News Of the World by Queen

News Of the World by Queen

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News Of the World by Queen News Of the World was recorded and released in the heart of Queen’s most prolific and creative era and may be the band’s most balanced album. It bridges the harmony-rich, virtuoso studio pieces of the era such as 1975’s A Night At the Opera, with the funk-influenced, rhythm driven hits of their near future, like 1980’s The Game. The band’s sixth album in just over four years of recording, News Of the World, is extremely diverse with every one of its eleven tracks credited to a single composer within the band, each of the four band members composing multiple tracks, and a variety of genres explored within the songs themselves.

News Of the World was the second album to be produced solely by the band, with the 1976 predecessor, A Day At the Races, being the first. After that album received some criticism as being “boring”, Queen decided to scale down their complex arrangements and employ a “rootsier” sound while incorporating many diverse styles and approaches for this album. These styles ranged from heavy metal to soft jazz, from Spanish influenced to “stadium rock” and many genres in between. The album contains two tracks without the band’s dynamic front man Freddie Mercury, and two tracks absent their virtuoso lead guitarist Brian May. With the overall songwriting less dominated by May and Mercury, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor stepped in to play a larger role.

The album cover was a painting by American sci-fi artist Frank Kelly Freas and was presented to the band by Taylor, who had a copy of the October 1953 issue of Astounding Science Fiction with this cover art. The band contacted Freas, who agreed to alter the painting for the News Of the World album cover, incorporating the four band members. Of course, the title itself came from the British tabloid of the same name, which was once the most popular newspaper on Earth but has in the past year (2011) folded up due in part to scandal.

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News Of the World by Queen
Released: October 28, 1977 (EMI)
Produced by: Queen & Mike Stone
Recorded: Basing Street & Wessex Studios, London, July-September 1977
Side One Side Two
We Will Rock You
We Are the Champions
Sheer Heart Attack
All Dead, All Dead
Spread Your Wings
Fight From the Inside
Get Down, Make Love
Sleeping On the Sidewalk
Who Needs You
It’s Late
My Melancholy Blues
Group Musicians
Freddie Mercury – Lead & Harmony Vocals, Piano, Percussion
Brian May – Guitars, Percussion, Lead & Harmony Vocals
John Deacon – Bass, Guitars, Percussion
Roger Taylor– Drums, Percussion, Lead & Harmony Vocals

News Of the World has eleven tracks, each written solely by one of the four band members. May lead the way, composing four songs, Mercury wrote three, while Deacon and Taylor wrote two apiece.

May made a conscious decision to make “We Will Rock You” a simple anthem in order to get the live audience more directly involved. The album’s opener would go on to become one of Queen’s biggest songs worldwide and a staple of arena and stadiums everywhere. It was inspired by a gig at Stafford’s Bingley Hall, when the audience sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to the band to lull them out for an encore (this was a commonplace at “football” matches and one such occurrence was captured at the end of “Fearless” on Pink Floyd’s Meddle.

“It’s Late” was the May’s idea of treating a song as a three-act theatrical play (the verses are even called “acts” in the lyrics sheet). As the guitarist put it at the time;

“It’s another one of those story-of-your life songs. I think it’s about all sorts of experiences that I had, and experiences that I thought other people had, but I guess it was very personal, and it’s written in three parts, it’s like the first part of the story is at home, the guy is with his woman. The second part is in a room somewhere, the guy is with some other woman, that he loves, and can’t help loving, and the last part is he’s back with his woman…”

Brian May also takes over lead vocals on his two other compositions. “Sleeping On The Sidewalk”, was recorded in one take instrumentally with the vocals later overdubbed. It has a strong rockabilly backing with a heavier guitar up front which all works well with the subdued vocals, making it one of the album’s gems. Lyrically, it tells a rags-to-riches story about an aspiring trumpet player. “All Dead, All Dead” is an excellent composition with melodic piano and vocal harmonies, more subdued vocals by May, a section with swelling guitar coming in like a majestic Medieval organ, and a crisp and thumping, yet measured and sparse rhythm by Deacon and Taylor. In later interviews, May revealed that the song is about the passing of his cat.

John Deacon wrote a couple of interesting songs. “Who Needs You” features the bassist along with May playing dueling Spanish guitars with Mercury adding some percussion. “Spread Your Wings” is one of the forgotten gems in the Queen catalog. With moody piano, acoustic guitar, melodic lead vocals, and just a touch of dynamism from May’s lead the song brings out just about all of the best aspects of the band at their peak. Beyond composing the song, Deacon really shines on bass, playing in a style reminiscent of early John Paul Jones, and giving the song a legitimate edge that makes it a classic.

Drummer Roger Taylor contributed a couple of the harder-edged songs on the album. “Sheer Heart Attack” gave the band’s third album its title in 1974, but the song itself was only partially finished and didn’t make it on to that album. With the punk rock movement in full effect in 1977, Queen brought the song back to life as precursor to “death metal”, setting a template that would be adapted by acts such as Judas Priest in subsequent years. On “Fight From the Inside”, Taylor plays just about every instrument and sings lead as well, making the song very unique in the Queen catalog.

“Get Down, Make Love” was written by Mercury and makes heavy use of sexual innuendo, with suggestive lyrics that stop just short of being explicit. This funk and punk inspired club piece includes a short mid-section with effects that sound like the ambiance of an early 1980s arcade. However, these “psychedelic” effects were not produced on a synthesiser, but on but May’s guitar and an Electroharmonix Frequency Analyzer pedal. The album’s closer, “My Melancholy Blues” is a nightclub inspired, soft jazz number which includes Mercury’s vocal and piano backed only by a fret less bass and percussive hi-hat and kick drum.

Mercury’s masterpiece on the album is “We Are the Champions”, which acts as a melodic counter piece to May’s “We Will Rock You”, also built on audience response. The song had been written by 1975 but was held off albums until 1977. It reached the top five on both sides of the Atlantic. It features beautifully layered and harmonized guitars and and four to five part vocal harmonies, all built above the simple piano tune at its core. Like its counterpart, “We Are the Champions” would be used over and over again in the sports world.

News Of the World went multi-platinum worldwide even though it initially received mixed reviews because of the band’s abandonment of their predominantly progressive rock sound. However, critical reception soon shifted positively as it became evident that the band was displaying yet another layer of their musical ability.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.

Slow Hand by Eric Clapton

Slowhand by Eric Clapton

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Slow Hand by Eric Clapton1977’s Slowhand was the pinnacle of Eric Clapton’s pop-rock phase during the late seventies, fusing well-crafted rockers, ballads, alt country, and blues numbers. The album came a few years into Clapton’s “comeback” following a four year hiatus in the early seventies. Prior to that Clapton had been one of the most prolific artists on Earth, forming and playing in the band The Yarbirds, John Mayell’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie, and Derek and the Dominoes, as well as releasing his debut solo release in 1970. Clapton then fell into a deep funk and heroin addiction due to his unrequited infatuation of Patty Boyd, then George Harrison’s wife. By 1974, Clapton had won Boyd over and began his comeback with the critically acclaimed 461 Ocean Boulevard, although that album was comprised mainly of covers. Clapton followed suit over the next couple years with studio albums which were about 60/40 covers to original but with less success.

