Having a Rave Up by The Yardbirds

Having a Rave Up
by The Yardbirds

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Having a Rave Up by The YardbirdsHaving a Rave Up with The Yardbirds is an oddly constructed mish-mash of recent singles, new recordings, and live tracks recorded over 19 months prior to this album’s release. Still, this late 1965 release captures the heart of The Yardbirds from many different angles and laid a firm foundation for the heavy blues rock which would dominate the music world for decades to come. The songs on this album straddled between live and studio tracks as well as the group’s earlier pure blues and later psychedelic rock. Side one features (then) current lead guitarist Jeff Beck while Side Two features older live recordings with former guitarist Eric Clapton, songs which were previously released in England on the 1964 album, Five Live Yardbirds.

That live album failed to reach the charts and was subsequently not issued in the US or any other part of the world. Clapton soon departed as he considered himself a blues purist and didn’t like the commercial approach being forged with tracks like the hit single, “For Your Love”. Released in June 1965, the album For Your Love, was the group’s first international release and featured songs with both Clapton and Beck on lead guitar. Later in the summer, The Yardbirds embarked on their first US tour and decidedly shifted their focus towards the American market.

Some of the studio tracks for Having a Rave Up were recorded during that first American tour at Sam Phillips Recording studio in Memphis and Chess Studios in Chicago. The album was co-produced by Giorgio Gomelsky and group bassist Paul Samwell-Smith. Smith also helped give the album its title as he forged many of the “rave up” arrangements during the middle instrumental sections of several songs, especially those on the “live” side of the album.


Having a Rave Up by The Yardbirds
Released: November 15, 1965 (Epic)
Produced by: Giorgio Gomelsky & Paul Samwell-Smith
Recorded: London, New York, Chicago, Memphis, March 1964–September 1965
Side One Side Two
You’re a Better Man Than I
Evil Hearted You
I’m a Man
Still I’m Sad
Heart Full of Soul
The Train Kept A-Rollin’
Smokestack Lightning
Respectable
I’m a Man
Here ‘Tis
Group Musicians
Keith Relf – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Jeff Beck – Lead Guitars
Eric Clapton – Lead Guitars
Chis Dreja – Guitars
Paul Samwell-Smith – Bass, Vocals
Jim McCarty – Drums, Vocals

The understated but fantastic opener, “You’re a Better Man Than I”, launches things with advanced rock techniques and message. Production wise, there is a subtle play on amplitude to give a serious and somber effect and bring out the rolling bass and drums along with the catchy and hip melodies by vocalist Keith Relf. The song was written by brothers Brian and Mike Hugg and it features a sustain-heavy guitar lead by Beck. Group collaborator Graham Gouldman composed the guitar-driven “Evil Hearted You” which was a major hit for The Yardbirds in Britain. Here, Beck inventively uses Spanish scales and odd chords before the group launches into their first frantic, rave-up bridge.

Next comes a distinct and souped-up version of the Bo Diddley classic “I’m a Man”. This studio recording of the song was recorded at Chess Studios and it packs much into its two and a half minute duration while still remaining a loose and fun jam. Relf’s harmonica really shines as the main lead instrument here, with guitarists Beck and Chis Dreja contributing nicely to the frenzied end jam. On the second side is another fine but not quite as potent version led by Clapton’s guitars. “Still I’m Sad” is the only fully original composition on the album, co-written by Smith and drummer Jim McCarty. This track takes a radical turn as a dark folk song with monk-like chanting persisting throughout to a steady, slow beat.

The heart of the album comes at the end of the first side, starting with Gouldman’s “Heart Full of Soul”. Starting with a slightly Indian-influenced guitar riff by Beck, the song features a good mixture of rock elements with superb production and a perfect mid-sixties vibe, “Heart Full of Soul” reached the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. “The Train Kept A-Rollin'” would become the classic late sixties jam song with renditions by countless bands following this version by The Yardbirds. Relf recorded two lead vocals for an odd effect, which becomes more of a distraction, but this is counterbalanced by a couple of great jam sections with over-driven guitars and shuffling rhythms.

The Yardbirds in 1965

The four remaining songs were renditions of traditional blues classics recorded live with Eric Clapton in London in March 1964. While these are not the best recordings, as the bass and drums are too loud and the lead vocals are a bit too low in the mix, the energy of the performances nevertheless seeps through. Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” is the best of these as a sixties rock interpretation of a pure blues song. The Isley Brother’s “Respectable” is fast and frantic, with early reflections of the latter ska genre, while the closing “Here ‘Tis” features great bass with a scat, chanting vocal chorus in the background and wild, frenzied guitar picking along with rapid percussion.

Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds was the Yardbirds’ highest charting album in the US during their active career and a later re-issue was packaged with eleven additional bonus tracks. These include the popular single, “Shapes of Things”, a group original which lies on the cutting edge of sonic evolution, and “New York City Blues”, a true precursor to the Led Zeppelin blues sound several years later.

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

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Physical Grafitti by Led Zeppelin

Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin

1975 Album of the Year

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Physical Graffiti by Led ZeppelinToday we cover an album that epitomizes everything that is great about classic rock. Through their dozen years as a band, Led Zeppelin released eight studio albums, all of which were excellent to differing degrees. But Physical Graffiti is the best for two reasons. First is simple math, as it is their sole double studio album, hence twice the normal rock n roll bliss. More importantly is the sheer diversity of this album, which combines newly composed material with outtakes from the group’s three previous studio albums and in the process captures an incredible array of styles, production and compositional methods. All of this, plus the simple fact that the individual performances are brimming with innovative and outstanding musicianship, helped to make Physical Graffiti an easy choice as Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for 1975.

In their first three years as a band, Led Zeppelin recorded and released four albums with sequential numerical titles. Over the course of these albums, the material branched out from heavy blues to acoustic folk and many subtle sub-genres in between. Released in 1973, Houses of the Holy ,was built more in the studio than any of its predecessors, taking advantage of technological advances and use of overdubs to forge the sound. To follow-up, the group went to Headley Grange in East Hampshire, England in late 1973. They had previously recorded, Led Zeppelin IV ,with Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studio at this location but these later sessions were soon abandoned as the new material was underdeveloped and bassist John Paul Jones had fallen ill. Instead, the sessions were turned over to the new group Bad Company, who had recently signed to Led Zeppelin’s new label Swan Song and used the location to record their 1974 eponymous debut album.

The group reconvened at Headley Grange in January 1974 and were much more fruitful, recording eight new tracks over the next several weeks. The running time of these tracks extended beyond the length of a conventional album (at the time, vinyl albums were typically around 45 minutes), so the group decided to extend it out to a double length LP by including several unreleased songs from previous Led Zeppelin albums. This extended the project quite a bit as additional overdubs were required to establish sonic consistency, so final mixing did not take place until October 1974. The album’s title was coined by guitarist and producer Jimmy Page, who wanted to convey how much “physical energy” had gone into producing this album. The title also sparked the idea for its unique, Grammy nominated album packaging, with a die-cut sleeve through which various images can be alternated into the windows of a New York City brownstone tenement.


Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin
Released: February 25, 1975 (Swan Song)
Produced by: Jimmy Page
Recorded: Various Locations in the UK and US, July 1970-February 1974
Side One Side Two
Custard Pie
The Rover
In My Time of Dying
Houses of the Holy
Trampled Underfoot
Kashmir
Side Three Side Four
In the Light
Bron-Yr-Aur
Down By the Seaside
Ten Years Gone
Night Flight
The Wanton Song
Boogie With Stu
Black Country Woman
Sick Again
Group Musicians
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Guitar
Jimmy Page – Guitars, Mandolin
John Paul Jones – Bass, Piano, Keyboards, Mandolin
John Bonham – Drums, Percussion

The album opens unabashedly with “Custard Pie”, which takes the simplest crisp guitar riffs and builds such an infectious groove around it by combining with Jones’ cool clavichord, John Bonham‘s steady but incredible drumming. Lyrically, the song pays homage to a few traditional blues songs – “Drop Down Mama” by Sleepy John Estes and “Shake ‘Em On Down” by Bukka White – with vocalist Robert Plant adding further authenticity with some fine harmonica playing over the otherwise straight-up rock music. “The Rover” was an outtake from a 1972 Houses of the Holy session and it is a wonder why it was ever cut (it would have fit perfectly between “D’Yer Ma’ker” and “No Quarter”). In any case, it remains one of Zeppelin’s most forgotten gems as solid hard rock at its melodic finest. Even more impressive are Plant’s vocals, which soar finely over the rock landscape which crosses both time and space;

“Traversed the planet when heaven sent me, I saw the kings who rule them all. Still by the firelight and purple moonlight I hear the rested rivers call…”

“In My Time of Dying” is a rare track with songwriting credits going to all four band members (although the song’s roots date back to the 1920s) and is also distinct as the studio recording with the longest duration. As a slow and deliberate blues, it reverts back to Led Zeppelin’s debut album with Page’s impossibly slow slide guitar being complemented by Jones and Bonham, who are masterful at adding perfectly timed bottom end rhythm to give it all structure. At around four minutes in, a frenzied second part of the song commences, highlighted by Bonham’s incredible drum patterns and Page’s multi-textured multiple guitar solos. Then, after building the tensions as far as possible, the group returns with a heavy rock rendition of the opening part.

The album’s second side starts with “Houses of the Holy”, the title track which was left off the album of the same name. Unlike the aforementioned “The Rover”, this song is actually more at home here as a very basic track with just repeated verses and riff interludes. It never really travels anywhere musically, just gains in Trampled Underfoot by Led Zeppelinintensity in its vibe and sexually charged lyrics as it goes along. Sticking with the sex themes, “Trampled Under Foot” uses car parts as metaphors for female body parts and, much like the previous song, relies on repetition and building intensity. Musically, this track has a great funk groove throughout which never gets old, and features a funky clavichord lead by Jones with Page adding some whining guitar textures underneath.

“Kashmir” is a masterful and innovative track written by Page, Plant and Bonham over the course of three years. It is sonically pleasing and interesting throughout its eight and a half minute duration with several theatrical “scenes’ slowly unfolding in time. The song’s main progression is built on an ascending riff developed by Page with Jones conducting further orchestration performed by session string and horn sections and Bonham’s drums fed through a phaser for effect. Plant actually found inspiration for the lyrics in Morocco but preferred Kashmir (where he had never been) as a mystical, imaginative place which transcends a physical location on Earth;

“To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen, they talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed. Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace, whose sounds caress my ear but not a word I heard could I relate, the story was quite clear…”

Side three of Physical Graffiti begins with “In the Light”, one of the oddest but ultimately entertaining songs in the entire Led Zeppelin collection. A long synthesizer and bowed guitar intro by Jones and Page breaks into an enjoyable and upbeat rock section with Jones providing some inspired electric piano. The track was originally a piano-driven ballad called “Everybody Makes It Through” but the verse sections were rewritten with the improvised outro section retained as a canvas for the layers of Page’s guitars. Next comes “Bron-Yr-Aur” the first instrumental since Led Zeppelin II as a pleasant solo acoustic bit by Page which turned out to be the group’s shortest track on record. “Down By the Seaside” is another totally unique song in the Zeppelin catalog as a mellow country/folk track which possibly drew inspiration from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Recorded during the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV in 1971, the song is pleasant and rewarding as a one-off foray into this musical territory and features Jones’ electric piano interludes complemented by Page’s ascending guitar textures.

“Ten Years Gone” is Led Zeppelin at their studio best, as an exquisite song with outstanding contributions by each group member. The opening arrangement is just a simple ringing guitar and bass before launching into a majestic heavy riff which divides the verse stanzas. Started as a pure instrumental piece by Page, the track includes two of his most inspiring leads, which sandwich the heavy middle bridge section and where Jones’ bass and Bonham’s drums are brought out with their best elements. Each subsequent section in this suite builds on the last, reaching for an ultimate emotional crescendo as Page layers guitar upon guitar with distinct voices so that nothing ever gets buried underneath. Finally, there are Plant’s poetic lyrics of love, destination, regret and redemption sung in a very somber and reserved voice as he recalls the heartbreaking decision to abandon his teenage girlfriend in order to pursue his musical dreams. The outro is only real section where he raises his voice with great, desperate improvisation, almost as if he is trying to shout back through time.

Led Zeppelin in 1975

The fourth and final side begins with “Night Flight”, which dates back to late 1970. After the emotional intensity of “Ten Years Gone”, this bouncy rocker provides a lighter feel and owes much of its musical power to Jones’ Hammond organ with Page just adding strong rhythmic licks on guitar, almost as if their roles are reversed. Plant’s vocals are dynamic and strong throughout this track, almost to the point of straining. On “The Wanton Song” Zeppelin seems to step into the future musically with odd-timed but fierce riffs and Bonham’s unambiguous drumming. Two interludes contain fantastic guitar textures, attained by Page feeding through a Leslie keyboard speaker, which give the start sound just enough flavor and diversity to make it classic.

If there is any weakness on Physical Graffiti it is in the way the album wraps. While interesting in their own way, the final three tracks are rather tame in comparison with the tremendous material which precede them. “Boogie with Stu” was an improvised jam during the Led Zeppelin IV sessions, featuring Ian Stewart on piano with Page on mandolin, leaving Plant with his one and only session on guitar. Page returns to guitar on “Black Country Woman” with Jones moving to mandolin in what would turn out to be the last Zeppelin acoustic song on their original studio records. Recorded in 1972, the song features a truly authentic setting, outside with a passing overhead airplane left on the tape at the beginning. The album wraps with “Sick Again” which, unlike the other three powerful side closers, is a rather common heavy blues rock song to complete the album as a whole. With lyrics about the LA groupie scene, this track musically features a nice overdubbed, whining guitar through the chorus sections and obviously contains some impressive performances but does not seem to be mixed too well, with vocals and bass getting lost behind the guitars and drums.

