Blues For Allah by Grateful Dead

Blues for Allah by
TheGrateful Dead

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1975 Images

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

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.

Centerfield by John Fogerty

Centerfield by John Fogerty

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Centerfield by John FogertyA true solo album in every sense of the word, Centerfield, features John Fogerty writing every song as well as playing every instrument on those songs. Simple in composition while rich in melody, this comeback album which was his most popular post Creedence Clearwater Revival release. Still, the album was ludicrously marred by a lawsuit in which Fogerty’s former label sued him for allegedly plagiarizing himself. After several years in litigation, Fogerty ultimately won that case and was compensated for all legal costs.

The final Creedence album was Mardi Gras, released in 1972. Fogerty then began a solo career, starting with a 1973 debut where he played covers of mainly country music hits. A second solo album was released in 1975 and, despite weak sales, it yielded Fogerty’s first solo hit, “Rockin’ All Over the World”. The following year, Fogerty finished an album called, Hoodoo, but it was rejected as unsatisfactory by his record company and the master tapes were later destroyed.

Fogerty entered into an extended hiatus which lasted the better part of eight years before entering the studio in mid 1984. While many of the songs have a definite nostalgic touch, there is a streak of bitterness on this album, especially when directed towards Saul Zaentz, the owner of Fogerty’s former label, Fantasy Record.


Centerfield by John Fogerty
Released: January 15, 1985 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: John Fogerty
Recorded: The Plant Studios, Sausalito, CA, July–September 1984
Side One Side Two
The Old Man Down the Road
Rock and Roll Girls
Big Train (From Memphis)
I Saw It On T.V.
Mr. Greed
Searchlight
Centerfield
I Can’t Help Myself
Zanz Kant Danz (Vanz Kant Danz)
Primary Musician
John Fogerty – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Saxophone, Harmonica, Drums, Percussion

Zaentz sued Fogerty specifically over the opening track, “The Old Man Down the Road”, which he claimed was too similar to the song “Run Though the Jungle” from Cosmo’s Factory (Fogerty displayed the differences between the two songs by playing each live in court). “The Old Man Down the Road” does have an indelible riff with a subtle blend of guitars – acoustic, electric, and slide – along with some classic tremolo effects to make it all so cool. This also features an interesting vocal melody and just the right lead riff to make this all quintessential Fogerty.

“Rock and Roll Girls” follows as an accessible pop/rocker which became a big radio hit in its own right. Built on a three-chord, driving rock riff with a rhythm and beat to match, Fogerty’s vocals hit a slight yodel during the verses. Of particular note is the saxophone, where the multi-instrumentalist has a couple of cool leads in between the verses. “Big Train (From Memphis)” is a pure country rocker through and through, so authentic that it sounds like it must be a cover (although its not).

The middle third of the album hits a bit of a creative lull. “I Saw It On T.V.” has the flow and temperament of a CCR song with steady, strummed acoustic guitar and nice transitional guitars between vocal lines, which are much more refined than Fogerty’s usual soulful screed. “Mr. Greed” doesn’t quite work as well as some of the other songs, featuring a pure, hard rock riff which heavy guitar interludes in between the lines and sophomoric lyrics. “Searchlight” is a more interesting track which blends classic blues and Bayou country along with some Motown elements all under a heavy rock vocal and drum beat.

 
The title song is upbeat and catchy with a choppy percussion effect leading the way before the full song kicks in with slide guitar, bouncy organ, and thumping bass. Fogerty’s vocals on “Centerfield” are at their finest on this album, even if the lyrics are slightly corny, and the chorus is its most melodic part. “I Can’t Help Myself” is a unique and entertaining track with a pure new wave in beat and effect, especially the multitude of electronic percussion effects. Once again, the vocal melodies carry the day, making it a lost gem of a pop song. “Zanz Kant Danz (a.k.a. Vanz Kant Danz)” closes the album, with Caribbean elements in the intro and interesting beats, guitar riffs and synths throughout. The verse section is almost modern disco and the mid section has an extended percussion section, adding to the overall dance elements of this closing track.

Centerfield performed well worldwide, topping the charts in several countries including the USA. It also, surprisingly, reached the Top 10 on the American Country Albums chart. Fogerty followed-up the album with Eye of the Zombie in 1986, which was much less successful and led to another extended hiatus from music.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.

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Cosmo's Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Cosmo’s Factory by
Creedence Clearwater Revival

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Cosmo's Factory by Creedence Clearwater RevivalIf nothing else, Cosmo’s Factory is a unique and unconventional album in its structure and approach, as it starts out oddly and packs all its pop/rock firepower towards the back end. That being said, this still ranks as one of the finest albums by the prolific Creedence Clearwater Revival and captures the band near their peak musically and creatively. The album was also a worldwide success commercially as it topped the album charts in six nations and was certified Gold less than six months after its release.

The fifth studio album over a span of just two years, Cosmo’s Factory follows a prolific year of 1969 which saw three albums released by CCR. Recording for this album actually began in late 1969 with the first of three “Double-A-Side” singles which came out ahead of this album, with each one reaching the Top 5 on the US pop charts. Each of these successful singles were written by guitarist and lead vocalist John Fogerty while four out of the remaining five non-single tracks are cover songs.