With Slowhand, Clapton reached a nice balance recording more recently composed songs by other artists while writing many himself or in concert with members of his backing band. Here the formula is perfected with enough musical prowess to attract rock and blues fans and the right touches of pop craftsmanship to reach the radio-friendly pop audience of the day.

The album was produced by Glyn Johns who had previously worked as an engineer with several top caliber bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who, and The Rolling Stones. It contains three of Clapton’s most popular singles as well as several other classic rock standards that became Clapton classics. The album is an easy listen from front-to-back, with a sort of laid-back virtuosity that never sound pretentious or forced. Yet it is quite eclectic in the styles and approach used in forging each of the nine tracks.

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Slow Hand by Eric Clapton
Released: November 1977 (R.S.O.)
Produced by: Glyn Johns
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, May 1977
Side One Side Two
Cocaine
Wonderful Tonight
Lay Down Sally
Next Time You See Her
We’re All the Way
The Core
May You Never
Mean Old Frisco
Peaches and Diesel
Primary Musicians
Eric Clapton – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Marcy Levy – Vocals
George Terry – Guitars
Carl Radle – Bass
Jamie Oldaker – Drums

 

Slowhand‘s hit songs are all stack up front. Right from the jump, the album establishes a nice groove with J.J. Cale‘s “Cocaine”. The combination of the song’s ever-infectious, groovy guitar riff and taboo subject made it both a cult classic and pop song all at the same time. I remember how big this was at a sixth grade, catholic school dance, where the chorus hook whipped us adolescents into a frenzy that totally baffled the chaperones who were on the lookout for the more overt shock-rock by artists like Alice Cooper and not this relatively calm, soft spoken Clapton song. For his part, Eric Clapton claims this is actually an anti-drug song, but that is definitely up for debate. There is no doubt this song did its part to inspire a lot of young people of the seventies to become coke heads in the eighties and because of its “ambiguous” message, Clapton rarely performed the song live for many decades.

Eric Clapton and Patti BoydWhat “Cocaine” did to proliferate drug use, “Wonderful Tonight” may have done for sex. This standard slow dance at weddings and events of all kinds got its start when Clapton was waiting for Boyd to get ready for a Paul McCartney concert they were attending in 1976 and the rest is history. As a disc jockey, I played this song at every single gig, always introducing it as “a song for the ladies”. Although I’ve heard this song way more than its fair share, it is still hard not to appreciate this as one of Clapton’s finest pieces, with the signature guitar riff and almost quiet vocals of Clapton, backed by the perfect slow-dance rhythm of bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jamie Oldaker.

Background singer Marcy Levy and rhythm guitarist George Terry wrote the album’s third hit, “Lay Down Sally”. This is an almost-country song driven more by Terry’s rhythm than the Clapton’s lead. The members of the backing band were all from Oklahoma and Clapton explained how the sound came much more naturally for them;

“It’s as close as I can get, being English, but the band being a Tulsa band, they play like that naturally…”

Marcy LevyLevy also co-wrote “The Core”, a song on which she shares lead vocals with Clapton. The song has a great dancing riff that drives it along nicely through the verses with another excellent, counter-riff following the choruses. The long overall sequence and ending sax solo inflates the song to near epic length at close to nine minutes. “Next Time You See Her” is another fine song with a late sixties vibe due to its organ-rich backing and the chanting vocal style of the bridge, almost a revival folk song. “Mean Old Frisco” is an updated blues song which fills in nicely on the second side.

But the true heart of the album is a trio of largely forgotten classics which really put the album over the top. “We’re All the Way” is a tremendous ballad which ends the first side. It is every bit as romantic as “Wonderful Tonight” with nice harmonies and a perfectly subdued guitar riff that hangs in the background. “May You Never” is an up-beat folk song played as a reverse-schadenfreude barroom anthem, which should have been far more popular. The closer “Peaches and Diesel” is a beautiful instrumental. It predates the instrumental fad of the 1980s with a great, picked-out rhythm and a couple of simple lead riffs soaring above. It closes this pop-fueled album in a more classic style for Clapton.

Eric Clapton 1977

Slow Hand‘s title derives from Clapton’s long-time nickname which was born in the early sixties during his days with the Yardbirds. The album ultimately reached #2 on the Billboard album charts, kept from the top spot only by the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It would be his highest charting album for nearly twenty years.

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1977 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.

 

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

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Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex PistolsThe ongoing tradition of rock n roll has always been to push conventional boundaries and be a voice for the youth. In the 1950s, Elvis dared to sway his hips in a “scandalous” fashion. In the early sixties, The Beatles grew their hair “long” by fashioning their mop tops. Later in the sixties, artists like Jim Morrison pushed the envelope onstage. Through the early seventies rock stars dressed in freakish ways and the world had become accustomed to the hedonistic drug and alcohol-laden lifestyle that was the rock and roll world. But by the mid seventies what was left to do in showcasing shocking rebelliousness? Enter the Sex Pistols.

This short-lived band turned the rock world on its ear by managing to be irreverent and creative all at the same time. Although they ranted about living for the present, they were actually forging the future on a daily basis. They lived for the moment like no one else – whatever felt good at the time was what they did and whatever absurd thought came to mind is what they said. This is a classic youth rebellion, but the Sex Pistols took it to an absurdly unrefined level. In their wake, spawned the new genre of punk rock along with several sub-genres which rippled through pop culture for several decades.

Although this London band had roots back to the early seventies, they didn’t really get much attention until 1976 when they added lead vocalist Johnny Rotten, who would perform crazy antics on and off the stage with a wild vocalization style. But the band also had some musical credentials, led by guitarist Steve Jones the band had developed into a tight live act. The instrumentalists experimented with overload, feedback and distortion which accented their overall attitude. By late 1976, the Sex Pistols were signed to the major EMI label and entered the recording studio.

However, a profanity laced tirade by Jones on live television, a vomit and spit fest at Heathrow Airport, and other shock incidents wore thin with the label as well as bassist Glen Matlock, who left the band and was replaced by Rotten’s friend and Sid Vicious in early 1977 with virtually no experience at all on his new instrument, the bass guitar. Although Vicious would ultimately become the most famous (or infamous) Sex Pistol, he only played on one track of their debut Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Steve Jones played most of the bass parts on this one and only studio album .

