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.

 

1988 Album of the Year

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1
by Traveling Wilburys

Buy Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

1988 Album of the Year

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1“Super Groups” were commonplace during the seventies and eighties, often causing much hype which was rarely surpassed by the music itself. But in the case of the Traveling Wilburys, by far the most “super” of any super group, the resulting music was downright brilliant. Their debut Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 displays an incredible array of three decades of pop and rock elements wrapped in concise tunes penned and performed by some of the biggest legends in the business. The group and album were not initially planned and came together through a serendipitous series of coincidences and the fantastic music they produced together easily makes Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for 1988.

It all started in Los Angeles in Spring 1988 when George Harrison was looking to record B-side material for a vinyl 12-inch European single. Jeff Lynne, who co-produced Harrison’s most recent album Cloud Nine was also in Los Angeles at the time. Lynne was producing some music for Roy Orbison as well as the debut solo album, Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty. Lynne was able to enlist both artists to help out Harrison, who was in a huge hurry to record his material. The final piece of the Traveling Wilbury puzzle was Bob Dylan, who had built a home studio in nearby Malibu and agreed to let the makeshift group record the very next day. On that day, the legendary musicians wrote and recorded the song “Handle with Care” in about five hours. The experience was so positive that all five agreed to form a group and reconvened a month later to record the other nine tracks on what would become Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. Here the magic continued as the group wrote and recorded on acoustic guitars. With a limited amount of time before Dylan headed out on a scheduled tour, the five singers in the group often took turns at songs until Harrison (as group arbiter) selected the best “lead” voice for each part. The final phase was Harrison and Lynne returning to England for final overdubs and production. Here Harrison added some electric and lead guitars, Lynne added keyboards and bass, Jim Keltner was brought in on drums.

Although it is generally agreed that Harrison was the group’s leader, they did work hard to maintain a collective image and even set up fictional names for each member masquerading as the “Wilbury” brothers – Nelson (Harrison), Otis (Lynne), Lucky (Dylan), Lefty (Orbison), and Charlie T. Jr. (Petty) with Keltner given the humorous “outsider” name “Buster Sidebury”. All group members also got songwriting credits on the album, although the publishing credits were disbursed according to the actual songwriter. The Wilbury name originated from Harrison and Lynne previously working together as a pseudonym for slight recording errors (“we’ll bury ’em in the mix”).


Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 by Traveling Wilburys
Released: October 18, 1988 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Jeff Lynne and George Harrison
Recorded: Lucky Studios and Dave Stewart Studios, Los Angeles and FPSHOT, London, April–May 1988
Side One Side Two
Handle with Care
Dirty World
Rattled
Last Night
Not Alone Anymore
Congratulations
Heading for the Light
Margarita
Tweeter and the Monkey Man
End of the Line
Band Musicians
George Harrison – Guitars, Vocals
Bob Dylan – Guitars, Harmonica, Vocals
Jeff Lynne – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Roy Orbison – Guitars, Vocals
Tom Petty – Guitars, Vocals
Jim Keltner – Drums

 

The ringing guitars of “Handle with Care”, the original Wilbury song, starts things off. Harrison, the primary composer, delivers deliberate vocalizing during the verses which gives way to Orbison’s smooth crooning during the choruses. Dylan and Petty deliver a chanting post-chorus and two instances of Harrison’s classic guitar along with a short Dylan harmonica lead make the song a true classic in just about every way. Within its brief three and a half minutes the song is dotted with decades of rock history, making this the perfect track to introduce the album. While not every song on the album wraps itself so well as “Handle with Care”, there is not a truly weak moment on the album.
 

 
On “Dirty World” Dylan’s rough lead vocals are complimented by smooth backing vocals and a bright acoustic arrangement. The song also contains some horns and an interesting arrangement all around. This song was a particularly enjoyable one for the band to record as each member took a turn singing in the “round” during the extended outro. Jeff Lynne’s “Rattled” is pure rockabilly led by Orbinson on vocals, almost like a lost early Elvis song. Lynne’s bass and Harrison’s lead guitar shine musically and the actual “rattle” in the song is drummer Keltner tapping the refrigerator grill with his drum sticks.

“Last Night” contains Caribbean elements with some percussion and horns and Petty singing during verse and Orbinson during the bridges. The whimsical, storytelling song has a great aura and feel throughout. Petty did the core composing with each group member contributing to the songwriting approach. The verses has an upbeat folk/Latin feel with the bridge being a bit more dramatic. The first side completes with “Not Alone Any More”, a vocal centerpiece for Orbison. His vocals smoothly lead a modern version of early sixties rock and Lynne’s keyboards add more decoration than any other song on the first side. If “Not Alone Anymore” is in the clouds, the second side opener “Congratulations” is right down at ground level. This tavern style ballad with Dylan on lead vocals sounds much like his late 70s / early 80s era material, with blues-like reverences to broken relationships, and includes a very short but great lead guitar by Harrison right at the end.

The up-tempo “Heading for the Light” is a quintessential Harrison/Lynne production, with the former Beatle composing and singing and the former ELO front man providing the lush production and orchestration. The song contains great picked guitar fills as well as a saxophone solo by Jim Horn. “Margarita” may be the oddest song on the album but is still a great sonic pleasure. It begins with a programmed eighties synth line then the long intro slowly works its way into a Latin acoustic section topped by horns, lead guitar, and rich vocal harmonies. It is not until a minute and a half in that Petty’s lead vocals come in for a single verse then the song works its ways through various short sections towards an encapsulated synth ending. This spontaneous composition with free-association lyrics showed with a group of this talent could do on the spot.

