1979_VanHalenII1

Van Halen II

Buy Van Halen II

Van Halen IIWhile rarely cited as one the group’s best works, Van Halen II, features some of the band’s best individual tracks and may well showcase Van Halen at its cohesive best. Where their 1978 debut album was a fantastic showcase for guitarist Eddie Van Halen, this 1979 follow-up finds the rest of the band bringing it up near his level to give the album a greater sense of parity. Produced by Ted Templeman, this album is much more than just a carbon copy of the debut. It may have been the best example of a group successfully following up on a brilliant debut album since Led Zeppelin did it with Led Zeppelin II a decade earlier.

Following the tremendous success of their debut, Van Halen embarked on a world tour through much of 1978 before returning to California in December to immediately begin work on this second album. Warner Brothers decided to give the group a smaller recording budget, in spite of the first album’s phenomenal success. Because of this, there was very little studio time allotted to get the recordings done and many of the recordings were first takes. Further, with little time to compose new material, they drew some material from the demo tracks they recorded prior to the first album.

The entire recording process was completed in three weeks, and this frenzied pace spawned some sonic innovation. Templeman reverted back to some of his pop sensibilities from earlier in the seventies. Eddie Van Halen achieved a thick guitar sound by overloading the circuits on his amplifier, while bassist Michael Anthony used a smaller than normal bass amp to get a sharper, less rounded sound.


Van Halen II by Van Halen
Released: March 23, 1979 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Ted Templeman
Recorded: Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood, December 1978-January 1979
Side One Side Two
You’re No Good
Dance the Night Away
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
Bottoms Up!
Outta Love Again
Light Up the Sky
Spanish Fly
D.O.A.
Women In Love
Beautiful Girls
Group Musicians
David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals  |  Eddie Van Halen – Guitars, Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Vocals  |  Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

“You’re No Good” is, frankly, an odd cover selection to start off Van Halen II. However, in reviewing the album as it is laid out in total, it seems to be that this bit of static electric spark starts the chain reaction that leads to the musical inferno portrayed toward the end of the album. Starting with the doomy, slow meandering of Anthony’s flanged out bass before the song slowly marches in. The song proper has all of the Van Halen elements prevalent on the first album and, while certainly not the finest on the album, “You’re No Good” builds enough to make the listener feel like it is cut too short at the end. The mood brightens with the pop rock of “Dance the Night Away”, the group’s first Top 20 hit. The melodic vocals of David Lee Roth accompanies the catchy guitar riff with the bouncy bass perfectly locked with the bright kick drum of Alex Van Halen. There is a higher pitched counter-riff during the chorus and a simple yet brilliant bridge riff variation, while the outro is also done well with Roth inverting his lead vocals with the backing chorus.

Next come a couple of classic barroom songs. A short intro leads into the heavy riff which launches “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”, which dates back to the years before the first album’s release. “Bottoms Up!” has a moderate, unplugged intro by Eddie Van Halen before it breaks into an upbeat quasi-rockabilly song with Anthony slightly outshining the Van Halen brothers musically, as Eddie’s short leads fall just short of the historic precedent he set on the first album. The first side closes with “Outta Love Again”, the oldest composition on the album, notably interesting for its wild, space-like drone intro and clever use of rudiments and vocal timings. Overall, this is probably one of the strongest tracks for drummer Alex Van Halen with his shuffle rhythm through the verses and use of a variety of roll techniques elsewhere.

Van Halen

The second side is where the true genius of Van Halen II lies, with every track being interesting, original, and entertaining. The multi- sectioned “Light Up the Sky” is amazing for how much is packed into this barely three minute long song. Pure hard rock verses with Roth’s precise and complex lead vocals moving through the various sections. During the scaled-back bridge section Roth performs a raspy falsetto before Eddie ignites into a blistering lead guitar, before Alex takes his turn with a short drum solo and then an interesting outro with backwards-masked harmonies leading into the closing hook. The acoustic instrumental “Spanish Fly” is brilliant just in how unlike anything else it is. Sounding almost intentionally non-professional, this is a close up trek into Eddie Van Halen’s genius stripped down to a nylon-stringed guitar and one single minute. In sharp contrast, “D.O.A.” is the heaviest rocking song with an absolutely brutal grind by Eddie Van Halen and the pure rock action of everyone else. Roth’s verse vocals are rather reserved but contrasted later with screams to match the song’s intensity. The later guitar lead is brilliant with an excellent complimentary bass underneath.

“Women in Love…” starts with a bell-like intro solo by Eddie which is pure melody and harmonic technique. The body of this steady song is a quasi-ballad with lyrics apparently about groupies and is the best song vocally on the album. Every note is pure sonic bliss right down to Roth’s word “scream” tailed with a slight inflection of an actual scream. The verses mix a somber riff with the harmonized vocals above a thumping bass and drum rhythm, while the guitar assentation mixes with the harmonies during the chorus. The album ends with the entertaining pop/rock song “Beautiful Girls”, which contains chanting vocals with some slightly clever rhyming before the song builds in crescendo excitement through the entertaining outro.

Van Halen II peaked at number six on the American album charts and has sold nearly six million copies since its release. Over the next two years the band released a couple more albums, Women and Children First and Fair Warning, which closely followed the same formula as this record and continued the band’s popularity.

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1979 Images

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

1984 by Van Halen

1984 by Van Halen

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1984 by Van HalenThe original lineup of Van Halen reached their artistic and commercial apex with their final album together. 1984 (officially titled using Roman Numerals MCMLXXXIV) was released near the start of the year, 1984. Due to a radio-friendly song with an MTV-friendly video, the album had an immediate pop crossover effect that ultimately propelled the album to the highest charting position and sales by the band to date. But beyond the commercial appeal of the album, there lies a solid core of rock compositions and exquisite production by Ted Templeman that demonstrates Van Halen at their absolute peak.

Van Halen had steadily grown in popularity from their fine 1978 debut album, through 1983, when they were entered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “highest paid band of all-time” for its headlining at the US Festival. However, there were some internal creative issues as guitarist Eddie Van Halen had felt dissatisfied by the concessions he made to Templeman and front man David Lee Roth on the group’s previous 1982 album Diver Down. During the sessions for that album, Roth rejected the idea of developing a synth riff by Eddie Van Halen into a full-fledged song (that riff would later be re-purposed for the song “Jump”). For his part, Templeman was instrumental in the vast amount of cover songs used on Diver Down, to which Eddie had objections.

