But Seriously Folks by Joe Walsh

But Seriously, Folks by Joe Walsh

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But Seriously Folks by Joe WalshJoe Walsh found his greatest solo success with But Seriously, Folks in 1978, although “solo” is used loosely here. The versatile rocker did have help from all four members of his (then) current band The Eagles as well as a prime member of his former backing group Barnstorm. In fact, some have called this “the album the Eagles should have made” because it was released at a time when the next Eagles album (eventually The Long Run) and Walsh’s leftover track “In the City” was eventually used on that band album. No matter how the credit gets dispersed, But Seriously Folks is an excellent and original album, methodically combining musical styles with top-of-the-line production techniques.

This was Walsh’s first studio album in four years after releasing three in consecutive years from 1972-1974. During that time, Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon as lead guitarist of the Eagles and recorded the blockbuster Hotel California with the band in 1976. When the band had trouble composing material for a timely follow-up, Walsh decided to do this solo album and enlisted producer Bill Szymczyk for the project.

Joining Walsh in this insightful and melodic collection is former Barnstorm drummer, keyboardist, and multi-instrumentalist Joe Vitale, who played a big part in forging the album’s song. Still, this is Walsh’s album through and through as elements from his James Gang, Barnstorm, and Eagles phases are fused with a contemporary sound to forge a truly unique collection of songs.


But Seriously, Folks by Joe Walsh
Released: May 16, 1978 (Asylum)
Produced by: Bill Szymczyk and Joe Walsh
Side One Side Two
Over and Over
Second Hand Store
Indian Summer
At the Station
Tomorrow
Inner Tube
Theme from Boat Weirdos
Life’s Been Good
Primary Musicians
Joe Walsh – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Don Felder – Guitars, Vocals
Jay Ferguson – Keyboards, Vocals
Willie Weeks – Bass
Joe Vitale – Drums, Percussion, Keyboards, Flute, Vocals

 

The opener “Over and Over” starts with measured, hat-heavy drums by Vitale accompanying Walsh’s deliberate, flanged, addictive guitar progression. When the song fully kicks in, it contains dramatic and effective riffs with melodic vocals pushed out through Walsh’s typical whine. Lyrically, Walsh takes an introspective outlook on rejuvenation, a pattern he would repeat throughout the album.

After the rock-oriented opener, the listener may be surprised by the two rather easy-listening tracks which follow. “Second Hand Store” has an Eagles-like country/waltz vibe with an acoustic backing and slide guitar by Eagle Don Felder on top, along with some piano and vocal harmonies. This all makes for a very melodic and moody song. Driven by high bass notes of Willie Weeks, “Indian Summer” is a mellow song which builds slowly and eventually, containing some orchestral instruments and the signature slide guitar of Walsh, in many ways making it the most James Gang-oriented song on the album.

Joe Walsh in1978

The first side completes with the fine “At the Station”, a true collaboration between Walsh and Vitale. This electric, upbeat and theatrical tune could easily be a theme for a film or television show. It is a mini-suite about mid-career indecision morphs from guitar riffs through an organ-led section with the drums smoking throughout to make it cohesive.

Side two begins with “Tomorrow”, almost a quintessential late seventies soft pop song laced with pleasantly strummed acoustic topped with sonically pleasing “squeezed” electric guitar and bouncy bass notes. Walsh gives way keyboardist Jay Ferguson who provides a fine organ lead which compliments the upbeat and optimistic lyrics. A couple of instrumentals fill the middle of the side. “Inner Tube” is a very short keyboard and piano piece which probably got its name from the “liquid” sounding synth that forms the backing for the piece and leads directly into “Theme from Boat Weirdos”. This semi-improvised rock jam is a collaboration among the cohesive backing band including producer Szymczyk. Although there are many fits and stops and the mood seems to constantly change from section to section, this piece still remains interesting and cohesive throughout with all kinds of instruments making cameos including several synths, clavichord, strings, synth bass and flute.

Life's Been Good by Joe Walsh singleThe finale, “Life’s Been Good” is a sarcastic ode to Walsh’s “rock star-party guy” persona and went on to become the highest charting song of his career. On this album, all roads lead to this song which is the ultimate culmination of everything on But Seriously, Folks. Put together with several semi-autonomous sections, with each section methodical yet interesting morphing from Walsh’s dominant layered guitars to a brilliant verse reggae to a mid section led by an ARP Odyssey synth. The very end of the song and album ends with a minute-long inside joke mimicking “a flock of wah wahs”. Before the release of this album, “Life’s Been Good” first appeared on the Grammy winning soundtrack to the film FM.

Walsh returned to the Eagles for their final studio album (for nearly three decades afterwards) and played a major role in recording 1979’s The Long Run. That band adopted “Life’s Been Good” during their final tour and, when Walsh ran a mock campaign for President in 1980, one of the planks of his platform was to make “Life’s Been Good” the new national anthem. After the Eagles broke up in 1980, Walsh continued his solo career with many more albums for decades to come.

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1978 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1978 albums.

 

OU812 by Van Halen

OU812 by Van Halen

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OU812 by Van HalenFollowing the success of the group’s first #1 album, 5150 (as well as the mammoth tour which followed), Van Halen scored similar success with the followed-up OU812 in 1988. These were the first two albums with lead vocalist Sammy Hagar (the “Van Hagar” era) and the first where Hagar began as a full and equal member of the group and his influence was reflected in the diversity and new direction of the music. None of the material for this album was written prior to the recording sessions at the band-owned 5150 studios and this led to a more improvised evolution to the material, resulting in OU812 being the final high quality output by the group overall.

