Voices by Hall & Oates

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Voices by Hall and OatesHall and Oates finally reached commercial pay dirt with their ninth studio album, Voices. Released in the summer of 1980, this record was on the Billboard album charts for over 100 weeks as it slowly became a massive hit peaking about a year after it was released and being a catalyst for phenomenal commercial success through the mid 1980s. Voices is split musically, with its original first side featuring new wave pop and side two reverting to more classic elements of rock, funk and soul.

This duo from Philadelphia delivered a critically acclaimed album, Abandoned Luncheonette, in 1973 but had no hit singles through their first three albums (although “She’s Gone” from Abandoned Luncheonette would be re-released in 1976 and become a hit). After signing with RCA Records they released their 1975 self-titled fourth album, which contained the Top Ten ballad “Sara Smile”, a song Daryl Hall wrote for his girlfriend and future songwriting collaborator Sara Allen. The late seventies saw four more album releases – Bigger Than Both of Us (1976), Beauty on a Back Street (1977), Along the Red Ledge (1978), and X-Static (1979) – all of which found moderate Top 40 success with Bigger Than Both of Us spawning their first number one hit, “Rich Girl” in early 1977. Still, with this wide output and near constant touring, Hall and Oates felt like they were not maximizing their potential during this period.

The new decade brought a new approach for the duo as Hall and John Oates decided to self-produce their next album as well as use their own touring band, including bassist John Siegler and drummer Jerry Marotta, in the studio. They also decided to record in New York City (their then hometown) instead of Los Angeles, where they had recorded much of their late seventies albums. What would become Voices was written and arranged over a short period of time and recorded in early 1980.


Voices by Hall & Oates
Released: July 29, 1980 (RCA)
Produced by: Daryl Hall & John Oates
Recorded: Electric Lady Studios, New York City, November 1979 – April 1980
Side One Side Two
How Does It Feel to Be Back
Big Kids
United State
Hard to Be in Love with You
Kiss on My List
Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
You Make My Dreams
Everytime You Go Away
Africa
Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)
Primary Musicians
Daryl Hall – Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
John Oates – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
G.E. Smith – Guitars
John Siegler – Bass
Jerry Marotta – Drums

It is clear by the first four tracks what the group and label wanted to portray as their sound on Voices and, perhaps even more surprising,  the two Oates led tracks are the higher quality of this group. “How Does It Feel to Be Back” kicks things off with lead vocals by Oates, a jangly guitar and a strong beat which makes it feel like a cross  between Springsteen and Eddie Money. Hall’s “Big Kids” is more new wave flavored than the opener and has an odd effect on his vocals which is not needed at all. “United State” is another new wave track with a stronger rock presence while “Hard to Be In Love with You” features some interesting guitar and synth layers and duo lead vocals by Hall and Oates.

The hit “Kiss On My List” has the most interesting back story of any song on the album. It was written by Janna Allen (Sara’s sister) and, having never recorded a song before, Hall agreed to cut a demo as a product for her songwriting portfolio. However, the production team liked the demo so much that they decided to add vocals and instrumentation to the demo, including a fantastic guitar lead by guest Jeff Southworth. Released as the third single from the album, “Kiss On My List” became a number one hit song. For her part, Sara Allen co-wrote two other songs on Voices, including “Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)”, which features a choppy mix of ska beats and R&B vocal motifs and the funky hit “You Make My Dreams”. This latter song features Hall’s choppy electric piano contrasted by his excited vocal melodies as it reached the Top 5 of the charts in 1981.

Hall and Oates

The retro-sounding second side of the album starts with a cover of the classic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. This oft covered track, written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector, may have it’s best effort at modernizing the 1964 Righteous Brothers classic sound with Oates and Hall replicating the vocals of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield nicely and the instrumentation does not try to replicate the original “wall of sound” but uses a tasteful modern rock arrangement. Hall’s “Everytime You Go Away” is an excellent soulful ballad which was recorded live in the studio to try and capture the sound like that of the classic Stax Studios in Memphis. This song comes complete with rich organ by guest Ralph Schuckett and, although this version was not released as a single, it was covered by Paul Young in 1985 and became another number 1 hit. “Africa” is a fun track by Oates who provides native-like lead vocals over a chanting backing chorus and a hand-jive like drum beat with a later sax lead by Charlie DeChant. The closing track, “Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)”, is a bass-driven final attempt at a pop hit, deriving from a mass murderer who was circulating in the New York subways at the time, giving it a dark comedic quality.