“Tweeter and the Monkey Man” is Bob Dylan channeling Bruce Springsteen and coming out with what may have been one of the best Springsteen songs ever (even though he had nothing to do with it). This extended song with the traditional Dylan style of oodles of verses and a theatrical chorus includes several references to Springsteen songs throughout and is in Springsteen’s home state of New Jersey. It may have been Dylan’s delayed response to the press repeatedly coining Bruce “the next Dylan”. No matter what the case, the result is an excellent tune with lyrics rich enough to base a book or movie.
 

 
The most perfect album closer to any album – ever, “End of the Line” contains a Johnny Cash-like train rhythm beneathe deeply philosophical lyrics, delivered in a light and upbeat fashion. Harrison, Lynne, Orbinson, and Harrison again provide the lead vocals during the chorus hooks while Petty does the intervening verses. The song revisits the classic music themes of survival and return with the universal message that, in the big picture, it all ends someday. The feeling of band unity is also strongest here with the folksy pop/rock chords and great harmonies. The music video for “End of the Line” was filmed after Roy Orbison’s death in December 1988, mere weeks after the album’s release, and paid tasteful respect with a shot of a guitar sitting in a rocking chair during the verse which Orbison sang.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 sold over two million copies within its first six months, a figure which made this album a higher seller than any of Bob Dylan’s albums to that date. The album was critically favored and won a Grammy award in 1990. The surviving members of the group reconvened for a second album, which fell far short of capturing the magic of this debut and a long-planned tour by the group never materialized, although members continued to collaborate on each other’s albums for years to come. The incredible magic that came together in 1988 is yet to repeated anywhere in the rock universe.

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1988 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1988 albums and our album of the year for 1988.

 

Melissa Etheridge debut album

Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge debut albumIn 1988, Melissa Etheridge released a strong and passionate debut album which was built during several years of grinding out recognition, one small venue at a time. With this well earned pedigree behind her and a drive and determination for success ahead, Etheridge found a rather unique niche and filled a rather huge void in the popular music scene of the late 1980s. Her raw-throated vocals, confessional compositions, and simple yet effective acoustic-built music totally contrasted the flash and fluff which saturated the conventional airwaves and this stunning debut helped clear the path for the seismic shift in the music scene which would occur a few years later.

A native of Leavenworth, Kansas,  Etheridge began performing at age eight and was involved in many stage productions through high school. She later moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music, but dropped out to pursue a musical career in California. There, she played countless acoustic gigs, slowly building a following and muddling through several rejections until finally receiving a publishing deal to write songs for movies starting with the 1987 movie Weeds starring Nick Nolte. Shortly after, Etheridge got a full record deal with Island Records.

The album was produced by Etheridge and Niko Bolas along with a couple members of the backing band. The songs were built in the light of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, along with a sensitive female bravado and passionate delivery which is captured well in the production. While there is little thematical variation on Melissa Etheridge, it is a very even album which delivers potent tracks throughout.

 


Melissa Etheridge by Melissa Etheridge
Released: May 2, 1988 (Island)
Produced by: Melissa Etheridge, Niko Bolas, Craig Krampf, & Kevin McCormick
Recorded: October 19–25, 1987
Side One Side Two
Similar Features
Chrome Plated Heart
Like the Way I Do
Precious Pain
Don’t You Need
The Late September Dogs
Occasionally
Watching You
Bring Me Some Water
I Want You
Primary Musicians
Melissa Etheridge – Lead Vocals, Guitars  |  Johnny Lee Schell – Guitars
Kevin McCormick – Bass  |  Wally Badarou – Keyboards  |  Craig Krampf – Drums, Percussion

 

The album begins with the fine “Similar Features” which kicks off with measured bass notes before moving into a moderate arrangement led by Etheridge’s acoustic and the subtle electric guitar phrases by Johnny Lee Schell. “Chrome Plated Heart” arrives with a boogie-blues rhythm held together by the kick drum of Craig Krampf along with a slight riff by Schell. Here Etheridge really shines through vocally with biting lyrics;

I got a two dollar stare, Midas in my touch and Delilah in my hair
I got bad intentions on the soles of my shoes with this red hot fever and these chromium blues

A production masterpiece, “Like the Way I Do” has a consistently strummed acoustic accented by a sharp, double-beat rhythm by bassist Kevin McCormick during the verse. The song uses an ingenious, minimalist approach, which pretty much went against the grain of every production technique of the late eighties and is a good example of the of Etheridge’s early material with dramatic vocals telling a story of heartbreak and longing bordering on obsession. As the singer once explained, her songs are not so much about sadness and anger then they are written about “internal conflicts”.

The middle part of the album contains some uniquely arranged songs. “Precious Pain” is a softer, folksy acoustic tune musically (albeit the lyrics are just as sharp as anywhere else). The first three songs of the second side – “The Late September Dogs”, “Occasionally”, and “Watching You” – all use minimalist arrangements, with “Occasionally” taking this to the extreme with Etheridge’s vocals accompanied only by a slight percussive thumping of the acoustic guitar body.

The song which captures the overall angst of the album is “Bring Me Some Water”, a tune as dramatic as can be pulled off while staying within the realm of good taste. Nominated for a Grammy, the tune captures the main theme of hunger for affection and pain of unrequited love. Melissa’s obsession with romantic break-ups and recriminations may narrow the range of the album, but make this work sound relevant and viable a quarter century later. The thumping rhythm and bit of funky bass drives the closer “I Want You”, a fine tune of unbridled desire to complete the album.

The Melissa Etheridge album peaked at #22 on the Billboard charts and initiated her steady rise to the top of the pop world in the early 1990s, when Etheridge started to abandon her musical pursuits for celebrity causes. Never quite recreated in intensity or quality, this first album was a career highlight for the singer/songwriter.

