Foreigner 4

Foreigner 4

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Foreigner 4Foreigner 4 was a platinum-selling commercial blockbuster for the group Foreigner in 1981. It spawned several highly successful singles and began the group’s transition from a hard rock band to a more mainstream, pop outfit. Aside form being the group’s fourth studio album, ‘4’ symbolizes Foreigner’s downsizing from six-members (as they had been since their inception in 1976) to a four member band.

Released in 1977, 1978, and 1979 respectively, the group’s fist three albums – Foreigner, Double Vision and Head Games – were each more successful than the last. However, co-founders Al Greenwood and Ian McDonald were fired from the band by guitarist and primary composer Mick Jones who wanted more creative control in the band’s direction.

Jones collaborated with producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, who had recently had huge success with AC/DC’s Back In BlackForeigner 4 was recorded at Electric Lady Studios and featured several songwriting collaborations between Jones and lead vocalist Lou Gramm, who had especially strong performances throughout this album.

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4 by Foreigner
Released: July 2, 1981 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Mick Jones and Mutt Lange
Recorded: Electric Lady Studios, New York, 1981
Side One Side Two
Night Life
Juke Box Hero
Break It Up
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Luanne
Urgent
I’m Gonna Win
Woman In Black
Girl On the Moon
Don’t Let Go
Band Musicians
Lou Gramm – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Mick Jones – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Rick Wills – Bass, Vocals
Dennis Elliott – Drums, Vocals

 

The opening track “Night Life” is a natural extension of tracks from Head Games as a riff and beat driven rocker with a catchy hook which capitalizes on the post-disco party themes of the day. “Juke Box Hero” is a much more original track, starting with a deep synth bass and a heartbeat-like kick drum by Dennis Elliott during initial verse. Led by Gramm’s dynamic vocals, the song builds to a crescendo leading up to the chorus hook, with storytelling lyrics about a wanna be rock star. “Break It Up” is the ultimate example of Jones’s rock style as a rudiment filled guitar/riff and choppy piano tune which may be the best overall track on the album. The song’s spectacular arrangement also features great bass throughout by Rick Wills and finishes with a slight but effective guitar lead during the outro.

Foreigner in 1981

Foreigner the rock band of the 1970s met Foreigner the ballad churners of the 1980s at the junction of “Waiting for a Girl Like You”. Dominated by keyboards throughout, from the ethereal synth with descending riff in the opening, to the slow and measured electric piano which guides the verses and choruses, the song became a Platinum-selling power ballad with the unique distinction of spending a record-setting 10 weeks at number 2 on the American pop charts without ever reaching the top. “Luanne” finishes the album’s first side as a pure rocker with some 50s, 70s and 80s elements mixed together for an overall pleasant and entertaining tune. The smash #1 hit “Urgent” starts with a unique, sharp synth riff and popping bass that makes for a pure rock dance track. Gramm’s vocals place it solidly on the rock side more than the dance side, but the song has a uniform vibe which makes it infectiously catchy. The song also features a signature saxophone lead by guest Junior Walker.

Through the rest of the second side of the album, Foreigner 4 has tracks of more standard rock fare, not terrible but not enough to make this album a classic. “I’m Gonna Win” is a hard rocker with good, accessible and dynamic vocals as it builds throughout in intensity and energy. “Woman in Black” is a song where Jones really shines on guitar on many levels, providing a chorus of entertaining rock riffs and licks throughout with the many different textures throughout this composition. “Girl On the Moon” has a haunting quality with pedal-drenched guitars interacting with suddenly appearing synth motifs. On this track, a short but interesting bridge and lead section follows the first chorus. The album wraps with “Don’t Let Go”, an incomplete song which seems to have the makings of a really solid track but falls just a bit short.

Foreigner 4 was an immediate hit in its day, hitting #1 position on the Billboard album chart for 10 weeks. Through the years, the album reached platinum level 6 times over and, despite latter pop success, would be Foreigner’s commercial peak.

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1981 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1981 albums.

 

Invisible Touch by Genesis

Invisible Touch by Genesis

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Invisible Touch by GenesisGenesis completed their full metamorphosis into a pure pop/rock outfit with 1986’s Invisible Touch, the top selling album of the group’s long career. The group’s thirteenth overall studio album, it is also notable for spawning five singles which reached in the Top 5 on the pop charts in the United States, making Genesis the only non-American act to accomplish that feat on a single album.

Prior to Invisible Touch, the trio had much success with the 1983 album, Genesis which topped the charts in the UK and went on to sell over four million copies. Following a tour to support that album, the group took a break while each member worked on solo projects. Keyboardist Tony Banks worked on the film Lorca and the Outlaws in 1984, while lead vocalist / drummer Phil Collins released his third successful solo album, No Jacket Required in 1985. Guitarist and bassist Mike Rutherford formed Mike + The Mechanics, who released their commercially successful debut album in 1985.

In late 1985, the group began work on Invisible Touch with producer Hugh Padgham, who had worked on the group’s two previous albums. The album’s tracks were all written entirely through group improvisations with no material pre-developed prior to the studio sessions.

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Invisible Touch by Genesis
Released: June 9, 1986 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Hugh Padgham & Genesis
Recorded: The Farm, Surrey, England, October 1985–March 1986
Side One Side Two
Invisible Touch
Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
Land of Confusion
In Too Deep
Anything She Does
Domino
Throwing It All Away
The Brazilian
Musicians
Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Mike Rutherford – Guitars, Bass
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Bass

The album explodes into full eighties synth glory with the opening title track. “Invisible Touch” features electronic drums and synths which complement the fretless bass and vocals. The popular song went on to be Genesis’s only #1 single in the United States. “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” is another electronic song but with a slightly cool mechanical vibe due to Banks’s synth work. This track should have and could have been a much more effective opener and, even though the lyrics are nearly nonsensical, the musical effects carry this song through its eight and a half minute duration.

Genesis in 1986

“Land of Confusion” is the most rock oriented song on the first side built with Rutherford’s guitar riff and a synth bass arpeggio by Banks. The fine bridge section also brings this song closest to the classic Genesis of years earlier. The fourth hit from side one, “In Too Deep” is a pure adult contemporary love ballad, featuring Banks on electric piano and Collins hitting some impressive high notes vocally. There is only the slightest guitar presence by Rutherford, who reserves his playing to a very laid back and standard bass throughout the track.

The second size starts with the frenzied and upbeat “Anything She Does”, with lyrics about the porn business. The sound complete with synth horns and ska-like rhythms, making this an overall fun song which sounds less dated than most of the rest of the material on Invisible Touch. The ten minute, two part suite “Domino” is a bit uneasy and uneven. The first part, “In the Glow of the Night”, is really just another synth-driven, cheesy tune with slightly dramatic, almost paranoid lyrics. The second part, “The Last Domino”, is a little more interesting with a driving rhythm and subtle, distant organ setting the soundscape.

A refreshing return to pop excellence and the highlight of the album, The Top 5 hit “Throwing It All Away” features Rutherford’s soul-influenced guitar and Collins’s sweet but desperate vocal melody. Banks adds just the right amount of synths to make this a classic ballad for the decade and, ironically, the title works to do the exact opposite as far as this album is concerned – it salvages it. The album concludes with the instrumental, “The Brazilian”, an electro, synth piece which is a big let down after the fine ballad preceding it. The best part of the piece is Rutherford’s slight guitar lead near the end, but unfortunately the song is already fading out by the time this solo really starts to heat up.

Invisible Touch became the band’s fourth consecutive album to top the UK charts and peaked at #3 in the US. The group soon embarked on their largest world tour to support the album, Playing over a hundred dates through 1986 and 1987.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1986 albums.