The album also included no official production credit because the band felt there was no one who went in with a sold idea and dictated a sonic vision to everyone else. Unofficially, engineer Donn Landee and the band produced the record, which was the eighth overall for Van Halen. Work began on the album in September 1987 and continued for about seven months, with recordings taken place mere weeks before the album’s international release. While Hagar brought some elements of the band’s sound in new directions, guitarist Eddie Van Halen returned to the form of the band’s earliest work while continuing to purse keyboards as a second instrument for certain radio-friendly tracks.

The album’s unique title originated when Hagar spotted a delivery truck on the freeway with the serial number “OU812”. Finding this humorous when spoken aloud, he told the band and they decided to change the title in the 11th hour from the previously planned “Bone”, which no one really like all that much anyway.

 


OU812 by Van Halen
Released: May 24, 1988 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Donn Landee & Van Halen
Recorded: 5150 Studios, Hollywood, September 1987 – April 1988
Side One Side Two
Mine All Mine
When It’s Love
A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)
Cabo Wabo
Source of Infection
Feels So Good
Finish What Ya Started
Black and Blue
Sucker In a 3 Piece
A Apolitical Blues
Band Musicians
Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitars, Synthesizers, Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

 

The rather awkward synth rhythm of “Mine All Mine” kicks off the album. The pure-eighties-soundtrack-like vibe does contain a bit of an off-beat edge by Alex Van Halen and a good lead guitar by Eddie Van Halen, but the corny ending makes it a parody of itself. “When It’s Love” is the album’s first classic with a great long synth intro before breaking into a 1984-era Van Halen riff. Hagar’s chorus melody is the real highlight here along with an excellent closing section which builds with intensity. “When It’s Love” reached the Top 10 and was the most popular song from that album.

After the album’s weakest moment, “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)”, comes “Cabo Wabo”, which on the surface is a brochure for the Mexican resort town. That being said, this is still a pretty entertaining song with a good riff and harmonized vocals by bassist Michael Anthony. Hagar shines vocally on this extended track, came up with the song’s concept and later parlayed this into a premium tequila brand which later became a major point of contention between him and the Van Halen brothers. “Source of Infection” finishes the first side and was later dismissed by band members as a “joke song” with lyrics referring to a health scare.
 

 
Something totally unique for the band, “Feels So Good” is heavily synthesized but works its way through many interesting sections in an atypical arrangement. The unique drum beat by Alex Van Halen guides this pop song, which Hagar said was developed “Genesis style”. “Finish What Ya Started” is another one of the more unique songs in the Van Halen collection with a combination of picked electric and strummer acoustic throughout. The song was spawned on Eddie’s Malibu balcony when he jammed with Hagar with two acoustic guitars at 2:00am one morning.

“Black and Blue” contains a slow riff that is total Eddie Van Halen and raunchy lyrics inspired by groupies during the 5150 tour and became one of the most popular radio songs from the album. “Sucker In a 3 Piece” is the weakest point on the fine second side, seeming to be feeling its way through the first minute and a half, before settling on then vacuous lyrics and boilerplate melodies of the song proper. The closer “A Apolitical Blues” was originally recorded by Little Feat and written by Lowell George. This is pure blues, complete with piano and two bluesy guitars and was one of the rare covers during Hagar’s stint with the band.

OU812 was the second of four consecutive number one albums by Van Halen with Sammy Hagar at the helm, stretching into the mid 1990s.

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1988 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1988 albums.

 

...And Justice for All by Metallica

…And Justice for All by Metallica

...And Justice for All by MetallicaMetallica brought their fusion of progressive thrash metal into the mainstream with the double LP …And Justice for All in 1988. The album was nominated for a Grammy and has been certified eight times platinum, selling eight million copies in the United States alone. The band’s fourth album overall, …And Justice for All, was the first to feature bassist Jason Newsted after former bassist Cliff Burton lost his life in a tour bus accident in 1986. The album was the first of a lucrative record deal and was intended to be released in 1987. However, Metallica was offered several lucrative festival dates that summer, which ultimately delayed the album’s release for another year.

Co-produced by Flemming Rasmussen, the album is noted for a rather sterile production. Newsted’s bass guitar is all but omitted from most mixes, which were actually engineered by guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. Rasmussen did work on adjusting the overall guitar sound of Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammet, using layered techniques to achieve a harmonized sound which contrasted the thumping rhythms and riffs of the core.

The album gained near universal critical acclaim, especially within the progressive metal community. The dark lyrics drawn from subjects of struggle and strife, giving …And Justice for All a conceptual uniformity around notions of political and legal injustice. The tracks on the album were much longer in length than previous Metallica material, which actually caused much of the material to be dropped from future live shows due to their length and complexity.

 


…And Justice for All by Metallica
Released: September 6, 1988 (Elecktra)
Produced by: Flemming Rasmussen & Metallica
Recorded: One On One Recording Studios, Los Angeles, January–May 1988
Side One Side Two
Blackened
…And Justice for All
Eye of the Beholder
One
Side Three Side Four
The Shortest Straw
Harvester of Sorrow
The Frayed Ends of Sanity
To Live Is to Die
Dyers Eve
Band Musicians
James Hetfield – Lead Vocals, Guitars  |  Kirk Hammet – Lead Guitars
Jason Newsted – Bass  |  Lars Ulrich – Drums

 

A chorus of guitars swells to introduce “Blackened”, which treats the listener to a spectrum of rudiments and sudden stops to change into the song’s differing sections. Hammet provides a good guitar lead on both sides of a divide while Newsted receives composition credit on a track where he cannot be heard. The title song “…And Justice for All” follows with a gentle guitar intro, sounding Randy Rhoads inspired with some overdubs. Soon the group fires off into the main thrash metal riff sequence and works through the long and complex arrangement which includes Hammet’s two distinct sounding different guitar leads. Hetfield took the title from the last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance and uses the lyric as an ironic reflection on social injustice. “Eye of the Beholder” rolls in like a marching army, with the verse sounding a bit like some of the group’s future 1990s material.