Voices debuted at number 75 in August 1980 and slowly climbed to its Top 20 peak nearly a year later. By that time, Hall and Oates had already recorded and released their 1981 follow-up, Private Eyes, which continued their meteoric commercial momentum.

~

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

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Back On the Streets by Donnie Iris

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Back On the Streets by Donnie IrisReleased in the summer of 1980, Back on the Streets was the debut solo record by Pittsburgh based artist Donnie Iris. This came after Iris spent more than a decade fronting national bands and, on this album, he collaborated with producer, composer and keyboardist Mark Avsec to deliver a blend of classic rock and cutting-edge new wave with a particular focus on vocal arrangements and hooks. The album spawned a national hit as well as several songs that received heavy regional airplay.

Iris was born Dominic Ierace in Western Pennsylvania and drew early inspiration from Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. After forming and fronting several groups through high school and college in the early-to-mid 1960s, he started The Jaggerz, a group which originally performed R&B covers. After gaining popularity through Pennsylvania and Ohio, the group secured a contract with Gamble Records in 1969 with their debut album, Introducing the Jaggerz released later that year. The following year, the group came to national prominence with their sophomore album We Went to Different Schools Together and the 1970 Top 5 hit “The Rapper”. A third Jaggerz album, Come Again, was released in 1975, shortly before Iris left the group to become a studio engineer. While at Jeree Recording, Iris worked with the band Wild Cherry and he briefly joined the band as a guitarist in 1978-1979.

Avsec was then also playing keyboards for Wild Cherry and once that group disbanded, Donnie and Mark decided to form a songwriting project together. Their initial release was a 1979 disco-influenced single called “Bring on the Eighties”, but it had little commercial success. With this, the pair decided to go in a harder rock direction when they entered the studio in early 1980 to record a full-length album with the freshly christened group Donnie Iris and the Cruisers.


Back On the Streets by Donnie Iris
Released: July 15, 1980 (Midwest National)
Produced by: Mark Avsec
Recorded: Jeree Studios, New Brighton, PA, Spring 1980
Side One Side Two
Ah! Leah!
I Can’t Hear You
Joking
Shock Treatment
Back On the Streets
Agnes
You’re Only Dreaming
She’s So Wild
Daddy Don’t Live Here Anymore
Too Young to Love
Primary Musicians
Donnie Iris – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Marty Lee Hoenes – Guitars
Mark Avsec – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Albritton McClain – Bass
Kevin Valentine – Drums

The album begins with its lead single and most indelible tune, “Ah! Leah!”, Catchy with simple riffs combined with complex vocal arrangements, this track reached number the Top 30 of the US Billboard Hot 100 and puns on its title have been used on Iris’ 2009 live album Ah! Live! as well as his 2010 Christmas album Ah! Leluiah!. The album’s other single, “I Can’t Hear You”, follows as a straight-ahead new wave rocker with just a touch of Talking Heads influence in the verses but breaking out with rich harmonies in the choruses. “Joking” is an even better new wave track with some cool synths over the crisp rock guitar riffs by Marty Lee Hoenes to reach a sound similar to The Cars earliest material.

Avsec’s “Shock Treatment” features a weird, synth lead psychedelic intro before song proper kicks in led by the fine bass of guest Robert Peckman and the various vocal experiments make it almost sound like a show tune from a modern movie. The album’s title song and side one closer adds some variety with a real classic rock, Who-type feel complete with distorted guitar riffing, synthesized orchestration and intense story-telling vocals, while “Agnes” is another dynamic rocker with a simple riff, cool vibe and call and response vocals.

