edge to keep it original and interesting. Plant had declined to tour following his debut because he didn’t want to perform any Led Zeppelin songs live and didn’t yet have enough original solo material to justify a tour. With the release of this second album, Plant’s second life as a major recording artist took was fully spawned.

The Principle of Moments was the first release on Plant’s independent label Es Paranza Records, after the folding of Led Zeppelin’s label Swan Song, which was also the label from Plant’s debut. Swan Song ceased operations due to the failing health of Zeppelin manager Peter Grant. When Swan Song’s offices were cleared out in 1983, early demos from Iron Maiden, Heart and other popular bands were found.

The sound of The Principle of Moments fuses new wave rock with some elements of reggae and abstract motifs and is percussion heavy with sharp, high-pitched guitars, led by guitarist Robbie Blunt and drummer Phil Collins. While not as dynamic as in the heart of the Zeppelin years, Plant’s vocals are melodic and refined. The album’s title comes from the scientific Varignon’s Theorem, which states that the moment of any force is equal to the algebraic sum of the moments of the components of that force. With the experimental tracks on this album, Plant seems to be declaring his independence from the Zeppelin sound and celebrating his own “moment” in time.


The Principle of Moments by Robert Plant
Released: July 11, 1993 (Es Paranza)
Produced by: Robert Plant, Benji LeFevre, & Pat Moran
Recorded: Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales, 1983
Side One Side Two
Other Arms
In the Mood
Messin’ With the Mekon
Wreckless Love
Thru With the Two Step
Horizontal Departure
Stranger Here…Than Over There
Big Log
Primary Musicians
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals
Robbie Blunt – Guitars
Paul Martinez – Bass, Vocals
Jezz Woodroffe – Keyboards
Phil Collins – Drums

Although not officially released as a single, the opener “Other Arms” reached number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. Musically, the song continues the style of Pictures at Eleven, melodic and heavy on the chorus backing vocals, a long way from the improvised arrangements of Zeppelin’s early days. “In the Mood” (which was officially released as a single) follows and marks the point where the album starts to distinguish itself. Built on bassist Paul Martinez’s very simple yet infectious bass line, with Blunt’s simple, strummed chords on top and a strong percussion presence by Collins in contrast to laid back music and vocals. Plant’s melody rhythm is almost like blue-eyed rap and this translated into a Top 40 single on the pop charts.

Keyboardist Jezz Woodroffe shines brightest on the ballad “Through with the Two Step”, where Plant’s melodic verse vocals drip with melancholy sweetness to the waltz of Woodroffe’s wafty keyboards and in contrast to Blunt’s excellent lead later in the song. “Horizontal Departure” is a very upbeat and entertaining, sex-infused rock song, like a new wave version of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. Again Collins has a very strong and dynamic performances on drums, contrasting against the very measured riffs of Blunt and Martinez.

The album’s biggest hit is the closer “Big Log”. Reflective and somber, this is a mature song in every respect, musically, lyrically and production-wise. It employs some of the better synth-era techniques – the rubber kick effect, snappy top beat – along with well refined guitars, a swell of long synths, and vocal choruses by session singers John David and Ray Martinez. But this song is a true showcase for Robbie Blunt, one of rock’s forgotten great guitarists, whose cleaver Latin phrasing leaves the most indelible mark in this truly unique composition.

The Principle of Moments includes a trio of experimental songs. “Messin’ With the Mekon” starts with an almost Jimmy Page-like riff before giving way to a moderate Caribbean groove with measured beats, although the arrangement does seems hollow when trying too hard to fit odd pieces together. “Wreckless Love” contains a mixture of electronic and Middle Eastern textures and other highly experimental arrangement that only gels due to Plant’s strong melody. The song features Barriemore Barlow, formally of Jethro Tull, on drums, as does “Stranger Here…Then Oven There”. Another experimental song with some brilliant verse vocals, this song also suffers from too many superfluous effects and arrangements, which do little more than interrupt the reggae beat and flow of the song’s core.

Robert Plant band 1983

With two Top 10 albums under his belt, Plant launched a successful tour in late 1983, taking the stage for the first time since Zeppelin’s Knebworth concerts in 1979. In the following years Plant would work with his former band mates sporadically, starting with the short-lived oldies project The Honeydrippers, while continuing to build his solo career.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

 

Pablo Honey by Radiohead

Pablo Honey by Radiohead

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Pablo Honey by RadioheadWith their 1993 debut album, Pablo Honey, British band Radiohead was just starting to forge their interesting sound which brought them much fame later on in the decade. However, in the heavily saturated alternative climate of the early nineties, the album was not given much initial attention until the lead single “Creep” began to gain popularity. That song was written by vocalist and guitarist Thom Yorke in the late 1980s and best symbolized the internalized and tortured themes of angst and alienation in the band’s lyrics. These were brought to life by the dynamically layered strumming fury of a three guitar crunch, strumming fury of their guitar work and the dynamism of their whisper-to-a-scream song structures was the Radiohead sound musically.

The band evolved from a group called On a Friday in Oxford, England in the early 1990s, which included Yorke and brothers Jonny Greenwood on guitar and keyboards and Colin Greenwood on bass. After signing with EMI/Parlophone, the group changed their name to Radiohead and released an EP named Drill in mid 1992. Some critics dubbed the band’s early style as “Nirvana-lite”, which the group actively sought to remedy.

The album was produced by the team of Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie in the autumn 1992 and achieves a sound that is both visceral and intelligent. Since the material used was drawn from material the band had been playing for years, the sessions were completed very quickly. Still, Pablo Honey represents only a small subset of their early material and was described by a band member as their ‘greatest hits as an unsigned band’.


Pablo Honey by Radiohead
Released: February 22, 1993 (Parlophone)
Produced by: Sean Slade & Paul Q. Kolderie
Recorded: Chipping Norton and Courtyard Studios, Oxfordshire, England, Sep-Nov 1992
Track Listing Band Musicians
You
Creep
How Do You?
Stop Whispering
Thinking About You
Anyone Can Play Guitar
Ripcord
Vegetable
Proof Yourself
I Can’t
Lurgee
Blowout
Thom Yorke – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Jonny Greenwood – Guitars, Piano, Organ
Ed O’Brien – Guitars, Vocals
Colin Greenwood – Bass
Phil Selway – Drums

Pablo Honey by Radiohead

After the picked and pretty notes of the opener “You”, the radio and video hit “Creep” brings the album to life. Led by the upbeat, almost jazzy bass of Colin Greenwood and drums of Phil Selway during the verse, the heavy noise over chorus is previewed a bit early by a great effect by Jonny Greenwood. Rumour has it, this was initially an attempt to “ruin” this song which he he did not like, but became a great happy accident.