“One” is the song that really put Metallica on the mainstream map. The simple and light intro and verses are fresh with plenty of guitar overdubs and melodic vocals, all leading to the standard but powerful metal riff during the song’s final sequence. The song became Metallica’s first Top 40 hit despite the fact that it received virtually no airplay of pop radio. However, the band did shoot a promotional MTV video (for the first time ever) which integrated some footage and dialogue from the 1971 film Johnny Got His Gun, which was the inspiration for the song in the first place.

The double LP’s third original side contains some less potent tracks. “The Shortest Straw” starts with a cool, deadened, almost-Zeppelin riff during the intro but retreats into typical Metallica during the rest of the song. Although it was the lead single from the album, “Harvester of Sorrow” is really kind of repetitive and mundane, while “The Frayed Ends of Sanity” contains an interesting intro riff before the nearly-eight-minute song falls into a repetitive pattern, making it way too long for lack of changes.

However, the album does finish on a strong note on its fourth and final side. The extended instrumental “To Live Is to Die” starts with acoustic fade-in and drums somewhat off in background before being interrupted by the stabbing rhythm of the second section. Overall, this nearly 10-minute piece is interesting with good overdubbed leads and a nice break in the middle with only a flanged guitar before it kicks back into a full arrangement. Burton posthumously received co-writing credit as the bass line was composed prior to his death and the spoken words towards the end of the song were written by Burton. “Dyers Eve” finishes the album with super speed drumming of Ulrich and some extraordinarily sharp rudiments. The group never lets up in this closer as if to try and squeeze every last bit of blood out of the final track of the album, which ends abruptly.

…And Justice for All was Metallica’s most complex, ambitious work ever and a surprise commercial success, reaching number six on the Billboard charts. While it is still regarded a quarter century later, fans and critics lament the odd mixing decisions, which leave some potent compositions tarnished with a half-spectrum sound.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1988 albums.

1988 Images

 

Frontiers by Journey

Frontiers by Journey

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Frontiers by JourneyAlthough not quite the commercial blockbuster of their previous album Escape, Journey‘s 1983 album Frontiers was a very close second commercially. The album reached #2 on the US charts, would garner four Top 40 singles and has been certified platinum six times over. The album also became the band’s most successful in the UK. The band was led by the unique and soulful vocals of front-man Steve Perry and the effect-heavy soaring guitars of Neil Schon, who had discovered how to fully crack the commercial scene with a sound which was once considered quite edgy.

Musically on Frontiers, the band made a concerted effort to move away from (albeit very slightly) the consistent, commercial formula which they had forged over their recent previous albums. However, they may have chosen the wrong direction in which to deviate from the pop/rock sound, primarily by making this album more synth-heavy than anything previously. Although he had emerged as the band’s chief songwriter, Jonathan Cain has a bit over the overall vibe with his keyboard work, and it caused some missed opportunities with the album’s sound. Further, bassist Ross Valory abandoned his unique, fret-less buzz which he had mastered on Escape for a more traditional rhythm sound. This would be Valory’s final album with Journey for over a decade, as he and drummer Steve Smith were replaced in 1985, only to return for the Journey mid-nineties reunion a decade later.

Left out of the final cut of the album was the future hit “Only the Young”, which eventually appeared on the soundtrack to the 1985 film Vision Quest and reached the Top Ten. This song is dominated by a consistent, almost-acoustic riff, a strong rhythm, guitar textures and vocal melodies along with with a striking message – “only the young can say they’re free to fly away…” – which shows just how talented Journey can be when all the elements are maximized.

 


Frontiers by Journey
Released: February 22, 1983 (Columbia)
Produced by: Kevin Elson & Mike Stone
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, Ca. Autumn 1982
Side One Side Two
Separate Ways
Send Her My Love
Chain Reaction
After the Fall
Faithfully
Edge of the Blade
Troubled Child
Back Talk
Frontiers
Rubicon
Band Musicians
Steve Perry – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – Guitars, Vocals
Jonathon Cain – Piano, Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
Ross Valory – Bass, Vocals
Steve Smith – Drums, Percussion

 

Sequentially, the album is quite out of balance, with all five songs from the original first side released as singles (and all becoming radio hits), while none of the five from side two received any significant radio play. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” starts things off, with Cain’s keyboard riff biting and eerie, like if Pink Floyd went pop. This couples with Schon’s rifle-sharp guitar track during the song proper to make for a very powerful and driving rhythm. Written in early 1982, “Separate Ways” is the oldest composition on the album and it peaked at #8 on the charts, making it the highest charting hit on the album. The calm “Send Her My Love” follows as the album’s first ballad. The song is built on a bluesy piano riff which is accented brilliantly by subtle guitar licks and some swelling sonic textures from all directions. Perry’s melody is left to carry the tune pretty much throughout until it breaks into more intense outro led by Schon’s lead guitar.

The middle of side one contains a couple of strong rockers. “Chain Reaction” is kind of boilerplate on the surface but is executed brilliantly by the band, giving it a unique edge. The rich vocal harmonies above this most guitar and riff heavy of tracks, gives it an air that it could have been an eighties hair metal classic if performed by the right group. “After the Fall” is a true pop gem, very rich and melodic throughout. This song is led by Perry’s vocals, which are at their absolute peak here, and brought out perfectly by the rest of band playing a reserved, supporting role. In between the vocals, the guitar and keyboard harmonized riff acts as a perfect counter-melody and “After the Fall” is one of the few tracks on the album where Valory’s bass is clear and up-front. The real highlight of the song is the commencement of third verse, which demonstrates how pure performance can overtake lack of fresh lyrics.
 