 

Long Distance Voyager by The Moody Blues

Long Distance Voyager
by The Moody Blues

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Long Distance Voyager by The Moody BluesThe Moody Blues scored some latter career commercial success with the chart-topping album Long Distance Voyager in 1981. While this was the ninth studio album by the group, it was only the second since the group went on an extended hiatus nearly a decade earlier. Musically, Long Distance Voyager balances itself by employing some of the dreamy, intelligent songs for which the group is best known, as well some modern beat-driven pop tracks.

In 1974, after seven albums in seven years and several world tours, the Moody Blues commenced an extended break. Some songs were composed for a near future group album, but these were instead to become Blue Jays, a duo album by guitarist/vocalist Justin Hayward and bassist/vocalist John Lodge. Other group members also released solo albums through the mid 1970s before the group finally reunited to record the 1978 album Octave. This would be the final album to involve keyboardist Mike Pinder.

Pinder was replaced by Patrick Moraz, previously with the group Yes, which prompted Pinder to file a lawsuit to prevent a new Moody Blues album from reaching the public without his contributions. Ultimately, the lawsuit was unsuccessful and the Pip Williams produced Long Distance Voyager was released in May 1981 and was the first release in a decade and a half not to be produced by Tony Clarke, who had worked on every Moody Blues album since 1967’s Days of Future Passed. This album is also notable as the sole one recorded at the band’s own Threshold Studios, which was custom-designed for the band by Decca Records but disbanded shortly after Decca’s sale to Polygram.

 

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Long Distance Voyager by The Moody Blues
Released: May 15, 1981 (Threshold)
Produced by: Pip Williams
Recorded: Threshold and RAK Studios, London, February 1980–April 1981
Side One Side Two
The Voice
Talking Out of Turn
Gemini Dream
In My World
Meanwhile
22,000 Days
Nervous
Painted Smile
Reflective Smile
Veteran Cosmic Rocker
Band Musicians
Justin Hayward – Guitars, Vocals
Patrick Moraz – Keyboards
Ray Thomas – Flute, Harmonica, Vocals
John Lodge – Bass, Vocals
Graeme Edge – Drums, Percussion

 

The album begins with Hayward’s “The Voice” with a dramatic, orchestral synth intro before the upbeat song proper kicks in. This modern rock song is led by synths with driving rhythms, acoustic guitar, and choral backing vocals to complement Hayward’s melodic lead vocals, while lyrically the song is about finding your inner guide, your true north. The song was ahit, reaching the Top 20 on the opo charts.

“Talking Out of Turn” was written and sung by Lodge and, although laden by a consistent synth arpeggio, this track is really an acoustic love song at its core. The track unfolds slowly and methodically and maintains its rich arrangement throughout its seven-plus minute duration, with heavy orchestral elements in the coda. “Gemini Dream” was the biggest hit from the album, topping the charts in Canada and peaking at #12 in the USA. New wave and (nearly) dance-oriented, this track features duo lead vocals by Hayward and Lodge, which works best during the “make it work out” call-and-response section of the bridge.

The ballad “In My World” features Hayward’s brightly strummed acoustic guitar complemented by a pedal steel by guest B.J. Cole to complete the album’s original first side. Another Hayward song starts the second side, as “Meanwhile” is a sing-songy acoustic track, pleasant like an early seventies soft rock song with acoustic guitar and Moraz’s electric piano. A good song overall, “Meanwhile” was also a minor hit, reaching #11 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. “Nervous” is a pure introspective folk song by Lodge, with picked acoustic, and a string section performed by William’s “New World Philharmonic”.

The Moody Blues in 1981

Much of the rest of the album’s second side is dominated by tracks fronted by Ray Thomas. “22,000 Days” is beat driven with strong and steady drums by Graeme Edge, who composed this track which features theatrical musical flourishes. The final three tracks comprise a mini-suite, giving the album a thematic feel. “Painted Smile” has very English, “Top of the Pops” like crooning by Thomas above a slight waltz beat along with cool, carnival like effects. “Reflective Smile” acts as a bridge, narrated by Dave Symonds, leading to the closing climax, “Veteran Cosmic Rocker”. This closing track features strong rock elements along with a middle section features a plethora of sounds from pure blues rock to psychedelic and Eastern soundscapes.

Long Distance Voyager topped the charts in the US and Canada and reached the Top 10 in the UK. Although the group continued with this formula to further success through the mid 1980s, they would not again record an album this complete in future years.

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1981 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1981 albums.

 

Union by Yes

Union by Yes

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Union by YesThe 1991 album, Union, is unique not only among the vast collection of Yes albums, but is a unique release among all mainstream rock albums. At the time they were recorded, the fourteen tracks were recorded by two distinct groups which later merged into a single, eight man group, with all members having a prior history in Yes. In fact, members from all of the previous incarnations of the group are present on this album save for the group’s original guitarist Peter Banks and short-time vocalist Trevor Horn.

Horn had replaced Jon Anderson for the 1980 album Drama, but Anderson returned for the commercially successful 90125 in 1983. Along with Anderson, the lineup of that album included guitarist Trevor Rabin, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Alan White. This same line-up remained for the studio album, Big Generator, which also had notable commercial success. However in September 1988, Anderson split from this variation of Yes and formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (ABWH) with former Yes members guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and drummer Bill Bruford, as well as former King Crimson bassist Tony Levin. This new branch of the classic band released an eponymous album in 1989, which went gold in the United States.

However, when ABWH produced material for a second album in 1990, Arista Records owner Clive Davis initially refused to release the record because he felt the initial mixes were insufficient. Anderson approached Rabin, who had been planning a new album and incarnation of Yes with ex-Supertramp vocalist Roger Hodgson. When Hodgson dropped out, it was agreed that Anderson would record lead vocals on the Rabin-led material and both projects would be merged as a “reunited” Yes project. Union features nine primary musicians (although there is no track where they all play together) and four producers with material recorded in no less than seven studios throughout Europe and the United States.

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Union by Yes
Released: April 30, 1991 (Arista)
Produced by: Jonathan Elias, Steve Howe, Trevor Rabin, Mark Mancina & Eddie Offord
Recorded: Various Studios in Correns, Paris, Devon, London, Los Angeles, New York City, 1989-1990
Track Listing Group Musicians
I Would Have Waited Forever
Shock to the System
Masquerade
Lift Me Up
Without Hope
Saving My Heart
Miracle of Life
Silent Talking
The More We Live – Let Go
Angkor Wat
Dangerous (Look in the Light of What You’re Searching For)
Holding On
Evensong
Take the Water to the Mountain
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Steve Howe – Guitars, Vocals
Trevor Rabin – Guitars, Vocals
Tony Kaye – Keyboards, Vocals
Rick Wakeman – Keyboards
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Tony Levin – Bass
Alan White – Drums, Vocals
Bill Bruford – Drums

Union by Yes

As for the material itself, it is a bit scattered and incohesive in the album’s final form, with specific, individual parts being greater in total than the whole. The first two tracks may be the strongest original ABWH songs. “I Would Have Waited Forever” was co-written by producer Jonathan Elias and alternates between driving rock sections and complex, vocal-driven parts. “Shock to the System” is a strong edged rocker, featuring Howe’s strong riffs and a steady drum beat by Bruford.

The finger-picked acoustic instrumental “Masquerade” is a real highlight of the early album as a very folky yet technically proficient piece which shows what a fantastic instrumentalist Howe is. This track earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1992. “Lift Me Up” is the first and best track from the Rabin/Squire faction and features decent progressions throughout and may be the most cohesive track on the album. The first single released from the album, “Lift Me Up” reached the top of the Album Rock Tracks chart. Shortly after, another Rabin track, “Saving My Heart”, was also released as a single as a percussion driven track with some reggae elements.

Yes Union lineup, 1991

Co-written by producer Mark Mancina, “Miracle of Life” has a whole lot of eccentric instrumentation, such as banjo, playing on the same riff and rudiments through a long intro. After two full minutes, the verses begin with alternating lead vocals by Anderson and Rabin and featuring some pulling rhythms of Squire’s bass, which all work to make it a pleasant listen. We return to the ABWH material with Howe’s “Silent Talking”, which features a Rush-like, extended riff pattern and extensive keyboards by Elias and, although relatively short at 4 minutes, this is probably the most genuine progressive rock track on the album.