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

1988 Images

 

Lap of Luxury by Cheap Trick

Lap of Luxury by Cheap Trick

Lap of Luxury by Cheap TrickLap of Luxury was, by most definitions, a comeback album for Cheap Trick, although it didn’t quite reach the blockbuster status that the band and their label were attempting to achieve. In many ways it is a very ordinary album for the late 1980s due the use of several “song doctors” who composed mainstream, radio-friendly material. Still, there is something which is at once desperate and exciting about this band’s sound and, in particular, the wailing croon of vocalist Rob Zander. Combined with the unambiguous guitar textures of Rick Nielsen, there is a definite edge to this band’s sound which shined through in spite of the attempts to smooth it out with mainstream compositions.

The group’s tenth studio album overall, Lap of Luxury was produced by Richie Zito and broke a streak of five straight commercial disappointments through the early and mid eighties, despite the fact that the band used top level producers on those albums including George Martin, Todd Rundgren, Roy Thomas Baker and Jack Douglas. Due to the band’s commercial decline, Epic Records demanded that they collaborate with professional songwriters in the same way that Aerosmith had done for their commercial comeback Permanent Vacation the previous year. This did result in the album reaching the Top 20 and spawning the group’s first and only number one single.

Lap of Luxury back cover

Lap of Luxury back cover

The album also marks the return of bassist Tom Petersson, who is often credited for having the first idea to build a twelve-string bass. Petersson had left the band in 1980 and returned in 1987 to join drummer Bun E. Carlos in the rhythm section and restore the original quartet from the 1970s. The group also brought back the practice of featuring Zander and Petersson on the front cover while putting Nielson and Carlos on the back, which they had done on three late seventies albums as an inside joke.

 


Lap of Luxury by Cheap Trick
Released: April 12, 1988 (Epic)
Produced by: Richie Zito
Recorded: 1987-1988
Side One Side Two
Let Go
No Mercy
The Flame
Space
Never Had a Lot to Lose
Don’t Be Cruel
Wrong Side of Love
All We Need Is a Dream
Ghost Town
All Wound Up
Band Musicians
Robin Zander – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Rick Nielson – Guitars, Vocals
Tom Petersson – Bass, Vocals
Bun E. Carlos – Drums, Percussion

Prior to Lap of Luxury, Rick Nielsen was the group’s chief songwriter but he only co-wrote four tunes on this album. The record starts off with, “Let Go”, which contains a thumping rhythm, simple but strong riffs and anthem-shout lyrics – the type of material on which the band traditionally excels. The song was co-written by Todd Cerney who co-wrote songs with Eddie Money, Loverboy and Bad English. The song was released as a single and peaked at #35 on the Mainstream Rock chart. “No Mercy” contains exotic percussion with much use of rhythms and synths during the verse while again going for the big hit sound during the choruses.

A great acoustic riff provides the bedding for “The Flame”, a power ballad which drips with melancholy reflection. This excessively deep song compliments the band’s traditional light fare of songs such as “She’s Tight” on One on One with Zander’s dramatic sobs and Nielson’s guitar and keyboard soundscapes. The song was penned by British songwriters Bob Mitchell and Nick Graham and the band initially rejected it and had to be persuaded to record it by Zito. It went on to become the band’s first and only number one hit.

Holly Knight composed hundreds of songs for scores of artists throughout the eighties and nineties, but one of her most forgettable is Cheap Trick’s “Space”, the album’s most definitive filler. “Never Had a Lot to Lose” is an interesting end to side one mainly due to the old-time rock riff by Nielson and the song’s overall new wave vibe. This is a pure band original and shows that Cheap Trick really excels when sticking to their own material.
 

 
A rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” starts side two with a great arrangement that is not so much a remake as a modern day recreation of the classic song. Led by the precise drumming of Carlos, Cheap Trick’s version of this song reached #4 on the charts and became a radio staple. “Wrong Side of Love” is the closest the band comes to a boilerplate “hair band” sound with squeezed out, mechanical riffs and formulaic lyrical patterns. “All We Need Is a Dream” contains high register vocals reminiscent of the seventies band Sweet. Melodramatic but entertaining, the song contains vocal pauses which seem awkward at first but ultimately work with the overall vibe.

The album ends strong with a couple of quality tunes. “Ghost Town” is second ballad of the album, slightly acoustic with a touch of piano. It was co-written by Grammy award winner Diane Warren, who would go on to write some of the most famous soundtrack ballads of the 1990s. On the closer “All Wound Up”, the band returns to their early sound with sharp riffing by Neilson and some great bass by Petersson.

Busted was released in 1990 and was also produced by Richie Zito, as the band attempted to capitalize on the success of Lap of Luxury. This time, however, the band was allowed more creative control and professional songwriters were only used on a handful of songs. The first single “Can’t Stop Falling Into Love” reached No. 12 on the charts but failed to reach as high as the label expected. The second single, the Diane Warren penned “Wherever Would I Be,” suffered a worse fate reaching only No. 50. The following singles, “If You Need Me” and “Back N’ Blue” were not successful, although the later single reached No. 32 on the US Mainstream Rock charts.

Cheap Trick rode the momentum of Lap of Luxury and the success of their 1991 Greatest Hits release to sustain their popularity through the rest of the decade. The four members of the group remained together through various big name and independent label arrangements until 2010 when Bun E. Carlos departed the group, three and a half decades after the band first formed.