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Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
Released: October 27, 1977 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Chris Thomas & Bill Price
Recorded: Wessex Sound, London, October 1976-August 1977
Side One Side Two
Holidays In the Sun
Bodies
No Feelings
Liar
God Save the Queen
Problems
Seventeen
Anarchy In the UK
Submission
Pretty Vacant
New York
EMI
Group Musicians
Johnny Rotten – Lead Vocals
Steve Jones – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Paul Cook – Drums
Glen Matlock – Bass
Sid Vicious– Bass

 
The album contains fresh guitars and nicely layered tracks, with simple driving drumlines by Paul Cook. The production is almost slick, with Rotten’s vocals cutting throw with a quasi rap/chant rather than traditional singing. There is nothing at all complicated about this music and there aren’t groundbreaking musical techniques or virtuoso performances here. The irreverence of this music is what sets it apart. The music
is short and to the point with not much more to it.

However, there are some musically rewarding moments on the album, starting with the opener “Holidays In the Sun”, with a musical intro which sounds similar to material Mott the Hoople, at least until the the vocals start. The second side contains the gem “Submission” with a good beat, hook, and almost melodic vocals.

“God Save the Queen” is not so much a message as an attitude; “we will be irreverent just because we can…” The scabrous lyrics prompted widespread outcry and an unintended marketing boom for the band as the song was released to coincide with the height of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. The single reach number two in the UK, with many conspiracy theorists claimimg that it was actually number one but the chart had been rigged to prevent a spectacle.

“Anarchy in UK” is most famous for its sneering opening lyric “I am the anti-Christ” and became the defacto punk anthem, labeled by some as “the clarion call of a generation.” It contains an interesting, decending guitar riff by Jones and some of the best playing by the band as a whole.

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is not influential for being cutting-edge music but more for simply cutting-edge attitude. It was a true spark of fire that burned in a flash. By January 1978, the Sex Pistols split and this ever-so-short chapter of rock history was concluded.

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1977 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.

 

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

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Rumours by Fleetwood Mac It took the band Fleetwood Mac ten albums and many lineup shifts to achieve mainstream commercial success, but the group got there with their 1975 eponymous release. This was the first album to feature songwriters and vocalists Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who joined the band following the departure of Bob Welch. Cashing in on that success, the band expanded the formula with their eleventh album, 1977’s Rumours. Produced by the band along with Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut, this album would become not just the band’s top seller, but one of the highest selling albums ever up to that point in time.

Much of the album was recorded in a small cabin north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate in Sausalito, CA. Although Rumours is filled with pleasant, easy-going, and melodic pop/rock throughout, the album’s creation and production was anything but cool and steady. All five members of the band, which included two married couples, struggled with relationship breakups around the time. Buckingham and Nicks were having an on and off relationship with constant fighting. The band’s other primary writer and keyboardist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie had recently divorced after eight years of marriage and refused to speak to each other except when working on songs. Drummer Mick Fleetwood faced his own domestic problems after discovering his wife had an affair with his best friend. It was later revealed that Fleetwood and Nicks started a relationship around this time. Further, there was much press intrusion into the member’s lives as well as unsubstantiated rumours (giving the album its name). This stressful situation and internal strife influenced many of the album’s lyrics but, to the band’s credit, this strife did not adversely effect the quality of the album or its production.

The album has high quality harmonies among three vocalists and was inspired by many different genres. Buckingham took charge of the musical directions of the sessions as the record had an original working title of “Yesterday’s Gone”. During the formative stages of compositions, Buckingham and the classically trained Christine McVie played guitar and piano together to create the basic song structures. They were latter joined by the rhythm section of Fleetwood and John McVie, who were the last remaining members of the original blues band which was formed in the late 1960s. Nicks believed that Fleetwood Mac created the best music when in the worst shape and her lyrical focus allowed the instrumentals in the songs that she wrote to be looser and more abstract. The goal of the band and their producers was to have a completely “no-filler” final product, with every song having the potential of being a single or radio hit. They would come remarkably close to reaching this goal.

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Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Released: February 4, 1977 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Fleetwood Mac, Ken Caillat, & Richard Dashut
Recorded: Record Plant Studios, Sausalito and Los Angeles, CA, 1976
Side One Side Two
Second Hand News
Dreams
Never Going Back Again
Don’t Stop
Go Your Own Way
Songbird
The Chain
You Make Lovin’ Fun
I Don’t Want to Know
Oh Daddy
Gold Dust Woman
Band Musicians
Lindsey Buckingham – Guitars, Vocals
Christine McVie – Keyboards, Vocals
Stevie Nicks – Vocals
John McVie – Bass
Mick Fleetwood– Drums

 
The moody and complex song “The Chain” originated from a pair of demos by Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks which were fused together. The tempo is increased starting with a bass solo by John McVie through the song’s coda. “The Chain” is the only collaborative song on the album, composed by every member of the band, as the rest of the compositions were made solely by one of the band’s three primary writers.

Buckingham’s songs include the album’s opener “Second Hand News”, a Celtic influenced rock song with “chair” percussion for effect. It is not the strongest opening number, but it does set up the later pop tracks nicely. “Never Going Back Again” is much better, a largely overlooked classic on Rumours. It is a pleasant and melodic guitar diddy done nearly entirely by Buckingham, with just the slightest backing vocals during the shortest durations, This really should be out of place on this album of pop songs, but it works nevertheless.

Fleetwood Mac in 1977

“Go Your Own Way” is the most popular song on the album written by Lindsey Buckingham. It was released as the album’s first single and became the group’s first top ten hit in the U.S. The song’s lyric offers a pessimistic view of his complicated relationship with Stevie Nicks. Nicks offered her own view of that relationship in “Dreams”, which would go on to become the band’s only number one Billboard song.

From first listen, “Dreams” is an instant classic. The minimal backing rhythm provides a perfect canvas for Nicks to paint her vocal masterpiece masterpiece. Nicks claims she wrote the song in Sausalito in “about ten minutes” and the band started recording it the very next day. Some of the more complex guitar and bass patterns were later added in Los Angeles. Although incredibly simple, the song’s arrangement gives it an air of complexity which makes it sound fresh decades later.

Nicks’ other two compositions appear late on the second side. “I Don’t Want to Know” is leftover from the pre-Fleetwood Mac, “Buckingham and Nicks” days and contains harmonized vocals throughout. The album’s closer, “Gold Dust Woman” features some cool sounds from a dobro, percussive instruments, and several acoustic guitars. This song about cocaine addiction is haunting but never tragic as the soundscape sets a dreamy scene with a tinge of hope.

You Make Loving Fun by Fleetwood MacChristine McVie composed four songs on Rumours, starting with the smash hit “Don’t Stop”, which has become one of the Fleetwood Mac’s signature songs. Trading lead vocals with Buckingham, Christine’s lyrics offer an optimistic view following her divorce from band mate John. “It seemed to be a pleasant revelation to have that ‘yesterday’s gone’,” she remembers. “You Make Loving Fun” is a much better song, perhaps the best pure pop song that the band has ever delivered. The verse is driven’ by a Soul-inspired clarinet, which backs McVie’s calm crooning. During the chorus, Christine is joined by some complex harmonies by Buckingham and Nicks during a beautiful arrangement which puts the song over the top.