Union descends to a nadir through the latter tracks, which include the lazy soundscapes of “The More We Live – Let Go”, the Eastern soundscapes and recited Cambodian poetry of “Angkor Wat”, and the pure eighties pop/rock approach of “Dangerous (Look in the Light of What You’re Searching For)”. However, the album does end on a high note with a medley starting with Levin and Bruford’s rhythmic instrumental “Evensong” and moving to Anderson’s haunting but inspired “Take the Water to the Mountain”, builds to a bright climax.

Following the album’s release, Yes supported Union with a massive arena tour which helped the album sell over 1.5 million copies worldwide. Many group members have expressed dissatisfaction, especially the former members of ABWH (save Anderson), as that group dissolved following this album and Anderson re-joined the 1980s version of Yes moving forward.

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1991 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1991 albums.

Ozzmosis by Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzmosis by Ozzy Osbourne

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Ozzmosis by Ozzy OsbourneOzzmosis is a solid rock album and, perhaps, the last best solo effort by Ozzy Osbourne. This seventh solo studio album was also sort of a comeback for the iconic rock vocalist, as he had announced his retirement from music following the release of No More Tears, his 1991 sixth album. This album is also notable as the only one to feature Osbourne’s former Black Sabbath band mate, Geezer Butler, on bass, although Butler had frequently toured with Osbourne in the recent past.

Following the untimely death of guitarist Randy Rhoads in 1982, Osbourne struggled to maintain a consistent backing band. However, in the latter part of the decade Zakk Wylde would come closest to replacing Rhoads, with the recording 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked and the very successful No More Tears, which went 4x platinum. Following this success, Osbourne proclaimed his next “retirement tour” would be called “No More Tours”.

With his return in 1995, Osbourne originally started the recording project with producer Michael Wagener. However, after recording several songs, the record label requested a change in production style, so Wagener was replaced by Michael Beinhorn and four tracks were re-recorded. Recorded in Paris and New York, the sessions also spawned two songs, “Aimee” and “Living with the Enemy”, which would not become part of the album until the 2002 remastered edition.


Ozzmosis by Ozzy Osbourne
Released: October 24, 1995 (Epic)
Produced by: Michael Beinhorn
Recorded: Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris, Bearsville Studios, Woodstock, NY, Right Track Recording & Electric Lady Studios, New York City, 1995
Album Tracks Primary Musicians
Perry Mason
I Just Want You
Ghost Behind My Eyes
Thunder Underground
See You on the Other Side
Tomorrow
Denial
My Little Man
My Jekyll Doesn’t Hide
Old LA Tonight
Ozzy Osbourne – Lead Vocals
Zakk Wylde – Guitars
Rick Wakeman – Piano, Keyboards
Geezer Butler – Bass
Dean Castronovo – Drums
 
Ozzmosis by Ozzy Osbourne

The album and its opener, “Perry Mason”, starts with dramatic, string-like textures by keyboardist Rick Wakeman, in setting up the rich vibe of the song. Osbourne provides a good hook with a cool backwards masking effect, which helped make this a hit record, reaching number three on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart in November 1995. “I Just Want You” follows as a romantic ballad, co-written by Jim Vallance. It starts with heavy synth strings accompanying especially dry and somber vocals by Osbourne. This track gets especially intense during the bridge and lead parts, with Wylde’s tremolo effected guitar flying into the final verse which elevates into a higher key, keeping the ever-intense ride at maximum intensity for the duration of this fine track.

“Ghost Behind My Eyes” has an interesting riff with a twangy sound beneath heavy effects, all acting in contrast to Osbourne’s chanting vocals, while “Thunder Underground” is the first real heavy metal track, built on the slow but strong rhythms by Butler and drummer Dean Castronovo. Co-written by Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister, “See You on the Other Side” is the best overall song on the album. It starts with a thumping bass and drum rhythm which is soon complemented by Wylde’s picked guitar riff through the intro and verse. The choruses have much more intensity to drive home the message with an overall classic rock feel throughout in the excellent production and measured performance. A fantastic lead guitar is followed by a climactic bridge where Osbourne’s vocals soar above the interesting riff patterns, setting up the final verse/chorus sequence with great use of repetition through the elongated outro. The doomy and intense track with a dark metal feel, which at times goes a little overboard with the effects. However, this does have poetic lyrics;

Can I get a witness to take away the pain? Walking on the water, going nowhere fastest, feeling like I’m walking with no shoes on broken glass…”

“Denial” starts with long drum roll intro by Castronovo before Wylde’s wild guitar riff directs the song into the verse and choruses, while “My Little Man” has a wild, sitar-influenced synth intro, which persists throughout. The latter song features Steve Vai on lead guitar, who was part of the group at the beginning of recording but soon dropped out. While entertaining, “My Jekyll Doesn’t Hide” tries too hard to fit into the heavy grunge sound of the day and ultimately falls a bit short. But the album does recover nicely for its final track, “Old LA Tonight”, which starts as a piano ballad but soon builds into a track which rises above its power ballad approach. The middle guitar lead-up along with bass is particularly interesting and helps to end the album on a high note.

Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde-1

Ozzmosis reached the Top 5 on the American album charts and has since been certified double platinum. Osbourne and the group launched a “Retirement Sucks!” tour in support of the album before the supporting members began to go their separate ways. In 1996, Osbourne launched the successful Ozzfest tour, which grew in stature and ultimately became one his his most successful financial ventures.

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1995 Images

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

 

(Whats the Story) Morning Glory by Oasis

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis

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(Whats the Story) Morning Glory by OasisThe second blow of the potent 1-2 punch by Oasis at the start of their career was the 1995 album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, which fully propelled the group towards worldwide accolades and fame. On this album, primary songwriter Noel Gallagher employed a richer array of compositional influences while thick production techniques were used in what would come to be known as the inception of the “Loudness wars”. These were some of the reasons why critics were initially lukewarm in response to this album, albeit they have reversed course by offering great acclaim for the record in more recent years.

Oasis released their debut album, Definitely Maybe, in September 1994 and it became the fastest selling debut album ever (to that point) in the UK. This sudden rush of fame did have some negative consequences, as lead vocalist Liam Gallagher (Noel’s brother) exhibited some bizarre behavior on stage and original drummer Tony McCarroll departed from the band. McCarroll was replaced by Alan White, who came with an impressive studio resume.

Recording sessions for (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? were in a Welsh studio during the Spring of 1995 with producer Owen Morris. The album was recorded quickly, especially early on when the group claimed they averaged almost a song per day. However, tensions broke out between the Gallagher brothers when Noel suggested he provide lead vocals for a few tracks, a move that Liam viewed as a leading indicator of his potential ouster as front man. This led to an altercation that ultimately suspended recording for three weeks. However, Morris has since stated that the sessions overall were “the best, easiest, least fraught, most happily creative time (he has) ever had in a recording studio” and that the resulting album is “dripping with love and happiness.”