Physical Graffiti was a success commercially and critically, reaching the top of the album charts upon its release and eventually going 16x platinum in sales. With half the album being like a tour of the multiple phases that this group with incredible musical diversity had gone through during their first five years and five studio albums and the other half showing the band progressing forward with the fusion of funk, heavy pop, soul, and the modern sound that would become new wave, this remains the single best example of what made Led Zeppelin such a tremendous musical force.

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

The Who By Numbers

The Who By Numbers

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The Who By NumbersWith both the successes and failures of conceptual rock operas behind them, The Who made a transitional record with 1975’s The Who By Numbers. The album contains some leftover tracks from early 1970s aborted projects, Lifehouse and Long Live Rock, along with a few other tracks which remain faithful to the group’s classic rock sound. Conversely, the rest of the album contains songs previewing the solo work of guitarist Pete Townshend, who would become an ever dominant force in the group.

Following the success of 1969’s rock opera album, Tommy, the members of The Who were able to live comfortably for the first time. Townshend was actually embarrassed by his wealth and felt an immediate pressure to make an even more impressive follow-up. He conceived of the multi-media project, Lifehouse, and even booked a series of experimental concerts, but couldn’t convince his band mates of the merits of this project. Instead, Who’s Next featured the best songs composed for Lifehouse and became its own classic album. In May 1972, the group started and abandoned another proposed album called, Long Live Rock, causing tensions between Townshend and lead vocalist Roger Daltrey. Still, the band regrouped and recorded the fine 1973 double album, Quadrophenia, and spent much of 1974 working on the major motion picture version of Tommy, which earned Townshend an Oscar nomination for its score.

Townshend admits that, The Who By Numbers, was very difficult to compose and record as he suffered from writer’s block and  a bout of depression as his 30th birthday approached. Produced by Glyn Johns, the sessions for the album were reportedly long and uninspired, only saved by the group’s stellar performances even when at their worst. The apathy of this project went so far that no one really cared about packaging, so bassist John Entwistle submitted the hand-drawn artwork which became the album’s cover.


The Who By Numbers by The Who
Released: October 3, 1975 (Polydor)
Produced by: Chris Charlesworth, Bill Curbishley, Glyn Johns, & Robert Rosenberg
Recorded: Shepperton Studios, Middlesex, England, April–June 1975
Side One Side Two
Slip Kid
However Much I Booze
Squeeze Box
Dream From the Waist
Imagine a Man
Success Story
They Are All in Love
Blue, Red and Grey
How Many Friends
In a Hand or a Face
Group Musicians
Roger Daltrey – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Pete Townshend – Guitars, Keyboards, Ukulele, Banjo, Accordion, Vocals
John Entwistle – Bass, Brass, Vocals
Keith Moon – Drums, Percussion

“Slip Kid” opens with and is built on a steady percussion which persists throughout without much further affirmative animation by drummer Keith Moon. Townshend provides crisp riffing throughout and a soaring guitar lead in the middle, with a post-lead interplay section between his pedal-effected guitars and the piano tickling of guest Nicky Hopkins. “However Much I Booze” features a bright acoustic, with bouncy bass and steady drums throughout the pleasant verses. Townshend takes lead vocals above an arrangement which is reflective of a traditional Who track in dynamics and theatrical vibe.

“Squeeze Box” is the most popular track on The Who By Numbers as an upbeat and fun number with plenty of ethnic instrumentation including acoustic guitar, mandolin, and banjo lead, but no real “squeeze box” accordion except possibly during the sweet refrain section. The song was originally written for a proposed television appearance which didn’t materialize, but it did reach the Top 20 in the US and the Top 10 in the UK. Perhaps the peak level of the album comes with, “Dreaming from the Waist”, where Moon’s talent is finally unleashed at a top level of animation. Similar in tone and temperament to the tracks on, Quadrophenia, Daltry’s vocals are strong and direct during the upbeat verses with a mellower call and response during the choruses. The only real flaw on this track is that it fades out way too soon. “Imagine a Man” is a finger-picked acoustic folk ballad with heavy reverb on Townshend’s vocals and strong harmonies during the hook where Moon adds an intense drum roll which never resolves fully, more like an orchestral percussionist than a rock drummer.

The Who in 1975

The album’s second side features more obscure, albeit interesting, selections. “Success Story” was written by Entwistle and features an easy three-chord rock riff and slightly humorous lyrics about the rock n’ roll lifestyle. “They Are All in Love” has a nice piano by Hopkins and a quasi-Irish folk feel overall. “Blue, Red and Grey” features a Townshend solo on ukulele and some swelling brass by Entwistle in the background, an overall quiet and personal reflection brought down to the smallest stage. “How Many Friends” returns back to the more majestic, theatrical setting with  overdubs of guitars and piano, while the closing “In a Hand or a Face” contains some of the most contemporary hard rock elements, with the real highlight being an intense hold on a climactic bass and drum fill.

The Who by Numbers, peaked in the Top 10 album charts on both sides of the Atlantic. However, the group opted to play little material from the album during a subsequent tour, which included some record breaking concerts where The Who focused on their classic material.

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

Fool For the City by Foghat

Fool For the City by Foghat

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Fool For the City by FoghatFoghat may have set the template for the sound and tone of mainstream, 1980s “hair” rock five years before that decade even began. Fool for the City, the fifth overall release by the British quartet, was the apex of the group’s success and includes their most potent and indelible contributions to the classic rock radio pantheon. While there are no Earth-shattering rock innovations here, there is a solid (and pleasantly surprising) uniformity of quality tunes spread throughout this seven track album.

Foghat was formed in London in 1970 by guitarist/vocalist “Lonesome” Dave Peverett with drummer Roger Earl, and the band took their name from a childhood game invented by Peverett and his brother. Later that year, former Black Cat Bones guitarist Rod Price joined on and the group soon recorded and released their self-titled 1972 debut album. This effort scored some immediate success with the radio popularity of a hard rock version of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You”. Over the next two years, the group recorded and released three additional studio albums which followed the same basic pattern of mostly original material combined with a few reinterpretations of blues-based covers. However, none of these records reached the same level of success as the debut, causing original bassist Tony Stevens to leave the band due to the endless touring and recording schedule.

Producer Nick Jameson, who produced the group’s 1974 album, Rock and Roll Outlaws, as well as, Fool For the City, became a member of the group on bass and keyboards during the recording of this album. The album cover features Earl sitting on a box in the middle of a New York City street, “fishing” down an open manhole, an activity which led to his arrest shortly after the shot was taken.


Fool For the City by Foghat
Released: September 15, 1975 (Bearsville)
Produced by: Nick Jameson
Recorded: Suntreader Studios, Sharon, Vermont, 1974
Side One Side Two
Fool For the City
My Babe
Slow Ride
Terraplane Blues
Save Your Loving (For Me)
Drive Me Home
Take It or Leave It
Group Musicians
Dave Peverett – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Rod Price – Guitars, Vocals
Nick Jameson – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Roger Earl – Drums, Percussion

Peverett’s opening title song sets up the album perfectly as an upbeat hard rocker with a very catchy hook. Released as a single, “Fool For the City” barely missed making the Top 40 on the Pop charts. “My Babe” is a cover of an early career single by The Righteous Brothers, written by Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley. While sandwiched between two much more popular tracks, this rendition may well be the most outstanding track on the album’s first side, starting with a crisp, blues/rock riff by Price before the harmonized hook arrives backed by nothing but the clap-along drum beat. When the song’s full arrangement kicks in, it is infectious and upbeat throughout with additional bluesy, distorted slide guitar licks along with effective rudiments in the rhythm.