In this climate, Van Halen decided to build his own studio with the help of engineer Donn Landee and named the studio 5150 (after the LAPD code for “escaped mental patient”). Some music analysts claim that 1984 is the only Diamond selling album (over 10 million copies) to be entirely recorded and mixed in a “home studio”. As a result, 1984 has more influence from Eddie Van Halen than any other album. Always the innovator, Van Halen’s radical electric guitar tapping technique on the Van Halen I track “Eruption” was mistakenly thought by some to be a synthesizer. When he actually did use synthesizers on this album, it brought a new mainstream appreciation for the instrument and sales of them increased overnight.


MCMLXXXIV by Van Halen
Released: January 9, 1984 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Ted Templeman
Recorded: 5150 Studios, Hollywood, CA, 1983
Side One Side Two
1984
Jump
Panama
Top Jimmy
Drop Dead Legs
Hot For Teacher
I’ll Wait
Girl Gone Bad
House of Pain
Group Musicians
David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

Like all of the group’s previous five albums, all music and lyrics on 1984 were credited to all four member of the band. However, in negotiations years later bassist Michael Anthony was removed from this album’s credits. The title track opener, “1984” is little more than synthesized soundscapes by Eddie Van Halen, but this does offer an effective intro to “Jump”

The only #1 song of the band’s career, “Jump” is undeniably infectious, with solid rock rhythm allows the long-string synths to play out and still be effective. Eddie Van Halen’s guitars are slight, only present during the pre-chorus, first half of the lead section, and outro. The second half of the lead is reserved for his interesting synth solo over slowly descending chord structure for great effect.

In contrast to the guitar-light “Jump” is the drenched riff of “Panama”, where Van Halan’s guitar textures are as fine as ever. Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen lay down strong rhythms while Roth adds excitable vocals. The cool, spoken word mid-section following the guitar lead also features Eddie Van Halen revving his Lamborghini in the background, as the car was backed up to the studio and microphones were attached to the exhaust pipe.

The album’s first side concludes with a couple of forgotten classic gems. “Top Jimmy” is a tribute to James Paul Koncek of the band Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs and starts with overdubbed guitar effects in its long intro. It then breaks into a frenzied, upbeat rock blues, with Van Halen showmanship, alternating back and forth between the deep intro riff and good-time verse/chorus section. Van Halen says “Drop Dead Legs” was inspired by AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, but you can also hear a lot of early Aerosmith in the way this song is constructed and delivered. Built on a slow guitar grind, the song really comes to life with great harmonized vocal chorus by Anthony and Van Halen, which augments Roth’s finely strained rock lead vocals.

The second side starts with “Hot for Teacher”, a unique and entertaining song built for the younger MTV audience. The tremendous drumming of Alex Van Halen, offers a fine long intro for the pure rock theater of the song proper. “I’ll Wait” is the second keyboard-dominated song (and the second single) on the album. It was also very controversial within the group as Roth and Templeman wanted to remove the song from the album, But Eddie Van Halen refused. The song is also unique in that there is no bass through the first verses and choruses, just in the lead section, and it is co-written by Doobie Brother Michael McDonald.

Van Halen in 1984

The finest jam on the album comes on “Girl Gone Bad”. It begins with a long and dramatic beginning, with bass creeping ever closer during intro picked and chimed guitars by Eddie and fast-moving, high-end percussion by Alex. When it all kicks in, it is as good as any Van Halen song instrumentally, even seeming to be a bit Rush-influenced with the great instrumental rudiments and includes some cool scat vocals by Roth during the long bridge section. The album’s closer, “House of Pain” originally dated back to the demos Van Halen recorded with Gene Simmons prior to being signed by Warner Bros. in the mid 1970s. Consequently,it is the most like a traditional Van Halen song on side two, being upbeat and riff-driven with a slight section of guitar excellence.

1984 peaked at #2 on the Billboard album charts, ironically blocked for 5 consecutive weeks from the top spot by Michael Jackson’s Thriller, on which Eddie Van Halen contributed a guitar solo to the song “Beat It”. It would be the last Van Halen album to feature all four original members, as Roth left the band following the 1984 tour and did not record with the band again until 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, which was recorded after Anthony had already left the band.

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1984 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

 

Purple by Stone Temple Pilots

Purple by Stone Temple Pilots

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Purple by Stone Temple PilotsStone Temple Pilots reached their peak early in their career with the release of Purple in 1994. This second album builds off the sounds forged on the band’s 1992 debut album Core, while bringing that sound to a more enriched, mature, and entertaining level. This was accomplished by expanding on the sub-genres fused with the core hard-rock, grunge approach, utilizing some folk, jazz, funk, and Southern rock elements. Lyrically, the songs contain many references to vocalist and lyricist Scott Weiland‘s struggles with drug abuse and the collateral damage brought on by this addictions. This serves to add a tinge of darkness and foreboding to the otherwise inspiring musical vibes.

After the release of Core in September of 1992, the group received some negative reviews blasting them as “rip-offs” of more established contemporaries like Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. However, these critical reviews were in sharp contrast to popular opinion, as illustrated in one Rolling Stone magazine poll where the band was simultaneously voted “Best New Band” by the magazine’s readers and “Worst New Band” by its music critics. Still, by the time the group returned to the studio to record this second album, they were determined to make their mark of distinction on the rock world.

Producer Brendan O’Brien was again brought on to strike the sonic balance of the raw compositions written by the band. Brothers Dean DeLeo and Robert DeLeo nearly equally shared the musical compositions, with Weiland later adding the melodies and lyrics. Production of the album was completed in less than a month, and Purple was greeted with great fanfare, debuting at number one in the U.S. upon its release.


Purple by Stone Temple Pilots
Released: June 7, 1994 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Brendan O’Brien
Recorded: Southern Tracks Studio, Atlanta, GA, Spring 1994
Track Listing Group Musicians
Meatplow
Vasoline
Lounge Fly
Interstate Love Song
Still Remains
Pretty Penny
Silvergun Superman
Big Empty
Unglued
Army Ants
Kitchenware & Candybars
Scott Weiland – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Dean DeLeo – Guitars, Drums
Robert DeLeo – Bass, Guitars
Eric Kretz – Drums, Percussion

Purple by Stone Temple Pilots

 

Dominated by dual guitar riffs of DeLeo brothers, “Meatplow” is a slow rocker that strategically bends flat in overall tone, starting the album with a methodical edge which slowly churns towards the desired vibe. “Vasoline” is less patient, with a pure rudimental riff by Robert DeLeo that at once contrasts and compliments Weiland’s melodic vocals. Released as a single, the song reached the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. The song verse’s syncopated riff in non-standard timing is grounded by the steady 4/4 beat of drummer Eric Kretz, which builds a rhythmic tension that is released in the chorus.