(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis
Released: October 2, 1995 (Creation)
Produced by: Owen Norris & Noel Gallagher
Recorded: Rockfield Studios, Monmouth, Wales, March–June 1995
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Hello
Roll with It
Wonderwall
Don’t Look Back in Anger
Hey Now!
The Swamp Song (Excerpt 1)
Some Might Say
Cast No Shadow
She’s Electric
Morning Glory
The Swamp Song (Excerpt 2)
Champagne Supernova
Liam Gallagher – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Noel Gallagher – Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Paul Arthurs – Guitars, Piano, Keyboards
Paul McGuigan – Bass
Alan White – Drums, Percussion

(What's the Story) Morning Glory by Oasis

The opening track “Hello” is the only composition not credited solely to Noel Gallagher, as Gary Glitter and Mike Leander are given co-writing credits. After a false start of strummed acoustic, the song abruptly gives way to a heavier rock arrangement with a thick, opaque sound and heavy use of guitar processing with White’s rolling drums buried deep in the mix. “Roll with It” has a solid structure of straight-forward rock with a heavy emphasis on the hook and an interesting, echoed guitar lead. The song was released ahead of the album and climbed to #2 on the UK pop charts. The worldwide hit song “Wonderwall” starts as a simple acoustic, strummed folk track. However, it quickly evolves into a much more complex and original arrangement musically, which strikes the perfect vibe which finds the seam between romance and desperation matches its rich and philosophical lyric;

And all the roads we have to walk are winding, and all the lights that lead us there are blinding – there are many things that I would like to say to you but I don’t know how…”

“Don’t Look Back in Anger” is the best song overall song by Oasis and is fittingly delivered by its author, Noel Gallagher who proves he is every bit the lead vocalist as his younger brother. The song features complex passages that soar at times with underlying riffing and fine piano riffing by Paul Arthurs as well as potent bass by Paul McGuigan. The song’s title, lyric and sound pays homage to classic artists like David Bowie, The Beatles and John Lennon in particular (with the line “Gonna start a ‘Revolution’ from my bed….”) in an approach that legitimately feels like it was spawned in a bygone era. Released as a single in early 1996, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” became Oasis’s second song to top the British charts.

The album’s momentum continues with “Hey Now!”, a strong rocker with heavy seventies pop/rock elements and consistent slide guitar throughout. Through is five minute duration, this track employs differing rhythms (which sometimes seem clunky but never quite off-putting) as well as a fine melody by Liam Gallagher during the verses and a terrific, double tracked guitar lead later. The long, repetitive final chorus drives home the entertaining elements as the song concludes. The first of two short, untitled link tracks which feature a heavy blues, ZZ-Top style rock with alternating guitar and harmonica by guest Paul Weller, leads to the blues heavy “Some Might Say”. Featuring another cool lead section with some wild synth sounds tossed in for effect, “Some Might Say” was Oasis’s first UK chart-topper and it sold nearly a half million copies as a single upon its release. The final song written for the album, “Cast No Shadow” throws in the kitchen sink of sweet effects – strummed acoustic, slight electric overlays, slide guitar, mellow synths, steady yet strong rhythms, weepy lead vocals, rich background harmonies and deep lyrical lines;

As they took his soul they stole his pride…As he faced the sun he cast no shadow…”

Coming down the stretch, the album’s quality never relents. “She’s Electric” is a happy-go-lucky pop track with bright, hard rock music, chanting, lyrical rhymes and slightly Southern layered guitars. The title track, “Morning Glory”, closely resembles a popular R.E.M. song with its metallic, textured guitars pumping out a strong riff to complement the shouted and repeated vocal hook. “Champagne Supernova” is the perfect album ending, as it comes in subtly with strummed guitar, accordion and electric textures before White’s drum beat crashes in with the glue for the thick arrangement of the track’s body. This is a nice lead up to the guitar lead section, which is slight but potent, before the song goes through the initial verse again much more quickly and intensely and with a less organized outro riff section. After one final verse, the track fades out slowly, maintaining the overall feel of the song and album and sealing this record as a classic.

Oasis in 1995

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? sold 350,000 copies in its first week and spent 10 weeks atop the UK Albums Chart. Following its release, Oasis went on an extensive world tour, which included shows in front of hundreds of thousands in their home country.

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1995 Images

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

 

The Bends by Radiohead

The Bends by Radiohead

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The Bends by RadioheadThe Bends is the classic rock coming of age album by Radiohead, for which they received critical acclaim as well as chart and commercial success. This 1995 album was at once a major shift in the group’s musical direction as well as a move towards accessible tunes, as reflected in its five charting singles. A major contributor to this compositional evolution was the more sprawling approach in front man Thom Yorke‘s songwriting, who delivered more global lyrical themes in comparison to the personal ones of earlier work. In turn, the music was sweeping and dynamic with diverse styles and arrangements added to their three-guitar attack to forge a grand and forceful sound.

The group’s first album was 1993’s Pablo Honey, which featured a strong alternative / grunge presence. This brought some international success and much subsequent touring. The following year, Radiohead released the EP, My Iron Lung, featuring some early versions of tracks which would be re-worked for The Bends. However, this EP had poor commercial success.

The Bends was produced by John Leckie, with Radiohead working on song arrangements for the album through the entirety of 1994. Work on the album was slow through the initial months, as the group felt pressure to create the perfect follow-up to Pablo Honey. An initial release date of October 1994 was pushed back several months as Leckie taught the band “how to use the studio in different ways”.


The Bends by Radiohead
Released: March 13, 1995 (Capitol)
Produced by: John Leckie
Recorded: Abbey Road and RAK Studios, London, August–November 1994
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Planet Telex
The Bends
High and Dry
Fake Plastic Trees
Bones
(Nice Dream)
Just
My Iron Lung
Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was
Black Star
Sulk
Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Thom Yorke – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano
Jonny Greenwood – Guitars, Piano, Keyboards
Ed O’Brien – Guitars, Vocals
Colin Greenwood – Bass
Phil Selway – Drums, Percussion
 
The Bends by Radiohead

Extra-present drums set the pace for the odd, spaced-out beat of the opening track “Planet Telex”. Released as a single, the track features some tremolo keyboard and guitar textures, with the chorus offering the most rewarding part of this otherwise bland emo screed. The title track, “The Bends”, follows with a strong rock arrangement through a long riff intro. The verses revert back to a more steady arrangement but the song rocks well throughout with lyrics that are thematic. The ballad “High and Dry” is the first real highlight of the album, as Yorke’s vocals are pleasant and melodic above a blend of acoustic and electric guitars by Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien. Written well before the album sessions, there was much debate on whether this light song would even be included on the album. Not only was it included, but it was also a successful single.

“Fake Plastic Trees” is another acoustic track but, unlike the previous ballad, this has more of a psychedelic, early Pink-Floyd-like vibe. “Bones” follows with a strong rhythmic presence by bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway as well as some topical tremolo guitar and a ringing distant guitar. This short, three-minute song finishes with strong rock riffs and accents. “(Nice Dream)” follows with a descending, four-chord acoustic riff in the intro which sets the meter for the moderate folk/alternative song. The best part of this track are the excellent post-chorus guitar layers. Another fine track, “Just” starts with a strummed intro, soon accompanied by a strong distorted electric. When it fully kicks in, this track features a great musical arrangement in verses to accompany the fine vocal melodies, perhaps the finest on the album.

Radiohead in 1995

“My Iron Lung”, the title track from the previously released EP, is an odd art of noise. The first part of song is built droning rhythm and jangly guitar melodies, while the second section is nearly incoherent in a deliberate attempt at pure noise. Alternative to the core, whine in vocals but song is saved by good melody and arrangement. On “Permanent Daylight”, Yorke’s vocals hide within a wall of noise, while “Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was” employs space-like psychedelic effects using echo and sustain in the background with a slow, acoustic folk in foreground. “Black Star” returns to upbeat rock with a full arrangement fading in through the intro and moderate verses with cool guitar textures and good drumming elsewhere. “Sulk” features an interesting, slow waltz shuffle drum beat upon which the rest of the textures are built. Each verse adds more sonic candy, especially with the guitar, bass, and keyboard textures. “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” concludes the album with a dark, repeating riff and elongated vocal phasing, making it a bit anti-climatic for an album ending.

While The Bends charted well in several countries throughout the world, it only peaked at #88 in the US, making it an initial disappointment. However, this album has only grown in stature and influence over the two decades following its release, with many Brit pop bands taking cues from many of its songs.