Christine McVie’s other two contributions are calm piano tunes. “Songbird” was performed and recorded in a concert hall to capture the ambiance perfectly. With introspective, almost prayer-like lyrics, the song has been covered several times, primarily by folk singers. “Oh Daddy” is a more complex theme which directly references Mick Fleetwood, who the band nicknamed “The Big Daddy”. A founding member, Fleetwood had much influence in the band’s direction and seemed to always turn out to be right, especially during this time of great success.

Fleetwood called Rumours “the most important album we ever made” (and he was there for there for each and every album). With its success, the group would continue recording for years to come through many changes in the pop and rock world. By the album’s tenth anniversary in 1987, it had sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide.

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1977 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.

Even In the Quietest Moments by Supertramp

Even In the Quietest Moments
by Supertramp

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Even In the Quietest Moments by Supertramp Even In the Quietest Moments was the third of four consecutive great albums produced by Supertramp in the mid to late seventies. However, this album was unique in many ways especially musically. The album includes a couple of acoustic-fueled songs by co-songwriter and vocalist Roger Hodgson, both of which would climb the pop charts. Released three years after the band’s art-rock breakthrough, Crime Of the Century, and two years prior to their popular smash, Breakfast In America, 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments acts as a nice bridge between two corners of the band’s evolving sound.

Supertramp alternated between two distinct singers and songwriters. Hodgson has a high-pitched, child-like voice which contrasts sharply with Rick Davies, who has a more distinctly masculine, baritone voice. Still, it all seemed to work well through their career as they constructed distinct music that was elegant, witty, obscure and entertaining. This album is laid out with each taking alternate turns with the seven tracks, starting with Hodgson, whose four songs included the most popular, recognizable, and accessible. Still, Davies’ three contributions are the glue which holds the album together and makes it a very interesting piece for the critical listener.

Produced by Supertramp, the band employed famed engineer Geoff Emerick, who had worked on much of the Beatles recordings. The album was mainly recorded at Caribou Ranch Studios, a converted barn in a remote area of Northern Colorado. The cover photo of a snow covered piano was taken outside near the studio.

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Even In the Quietest Moments by Supertramp
Released: April, 1977 (A&M)
Produced by: Supertramp
Recorded: Caribou Ranch, Nederland, CO & Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA
December 1976 – January 1977
Side One Side Two
Give a Little Bit
Lover Boy
Even In the Quietest Moments
Downstream
Babaji
From Now On
The Fool’s Overture
Band Musicians
Roger Hodgson – Guitars, Keybords, Vocals
Rick Davies – Piano, Vocals
John Helliwell – Saxophone, Clarinet, Melodica
Dougie Thomson – Bass
Bob Siebenberg – Drums, Percussion

Roger Hodgson’s songs include the title song with a picked acoustic guitar line that paints a deep rural scene. This is nicely accented by the melodica of John Helliwell and later by the other instruments as the song gradually builds to add more intensity and vocal parts. The song, which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, is a beautiful journey to a simple place where the noise of life is filtered out and the purest emotions take center stage. It is hard to tell if this is simply a love song, a spiritual song or a combination of both.

On the second side of the album are the Indian-yoga influenced “Babaji”, a strange anthem true Supertramp fans may enjoy but may be more difficult for the novice listener, and the epic closer “Fools Overture”. A long instrumental intro complete with sound collage starts this song, with the vocals not beginning until 5 ½ minutes in. The song tells of World War II, particularly The Battle of Britain and Winston Churchill; in a reflective way;

“History recalls how great the fall can be
While everybody’s sleeping, the boats put out to sea…
Too late the prophets cry, the island’s sinking let’s take to the sky…”

In all, the song is over ten minutes long and, despite its length and parts that seem unfocused, it was a Minor hit for the band commercially.

Give a Little Bit singleWith a hook that never seems to go out of style, the folksy, acoustic pop song “Give a Little Bit” kicks off this album in a fresh and upbeat (albeit deceptive) way. After a verse and chorus with just Hodgson and his 12-string, the perfect rhythm and tempo of bassist Dougie Thomson and drummer Bob Siebenberg provide the engine that pulls the song through some nice deviations. While the song seems simple on the surface, these subtle changes give it a more epic and edgy feel, especially during the coda. The song reached #15 on the Billboard charts was included in the first Supeman movie in 1978.

Davies contributions to the album are less accessible on the surface, but much more deeply rewarding overall. “Lover Boy” is almost like a show tune but with an edge. It has a bouncy intro hook and return line but then deviates off into a more surreal tangent with a slow and methodical piano riff that sells the drama with a gradual buildup. Just as the song appears to be completed with a fadeout, it re-emerges for a stronger, more rock-oriented conclusion. “Downstream” is a very simply arranged and romantic piano song that nicely ends the first side.

Davies tour de force, not just on this album but probably for his entire career is, “From Now On”. It is a bittersweet, almost melancholy song about the mundane routines of life but it never feels abrasive or excruciating. With an excellent, linear progression that goes through some interesting vocal and instrumental parts, the song concludes with a more uplifting coda section. It kind of feels like emerging from a good cry to a more optimistic feeling.

With the fairly good success of Even In the Quietest Moments and its hit songs, Supertramp set themselves up for their blockbuster commercial breakthrough, which would be the absolute peak of their success. The band would fade after Hodgson’s departure in 1983, but all seemed to have a good perspective on fame and how it fits into the bigger picture. When asked about the constant complaints of certain musicians in a recent interview, Davies simply put it; “We live a life of privilege, we should never forget it, really.”

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1977 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.

Animals by Pink Floyd

Animals by Pink Floyd

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Animals by Pink Floyd One of the more underrated classic albums, Pink Floyd‘s Animals is set up like an epic movie with three self-contained sub-chapters and sub-plots that somehow all tie together in the end. This latter fact is all the more remarkable when you consider that two of the three extended tracks were actually re-made versions of songs that were excluded from the band’s previous album, Wish You Were Here. The “concept” for the album was constructed by bassist and chief songwriter, Roger Waters, who used farm animals as analogies to represent differing personality types, much in the same fashion as fellow Englishman George Orwell used in his literary classic Animal Farm.

Beyond the lyrical content, the album is also very unique musically. It is the most hard-rock oriented of any Pink Floyd album of the era and is the last to have extended instrumental sections and 10-minute-plus tracks. In a sense it is a bridge between the total group albums of the past and the Waters-centric albums that dominated from the late seventies until Waters departure in 1984. Although Waters had written a large part of the band’s material on previous albums, guitarist David Gilmour had been the primary vocalist since replacing original member Syd Barrett in 1968. With Animals, the proverbial “torch” was passed as Gilmour only shared partial vocals on one song while Waters sang lead everywhere else.