Kretz is particularly impressive with drums and percussion throughout “Lounge Fly”. This track starts with a unique, backwards-masked riff with interludes by complex, rolling drums before it works its way towards a more normal rock arrangement. During the middle section, this song moves to a pure acoustic folk arrangement with duet vocals before building back to a hard rock format with a screeching guitar lead credited to Paul Leary of the band Butthole Surfers.

Perhaps the best song ever composed by Stone Temple Pilots, “Interstate Love Song” leaves an indelible sonic impression on the listener and the succinct arrangement ferments a desire for more. The much too short acoustic intro by Robert DeLeo breaks into the finest of riffing, which alternates between the layered blues rock and twangy overdub of the interludes and the funky, crunchy riffs of the verses. Weiland’s vocals are also top notch and potent throughout, as he delivers the lyrics that deal with the lack of honesty in hiding his addiction to heroin;

“waiting on a Sunday afternoon for what I read between the lines, your lies, feelin’ like a hand in rusted shame, so do you laugh or does it cry? Reply?”

“Still Remains” has an almost outlaw country (or at least Southern-fried rock) approach with twangy guitar layers and more very good, moody vocals. Dean DeLeo’s “Pretty Penny” takes another radical turn in style with Eastern-flavored acoustic instruments and various hand percussion. This calm and steady track never relents by breaking into anything harder rocking and harkens back to the English folk of Traffic or even Jethro Tull, but with distinctive STP vocals during the chorus. By contrast, “Silvergun Superman” is a progressive song which gets better and better as it goes along. Starting with slow, heavy metal rock riffs, the chorus breaks into a soaring vocal and moving bass section and then bridge further adds variety to the arrangement before a shredding guitar lead brings this song up to yet the next level. However, there is a bizarre breakdown at the end of the track which is a bit unprofessional and drains all the afore momentum.

“Big Empty” is fueled by the bluesy and jazzy slide guitar of Dean DeLeo above the bouncy, funk bass of his brother Robert. The song originally appeared on the soundtrack to the movie The Crow and was later a successful single that reached the Top Ten of the Mainstream Rock charts. “Unglued” is, perhaps, the most upbeat and “dance-ready” rocker on Purple, short but sweet and entertaining with none of the droning of most of the other tracks. Another unique track, “Army Ants” starts with a moody, descending riff, drenched in heavy flange before it breaks into a harder rocking song that jams at top level for a couple verses and choruses before returning to the intro part and starting all over. The closer “Kitchenware & Candybars” may be the most melodramatic of all tracks complete with orchestral effects by O’Brien. The song includes a hidden twelfth track sung as a lounge song by guest Richard Peterson, who provides a closing overture that explains the album’s back cover, which displays a cake with the phrase “12 Gracious Melodies”.

Within a few months of its release, Purple had sold over three million copies and propelled the band to headliner status. The following year, Stone Temple Pilots recorded their third album, Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, which took an even more radical music departure. Here critics were more favorable to the band’s sound, while fans were not quite so impressed.

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1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1994 albums.

Smash by The Offspring

Smash by The Offspring

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Smash by The OffspringOften overlooked by their more lauded West Coast contemporaries, The Offspring were nonetheless a hard rock powerhouse in the mid to late nineties. Their aptly named breakthrough album, Smash, achieved platinum sales and reached the Top 10 in over a dozen countries, peaking at #4 on the US album charts. Unlike the group’s first two releases, which were close to hardcore punk in genre, this third independent album leans more towards the emerging grunge rock and pop punk sound, which brought the critical and commercial success. In total, Smash has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling independent label album of all time.

The Offspring began in Southern California in the mid 1980s with guitarist, lyricist, and front man Bryan “Dexter” Holland and bassist Greg Kriesel. Later on the group added Ron Welty and guitarist Kevin Wasserman to round out the quartet. In 1989, the group recorded their first album with producer Thom Wilson, who continued to work with the group on their 1991 sophomore effort and on Smash.

However, when they began studio work on this album in 1993, the band’s relations with Wilson had begun to strain. Still, the team worked well enough together to forge a successful sound which became highly influential over the coming decades and still resonates with listeners to this day.


Smash by The Offspring
Released: April 8, 1994 (Epitath)
Produced by: Thom Wilson
Recorded: Track Record, North Hollywood, CA, October–December 1993
Track Listing Group Musicians
Time to Relax
Nitro (Youth Energy)
Bad Habit
Gotta Get Away
Genocide
Something to Believe In
Come Out and Play
Self Esteem
It’ll Be a Long Time
Killboy Powerhead
What Happened to You?
So Alone
Not the One
Smash
Dexter Holland – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Kevin Wasserman – Guitars, Vocals
Greg Kriesel – Bass, Vocals
Ron Welty – Drums, Vocals

Smash by The Offspring

Aside from the single cover song, Holland composed all songs on Smash, which includes a spoken-word narrator who makes three appearances, starting with the 25 second intro “Time to Relax”. Welty’s relentless drums drive the track “Nitro (Youth Energy)”, with dueling vocals and guitars buried quite a bit back in the mix and a constant refrain of “living like there’s no tomorrow”. “Bad Habit” takes a different approach as Kriesel’s slow, accented bass riff dominates the intro and first verse before the second verse brings additional punk structure and drive. Later there is a naked vocal middle section laced with profanity, which may actually be the overall most creative and interesting part of the song.

“Gotta Get Away” starts with a drum roll and bass intro, reminiscent of a 1960s pop beat, before the song morphs into a more hard rock oriented arrangement which seems to be heavily influenced by Nirvana. Released as a single, the song reached number 6 on the Modern Rock chart. “Genocide” is mainly structured more like a heavy metal track with distorted riffs and double-kick drums but the vocals keep it grounded within the pop/punk realm. Overall not a bad tune, just thick and slow in the melody hooks. “Something to Believe In” is an honest attempt at 70s-style punk, before it later dissolves to a bass driven bridge.