Donnie Iris and the Cruisers

“You’re Only Dreaming” is a group composition with input from bassist Albritton McClain and drummer Kevin Valentine as is the frantic, sexually charged tune “She’s So Wild”, which ends quite abruptly. The album then returns to the moderate, power pop/new wave track with “Daddy Don’t Live Here Anymore”, with a vibe that has a bit of Cheap Trick influence and a cool, almost psychedelic synthesized organ lead by Avsec. Wrapping things up is “Too Young to Love”, the closest thing to a ballad on this album albeit with tremendous musical dynamics such as a sax lead by Kenny Blake and Iris singing his heart out with dramatic, strained vocals to finish the album strongly.

While Back On the Streets was originally released by the small Midwest Records, its immediate success got Iris signed to a five-album deal with MCA Records, starting with the national re-release of this debut in in October 1980.

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

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The Badlees 1999 albums

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Buy Up There Down Here

The Badlees 1999 albumsIn the mid 1990s, The Badlees were a fast rising group, newly signed to major label Polydor and with a national selling album that spawned a couple of mainstream hits. There was great anticipation for a follow-up by this Pennsylvania based folk rock band and recording for Up There, Down Here, anticipated for release in late 1997, was completed on time. However, some corporate entanglement brought on by rapid changes in the traditional music industry caused several delays in releasing the album until, ultimately, the group made a brash decision to put the music itself ahead of the label concerns. In early 1999, the Badlees independently produced and released a wholly separate album, Amazing Grace, which caused Polydor to immediately sever ties with the group. A few months later, the group signed with Ark 21 Records and finally released Up There, Down Here, meaning the space between the group’s fourth and fifth albums was just four months while it had been over four years between their third and fourth LPs.

That third album, 1995’s River Songs was originally released independently but then re-released internationally following the group’s record deal. The group toured relentlessly in support of the album, opening up for several major acts through 1995 and 1996. The following year, the group turned their attention to writing and recording material for their next album, a second national release on Polydor that was originally slated for late 1997 but soon pushed moved back to a planned February 1998 release. Recording took place at Bearsville Recording Studio near Woodstock, New York with producer Joe Alexander for the album that would ultimately be titled Up There, Down Here. Guitarist Bret Alexander and bassist Paul Smith added some overdubs and did some mixing at Alexander’s home studio in Pennsylvania in time for the anticipated February release. However, the date of album release got pushed back three more times, the final time to “date uncertain”. Still under contract and restricted in the actions they could take to further their career, the group requested and received permission to release a 5-song “unplugged” EP called The Day’s Parade in July 1998.

The quickly recorded and unplanned release of the EP was confusing to the Badlees fans and critics alike, who were expecting a new full length production and didn’t know about the corporate wrangling going on behind the scenes. The band was confused as well, as an already-bought-and-paid for high-end production remained on the shelf through late 1998 and into 1999. After several inquiries were ignored by the label, they decided to simply start from scratch with a new full-length album independently produced without consent or input from the label.

Amazing Grace Up There, Down Here
Released: April 2, 1999 (Rite-Off)
Produced by: Bret Alexander
Recorded: Bret Alexander’s Studio, Wapwallopen, PA, Early 1999
Released: August 24, 1999 (Ark 21)
Produced by: Joe Alexander & The Badlees
Recorded: Bearsville Recording Studio, Bearsville, NY, 1997
I’m Not Here Anymore
Long Goodnight
Poison Ivy
Ain’t No Man
Amazing Grace to You
Beyond These Walls
Time Turns Around
Appalachian Scream
A Fever
Gone
In a Minor Way”
Don’t Let Me Hide
Luther’s Window
Thinking in Ways
Which One of You
Little Hell
34 Winters
Middle of the Busiest Road
Cellarbird & Zither
Running Up That Hill
Love All
Silly Little Man
The Second Coming of Chris
A Little Faith
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Pete Palladino – Vocals, Harmonica
Bret Alexander – Guitars, Mandolin, Dobro, Dulcimer, Banjo, Vocals
Jeff Feltenberger – Guitars, Vocals
Paul Smith – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Ron Simasek – Drums, Percussion

 

Amazing Grace was recorded, mixed, mastered, and pressed in just two months at Alexander’s home studio and it features the most diverse array of songwriting and styles of any Badlees’ album. It also features lead vocals by four of the five group members, a strong departure from all previous material where vocalist Pete Palladino sang lead on nearly all previous songs.