The album’s theme was a reaction to the state of rock music just as the new, raw genre of punk began to explode in London. Part of requirements of this simplistic new movement was to rally against artists of longevity and Pink Floyd was a frequent target of such ire. Despite this, some members of the band welcomed this new movement as a return to the underground scene from which the band had grown.

Animals was, by most accounts, a very stressful album for most of the band, as each was focused on personnel or other interests with the exception of Waters, who happily took the reigns and molded the album in his image. Despite this, it is the band’s most sonically rewarding effort outside of The Dark Side of the Moon and consistently ranks near the top of the pack for the most avid Pink Floyd fans. Although this is not for the casual listener, for the true music lover, there is a very appealing “oddness” to this album which keeps its sound fresh through the decades.

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Animals by Pink Floyd
Released: January 23, 1977 (Columbia)
Produced by: Pink Floyd
Recorded: Britannia Row Studios, London, April-December 1976
Side One Side Two
Pigs On the Wing (Part 1)
Dogs
Pigs (3 Different Ones)
Sheep
Pigs On the Wing (Part 2)
Band Musicians
David Gilmour – Guitars, Vocals
Roger Waters – Bass, Vocals
Richard Wright – Piano, Keyboards
Nick Mason – Drums

In 1974, Pink Floyd embarked on the “Wish You Were Here” tour, playing new material in advance of the 1975 album of the same name. Two of the songs played during that tour were ultimately left off that album and later re-written for Animals. One of these was a jazzy acoustic piece by Gilmour called “You Gotta Be Crazy” that was slowed down with re-written lyrics and renamed “Dogs”.

Right from the jump, “Dogs” is something unique and off the tracks even for the vast Pink Floyd catalog. With that progression of odd acoustic chords by Gilmour and just the right touch of organ and synth effects by keyboardist Richard Wright, the layered music builds with ever greater intensity as it progresses through the first three verses. When the first guitar lead breaks in, it is clear that this is a Gilmour signature song, with the slow progressions through the first instrumental break being one of the best Pink Floyd jam ever. The biting and cynical lyrics are a concoction the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sol Alinsky, and Vito Corleone, and offer no counter-weight in the pursuit of pure power. At about 8½ minutes in, there is a long synth and “dog barking” section, which I used to consider filler but have to appreciate in my old age, especially when you consider how completely transformed the song is on the other side. Waters is now singing and, even though the acoustic is strumming the same exact chords, the music contains a completely different vibe.

“Dogs” is also a back link from the future song “Hey You” on The Wall, with the whole concept of the bad blood “stone” being revisited in that song which introduces the concept of that album. With the outro “who was…” section that concludes this 17-minute piece, Waters borrows from the famous Alan Ginsberg poem “Howl” as he goes off into a tangent about himself in what is like a window into The Wall.

“Sheep” is the other track that dates back to the 1974 tour, when it was a mainly instrumental piece called “Raving and Drooling”. It is a driving, synth-heavy piece with a wild effect on Water’s voice trailing the verse lines. The lyrics are at once violent and scolding;

“Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well-trodden corridors into the valley of steel…”

The ten-plus-minute song contains a middle section which harkens back to “Dogs” by reviving the “stone” theme and effect before it progresses into a bizarre section that includes a re-written bible quote spoken by drummer Nick Mason through a heavy vocoder. It then bursts out into the climatic third verse where the “sheep” level their revenge against the “dogs”.

Animals is considered by many to be nihilistic, while others point to the two short pieces that bookend the album as an optimistic “wrapper” of hope. “Pigs On the Wing” is pure acoustic folk, like a slowed down Bob Dylan tune but with distinct vocals of Roger Waters. It was recorded as a single song with a guitar lead between the verses by the band’s touring second guitarist Snowy White. But in what turns out to be a rather shrewd and cunning move, Waters split the song into two parts of nearly equal length, omitting the guitar lead and also significantly increasing his album royalties as they were on a per-song basis. This move was deeply objected to by Gilmour who actually received half the royalties from his 17-minute piece “Dogs” than Waters received from this split song that was less than 3 minutes in total.

Pink Floyd, 1977

Not to be confused with “Pigs on the Wing”, “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” is the third major piece on the album. Musically is where this song really shines, especially the array of key parts performed by Wright along with the sharp, biting guitar crunches and cool sound effects throughout. The song also includes the world’s first and only “pig lead” as Gilmour using a talk box for some great effects during a long instrumental section. Lyrically, Waters takes aim at those with wealth and power, in what is really an updated version of “Us and Them” but with full concentration on the “Them”.

Following the release of Animals, the band embarked on their biggest tour to date, labeled the “In the Flesh” tour. This tour was Pink Floyd’s first experience with playing in large stadiums and they found themselves uncomfortable in such settings and much internal squabbling ensued. The tour also set the scene and setting for the story in the next album The Wall. That album would become vastly popular with a mainstream audience, something Animals would not achieve. Even so, Animals is a great album and totally unique among its rock n roll contemporaries.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.

A New World Record by ELO

A New World Record by E.L.O.

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A New World Record by ELOThe sixth overall album for Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.), A New World Record would become the band’s breakthrough worldwide. Lead singer, chief songwriter, and producer Jeff Lynne later said he considered this album to be the band’s pinnacle (and he may be right). The album combines the better elements of ELO’s of previous works – great pop sensibility and melody with deeper orchestral arrangements and polished production. It is also a transitional album where the sound of the band becomes less progressive and more radio-friendly, with no less than four “hit” songs charting from A New World Record, helping the band to finally break through in their native England.

A New World Record was recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, the same location where ELO recorded their previous album Face the Music the year before (it is also the same location where our most recent review Presence by Led Zeppelin was recorded). This studio in the basement of a majestic hotel along with its famed engineer Reinhold Mack.

Many have describe the band’s sound as The Beatles advanced about a half decade later, and there is definitely audio evidence to back that assertion, but there is much more here. Although on one level completely unique, the sound that Jeff Lynne and the band forged through the mid-to-late seventies was the perfect soundtrack for the colorful, bright, and “Star Wars” motif of the era. Further, while many sentiments migrated to the polar extremes of disco and punk when abandoning the over-indulgent virtuosity of progressive rock, E.L.O. chose a more mainstream, roots-rock core just as the generation which grew up in the 1950s were feeling nostalgic for this music. This same core was never truly abandoned by the Beatles, through all their late sixties innovation, so there may be the true comparison.