The song this band was born to play, “Come Out and Play”, with an anthemic, shout-along chorus, was the catalyst that brought the Offspring great success. Although not officially released as a single, the song hit the airwaves and raced to the top of the Mainstream Rock charts. Fueled by Holland’s Eastern-style riff, lyrics on adolescence, and an entertaining stop-start arrangement, the song struck a unique chord in the rock music universe. The second most popular song on the album, “Self Esteem” is a fun song with great, pathetic, philosophical, and almost comical lyrics about an unhealthy relationship. Beginning with full arrangement, the song leans on strong bass and deadened guitars during the verses and a fuller arrangement elsewhere as the truth of its lyric puts it over the top;

“the more you suffer, the more it shows you really care…”

Later in the album, the material thins out a bit. “It’ll Be a Long Time” sounds like a fast-paced Black Sabbath song, more worried about the riff and the jam than the noise and attitude of punk. “Killboy Powerhead” is the a cover by contemporary punk group The Didjits with a cool, Saturday morning cartoon vibe. “What Happened to You?” is a very short but entertaining excursion into ska where the performance and production is tighter than anywhere else on the album, while “So Alone” is pure filler of 100mph punk that lasts barely 70 seconds in total duration. “Not the One” is where surf music meets punk, setting up the closer “Smash”, which almost sounds like a pimped-out, punked-out version on the previous track. This final song does pick up a bit in intensity before abruptly ending with “closing comments” by a narrator.

The unprecedented success of Smash garnered attention from major labels like Columbia Records, with whom The Offspring signed in 1996. The following year, the group released their much anticipated follow-up Ixnay on the Hombre, which continued to elevate the group’s success.

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1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1994 albums.

Dookie by Green Day

Dookie by Green Day

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Dookie by Green Day Produced by Rob Cavallo, Dookie is the third overall album by Green Day and their major label debut. The album became a commercial success worldwide, driven by five hit singles, an unprecedented feat for any pure punk rock group. This was due to the accessibility of the compositions by composer, guitarist, and lead vocalist Billy Joe Armstrong, who used potent melodies to deliver brutally honest lyrics and unambiguous rock music. The end result is a highly influential and critically acclaimed album that echoed and cascaded through the decade of the nineties and launched a very successful career for Green Day that persists to this day.

While still in high school in 1987, Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt formed a band called Sweet Children. The next year, the group signed with the independent Lookout! Records and prepared to record their initial EP. They decided to change their name to Green Day (a marijuana reference) in order to avoid confusion. In 1990, they released their debut studio album, 39/Smooth, and brought on Tré Cool as their permanent drummer. Meanwhile, the band’s popularity began to reach unprecedented levels for an independent punk group and they went on tour through the States and in Europe. Released in 1992, the second LP Kerplunk sold well and led to a number of major record labels being interested in Green Day.

Cavallo had done work with the band The Muffs, which impressed the members of Green Day and helped him connect with them and “speak their language”. Dookie was recorded in three weeks in late 1993 and was mixed and remixed twice to perfectly capture the confluence of a raw underground group hitting its stride with the backing of a big budget production.


Dookie by Green Day
Released: February 1, 1994 (Reprise)
Produced by: Rob Cavallo & Green Day
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA, September–October 1993
Track Listing Group Musicians
Burnout
Having a Blast
Chump
Longview
Welcome to Paradise
Pulling Teeth
Basket Case
She
Sassafras Roots
When I Come Around
Coming Clean
Emenius Sleepus
In the End
F.O.D.
Billie Joe Armstrong – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Mike Dirnt – Bass, Vocals
Tré Cool – Drums, Vocals

Dookie by Green Day

 

The opening song and album thunders in with “Burnout”, a classic-sounding punk screed with updated sonic qualities which exits nearly as fast as it begins. Written while the group was on their first national tour in 1992, “Having a Blast” is another upbeat and driving tune, distinguished by the rudimentary stops late in the song. The third song at the top which comes in at less than three minutes is “Chump”, which distinguishes itself with a long instrumental section that concentrates mainly on the bass and drums of Dirnt and Cool. This leads into a frantic outro which dissolves nicely into the bass intro of “Longview”.

The first song of real importance on the album, “Longview” is a breakthrough on many levels. Dirnt is given the breadth to really shine during the verses with his bass pattern before the full band explosion of the chorus. Written while on tour, the song got its title from the city of Longview, Washington, where it was first performed in 1992. It was the band’s first single from the album and climbed to the top of the Modern Rock chart.

“Welcome to Paradise” was originally released on Green Day’s second album Kerplunk but was re-recorded for Dookie. Here, the group goes back to the basic punk formula but with rich vocal harmonies and another unique instrumental bridge, which builds on a bass line and gets ever more frantic to the end of the song. The lyrics are based on the band’s experience of moving into an abandoned house in Oakland while trying to make it on the punk scene. On “Pulling Teeth”, the band almost leaves the punk genre altogether for the first and only time on the album. This song has an almost outlaw country vibe with twangy (albeit heavy) guitars and duet vocals throughout.

“Basket Case” has the strongest musical performance by Armstrong and the band, especially Cool’s timely and rapid-fire tom fills. This very melodic and cross-over song was written about Armstrong’s struggle with anxiety, later diagnosed as a panic disorder. Starting with a naked bass and drums through opening verse, “She” is another short, accessible and melodic tune that keeps the album rolling along at a hundred miles an hour, while “Sassafras Roots” is a rather weak song where the sound starts to sound repetitive and stale.

“When I Come Around” revitalizes the sound with a break from the driving riffs to something more choppy and hard rock oriented. Armstrong’s vocals and guitars really carry this song like no other, even bordering on an actual guitar lead after the second verse and chorus. Green Day’s most popular radio single, the song peaked at number 6 on the pop charts. Next, follows the three shortest tracks on the album, each less than two minutes. “Coming Clean” is almost a theatrical quality in the simplest of songs, while Dirnt’s “Emenius Sleepus” is almost a continuation of the previous, again relying on the duo chord phasing in the verses. Armstrong wrote the song “In the End” about his mother and her husband, while “F.O.D.” starts with the first verse and chorus played by Armstrong on an “unplugged” electric with distant vocals to give the “live demo” effect (which, I presume it actually was). Finally, full band, production, and electricity kick in to drive the listener to the official conclusion of the album – but, of course, this was the nineties and a hidden track was there for anyone patient enough to wait the minute and a half before the frivolous “All By Myself” commences.