“How Do You?” is like punk with excess twangy guitars and contains a snippet of the Jerky Boys skit which gave the album its title. “Stop Whispering” never really leaves the main riff and only the drum shuffle by Selway rescues the song from being mundane. Still the song, written as a tribute to the group the Pixies, reached the Top 25 of the Mainstream Rock charts. The strummed acoustic of “Thinking About You” gives the album some diversity early on and is Yorke’s best vocal performance, brought out by sparse arrangement.

“Anyone Can Play Guitar” is driven mainly by the bass riff of Colin Greenwood, offbeat drums, and the later triple-layered guitars from Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and Ed O’Brien. The song was the second single from the album but made relatively little impression on the charts. On “Ripcord” the chorus descends nicely and melodically while verse alternates between strummed and crunchy riffs.

Through the album’s stretch run it settles into a nice groove with moderately interesting tunes. Some highlights include the almost country/blues electric picking of “Vegetable”, the high register vocals of “Prove Yourself”, and the good, moderate sound of “Lurgee” with dual picked guitars, quality bass and drums, and a some compositional restraint. “Blow Out” makes for an apt and interesting closer, with a jazzy overall vibe, duet vocals, and intense interludes between sections with wild guitar effects by Johnny Greenwood.

Following the release of Pablo Honey, the band would digress from its alternative influences and evolve towards more expansive and experimental works. The album topped off at number 22 on the UK charts and never really made much critical or a commercial waves until the success of future albums.

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1993 Images

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

Coverdale-Page

Coverdale-Page

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Coverdale-PageCoverdale/Page was a collaboration featuring former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and former Whitesnake and former Deep Purple lead vocalist David Coverdale. The union of these two seemed like an odd one when it started in 1991, as Page was considered a top-notch guitarist for all time and Coverdale had been criticized as being a knock-off (even rip-off) of Zeppelin’s vocalist Robert Plant. However, Coverdale’s commercial currency was riding high at the beginning of the nineties, due mainly to the recent commercial heights of Whitesnake while Page’s post-Zeppelin success had been sluggish in the 1980s, save for a brief run with The Firm.

Since Led Zeppelin disbanded after the death of John Bonham in 1980, rumors of a reunion were always present. By the early 1990s, these rumors had reached a fevered pitch and it appeared as though a reunion may finally come to fruition. However, Plant reportedly began to have reservations which ultimately nixed the plan. Because of this, many have suggested that Page collaborated with Coverdale in order to somewhat “irk” Plant, by collaborating with this “newer model” of the singer. It may have worked, as Plant expressed some derision at the guitarist’s collaboration with Coverdale in interviews at the time.

The project officially began with some low grade recordings by the Coverdale-Page duo in 1991. The album tracks for the eponymous album were then recorded in several studios on both sides of the Atlantic over the winter of 1991/92. However, the album itself was delayed in post production for over a year until it was finally released in March 1993.


Coverdale-Page by Coverdale-Page
Released: March 15, 1993 (EMI)
Produced by: Jimmy Page, David Coverdale, & Mike Fraser
Recorded: Little Mountain Studios, Vancouver, Criteria Studios, Miami, Highbrow Productions, Hook City, NV & Abbey Road Studios, London, Late 1991 to early 1992
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Shake My Tree
Waiting On You
Take Me for a Little While
Pride and Joy
Over Now
Feeling Hot
Easy Does It
Take a Look at Yourself
Don’t Leave Me This Way
Absolution Blues
Whisper a Prayer for the Dying
David Coverdale – Lead vocals, Guitar
Jimmy Page – Guitars, Bass, Dulcimer, “Electric Dog”, Harmonica
Lester Mendez – Keyboards
Denny Carmassi – Drums, Percussion

Coverdale-Page

“Shake My Tree” starts things off as a very Zeppelin-esque, super-charged blues rock anthem. The song builds tension through the first two verses as Page’s guitar and Coverdale’s voice carry the day until a the rest of the band come in with a “fire one” approach, making this a very formidable opener. The key riff for the song had actually been developed by Page during the sessions for Zeppelin’s final album In Through The Out Door, recorded in 1978. It was discarded then and even passed up by Page’s mid eighties group, The Firm. The Zeppelin-esque riffing of “Waiting on You” follows with some interesting stop/start rudiments, while the drumming and bass is definitely more Whitesnake than Led Zeppelin.

Speaking of Whitesnake, “Take Me for a Little While” could have fit well on any of their 1980s albums. A very moody power ballad, with just enough arrangement pizazz to keep it from the caricature realm of groups like Poison. “Pride and Joy” is a bit more original. Conceived by Coverdale as a Dr. John-style blues tune before Page brought it to a whole new level with layered guitars and a dulcimer added on top (an instrument Page hadn’t recorded since “That’s the Way” on Led Zeppelin III). During the second part of the song, Page plays a much stronger electric riff, which nicely counter-balances the song’s feel. “Shake My Tree” earned considerable radio airplay at the time.

Slower rock tracks also are prevalent on the album, such as the “Kashmir”-like “Over Now”, which sounds like some of the tracks from Page’s brief solo career. Former Montrose drummer Denny Carmassi leads a fast rock shuffle behind “Feeling Hot”, while bassist Jorge Casas adds some melodic and bouncy bass to “Easy Does It”. But there is no doubt that this album is dominated by the two men who give its name. “Take a Look at Yourself” is almost a love song, with measured, strummed guitars by Page, a very melodic vocal hook, and some fine wailing by Coverdale towards the end.

The album ends strong with two quality tracks. “Absolution Blues” is almost a hybrid between Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, with Page providing the fine yet vastly different guitar parts for both sides of the equation. “Whisper a Prayer for the Dying” closes with more strong acoustic guitars and bass before it rips into frenzied part with strong riffs and wailing vocals.

Despite alt-rock dominating the charts and radio at the time, Coverdale/Page initially sold strongly, peaking at #4 in the UK and #5 in the US and eventually going platinum. But the album did soon fade from view, a proposed tour was axed, and the partnership quickly dissolved after this one album. In the end, Coverdale re-formed Whitesnake and Page finally joined up Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant in 1994 for a couple of new albums in the mid 1990s.

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1993 Images

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

Jesus Christ Superstar original rock opera

Jesus Christ Superstar, a Rock Opera

Jesus Christ Superstar original rock operaBefore it was a theatre act, Broadway play, or motion picture, Jesus Christ Superstar was simply a 1970 rock album produced by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist by Tim Rice. The work is loosely based on the four Gospels’ accounts of the last weeks of the life of Jesus Christ, but takes much liberty in interpretting the philosophical and interpersonal dynamics between Jesus and his apostles, especially Judas Iscariot, the man who would ultimately betray him. The work largely follows the form of a traditional passion play but with a twentieth century interpretation with a focus on the psychology of Jesus and the other characters.