~

1995 Images

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

 

Led Zeppelin on stage in 1973

Led Zeppelin:
Standing Against Time

by Julia Dragomirescu

Led Zeppelin IV album unfolded

I hear the “ding dong” sound as I enter the vinyl record shop. The smell of antiques wafts gently through the air, beckoning to the wanderer to enter a realm of nimble-fingered guitarists and pre-Raphaelite-faced singers. Enchanted, my eyeballs focus on the simple black lettering, shifting from one category to the next. My eyes refocus on the last one labeled “Rock.” Rushing to the stack, I madly flip through it, reaching further and further, holding my breath when the holy grail appears before my eyes: Led Zeppelin IV! I knew today would be my lucky day. And it doesn’t even smell that bad. Proud of my extraordinary find, I whisk it away to my house and gently open the sleeve. Before doing so, I analyze every minuscule detail of the cover, noticing that it bears no title. A strange old man catches the viewer’s eye, he carries a gigantic bundle of sticks on his back and has a simple wooden walking cane. This painting has a countryside background nailed onto what appears to be the wall of a peeling building when the front and back cover are viewed together. When opening the inner sleeve, a charcoal background lights up the wise old man and the lantern that guides his way. He stands atop a cliff, as intricate as a spider web, while peering at the miniature town below him. At last, the shiny black disc slides into my hands. Mysterious symbols appear on the label. Not paying much heed to them, I laboriously place the vinyl record on the player. I gently pick up the needle and anticipate the first chords of the singer and guitarist in harmony. I can feel the music flow into my ears physically shaking my heart and reminding me of the power and force of music, especially Led Zeppelin’s music. I will now take you on a journey to discover the answers to the following questions: Why is Led Zeppelin, a band from the 1970s, still popular today with audiences, especially the younger generation? What has caused their music to survive while other bands have been forgotten?

I decided to start off my research by looking more closely at general facts about the band in order to test my own knowledge and maybe find out something new. I went on Led Zeppelin’s music portal and found that they were an English rock band that started up in 1968 by Jimmy Page, the producer and guitarist of Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant became the vocals of the band as well as the harmonica accompaniment. John Bonham thumped away on his drums while John Paul Jones played the bass guitar, mandolin, and was the keyboard master of the group. The band mostly played hard rock songs, with a few softer more acoustic songs in between. Led Zeppelin’s inspiration came from African-American blues singers, such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. From there they developed their signature sound: a turbulent, guitar-oriented blues rock medley. Led Zeppelin experimented further by incorporating reggae, funk, soul, Celtic, classical, Indian, pop, Latin, Arabic and country behind the blues and folk background of many of their songs. They are considered valuable today for their ongoing commercial success, past artistic achievements and influence over others then and now. All of their original studio albums reached the top 10 of the Top 100 Billboard of the US, with their sixth album, Physical Graffiti, rising to number one. Ok, wait, stop! I thought. These statistics are great, but are they the true representation of why and what makes Led Zeppelin popular with young people today? I decided the answer was no. I steered away from electronic sources and chose to go old-fashioned.

Led Zeppelin on stage in 1969

In Barney Hoskyns’ book Led Zeppelin IV, he describes the mood of the recording room when the band first met. The future members knew that something great had happened right from the very beginning when they stepped into the room. In the studio, there wasn’t much to see. John Paul Jones recalls the dim atmosphere of the room; “It was wall-to-wall amplifiers and terrible, all old,” but that didn’t bring them down one bit as Page took the lead and corralled them all into action: “Jimmy counted it out and the room just exploded.” Bonham followed and set the rhythm and beat with his drums while the rest just fell into place. Plant became the focus with his booming voice and Page joined in to support him, complementing each other. John Paul Jones bass guitar set the right tone, as they harmonized “Train Kept a-Rollin” an old Johnny Burnette Trio rock n’ roll song. Together, they created the perfect jigsaw puzzle. This description, (not much of a scene really), was a good start to understanding the band’s dynamic but didn’t give me any concrete descriptive details to paint a picture on why the band was a success today.

Hitting a dead end, my first intention was to actually contact the real band members and get them to tell me their perspectives and experiences with younger people of my generation. I grabbed my laptop and found some fan mail and official websites with email addresses. I first tried to contact Robert Plant since he is my favourite member of the band. I spent a long time scanning Google search results and I found absolutely nothing. Disappointed, I tried the other band members and found an email address for Jimmy Page. I emailed him and asked him for an interview. The email came back to me and stated that the address did not exist. Frustrated, I remembered that I read a while ago an interesting blog post about the band’s references and inspirations for songs. I found a name attached to that article: Steven Markham. I emailed him, asking him for an interview, trying to seem professional despite being a high school student. He emailed me back immediately, success! I shouted quietly in my head because everyone else in the house was already in bed asleep.

Steven Markham, an alumnus of the University of Chester, is an expert on Led Zeppelin’s music and gave his overall impressions of the band:

I think that their strongest point is that they are, individually, superb musicians with a technical mastery of their instruments and voices. Their use of English folk music as well as the usual blues and rock influence also makes them stand out amongst their peers and produces melodic and harmonic structures that are unique. The ‘Rock Gods’ look, style and stage posing also made them iconic figures as did their refusal to ‘play the game’ within the music industry; refusing to release singles, not using their faces on album covers and the brutal management style of Peter Grant”

I also decided to interview some cover bands. I emailed around 20 different bands from the US, UK and Canada. Only 8 bands got back to me: Led Zeppelin 2, Letz Zep, Coda, Led Zeppelica, Crimson Daze, Black Dog, Boot Led Zeppelin and A Whole Lotta Led. However, only 5 of them actually answered my questions. I asked them what originally led them to become Led Zeppelin fans. Robert Miniaci, Coda’s singer, had this to say;

When I was about 11 years old, I was sitting at the family stereo with headphones on listening to the radio. I tuned into a local station and there was a song on already a third way in. I didn’t know what the song was, the title, or who the band was. What happened to me was that I was struck with this incredible feeling. This energy that made the hair on my arms rise. I never heard a song like this. In that instant it was the most incredible song I had ever heard. So, eventually the song ended with a blistering guitar solo. The DJ came back on, and said, ‘Well that was Black Dog by Led Zeppelin.’ The very next day I was going through my older brother’s record collection, because I had a feeling he had some Led Zeppelin records. Sure enough I found an album, that had no writing on it, nothing to indicate who created this record. I was to learn that this was Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album. From that moment onward, it became a discovery of Led Zeppelin. I was immediately addicted to their music. I had to learn everything about them, and what their music was all about. I spent hours locked in my bedroom listening and learning, and singing along. To this very day, I still feel the same about the band and their music.”

My second question was trying to probe what they thought made the band stand out, what was specifically unique to Led Zeppelin. Letz Zep’s Billy Kulke exclaimed;

With Zeppelin, all the musicians are masters of their instrument, pushing back the boundaries of music. All four members contributed to the sound and the appeal of the band. Yes, there had been rock bands, and great musicians before, but not a band with all four trailblazing in a way Zeppelin did. To compare with other bands, they may fall onto a successful formula, then flog it to death. Zeppelin never sat on their laurels, but were always looking to advance, and change, and try new things. They were never content to sit on past glories. Whatever your mood, there is a Zeppelin period that satisfies this: the raw power of “Whole Lotta Love,” to the acoustics, and the prog-rock of No Quarter.”

Greg Reamsbottom from A Whole Lotta Led had an enthusiastic response;

It’s about how the music makes you FEEL. Bands like the Sex Pistols technically sucked in terms of musicianship (a problem Zeppelin certainly didn’t have!) but they made you FEEL something…that’s what counts! Led Zeppelin’s music SWINGS…the way the guitar, bass and drums lock together (always described as “tight, but loose”!) just works…few bands have that little bit of magic. Add Plant’s stratospheric vocals and you have something unique. It’s basically just the blues (something primal) with a heavy, psychedelic twist.”