The group’s most popular and sustaining track ever, “Slow Ride” was a Top 20 pop hit in 1975. It starts with a reserved beat by Earl, soon accompanied by Peverett’s main riff and then more sonic décor added in turn. Although over eight minutes in length, this song is very light on lyrical heft, instead fully relying on the rhythms, riffs, and chanted melodies to carry the day. “Slow Ride” is also a real showcase for Jameson, especially during the internal verses and the funky, bass-driven bridge section.

Foghat in 1976

The album’s original second side starts with a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues”, which features an acoustic intro that is pretty faithful to original but, after that, the group kicks in full boar with a wild rock arrangement featuring an ever-present slide guitar by Price. This works to make the track almost as respectable as Zeppelin’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” in the category of true “modern” renditions of Johnson’s music. “Save Your Loving (For Me)” is built on an upbeat bass groove topped by a dual guitar riff which closing mimics the vocal melody line, at least during the verses, while “Drive Me Home” is a fast-paced, Stonesy style rock n’ blues with a nice inclusion of boogie piano in the tradition of Ian Stewart. The album closer is the only track that deviates from the established heavy rock style, as a cool funk/soul fused song led by Jameson’ electric piano and a reserved guitar presence. “Take It or Leave It” goes through some nice variations in tone while never reaching the blistering rock level of the previous six tracks, showing some serious compositional and musical talent by the group.

Fool for the City, reached platinum level sales status and remains Foghat’s most popular album. Jameson’s short stint with the band lasted barely over a year but the group did find further success with their 1977 live album before their popularity slowly dissipated in the early 1980s.

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

A Night at the Opera by Queen

A Night at the Opera
by Queen

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A Night at the Opera by QueenQueen really reached for the stars with the production and release of their fourth album, A Night at the Opera in 1975. At the time it was the most expensive album ever recorded as it utilized extraordinary and methodical overdubs to achieve a rich orchestral and choral effects and incorporated rich replications of a wide range of styles. Many of these styles had not previously been adopted by hard rock bands, but the tremendous inventiveness and attention to details made this album the pinnacle of Queen’s career.

The origins of queen date back to 1968, when guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor started the group, Smile, while students in London. A friend and follower of the band, Farrokh Bulsara, eventually joined the group in late 1970 and convinced the members to change the name to Queen because of its “regal” quality and his ability (as an art student) to design an adequate logo. After going through a number of bass players, John Deacon joined in 1971 as the permanent fourth member of the group which maintain this lineup for the next 20 years. Shortly after the release of their 1973 self-titled debut album, Bulsara officially adopted his stage name, Freddie Mercury. In 1974, the group released two critically acclaimed LPs, Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack, each of which spawned a Top 10 hit in the UK with Sheer Heart Attack being their first commercial success in the US.

In early 1975, the band shopped for a better record deal, at first considering Led Zeppelin’s new Swan Song label before signing with A&M who gave the group a huge recording budget. A Night at the Opera was co-produced by Roy Thomas Baker and the individual band members who invented some of the distinctive techniques required to achieve the desired sounds and effects. The album borrowed its title from a popular 1935 Marx Brothers movie of the same name.


A Night at the Opera by Queen
Released: September 14, 1975 (A&M)
Produced by: Roy Thomas Baker & Queen
Recorded: Sarm, Roadhouse, Olympic Studios, Scorpio and Lansdowne Studios, London, August–November 1975
Side One Side Two
Death on Two Legs
Lazing On a Sunday Afternoon
I’m in Love with My Car
You’re My Best Friend
’39
Sweet Lady
Seaside Rendezvous
The Prophet’s Song
Love of My Life
Good Company
Bohemian Rhapsody
God Save the Queen
Group Musicians
Freddie Mercury – Lead Vocals, Piano
Brian May – Guitars, Ukulele, Harp, Vocals
John Deacon – Bass, Keyboards
Roger Taylor – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album begins with Freddie Mercury’s, “Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…)”, at first coming in with a classical sounding piano and doomy sound effects, including a slight background scream. The song then breaks in as a steady rocker with an upfront lead by May and unambiguous lyrics of pure venom, adding an acid sensation to this otherwise enjoyable rock song. Mercury penned the tune about Queen’s ex-manager, Norman Sheffield, who had reportedly mistreated the band during their early years. As if to intentionally lighten the atmosphere after the opener, “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” follows as a light music hall piano track which, after a single minute, abruptly morphs into a hard rock bridge to Taylor’s “I’m in Love with My Car”. On this unique take on a classic analogy between a woman and an automobile, Taylor’s lead vocals work perfectly for the slow screed along with May’s raw guitar chords.

 
“You’re My Best Friend” was written by John Deacon on a Wurlitzer electric piano and is the closest the group would come to a traditional seventies pop song. The song features stark but enjoyable production and overdubs with depth, contrasting with the upfront Wurli piano, and deep backing harmonies throughout. May adds some fine harmonized guitars late in the song, topping off this immensely entertaining track, which was a Top 10 hit. “’39” is another giant leap in musical diversity as a folk acoustic track with a simple stomp in the background and May taking lead vocals. The track has an aura of fantasy brought on by the operatic backing vocals, the slight synthesizer effects and the lyrical fantasy of time and space travel. The album’s first side ends with, perhaps, the two weakest tracks on A Night at the Opera. “Sweet Lady” is a bridge too far in trying to be original, with odd timings and creative riffs which, unfortunately, do not pay entertainment dividends. “Seaside Rendezvous” is another experimental music hall type song, which features vocalized renditions of different instruments, making it more of a musical accomplishment than a legitimate track on a rock album.

Queen in 1975

The second side begins with “The Prophet’s Song”, a theatrical epic by May with a dramatic, building theme and slightly psychedelic feel. The middle section features an orchestra made wholly of layered vocals with repetitive timing effects. When the music returns, May brings the rock track back with a layered guitar lead over choppy rhythms through a long outro with an acoustic solo instrumental at the very end. Mercury’s “Love of My Life” is a sad and simple song of lost love, which mainly features Mercury solo on piano with just some slight bass, backing harmonies, and a later distant but potent electric guitar lead by May. After a very slight intro guitar lead, May plays a solo ukulele while singing lead vocals on “Good Company”. This building track eventually incorporates some rhythm and further overdubbed guitars which recreate a Dixieland jazz arrangement.