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A New World Record by Electric Light Orchestra
Released: September 11, 1976 (Jet)
Produced by: Jeff Lynne
Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, July 1976
Side One Side Two
Tightrope
Telephone Line
Rockaria
Mission (A World Record)
So Fine
Livin’ Thing
Above the Clouds
Do Ya
Shangri-La
Band Musicians
Jeff Lynne – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano
Richard Tandy – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Kelly Groucutt – Bass, Vocals
Bev Bevan – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Mik Kaminski – Violin
Hugh McDowell & Melvyn Gale – Cellos
Louis Clark – Orchestral

A New World Record begins with “Tightrope”, which comes in with a deep and doomy synth that gives way to strings and orchestral vocals before finally kicking in fully at around 1:15 with the thumping rhythm of drummer Bev Bevan and bassist Kelly Groucutt. An excellent rock song interspersed with the “edge” of orchestral strings and choral vocals, this song sets the pace for the rest of the album allthe way through its concluding “Shangri-La”. This last song seems to be a play on to the theme song to the band’s 1974 album El Dorado, both mythical places where the music of E.L.O. tries to take us.

The beautiful and serene “Telephone Line” is a more traditional love song with a definite late-era-Beatles “Golden Slumbers” vibe, especially during the verse. Vocally, the song is superb with Lynn’s voice starting at extreme mid-range for the “telephone” effect before slowly morphing towards normalcy and the chorus “do wap” section adds an undeniable hook. In contrast “Rockaria”, while still very poppy and entertaining, could not be any less conventional. Perhaps the best song on the album, it literally adds opera to a true rock song, in a way as smooth (if not smoother) than Queen did on A Night At the Opera a year earlier. “Rockaria” constantly fluctuates between an aria and an old time, thumping rock song, all very seamless and sweet, yet truly unique.

The first side ends with “Mission”, a quasi-thematic piece with heavy strings throughout with nice sprinklings of Lynne’s guitars and Richard Tandy’s clavichord. The second side kicks off with “So Fine”, a funky song with some modern, almost synthesized sounds complementing that show the band was trying to fit into the disco world as well.

A signature orchestral riff is carried over from “So Fine” to the hit song “Livin’ Thing”, driven by an excellent acoustic rhythm, some majestic lead vocals, and a couple of violin interludes by Mike Kaminski, This would one of the most popular songs ever by the band. “Above the Clouds” follows as an odd but interesting, McCartney-esque song with thumping piano and a subtle Theremin whining in the background through two verses before breaking down with a slow string-led ending. “Do Ya” is pop/rock at its finest, perfect for the era as a radio hit as well as a nice counter-balace to the more serious material on the album. The song is a simple rocker yet impossible to ignore and puts the album well over the top as a commercial success.

In the wake of the tremendous success of A New World Record, E.L.O. would go on to produce their most ambitious effort the following year with Out Of the Blue in 1977 and would remain a relevant force in the pop and rock world into the early eighties.

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1976 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1976 albums.

1976_LedZeppelin Presence

Presence by Led Zeppelin

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Presence by Led ZeppelinIn late 1975, Led Zeppelin had planned a world tour to capitalize of the phenomenal success of their latest album Physical Graffiti. The band was at the absolute zenith of their popularity with a string on top-selling albums going back to 1969. However, a serious car accident involving lead singer Robert Plant while he was vacationing on the island of Rhodes with his wife, made the tour impossible. Plant was confined to a wheelchair for nearly six months and this tilted the band towards writing and recording a new “unplanned” album. The result was Presence, the least successful album in the Zeppelin catalog commercially and one with very mixed reviews critically. However, Presence is the album that the band themselves consider to be their “most important”.

During his recovery period in Malibu, CA following the accident, Plant began to write some lyrics. He was soon joined by guitarist and producer Jimmy Page to further work on these compositions. When enough material had been written, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham were summoned to rehearsals in California. The band then migrated to Munich, Germany for recording, all with Plant still in a wheelchair. The studio was small, in a basement, and very difficult for Plant to work in. Further, the band found out that they had just 18 days for the entire production as the Rolling Stones had the very same studio booked for their next album, Black and Blue. As producer, Page pretty much stayed awake for the entire 18 days in order to complete the album in Munich.

The result is, perhaps, the most unusual Led Zeppelin album (although each of their albums are quite distinct). Page developed a cleaner, “twang-ier” guitar sound in contrast to his signature “crunch” riffs of earlier days. Bonham’s drumming is furious and strong with a sound extended from that on Physical Graffiti, while Jones continued his migration from a dynamic blues to that of a more standard rock bass player. As Plant himself admits, his vocals dynamics suffered a bit due to his confinement. Further, he was a bit upset with the band’s management for keeping him from his wife, who was also seriously injured in the car wreck and recovering back in England, mainly due to tax reasons. Still, Robert Plant at 50% is superior to most rock singers and his performance on Presence is far from embarrassing.

The album was completed on November 26, 1975, the day before Thanksgiving, and that American holiday was considered as the title for the album. This title was rejected in favor of “Presence”, a representative force surrounding the band. The cover artwork features various images of random people interacting with a black obelisk-shaped “object”, a sort of play on the space object in the film 2001.

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Presence by Led Zeppelin
Released: March 31, 1976 (Swan Song)
Produced by: Jimmy Page
Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, November 1975
Side One Side Two
Achilles Last Stand
For Your Life
Royal Orleans
Nobody’s Fault But Mine
Candy Store Rock
Hots On For Nowhere
Tea For One
Group Musicians
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Jimmy Page – Guitars
John Paul Jones – Bass
John Bonham – Drums & Percussion

Presence is the only Led Zeppelin album with neither acoustic or keyboard tracks, as the band made a concerted effort to forge and updated version of their earliest “raw” sound. This strategy succeeds well on the first side but is less successful on the second side as the three songs on the first side are far superior to the four on the second. Still, it is refreshing that the band never lost their capacity for experimentation even with this quickly rushed album.

Unlike most albums which tend to build towards an epic song late on either sides this album kicks off right away with “Achilles Last Stand”, the tour de force of Presence. The song starts with dreamy, flanged guitar intro by Page which gives way to a rapid trigger-like riff that gets variated throughout. It is a true journey of a song lead by Plant’s lyric and vocal telling of his misfortune in the land of the Greek heroes. One flaw with the song is that it lasts just a bit too long and becomes a little repetitive towards the end. It perhaps would have worked better as a 7-minute song than this 10½ minute goliath.

Led Zeppelin in 1976

This last point is magnified with the album’s closer “Tea For One”, another extended cut but with a lot less action. The truth is, the best part of this 9-plus-minute song is the first 21 seconds when the band does a riff completely out of context with the rest of the song, which is a slow and depressing diddy that wallows in misery and desperately cries for a kick into a higher gear at some point. Some have pointed to the shorter songs on the album as “filler”, but I believe the filler actually lies within the longer compositions themselves by virtue of repetitiveness. Which begs the question – if the band didn’t feel like they had enough material, why not add some older material like they had with Physical Graffiti? We know now that there were some fine, unreleased songs out there like “Traveling Riverside Blues”, “Poor Tom”, and “Hey, Hey What Can I Do?”