 
The first side concludes with “Faithfully”, the all-time, ultimate “power ballad”. While very slow and deliberate, the song packs a mighty punch, especially as it builds towards a perfect climax at the end. Written solely by Cain, the “rolling” piano riff was inspired by the sound of wheels constantly present while traveling on tour, with the simple lyrical message of keeping a relationship together while touring in a rock band. While the song is totally Cain’s in composition, the performance is carried mainly by Perry and Schon and this hit song reached #12 on the charts.

Journey 1983

The second side is much less even than the first. “Edge of the Blade” sounds like it falls about ten minutes short of the hour, in both composition and production. While there are some good individual elements to this song, as a whole it doesn’t work at the quality we expect from Journey. “Troubled Child” is a bit better, although built on rather cheesy synths (which otherwise might have been some good riffing). The song has a dark and soulful core and is a bit off-beat, which makes it interesting. Drummer Smith added a strong enough drum pattern to take a songwriting credit for “Back Talk”, a song which takes an almost-Van-Halen-like approach musically and sounds like it would fit in perfectly with some type of theatre production lyrically. The title song “Frontiers” is the weakest song on the album and may be as close to filler as you’ll hear on a Journey album.

Make a move across the Rubicon, futures knockin’ at your door
Take your time and choose the road you want, opportunity is yours

The closer “Rubicon” is the only true gem on the second side. Musically choppy and moody but lyrically inspired (this could have been a theme for a Rocky film), the song possesses a great theme and concept which, even while very synth heavy, makes it feel like a true rock anthem which could have existed in many eras.

At the top of their commercial game after the success of Frontiers, Journey made a common mistake – they took too much time off and got lost from the musical scene. Perry did put out a very successful solo album called Street Talk in 1984, and the band released a songs for Soundtrack albums (including “Only the Young”) during that time period. But by the time the band returned for their next studio album, Raised on Radio in 1986 (without Valory and Smith), it was clear that the golden age of the band was over.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

 

Shout at the Devil by Motley Crue

Shout at the Devil by Mötley Crüe

Shout at the Devil by Motley CrueShout at the Devil is the point where Mötley Crüe‘s musical range widened and the perfect template for “hair metal” was forged for the coming years. Coming nearly two full years after their fine but raw debut , Too Fast for Love, it is clear that the band had fully embraced a Judas Priest style of metal with just a bit of seventies glam rock for full effect in the MTV age. This is also the album where bassist Nikki Sixx fully arrived as a composer, writing hook-heavy anthems that strike adolescents in the heart. Through its title and theme, the album also fully embraces the occult and other dark themes, almost to the point of absolute absurdity.

Much like on the debut album, the guitar work of Mick Mars continues to be the real musical highlight on Shout at the Devil. Mars offers some dirty, crunching, and powerful riffs throughout, while adding a nice variation of melodic leads with varying techniques and sonic flavors. These intense and inspired guitar solos greatly enhance the compositions and bring the album overall to a higher level.

Of course, a little controversy never hurt a rock album’s sales. The original album cover was pure black with a pentagram but was soon replaced due to strong objections by religious groups. Then to just tweak the negative hysteria over the top, the group chose the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” as the only cover on the album. This choice appears to be solely as a homage to Charles Manson and his group, whose bio carried the same name. Still, aside from messing with the mystique, this song does translate surprisingly well to Mötley Crüe’s style.

 


Shout at the Devil by Mötley Crüe
Released: September 26, 1983 (Elecktra)
Produced by: Tom Werman
Recorded: Cherokee Studios, Hollywood, May-July 1983
Side One Side Two
In the Beginning
Shout at the Devil
Looks That Kill
Bastard
God Bless the Children of the Beast
Helter Skelter
Red Hot
Too Young to Fall in Love
Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid
Ten Seconds to Love
Danger
Band Musicians
Vince Neil – Lead Vocals
Mick Mars – Guitars
Nikki Sixx – Bass, Vocals
Tommy Lee – Drums, Vocals

 

Engineer Geoff Workman composed the haunting “In the Beginning” which acts as an intro piece for the title song “Shout at the Devil”. The great rudimentary stops during the verses topped by the frantic vocals of Vince Neil give this otherwise chanting and fist pumping anthem a definite edge.

“Looks That Kill” is the closest to a true classic on the album. Released as a single and peaking at #12 on the Mainstream Rock charts, the song was Mötley Crüe’s first true widespread exposure, due mainly to its heavily rotated video. The song is an early album showcase for Mars, who uses inventive riffing and wailing leads to forge a song that remains an all-time fan favorite.
 

 
“Bastard” starts with an awkward drum sequence by Tommy Lee before settling into a hard-rock groove which alternates between the measured verses and driving choruses. Mars’s delicate “God Bless the Children of the Beast” is an acoustic piece with a melodic chorus of electric guitars on top that was no doubt inspired by Steve Hackett and/or Randy Rhoads and acts as an intro to “Helter Skelter” to complete side one.

The second side begins with “Red Hot”, driven by the thumping rhythm of Lee and Sixx, before the pop rocker “Too Young To Fall in Love” with strong vocal melodies and hook which are perfect for what the band was doing at the time, making it a strong radio hit. The middle of the side contains a few boilerplate numbers, “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid” and “Ten Seconds to Love”, both co-written by Neil and Sixx and combined acting as the only true filler on Shout at the Devil.