The album’s title comes from a warehouse in Berkeley, CA which the group used as rehearsal space early in their career. Drummer Doug Clifford (whose nickname was “Cosmo”) called this practice space “The Factory” because they practiced every day, like going to a regular job.


Cosmo’s Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Released: July 25, 1970 (Fantasy)
Produced by: John Fogerty
Recorded: Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco, Late 1969–June 1970
Side One Side Two
Ramble Tamble
Before You Accuse Me
Travelin’ Band
Ooby Dooby
Lookin’ Out My Back Door
Run Through the Jungle
Up Around the Bend
My Baby Left Me
Who’ll Stop the Rain
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Long as I Can See the Light
Group Musicians
John Fogerty – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Sax, Harmonica
Tom Fogerty – Guitars
Stu Cook – Bass
Doug Clifford – Drums

For all the hits on Cosmo’s Factory, the listener has to wait nearly a quarter of the album’s running time to get to one. The seven-minute-plus “Ramble Tamble” was the last song composed for the album and the only Fogerty original not released as a single. It starts with quasi-funky beat which quickly changes to a hoe down rhythm by guitarist Tom Fogerty and bassist Stu Cook. After some short vocal sections, the song enters a long musical rock intermediary which builds in intensity as it goes along and, when it finally breaks, it returns to the main beat by Clifford and one more quick verse. Next comes “Before You Accuse Me” a pure blues cover of a song originally by Bo Diddley, with this version having a little of the CCR “swamp” attitude on top.

Incredibly, CCR toured constantly while recording their five albums between 1968 and 1970. “Travelin’ Band” portrays this side of the band as a pure, fifties style rocker with Fogerty’s vocals conjuring Jerry Lee Lewis and/or Little Richard in the hyper scream mode. The song reached the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. “Ooby Dooby” is a Roy Obison cover that seems odd and out of place this early in the album, although its fifties style does fall in place with the previous track. Starting with “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”, the album gains momentum and continues to improve right to the end. On this return to the traditional sound of CCR, the dual guitars of the Fogerty brothers are a highlight along with its great melody which delivers the colorful imagery of the lyrics.

 
“Run Through the Jungle” has a psychedelic beginning with well treated guitars, piano and kick drum. The song’s body features the best bass performance by Cook thus far on the album, a cool rock riff throughout, and a later distorted harmonica lead which gives it a live, blues-club feel. “Run Through the Jungle” and “Up Around the Bend” were featured as the second Double-A single in April 1970. This later track is the most straight-forward, direct pop/rock song on the album, complete with cool guitar riffs and a fantastic hook. “My Baby Left Me” follows as an upbeat R&B track, which seems to fit better with the CCR sound than the cover tracks on the first side of the album. Here there are great guitar sounds and animated symbol-centric drums.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

The album finishes with Fogerty’s two finest originals wrapped around an extended version of the Marvin Gaye classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. On this eleven-plus-minute jam the group does a decent job at being cohesive yet spontaneous with the main section featuring a “spooky” sounding bass by Cook and strategic rolls by Clifford. the pure folk “Who’ll Stop the Rain” adds yet another dimension to this very diverse album, with a potent message, simple riff and structure and another great melody by John Fogerty. “Long as I Can See the Light” is a bluesy, electric piano ballad with very soulful vocals by Fogerty. It starts with a steady drum beat, which betrays the overall tone of this Motown-inspired track that features some sax behind the verses and then a full-fledged solo later. This excellent closer puts a bow on this album perfectly.

Cosmo’s Factory only grew in stature and commercial viability throughout the years, eventually selling over four million copies. However, it was later revealed that internal tensions began within the group during these sessions and, after two more years and two more albums, Creedence Clearwater Revival disbanded leaving a short, but potent, legacy.

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Grateful Dead 1970 albums

Grateful Dead 1970 Albums

Buy Workingman’s Dead
Buy American Beauty

Grateful Dead 1970 albumsWith the arrival of a new decade, the Grateful Dead decided to shift towards scaled back folk and country style rock. This proved to be a wise endeavor as their two 1970 releases, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty are both regarded among the finest studio albums of their long career. These albums were recorded and released just a few months apart with each expanding further into the realm of Americana as tracks on each album explicitly cite locations throughout the United States.

Prior to producing Workingman’s Dead, members of the Grateful Dead were facing tumultuous times. The cost of recording their ambitious 1969 album, Aoxomoxoa had put the band in significant debt and they were also dealing with the aftermath of a drug bust while on tour in New Orleans. The new musical direction was at least partially influenced by the group’s friendship with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, who inspired the harmonized vocal approach above simple, acoustic-based music. The title of Workingman’s Dead was coined by Jerry Garcia when describing the new sound of the band. The album was recorded front to back in just nine days in February 1970.

American Beauty takes an even more reserved approach, with just four of the six band members recording the vast majority of the album. Co-produced by Steve Barncard, who was brought on board when the group’s normal sound crew was off working on the Medicine Ball Caravan Tour in Canada. Guitarist Bob Weir describes the approach as a total abandonment of the San Francisco sound that they helped establish in the mid 1960s but was co-opted by the press hyped “summer of love”. On this latter album, the group’s compositions, melodies and harmonies were all better formed and more brilliantly refined, making this perhaps the finest overall Grateful Dead album.