Dookie peaked at number two on the U.S. album charts and won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1995. That same year Green Day followed this up with their fourth studio album, Insomniac, an album which leans a bit more hardcore than their melodic 1994 breakthrough.

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1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1994 albums.

Weezer 1994 debut album

Weezer (Blue Album)

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Weezer 1994 debut albumTwenty years ago this weekend, Weezer stormed into rock and roll consciousness with their potent, popular, and critically acclaimed self-titled debut, which has come to be known as simply the “Blue Album”. Over these past two decades, critics and fans have been contorting to place the group’s sound within a specific genre, with many coming up with blends that include 80s hair metal, 90s grunge, and punk with a “geek” element. No doubt, Weezer draws from these influences, but to my ears I hear more late sixties influence like the Velvet Underground and, especially, The Kinks in their structure combined with an early nineties inhibition which leaves it raw, unreserved and honest.

Formed in in Los Angeles in 1992, Weezer is led by principle songwriter and vocalist Rivers Cuomo, who had already composed some of the material on this album prior to the band’s formation. ue their lack of a definitive genre, they were not initially well received by an L.A. club scene which was in the thrawls of a love affair with grunge rock. Undeterred, the band self-produced a demo known as “The Kitchen Tapes” to try to create some buzz, which they eventually received and were signed to a Geffen Records subsidery in mid 1993.

While the band pushed for self-producing their official debut, the label wanted an established producer. Former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek was eventually enlisted and helped guide band to find a “brighter” sound. For their part, the quartet prepared for the studio sessions by practicing vocal interplay and barbershop-styled songs, as is evidenced in the non-album track “My Evaline”. Bassist Matt Sharp developed a falsetto-style backing vocal, which ultimately enhanced the material’s sonic depth and mood. Once the group arrived at Electric Lady studios in New York, some of their inital tracks were cut for the better quality ones which came later. These include the songs “Lullaby for Wayne”, “I Swear It’s True”, “Getting Up and Leaving”, and “Mykel and Carli”, which are all included in the deluxe edition of Weezer, released ten years after the original.


Weezer by Weezer
Released: May 10, 1994 (DGC)
Produced by: Ric Ocasek
Recorded: Electric Lady Studios, New York, August–September 1993
Track Listing Group Musicians
My Name Is Jonas
No One Else
The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
Buddy Holly
Undone – The Sweater Song
Surf Wax America
Say It Ain’t So
In the Garage
Holiday
Only in Dreams
Rivers Cuomo – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Harmonica
Brian Bell – Guitars, Vocals
Matt Sharp – Bass, Vocals
Patrick Wilson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Weezer 1994 debut

 

The album got it’s nickname from the simplistic album cover featuring the band members lined up in front of a plain, blue background. This cover is actually an example of early Photoshop, as guitarist Brian Bell‘s head was added to a pose by original guitarist Jason Cropper, who left the band during recoding of the album. Cropper’s only songwriting credit is on the opening track, “My Name Is Jonas”, which quickly alternates between the folk-influenced picked acoustic notes and the thumping electric chords all while drilling in certain riffs and themes such as; “the workers are going home”. There is a slight harmonica lead late in the song before it comes full circle to the acoustic in the dissolve. The next two tracks are thematically linked with “No One Else” being about an obsessive relationship and “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” about the aftermath when it’s over. The latter song contains a blend of electric and acoustic riff during the intro and remains steady throughout, methodically and precisely delivering the message of isolation and delusion in the wake of heartbreak.

The most popular song on Weezer is Cuomo’s “Buddy Holly”, a short and sweet song with a plethera of pop culture references lyrically and plenty of sonic riffs on guitars and keyboards. Cuomo was originally against the song’s inclusion on the album, saying it was “too cheesy”, but Ocasek saw its potential and lobbied hard for it’s inclusion. The result was a melody-driven tune which reached #2 on the mainstream rock chart after it was released on the 58th anniversary of Buddy Holly’s birth.

At first “Undone – The Sweater Song” seems a bit frivilous with spoken word interludes between first verses, but ultimately the song is one of the most original and rewarding on the album. Despite the party ambience, this is a song about detachment with the vivid lyrical imagery of a sweater unraveling. Musically, it contains good guitar lead and an excellent and original outro, which employs feedback, keyboards, and piano in bringing the song to an end. Co-written by drummer Patrick Wilson, “Surf Wax America” is a good-time party song with a punk rhythm and Beach Boys-like imagery, until the mood turns dark and tragic;

“all along the undertow is strengthening its hold, I never though it would come to this, now I can never go home…”

“Say It Ain’t So” is another top-notch song with funk and soul verses before the slow, grungy rock riff dominates for the chorus hook. The tune later seems to advance to a new level through the middle section with deeply personal lyrics and dualing lead guitars. Very popular among fans, “Say It Ain’t So” is a signature Weezer tune.

Weezer

After a short acoustic and harmonica intro, “In the Garage” is quickly interuppted by a thick, droning electric riff. The lyrics seem to celebrate a nerd’s man cave, which he uses as an asylum away from the real world. “Holiday” has a steady, driving rock rhythm throughout with thick layered guitar and vocal harmonies, which all flourish on this track despite it being one of the weaker on the album. The nearly eight-minute closer “Only in Dreams” is held down by Sharp’s bass riff with some light and surreal guitar textures throughout. This song has the least amount movement of any but does finish the album aptly with a clear and indelible message.

Peaking at number sixteen on the album charts, Weezer has gone multi-platinum since its release. They followed up with another fine effort, Pinkerton in 1996, and have gone on the release several more successful albums through the past two decades.

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1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1994 albums.

The Real Thing by Faith No More

The Real Thing by Faith No More

Buy The Real Thing

The Real Thing by Faith No MoreFaith No More found their signature sound and commercial breakthrough with The Real Thing in 1989. This was the first release by the band to feature vocalist Mike Patton, who brought with him an experimental along with dynamic vocals. The rest of the group followed suit, expanding their sound to fuse such diverse genres as heavy metal, progressive rock, hip hop, funk, jazz, and soul. The end result made The Real Thing the group’s most successful album commercially and immensely influential to the emerging sound of the 1990s, with over half the albums tracks covered by later artists, and many fusion groups sprouting up over those years.