 
The masterpiece of the album is Mercury’s epic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a song which he had developed in pieces dating back to the late 1960s. Starting with an a capella vocal harmony intro before making its way to the song proper with Mercury singing and playing piano, the song moves through several distinct phases and sonic dynamics, the most famous being the long middle, pseudo-opera section. This was accomplished through an elaborate choir effect created by Mercury, May and Taylor singing their specific vocal parts for hours on end, with over 180 separate overdubs mixed and sub-mixed onto the 24-track master tape, with the entire process taking about three weeks to complete. Still, with all of this bombast and tremendous production, it may be the quiet sections of the song, such as Mercury’s final solo vocal line with subtle guitar backing by May, that makes this song a true masterpiece. The album concludes with May’s instrumental of “God Save the Queen”, the British national anthem, which was originally recorded in 1974 as a homage to Jimi Hendrix’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Years later May admitted that if A Night at the Opera had been a commercial flop (therefore losing a boatload of money), Queen would have disbanded. Fortunately, it was a critical and commercial success, reaching number 4 in the US and selling over 12 million copies worldwide. Queen would continue with a tremendously successful run for years to come, following up in 1976 with A Day at the Races, a loose sequel to A Night at the Opera, which again borrowed its title from a Marx Brothers movie.

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1975 Images

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

Crisis What Crisis by Supertramp

Crisis? What Crisis?
by Supertramp

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Crisis What Crisis by SupertrampCrisis? What Crisis? is often overlooked in comparison to Supertramp‘s other albums from the mid to late seventies due to its relative lack of hit singles or classic rock radio staples. However, this fourth release by the British group is a solid collection of songs which collectively show the group slightly evolving their sound from the prog-heavy epics of past efforts towards the more pop accessible tunes of their near future. More importantly, this material continues to sound fresh and vibrant four decades after its release.

After two albums which were not commercially successful and lineup shifts which left only the two primary vocalists Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson as permanent members, Supertramp regrouped and produced the critically acclaimed and commercially successful Crime of the Century in 1974. However, this produced a whole new type of pressure on the group to meet or exceed that level of success with a follow-up. The group began work on this new album as soon as the touring for the previous album completed.

With little time to rehearse, Davies and Hodgson had to develop songs individually, without a cohesive vision for the album as a whole, like had been done on Crime of the Century. While in the studio, Davies did come up with the cover concept and album title, which was taken from a line in the film, The Day of the Jackal. Only four of the album’s ten tracks had been performed live prior to entering the studio with producer Ken Scott. One song, “You Started Laughing”, was recorded but left off the album, being used as a B-side to a single instead.


Crisis? What Crisis? by Supertramp
Released: September 14, 1975 (A&M)
Produced by: Ken Scott & Supertramp
Recorded: A&M Studios, Los Angeles & Ramport and Scorpio Studios, London, Summer 1975
Side One Side Two
Easy Does It
Sister Moonshine
Ain’t Nobody But Me
A Soapbox Opera
Another Man’s Woman
Lady
Poor Boy
Just a Normal Day
The Meaning
Two of Us
Group Musicians
Roger Hodgson – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Rick Davies – Keyboards, Harmonica, Vocals
John Helliwell – Saxophone, Clarinet, Woodwinds, Vocals
Doug Thompson – Bass
Bob Siebenberg – Drums

The opening two tracks of Crisis? What Crisis? make it clear that this album takes a far different approach from its predecessor, as both tracks are guitar-dominated in contrast to the almost completely piano-dominated Crime of the Century. The very short intro track, “Easy Does It” dedicates about a quarter of its length to street side sound effects and approaching whistler. From there it is one single verse, with a short lead section, a second chorus, and out, still leaving plenty of guitar centric sonic candy with deadened electric and strummed acoustic blended beneath Hodgson’s melodic lead vocals. The bright acoustic track, “Sister Moonshine”, follows with plenty of extra overdubbed acoustic and electric flourishes during the intro verses. Davies joins with backing vocals during the post chorus along with a cool harmonica in the background and choppy rhythms by bassist Doug Thompson and drummer Bob Siebenberg.

“Ain’t Nobody But Me” features lead vocals by Davies and a dramatic and theatrical rock arrangement which builds in tension before breaking into a rather moderate doo-wop-rock like chorus. John Helliwell later adds a saxophone lead to follow before an equally dramatic second verse followed by a second chorus and a long outro with entertaining vocal duets which bring it down before it all explodes one last time with closing guitar lead. “A Soapbox Opera”,  has promise of an epic in the same vein as those on Crime of the Century, but the song is really a lot more simple and less weighty, although still a pleasant enough listen with piano, strings, and a creative bridge section. The side one closer “Another Man’s Woman” features a mix of dramatic, rotating piano in contrast to Davies’ whimsical lead vocals and a funky chorus with sharp guitar riffing and effects for a good jam. The long and deliberate mid section finds room for Davies’ meandering piano solo while the background ambiance gains momentum and eventually joins the composition for a decent lead section that concludes the track.

Supertramp in 1975

“Lady” opens with a xylophone-like effect before the song launches with a bouncy electric piano accompanying Hodgson’s lead vocals. Although a little elongated in the end, this single release would have fit well on later albums like Breakfast In America. On the other hand, “Poor Boy” is a totally unique track which starts with odd scat vocals by Davies accompanied by gently rocking electric piano. This leads to a calm and pleasant intro with Helliwell adding an accordion in background of the intro as well as a nice clarinet lead later on. When the song proper kicks in, it includes a pleasant melody and bouncy bass by Thompson along with Davies’ electric piano mixed with some jazzy acoustic piano. “Just a Normal Day” starts as a very slow piano ballad with vocals by Davies and good bass and drum fills, with Hodgson rotating in on second lead vocals, which may actually detract from the overall melancholy vibe. After a good, effective sax lead, the emotional third chorus by Davies acts as the climax of song.

The album wraps with two emotional tracks led by Hodgson. “The Meaning” fades in with a picked acoustic accompanied by slight keyboards and clarinet. The hyper, panicked vocals by Hodgson during verses act as good contrast to very pleasant, melodic, and moody musical vibe throughout as each verse builds on the previous one by adding instrumentation and rhythmic drive. A slight organ lead by Davies precedes the fourth and final verse as it builds to an outro crescendo with effective use of lyrical repetition. The closing ballad,  “Two of Us”, features a slight acoustic accompanying the organ in a very sparse arrangement with chorus vocals that reach for the stratosphere with the very high pitched vocals of Hodgson on this song with a very simple message about committed love.

Although some members of the group were initially dissatisfied with Crisis? What Crisis?, it did reach the Top 20 on several national charts and sold over a million copies worldwide. A remastered version of the album was released in 2002 to much greater acclaim than it received upon its original release.

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1975 Images

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

Fleetwood Mac 1975 album

Fleetwood Mac

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Fleetwood Mac 1975 albumAfter eight years, nine albums, several lineup shifts, and many musical reinventions, the lineup and sound that would bring Fleetwood Mac to the top of the pop world finally fell into place in 1975. Fleetwood Mac, the group’s tenth release (and second with an eponymous title, after the group’s 1968 debut), was the group’s first chart-topping album and spawned their first three Top 20 singles in the US. More importantly, this new sound which fused Fleetwood Mac’s traditional British blues/rock with mid seventies California folk/rock, would be the basis of the group’s magic formula for success for the next decade and a half and reserve them an indelible spot in pop music history.

Drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and guitarist Peter Green were all members of the group, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers , in 1967 when the trio had an opportunity with some free recording studio time. Green was so impressed with the recordings that he suggested that they all break from Mayall and start their own group. When Fleetwood and McVie were hesitant to make the move, Green enticed them by naming the new group Fleetwood Mac after the rhythm players. A year later, the new group released the initial Fleetwood Mac album, a pure blues record that was a Top 5 success in their native UK, despite having no singles. A second album, Mr. Wonderful, followed soon after with the addition of some keyboards and horns. Their third album, Then Play On,  in 1969, was recorded mainly at the legendary Chess Records Studio in Chicago and would be the peak of the group’s Peter Green led blues era. Green had a bad experience with LSD which apparently contributed to the onset of schizophrenia and he had to leave the group in 1970.

The early 1970s brought much more change for Fleetwood Mac. Between 1970 and 1974 the group released six albums with five different lineups. The most significant change during this period came with the release of 1971’s Future Games, which featured the addition of guitarist/vocalist Bob Welch and Keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie, the former Christine Perfect now married to John McVie. The group’s sound radically morphed from blues to pop/rock, which caused a decline in their popularity in the UK but a gradually increase in the US. In 1974, Welch convinced the group to relocate from England to Los Angeles, which led to a new recording contract with Warner Brothers. However, after the release of Heroes Are Hard to Find in September 1974, Welch abruptly left the band, leaving the three remaining members scrambling to find a replacement.

While in an LA studio with producer Keith Olsen, Fleetwood heard a recording from the album Buckingham Nicks and soon asked vocalist/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham to join the band. Buckingham agreed only if his musical partner and girlfriend Stevie Nicks also become part of the band, and the classic Fleetwood Mac lineup was officially in place on the last day of 1974. Within a month, the quartet was in the recording studio, working on arrangements of individual compositions for a new album, co-produced by Olsen.


Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac
Released: July 11, 1975 (Reprise)
Produced by: Keith Olsen & Fleetwood Mac
Recorded: Sound City Studios, Van Nuys, CA, January–February 1975
Side One Side Two
Monday Morning
Warm Ways
Blue Letter
Rhiannon
Over My Head
Crystal
Say You Love Me
Landslide
World Turning
Sugar Daddy
I’m So Afraid
Group Musicians
Lindsey Buckingham – Guitars, Vocals
Christine McVie – Keyboards, Vocals
Stevie Nicks – Vocals
John McVie – Bass
Mick Fleetwood – Drums, Percussion

“Monday Morning” starts the record off as a driving folk/pop anthem by Buckingham, who adds a good melody progression and a slight slide lead guitar in conjunction with the rolling shuffle of rhythm by Fleetwood. Christine McVie’s ballad “Warm Ways” follows and immediately establishes the diversity of Fleetwood Mac’s new sound. This soulful ballad, built on electric piano and a nice, subtle mixture of acoustic and calmly picked electric guitars, was released as the lead single from the album in the UK. “Blue Letter” features lead vocals by Buckingham with harmonies by Nicks and is an upbeat, quasi-county, Eagles-like California tune. Originally intended for a second Buckingham Nicks LP, the song was written by Michael Curtis and Richard Curtis in 1974.

Stevie Nicks’ introduction to the Fleetwood Mac audience arrives in one of the group’s most indelible songs ever, “Rhiannon”. The song is lyrically based on a Welsh legend of a goddess who possesses a woman.  This soft and mysterious ballad lays nicely on top of a thumping bass line by John McVie and rich group vocal harmonies during the hook. Buckingham adds slight guitar leads in the spaces where needed, making for an all around great song, which peaked at #11 on the pop charts in the summer of 1976. Another hit single, “Over My Head”, follows as a pure, mid seventies pop song by Christine McVie which is steady and pleasant throughout. This track also features some non-standard rhythms, especially the bongos played by Fleetwood subtly in the background. The album’s first side ends with “Crystal”, a soft rock / alt country song featuring acoustic guitar and electric piano. While written by Nicks and originally featured on the 1973 Buckingham Nicks LP, this track features Buckingham on lead vocals with Nicks adding much backing harmony throughout.

Fleetwood Mac in 1975“Say You Love Me” is a pop track built on a simple piano riff with sparse and slow chord changes during the verses and a bit more movement during the choruses. Led by Christine McVie, the song features pleasant melodies and harmonies and a classic minimal guitar lead by Buckingham, all making for the third big from this album. Nicks’ “Landslide” is the album’s high-water mark. With a simple arrangement featuring fingerpicked acoustic with the slightest guitar overdubs by Buckingham and exquisite vocals rendering the philosophical lyrics by Nicks. Reserved, sparse and beautiful the song paints a great lyrically scenery and features a great, distant electric guitar lead, which perfectly fits the vibe and mood of the song.

After a long intro with fade-in of bluesy guitar rotation by Buckingham accompanied by animated hi-hat action by Fleetwood, the song proper of “World Turning” arrives with alternating lead vocals between Buckingham and Christine McVie. A pleasant enough sounding song with Christine McVie providing a nice mix of piano and organ to her lead vocals, “Sugar Daddy” does lack the compositional quality of much of the material earlier on the album. However, the music recovers on the closer “I’m So Afraid” as rolling drums set a dramatic mood matched by Buckingham’s equally dramatic vocals and later fine, harmonized lead guitars.

Among dedicated fans, Fleetwood Mac is often referred to as the “White Album” and, while this only experienced modest success upon its release, the group’s heavy touring pushed the album to the top of the charts, 15 months after its release. Following the massive success of Rumours in 1977, interest in this 1975 album was re-ignited and it eventually was certified 5x platinum in sales.

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1975 Images

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

Hair of the Dog by Nazareth

Hair of the Dog by Nazareth

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Hair of the Dog by NazarethNazareth reached the pinnacle of their long career with their sixth studio album, Hair of the Dog. Produced by the group’s guitarist, Manny Charlton, the album at once contains some solid rock templates for the emerging heavy genres along with some strong examples of the group’s penchant for experimental rock, including a prime example of the group’s talent for re-interrupting compositions. The result is the group’s best known and highest selling release, with over two million copies sold worldwide.

Nazareth formed in Scotland in late 1968, taking their name from a line in The Band’s debut album, Music from Big Pink, released earlier that year. All four members of this group, led by Charlton and lead vocalist Dan McCafferty were members of the group The Shadettes, dating back as far as 1961. In 1970, the band relocated to London, which soon brought them a recording contract, starting with their self-titled debut album in 1971 and the country-rock flavored Exercises in 1972. The group then supported Deep Purple on tour and caught the ear of bassist and producer Roger Glover, who would go on to produce Nazareth’s next three albums, Razamanaz and Loud n’ Proud in 1973, and Rampant in 1974, each of which built on the group’s growing success.