Workingman’s Dead by Grateful Dead
Released: June 14, 1970 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Bob Matthews, Betty Cantor, & Grateful Dead
Recorded: Pacific High Recording Studio, San Francisco, February 1970
Side One Side Two
Uncle John’s Band
High Time
Dire Wolf
New Speedway Boogie
Cumberland Blues
Black Peter
Easy Wind
Casey Jones

American Beauty by Grateful Dead
Released: November 1, 1970 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Steve Barncard & Grateful Dead
Recorded: Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco, August–September 1970
Side One Side Two
Box of Rain
Friend of the Devil
Sugar Magnolia
Operator
Candyman
Ripple
Brokedown Palace
Till the Morning Comes
Attics of My Life
Truckin’
Band Musicians (Both Albums)
Jerry Garcia – Guitars, Banjo, Vocals
Bob Weir – Guitars, Vocals
Phil Lesh – Bass, Vocals
Ron McKernan – Keyboards, Harmonica, Vocals
Bill Kreutzmann – Drums
Micky Hart – Drums, Percussion

Workingman’s Dead commences with “Uncle John’s Band”, built on moderate, acoustic chords and an overdubbed lead acoustic guitar. There are exquisite harmonies during first half of each verse, with Garcia taking solo lead at sporadic parts beyond that. The dual drummers, Bill Kreutzmann and Micky Hart have a strong presence throughout the song, which was written by Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter, like the majority of songs on this album.

Workingman's Dead by Grateful Dead“High Time” is an almost pure country song with a strummed acoustic waltz and vocals to match by Garcia. Here the harmonies are a little off and bass a bit too deep sonically, but the later pedal steel works really well on this track. “Dire Wolf” is an upbeat folk ballad with very active pedal steel along with other lead guitar licks over the strummed acoustic backing. This colorful tale features the catch phrase “don’t murder me”, which makes it dark and accessible at once. “New Speedway Boogie” leans more towards British-style blues of the 1960s with rumbling bass and hand clap-like percussion, while the lyrics tackle the tragic events of the December 1969 Altamont concert in the group’s home region.

The second side of Workingman’s Dead begins with a couple of unheralded gems. “Cumberland Blues” was co-written by bassist Phil Lesh and is a fun, rambling song where Garcia’s banjo and Lesh’s bass drag the adventurous music along as the group’s new direction towards Americana and roots music fully materializes. “Black Peter” is a slower country track where Garcia’s reverb-drenched vocals are strong but sweet, bringing the sad song up to a higher level of quality. Dual acoustics, bass, and brushed drums set the sparse backing that gives the vocals the room they deserve. On “Easy Wind” keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan takes the helm, with his vocal style matching Hunter’s laboring lyrics and the rocky beat dual drum beats. Mckernan’s harmonica lead after first chorus commences a long middle section with sporadic guitar leads interspersed throughout.

The album concludes “Casey Jones”, starting with an infamous “snort” and unabashedly narrating a tale of cocaine abuse. Musically, the group launches into the most popular and accessible song on Workingman’s Dead with great electric guitars throughout that compliment Garcia’s fine vocal melodies along with great, animated rhythms by Weir, Lesh, and Kreutzmann, making this the most complete group performance on the album.

American Beauty by Grateful DeadAmerican Beauty starts with “Box of Rain”, a collaboration between Hunter and Lesh where the bassist takes a rare shot at lead vocals above bright and jangly music and a chorus of harmonized vocals. The song is constructed with subtle chord changes which give it an air of unidirectional originality. “Friend of the Devil” is a more straight-forward rendition of bluegrass-inspired Americana with a consistent, descending riff and fine vocal melody by Garcia. An exceptionally well produced track, the song features a mixture of guitars, bass, and a lead mandolin by guest David Grisman and lyrics about an outlaw on the run. “Sugar Magnolia” ia a quintessential Dead “hippie” song and a rare collaboration between Weir and Hunter. Written as a souped-up love song by Weir, it features a definitive groove on guitars and well-defined drums by Kreutzmann with lyrics speak of an extraordinary woman in beauty and character;

“She can dance a Cajun rhythm, jump like a Willys in four wheel drive / She’s a summer love in the spring, fall and winter, she can make happy any man alive…”

“Operator” is the fourth track on American Beauty with a fourth different lead vocalist, McKernan, who also wrote the tune. This song has an Arlo Guthrie feel with root acoustic and a bright electric lead and is the only song to include all six band members as Hart adds some cool percussion effects. “Candyman” completes the album’s first side as a slow, bluesy ballad with an exception slide guitar lead with weird tremolo effects which, combined with Hammond organ of guest Howard Wales, give it a real spacey and surreal effect.

Grateful Dead

“Ripple” may be the sweetest overall song recorded by the Grateful Dead with exquisite lyrics by Hunter which are poetic and quasi-religious. Musically, a consistent drum shuffle by Kreutzmann is complimented by Lesh’s potent and sharp, yet extraordinarily complementary bass and rapid mandolin notes by Grisman. But, by far the best element here is Garcia’s voice, as he delivers the haiku phrased lyrics masterfully. “Brokedown Palace” is almost a medley from “Ripple” as it starts during the dissolve of that song. However, where the previous track was so effortless, this ballad almost tries too hard, especially during the closing harmonized scat section.