Motley Crue in 1983

What pushes this album over the top is the strong closing track “Danger”, which is the finest pure song on the album. Melodramatic but beautiful, the song contains a variety of guitar textures by Mars along with passionate and wailing vocals by Neil and great drum fills by Lee, making it a very complete band effort and a showcase for their talent at the time. “Danger” is moody and strong, and almost sounds like a holdover of some of the finer material from their first album.

Shout at the Devil sold well (reaching 4x platinum in sales) and acted as a catalyst to propel Mötley Crüe to becoming the top selling heavy metal act of the 1980s. It was also a visible landmark of the high-water mark for the style of rock which would be copied into extinction within a decade of its release.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

 

August and Everything After by Counting Crows

August and Everything After by Counting Crows

Buy August and Everything After

August and Everything After by Counting CrowsOne of the more impressive debuts of 1993, August and Everything After by Counting Crows fuses lyrically rich ballads with such long forgotten sonic treasures as the Hammond B-3 organ, the accordion, and the straight-forward strummed acoustic guitar. Led by singer/songwriter Adam Duritz, the Northern California-based group put most of their efforts into live performances which results in this debut effort having a natural, non-contrived feel throughout. Still, most of the songs on this album contain strong hooks and memorable melodies, making for a solid collection of songs which assured that this debut album would be the band’s most successful ever.

The roots of Counting Crows began as an acoustic duo made up of Duritz and guitarist David Bryson starting in 1991, around Berkeley and San Francisco. As the duo gained popularity, other Bay Area musicians would join them on stage, with some signing on as permanent members of this emerging “band”. Several demo tapes using various backing musicians were produced through 1991 and 1992, containing most of the material which would later become August and Everything After.

By the beginning of 1993, the band had grown to include a stable five-piece lineup and was soon signed to Geffen Records. On January 16, 1993, the still relatively unknown band made their national debut when they filled in for Van Morrison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. Duritz’s vocal and songwriting style has often been compared to Morrison’s, and on this occasion, the band did a cover of his song “Caravan”.


August and Everything After by Counting Crows
Released: September 14, 1993 (Geffen)
Produced by: T Bone Burnett
Recorded: Los Angeles, 1993
Track Listing Band Musicians
Round Here
Omaha
Mr. Jones
Perfect Blue Buildings
Anna Begins
Time and Time Again
Rain King
Sullivan Street
Ghost Train
Raining in Baltimore
A Murder of One
Adam Duritz – Lead vocals, Piano, Harmonica
David Bryson – Guitars, Vocals
Charlie Gillingham – Keyboards, Accordion
Matt Malley – Bass, Vocals
Steve Bowman – Drums, Vocals

August and Everything After

Starting off the album is “Round Here”, which dates back to before the formation of Counting Crows when Duritz was with a band called the Himalayans. The rock version of the song was originally recorded by the group and members Dan Jewett, Chris Roldan and Dave Janusko all receive co-writing credits. On this August and Everything After version, Bryson’s poignant, picked guitar notes set the original melancholy and theatrical scene, as the song migrates through many sections of differing intensity, including a brief funk section, before dissolving back where it began. “Omaha” follows with some bright accordion by keyboardist Charlie Gillingham highlighting this relatively upbeat and bouncy folk song.

“Mr. Jones” is, by far, the most popular song by the band through their career. A straightforward musical riff decorated by dynamic vocal parts and rich lyrics in the style of Van Morrison, the song reached the top of the pop charts in early 1994. The song has its roots in the basic struggle to “make it” as a rock musician and was the major influence in Jonathan Pontell coining the later era Baby Boomers “Generation Jones”.

Driven by a choppy but effect drum beat by Steve Bowman, “Anna Begins” builds into a very pleasant and melodic listen with stream-of-consciousness lyrics which are at once intense yet relaxed and a great harmonized counter-melody towards the end. “Time and Time Again” is a slow ballad in the realm of latter-era Rolling Stones and contains a great presence of Hammond organ by Gillingham and bouncy bass by Matt Malley. “Perfect Blue Buildings” is another rhythm-driven song by Malley and Bowman, although kind of thin lyrically. But what this song lacks in substance, it makes up for in great ambiance.

The most upbeat song on the album is “Rain King”, a song about optimism and possibilities. It contains great blend of guitars by Bryson and mandolin by guest David Immerglück, a similar sound to that used by the Badlees on their Diamonds In the Coal album a year earlier. Duritz explained the song’s meaning;

“I can remember being eight years old and having infinite possibilities. But life ends up being so much less that we thought it would be when we were kids, with relationships that are so empty and stupid and brutal…”

The moody “Sullivan Street” with its slowly strummed, twangy guitar blended with some great topical piano is great ode to lost love. “Raining in Baltimore” is perhaps the most Springsteen-esque song led by the solo piano and vocals by Duritz. Rounding out the album is “A Murder of One”, co-written by Malley who provides some great bass up front in the mix to compliment Bryson’s heavy use of sustained guitars and later guitar textures. This closer acts as the default theme song for the band with the recital of a traditional British rhyme about “counting crows”.

August and Everything After sold over seven million copies and brought instant fame and international attention to Counting Crows. But like many groups, this fame had a downside and the band went through some turbulent times which led to the departure of Bowman and a widely-publicized nervous breakdown by Duritz. Although the band was mostly dormant for the entire year of 1995, they did return with their strongly anticipated second album, Recovering the Satellites in late 1996.

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1993 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1993 albums.