The song and album Hair of the Dog was originally derived from the hook “Son of a Bitch” as “Heir of the Dog”, but changed as a compromise with the record label, using a popular phrase describing a folk hangover cure. The first song recorded for the sessions was a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts”, intended as a single-only release. the album itself was slated to include an electric piano and slide guitar fueled cover of Randy Newman’s “Guilty”, but a last minute switch was made after A&M Records co-founder Jerry Moss heard the recording of “Love Hurts”.


Hair of the Dog by Nazareth
Released: April 19, 1975 (A&M)
Produced by: Manny Charlton
Recorded: Escape Studios, Kent, England, 1974–1975
Side One Side Two
Hair of the Dog
Miss Misery
Love Hurts
Changin’ Times
Beggars Day
Rose In the Heather
Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman
Please Don’t Judas Me
Group Musicians
Dan McCafferty – Lead Vocals, “Talk Box”
Manny Charlton – Guitars, Keyboards
Pete Agnew – Bass, Vocals
Darrell Sweet – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The pure, unrelenting, unambiguous title track commences with the cow-bell laden drum beat of Darrell Sweet, soon accompanied by the crisp guitar riff of Charlton. McCafferty’s rough but melodic vocals provide the indelible hook along with the middle talk-box lead, all making for a song filled with infectious rock elements, which helped Nazareth become a staple of classic rock radio for decades to come. “Miss Misery” follows as a more serious hard rock counterpart to the almost celebratory opening track. This track reaches into the very heart of the album, which is mainly negative in lyrical tone but in no way meek in delivery. As a bonus, Charlton’s slide guitar lead gives it all a blues legitimacy that brings the song to a higher level, especially with his odd but satisfying guitar chime section to end the track.

Originally written by Boudleaux Bryant, “Love Hurts” features exquisite, Phil Spector-like production with tremendous space provided for each instrument, especially Charlton’s flanged guitar pattern and Sweet’s echo-drenched drums and percussion. This is also the first song on album where Pete Agnew‘s bass has a real presence, with McCafferty’s soft-edged and emotive vocals making this arrangement a true group effort. The best part of this Top 10 hit is the slow, sustained guitar lead, which reaches for the Heavens sonically.

The best way to follow-up the drippy power ballad is with an even more powerful, the riff-driven rocker, “Changin’ Times”. The song proper is like Led Zeppelin on steroids, with different variations on the main riff alternating between the fire-one, high-register a capella vocals. However, what makes this side one closer a classic is the building, closing jam which adds several overdubbed guitars to the unrelenting, throbbing beat, making this a true highlight of the album. “Beggars Day” is a fine blend of hard rock, which falls somewhere on the spectrum between Aerosmith and AC/DC. Charlton supplies great electric guitar blends, riffs between the vocal lines and a good sense of melody and rock intensity throughout, with the guitar lead continuing the use of multiple bluesy guitars, giving it a thick atmosphere of pure rock ambiance.

Nazareth in 1975The dissolution of ”Beggar’s Day” leads to the final phase of the album where the heavy rock elements are all but abandoned for explorations into other sub-genres. The instrumental rendition of Nils Lofgren’s “Rose In the Heather” has souped-up country-rock elements with effected-laden guitars and synths, making it all very orchestral. “Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman” is a rather light-hearted foray into folk and blues with the most low-key vocals by McCafferty (which, if nothing else, shows his vocal versatility). The song’s middle jam contains some nice variations in riffs and beats, while the lyrics are intentionally trite in contrast to the serious musical skill portrayed on this track. The album concludes with “Please Don’t Judas Me”, which at first is a very interesting mix of Middle Eastern flavored acoustic, electric, synths, and tabla by guest Simon Phillips. But, perhaps the biggest flaw on this otherwise classic album, the extreme song length and over dramatization loses the listener about half way through this nearly ten minute track, with way too much repetition through the last half of the song.

Following the success of Hair of the Dog, Nazareth continued to have moderate commercial success, releasing nine more studio albums and a popular live album over the next decade, giving the band a respectable measure of longevity and a healthy catalog.

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1975 Images

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

Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

Wish You Were Here
by Pink Floyd

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Wish You Were Here by Pink FloydDuring the writing and production of Wish You Were Here, the members of Pink Floyd were grasping with the their new found stardom and the pressure to deliver another hit album. A serious bout of collective writers block and frequent tour interruptions further added to this pressure over the course of 1974 and early 1975, but eventually the concept came into being and the fine album was completed. While this record was almost totally composed by bassist Roger Waters, and much of its focus is former band member Syd Barrett, this album is really a tour de force for guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour, who contributes some indelible textures, riffs and licks throughout the album.

Following the worldwide success of 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon, the group negotiated a new contract which gave them a reported advance of $1,000,000. While touring Europe in 1974, the group composed three extended songs. Two of these, “Raving and Drooling” and “You Gotta Be Crazy” would be held over and reworked as the tracks “Sheep” and Dogs” respectively on the 1977 album Animals. The third piece, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” would become the bookend centerpiece around which this loose concept album would be built.

Wish You Were Here was produced by Pink Floyd as a band with the assistance of engineer Brian Humphries, who had previously worked with the group on the 1969 soundtrack album More. Like its predecessor, the album was recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios. Being that Humphries never worked there before, he encountered some early difficulties.

But the technical difficulties were nothing compared to the incredible coincidence of Barrett showing up during the mixing of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” which was obviously written about him. Barrett had arrived to attend Gilmour’s wedding on June 5, 1975, while all four band members were in the mixing room. Not a single one of them recognized him at first as he had shaved his head and eyebrows. Once they all realized that it was him, it was obvious that he was unable to partake in a normal conversation and had no idea that he was the subject of the song they were mixing that day. This put a damper on the wedding and unfortunately no member of Pink Floyd saw Syd Barrett again until they attended his 2006 funeral.


Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
Released: September 12, 1975 (Harvest)
Produced by: Pink Floyd
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, January–July 1975
Side One Side Two
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (I)
Welcome to the Machine
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (II)
Group Musicians
David Gilmour – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Roger Waters – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Richard Wright – Keyboards, Vocals
Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion

The first section of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” sounds totally new age during the beginning section, which was originally developed as “Household Objects”, an experimental piece using ARP synth, Hammond organ and wine glass harmonica. After this long intro, the second instrumental section is much more musically rewarding, built on an indelible four note riff by Gilmour, above which he adds a bluesy lead and below which there is crisp and steady playing by the rest of the group. This second section acts as a kind of overture for the album, with Wright performing a calm synth solo that previews a later piece and Gilmour returning with a more blistering lead. After 8:45, the song proper finally begins with Waters on lead vocals delivering poetic lyrics which describe his take on Barrett’s plight. Gilmour adds a superior, double-tracked lead in between the two verses and the final two minutes of the track is dedicated to an extended sax solo by Dick Parry above a new riff before song dissolves into a link to the next track.