Webber and Rice had collaborated on several previous projects, starting with the 1965 musical The Likes of Us, which was actually shelved for four solid decades and not publicly performed until 2005. In 1968, the duo was commissioned to write a piece which became Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a retelling of story of the biblical figure Joseph, set to several musical styles. In 1969 Rice and Webber wrote a song for the Eurovision Song Contest called “Try It and See”, which was later rewritten as “King Herod’s Song” for Jesus Christ Superstar. Webber says has said the piece was written as a rock album from the outset and set out from the start to tell the story through the music itself. Musically, Webber took delight in exploring different keys and time signatures, while Rice came up with some clever wordplay which fused modern phrases with traditional terms.

On this original album, the part of Jesus was sung by Ian Gillan, lead vocalist of Deep Purple, while Judas Iscariot is performed by Murray Head. Both Englishmen were in their mid-twenties and had several years in the music business with limited success. After declining an invitation to join the band upon their formation, Gillan joined Deep Purple in mid 1969. A performance of the song “Child in Time” caught the ear of Rice, who contacted Gillan and offered him the role of Jesus. After just a few rehearsals with Rice and Webber, Gillan recorded his entire vocal contributions in one three hour session. Beyond his singing and songwriting skills, Murray Head was also a seasoned actor who won a leading role in the Oscar-nominated film Sunday Bloody Sunday in 1971. For the role of Mary Magdalene, a then relative unknown Yvonne Elliman was chosen. Elliman had just begun performing in clubs the previous year and would be one of the few players and singers to join the cast of the Broadway production in subsequent years.


Jesus Christ Superstar, Original Rock Opera
Released: September, 1970 (Decca)
Produced by: Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, May 1972-August 1973
Side One Side Two
Overture
Heaven On Their Minds
What’s the Buzz / Strange Thing Mystifying
Everything’s Alright
This Jesus Must Die
Hosana
Simon Zealotes / Poor Jerusalem
Pilate’s Dream
The Temple
Everything’s Alright (Reprise)
I Don’t Know How to Love Him
Damned for All Time / Blood Money
Side Three Side Four
The Last Supper
Gethsemane
The Arrest
Peter’s Denial
Pilate and Christ
King Herod’s Song
Could We Start Again Please?
Judas’s Death
Trial Before Pilate
Superstar
The Crucifixion
John Nineteen: Forty-One
Vocal Cast & Roles
Ian Gillan – Jesus  |  Murray Head – Judas  |  Yvonne Elliman – Mary Magdalene
Paul Davis – Peter  |  Victor Brox – Caiaphas  |  Brian Keith – Annas
Barry Dennen – Pontius Pilate  |  Mike D’Abo – King Herod
Primary Musicians
Neil Hubbard – Guitars  |  Henry McCulloch – Guitars  |  Allan Spenner – Bass
Peter Robinson – Piano, Organ  |  Bruce Rowland – Drums, Percussion

The album starts with a heavily distorted guitar, setting the pace for the “rock” part of the rock opera before the actual overture kicks in with a musical sequence later repeated in the climatic “Trial Before Pilate”. “Heaven on Their Minds” a total funk/rock masterpiece sung solo by Murray Head as Judas with some great piano and organ by Peter Robinson and just a touch of strings for color. The story starts with Judas expressing concern over Jesus’ rising popularity and the inherent danger that brings in a land occupied by the Romans. “What’s the Buzz” introduces Jesus and the Apostles in a hippy-dippy kind of pop/hip song, absurdly
bringing the scene into the (then) modern age. Musically, the stratospheric bass by Alan Spenner brings the hyper jazz/funk to an extraordinary level.

Judas and Jesus have their first heated debate over the course of two tracks; “Strange Thing Mystifying” and “Everything’s Alright”. This debate concerns the appropriateness of Jesus consorting with Mary Magdeline, as Elliman offers a soft counter-balance to the argument with the verses of “Everything’s Alright”. The song is in a 5/4 time signature, offering the perfect rhythm to push it forward at a brisk pace for full effect and the vocal contrasts between Gillan, Head, and Elliman makes it a masterpiece. To close the original first side, the dark “This Jesus Must Die” is the most theatrical to this point as the conspirators are given dark and sinister vocals performed by Victor Brox as Caiaphas and Brian Keith as Annas and other performers as high priests. Halfway, the song picks up with a rock beat and the dialogue speaks of Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist who was put to death for his believes, a fate that the conspirators wish on Jesus.

The upbeat “Hosanna”, driven by strings, chorus, and a soaring melody begins Side 2 and symbolizes Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. “Simon Zealotes” and “Poor Jerusalem” reflect more of the competing philosophical vision. John Gustafson makes his only appearance on the album as Apostle Simon the Zealot, who suggests a revolution led by Jesus, offering power and glory to Jesus after a successful overthrow of the Roman occupation in an upbeat section backed by funk rhythms, led by piano and bass. Gillan’s reply as Jesus in “Poor Jerusalem” is more of a short piano ballad where Jesus rejects this suggestion, stating that none of his followers understands what true power is, nor do they understand his true message.

A bit of filler is thrown into the middle of the second side. “Pilate’s Dream” is a short, acoustic song that features Barry Dennen as Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, who foresees the trial and execution of Jesus along with the coming spread of Christianity. On “The Temple” the album gets a little lethargic and repetitive with the story of usary in the temple being a bit superfluous followed by Jesus being accosted by lepers, cripples, and beggars, all wanting to be healed.

Yvonne EllimanOne of the highlights of the first act, and the peak of Elliman’s involvement on the album is the short reprise of “Everything’s Alright” which leads into the soulful folk song “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”. Led by the dual acoustic guitars of future Roxy Music member Neil Hubbard and future member of Paul McCartney’s Wings Henry McCulloch, the song contains a laid back arrange which provides the perfect canvas to compliment Elliman’s fantastic vocals. The song itself became a Top 20 pop hit. “Damned for All Time” / “Blood Money” begins with a free form, distorted solo electric guitar followed in sequence by a chorus of flutes before a riff-driven rock section with Head on lead vocals. Accented by great horn sections, this production masterpiece aptly closes the first Act, even with some abrupt changes between the two parts of the medley. Thematically, the song deals with Judas’ betrayal of Jesus to the high priest conspirators along with his internal conflict over the situation and hauntingly ends with an-almost Greek chorus speaking to Judas’ conscience.