Faith No More was formed in 1981 by bassist Billy Gould and drummer Mike Bordin. They recorded two albums with vocalist Chuck Mosley, who joined the band in 1983. The debut We Care a Lot was released in 1985 with Introduce Yourself coming in 1987. The following year Mosley was fired due to “erratic behavior” which included falling asleep on stage during a live show.

Patton was recruited soon after and took part in the majority of the lyric writing for The Real Thing in early 1989, although much of the music was composed while Mosley was still with the group. Beyond the eleven album tracks, the recording sessions in Sausalito, California also yielded extra songs, including “The Grade” and “The Cowboy Song” which later appeared on singles and later albums and “The Perfect Crime” which appeared on the soundtrack to the film Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.


The Real Thing by Faith No More
Released: June 20, 1989 (Slash)
Produced by: Matt Wallace & Faith No More
Recorded: Studio D, Sausalito, CA, December 1988–January 1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
From Out of Nowhere
Epic
Falling to Pieces
Surprise! You’re Dead!
Zombie Eaters
The Real Thing
Underwater Love
The Morning After
Woodpecker from Mars
War Pigs
Edge of the World
Mike Patton – Lead Vocals
James Martin – Guitars
Roddy Bottum – Keyboards
Bill Gould – Bass
Mike Bordin – Drums

The Real Thing by Faith No More

 

The album’s opener “From Out of Nowhere” is a straight up rocker with steady, driving rhythm and good and interesting chorus hook. Right from the start, Patton’s unique vocals stick out, making this song’s title a profound statement in of itself, and the thick instrumental arrangement is led by the coloring of keyboardist Roddy Bottum, who co-wrote the song. All five band members played a part in composing “Epic”, which would go to be Faith No More’s most popular song. From the hip-hop chant above the infectious bounce of Gould and Bordin’s rhythm during the rap-influenced verses, to the the rock drama of the chorus hooks, driven by guitarist James Martin. Although Martin really doesn’t perform any traditional leads, his great measured guitar riff during the elongated outro is a real highlight as it dissolves into the slow and distant classical-influenced piano coda by Bottum.

“Falling to Pieces” begins with Gould and Bordin’s bass and drum intro with some swirling synths this time. This too gives way to the heavy funk of the verse. This song also became a minor hit, reaching #28 on the Mainstream Rock charts. “Surprise! You’re Dead!” dates back to the 1970s, written by Martin when he was with a group called Agents of Misfortune. This short, speed metal screed is vicious and strong with an indelible message, but not all that focused in composition. “Zombie Eaters” goes the other direction, with the classically picked acoustic guitar by Martin during opening verses setting the soft and spooky moods. This song eventually morphs into something much heavier in the way a loud car starts its engine and takes off, but has little more of substance beyond that.

The interesting percussive intro by Bordin persists through long and dramatic first three verses of “The Real Thing”. This title tune later breaks into something more standard in heavy rock, but the multiple voices by Patton give it a rich kaleidoscope of moods throughout its eight minute duration. “Underwater Love” returns to a more standard, upbeat, radio-friendly rock, an oasis of this in the dramatic later part of the album. Gould provides more funky bass through the song proper, with a nice pattern to work in the dissolving outro. “The Morning After” is an overlooked gem with choppy bass and drum rhythms throughout with Martin working a counter guitar, first as a picked motif then later as driving heavy metal. Still, song never fully dives into the head-basing realm, just dabbles with it while staying melodic and interesting.

The most interesting piece on the album is the instrumental “Woodpecker from Mars”, which nearly rivals some of the great classic prog rock instrumentals. It starts with dramatic choppy piano and surreal synth until Martin’s heavy guitars and Gould’s buzzy bass bring the piece to a whole other dynamic level. The second section is slow and droning but just as powerful as Martin masterfully employs feedback. This alternates back and forth with each iteration becoming more intense overall, a wild psychedelic ride which really helps elevate this album to the next level – acts as perfect into to the Balck sabbath cover “War Pigs”. Patton’s vocals work well with this, while the crisp rock of the group gives it a real edge without ever abandoning the vibe of the original Sabbath song. The album ends with “Edge of the World”, a jazzy and calm piece led by Bottum’s nightclub-inspired piano. The song’s chorus almost brings it up to a full rock arrangement while lyrically this song seems to focus on an old pervert and the object of his affection. A distant saxophone joins the arrangement as the song and album fades away.

Although released in mid-1989, The Real Thing didn’t really peak on the charts until late 1990. On their next album, Angel Dust, Faith No More displayed an even more experimental effort, but did not last long beyond that as the group disbanded by the mid 1990s.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images

 

Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz

Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz

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Let Love Rule by Lenny KravitzWhile only a moderate success in the United States, the 1989 debut album by Lenny Kravitz became an instant and huge hit elsewhere in the world. Let Love Rule mixed Kravitz’s musical influences, which included rock, soul, funk, and folk, into a contemporary blend that offered something profound and unique to pop music in 1989. A rarity for a newcomer working on his debut, Kravitz self-produced and also played played most of the instruments on the album, which contain all original compositions. Some childhood friends along with established pop and rock stars were also brought in to add some of the finishing touches to the album.

Born in New York, Kravitz is the son of television producer Sy Kravitz and actress Roxy Roker, who brought the family to Los Angeles when she landed a role on the television show The Jeffersons. Through his youth in Bevery Hills, Kravitz was influenced by everything from classical and opera to classic rock n’ roll, in the vein of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix, and The Who. Between performing at the Hollywood Bowl with a boys choir to acting in television commercials, Kravitz was no stranger to the limelight. In 1985, Kravitz met keyboardist/bassist Henry Hirsch and the two started composing some original material. However, major record labels were less than receptive to the music because it did not fit neatly into “black” or “white” genres.

With this new dilemma, Kravitz and Hirsh began making their own demos. The two also had shared an interest in vintage instruments and recording equipment, which ultimately helped forge their sound. With a quality demo in hand, five major labels were suddenly interested and Kravitz eventually signed with Virgin Records in early 1989.