“Till the Morning Comes” is an upbeat acoustic with various lead guitar phrases and harmonized vocals throughout, while “Attics of My Life” bring the harmonies to a whole new level while the song is musically rhythm driven with Lesh, and Kreutzmann moving to the forefront. American Beauty concludes with “Truckin'”, the quintessential song about touring. An autobiographical song which was a complete band collaboration, it was written to be an “endless tune” with future verses added as new experiences were had. The hook harmonies are complimented by Weir’s verse vocals, almost like a Greek chorus response, and the bridge is the payoff, where the group almost employs a traditional rock riff and coins the famous phrase “What a long, strange trip its been…”

Following the release of American Beauty, Hart briefly left the Grateful Dead, returning in 1974. The year before that, McKernan lost his life to alcoholism and Garcia lost his life in 1995. In July 2015, the remaining band members will play select shows to celebrate the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary as a band. These shows have been dubbed as the “Fare Thee Well” tour after a lyrical phrase in the song “Brokedown Palace.”

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1970 albums.

Morrison Hotel by The Doors

Morrison Hotel by The Doors

Buy Morrison Hotel

Morrison Hotel by The DoorsAlthough its actual title has long been in dispute, Morrison Hotel turns out to be an aptly named album by The Doors. Lead vocalist Jim Morrison was involved in composing every song on the album and solely wrote more than half the tracks. Morrison’s lyrics portray a sense of maturity, while musically the group moved towards a more roots-focused rock sound, shedding any remnants of psychedlia from their first four albums. This change in sound was met with both critical and commercial success as this fifth album by the band reached the Top 5 on the US album charts and also became the band’s highest charting album in the UK.

Starting with the infamous incident in Miami, 1969 was a very tough year for The Doors as multiple promoters cancelled shows while Morrison stood trial for indecent exposure and public lewdness (he was later convicted and posthumously pardoned over four decades later). Musically, the group released The Soft Parade, an album greatly enhanced with brass and strings. That album was largely panned by critics (although has held up very well through time) and many were starting to predict the group’s demise. Still the group carried on with future plans, starting with the recording of two concerts and a live rehearsal at the Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood in July, 1969, the fruits of which would be used for several live releases through the decades.

Recording of new material for Morrison Hotel took place in November 1969 with producer Paul Rothchild, who produced all previous Doors’ albums. Guitarist Robbie Krieger co-wrote five of the tracks, while keyboardist Ray Manzarek migrated more towards using acoustic and electric pianos. The front cover photo was taken (without permission) at an actual establishment in Los Angeles called Morrison Hotel, while the back cover is a photograph of a bar called Hard Rock Café. While the album has always been commonly referred to as “Morrison Hotel” due to the front cover, the original LP labeled each side of the album separately, with side one as “Hard Rock Café” and side two as “Morrison Hotel”. This caused some to refer to the album with two titles, “Morrison Hotel/Hard Rock Café” or vice-versa.


Morrison Hotel by The Doors
Released: February 9, 1970 (Elektra)
Produced by: Paul A. Rothchild
Recorded: Elektra Sound Recorders, Los Angeles, August 1966-November 1969
Side One Side Two
Roadhouse Blues
Waiting For the Sun
You Make Me Real
Peace Frog
Blue Sunday
Ship of Fools
Land Ho!
The Spy
Queen of the Highway
Indian Summer
Maggie McGill
Group Musicians
Jim Morrison – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Robbie Krieger – Guitars
Ray Manzarek – Piano, Keyboards, Bass
John Densmore – Drums

Krieger’s fat, distorted guitar riff leads the drive of “Roadhouse Blues”, the pure rocker which opens the album. The nicely locked guitar and bass riff is accompanied by Manzarek’s barrelhouse piano and the ever-present harmonica of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian. Morrison leads the way with his party-ready lyrics in a manner like a manifestation of a night of drinking, moving through the various moods and mental musings. The song was one of the more methodically produced by Rothchild, who was striving for sonic perfection over several takes.

While the opening track sets the overall pace for the album, “Waiting for the Sun” is one of two tracks that peeks back to the earlier sound of the Doors. A leftover from the album of the same name, this track was recorded in early 1968 and features a sonically superior organ sound and an overall dark and moody vibe throughout. Still, the title and lyrics contain enough optimism that River of Rock named this as one of their Top 9 Songs of Springtime. “You Make Me Real” is driven by Manzarek’s piano roll and the frantic drumming of John Densmore. The song also showcases Morrison’s ability to rise above his normally laid-back crooner style towards the vocal frenzy of a Little Richard and Krieger adds a couple of excellent leads.