Act II begins with “The Last Supper”, a self-contained, multi-part suite which masterfully blends the rock and theatrical elements. Alternating between the folk chorus of the Apostles and several other parts consistng of another spirited dialogue between Jesus and Judas, with Gillan and Head at top vocal form, accompanied by a great electric piano and more exquisite bass by Spenner. While dealing with Gospel text, Rice also uses drug references “What’s that in the bread, it’s gone to my head” and slows the Apostles chorus as they fade from drunkenness, unaware of the profound proclamation made by Jesus. “Gethsemane” is the real showcase for Gillan and the most like “Child In Time”, the Deep Purple song which got Gillan the gig in the first place. Starting with great acoustic guitar and bouncy bass, the song soon builds with much orchestral accompaniment and is, perhaps, the most dramatic part of the entire album dealing with Jesus’ own crisis of faith as he faces his immanent demise.

Ian Gillan“The Arrest” starts a long sequence in the second act where Jesus faces an all night ordeal leading to his crucifixion. The apostles slowly wake to find Jesus under arrest to the tune of “What’s the Buzz” followed by various vocal members playing almost like reporters and nice rock passages travels along with the movement of the arresting party as they go before the high priests. A slight deviation is taken in “Peter’s Denial” featuring Paul Davis as Jesus’ closest apostle confidant but distancing himself when confronted on three separate occasions. The end of the Side 3 is the most sticky sweet, show-tune-ish section of the album, as well as least rock oriented. Dennen returns as Pilate in an exaggerated, jazzy version of “Hosanna” named “Pilate and Christ”. Pilate “washes his hands” of the situation and sends Jesus to the Jewish King Herod, leading to the rendition of Webber and Rice’s ragtime “Try it and See”, performed by Mike D’Abo as Herod.

The final original side started “Could We Start Again Please?”, the only showcase for Elliman during the second act which doesn’t quite measure up to those in the first act and is almost set up like a pop song off the beaten path. “Judas’ Death” is a reprise of “Damned for All Time” and “Blood Money” with the same vocalists and Head’s vocals at top form as Judas’s guilt becomes overwhelming;

I have been splattered with innocent blood, I should be dragged through the slime and the mud…”

Head then does his own version as “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” before committing suicide to0 the sounds of the haunting Greek chorus.

The climax of the story is “Trial Before Pilate” which returns to the “Overture” a great sequence with wild, off key jazzy strings, synths, and horns and an intense dialogue between Gillan and Dennen with the crowd joining in as Pilate’s various thoughts on whether to release or crucify Jesus. A short rock break is taken with “The Thirty-Nine Lashes”, ending with a nice drum fill by Bruce Rowland. A final dialogue between Jesus and Pilate ensues with the crowd convincing Pilate to ultimately crucify Jesus; “I wash my hands of your demolition, die if you want to, you innocent puppet…” Although “Superstar” is supposed to be the focal point of the opera, it really pales in comparison to some of the other finer tracks. It does some nice chorus-driven hooks cut by one last funky track musically and a posthumous reappearance of Head’s Judas, now a ghost and some soulful female backup singers. The song, which is almost mocking in tone, did peak at number 14 on the Billboard pop charts in 1971. The album then kind of whimpers out in an anti-climatic fashion with the nearly psychedelic synth-experimentation of “The Crucifixion” followed by the calm, orchestral reprise of “Gethsemane” in “John Nineteen: Forty-One”.

Andrew Lloyd WebberAndrew Lloyd Webber originally thought the production would be limited to a niche audience, blocked out on either side by young people thinking it was uncool subject matter and religious people who would think it was too controversial. Then unexpectedly it rose to the top of the album charts, sparking a short arena tour and what Webber called “one of the worst productions he had ever seen on Broadway”. In fact, the only reason it was put on Broadway was to head off the various small theatre and school productions which had begun to sprout up in 1971.

Webber and Tim Rice collaborated once again with Evita in the late 1970s and Webber would go on to produce two of the most successful Broadway productions ever with Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, both debuting in the 1980s. Ian Gillan went on to meteoric success as frontman of Deep Purple, climaxing with the 1972 album Machine Head (our 1972 Album of the Year) before abruptly leaving the group in 1973, although he would reunite with Deep Purple several times in the future. Murray Head continued to act and record songs, with his biggest charting success being “One Night in Bangkok” in the mid 1980s. After her Broadway performances and role as Mary Magdelene in the 1974 Hollywood film of Jesus Christ Superstar, Yvonne Elliman sang on several Eric Clapton albums, most poingnently Slowhand in 1977, before a brief but successful disco/pop career, which included several Top 20 hits. She decided to dedicate herself to her two children in 1979 and has pretty much stayed out of the public spotlight since.

Over the past four decades, several different versions of Jesus Christ Superstar were produced spanning the entire spectrum of media, on every corner of the globe, making it one of the most popular universal productions ever. In May 2012, Webber launched a reality television show called Superstar where the UK public decided who would play the role of Jesus in an upcoming arena tour. Ben Forster was chosen and the arena tour, which began September 2012 and continues to this day (March 2013). Webber claims this tour most closely represents the original vision for the rock opera.

~
R.A.

A Classic Rock Review Special Feature.

 

1973 Classic Rock Review Album of the Year

The Dark Side of the Moon
by Pink Floyd

1973 Classic Rock Review Album of the Year

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Dark Side of the Moon by Pink FloydPerhaps the most complete concept album of all time, The Dark Side of the Moon was the ultimate redemption for Pink Floyd. Culminating years of progressive and experimental music, this album focused on the most atomic elements of human life (and not just the bright spots) and set it all to the beat of a human heart over a 44-minute journey that leaves the listener contemplating the larger picture from several angles. This album sits in a unique place in rock history, bridging the final days of the late 1960s psychedelic era with the new wave, electronic phase that dominated the late 1970s. It also is the perfect pivot point for Pink Floyd itself, representing their past (the opening sound-collage dominated sequence from the album’s start through the intro to “Time”), their present (more rock/pop oriented with long instrumental passages in the middle of the album), and their future (the ending medley, dominated by Roger Waters).

The concept was first introduced to the band by Waters immediately following the release of Meddle in 1971. Although Waters wrote all of the lyrics, The Dark Side of the Moon was the last complete band effort, with all four members getting composing credits. The music was composed and developed as a suite during live performances throughout 1972, with the band simultaneously recording the material for the album Obscured by Clouds. Recording for The Dark Side of the Moon took place at Abbey Road Studios in London, using some of the most advanced recording techniques of the time. The group, along with engineer Alan Parsons, made great use of multi-track recording, tape loops, analogue synthesizers, and a series of recorded interviews to give the album a completely original and unique sound. Snippets of voices were recorded when staff and other occupants of the studio answered a series of questions printed on flashcards. This in itself proved to be an interesting experiment as responses from Paul and Linda McCartney were not used because they seemed too calculating while the most notable responses came from the studios’ doorman, Gerry O’Driscoll.