Pump by Aerosmith
Released: September 19, 1989 (Virgin)
Produced by: Lenny Kravitz
Recorded: 1988-1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Sittin’ On Top of the World
Let Love Rule
Freedom Train
Precious Love
I Build This Garden
Fear
Does Anybody out There
Mr. Cab Driver
Rosemary
Be
Blues for Sister Someone
Empty Hands
Flower Child
Lenny Kravitz – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Percussion
Adam Widoff – Guitars
Henry Hirsch – Piano, Organ
Karlly Gould – Bass
Chad Smith – Drums

Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz

 

From the calm strummed acoustic intro to the quarky, bass and clav body of the song, “Sittin’ On Top of the World” is an asymmetric song to commence the album. While starting potently, the song oddly kind of peters out at the conclusion. The title track “Let Love Rule” offers more stability, at least so far as the rhythm and beat goes. A quasi-Beatles vibe persists throughout the early part of the song with good vocals and a catchy hook. An extended saxophone solo by Karl Denson is accompanied by a subtle horn arrangement and joins the cool organ with popping bass out front with wailing vocals, all giving the latter part of this track a definitive Soul music feel. Although not credited, drums were provided by fellow Southern Californian Alex Van Halen.

“Freedom Train” is almost like a slow rap with distant, filtered guitar, a bass riff, and plenty of synthesized percussion and chops. Overall, a very cool and original song with great texture, albeit very little lyrical substance. “Precious Love” is a ballad with organ, piano, bass and a steady drum beat holding together backing to desperate, soulful vocals. An extended lead section during the bridge includes both an excellent piano lead and effective organ chops by keyboardist Hirsch. “I Build This Garden” is nearly religious in lyric, while containing a driving rock guitar riff blended with strings, in another Beatles sonic tribute. Melodic vocals are almost detached from the backing march, but still jive beautifully and later features include great electric piano riffs, a Gospel choir hymn, and a tremendous guitar lead in outro.

The middle part of the album turns towards a darker and more pessimistic tone. “Fear” is pleasant enough to listen towith a Stevie Wonder-like funk groove and vocal style, while the lyrics paint a doomy apocalyptic environment. Some musical features in this song, include a harmonized vocal “sang” through a guitar talk box along with a persistent clavichord. “Does Anybody Out There” is the first of a couple of overtly self-righteuos themes, again great musically, but a little bit too preachy lyrically by this point. The song starts with a quiet soft electric piano, which breaks into calm but strong guitar rock and very low-key vocals. The album hits a nadir with “Mr. Cab Driver”, obviously Lou Reed-influenced musically, but totally over the top lyrically as it attacks the working class to satisfy the latest Hollywood agenda in an almost hate-inciting method.

However, the album recovers nicely with “Rosemary”, a beautiful and exquisite song of hope driven by the simple acoustic of Kravitz and decorated by the bluesy harmonica of Lee Jaffe. With strong Christian religious themes, the song speaks of a young homeless girl and gradually builds to a full arrangement with flanged guitars and uplifting organ. “Be” is another song with good musical textures such as the thumping bass with piano chords, which may have been influenced by John Lennon’s classic Plastic Ono Band. This closing track of the original LP is steady, like an urban folk song with perfectly executed vocal harmonies and doubling.

The final three tracks were originally billed as “CD Bonus Tracks”. “Blues for Sister Someone” is a slow rocker about drug abuse with a hypnotizing rhythm combined with power chord riffing, much more filler than other tracks on album but still sounds great until it ends abruptly. “Empty Hands” is a bit Western folk, while again religious in tone. The song proper is melodic with acoustic, organ, strings, and the accordion, which has a short solo during the outro section. “Flower Child” is a pure piano rocker, almost frivolous and comical but still a fun listen and different than anything else on the album.

In its first five years, Let Love Rule sold over 2 million copies in Europe, but has yet to sell a million copies in the United States. However, Kravitz would find much more commercial success in the coming decade, starting with Mama Said, his sophomore effort in 1991.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images

 

Master of Disguise by Lizzy Borden

Master of Disguise by Lizzy Borden

Buy Master of Disguise

Master of Disguise by Lizzy BordenHad Master of Disguise been released five to ten years earlier, it would have a huge commercial success and probably considered a rock classic. But as the climate changed in 1989, Lizzy Borden‘s strongest and most artistic output was largely overlooked. It may be easy to caricature eighties hair metal, but it is albums like this that show that genre’s potential for quality music, which is very diverse, with light and heavy selections dispersed evenly throughout the album. Also adding to the overall theatrical vibe of the album is the fact that Borden employs two distinct voices throughout, often harmonizing to fuse a calm yet desperate effect.

Ironically, the band was around earlier in the decade, making their splash in Southern California during the glam metal days of 1983. Like Alice Cooper, the band and lead singer shared the same female name and Lizzy Borden found minor success due to their image and straight-forward gimmickry. Between 1984 and 1987, the group released a prolific six albums, with the latest of these, Visual Lies, finding their greatest mainstream audience. With their inclusion in the 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II, Borden was primed to make a big splash with his next record and decided to try something ambitious and controversial.

Most of the original band was replaced, save for Borden himself and his brother, drummer Joey Scott Harges. Producer Elliot Soloman was brought in to play a major role in forging this cohesive and entertaining output, complete with well placed theatrical interludes and sound effects. Every track on the album is distinct and memorable with well-honed riffs, catchy hooks, and tasteful keyboards by Soloman. While Borden’s lyrics do touch on some dark subjects, the album never goes too far either way on the mood spectrum, making the sound constantly fresh and interesting.


Master of Disguise by Lizzy Borden
Released: July 14, 1989 (Metal Blade)
Produced by: Elliot Soloman
Recorded: Springtime Studios, January-May 1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Master of Disguise
One False Move
Love Is a Crime
Sins of the Flesh
Phantoms
Never Too Young
Be One of Us
Psychodrama
Waiting in the Wings
Roll Over and Play Dead
Under the Rose
We Got the Power
Lizzy Borden – Lead Vocals
Ronnie Jude – Guitars
David Michael Phillips – Guitars
Mike Davis – Bass
Elliot Soloman – Keyboards
Joey Scott Harges – Drums, Piano, VocalsMaster of Disguise by Lizzy Borden

 

The orchestral tune up and intro section gives way to driving guitar riffs and drum beats of “Master of Disguise”. The fine chorus slows it down to a melodic and methodical showstopper and a great Ritchie Blackmore-like guitar lead blazes through before the song starts all over with riffs and orchestration returning during the masterful outro, which really sells the theatrical element of this piece. The mood comes down a bit with the solemn “One False Move”. A doomy bass riff by Mike Davis introduces the song along with strings and a marching drum beat, many of the same elements you’d expect from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The layered vocals deliver the dark vocals very effectively in this short but effective piece that segues into the intro of “Love Is a Crime”. Starting with about a minute of television and telephone sound effects before a gently picked acoustic intro section that is disrupted by an upbeat rock arrangement during the song proper, which also uses a funky horn arrangement.