“Peace Frog” is one of the most indelible tracks from the album, pure funk throughout with inventive dual Morrison vocals simultaneously singing two lines. Krieger’s main riff is nicely distorted with percussive Wah-wah effect. The song’s mid-section includes a line from Morrison’s poem “Newborn Awakening” later released in full on his posthumous solo album An American Prayer. The song medleys with “Blue Sunday”, a pure ballad with light organ and simple guitar backing in a very short but pleasant track. The original first side concludes with “Ship of Fools”, starting with odd-timed rhythms in the intro with Densmore locked in perfectly with session bassist Ray Neapolitan. The track goes through several musical and vocal sections before returning to the main theme before the outro and is an overall lyrical comment on society at the end of the sixties.

The Doors at Hard Rock Cafe

“Land Ho!” is a wild, joyous, and buoyant rock tune about sailors and adventures. After the second verse, the song eases into a moderate bridge until Morrison screams the main hook and launches the partially frivolous but totally fun outro. “The Spy” goes to the jazz nightclub scene and is different than anything else The Doors have ever recorded. Morrison’s vocals are reserved but potent, as are the lyrics which border on the fine line between true love and total manipulation.

One of the more underrated songs in The Doors’ catalog, “Queen of the Highway” features Manzarek’s incredible electric piano and the song structure goes through many sonically superior rudiments that lets it build throughout and gives the feeling that there is so much more packed into this less-than-three-minute track, all guided by Densmore’s powerful drumming. “Indian Summer” is a weak throwback to the Doors’ first recordings in 1966, and does little more than add some pure mood to the album. Like it begins, Morrison Hotel ends with a blues-tinged rocker. Krieger leads the way musically on “Maggie McGill” with his double-tracked, twangy guitar riffs throughout while Morrison waxes poetic and reflective in a form that previews the Doors’ next (and final) studio album, L.A. Woman.

Beyond Morrison Hotel, the year 1970 also saw The Doors releasing their first live album, Absolutely Live, as well as the first of many compilations, named 13. While it was clear that their career was on the back end, the band members still had a bit more work to do.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1970 albums.

Social Distortion

Social Distortion

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Social DistortionAfter working for over a decade to refine their sound, Social Distortion finally got their opportunity for a major label release in 1990. Their third overall album, Social Distortion,  displays the group’s unique mixture of blues and rockabilly flavored punk rock. Led by primary composer and vocalist Mike Ness, the group found the time and resources to find their true sound. They also found themselves fortuitous beneficiaries of a changing musical environment, which was growing more receptive to alternative sounds.

Social Distortion was formed in 1978 by Ness and guitarist Dennis Danell. By 1981, the group released their first of many singles, which was followed by their debut album, Mommy’s Little Monster in 1983, released on their own independent label. After a brief hiatus in the mid eighties, the band reformed with new members John Maurer on bass and Christopher Reece on drums and released their second album, Prison Bound in 1988.

After signing with Epic Records in 1989, the band returned to the studio with producer Dave Jerden. Now armed with more time and money than ever before, Social Distortion worked out a lean and powerful sound, partially influenced nearly in equal parts by The Ramones and by Johnny Cash.


Social Distortion by Social Distortion
Released: March 27, 1990 (Epic)
Produced by: Dave Jerden
Recorded: Track Record in North Hollywood, CA, August–October 1989
Track Listing Group Musicians
So Far Away
Let It Be Me
Story of My Life
Sick Boys
Ring of Fire
Ball and Chain
It Coulda Been Me
She’s a Knockout
A Place in My Heart
Drug Train
Mike Ness – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Dennis Danell – Guitars
John Maurer – Bass, Vocals
Christopher Reece – Drums, Percussion
 
Social Distortion

Social Distortion begins with the track “So Far Away”, written by Ness and Maurer. The two guitar riff attack with rapid rhythms highlights a very simple song structure, while the clear lyrical message gives song its head wagging creds. “Let It Be Me” is pure, raw, punk straight from the seventies and a good overall energetic performance highlighted by the creative way Ness drawls out the main title hook, all very adolescent and rebellious while still being apt musically. “Story of My Life” is one of the more melodic tracks with root rock n roll elements and nice backing vocals and medleys.

While entertaining enough, “Sick Boys” is really nothing new in its musical approach, just a bunch of Na Na Na’s to make it sing-along-able. The fully punked-out cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” subtly lets the main melody ring out through the distortion and is vastly entertaining even if it falls far short of the original 1966 masterpiece. The song was a minor hit, reaching #25 on the Modern Rock Tracks. Another hit radio , “Ball and Chain” features bright music which is contrasted by rough vocals, but they melodic enough to make it all work.

Coming down the stretch, the album gets only stronger. “It Coulda Been Me” is notable because of its fine harmonica interludes and a great lead later, while maintaining a sound that is very catchy and accessible. A long, upbeat drum leads into “She’s a Knockout”, a song which tilts towards heavy blues rock, at least musically. After a false stop halfway through, the whole song repeats again, virtually verbatim. “A Place in My Heart” is one of many tracks on this album which have a standard, love song-type title while actually being upbeat and intense. “Drug Train” is a bluesy romp to close the album, with excellent playing by each member, while sparse but effective lyrically. With a good harmonica and slight blues guitar leads, this track ends the album on a high note.

While Social Distortion only peaked at #128, it did remain on the album charts for over 20 weeks. More importantly, it set the band up for more success through the nineties and influenced a new sub-genre known as “cow punk”.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1990 albums.