Although the album only held the number one spot in the US for one a week, it remained on the chart for an incredible 741 weeks (over 14 years) and has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide. Released 40 years ago today, The Dark Side of the Moon tops many lists as the greatest album of all time and is Classic Rock Review’s album of the year for 1973.


The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Released: March 1, 1973 (Capitol)
Produced by: Pink Floyd
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, June 1972–January 1973
Side One Side Two
Speak to Me
Breathe
On the Run
Time
The Great Gig In the Sky
Money
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage
Eclipse
Band Musicians
David Gilmour – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Roger Waters – Basss, Snyths, Vocals
Richard Wright – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion

Each original side of the album is a continuous piece of music. The first side begins with “Speak to Me”, which forms a kind of overture previewing several sound snippets from the album. Drummer Nick Mason receives a rare solo writing credit because the only real instrumentation is his kick drum, treated to sound like a heartbeat. “Breathe” is a natural extension of the moody songs on previous albums with double-tracked vocals by David Gilmour. Slow and methodical, every note and beat counts while Gilmour adds rich in texture with overdubbed electric and pedal steel guitars. The lyrics are as simple and brief as the title and act as a short intro for the journey up ahead.

One of the amazing qualities of The Dark Side of the Moon is how the album instantly yet seamlessly switches moods, such as when it goes from ethereal “Breathe” to the frantic “On the Run”. This an instrumental piece was performed almost exclusively on an EMS synthesizer and is driven by entering an 8-note sequence repeated at a high tempo, with more voices and sound effects on top to make the piece ever-intensifying until it finally crashes at the end with what sounds like a crashing airplane. This leads to the long intro for “Time”, starting with a chorus of chiming clocks which were painfully recorded one by one by Parsons and various antique stores in London and then synced together through multiple tape machines. Next, comes a passage dominated by Mason’s drums with heavy use of rototoms and a backing “tick-tock” sound created by Waters picking two muted strings on his bass. When the song proper finally kicks in, it is a fantastic release into a full-fledged rock song which contains one of the greatest guitar leads ever. The song is incredibly simple, especially during the verse, but sounds so rich due to excellent production and musicianship. It contains deeply philosophical lyrics, sung by both Gilmour and keyboardist Richard Wright along with a chorus of female background singers. This is the final song to ever be credited to all four members of the band and is, perhaps, the best overall group effort in Pink Floyd’s long career.

Pink Floyd in 1973

After a short, one verse reprise of “Breathe”, appended to “Time”, comes the most unique and controversial song on the album. “The Great Gig In the Sky” has no legible lyrics, but instead contains about four minutes of improvised scat vocals by Clare Torry, a session singer who Parsons knew from other projects. Depending on your artistic point of view, this could be the worst or the best song on the album, the most meaningful or most absurd, and if nothing demonstrates why Pink Floyd is an acquired taste. Originally titled “The Mortality Sequence”, it is backed by a beautiful, minor key piano sequence by Wright and Torry added her vocals in one session which she entered without previously hearing the backing track. The band paid her sixty quid for the session and sent her on her way, not really hearing from her again until three decades later when Torry sued Pink Floyd and EMI for songwriting royalties, on the basis that her contribution constituted co-authorship with Richard Wright. Torry won the suit for an undisclosed amount and all pressings of the album after 2005 credit her as co-composer.

Money singleSide two begins with “Money”, a song which is a true double-edged sword, at once being one of the most recognizable and accessible Pink Floyd songs and one of the most overplayed and overrated. Still, for a hit song it is quite unique and artistically rewarding, written by Waters in the unusual 7/4 time signature for the verses before breaking into more standard, rock-oriented 4/4 time for Gilmour’s extended guitar solo in the middle. During this middle section the sonic tones are also adjusted, as a sparse “dry” section under subtle guitar licks is bookended by stronger dynamics with heavy use of reverb and chaotic drumming by Mason. The song also features a short saxophone lead by Dick Parry.

Parry and his sax have a more prominent role in “Us and Them”, a song about as moody and surreal as one can get while maintaining top notch rock status. It was released as a single in 1974, but kind of flopped as it failed to reach the Top 100 on the charts. However, but the more macro jury of time has rightfully judged this a true Pink Floyd classic. The tune was originally written on the piano by Wright for the film soundtrack Zabriskie Point in 1969 but was rejected by the film’s director. This slow paced, seven and a half minute song contains more spoken phrases which adds to the overall feel. “Us and Them” directly bridges to “Any Colour You Like”, another reprise of “Breathe” but from a totally instrumental approach. In fact, only Gilmour, Mason, Wright are credited for this composition, as Waters is oddly left out.

However, Waters does dominate the final two tracks on the album, taking on lead vocals as well as solo credit for “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse”. Here the concept of “Dark Side of the Moon” is fully laid out with a sonically superior, perfect wrap to the album. Further, the larger picture of life itself is focused down to a particular individual as the insanity-themed lyrics are based on former band frontman Syd Barrett‘s mental instability, which began following the success of their debut album Piper at the Gates of Dawn in 1967. Waters would re-visit Barrett’s situation in much more detail on the band’s next album Wish You Were Here. Musically, “Brain Damage” contains great layered guitars and a totally unique, synth-organ lead, while “Eclipse” reverts back to a more traditional band jam led by Wright’s Hammond organ. Both songs also contain great female backing vocals. When the main instrumentation fades the sound of the heartbeat from “Speak to Me” comes back to the forefront with one final, profound spoken part by door man O’Driscoll:

“There is no dark side in the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark. (The only thing that makes it look light is the sun.)”

The members of Pink Floyd have long lamented the duality of feelings they have towards the success of The Dark Side of the Moon. It would work to at once validate them as a top-notch artistic group and fractured them as a cohesive unit. The quartet would have much more success throughout the seventies and maintained headlining status even after Waters departed in the eighties. But they would never again quite reach that moment in time when everything came together to create a true rock masterpiece.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

Quadrophenia by The Who

Quadrophenia by The Who

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Quadrophenia by The WhoQuadrophenia completed the mega-creative trifecta for The Who, which peaked with Who’s Next in 1971 but was bookended by the two greatest rock operas ever – Tommy in 1969 and this album in 1973, both double albums. The term “Quadrophenia” was coined by the band’s sole composer Pete Townshend, as a play on the word “schizophrenia” with a specific meaning of someone with four distinct personalities. On a deeper level, the title was meant as a nod to the new quadrophonic sound (the earliest form of “surround sound” which never quite caught on in its day) and is also a representation of the four band members themselves. The linear story that runs through the album comes from the psychological perspective of an English teenager in the early 1960s, making the album also a loose tribute to the group’s earliest fans.