Amazing Grace by The BadleesPalladino does provide vocals on the sad and melancholy opener, “I’m Not Here Anymore”, where Alexander accents the mood with a whiny guitar and subtle piano riff. “Long Goodnight” is one of two songs on the album written by Smith. This fast-paced, upbeat, catchy rocker, would soon become a crowd favorite at shows and got some regional airplay. Smith’s other contribution is the soulful “Ain’t No Man”, featuring creative drums and percussion by Ron Simasek and lead vocals by the bassist himself.

The catchy “Poison Ivy” is the first of several showcases by Alexander. Led by a banjo riff, the music moves briskly while the harsh words speak of dealing with a toxic personality. The title track “Amazing Grace to You” is the most inventive and rewarding track on the album with wild, spoken word verses accompanied by wild and unruly guitars, a Hammond organ by guest Robert Scott Richardson and a tense 5/4 time signature by Simasek which breaks free for Alexander’s desperate wailing during the choruses.

The rest of Amazing Grace features a diverse array of short songs. “Beyond These Walls” is a classic Badlees pop rocker, while “Time Turns Around” is a distinct jazzy ballad led by Alexander’s crooning vocals. Guitarist Jeff Feltenberger composed and took lead vocals on the blue-grass tinged “Appalachian Scream”, followed by the subtle beauty of “A Fever”, co-written by Palladino and long time band collaborator Mike Naydock. The album wraps with two more Alexander-led tunes, the slightly psychedelic ballad “Gone” and the Tom-Petty-esque rocker “In a Minor Way”.

The Badlees in 1999

Amazing Grace was released on the band’s independent Rite-Off label on April 2, 1999 and the Badlees were dropped from Polydor on that very day. Alexander referred to this as the Badlees “White Album” because of its eclectic styles and diversity of voices. At the time, it was assumed that the recordings for Up There, Down Here were casualties of the move. However, some other personnel from Polydor were now at a new label called Ark 21, owned by Miles Copeland, who had previously co-founded I.R.S. Records and by May 1999 a deal was in place for the Badlees and their nearly two-year old record, with the provision that they would stop any promotion of their recently-released Amazing Grace album.

Up There Down Here by The BadleesThe opening track on Up There, Down Here, “Don’t Let Me Hide” is the highest quality and most well-known song on the album, with a profound lyric, subtle, moody guitars and excellent high harmonies that complement the strong lead vocals of Palladino. “Luther’s Window” follows with interesting musical changes and lyrics about examining different perspectives;

Turn your back to the sun, you see only shadows, look beneath the stars and you see only night…”

The beautifully atmospheric “Thinking in Ways” features fine orchestration, precise yet intricate drumming by Simasek and subject matter which may refer to a prepaid funeral? This followed by a trio of catchy, pop-oriented tunes, “Which One of You”, “Little Hell” and “Middle of the Busiest Road”. Feltenberger’s “34 Winters” is another beautiful but melancholy song with Jeff providing some fantastic vocal trade-offs between himself and Palladino. After Alexander’s interesting but odd instrumental “Cellarbird & Zither” comes the darkly inspirational “Running Up That Hill” and the catchy “Love All”. The album concludes with three interesting tracks, the Beatle-influenced “Silly Little Man” with great drums and guitars, the mechanical and quirky “The Second Coming of Chris”, and stripped-down acoustic ballad, “A Little Faith”, a nice break on this otherwise richly produced album.

With the album that the band had prepared for and worked on for nearly half a decade finally released in August 1999, the Badlees were once again disappointed when Ark 21 was unable to help promote the record nationally. The label soon declared bankruptcy and the group returned to their roots as an independent band as they continued off and on for the next decade and a half.

~

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1999 albums.

 

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Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates

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Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall and OatesFor all the success that this Philadelphia-based duo would experience later on in their career, Daryl Hall and John Oates struggled to find a commercial footing early on. That’s not to say that they didn’t produce interesting and creative music as demonstrated brilliantly on their second album, Abandoned Luncheonette, released in late 1973. Despite only reaching #33 on the album charts during its initial run, this album slowly grew in stature and would finally reach platinum-selling status about three decades after its release.