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

1988 Images

 

Classic Rock Review 1993 Album of the Year

Tuesday Night Music Club by Sheryl Crow

Classic Rock Review 1993 Album of the Year

Buy Tuesday Night Music Club

Tuesday Night Music Club by Sheryl CrowSheryl Crow‘s official debut was at once brilliant and controversial. In fact, the title Tuesday Night Music Club comes from the assembled studio group who composed and recorded the album together with Crow at the forefront and guitarist Bill Bottrell as producer. However, only Crow was signed to the big record deal and she soon inflamed the situation by not stating accurate songwriting facts in post-fame interviews, a practice that was publicly denounced by Bottrell and other group members. Still, it is hard to dispute that the music is original, entertaining, and interesting and this is the criteria we use when selecting our Classic Rock Review Album of the Year.

Crow was a former music teacher from Missouri, who started gigging with bands on the weekends. She also began recording jingles at a local studio and her voice was featured in many national commercials in the late 1980s. She later toured with Michael Jackson as a backup vocalist during his world tour 1987-1989 and got several session gigs as a backup singer with several established artists such as Stevie Wonder, Belinda Carlisle and Don Henley. Crow was signed to A&M and attempted a debut album in 1992, but convinced the label not to release the album because she was dissatisfied with the result.

While Crow was dating Multi-instrumentalist Kevin Gilbert, she began jamming with his ad hoc group of composers known as the “Tuesday Music Club” at Ricketts’ studio. This rapidly developed into a vehicle for Crow’s next attempt at a debut album. After the release and success of the album, Crow’s relationship with Gilbert and the rest of the group became acrimonious due to disputes about songwriting credits, of which Crow was given a disproportionate share of royalties. Kevin Gilbert was killed in 1996, which pretty much cemented the rift between Crow and the rest of the Tuesday Night Music Club.


Tuesday Night Music Club by Sheryl Crow
Released: August 3, 1993 (A&M)
Produced by: Bill Bottrell
Recorded: Los Angeles, 1992-1993
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Run Baby Run
Leaving Las Vegas
Strong Enough
Can’t Cry Anymore
Solidify
The Na-Na Song
No One Said It Would Be Easy
What I can Do For You
All I Wanna Do
We Do What We Can
I Shall Believe
Sheryl Crow – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Dave Baerwald – Guitars
Bill Bottrell – Guitars
Kevin Gilbert – Keyboards, Guitars
Dan Schwartz – Bass
Brian MacLeod – Drums

Tuesday Night Music Club by Sheryl Crow

The album begins with the soulful and steady “Run, Baby, Run”, a unique opener opener of revival blues that never picks up the pace and never really made much waves when it was released as the lead singer. Still, it sets up the following “Leaving Las Vegas” finely. Co-written by guitarist David Baerwald who borrowed the title from a book written by his friend John O’Brien, “Leaving Las Vegas” is the first track to contain the unique percussive effect, featured throughout the album. With a slow riff throughout played in different instrumental variations and topped by strummed acoustic and dynamic vocals, the song became a minor hit but indelible landmark on this album. However, this song also had its share of controversy as Crow stated that the song was “autobiographical” during an appearance on the David Letterman Show, which infuriated Baerwald and the rest of the group, especially when O’Brien committed suicide soon after.

Two other songs early in the album went on to have chart success. “Strong Enough” is a very melodic and moody acoustic folk song with a potpourri of great ethnic instrumentation including organ, mandolin, and accordion. The song charted at No. 5 on the Billboard charts. “Can’t Cry Anymore” is built on the choppy strumming by Bottrell and strong chorus and bridge hooks by Crow. This Top 40 tune also has some well placed, subtle lead guitar riffs throughout.

The biggest hit on the album and the song which brought Tuesday Night Music Club widespread attention is “All I Wanna Do”. The lyrics are based on the poem “Fun” by Wyn Cooper from his 1987 book The Country of Here Below. Musically, the song is dominated Gilbert’s bouncy bass and the pedal steel by Bottrell which gives the song a sonic vibe somewhere between “Stuck In the Middle With You” and “The Rain Song” (both from 1973). The song reached number two on the charts and was the winner of the 1995 Grammy Record of the Year.

“Solidify” is an attempt at funk/disco, not all that terrible, but definitely a tangent song. “No One Said It Would Be Easy” borrows from the sound Neil Young put for the on Harvest Moon (the Classic Rock Review album of the year from the previous year, 1992), with a very calm and deliberate, almost too slow approach and dreamy lead guitar. and the emotional charge Crows invests in a song about trying to salvage a troubled relationship. Baerwald’s “What I Can Do For You” is a decent slow rocker containing a thumping rhythm by bassist Dan Schwartz and high-register vocals by Crow during the choruses.

The album does contain a few weak spots, with the nadir being the rap filler “The Na-Na Song”. “We Do What We Can” is a nightclub cabaret blues with cheap electronic drums keeping a simple, slow rock beat. The album does end strong with “I Shall Believe”, which uses its title cleverly to work into an unusual perspective. It continues the “Strong Enough” theme of “don’t give up on me” and contains a restrained and laid back lead by Bottrell.

Tuesday Night Music Club went on to sell more than 7 million copies worldwide and won three Grammy awards in 1995. Although it launched a highly successful career for Sheryl Crow, she never again quite found the band chemistry as with the ad hoc group who met in Bottrell’s studio on Tuesday nights.

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1993 Images

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

Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins

Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins

Buy Siamese Dream

Siamese Dream by Smashing PumpkinsBuilding on the surprise success of their debut album Gish, the Smashing Pumpkins matured their blend of dream pop, heavy metal, and progressive rock on Siamese Dream, a blockbuster album which eventually sold over six million worldwide. Co-produced by Butch Vig and the group’s leader and primary composer Billy Corgan, the album has high level production for early nineties alternative rock, which intentionally aimed for loose arrangements and a raw, basic sound. The producers goals were to create a work with great sonic depth and layered sounds built the “old fashioned” way using multiple overdubs and sonic harmonies.