The Captain and Me by The Doobie Brothers

The Captain and Me
by The Doobie Brothers

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The Captain and Me by The Doobie BrothersThe Captain and Me is the third album by The Doobie Brothers on which they combine their trademark funk with just a touch of California folk and country-rock. Combined, this distinctive yet diverse record was their most substantial and consistent of their early years, offering differing sonic textures and enjoyable tunes for an overall fulfilling listen. The album is bookmarked by several songs from guitarist and vocalist Tom Johnston, including the album’s biggest hits and the title song which combine funk and rock with just a taste of traditional blues. In between and some contrasting, folk-oriented songs by guitarist/keyboardist Patrick Simmons, which contain unique instrumental passages.

The group was formed in 1969 by Johnston and drummer John Hartman in Northern California. Simmons joined a year later along with bassist Tiran Porter and gained a strong following among local chapters of the Hells Angels. In 1971, the band signed with Warner Brothers and released their self-titled debut album to little commercial success. Later that year the band added a second drummer/percussionist Michael Hossack, completing the classic band lineup. The Doobies second album, Toulouse Street in 1972, fared much better on the strength of a couple of hit songs.

Warner put pressure on the band to move quickly on producing their third album along with producer Ted Templeman. They began reworking old tunes and improvisational pieces that they played live. The label did help out with the album artwork, providing 19th century garments and the horse-drawn stagecoach from the Warner Brothers film studios lot.


The Captain and Me by The Doobie Brothers
Released: March 2, 1973 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Ted Templeman
Recorded: Warner Brothers Studios, Hollywood, 1972-1973
Side One Side Two
Natural Thing
Long Train Runnin’
China Grove
Dark Eyed Cajun Woman
Clear As the Driven Snow
Without You
South City Midnight Lady
Evil Woman
Busted Down O’Connelly Corners
Ukiah
The Captain and Me
Band Musicians
Tom Johnston – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Patrick Simmons – Guitars, Keys, Vocals
Tiran Porter – Bass, Vocals
John Hartman – Drums, Vocals
Michael Hossack – Drums, Percussion

“Natural Thing”, a decent melodic rocker with a funky flanged guitar and good harmonies, starts off the album. The song is notable for its synthesized horn effects, which were put together by programmers Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff who overdubbed individual notes to create the chords. Johnston’s “Long Train Runnin'” evolved from a long-time, ad-libbed jam called “Rosie Pig Moseley”. Templeman convinced Johnston to write words to the pure funk song, which also includes a distinctive harmonica solo by Johnston and a heavy presence by the dual percussionists. “Long Train Runnin'” became the band’s first Top Ten single.

Another charting hit was “China Grove”, one of the catchiest rock songs of the band’s career, built on a simple but effective riff along with exquisite production. Although the song’s title is based on a real town in Texas, the story is largely a fictional, with lyric’s again added by Johnston to an instrumental track titled “Parliament”. “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman” takes a different approach, much darker than previous material. It is blue-eyed blues with good guitar licks, electric piano, and strings – almost Van Morrison in its feel.

“Clear As the Driven Snow” is Simmons first contribution to the album, a bright and acoustic folk song in the manner of John Denver, save for the fact that it morphs into a decent jam towards the end while never leaving the signature acoustic riff. Simmons also wrote “South City Midnight Lady”, an almost country acoustic ballad, which adds a serene, almost romantic element to the album. Pedal steel guitar is provided by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, then of Steely Dan, who would later become an official member of the Doobie Brothers. “Evil Woman” is probably the weakest song on the album, an unfocused and under-produced song which could have went somewhere had it been better developed.

The album’s closing sequence begins with “Busted Down Around O’Connelly Corners”, a short acoustic piece by James Earl Luft which into segues into “Ukiah”, a tribute to a small town in Northern California where the band frequently played in their early years. The song has a Chicago-style upbeat with driven bass by Porter and great lead guitar interludes. “Ukiah” acts as bridge song to title song finale, an acoustic Tune which trys to give the album a bit of a “concept” feel. Still, the song contains soaring guitars and harmonies which concludes the album on a high note.

In all, The Captain and Me is a potpourri of sonic phrases which best symbolizes the heart of the early Doobie Brothers sound. Although the band would achieve greater commercial success later in the decade, it was with a different sound and mainly different lineup.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

The Eagles debut album

The Eagles

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The Eagles debut albumThe Eagles produced an impressive, diverse, and sonically superior debut album in 1972, launching a successful elevation throughout the rest of the decade. The album was produced in London by Glyn Johns and was an immediate commercial and critical success. The album is extraordinarily balanced with all four band members writing and singing lead vocals on several tracks, with a mixture of rock, folk, and country, throughout musically. The sound was forged from the budding country-rock scene in Los Angeles, led by groups such as Poco, adding instruments like banjo and pedal steel guitar to the basic rock arrangement. Leading the way in forging this sound was guitarist Bernie Leadon.

Prior to forming the group, the band members all acted as backup players for singer Linda Ronstadt and all four played on her eponymous album, released in 1972. Leadon, along with bassist Randy Meisner, guitarist Glen Frey, and drummer Don Henley, decided to break off and start their band and were soon signed to the new label Asylum Records. The band’s name was allegedly suggested by Leadon during a peyote trip in the Mohave desert.

Despite their rapid formation and quick recording of this debut, it is amazingly polished and has a remarkable level of pop sensibility. The Eagles spawned three top 40 hit singles, all which remain very popular to this day, while much of the rest of the album contains well-constructed songs with incredible vocal harmonies by all four band members.