One thing that really grabbed me when I was just starting to get to know Led Zeppelin was not only the amazing riffs and vocals, but also their strange and mystical lyrics. I think the creativity of their lyrics cause the listener to be compelled to hear more. Steven Markham contrasts two of their styles and the impact Led Zeppelin’s music has on him:

When you play their acoustic and ‘quieter’ tracks there is a melodic beauty that transports you to simpler times, somewhere between Merrie Olde England and Tolkien. When they turn up the volume there is a primal energy that erupts through the speakers.”

As I delved deeper behind their inspirations and meanings of their songs and albums, I found a multitude of references. Jimmy Page was clearly the major contributor to Led Zeppelin’s more odd and “spiritual” songs. It is evident that he had vast knowledge on the occult, folk mythology and fantastical literature and was fascinated by it. He has been described by Barney Hoskyns’ as, “a satanic Paganini [playing Dazed and Confused on stage], an evil minstrel with his face obscured behind a curtain of black hair.” Mr. Markham’s article on Led Zeppelin caused me to become more interested in the band. Since childhood, I remember being fascinated by books and story-telling. My dad would read fairytales and myths to me (almost) every night before bed. I remember the way he would “present” them to me, describing them in such a way that the characters appeared real. Anyways, I also remember that I would listen to the music channel on TV, watching different videos of Abba, Bee Gees and other vintage bands. I didn’t realize then, but music is a form of story-telling. It captures the audience with a particular rhythm or beat and lets the lyrics follow naturally. A lot of Led Zeppelin’s songs cover different topics like Led Zeppelin on stage in 1973love, mythology, religion and folk stories. This is one reason why I love music and why I liked particular songs by Led Zeppelin, like Stairway to Heaven. However, I thought that this was not the case for everyone, especially other young people who listened to music because it made them feel a certain way. Now, that’s in general of course and doesn’t apply directly to the band. So, I decided to look online in chat forums that were geared towards the younger generation.

On Quora, in a topic called “What is so great about Led Zeppelin?”, a 21-year-old named James Cook made two interesting comments:

The music they created defined a genre, transforming rock music from a tired rehash of old blues standards into a whirling dervish of musical energy and primal force. Songs like Immigrant Song and Kashmir transport the listener to distant lands…..When you listen to a Led Zeppelin song, you’re listening to something other than four men in a cramped studio. You’re listening to fifty years of blues music driven into a frenzy by Jimmy Page’s studious years of listening to every release by the American blues masters. You’re listening to all the folkish tradition of the English countryside in Robert Plant’s vocals. You’re listening to the musical theory and melodical genius of John Paul Jones. You’re listening to John Bonham, whose drumming style once led Jimi Hendrix to comment, ‘Boy, you’ve got a right foot like a rabbit!’ When you’re listening to a Led Zeppelin song, you’re listening to the combined output of four of the most talented musicians who ever lived, along, of course, with that unknown factor.”

On another website titled, Debate.org, there was a poll taken where users answered ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the question, “Is Led Zeppelin the best rock ‘n’ roll band of all time?” 78% said ‘yes’ and 22% said ‘no.’ KaeciMill compared Led Zeppelin to other bands for the ‘yes’ section;

No other band has achieved their level of musical sophistication as well as having a catalogue as unique and accomplished. In the decades following Zeppelin there have been metal bands who surpassed them techniquely. However, Zeppelin had better song writing abilities and that is why their songs remain timeless. If you play a later era album by The Beatles you could argue the songs are as good if not better than Zeppelin’s but they fall short musically with uncompromising artistic statements. In comparison, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd lack certain aspects of career fulfillment. Sabbath’s late 70s work pales miserably in comparison to their early achievements and lacks the diversity of Zeppelin. Pink Floyd may have released musical masterpieces like “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon” but certainly were not as prolific, with only 3 or 4 defining albums. Zeppelin has 6 pretty much undeniable classic albums, that’s excluding their last two. In the years to follow no other group has released 6 albums of that calibre in their career. Even artists as great as Hendrix can’t make that claim, despite how profound their influence. Even 90s greats like Nirvana can’t reach Zeppelin’s level of artistic fulfilment.”

In the ‘no’ section Anonymous makes some disagreeable comments,

Led Zeppelin were half of a great band. As everyone seems to say, Led Zeppelin had one of the greatest-ever rhythm sections in all of rock music. Bonham and Jones were incredible not only in how good they sounded, but also in how they were, as players, capable of getting out of the way and providing an underlying propulsion for Plant and Page to work on. But Plant and Page were the problem; the prior is, let’s face it, not a very good singer, and the latter, while a very good guitar player, sacrificed actual depth in his song writing for pretentious myth-making. So what Led Zeppelin ended up being was a great drummer and bassist adding propulsion to shallow, nerdy totems. Art should have higher standards.”

What!? I thought after reading that. I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but that was a little crude, I concluded.

I tried to find someone on the forum, Quora, that lived in my area. I found a few kids that lived close by and tried to contact them. I was wondering if I could see their personal collection of vinyl records and the stories behind how they got them, especially the Led Zeppelins. I got about 3 people to agree to give me their email. Most of them had around the same collection that I had which made me really dispirited. The one kid that had a more extensive collection told me that he now lives in Barrie [he forgot to update his profile]! Seeing that I couldn’t find anyone with an extraordinary vinyl record collection, specifically with Led Zeppelin records, I settled with my dad’s (technically mine as well) potpourri. Since I had failed in finding a stranger that I could conduct a live interview with, the next best thing was to interview my dad who also influenced my music taste.

As you enter our condominium suite the kitchen is the first thing you see. A very homey looking island counter and black accessories creates a warm and pleasant atmosphere. As you pass the kitchen area you realize that the boundaries blur between different spaces and all of a sudden you find yourself in the living room. Dark bookshelves line the walls with various subject matters. Paintings of different sizes stand out against the coffee hued walls. When you reach the spiral staircase to your left, you notice a large collection of records. As you skim through, it is clear they are separated by categories, like jazz, pop, electronic and rock. In the rock section you’ll find Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III and Physical Graffiti. In the CD section you’ll also find The Best of Led Zeppelin and Latter Days: Best of Led Zeppelin Volume 2. After coming into the room and pretending that I was at an interview with a person I hadn’t met before, I sat down on the futon, setting the mood for a casual and relaxed session. I asked, “What caused you to become interested in Led Zeppelin?” as I was getting ready to scribble down on my notepad what he had to say. “Their expressive music: the melody as well as the lyrics. Also, at the time when I started to love hard rock music, in the Communist [in Romania] era, a contributing factor was my growing love for the English language and the Occidental [Western] life. This also powered my desire and the dream I had to ‘escape.'” Satisfied with the unique answer I had received, I continued: “What do you think are the band’s strongest points? What makes them stand out when compared to other bands?” He replied,

Besides what I have already mentioned previously, both the melodies and lyrics, I believe Led Zeppelin is one of the best bands due to their genre diversity but also, at the same time, being able to maintain their characteristic orchestral line. Also, Robert Plant’s exotic voice definitely makes them stand out from the crowd.

I reached my third and final question, “Can you describe the impact their music has made on you?” I inquired.

It makes me feel good, better. It relieves all stress that has been accumulated throughout the day.”

His answer was concise and simple which I liked very much because he described the number one reason why people like music: it brightened their mood after a demanding and tiring day. I gave a quick smile, shook his hand and said that it was a pleasure to be here, “Thank you.” I walked out the door and immediately came back in. Now it’s time to get back to work, I thought as I cracked my knuckles and sat quietly while the noise of the keys clacking accompanied my thoughts.