Go To Heaven by Grateful Dead

Go To Heaven by Grateful Dead

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Go To Heaven by Grateful DeadLong derided as one of the most unpopular albums among the Grateful Dead faithful, Go To Heaven is ,nonetheless, a solid record musically. The biggest change in the group’s sound comes with the arrival of keyboard player Brent Mydland, who replaced the late Keith Godchaux and provided the band with a wide array of piano, organ, synth, vocal, and composition style unlike anything they had before. Beyond this, Go To Heaven is, perhaps, the Dead’s most diverse album and is positioned squarely at the crossroads of their sonic evolution from the beginning of the 1970s to the beginning of the 1980s.

The Grateful Dead’s original keyboardist, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, died in March 1973 due to complications from alcohol abuse. He was replaced by pianist Godchaux, who had begun touring with the group as early as 1971. Through the mid seventies, the Grateful Dead put out a series of albums which explored differing styles, including the jazz influenced Wake of the Flood, the experimental and meditative Blues for Allah, the prog-rock influenced Terrapin Station, and Shakedown Street, which incorporated some disco influence.

Go to Heaven touched elements from each of those previous styles, along with a slight return to the band’s core grooves while incorporating some modern funk and synth motifs. Produced by Gary Lyons, these diverse styles and deliberate motifs are held together by the consistent but reserved drumming by the duo Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. While this may be a far cry from the group’s lauded stage improvisation, it made for an enjoyable studio album which holds up decades later.


Go To Heaven by Grateful Dead
Released: April 28, 1980 (Arista)
Produced by: Gary Lyons
Recorded: Club Le Front, San Rafael, CA, July 1979–January 1980
Side One Side Two
Alabama Getaway
Far From Me
Althea
Feel Like a Stranger
Lost Sailor
Saint of Circumstance
Antwerp’s Placebo (The Plumber)
Easy to Love You
Don’t Ease Me In
Group Musicians
Jerry Garcia – Guitars, Vocals
Bob Weir – Guitars, Vocals
Brent Mydland – Keyboards, Vocals
Phil Lesh – Bass
Micky Hart – Drums, Percussion
Bill Kreutzmann – Drums, Percussion

The album opens with the simple rocker “Alabama Getaway”, penned by Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter. This short blues rock jam contains a couple of nice guitar leads by Garcia and adventurous lyrics. Mydland’s first and finest track is the amazingly catchy and steady rocker “Far From Me”. While Mydland’s piano drives the rhythm, a blend of crunchy guitars march in the background complimented by a cool background chorus. Garcia’s “Althea” is, perhaps, the most indelible Grateful Dead track from Go To Heaven. The track sounds like a quiet room being penetrated by pinpoint notes, beats, and other sonic candy, including percussive effects and the brilliant, buzzing bass by Phil Lesh. This track also actually hits a pleasant bridge (a rarity for Dead tunes) with some really bluesy slide guitar in the latter part of the song and gets ever-so-slightly intense during the final guitar lead. Lyrically, Hunter draws from some classical pieces including Shakespeare’s Hamlet;

You may be the fate of Ophelia, sleeping and perchance to dream. Honest to the point of recklessness, self-centered to the extreme…”

From here, the album takes a turn with three consecutive songs co-written by singer and guitarist Bob Weir and lyricist John Perry Barlow. “Feel Like a Stranger” is a cool funk/rocker with bright guitar chords and a wild analog synth by Mydland. This catchy tune works hard to fit its genre, even including some high-pitched, disco-influenced backing vocals but reaches an unnecessary, abrupt ending to close the album’s original first side. “Lost Sailor” is mellow and dark with some jazzy elements and deep, philosophical lyrics to compliment the overall moodiness. “Saint of Circumstance” is more upbeat and pop-oriented than the previous track, and the lyrics suggest this may be the default title song of the album. Musically, the song contains lots of catchy passages from the rock drive of the intro and chorus to the escalating piano runs by Mydland to the sparse but effective guitar licks by Garcia.

Grateful Dead

A half-minute psychedelic percussion piece by Hart and Kreutzmann called “Antwerp’s Placebo (The Plumber)” leads to the final two tracks which nearly reflect the album’s first two, but in reverse order. Mydland’s “Easy to Love You” is a soft rocker with some signature Grateful Dead musical elements and the almost anti-Dead vocal smoothness which strongly reflects the style of Michael McDonald. The traditional track “Don’t Ease Me In” closes the album with a track that the band jammed to when they were still called “The Warlocks” pre-1965. Garcia leads the way with quasi-country vocals and bluesy guitar, while there is also a pretty entertaining Hammond organ lead by Mydland.

Go To Heaven reached the Top 30 on the American Pop Albums chart, which was a moderate success for the band which was almost completely non-top-40 until the late eighties. More importantly, it still sounds good today and shows that this band had some vast talent away from the stage.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1980 albums.

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Departure by Journey

Departure by Journey

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Departure by JourneyJourney continued their climb to rock superstardom with 1980’s Departure, the group’s highest charting studio album of the six with founding keyboardist and vocalist Gregg Rolie. This album contains a diverse group of styles and themes within classic rock and its many sub-genres, and it also explores many areas sonically. Most pointedly, Departure is a transitional album for the group, as it perfectly balances elements from their recent and further past with previews of what’s to come for Journey.