The Eagles by The Eagles
Released: June 17, 1972 (Asylum)
Produced by: Glyn Johns
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, February 1972
Side One Side Two
Take It Easy
Witchy Woman
Chug All Night
Most Of Us Are sad
Nightingale
Train Leaves Here This Morning
Take the Devil
Early Bird
Peaceful Easy Feeling
Tryin’
Band Musicians
Glen Frey – Guitars, Keys, Vocals
Bernie Leadon – Guitars, Banjo, Vocals
Randy Meisner – Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Don Henley – Drums, Vocals

The album begins with the popular “Take It Easy”, a song written by Frey and fellow L.A. songwriter Jackson Browne. A relatively simple anthem with memorable and clever lyrics, the song possesses a definitive country/rock arrangement accented by Leadon’s frantic banjo in the second half of the tune. There are rich harmonies throughout, establishing another later trademark of the band’s on this first single which peaked at #12 on the charts.

The moody and mysterious “Witchy Woman” follows in great contrast to the opening song. Henley took over vocals on this tune he co-wrote with Leadon, and showcases his fantastic vocal talents for the only time on this album. Leadon adds to the mood with his great guitar on this tune that he began while a member of the band Flying Burrito Brothers at the beginning of the 1970s. The song’s protagonist was inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and inspiration for many of his female literary characters.

The remainder of the first side contains the only real weak spots on the album. Frey’s “Chug All Night” is pretty much a throwaway song, the worst on the album. The country-waltz “Most of Us Are Sad” was also written by Frey, but sang by Meisner, while “Nightingale” is more upbeat country / folk. This last song on side one is the second contribution by Jackson Browne and has the quintessential early 1970s California sound with more great harmonies during choruses.

The Eagles 1972

Side two is much more interesting. It starts with “Train Leaves Here This Morning”, co-written by Leaden and former Byrd Gene Clark. This is a great, laid back tune, much like Neil Young’s title song to Harvest, but with the added bonus of very rich vocals. The subtle acoustic is accented by calm electric slow riffs, which shows the definite Byrds influence. “Take the Devil” was composed and sang by Meisner and is almost like a dark twin to “Witchy Woman”, although it is clear that Meisner does not have the vocal range of Henley. “Earlybird” gets off to a very unique start with odd percussion and bird whistles. This Leadon tune has a heavy banjo presence throughout (almost as an arpeggio replacement for the bass) along with the inclusion of some wild guitars over top.

“Peaceful Easy Feeling” is a calm acoustic love song composed by L.A, singer/songwriter Jack Tempchin and delivered masterfully by Frey. The country-flavored ballad set in the desert (an image the Eagles ran with on their earliest material) became the third top 40 hit off the album, peaking at #22. The album concludes with Meisner’s upbeat “Tryin” which returns to the genre established on the first side that would one day be deemed “outlaw country”.

The three “hits” from The Eagles album comprised about a third of the 1976 compilation Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, which became the top-selling album of the 20th century. Although this is a fantastic feat, it conversely dampened sales of the Eagles first four studio albums, the best of which was this 1972 debut.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.

Appetite for Destruction by Guns n Roses

Appetite For Destruction by Guns n Roses

Buy Appetite For Destruction

Appetite for Destruction by Guns n Roses Guns n’ Roses arrived like a tsunami on the rock scene with their strong 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction, a hard rock album which blew the glam out of the hair-band dominated scene. Amazingly, the album was well received in its day both critically and commercially (a rarity for hard rock bands), and it reached the top of the Billboard album chart. At the time, this debut album was considered Hardcore, dirty, and mean due to the nasty edge of their songs and the explicit lyrics about drug abuse, cheap women, and crime. It was also created during their own  fountainhead of creativity. During this period in late 1986, the band would write much of the best material of their entire career, not only for this album, but for hit future albums as well.

Guns n’ Roses was formed from the remnants of three Los Angeles area bands that had moderate success in the early 1980s. Two of these, L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose, would be morphed to give the new band their name. The third, Road Crew, provided the band with their rhythm section along with their dynamic guitarist Slash. In late 1986, the band recorded an ill-conceived EP named Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, which was actually recorded in a studio with overdubbed crowd noises. For their debut LP, the band shopped for a big name producer before settling on Mike Clink, who spent untold hours with Slash perfecting his guitar tone, which would be a signature of this album and compliment the more traditional riffs of fellow guitarist Izzy Stradlin.

Lead vocalist Axl Rose wrote many of the song lyrics about his first hand accounts of his journey to and struggles in L.A, depicting the ugly side of the “city of angels”. Among this group of songs were later hits “You Could Be Mine”, “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry”, which were actually omitted from Appetite for Destruction. The band took great pains in forging their image for this album from the album cover representing each member to the re-labeling of the albums sides “G” and “R”.
  


Appetite For Destruction by Guns n Roses
Released: July 21, 1987 (Geffen)
Produced by: Mike Clink
Recorded: Los Angles, August−December 1986
Side One Side Two
Welcome To the Jungle
It’s So Easy
Night Train
Out Ta Get Me
Mr. Brownstone
Paradise City
My Michelle
Think About You
Sweet Child O Mine
You’re Crazy
Anything Goes
Rocket Queen
Group Musicians
Axl Rose – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Slash – Lead Guitars
Izzy Stradlin – Guitars, Vocals
Duff McKagan – Bass
Steve Adler – Drums

 

Appetite for Destruction is boosted right away with the fantastic opener “Welcome To the Jungle”. This strong, multi-part song contains a crisp and fast riff which guides the listener on an adventure ride through the chaotic “jungle” of this song. Rose screams and chants in-between more melodic and harmonized lines with raw honesty that helped make this song a surprising radio hit.