Despite the successful end result, the actual making of this record was quite tumultuous. The band was upgraded from Caroline Records to the parent Virgin Records and high expectations for this this sophomore record put immense pressure on the band. Further complicating things was a severe heroin addiction by drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, which was the motivating factor for the band relocating to Triclops Studios in Marietta, Georgia for the album sessions, so they could Chamberlin off from his known drug connections. Corgan took on ever-increasing roles in the studio, often overdubbing or re-recording tracks by his band mates if he felt he can improve on them.

Executives from Virgin began to grow impatient with the album’s recording as it went over budget and became behind schedule and even came to the studio to observe the band after hearing about their problems. This move only served to put more stress on Corgan, who would not let the company cut corners if it meant compromising the sound. Eventually the album came in about $250,000 over budget and by the time recording was completed, Corgan and Vig were too exhausted to continue and employed engineer Alan Moulder to mix the album.


Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins
Released: July 27, 1993 (Virgin)
Produced by: Butch Vig & Billy Corgan
Recorded: Triclops Sound Studios in Marietta, GA, December 1992-March 1993
Track Listing Band Musicians
Cherub Rock
Quiet
Today
Hummer
Rocket
Disarm
Soma
Geek USA
Mayonaise
Spaceboy
Silverfuck
Sweet Sweet
Luna
Billy Corgan – Lead Vocals, Guitars
James Iha – Guitars, Vocals
D’arcy Wretzky – Bass, Vocals
Jimmy Chamberlin – Drums
 
Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins

A couple of short drum rolls give a false beginning before the “Cherub Rock” builds in an ever-intensifying one minute intro. The several vocal styles by Corgan are displayed immediately with the good alternative hook “Let me out!” being the most indelible moment in the song. Like several tracks on this album, “Cherub Rock” was recorded by Corgan and Chamberlin alone. “Quiet” follows with a classic metal-like revolving riff. However, the song never really gets to any satisfactory destination.

“Today” was the first song written by Corgan for Siamese Dream. Beginning with quiet picked notes which give way to full-fledged grunge riff topped by a catchy and melodic melody. While topically upbeat, the song contains dark lyrics which Corgan wrote the song about a day in which he was having suicidal thoughts, supplying great contrast between the grim subject matter and bouncy tune which brought the band popularity through widespread radio airplay. “Hummer” contains an opening montage constructed by noise-heavy sound effects which later gives way to a calmer bass by D’arcy Wretzky and great guitar textures throughout, although the song does kind of lose steam about halfway through its seven minute duration. “Rocket” is almost a dance song with its steady and methodical rhythms, making it the fourth and final single from the album.

The most acclaimed song on the album is “Disarm”, an acoustic song with heavy string and “bell” effects which make for a very moody, melodic and theatrical feel throughout. Unlike many of the songs on Siamese Dream, which are lengthy and tend to wear out their welcome, “Disarm” is short at barely over three minutes. Despite being banned by the BBC, the song peaked at number 11 on the UK singles chart. “Soma” was co-written by guitarist James Iha and is very quiet and restrained until it breaks into a heavier version of the same emo theme for effect. The song contains about 40 overdubbed guitar parts, demonstrating the meticulous production techniques. Chamberlin gets much acclaim for his performance in “Geek U.S.A.” with a heavy drum roll and heavy metal riff. The song is a reworked version of an earlier song by the band entitled “Suicide Kiss”.

The latter part of the album is less even and less heralded. “Mayonaise” is another collaboration between Corgan and Iha and begins with a strummed electric and some lightly-bluesy, unplugged little riffs before once again progressing to the heavy riffs. Almost romantic in its approach, the song has a decent melody and garnered considerable radio play despite not being released as a single. “Spaceboy” is an acoustic, Bowie-esque song with heavy mellotron added by Corgan, who wrote the song as a tribute to his autistic half-brother. “Silverfuck” contains some sonic textures but the melodies and overall vocals are kind of weak. “Sweet Sweet” is a 12-string ballad arranged like a Scottish folk song but with the distinctive Corgan vocals leading to the the calm and decent closer “Luna” which is almost upbeat in tone, ending the album in a whole different place than it was played out on throughout its duration.

Siamese Dream earned The Smashing Pumpkins their first Grammy nominations in 1994 and established the band as a top level act in the ever-popular alternative genre which had yet to peak.

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1993 Images

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

Billion Dollar Babies by Alice Cooper Band

Billion Dollar Babies by Alice Cooper Band

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Billion Dollar Babies by Alice Cooper BandThe Alice Cooper Band reached their commercial peak with 1973’s Billion Dollar Babies. This sixth Alice Cooper album, produced by Bob Ezrin, refined some of the basic rock grit of earlier work with the theatrical glam of the now famous (or infamous) live shows. The album’s title derives from the surprise the band felt about their massive success following their two 1971 albums and 1972’s School’s Out. They literally went from living together in a basement to one of the top rock acts in two years. The band’s leader Alice Cooper wrote the bulk of the album’s lyrics, some of which touched on very controversial subjects for shock value.

The album was first recorded at a mansion the band purchased called the “Galecie Estate” in Greenwich, Connecticut. Ezrin used various methods to achieve certain effects, including using a greenhouse with a marble floor as an echo chamber. The group completed the album at Morgan Studios in London, where the sessions became “party central” with many famous guests such as Harry Nilsson, Rich Grech, Marc Bolan, and Keith Moon stopping in, but all were too inebriated to contribute musically. Band guitarist Glen Buxton also struggled with substance abuse at the time and two session guitarists were needed to be brought in to finish his parts.