Following the band’s 1978 album Infinity, drummer Aynsley Dunbar was replaced by accomplished jazz drummer Steve Smith. In 1979, the group recorded the LP Evolution, which included the group’s first Top 20 single, but was less than satisfying for the band production-wise.

Former engineers Geoff Workman and Kevin Elson stepped up to assume producer duties on Departure. The band was well-stocked entering the studio, with nearly twenty new songs composed. Ultimately, they recorded a dozen songs for this album with a few excess tracks saved for other projects. These included the track “Little Girl”, which landed on the future soundtrack Dream, After Dream and the excellent song “Natural Thing”, a soulful rock/waltz co-written by bassist Ross Valory. Armed with all this compositional ammunition, the group was set to record most of the material live in the studio, which gave it and edge compared to the more refined work they did both before and after this record.


Departure by Journey
Released: March 23, 1980 (Columbia)
Produced by: Geoff Workman & Kevin Elson
Recorded: The Automatt, San Francisco, November, 1979
Side One Side Two
Anyway You Want It
Walks Like a Lady
Someday Soon
People and Places
Precious Time
Where Were You
I’m Cryin’
Line of Fire
Departure
Good Morning Girl
Stay Awhile
Homemade Love
Group Musicians
Steve Perry – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – Guitars, Vocals
Gregg Rolie – Keyboards, Harmonica, Vocals
Ross Valory – Bass, Vocals
Steve Smith – Drums, Percussion

The album begins with its most popular and sustaining track, “Any Way You Want It”. The song was written by lead vocalist Steve Perry and guitarist Neal Schon and it peaked at #23 on the Billboard pop charts. More importantly, this opening track sets the pace for this album where Perry and Schon shine brightest throughout. Schon achieves this hard rock bliss through his potent and perfected rock riffs with melodic distortion, while Perry’s vocals use heavy reverb to add to the majesty. While the opener exists mainly in the stratosphere, “Walks Like a Lady” comes back to ground level while being just as entertaining. On this track, all five members of the band shine equally, from the skip-along bass of Valory to the fine drum shuffle by Smith, to the deep Hammond B3 chords by Rolie, to multiple bluesy riffs by Schon, to the fantastic melodies by Perry.

“Someday Soon” is the first of two rock duets, with Rolie and Perry trading vocal lines throughout this one. The mesmerizing rhythm carries song along at a steady pace and, after Schon’s first true guitar lead of the album, the song enters into a strong, majestic outro, led by a rich vocal chorus and more intense rock elements. “People and Places” is the closest to a prog rock track on the album, especially with the multiple voices in the intro cascade. On this second duet, Rolie takes the lead during the intense verses while Perry handles the uplifting choruses. The song has an English folk feel through its first half but then evolves into a theatrical hard rock track, closing with Rolie’s distant Hammond fading away. Filled with so many great little sound riffs, “Precious Time” starts with just Schon’s rapidly strummed electric guitar accompanying Perry’s fast-paced melodies until Rolie joins in with an impressive blues harmonica through the second verse. Eventually, the rhythm section comes in to make it a more steady hard rock song, ending with a decent blues jam led by the harmonica once again.

Journey in 1980The album’s second side commences with, perhaps, the lone weak spot on the album. “Where Were You” is a straight-forward rocker with standard riff and rhythm and the slightest hint of a boogie piano between the phrases. “I’m Cryin'” is more interesting as a dark, dramatic, and bluesy tune where Schon’s heavy guitar chops are laid on top of the moderate musical backing led by Rollie, who co-wrote the track. This song also gives Perry plenty of room for dynamics, especially at the tail end of the bridge and the very end of the song. Perry wrote all the lyrics for the album, which are somewhat weak throughout, but pleasant enough to the ear to due his fantastic vocal ability and range. “Line of Fire” is an explosive and upbeat blues rocker but seems to lack the rhythmic thump needed to carry this song properly, save for the recorded shotgun blast, captured by Workman to precede the final verse.

The short title piece begins the final progression of the album. Schon’s “Departure” is not really a true track, just some harmonics above seemingly random soundscapes. The next two short but satisfying ballads preview a vital aspect of Journey’s albums in the near future. “Good Morning Girl” is led by Schon’s finger-picked electric accompanied by a smooth Mellotron with differing strings and Perry’s melodic vocals. A very simple structure, with just verses at different rotating keys. “Stay Awhile” is like an old fashioned rock slow dance, but this one is almost completely led by the fine vocal melodies of Perry. The album closer, “Homemade Love”, contains an interesting off-beat by Smith with Perry’s nearly-scat vocals and Schon reserving one of his finest guitar leads for the album’s conclusion.

Departure went triple-platinum in sales and Journey rode this success with a major tour. This tour spawned the follow-up live album Captured, which was another major success for the group later in 1980. However, Rolie had become tired of life on the road and decided to leave the band and pursue solo projects.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1980 albums.