Much of the rest of the first side is made up of short, thematic songs “It’s So Easy” was co-written by bassist Duff McKagan and band collaborator West Arkeen about finding groupies to support them during their leaner days. “Night Train” has a vibe like early Aerosmith and became a minor hit, while “Out Ta Get Me” is more anthemic and trite with lyrics that reflect on Rose’s constant trouble with the law as a youth in Indiana.

Guns N Roses

“Mr. Brownstone” is the best pure song on the side, with choppy, marching rhythm leading into the darkness of heroin abuse. It acts as a stark contrast to the following “Paradise City”, with a synth-driven intro and a chanting hook line. This song was written by Stradlin, McKagan, and Slash while riding in the back of a van on the way home from a gig.
  

  
The second side contains the top gem on the album, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. The song became the band’s first and only number-one single due to highly, accessible mass appeal lyrics written about Rose’s then girlfriend. But the true beauty of this song is the signature harmonized guitar riffs by Slash, which both nicely subdivide the verses and spare the song from the dreaded “power ballad” status (although, if ever there was a positive example of that term, it is here). On the back end, drummer Steve Adler drove the song through the many passages that make it so interesting.

“My Michelle” is a forgotten gem on the album, with a great intro that breaks out with all abandonment and the dark and memorable opening lyrics;

Your daddy works in porno, now that mommy’s not around
She used to love her heroin but now she’s underground…”

“You’re Crazy” was originally written as an acoustic song, re-arranged as a standard electric rock song for this album, and then later recorded as another acoustic for the 1988 EP G N’ R Lies. The album concludes with a couple of the band’s earliest songs. “Anything Goes” was written in 1981 for Hollywood Rose, while “Rocket Queen” was one of the first compositions by the newly formed Guns n Roses in 1985.

Appetite For Destruction instantly established Guns n Roses as a headlining band and gave them momentum well into the next decade. Although they would have subsequent albums, most especially the double release of Use Your Illusion I amp; II in 1991, this band would never again reach this level of importance and breakthrough originality.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums.

 

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood MacTango In the Night is the fifth and final studio album by successful quintet that brought sustained stardom for Fleetwood Mac. Like their previous four albums, it found popular success driven by the angst and inner turmoil of the band and resulted in the parting of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham soon after its release. The album went on to become the band’s best selling since Rumours a decade earlier, which was one of the top selling albums of all time. Somewhat ironically, the album sprang from a Buckingham solo project, meant to be his third solo album, and the soon-to-depart Buckingham ended up with the bulk of the songwriting credits on the album.

Following the band’s previous album Mirage in 1982, most members dedicated some time to respective solo careers. Vocalist Stevie Nicks released two albums, while Buckingham and Keyboardist Christine McVie each released one during this era. All met a measure of commercial success, which prompted rumours of a band breakup.

However, by 1985 the band had reconvened for this new album, with Buckingham and Richard Dashut co-producing. Together, they forged a unique sound that used just the right amount of 1980s-style synthesizers along with vast use of diverse rhythms, driven by drummer Mick Fleetwood. The result was a commercially successful album that was also distinct from anything the band had produced previously.
 


Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac
Released: April 13, 1987 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Lindsey Buckingham & Richard Dashut
Recorded: November 1985 – March 1987
Side One Side Two
Big Love
Seven Wonders
Everywhere
Caroline
Tango In the Night
Mystified
Little Lies
Family Man
Welcome to the Room…Sara
Isn’t It Midnight
When I See You Again
You and I (Part 2)
Band Musicians
Lindsey Buckingham – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Christine McVie – Keyboards, Vocals  |  Stevie Nicks – Vocals
John McVie – Bass | Mick Fleetwood – Drums, Percussion

 
The album kicks off with Buckingham’s “Big Love” with its unique driving rhythms and decorated cool soundscapes. The intense, shouting lead vocals are flanked by overdubbed guitars and vocals harmonies and chants throughout. Nicks’ “Seven Wonders” provides an immediate contrast to follow. Co-written by Sandy Stewart, the song was an immediate pop radio hit. Christine McVie’s “Everywhere” completes the initial circuit of pop songs in the style that McVie had composed so often through the 1970s and 1980s. It is decorated with great vocals and harmonies, nice keyboard riffs, and just a touch of mystical sound sequences.

A trifecta of Buckingham penned songs rounds off the first side. “Caroline” is percussion driven with African beats at the start before morphing into a more Caribbean rhythm for the verses and choruses. The title song, “Tango In the Night” is a moody, methodical rocker with distinctive sections. “Mystified” was co-written by Christine McVie and contains Baroque style keys over yet another drum beat.
 

 
“Little Lies” was written by Christine McVie and her current husband Eddy Quintela. Ironically, she kept the surname of her previous husband, bass player John McVie, who has a strong presence in the song. The song contains great vocal parts for each of the band’s singers along with bent-note keyboard effects for its signature riff. The song reached #4 on the Billboard charts in the US and #5 on the UK charts.
The ill-advised “Family Man” follows as a cartoonish 1980s pop caricature.

Stevie Nicks’ “Welcome to the Room…Sara” is a pleasant and moderate ballad with a strong beat but melancholy sentiments about her time in rehab. Her acoustic ballad “When I See You Again” contains a spare arrangement and some duet Buckingham vocals towards the end. “You and I, Part II” concludes the album as a sequel to a non-album B-side to the single “Big Love”.

Shortly after the release of Tango In the Night, tensions came to a head and Buckingham departed the band prior to their scheduled tour in support of the album. Although this classic lineup of Buckingham/Nicks/Fleetwood/McVie/McVie would reunite a decade later for the live album The Dance in 1997, they would not again record a studio album.

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R.A.