Townshend has stated that the idea for Quadrophenia evolved from an idea for an autobiographical concept album titled “Rock Is Dead, Long Live Rock!” in 1972 with songs such as “Join Together”, “Relay” and “Long Live Rock” along with the first compositions that ended up on the album. Townshend instead decided to create a character named Jimmy with four personalities that reflected those of the band members, each associated with a “theme” which recurs throughout the album.

While not as cohesive or focused as Who’s Next and not as popular as Tommy, this may be the ultimate Who album due to its sheer breadth and ambition Townshend expanded fully from his traditional guitar-centric approach to include pianos and keyboards as prominent lead instruments. Meanwhile, lead vocalist Roger Daltrey is in top form, carrying many of the songs while delicately working through the multiple character parts reflected in several of the extended songs. Further, Townshend considers this the best produced Who album ever, due in part to the professional techniques of Kit Lambert along with the innovative ones done by himself.


Quadrophenia by The Who
Released: October 19, 1973 (MCA)
Produced by: Kit Lambert, Glyn Johns & The Who
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, May 1972-August 1973
Side One Side Two
I Am the Sea
The Real Me
Quadrophenia
Cut My Hair
The Punk Meets the Godfather
I’m One
The Dirty Jobs
Helpless Dancer
Is It In My Head?
I’ve Had Enough
Side Three Side Four
5:15
Sea and Sea
Drowned
Bell Boy
Doctor Jimmy
The Rock
Love, Reign O’er Me
Group Musicians
Roger Daltrey – Lead Vocals
Pete Townshend – Guitars, Piano, Synths, Banjo, Vocals
John Entwistle – Bass, Horns, Vocals
Keith Moon – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The instrumental “I Am the Sea” acts as overture with snippets of vocals of future songs over ocean and rain sounds, Townshend went out and recorded these sounds personally at various locations in England. “The Real Me” is the first “real” song, driven by a guitar riff and an impressive bass performance by John Entwistle, which was recorded in one take. Lyrically, this song acts as an introduction to Jimmy Cooper, his four personalities, his visits to a psychiatrist, and his domestic situation. Another long instrumental follows with the title track “Quadrophenia”, which kind of distracts the listener by having another instrumental so close to the intro, especially since this one is so theatrical.

The first side finishes with two very strong tunes. “Cut My Hair” is the first song to introduce a historical perspective, as the lyric details the Mod fashion and a radio broadcast near the end speaks of an actual riot in Brighton between Mods and Rockers. Sung by Townshend, this is a real good theatrical tune and contains great synth effects. “The Punk Meets the Godfather” is a pure climatic rock with great sound and lyrics and the first of several great performances on the album by drummer Keith Moon. In fact, this song may be “Exhibit A” that The Who can never really be The Who without Entwistle and Moon.

The Who in 1973

“I’m One” begins the original second side with a country-ish acoustic ballad with great ethereal guitar tone in the background, before it breaks into a much more upbeat tune. The introspective lyrics contemplate how the protagonist has not much going for him except for the Mod lifestyle. “The Dirty Jobs” is one of the great unheralded songs on Quadrophenia, led by a fantastic vocal performance by Daltrey and innovative, melodic synths throughout, which pretty much replace guitars as the lead instrument on this song.

“Helpless Dancer” is the oddest song on first two sides, a march-like approach with horns, piano, and a short acoustic part in the middle. All four members have a theme song relating to one of Jimmy’s personalities, and this one is Daltrey’s theme as the “Tough Guy”. The song ends with a short snippet of one of the band’s earliest hits, “The Kids Are Alright”. “Is It in My Head?” is a moderate and catchy acoustic song, which leads to “I’ve Had Enough”. Going through several phases, like some of the extended pieces on Tommy, “I’ve Had Enough” morphs from from a driving rock verse to the string infused “Love Reign O’er Me” part to the banjo-led hook part. Daltry carries the tune vocally, aptly setting the differing moods of the song.

5:15 single by The WhoOne of the only “hits” on the album, “5:15” goes through a melodic journey telling a story that mainly observes the outside environment while traveling on a train. The song contains great horns, beautiful vocals, and especially great piano by guest Chris Stainton. The dramatic ending contains intense drums and thumping piano notes. The scene moves to Brighton with “Sea and Sand”, which alternates between folk-ish acoustic and pure, Who-style rock with lyrics that portray Jimmy’s affinity for the beach as an escape from the unpleasant realities of home and life in London.

The narrative continues with “Drowned”, a philosophical theme about losing one’s self in the ocean, in a suicidal attempt to become one with God. Set to upbeat music with great rotating piano, guitar licks, and more great drums. In fact, this may Moon’s best performance on the album, and that is saying something. “Drowned” is also the oldest song on Quadrophenia, initially written as an ode to Meher Baba in early 1970. Moon’s theme, “Bellboy” completes side three. It starts as a standard rocker with Daltrey at vocals before the song gets taken over by Moon’s comical yet effective vocals. Lyrically it tells of a former Mod hero of Jimmy’s who has “sold out” and become a pathetic bellboy at a Brighton resort.

Entwistle’s theme is the “Is It Me?” part of “Doctor Jimmy” (which also shows up at various points of the album). With synthesized fiddle effects, horns, and great bass, this ambiguous loose reference to “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” speaks again of the multiple personalities running through the story, but with alcohol being catalyst for the change. The longest song on the album, Daltrey effectively plays both roles vocally. “The Rock” acts as both a long intro to final song and recap of much of the previous material, much like “Underture” from Tommy. In truth, “The Rock” is a bit of over-indulgent filler. The final song “Love, Reign O’er Me” is Townshend’s theme on the album, which again delves into the philosophy of Meher Baba as Jimmy finds his “true self” while on a stolen boat, during a storm in the sea. The song begins with some classical piano and orchestral instrumentations, later giving way to great synth effects and lead guitars, all by Townshend. But it is Daltrey’s vocal performance which has gained the best critical response, with many considering this song the finest performance of his career.

Quadrophenia reached #2 on the U.S. album charts, the highest ever for The Who, kept from the top spot by Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. In 1979, the film Quadrophenia was released but focused more on the story than the music, which was relegated to mere background during certain scenes. Although the band viewed the original tour in support of the album as disastrous due to ineffective techniques of including synthesizers live in 1973, they revisited Quadrophenia in the future with a dedicated tour in 1996, and most recently this past November (2012), where the album was played in its entirety along with a few selected hits during the encore.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

Band On the Run by Paul McCartney and Wings

Band On the Run by Paul McCartney & Wings

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Band On the Run by Paul McCartney and WingsPaul McCartney finally hitting on all cylinders in his post-Beatles career with Band on the Run. It was his fifth such album since the 1970 breakup of the Fab Four and the third with his new group, Wings. He had made a respectable solo debut and a another good album, Ram in 1971, with his wife Linda McCartney. But then came the first two Wings album – the utterly forgettable Wild Life in late 1971, and the somewhat better but vastly uneven Red Rose Speedway in early 1973. During 1972 and 1973, McCartney was putting out much better material as non-album singles than the material on his albums. But that all changed with Band on the Run, an album which would be widely considered his finest.