“Welcome to the Machine” is a textual track with an abundance of synth and sound effects and the most substantial in studio production. However, this is probably the least musically creative as it is just a strummed acoustic which guides along the dark and mechanical sound effects with little to no traditional rhythms. The song does build a bit in the middle but then unfortunately reverts back to same arrangement for the last verse, missing an opportunity to bring it to a stronger sonic level. The album’s second side starts with Gilmour’s wild, treated guitar riffs which are expertly accompanied by Waters’ bass and Wright’s electric piano for a rich rhythmic experience. Wright then adds the signature synth riff, leading to the verses which feature guest Roy Harper on lead vocals, who was brought in when both Waters and Gilmour were unsatisfied with their respective attempts at singing the song. In any case, Harper’s style fits nicely with the Pink Floyd sound, seeming to split the difference between Waters and Gilmour in style, while adding his own flourish to the end of each chorus. The final two minutes of the song are dedicated to a Gilmour guitar lead over increasingly funky rhythms by the rest of the band, especially Mason who gets more and more intense as the outro proceeds.

Pink Floyd 1975Starting with a unique sonic intro, “Wish You Were Here” is the true highlight of the album, as stripped-down acoustic track featuring Gilmour’s gruff and folksy vocals. The song’s full arrangement contains tremendous plethora of musical tid-bits ranging from a county-type piano, to a bluesy, slide acoustic lead, to the modern sounding synth pads. This unidirectional track’s hook comes during the single final verse. which leads to the song’s climatic outro featuring Gilmour vocally mocking his own lead acoustic while the song fades into a distant wind effect. This leads to the second suite of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, which starts with a cool bass and guitar thump very reminiscent to “One of These Days” from 1971’s Meddle, right down to the distorted lap steel guitar played by Gilmour. After an abrupt return to the main theme for two verses, the suite just as abruptly turns to a funky clavinet-driven section led by Wright, which is entertaining in spite of the fact that it breaks the musical cohesion. The final parts of the song seem to be extraneous as they really seem to lack focus and direction, just pure filler to fill out the album before a long, anticlimactic fade, a really unfortunate way to end this fine album.

Wish You Were Here became an instant commercial success, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, with EMI reportedly unable to print enough copies to satisfy initial demand. Both Gilmour and Wright have cited this album as their favorite by the band and, while it had initially received lukewarm critical reviews, the album has grown to near universal acclaim over the past four decades. Wright and David Gilmour have each cited Wish You Were Here as their favorite Pink Floyd album.

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1975 Images

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

Straight Shooter by Bad Company

Straight Shooter
by Bad Company

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Straight Shooter by Bad CompanyBad Company returned in 1975 with their sophomore album, Straight Shooter, which built on the successful formula of their 1974 debut album while adding some variety in arrangement. The quartet built on their solid rock foundation with the fusion of several types of sub-genres added to the mix. Further, the success of two consecutive albums proved that Bad Company was a solid force in its own right and would remain in the top echelon of pop rock for years to come.

Prior to Bad Company’s formation, each of the four member of this “super group” had success with previous acts. Lead vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke originated in the group Free, while guitarist Mick Ralphs was from Mott the Hoople and bassist Boz Burrell came from King Crimson. Managed by Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant, the group became the first to release an album on the new Swan Song label in 1974, which found instant critical and commercial success.

Just three months after the release of the debut month, the group began recording a follow-up album at a remote castle in England using a mobile unit, engineered by Ron Nevison. In contrast to the simple, sometimes stark hard rock of Bad Company, this second album adds much variety with the addition of acoustic guitars, keyboards and occasional strings. Along with the album’s eight tracks, the group recorded a song called, “Whisky Bottle”, which eventually ended up as a B-side to a single.


Straight Shooter by Bad Company
Released: April, 1975 (Swan Song)
Produced by: Bob Dylan
Recorded: Clearwell Castle, Gloucestershire, England, September 1974
Side One Side Two
Good Lovin’ Gone Bad
Feel Like Makin’ Love
Weep No More
Shooting Star
Deal With the Preacher
Wild Fire Woman
Anna
Call on Me
Group Musicians
Paul Rodgers – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano
Mick Ralphs – Guitars, Keyboards
Boz Burrell – Bass
Simon Kirke – Drums

The album thunders in with Ralphs’, “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad”, a song which was released as a single ahead of the album. This is a strong, pure rock, shooter with some slight compositional caveat in the pre-chorus where Burrell’s bass temporarily takes the forefront in this otherwise guitar-dominated song. Of particular note on this song is Rodgers’ vocals, which are strained in rock n roll excess during the verses and choruses but come back down to Earth during pre-chorus sections. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” offers much contrast to first song, from the bright acoustic intro, to the Country-esque verses with somber lead vocals, to the choruses which explode with Ralph’s distorted electric riffs. The true beauty of this popular song is its incredible contrast within, which all somehow works so harmoniously, especially near the end where a cool, laid back, minimal guitar lead moves to a long, building coda crescendo.

Written by drummer Simon Kirke, “Weep No More” starts with some heavy, theatrical orchestration, which almost sounds like it was influenced by the music of Queen. From there, it settles into a steady, piano-driven rocker with a heavy presence of organ and overdubbed, bluesy lead guitar during the verses. Rodgers’, “Shooting Star” is the climax of the first side, the Straight Shooter album, and possibly the Bad Company library as a whole. Lyrically, this timely anthem addresses the rock n’ roll lifestyle, which all too often leads to untimely death. Musically, the intro has wild tremolo guitar effects, the verses have folksy acoustic rhythms, and the choruses feature strong, electric riffs, hooks and harmonized vocals. The rhythms are strong by Burrell and Kirke throughout, which pretty much means everyone playing at their best on this track, while the band as whole employs great restraint, which lets the song unfold seamlessly.

Bad Company in 1975

The lesser known second side begins with a couple of collaborations between Rodgers and Ralphs. “Deal With the Preacher”, is a hard rocker with sharp, bluesy guitars and soulful vocals. The song does later dissolve to a calmer bridge section before coming back fully as an unabashed rock jam as the tone of Ralphs’ guitar seems to predate that of Eddie Van Halen by several years. “Wild Fire Woman” seems to try a bit too hard to be a pop anthem, especially during Rodger’s stratospheric chorus vocals, but falls just a little short of this group’s compositional abilities.

The album concludes with a couple of calmer numbers. Kirke’s, “Anna”, is a re-recording of a song from one of his earlier groups as a moderate love ballad about a “simple woman for a simple man”. Driven by electric piano, it is Kirke’s exceptionally strong and assertive drumming which makes this song distinct from any typical mid-seventies soul ballad. “Call on Me”, the closing track written by Rodgers, is another calm, electric piano song with subtle musical flourishes. The good chord progression through the verses alternates with a dramatic sound-sphere interlude which, during the extended final stretch, borrows the bassline from The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, while Ralphs’ lead guitar lazily floats in the background.

Straight Shooter reached the identical lofty spot of #3 in the UK, US, and Canada and it was certified gold within a month of its release. Although slightly less successful than its predecessor, the album has remained an indelible classic for Bad Company four decades after its release.

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1975 Images

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