Led Zeppelin Royal Orleans singleRounding out side one is a couple of unique Zeppelin gems. “For Your Life” is the quintessential Led Zeppelin song, filled with bluesy licks over a catchy riff and dynamic, much-improvised vocals by Plant belting out lyrics that are hard to decipher completely, but with a vibe “felt” to the bone. The song contains nice changes, an interesting bridge, and a precise, simple, and strong beat throughout by Bonham. “Royal Orleans” is a fun and funky tune allegedly retelling a story involving John Paul Jones and a transvestite.

Launching the second side, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, Plant’s guilt-ridden song about bad things befalling him (presumably the car wreck) due to his own actions. The song contains an excellent blues harp solo, unlike anything he had done since “When the Levee Breaks” on Led Zeppelin IV, five years earlier. It is the first of two distinct leads, followed by Page’s own bluesy guitar lead, combined these make up the best part of the song. Much like “Achilles”, this composition would be better if more succinct and less repetitive, but it is still a fine track.

The heart of the second side contains two fine sounding throwback songs. “Candy Store Rock” is an Elvis tribute, which uses the candy store as an analogy for sex in the same fashion that “Trampled Underfoot” used the car on the previous album. It is not a terrible listen but just a little disappointing in the minimalist approach of Page and Jones. Bonham, on the other hand plays a very interesting beat with entertaining variations throughout. “Hots On for Nowhere” is one of the forgotten gems of the Zeppelin catalog, a stop-start rockabilly riff and beat with some nice changes. It is a song with a very upbeat vibe despite the mainly depressing lyrics.

Presence did initially rush to #1 on the Billboard charts (probably due to the band’s popularity alone) but quickly fell and tracks from this album have rarely received airplay. Also, because of it being completely built in the studio, few songs from the album were played live on subsequent tours. Still, despite this initial subdued reception, Presence is an excellent listen that has held up well over the decades and cannot be overlooked by any true fans of Led Zeppelin today.

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1976 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1976 albums.

Genesis 1976 albums

A Trick Of the Tail and
Wind & Wuthering by Genesis

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Buy Wind & Wuthering

Genesis 1976 albumsWe love Genesis here at Classic Rock Review. Although, this is certainly not evident by our treatment of the band so far in this inaugural year. We’ve had four previous opportunities to cover Genesis albums during our look at four classic years but passed on each of those albums (Trespass in 1971, Abacab in 1981, Invisible Touch in 1986, and We Can’t Dance in 1991). Well, today is an opportunity for some make up as we will do a double review of Genesis’ two 1976 releases A Trick Of the Tail and Wind & Wuthering.

These two albums mark Peter Gabriel‘s departure and drummer Phil Collins debut as the group’s lead singer. These are also the only two albums where Genesis is a four piece band. They were a five piece with Gabriel and would become a three piece in the future following the departure of guitarist Steve Hackett.

The band had searched long for a replacement for Gabriel (some claiming as many as 400 auditions were conducted) all while they wrote and recorded the instrumental tracks for what would become A Trick Of the Tail. Collins provided a vocal “guide” so these candidates could become familiar with their potential vocal role for this material, but no one was sufficient for the job. After briefly considering putting the album out as a pure instrumental, the band decided that Collins should be the new permanent vocalist, although he was initially reluctant to do so.

Critical expectations were low leading up the release of A Trick Of the Tail in early 1976. Hence, the album’s quality and originality were a pleasant surprise to all. It was although the four remaining members had a point to prove – that they could continue successfully without Gabriel – and they proved it brilliantly. Collins demonstrated that he is an excellent singer by staying with in the tonal range of Gabriel while still exploring his own territory vocally. The songwriting credits extend to everyone, making the album’s composition a true group effort. They stayed true to the Genesis legacy while evolving ever so slightly towards a new, modern sound. In musical direction, the album is an impressionist piece of art rock, using storytelling with and without words. The lyrics are like fairy tales or fables and the music makes you envision scenery much as an opera.

With Wind & Wuthering the band stayed true with the basic formula and philosophy as A Trick Of the Tail. However, it feels a bit more forced sounding less fresh than its predecessor. This is especially true on the second side where the band seemed to be making one last try at constructing an art piece in the fashion of their earlier albums. But, most of the songs sound under developed. That being said, Wind & Wuthering does have some brilliant moments, especially when it comes to the songs that open and close the album.

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A Trick Of the Tail by Genesis
Released: February 2, 1976 (Virgin)
Produced by: David Hentschel and Genesis
Recorded: Trident Studios, London, October-November 1975
Side One Side Two
Dance On a Volcano
Entangled
Squonk
Mad Man Moon
Robbery, Assault, & Battery
Ripples
A Trick Of the Tail
Los Endos
Wind & Wuthering by Genesis
Released: December 23, 1976 (Virgin)
Produced by: David Hentschel and Genesis
Recorded: Relight Studios, Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands, September-October 1976
Side One Side Two
Eleventh Earl of Mar
One For the Vine
Your Own Special Way
Wot Gorilla?
All in a Mouse’s Night
Blood On the Rooftops
Unquiet Slumbers For the Sleepers…
…In That Quiet Earth
Afterglow
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Steve Hackett – Guitars
Tony Banks – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitars

One of the fascinating qualities about A Trick Of the Tail, is how each song is so entirely different from the previous one. Some may consider this to be non cohesive, but we feel it enhances the listening experience by presenting the talents of these musicians in one package. “Dance On a Volcano” is the most complete group composition on the album. With a minute long intro that sets the sound scape, a measured, plodding tempo during the two verses moves into a frantic pace during the futuristic section that drives the song on a tangent towards its conclusion. The message of the song is when faced with an ugly, volatile challenge, you need to attack the situation like a hero would and dive right into the fire and fight. The song reprises during the album’s closing instrumental “Los Endos”, a foray into the world of jazz fusion. During the closing fadeout, the band pays homage to their former lead singer as Collins recites a few lines from “Supper’s Ready” off of 1972’s Foxtrot, an epic song closely associated with Peter Gabriel.

Steve Hackett’s “Entangled” has an ethereal musical soundscape, like an old English folk song. The lyrics juxtapose the peaceful sleep induced by anesthesia and the dreams of flying over the landscape until the song drifts towards a haunting instrumental section at the end. As a counter piece on the second side, Mike Rutherford‘s “Ripples” is a beautiful but sad ballad with fine melodies during the chorus that lament old age and dying –

Sail away, ripples never come back, they’ve gone to the other side…”

Keyboardist Tony Banks contributed the most compositions on A Trick Of the Tail. “Mad Man Moon” is a piano ballad with strings that blossoms into something almost theatrical, like an opera or performance art. “Squonk” is the first heavy, rock sounding release of the “new” Genesis. Full of hooks and catchy melodies, it retells the English legend of the squonk, a sad creature which roams about wallowing in misery and then melts away to tears once captured. Banks also wrote the album’s predominant “pop” songs.