Rollicking drums introduce the upbeat “Sins of the Flesh”, a rocker which is entertaining enough but does get a little redundant as it goes along. Howling dogs and tolling bells then introduce “Phantoms” is put together like a stage overture and starts with sullen vocals and choppy piano before an ethereal synth part breaks things up until the song enters into its inevitable hard rock riff-driven body – However, this song does have a definite compositional edge not usually found in much “hair metal material”. “Never Too Young” is a ballad, delivered with melodic rock vocals, perhaps the closest thing to a true power ballad on the album, although the subject matter is far from love song material. Salomon’s piano is potent throughout, especially during the dramatic bridge before the guitar lead – Borden’s vocal harmonies are richer here than on any other track

While the second half of the album is not as potent the first, there are some highlights. “Be One of Us” actually begins with “Phantom of the Opera” intro on pipe organ before the heavy rock body of the song kicks in with a good eighties chorus hook and harmonized guitar lead by the twin newcomers of Ronnie Jude and David Michael Phillips. “Psychodrama” contains intense and haunting orchestration, which eventually builds to a massive crescendo. “Under the Rose” is a melancholy song with deeply picked acoustic notes, harmonized vocals, and deep and dark lyrics

standing in the shadows behind the scenes, understudy zero, you’ll never know it’s me…”

The rest of the album is basic eighties hard rock pomp and pump. The best of these is “Waiting in the Wings”, but the most popular was “We Got the Power”, complete with MTV video, but an unfortunate closer for this otherwise brilliant album.

Master of Disguise turned out to be the last best effort by Lizzy Borden, as the next decade brought rapid change to the musical climate. By the early ’90s, Lizzy Borden disbanded before later reforming to tour on the oldies circuit.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images

 

Great Radio Controversy by Tesla

Great Radio Controversy by Tesla

Buy Great Radio Controversy

Great Radio Controversy by TeslaThe group Tesla never quite fit within any definitive genre box, which may have ultimately prevented the Northern California band from reaching their critical or commercial potential. In the 1980s they were a “hair band” that was a few steps ahead of the norm back then. In the 1990s they were too focused and upbeat to get swept up in the “grunge” wave. In between they bridged the gap with 1989’s Great Radio Controversy, their most highly renowned album. While riddled with more than its share of eighties “heavy metal” caricature, there is material on this album with soul and musicianship which few new releases touched at that time.

Formed in 1982 and originally named City Kidd, the group renamed themselves Tesla after inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, during the recording of their first album, Mechanical Resonance. The band’s signature sound was forged by lead vocalist Jeff Keith along with guitarists Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch.

Produced by the team of Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero, The Great Radio Controversy contains mainly big-sounding production methods in line with 1980s pop-metal, but also reaches back to more authentic and earthy methods. The album was produced at Bearsville Studio outside of Woodstock, NY, a studio originally built by Bob Dylan’s manager.


Great Radio Controversy by Tesla
Released: February 1, 1989 (Geffen)
Produced by: Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero
Recorded: Bearsville Studio, New York, 1988
Track Listing Group Musicians
Hang Tough
Lady Luck
Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
Be a Man
Lazy Days, Crazy Nights
Did It for the Money
Yesterdaze Gone
Makin’ Magic
The Way It Is
Flight to Nowhere
Love Song
Paradise
Party’s Over
Jeff Keith – Lead Vocals
Frank Hannon – Guitars, Piano, Organ
Tommy Skeoch – Guitars
Brian Wheat – Bass
Troy Luccketta – Drums

Great Radio Controversy by Tesla

 

While the songs early on are somewhat standard, the album does improve as it progresses. Co-written by bassist Brian Wheat, “Hang Tough” starts with his mechanical bass pattern before the twin guitars come in for a harmonized riff and later return for a decent dual guitar solo. “Lady Luck” follows with some rich vocal harmonies before “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)” breaks in with the driving rhythm guitar of Skeoch. A simple yet rewarding song, this third is cut by bluesy breaks in between the verses.

“Be a Man” starts with a long, bluesy slide intro before the slow riffing brings the song into its proper context. The pure rocker “Lazy Days, Crazy Nights” is a notch above most tracks on the early half of the album, with a dark and determined feeling overall along with a decent vocal hook. The album continues to get stronger with “Did It for the Money”, which creatively meanders before finding its footing, which is pretty solid and strong. “Yesterdaze Gone” displays Tesla at their heaviest, almost true heavy metal in beat but firmly down in the arena rock vocally, along with a pretty wild mid section guitar lead with harmonies so rich it almost sounds like a synth envelope.

“The Way It Is” was co-written by drummer Troy Luccketta and is one of the highlights of album as well as Tesla’s career. The moody acoustic intro and verse eventually gives way to the strong yet deep choruses. The song’s bridge and outro bring the song to a whole new level sonically as repetition works well with theme and musical backing and Keith’s vocals are at their absolute zenith during “The Way It Is”.

Tesla in 1989

“Love Song” is nearly as impressive, being perhaps the best power ballad ever. This uni-directional song is driven by the beautiful guitar motifs of Hannon. Commencing with a complex acoustic intro before moving towards the joyful strummed electric riff that introduces the song proper. The song is complete and melodic to the end without a wasted note or moment. “Paradise” is another fine song that contains a sad acoustic intro to a love song with a distinctly different feel than the song titled “Love Song”. Keith’s vocals pick up the pace while the music remains low key in the mid section prior to a funk-influenced alternate section which follows. The closing track,”Party’s Over” tries to end the album with a rock anthem, but falls just a bit short.

Great Radio Controversy reached the Top 20 of the American album charts and spawned three Top 40 hits on the Mainstream Rock chart. In 1990, Tesla maintained their commercial momentum with the live Five Man Acoustical Jam before returning to the studio the following year with Psychotic Supper.

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1989 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1989 albums.