The songs were all written by Paul and Linda McCartney at their Scottish retreat in the Summer of 1973. Red Rose Speedway was a commercial success and that was followed up by the Top Ten charting song “Live and Let Die” from the James Bond film of the same name. The couple also wanted to find an exotic locale to record this album and discovered that EMI had an international affiliate in Lagos, Nigeria. Coming into the project, Wings were a five person group. However, lead guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Denny Seiwell dropped out of the band on the eve of their departure for Africa. This left Wings as a trio with guitarist and pianist Denny Laine along with the McCartneys. Paul McCartney took on the roles of the departed musicians as well as produced the album. Engineer Geoff Emerick was the fourth and final person to make the trip to Lagos.

Upon arriving however, the four discovered a militant nation with corruption and disease and a ramshackle studio which was under equipped with only one 8-track tape machine. Several incidents also plagued Wings during their time in Lagos stay. Paul and Linda were robbed at knife point while out walking one night and the thieves got away with a notebook full of handwritten lyrics and song notes, and cassettes containing demos for songs to be recorded. On another occasion a local political activist accused the group of being in Africa to exploit and steal African music and threatened to riot at the studio until McCartney who played the songs for him proving that they contained no local influence whatsoever. Paul McCartney also suffered a sudden bronchial spasm during one session which left him unconscious. Despite all of these distractions, the album did manage to get recorded on time and with limited post-production done back in London.

The album’s cover photo was shot by Clive Arrowsmith and features an expanded “band”. Along with Paul, Linda and Denny the photo includes journalist Michael Parkinson, comedian Kenny Lynch, actor James Coburn, columnist Clement Freud, actor Christopher Lee, and boxer John Conteh. While not quite as iconic as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the cover of Band on the Run has become one of the most famous in rock history.


Band On the Run by Paul McCartney & Wings
Released: December 5, 1973 (Apple)
Produced by: Paul McCartney
Recorded: Lagos, Nigeria, August–September 1973
Side One Side Two
Band On the Run
Jet
Bluebird
Mrs. Vanderbilt
Let Me Roll It
Mamunia
No Words
Helen Wheels
Picasso’s Last Wors (Drink to Me)
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Band Musicians
Paul McCartney – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Piano, Drums & Percussion
Denny Laine – Guitars, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals
Linda McCartney – Keyboards, Vocals

Although Paul McCartney had previous and future albums where he played virtually every instrument, this album is probably his most important accomplishment. Beyond stepping in at the last moment to provide the bulk of guitars and drums, McCartney also forged fine vocal melodies and chameleon–like changes in tone and inflection to fit the mood of each track. His arrangements are spectacular, especially on the mini-suites, and the productions are rich. This was also the album where McCartney first really started to develop his own style on bass and brought it up to the forefront of the mix.

The opening title song “Band On the Run” is one of the absolute classics of McCartney’s solo career. This three-part medley follows sequentially (at least among album tracks) the 4-part medley which ended Red Rose Speedway. After a complex two-minute intro, the third, acoustic-driven title part is the melodic payoff. The song strikes the balance between being experimental with unique structure yet accessible enough to make it impossible to be ignored by the pop world. McCartney credits George Harrison for coining the term “Band on the Run” during an acrimonious Apple board meeting in the Beatles’ final days.

“Jet” is a great follow-up to the fantastic opener with layers of sound, and an exploding chorus (like a jet). This rocker has great harmonies and background vocals in general and the title may have been influenced by the McCartney’s Labrador Retriever. Unlike most of the rest of the album, recorded in Nigeria, “Jet” was recorded back at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London.

The first side concludes with a couple of unique rockers. “Mrs Vanderbilt” is a driving acoustic tune with chanting vocal inflections during the verses and a great bass line throughout, which really stands out. The opening lines borrow from a catchphrase from music hall performer Charlie Chester. While recording in Lagos, the studio suffered a power outage so overdubs were later added in London. “Let Me Roll It” contains a bluesy rolling guitar riff during the verses and use of tape echo on the vocals, following a Fafsa organ and bass intro. The tune has long been considered to be an answer to John Lennon’s “How Do you Sleep?” from his 1971 album Imagine.

Paul McCartney and Wings

Side two begins with the very bright and acoustic “Mamunia” with more melodic and bouncy bass throughout. The lyrics are a bit nonsensical, more wordplay than meaning, but a cool synth lead near the end adds some variety and a new level to the sound. “No Words” is an electric song with judicious use of orchestra and sounds a lot like Harrison, vocal-wise. It jumps through several sections rapidly with differing instrumental arrangements, sounding somewhat under-developed and confused. It was the only song on the album partially credited to Denny Laine. “Helen Wheels” takes a simpler rock/pop approach with some whining vocal effect above a hook good enough to make it a hit song, peaking at #10 in the U.S. and #12 on the U.K.

“Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)” is another attempt at a multi-part suite, starting as an acoustic, almost Scottish folk tune and evolving through sections with clarinets, heavy strings, and even some odd percussion added by Ginger Baker, who was also recording in Nigeria at the time. The repetitive nature tilts a bit towards the infamous “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” with its repetitiveness and contains slight reprises of “Jet” and “Mrs Vanderbilt” in the mix. The album concludes with “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”, a great closer which really gets into the beat and rhythm with a vaudeville flavor. It takes some judicious breaks for vocal chorus with sustained organ before coming back to great effect and builds towards a climatic ending with heavy brass brought in to add to the tension before it finally breaks and abruptly reprises in the chorus of “Band on the Run” which fades the album out.

Band on the Run was the top-selling album of 1974 in both England and Australia and it won the Grammy for “Best Pop Vocal Performance By a Duo, Group or Chorus” in early 1975. The album was also the last time the group would be called “Paul McCartney & Wings” as they would simply be “Wings” for the duration of their existence and it was also McCartney’s final album on the Apple Records label which he started with his fellow Beatles five years earlier.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

Selling England By the Pound by Genesis

Selling England by the Pound
by Genesis

Buy Selling England by the Pound

Selling England By the Pound by GenesisThe classic lineup of Genesis was at their absolute peak musically and melodically on the 1973 album Selling England by the Pound. The band had a steady progression in the early 1970s albums, leading to this climax which fused their heavy prog-rock and overtly theatrical background with an English folk theme topped by incredible rock virtuosity. The album has a storybook quality and is nearly drifts into “concept album” territory. Instead it is more a collection of short stories, fables, and fairy tales that don’t really have much in common save the English themes. And, of course, the fantastic musicianship that made this album one of the greatest albums of the progressive rock genre.