The upbeat title song “A Trick Of the Tail” focuses on a “beast” character who leaves his own kingdom and enters the world of humans. He is captured and put on display in a freak show after his captors refuse to believe in his kingdom, which he claims is covered in gold. “Robbery, Assault, and Battery” is an entertaining song which moves from section to section, exploring many different time signatures and melodies. Both of these songs had promotional videos made, a forecast of the music world a half decade later with the advent of MTV.

Wind & Wuthering begins with a seven and a half minute mini-suite called “Eleventh Earl of Mar”, a good jam lead by Rutherford’s keys with and interesting middle section led by the folksy motifs of Hackett. This piece feels like a combination of several songs off The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and refers back to an historical English figure and events. Banks’ “One For the Vine” is a nearly ten minute piano tune with fine vocals by Collins. Sounding more like 80’s era Genesis, this piece morphs into a mellow, program-music-like piece before breaking out into a wild, percussive upbeat section.

Mike Rutherford’s “Your Own Special Way” is the plainest forecast of the new pop-ier direction that the band would pursue as a trio in the late seventies and through the eighties. A waltz, lead by a strumming, 12-string riff the song breaks into a full-fledged soft love song during chorus. It later goes into a gratuitous electric piano part that seems to do nothing but eat up clock, showing that the band was, in some sense, just trying to get through this album. “Wot Gorilla?” concludes the first side as a basic yet interesting instrumental.

Genesis in 1976

The second side of Wind & Wuthering sees the band attempting to return to Gabriel-era theatrics, but falling just a bit short in this quest. “All In A Mouse’s Night” is a play involving a couple, a cat, and a mouse, while “Blood On the Rooftops” starts with a nice, classical sounding guitar and contains fine overall instrumentation, but the song as a whole doesn’t quite reach its potential. The album concludes with a three song medley, the first two of which are average but interesting instrumentals. “Afterglow” concludes it all with a beautiful and simple approach that offers a melodic conclusion to Genesis’ second album of 1976.

With our previous two presentations of twin album reviews (Alice Cooper in 1971 and Guns n Roses in 1991), the material was close to even in quality and importance. However, this is not quite the case here as A Trick Of the Tail, which we consider a classic, is decidedly superior to Wind & Wuthering, which may be reserved for dedicated Genesis fans.

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1976 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1976 albums.

Roger the Engineer by The Yardbirds

“Roger the Engineer”
by The Yardbirds

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Roger the Engineer by The YardbirdsThe Yardbirds put out their strongest album ever in 1966 as well as their only album of all original material. It originally had an eponymous title but has come to be known as Roger the Engineer because of the sketch (drawn by guitarist Chris Dreja) on the album’s cover of Roger Cameron, the album’s engineer at Advision Studios in London. The album was co-produced by bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, who left the band shortly after and was replaced by Jimmy Page, who filled in on bass until Dreja mastered the instrument and Page returned to his primary instrument, the electric guitar. But the central influence that shaped the sound of this album was the innovation and experimentation of lead guitarist Jeff Beck. His heavy blues and guitar distortion is considered by many to be the earliest precursor to heavy metal.

Beck joined the Yardbirds in May 1965 after founding guitarist Eric Clapton decided to leave the band. With Beck, the group began to expand their heavy blues base into different sects of rock and roll including unexplored areas of psychedelia, middle-aged chants, and Indian-influenced music. Primarily a singles-oriented band, each 7-inch release by The Yardbirds added new dimensions to the band’s sound or expanded on the ideas of the previous single. With Beck’s first full album with the group and the band’s first attempt at an album of all-original material, the band brought this experimentation to a new level, while still holding on to the core of blues roots.

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The Yardbirds by The Yardbirs
Released: July 15, 1966 (Atco Original)
Produced by: Paul Samwell-Smith & Simon Napier-Bell
Recorded: Advision Studios, London, Spring-Summer, 1966
Side One Side Two
Lost Woman
Over, Under, Sideways, Down
The Nazz Are Blue
I Can’t Make Your Way
Rack My Mind
Farewell
Hot House of Omagarashid
Jeff’s Boogie
He’s Always There
Turn into Earth
What Do You Want
Ever Since the World Began
Band Musicians
Keith Relf – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Jeff Beck – Lead Guitars, Vocals
Chris Dreja – Guitars, Piano, Vocals
Paul Samwell-Smith – Bass, Vocals
Jim McCarty – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album starts strong with “Lost Woman”, with a driving bass line and some fantastic dynamics from the guitar-free verse to guitar-intense chorus. The bridge contains a drum run with harmonica, guitar and bass spread out nicely, leading to a simmering guitar jam by Beck that ever intensifies towards the end.

“Over Under Sideways Down” may be the most popular song on the album due to its catchy, mid-eastern-inspired guitar riff over an upbeat, bluesy bass line, almost like two songs put together. The song was co-written by drummer Jim McCarty, who plays a classic rock beat throughout, holding the song together nicely while the fine lyrics paint a picture of the “upside-down” nature of fame.

Jeff Beck’s sole foray into lead vocals is on his pyschedelic blues song “The Nazz Are Blue”, a fine example of the better results of experimentation on this album. In the heart of the album are several more experimental and avant garde songs, such as “Hot House of Omagarashid” and “Turn Into Earth”, each driven by a steady, percussive beat an odd, sometimes haunting chants along with other sound effects. There are also a fair share of standard, upbeat blues songs like “Rack My Mind”, with a simple guitar riff and harmonica and the instrumentals “Farewell” and “Jeff’s Boogie”, where Beck shows off some fascinating speed technique for the day. “I Can’t Make Your Way” is almost folk, with multiple vocal harmonies and harmonica by Relf, and an edgy guitar interlude which sparks some life in the song. “He’s Always There” combines a Bossa-nova beat with a rock arrangement, something that would be expanded upon later by The Doors as well as directly sampled by The Pussycat Dolls.

The Yardbirds in 1966

Two songs which were not originally included on the album, but have been included on all modern day pressings of the album are “Psycho Daisies” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”. Recorded after the departure of Samwell-Smith, both tracks include the dualing lead guitars of Beck and Page, one of the few Yardbirds recordings to do so. “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” also includes Page’s future Led Zeppelin bandmate John Paul Jones as the session bass player and has become a classic song in its own right with its frantic guitars and erratic, psychopathic rhythm.

A bold and innovative album, “Roger the Engineer” has been described as a heavy blues oriented version of a Beatles album. Unfortunately, The Yardbirds would never again make an album like this. By October 1966, Beck was out of the group and Jimmy Page took the forefront as the band’s lead guitarist and producer. The next two years saw the original Yardbirds unravel as each member, save Page left to pursue other interests. Undaunted, Page went on to find replacements for the departed members in singer Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham, and Jones on bass to form “The New Yardbirds”, which eventually became Led Zeppelin.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.