After the album was released, the band embarked on a massive tour that included 64 concerts in 59 cities in less than three months, which broke many U.S. box office records. These live performances featured Cooper doing skits that included tearing apart baby dolls and attacking mannequins while using several stage props and effects which required a crew of 40 to 50 people and used about 1 tons of equipment. This stagecraft all came with a cost as the tour, originally estimated to bring in $20 million, barely cleared $5 million.

 


Billion Dollar Babies by Alice Cooper Band
Released: February 25, 1973 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Bob Ezrin
Recorded: The Galecie Estate, Greenwich, CT, August 1972-January 1973
Side One Side Two
Hello Hooray
Raped and Freezin’
Elected
Billion Dollar Babies
Unfinished Sweet
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Generation Landslide
Sick Things
Mary Ann
I Love the Dead
Band Musicians
Alice Cooper – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Michael Bruce – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Glen Buxton – Lead Guitars
Dennis Dunaway – Bass, Vocals Guitars
Neal Smith – Drums

Although the majority of the music on Billion Dollar Babies was composed by guitarist/keyboardist Michael Bruce, the opener “Hello Hooray” was written by singer/songwriter Rolf Kempf and was actually originally recorded by Judy Collins. This is a true show tune with soaring vocal melodies, a Bowie-esque rock arrangement, and a climatic coda section, which truly separates Alice Cooper from any of his shock rock successors like Marilyn Manson. “Raped and Freezin'” is an upbeat rock song with a temperament much lighter than the lyrical content. The lyrics tell of someone chased through the desert in Mexico and the arrangement attempts a Mexican-flavored end section, but fall just a bit short.

The sparse lyrics of “Elected” are nicely supplemented by energetic and entertaining music. This effect-laden song is actually a remake of an earlier band track called “Reflected” and the lyrics take the form of a campaign speech. Drummer Neal Smith provides stomping drum beats and Ezrin adds a cinematic touch with brass arrangements that complement the well crafted guitar riffs. The title song “Billion Dollar Babies” is riff driven and keeps Cooper keep his hard rock cred with guest Donovan providing background vocals. “Unfinished Sweet” contains some strong sound effects with the simple guitar riffs and vocals which mimic the primary riff along with a movie-like middle section with many more effects.

The second side begins with the satirical “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, a clever story song about the sheer outrage over Cooper’s stage antics. The music is upbeat and melodic with singalong chorus and a doo wop-tinged backing. The song was a Top 40 hit in the U.S. and Top 10 hit in the U.K. The album peaks with “Generation Landslide”, a unique gem which starts with blue-grassy acoustic riff before switching to a drum-marched infused verse with a throbbing bass line by Dennis Dunaway. Although not released as a single, the song became a live staple and fan favorite throughout Cooper’s career.

The rest of the album is dedicated to pure theatrics. “Sick Things” is a doomy and melodramatic tune dedicated to the band’s fan base with strong horn arrangements by Ezrin above a simple bass line. “Mary Ann” is a rare ballad where Bruce’s distant-sounding pianos offer sharp contrast to Cooper’s near-sounding vocals. “I Love the Dead” is, the most controversial song of Cooper’s career to that point with an overt theme that unabashedly promotes necrophilia. Although it was no doubt manufactured just for this shock effect, it may be a bit much for those who cherish some sliver of taste in rock and roll.

Billion Dollar Babies reached the top of the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic and would be the peak of the Alice Cooper Group. But just when it appeared like this hard rock band was about to step into the top echelon, tensions between the members led to a split after just one more album, Muscle of Love. Alice Cooper continued as a solo artist for decades to come while Bruce, Dunaway, and Smith went on to form a new group which took its name from this album, Billion Dollar Babies.

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1973 Images

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

Innervisions by Stevie Wonder

Innervisions by Stevie Wonder

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Innervisions by Stevie WonderInnervisions is an album themed on social issues, drugs, spirituality, and urban life by Stevie Wonder in 1973. Wonder did virtually everything on this album from songwriting to producing to playing the vast majority of the album’s instruments and it may have been an attempt to replicate Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1971 What’s Going On album. Innervisions achieved similar artistic and commercial results to that previous album with the added dimension of musical innovation. Wonder put all the different topics and themes into a striking vision (or “Innervision”) which would be one of the most effective and entertaining of Wonder’s long career.

Although he was only 23 years old at the time of its release, Innervisions was already Wonder’s 16th studio album, all on Motown’s Tamla label. However, it was the first on which he composed every song and virtually played every instrument. He made heavy use of the ARP synthesizer, which was popular at the time because of its ability to construct a full sound environment. Many considered this album to be the pinnacle of Wonder’s long career. As one reviewer put it at the time;

“Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions is a beautiful fusion of the lyric and the didactic, telling us about the blind world that Stevie inhabits with a depth of musical insight that is awesome…”

The album peaked at number four on the U.S. album charts and became Stevie Wonder’s first album ever to reach the U.K. Top 10. It also won the 1974 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.


Innervisions by Stevie Wonder
Released: August 3, 1973 (Tamla)
Produced by: Stevie Wonder
Recorded: The Record Plant, Los Angeles, 1973
Side One Side Two
Too High
Visions
Living for the City
Golden Lady
Higher Ground
Jesus Children of America
All in Love Is Fair
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing
He’s Misstra Know-It-All
Principle Musician
Stevie Wonder – Most instrumentation including:
Lead and Backing Vocals, Piano, Synthesizers, Harmonica, Drums and Percussion

The album’s first side begins with the pre-disco funk of “Too High”, where Wonder shows off his instrumental skills on Fender Rhodes, harmonica, synthesized bass, and especially drumming (a talent he rarely receives credit for). “Visions” is one song in which Wonder doesn’t completely dominate. Acoustic guitars are provided by Dean Parks with refrained electric by David “T” Walker and upright double bass by Malcolm Cecil . Despite the arrangement being extremely sparse, Wonder still manages to forge some great vocal melodies.