While all members of the quintet are at their absolute peak on this album, no one shines brighter than guitarist Steve Hackett. This is his absolute moment in the sun and makes one wonder why there was relatively so little from him in subsequent years (even though he stayed with Genesis through three more albums). On this album Hackett perfected the use of the tapping technique and sweep picking, techniques which would not become widely popular until a decade later. This is also the album were drummer Phil Collins (who would later be more associated as the band’s front man) best displays his drumming skills. Even lead singer Peter Gabriel gets into the musical act, providing flute on several tracks to add to the overall English folk vibe.

A nice balance is struck throughout the album and on a matrix of levels. The four epic pieces alternate with the four lighter pieces throughout the album and with these an alternation between deeper and heavier eccentricity with contemporary pop and fragile love song themes. There is also a nice consolidation between the rock and folk sections, the overt literary allusions and hook-driven themes often all within the same track. This combination makes this album infinitely listenable and not the least bit dated four decades after its release.


Selling England By the Pound by Genesis
Released: October 12, 1973 (Atlantic)
Produced by: John Burns and Genesis
Recorded: Island Studios, London, August 1973
Side One Side Two
Dancing with the Moonlit Knight
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth of Fifth
More Fool Me
The Battle of Epping Forest
After the Odeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty
Group Musicians
Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Flute
Steve Hackett – Guitars
Tony Banks – Piano, Keyboards
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitars, Cello
Phil Collins – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

A long intro with only guitar textures and vocal melody mask the ultimate dynamics of “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, the de facto title song of Selling England by the Pound. This eight minute album opening song blends lyricism and acoustic texture during the opening verses with the exquisite musicianship during this middle jam. During this section each musician’s skills are showcased nicely before the song fades into an add yet intriguing mellow outro which eats up nearly two minutes with psychedelic rudiments. “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” was the band’s first charting single through five LPs, climbing all the way to #21 on the UK charts. It has a mechanical sound-effect during the intro with spoken word intro before it breaks into a pleasant pop (almost “glam”) song with the chorus melody being mirrored by a heavy synth riff and a very active bass line by Mike Rutherford. The lyrics were derived from the painting by Betty Swanwick called The Dream, which originally did not include the lawn mower which the band asked Swanwick to add to the painting to match the song’s protagonist. A simple, “lawnmower man” who is constantly getting advice from people concerned with his future, but is content with what he is (“I know what I like and I like what I know”). Although the song was the most accessible in their collection to date, it still contains some Genesis edge including a return to the mechanical effect during the coda beneath a flute lead to end the song.

I don’t make such assertions lightly, but “Firth of Fifth” is one of the greatest rock masterpieces ever, despite its relative mainstream and radio obscurity. This song has everything great about a progressive rock song, starting with an unbelievable classical piano intro by Tony Banks which lasts over a minute alternating between among time signatures before giving way to a pure rock verse and chorus performed by the entire ensemble. The song then travels through a sonic journey of several sections, some with vocals, some instrumental, but all purely excellent. There is a part with a light flute solo by Gabriel over Banks’ methodical piano riffs, which leads to part where the piano builds and builds until breaking into a frantic synth led over the full band rendition of the opening piano piece, where Collins especially shines on drum. Then comes perhaps the greatest guitar lead ever by Hackett, who sustains notes into the stratosphere above a basic driving, bluesy backing rhythm. But this guitar is anything but basic, striking notes in the most methodical and melodic way where each one counts. Even the sparse lyrics are superior, especially during the final verse;

“Now that the river dissolves in sea, so death too has claimed another soul / and so with Gods and Men the sheep remain inside their pen until the shepherd leads his flock away / the sands of time were eroded by the river of constant change…”

The title of “Firth of Fifth” is a pun on the estuary of the River Forth in Scotland, commonly known as the Firth of Forth. Although, like all tracks on the album, “Firth of Fifth” is credited to all five band members, Banks was actually the author of most of this song with Rutherford helping out with some of the lyrics.

Genesis in 1973

Selling England by the Pound is also notable for a milestone in the band’s career, containing the first song with lead vocals by Phil Collins, who would take over those duties permanently following Gabriel’s departure in 1975. “More Fool Me” is a bit melodramatic yet pleasant love song and pretty much only involves Hackett and Rutherford on acoustic guitars and Collins on lead vocal. Collins sings soprano most of the way, which really stands out due to the song’s sparse arrangement.

Side two is a much more theatrical side, especially with the side’s opener “The Battle of Epping Forest”. This begins with colonial-type battle march, led by flute and a marching drum rhythm. It then bursts into a full prog-rock arrangement through the first verse before morphing its way through many multi-character, story-telling sections in a manner similar to “Get Em Out by Friday” from their previous album Foxtrot. A wild, choppy guitar provides rhythm for the second verse leading to a complete break in the middle “Reverend” section, with a waltz-like tempo and more deliberate melody. The song was inspired by territorial gang battles in East London but uses heavy allegory of middle age clashes in the forest while subtly eschewing an anti-war message;

“There’s no one left alive, it must be a draw…”

“After the Ordeal” is presented as an instrumental epilogue to “The Battle of Epping Forest” but acts more like an intermission bridge between two epic songs. Written mainly by Hackett, the piece has two distinct parts with the first half an up-tempo classical guitar piece with a piano backing and the second half a slower rock piece beneath Hackett’s electric lead. This lead is again masterful and the only real problem is that it is edited way too short.

The eleven-plus minute epic “The Cinema Show” sustained as the fan favorite from this album. It begins as a purely romantic, modern day “Romeo and Juliet” tale, led by dual acoustic folk guitars and melodic lead vocals by Gabriel. The lyrics from Banks and Rutherford were inspired from a T.S. Eliot poem along with Greek mythology and have highly sexualized overtones. Like the other epics on this album, the song builds into many sections once the entire band gets involved, including a complex vocal motif and yet another lead to great lead guitar by Hackett which segues into a five minute long jam with various synth leads by Banks, some backing operatic vocal choirs, and incredible drumming by Collins, playing a shuffle in 7/8 time. The synth sounds act as a sneak preview of the band’s next album, the double LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The song dissolves back to 4/4 time and segues into the closing song “Aisle of Plenty”, a reprise of “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, giving the album a bookend effect.

Selling England by the Pound was classic Genesis hitting on all cylinders, and the band put together a completely original and musically superior album like no other. Although it would pale in comparison to the commercial success of the band’s pop-oriented 1980s album, it nearly topped the charts in the UK, which was a big deal at the time. But where there album shines is artistically, and on this front it belongs on the list of best ever.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.