A recurring topic came up while I was doing my research, so I thought it would be interesting to learn more about it. That problem was the copyright conflict Led Zeppelin had with other artists. In Barney Hoskyns’ Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band he claims that other bands, not just Led Zeppelin, that appeared from the British blues upswing of the 60s, stole riffs from African Americans who were also ripped off by their contracts from the 40s and 50s! Hoskyns describes Jimmy Page’s attitude toward this notion as indifferent and callous and was awarded song writing credit when he didn’t deserve it. Robert Plant clearly states Page’s actions back then,

I think when Willie Dixon [Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” was stolen from Muddy Water’s “You Need Love” which was purloined from Dixon] turned on the radio in Chicago 20 years after he wrote his blues, he thought, ‘That’s my song.’ When we ripped it off, I said to Jimmy, ‘Hey, that’s not our song.’ And he said, ‘Shut up and keep walking.'”

Jimmy ended up blaming Robert in an interview with Guitar World that he was supposed to change the lyrics but didn’t fulfill the task. But does this change the value of their music? I thought to myself. I decided to ask the tribute bands what they thought of the situation. Coda brought out what I think is one of the truest responses,

I guess the band should have given credit at the time the albums were released. I feel those early blues songs inspired the band and that they had no other intention but to pay homage to the early blues legends. They were fans of the music and loved it to death. Remember, the blues is like a quilt. Everybody absorbs what came before them, they will pay homage by playing those songs, then adding to them, their own brand of inspiration. It’s a story that every one contributes a chapter to. Remember also, that one single person cannot be given full credit for creating the blues. That’s impossible. The king of the Delta Blues himself, Robert Johnson, didn’t create the blues, and probably interpreted lyrics and songs in his repertoire that he heard orally from someone before him. But I would never take that title away from him and his stature in blues history. He helped influence so many! So back to the point of your question. I fully believe with all my heart, it all boils down to inspiration.”

A Whole Lotta Led had an equally true answer,

Zeppelin freely admitted that they used/borrowed/ripped off stuff from the guys that influenced them…it’s always been that way, and we still see this in music today. They were certainly inspired by such songs, enough so that they sometimes copied them verbatim, but Zeppelin took those songs and made them “their own,” playing them in a way no one had thought of before.”

Going back to my opinion, I don’t think the copyright scandal necessarily devalues their music because they truly reinvented the songs they “borrowed.” It is true that what they did was wrong, not properly crediting the artists they were inspired from, but that doesn’t change the fact that fans love their music regardless.

Overall, I think that people love Led Zeppelin and they have stood the test of time because of the raw power and synergy of their music. Led Zeppelin will continue to be one of the greatest rock bands of all history.

~

Julia Dragomirescu is a Romanian-born Canadian. Currently in her last year of high school at John Fraser Secondary School, she decided to take a course called Writer’s Craft this year. It is a class where students discover different styles of writing like poetry, narrative, satire and new journalism; as well as what techniques to use to improve their writing. She has a love of reading and has now discovered a love of writing. which has led Julia to become passionate about discovering new stories about various subjects.

~

Works Cited

  • Email interviews (including attempted) with Steven Markham, Boot Led Zeppelin, Led Zepplica, Sam Rapallo, A Whole Lotta Led, Black Dog, Crimson Daze, Letz Zep, Get the Led Out, Dread Zeppelin, Lez Zeppelin, Fred Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin 2, Talztop, Michael White & The White, Song Remains the Same, Led Zeppelin Show, Crunge, Coda, Scott Calef, Paula Mejia and Dave Lewis
  • Hoskyns, Barney. Led Zeppelin IV. New York, NY: Rodale, 2006. Print.
  • Hoskyns, Barney. Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.
  • “Is Led Zeppelin the Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Band of All Time?” Debate.org. Debate.org, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2016. .
  • Live interview with lifelong fan Alex Dragomirescu
  • Markham, Steven. “The Occult Symbolism of Led Zeppelin.” Mysterious Times. WordPress, 03 Dec. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2015. .
  • “The Led Zeppelin Portal.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.
  • “What Is so Great about Led Zeppelin?” Quora. Quora, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2016. .
My Generation by The Who

My Generation by The Who

Buy My Generation

My Generation by The WhoThe Who released an impressive debut album in December 1965 with My Generation. Although the group was initially dissatisfied with the album, it has grown in the past half century to be regarded as one of the pivotal rock albums of the mid sixties. With most songs composed by guitarist, Pete Townshend, along with a few select blues and funk covers, the album features a raw, hard rock sound and approach which may have been heavier than any on any popular rock album up to that point in time.

Townshend grew up in a musical family outside London and met future bandmates, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle in grammar school. Daltrey, who was a year older than the others, started the group The Detours in 1959 and soon recruited Entwistle into the band on bass. Although Daltrey played guitar originally, in 1961 Entwistle suggested Townshend be hired as guitarist with Daltrey moving to lead vocals. In early 1964, the group changed their name to The Who and brought on drummer Keith Moon to round out the classic quartet.

Over the next year plus, The Who toured relentlessly and became a favorite band of the English “mod” movement. The group adopted mod fashion and lifestyle and even temporarily changed their name to, “The High Numbers”, for their initial 1964 single because management thought the name played better to their audience. Filmmakers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp later took over as managers and encouraged the group to change their repertoire towards R&B, Motown, and soul with the new slogan “Maximum R&B”. In late 1964, The Who recorded and released the song “I Can’t Explain”, which further expanded their sound to the raw, riff-driven sound made popular by The Kinks.

My Generation reflects a confluence of these evolving early sounds by the group. Produced by Shel Talmy, the album features songs released as singles earlier in 1965 along with a further mix of originals and cover songs which reflect their strongest live material.


My Generation by The Who
Released: December 3, 1965 (Brunswick)
Produced by: Shel Talmy
Recorded: IBC Studios, London, April-October 1965
Side One Side Two
Out In the Street
I Don’t Mind
The Good’s Gone
La-La-La-Lies
Much Too Much
My Generation
The Kids Are Alright
Please, Please, Please
It’s Not True
I’m a Man
A Legal Matter
The Ox
Tracks Included on Alternate Versions of the Album
Circles
I Can’t Explain
Bald Headed Woman
Group Musicians
Roger Daltrey – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Pete Townshend – Guitars, Vocals
John Entwistle – Bass, Vocals
Keith Moon – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

To kick off the album, “Out In the Street”, sounds like it has a false start by Daltry during intro, but when it does fully kick in it is a gritty rocker with driving rhythms and strong drumming by Moon. Later in the song they play with harmony arrangements, rudiments and guitar effects, making it an interesting listen. “I Don’t Mind”, follows as the first of two James Brown covers. Dramatic and soulful, the group again shows off their tight rock ability and style versatility.

“The Good’s Gone”, is a unique, droning rocker built on sharp drum patterns and extended guitar chording by Townshend.  The song is  repetitive but to great effect during verses and choruses with the tension finally relieved during the slight bridges, and this arrangement stretches it out beyond an almost-unheard-of-for-1965 four minutes in duration. “La-La-La-Lies”, is the first pure pop song on the album and it features a heavy piano presence by guest Nicky Hopkins along with rich backing harmonies throughout. The song failed to chart in the UK but was a significant hit in Sweden. While still entertaining, “Much Too Much”, is the first song to sound incomplete and the lead vocals melody seem to meander a bit.

The title track, “My Generation”, is the obvious highlight of the side and album, as well as the strongest song for both Entwistle and Moon. Perhaps the first ever true punk song, it gives a heavy nod to teenage angst in general and the mod counterculture specifically. The song is distinct musically with Daltrey’s signature stutter through the verses, Entwistle’s fantastic bass lead, and a final verse which goes up a key to add intensity and climaxes in a wild, unhinged coda. The song reached number 2 in the UK in October 1965 and is The Who’s highest charting single ever in their home country through a long and distinguished career.