“Living for the City” is a cinematic composition of civic injustice with great musical drive and interesting interludes with synth riffs. The lyrics are delivered with an exaggerated growl for effect and a dramatic spoken part describes the life of a young man who migrates from Mississippi to New York City, only to be tricked into transporting drugs, arrested, and sentenced to 10 years in jail. Wonder intentionally got his voice very hoarse for the recording. “Golden Lady” is a mellow ballad with a funky bass above a jazzy piano. It is a great way to complete side one, with judicious but effective use of synthesizers and a Hammond organ lead by Clarence Bell.

Side two starts with “Higher Ground”, a “peoples” song dominated by the Hohner clavinet with a Mu-tron III envelope filter pedal. This tune is completely performed by Wonder and reached #4 on the U.S. pop chart. Reportedly, he wrote and recorded the song all within a three-hour burst of creativity in May 1973. The weakest part of the album follows with “Jesus Children of America” and “All in Love Is Fair”, not terrible songs, but certainly not Wonder’s best.

The very Latin influenced “Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing” is the lightest and most fun song on the album, with great vocal dynamics and inventiveness. Beginning with an unusual skit (which would proliferate decades later on hip-hop songs), this piano-led tune about a faux hero repeats the Spanish phrase ‘Todo ‘stá bien chévere’ which means “everything is really cool” and reached the Top 20 on the U.S. charts. Another charting hit, “He’s Misstra Know-It-All” finishes the album with Wonder once again playing all instrumentation, including multiple backing vocals. The song had a second charting life in 1977, when it was released on the B-side of “Sir Duke” and tells the story of a con man.

Three days after the release of Innervisions, Wonder was critically injured in a car accident in North Carolina. His head injuries placed him in a coma for four days and he permanently lost his sense of smell. As he recovered, Wonder was deeply concerned that he might have also lost his musical faculty and was hesitant to even attempt to play the clavinet that was brought to his hospital room. Finally he played and his spirit quickly returned and his recovery accelerated as Stevie Wonder continued into the prime of his creative career.

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1973 Images

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

The Lonesome Jubilee by John Mellancamp

The Lonesome Jubilee
by John Mellencamp

The Lonesome Jubilee by John MellancampThe Lonesome Jubilee is the ninth album by singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, who released many genres of music dating back to his days as “Johnny Cougar” in the mid 1970s. On this album, Mellencamp made a concerted effort to include rootsy, Americana instrumentation to complement the folk/rock style he had perfected through the 1980s. Unlike any previous album by Mellencamp, The Lonesome Jubilee was planned out in advance and was originally slated to be a double album. However, Mellancamp decided about half the songs he’d written didn’t fit the overall concept so they were shelved and the album was cut back to a single record.

Following his previous album, Scarecrow in 1985 which mainly celebrated roots rock, Mellencamp and his band went on an extensive tour which helped them jive well as a band. With this new album, they a very distinct vision of what they wanted it to sound like from the beginning, with much expansion musically and the addition of fiddle, accordions, richer background vocals, banjos, and more acoustic arrangements in the tradition of folk and country.

The album was also the first to be recorded at Mellencamp’s Indiana recording studio named Belmont Mall, built in 1984. It was co-produced by Don Gehman. Recording took about a “school year”, starting in September 1986 and finishing up in June 1987.


The Lonesome Jubilee by John Mellencamp
Released: August 24, 1987 (Merury)
Produced by:John Mellencamp & Don Gehman
Recorded: Belmont Mall Studio in Belmont, IN, September 1986–June 1987
Side One Side Two
Paper in Fire
Down and Out In Paradise
Check It Out
The Real Life
Cherry Bomb
We Are the People
Empty Hands
Hard Times for an Honest Man
Hotdogs and Hamburgers
Rooty Toot Toot
Primary Musicians
John Mellancamp – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Mike Wanchic – Guitars, Dobro
Larry Crane – Guitars, Mandolin, Harmonica
Tony Myers – Bass, Banjo
John Cascella – Keyboards, Accordion
Kenny Aronoff – Drums & Percussion

This album was one of Mellencamp’s most commercially successful worldwide, charting in ten countries. This was due to two top ten and one top twenty charting songs, starting with the opener “Paper In Fire”, an intense yet catchy song with good lyrical analogies and plenty of teaser riffs from the instrumentation being used on the album. This is followed by “Down and Out in Paradise”, a basic folk-like bitch fest from the perspective of the down-trodden above a decent rock arrangement.

“Check It Out” is the best song on the album with a unique chorus structure and features John Cascella on accordion, front and center with strong rhythm backing throughout, especially by drummer Kenny Aronoff. “The Real Life” may be the closest song on the album to the early eighties folk/rock which brought Mellencamp to stardom in the first place, especially on his 1982 breakthrough American Fool.

Fiddle player Lisa Germano shines on the album’s biggest hit “Cherry Bomb” on which she also provides vocals. Germano would become a permanent part of Mellencamp’s band until the mid 1990s. The song itself follows a nostalgic trip back into the past in the “my how times have changed” strain.

The second side starts with the dark acoustic “We Are the People”, which gives a nod to the tradition of Woody Guthrie, lead by the unique blend of chords of Mike Wanchic and banjo finger-picking by Tony Myers. “Empty Hands” was co-written by George Michael Green, a childhood friend of Mellencamp’s who collaborated with him throughout his career. “Hard Times For an Honest Man” is loosely dedicate to John’s Uncle Joe, who died of cancer around the time of the album. The album’s closer “Rooty Toot Toot” is an upbeat alt-country song that became a minor charting hit.