The duo first met in 1967 while each was leading a separate group during a band competition. They later discovered that they had common musical interests and that both attended Temple University. The Hall & Oates musical duo was officially formed in 1970, with a recording contract at Atlantic Records. Their debut album, Whole Oates, was produced by Arif Mardin and released in November 1972 but failed to have any commercial success.

For Abandoned Luncheonette, the group and production team moved from from Philadelphia to New York where their disparate influences of folk, rock and soul were refined with the help of expert session players to forge the album’s musical tapestry as well as the group’s signature sound for the next decade. Much like on their album, the compositions and to a lesser extent lead vocals are split between the two with Hall & Oates penning just a few co-written songs.


Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall and Oates
Released: November 3, 1973 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Arif Mardin
Recorded: Atlantic Studios and Advantage Sound Studios, New York City, 1973
Side One Side Two
When The Morning Comes
Had I Known You Better Then
Las Vegas Turnaround (Stewardess Song)
She’s Gone
I’m Just A Kid
Abandoned Luncheonette
Lady Rain
Laughing Boy
Everytime I Look At You
Primary Musicians
Daryl Hall – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
John Oates – Guitars, Vocals
Chris Bond – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Steve Gelfand – Bass
Bernard Purdie – Drums, Percussion

The album begin’s with Hall’s “When the Morning Comes”, a subtle acoustic reggae beat sprinkled with a cool mellotron by Chris Bond . It allows plenty of room for Hall’s vocals to expand through his generous range. Rhythmically, the song is kept moving by the drums of the legendary Bernard Purdie. Oats provides his initial composition with “Had I Known You Better Then”, a folk singer/songwriter type song with just a hint of the rock n’ soul sound driven by a slight electric piano by Hall. “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)” has a fine, unique musical groove, highlighted by the saxophone lead of Joe Farrell and the main lyrical subject appears to be Hall’s girlfriend Sara Allen, the later subject of the 1976 hit song “Sara Smile”.

Another future hit for the duo is the fantastic “She’s Gone”, the true classic song from album. With a building arrangement starting with Steve Gelfand‘s bass and the subtle soul piano. A true duet, the atmosphere continues building atmosphere through its duration with horns introducing the strong outro section. Although released in 1974 as a single, it wouldn’t chart until it was re-released two years later, when it became a Top Ten hit in 1976. “I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)” revisits the somewhat tacky acoustic folk/rock by Oates, albeit with good harmonies throughout and an interesting use of keyboards.

Hall and Oates, 1973

The album’s title song commences the original side two, as a nostalgic storyteller suite interesting arrangement of piano, horns and further orchestration. “Abandoned Luncheonette” rapidly shifts a few times in style and shift, expressing the past moments of the now defunct location. “Lady Rain” is a funky folk tune with good combined vocals and an interesting dark string arrangement and bluesy guitar licks by Hugh McCracken, while the simple ballad “Laughing Boy” features Hall solo on piano and vocals and just some very subtle orchestration, providing a mood which sounds like it would fit better in a thematic or concept album. The extended closer
“Everytime I Look At You” starts as an upbeat funk/rocker with a heavy guitar and bass presence that make this heavier than anything else on this album. Hall provides an excellent guitar lead before Hall’s climatic vocal part followed by and unexpected outro of banjo and fiddle to an escalating tempo to finish the album.

Both Hall & Oates have allegedly cited Abandoned Luncheonette as their favorite album in their catalog. The duo released their third album, War Babies, in 1974 before moving on to RCA Records and much success in subsequent years.

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1973 Images

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

 

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Jim Croce 1973 Albums

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Buy I Got a Name

Jim Croce 1973 albumsIn 1973 Jim Croce found the pinnacle of his career success and all the bedlam and time on the road which goes along with such success. So, after releasing the successful album Life and Times and finishing the recording for the follow-up, I Got a Name, Croce decided he would retire from music to spend some valuable time with his family following that album’s tour. Unfortunately, Croce was killed in a plane crash on September 20, 1973, following a gig on the Life and Times tour in Louisiana.