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The Long Run by The Eagles

The Long Run by The Eagles

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The Long Run by The EaglesThe Eagles completed their torrent through the seventies with 1979’s The Long Run, the studio album which closed the decade as the number one album in the USA. This diverse album certainly has its share of variety, especially when it comes to the lead vocals where four of the five band members took their turn up front. On the flipside, this is not the most cohesive album as it jumps from style to style and mood to mood, kind of like it is The Eagles’ own radio station. Nonetheless, this sixth studio album by the band was another commercial smash which spent eight weeks on top of the charts and sold nearly eight million copies worldwide.

The tremendous success of 1976’s Hotel California made The Eagles one of the most successful bands in the world. They went on tour for much of 1977, but frictions arose between founding members Randy Meisner and Glen Frey leading to Meisner’s departure following the tour. Ironically, Meisner was replaced in the Eagles by the same man who replaced him in his previous band Poco, bassist and vocalist Timothy B. Schmit. With this new lineup in tow, the group entered the the recording studio in late 1977, originally intending to complete a double album. However, they were unable to write enough songs and the album was ultimately delayed for two years. In the interim the group recorded and released the holiday songs “Please Come Home for Christmas” and “Funky New Year”, released as a single in 1978, while guitarist Joe Walsh recorded and released, But Seriously Folks, that same year.

The album was produced by Bill Szymczyk, who had produced every Eagles studio album since On the Border in 1974. Vocalist and drummer Don Henley was a co-writer on nine of the ten album tracks, with each of the other band members (along with a few outside the band) contributing to the writing process. The Long Run is also notable for being the final studio album on the Asylum Records label.


The Long Run by The Eagles
Released: September 24, 1979 (Asylum)
Produced by: Bill Szymczyk
Recorded: Bayshore Recording Studios, Coconut Grove, FL & One Step Up, Love n’ Comfort, Britannia Recording and Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, March 1978-September 1979
Side One Side Two
The Long Run
I Can’t Tell You Why
In the City
The Disco Strangler
King of Hollywood
Heartache Tonight
Those Shoes
Teenage Jail
The Greeks Don’t Want no Freaks
The Sad Cafe
Group Musicians
Glenn Frey – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Joe Walsh – Guitars, Vocals
Don Felder – Guitars, Vocals
Timothy B. Schmit – Bass. Vocals
Don Henley – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album’s title song, “The Long Run”, kicks things off. Right from the jump, the group shows they are masters at refining the song and forging a sonic masterpiece with just enough of this, a bit of that, splashed in this standard pop/rock tune, including bluesy guitar riffs, horns, and vocal choruses. Released as a single, the song reached the Top Ten in America in early 1980. From here, the album takes an immediate left turn with the pure soul love song, “I Can’t Tell You Why”, featuring Schmit on lead vocals. An excellent track (albeit hard to believe this is the Eagles), the song’s coda contains a good, long guitar lead by Frey through the final fade-out.

“In the City” got its start as a Joe Walsh solo track, co-written by Barry De Vorzon which was used on the film The Warriors. The rest of the group heard it and decided to re-record it for the album, resulting in a beautiful and melodic tune that is a true classic about the plight of urban dwellers. On “The Disco Strangler” the group switches to methodical funk with almost stream-of-consciousness vocals by Henley and oddly timed rhythms led by the bass of Schmit, However, this track seems a tad incomplete as it quickly fades out after two verses. “King of Hollywood” is nearly a pure mood piece, almost too late seventies in style for its own good. Driven by story and lyrics of selling out for fame, the track stays on the same standard beat and rhythmic pattern until the Don Felder guitar solo over the bridge.

The album’s second side is more solid musically than the first. The brilliant “Heartache Tonight” drew some songwriting from Bob Seger and J.D. Souther. The infectious beat and cool country harmony are the most memorable aspects of this track. But beyond the surface, this is really a showcase for the band’s guitarists with the mixture of rock and blues styles by Walsh and Felder interwoven throughout this popular track, which reached #1 in the U.S. in November 1979, the group’s final chart-topping song.

“Those Shoes” is built off of a simple heartbeat pulse by Schmidt and Henley with some wild guitars by Felder, who subtly use a “talkbox” effect throughout. “Teenage Jail” contains a slow country swing with some extra dense guitars above  liberal use of stop/start rudiments during the new-age first part of the closing lead section. A more standard bluesy guitar lead finishes the song that is abruptly interrupted by the start of “The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks”. This pure fun, party song would be right at home in a frat house or a barroom, especially with the ready made with closing chant which is, perhaps, the last bit of fun the Eagles had on a record.

The album ends with its finest song. “The Sad Café” is a somber ballad about the band’s beginnings at the legendary L.A. saloon The Troubadour. Driven by simple, electric, piano notes, strummed acoustic, rounded bass, and harmonized vocals, the group’s performance is topped off by the fine lead vocals by Henley. There is also some dynamic production, especially after the bridge where the song reaches a sonic climax before coming back down to its mellow core. The song ends with an extended saxophone lead by David Sanborn, concluding the last studio track by the Eagles for a decade and a half.

Just months after the release of The Long Run, tempers reached a fevered pitch within the group, leading to an imminent breakup. The band and Szymczyk did release a final live album in 1980, but reportedly mixed the album in separate studios to stay out of each other’s way. It would not be until 1994, with Hell Freezes Over that the group would perform together again.

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1979 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1979 albums.