The Lonesome Jubilee may be Mellencamp’s strongest album, song for song and solidified his signature sound of Midwestern folk in the rock n roll era. Although he continued to have commercial success for many subsequent years, this 1987 album marked the peak of Mellencamp’s career.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1987 albums.


Grave Dancers Union by Soul Asylum

Grave Dancers Union by Soul Asylum

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Grave Dancers Union by Soul AsylumOne of the hardest working bands of the late 1980s, Soul Asylum finally broke though in 1992 with Grave Dancers Union. Made up of well-composed three and four minute songs, the album contains an amazing amount of genre diversity as well as tidbits of experimentation without every elongating any one section or theme unnecessarily. Each song stands out in its own way, with no two sounding completely alike. There are very few weak, filler-level tracks, while the standouts are very strong. While the album is brilliant musically throughout, it does fluctuate lyrically between deep, poetic lyrics and some which are cheap and trite. But that being said, this is one of the best albums of 1992 and it nicely straddles the line between the predominant genre of the day, alternative, and many other sub-genres of rock n’ roll.

This is officially the sixth studio album by the Minneapolis quintet, preceded by three independent releases in 1986 and two more on the A&M label – Clam Dip & Other Delights in 1989, And the Horse They Rode In On in 1990. The band also toured relentlessly during these years while forging their sound from its early punk roots to the modern alternative with many other elements thrown in. However they a hard time breaking beyond a regional act and, due to weak sales from these latter two albums, the band was dropped from the A&M label. In the early 1990s, the band re-formed as an unplugged, acoustic act, which caught the attention of Columbia Records and led to this initial album for that label.

The album marks the emergence of vocalist/guitarist Dave Pirner as the true “front man” for the group, a role he was hesitant to embrace in the past but a key role in the chemistry of the band’s sound and image. The sessions for this album did not go without controversy as producer Michael Beinhorn grew dissatisfied with the performance of drummer Grant Young midway through the sessions. He brought in Sterling Campbell, who had vast experience with acts such as David Bowie and Duran Duran. Campbell recorded the latter sessions for the album and eventually replaced Young as Soul Asylum’s permanent drummer in the mid 1990s.


Grave Dancers Union by Soul Asylum
Released: October 6, 1992 (Columbia)
Produced by: Michael Beinhorn
Recorded: The Powerstation and River Sound, New York City, May 1992
Track Listing Band Musicians
Somebody To Shove
Black Gold
Runaway Train
Keep It Up
Homesick
Get On Out
New World
April Fool
Without a Trace
Growing Into You
99%
The Sun Maid
Dave Pirner – Guitars, Horn Arrangements, Vocals
Dan Murphy – Guitar, Vocals
Karl Mueller – Bass
Grant Young– Drums
 
Grave Dancers Union by Soul Asylum

The album starts fast and strong with “Somebody to Shove”, an upbeat and catchy rocker with many elements of alternative or “grunge” rock. The tense verse builds to a release on the chorus which flows smoothly to the punk-like hook title of the song, which tells the classic story of the fool in suspended anticipation. “Black Gold” follows with a good acoustic intro and interesting changes, but is a little convoluted and weak lyrically. Written by Pirner, this was one of five singles spawned from Grave Dancers Union.

Runaway Train singleBy far the most popular of these singles was “Runaway Train”, the band’s biggest hit ever. The song brought the band to international status and won the Grammy for the best rock song in 1994. Some believe the title derived from a 1980s review of the band, which described their sound as “an unholy mix of Kiss and Hank Williams tossed under a runaway train”. However, the popular video for the song focused on the “runaway” aspect, displaying several photos of teenage runaways who were still missing at the time. Musically, the song is acoustic throughout, even during the guitar lead by Dan Murphy with some Hammond organ added by sessionist Booker T. Jones III. The song also contains some of the most profound lyrics on the album;

“And everything seems cut and dry, day and night, earth and sky, somehow I just don’t believe it…”

The middle part of the album sees the band exploring many sub-genres. “Keep It Up” can either be described as a nod back to 80s-style power pop or a precursor to the soon-to-arrive Collective Soul sound. In either case, it contains a heavy bass presence by Karl Mueller along with subdued vocals by Pirner. “Homesick” is a Stonesy slow country-rock revival love song, which is melancholy yet a very pleasant listen with some philosophical lyrics to boot. “New World” has an odd timed beat and a fantastic, melancholy vibe, while arranged masterfully by its constant return to the fine main acoustic riff. “April Fool” kicks off with a heavy metal riff and beat before the fits and stops of an Alice Cooper-like breaks in the verse, all topped off by multi-layered guitar parts.

“Without a Trace” is the default title song of the album, containing the lyric which gave Grave Dancers Union its title. In recent years, Pirner has dedicated the song to the memory of Mueller, who died cancer seven years ago today on June 17, 2005.

The album completes with a couple of average songs – the upbeat “Growing Into You” and the effects-laden “99%” –before the climatic concluding track “The Sun Maid”. This pleasant acoustic ballad with nice, Beatlesque strings from the Meridian String Quartet, shows the full promise of the band’s songwriting talent and ends the album on a strong note.

Within a year of its release, Grave Dancers Union was certified triple-platinum and has been, by far the top selling album by Soul Asylum. They have slowly released albums fairly consistently since then, with a new album every third-to-half decade or so, each with moderate acclaim and sales. The band plans to release a new studio album called Delayed Reaction in July 2012, their first release since 2006.

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1992 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1992 albums.