The Who

The second side begins with “The Kids Are Alright”, another indelible Who classic which features rhythm, melody and strong accessibility. The song also features musical interludes where Moon gets to wail on the drums, making this a precursor to many Who classics in years to come and was referred back to during an interlude part of 1973’s Quadrophenia. After this zenith, the album regress’s a bit starting with, “Please, Please, Please”, which sounds like it would have been an exciting live track but doesn’t quite translate on this studio record. “It’s Not True”, is an upbeat, Southern-style rocker with rich harmonies and lyrics more reflective of outlaw country, while the oft-covered Bo Diddley classic, “I’m a Man”, features fascinating blues vocals by Daltrey and a wild piano lead by Hopkins.

The album does end strong with a couple of original and innovative tracks. “A Legal Matter”, is a frenzied rocker, sandwiched between an interesting guitar intro and outro and featuring pleasant and strong rock elements and melodies throughout. “The Ox”, closes the album as an improvised jam with Moon working off the floor tom drums of the Sufari’s 1963 classic “Wipeout” and Townshend, Entwistle, and Hopkins complementing each other throughout the improvisation.

My Generation became a template for future garage rock, heavy metal and punk genres. However, The Who quickly moved on to forge their own distinct sound, starting with 1966’s A Quick One, with increasing elements of theatrical arrangements and philosophical themes which would elevate the group to ever-increasing heights.

~

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

1965 Page
 

Rubber Soul by The Beatles

Rubber Soul by The Beatles

Buy Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul by The BeatlesAs the years have gone by, Rubber Soul has distinguished itself more and more from the “typical” early album by The Beatles. While the 14 selections remain pretty much bright and poppy, the underlying lyrical content starts to touch on more mature themes, as its center of gravity migrates from teenage love to young adult sex. More importantly are the compositions, the music and the sound production which feature a stream of creative innovativeness by the group and producer George Martin.

Following the band’s international success in 1964, the year 1965 saw many new achievements and discoveries for the group, ranging from their reception of Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in June to their first experiences with LSD and other drugs later in the year. During the summer of 1965, the motion picture and accompanying soundtrack album Help! were released and continued their phenomenal chart success. The group’s third US tour followed, opening with a then world-record crowd of over 55,000 at Shea Stadium in New York on August 15th, with many more sold out cities to follow. That Fall even saw the premier of an American Saturday-morning cartoon series of the band, the first ever television series to feature animated versions of real, living people.

After the tour, the group had little time to record their sixth album in order for it to hit the markets in time for Christmas. However, due to their second straight year of top-level success, there was little pressure to focus on hit singles, which made this their most cohesive album effort to date. They returned to London in October 1965 and nearly all of the songs were composed and recorded within a four week period into November. The Beatles grew up quite a bit on this album. The harmonies are simple but artfully arranged while the production begins to get a bit “edgy” (without being too revolutionary) but adding more piano and keyboards as well as excess percussion and some non-traditional instrumentation.

Stylistically, the group incorporates contemporary R&B, soul, folk rock, and just a tad of psychedelic music styles. In fact, the album’s title is a play on the slang term “plastic soul”, which some musicians coined to describe Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones when he attempted to replicate the “soul” singing style.


Rubber Soul by The Beatles
Released: December 3, 1965 (Parlophone)
Produced by: George Martin
Recorded: EMI Studios, London, October-November, 1965
Side One Side Two
Drive My Car
Norweigen Wood
You Won’t See Me
Nowhere Man
Think For Yourself
The Word
Michelle
What Goes On
Girl
I’m Looking Through You
In My Life
Wait
If I Needed Someone
Run For Your Life
Group Musicians
John Lennon – Guitars, Keyboards. Vocals
George Harrison – Guitars, Sitar, Bass, Vocals
Paul McCartney – Bass, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr – Drums, Percussion, Organ, Vocals

The album opener, “Drive My Car”, reaches back to The Beatles’ roots as a pure rocker with little deviation, save for the overdubbed piano during chorus sections and Ringo Starr‘s cow bell throughout. Lyrically, the comical phrases are augmented by the title, which is an old blues euphemism for sex. Rubber Soul‘s next two tracks feature incredible production value. John Lennon‘s, “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”, is where the group takes its first real leap into the unknown as an acoustic folk song with a complementing sitar riff played by George Harrison. This works to gives a mystical feel to this story of what seems to be about a love affair that has lost its spark and the fire that was once warm and welcoming becomes vengeful in the end. Some have credited this song as the conception of the “world music” genre. “You Won’t See Me”, is a somewhat forgotten gem by Paul McCarftney. It is piano driven with fine chord progressions and melodies throughout. The bridge section shows off McCartney’s complex compositional skills, while the three part-harmonies throughout are another highlight to the song.

The Beatles in 1965

“Nowhere Man”, features clever lyrics and philosophical commentary by Lennon, all while remaining melodic and pop-oriented. Harrison provides a slight guitar lead after first verse, while McCartney and Starr thumb out good rhythms throughout on this track which reach number 3 on the pop charts in America. “Think for Yourself”, is the first of two compositions by Harrison this album and features an intriguing “fuzz” bass line by McCartney, complemented by a Vox Continental organ played by Lennon, giving it a total mid sixties vibe. While still entertaining, “The Word”, is the first song in the sequence which is not absolutely excellent, as the harmonies seem a bit too forced. However, this track does contain a cool piano backdrop and outstanding drums by Starr. The first side wraps with another unique track, the European folk-influenced, “Michelle”, complete with lyrics partially in French. This melodramatic love song is beautifully produced with rich background harmonies and Chet Atkins-style finger-picked electric guitar by McCartney for great sonic effect. “Michelle”, which was originally written as a spoof on French Bohemians during the Beatles’ early days, was re-written with proper lyrics for Rubber Soul and eventually won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1967.

Side two of the album is not quite as excellent as the first side, but still contains solid songs throughout. “What Goes On”, is Starr’s country and western influenced contribution, in which he sings lead vocals and receives partial compositional credit for the only time on the album. Lennon’s, “Girl”, features great folk rhythms and melodies and previews some of his finer solo works years later. With more fine harmonies, the songs lyrics paint a vivid picture of a character who drives the protagonist crazy but is mesmerizing nonetheless;

Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure? Did she understand it when they said… That a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure? Will she still believe it when he’s dead?”

Following McCartney’s bright and sparse acoustic pop track, “I’m Looking Through You”, comes Lennon’s masterpiece of this album, “In My Life”. Everything about this two and a half minute ballad showcases the Beatles at their best in 1965, The opening guitar notes, which were written by McCartney but played by Harrison, instantly tug at heartstrings. The poetic lyrics drip with sentimentality and lead to the climatic, Baroque–style piano lead played by Martin, which got a unique effect when the producer recorded it at half speed and found an authentic-sounding harpsichord result when played back at the normal rate. The first of its kind, Lennon wrote the song as a long poem reminiscing on his childhood years, themes which would be further explored by Beatles’ members on future band albums.

“Wait”, features great choruses and a decent bridge by McCartney along with a creative percussive ensemble and pedal-effected guitars, but is otherwise a weak song for this album. This is followed by Harrison’s smooth classic, “If I Needed Someone”, which features deliberate vocals, a sweet guitar and upbeat rhythms. This song was nearly simultaneously recorded and released as a cover by the Hollies and became a minor hit for that group. While Rubber Soul is a bright album overall, it concludes with the dark and violent, “Run for Your Life”, an ode to domestic violence or perhaps the “outlaw country” of 1965, as presented by Lennon. A very far cry from the “Give Peace a Chance” theme of the near future, it is hard to discern if this is serious or dark comedy lyrically, but musically it contains a plethora of guitar textures – from the strummed acoustic, to the slide electric and rockabilly lead – which make it undeniably catchy overall.

Like all albums to that point, Rubber Soul was released with differing British and American versions, with the British version eventually becoming canon (and hence, the one we review here). The album was another commercial success, originally staying on the charts for nearly a year, with several chart comebacks throughout the decades. Within the following year of 1966, The Beatles would continue to accelerate their recording innovations with the follow-up, Revolver ,and give up on touring completely to strictly become a studio-oriented band.

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

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