A native of Philadelphia, Croce’s music career began by playing fraternity parties at Villanova University. He released his self-financed debut album, Facets in 1966, which sold out its limited release of 500 copies. Soon after, Croce began performing as a duet with his wife Ingrid and the couple migrated to New York City to record their 1969 album, Jim & Ingrid Croce. They followed this with an extensive, two-year college tour where they estimated that they drove more than 300,000 miles zig-zagging the country.

After connecting with classically trained pianist-guitarist-singer-songwriter Maury Muehleisen, Croce signed a three-record contract with ABC Records and released the successful 1972 album, You Don’t Mess Around with Jim, which features three songs which reached the Top 20, including the #1 hit “Time In a Bottle”. This was followed shortly by Life and Times which, like its predecessor was recorded in New York City and produced by the team of Terry Cashman and Tommy West.

Life and Times by Jim Croce
Life and Times
Released: July 1, 1973 (ABC)
Produced by: Terry Cashman & Tommy West
Recorded: The Hit Factory, New York City, 1972
Side One Side Two
One Less Set of Footsteps
Roller Derby Queen
Dreamin’ Again
Careful Man
Alabama Rain
A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business
Next Time, This Time
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
These Dreams
Speedball Tucker
It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
I Got a Name by Jim Croce
I Got a Name
Released: December 1, 1973 (ABC)
Produced by: Terry Cashman & Tommy West
Recorded: The Hit Factory, New York City, 1973
Side One Side Two
I Got a Name
Lover’s Cross
Five Short Minutes
Age
Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues
I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song
Salon and Saloon
Thursday
Top Hat Bar and Grille
Recently
The Hard Way Every Time
Primary Musicians (Both Albums)
Jim Croce – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Maury Muehleisen -Guitars, Vocals
Michael Kamen – Keyboards
Joe Macho – Bass
Gary Chester – Drums

“One Less Set of Footsteps”is a fine opener on Life and Times with excellent acoustic riffing throughout by Muehleisen. It was released as the album’s first single and reached the Top 40 on the pop charts. “Roller Derby Queen” is a folksy diddy featuring a strong, cardboard beat by drummer Gary Chester. “Dreamin’ Again” follows as classic Croce folk tune with pointed lyrics, descending acoustic riff and the very sparse arrangement of two guitars, vocals, light bass and minor orchestral effects

Life and Times by Jim Croce“Careful Man” is a bluesy, country folk tune with an upbeat rhythmic shuffle and a fiddle lead by Eric Weissberg over some honky tonk piano by Michael Kamen. “Alabama Rain” is a laid back love song, while “A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business (Singin’ the Blues)” returns to the upbeat with dual acoustic and flowing bass by Joe Macho. “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” is the keystone song on Life and Times as a classic, good-time storyteller built on a distinct piano riff by Tommy West. This song became Croce’s second number one single. The rest of the album repeats the alternating folk ballad/upbeat blues pattern with the elegant ballads “These Dreams” and “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” sandwiching the riff-laden “Speedball Tucker”.

Jim Croce

Life and Times was released in July 1973 and reached the Top 10 in the US and topped the charts in Canada. Once again, quickly following up on the success and keeping up the momentum, Croce once again entered the studio with Cashman and West to start a follow-up very soon after the previous album’s release.

Unlike Life and Times, which featured songs exclusively written by Croce and Croce alone, I Got a Name features tracks composed by multiple artists from within and outside of Croce and his core group. The opening title song was composed by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel and is an exquisite ballad that exudes personal existence and humanity, which proved to be all the more profound following Croce’s death. The simple musical arrangement features a crisp acoustic, fantastic bass and some orchestral strings which all complement Croce’s perfectly executed soft melodies. The first posthumous single, the song peaked at #10 on the Billboard pop charts.

I Got a Name by Jim CroceTwo Croce originals follow with “Lover’s Cross” being a Baroque folk acoustic with lyrical interpersonal philosophy and “Five Short Minutes” being an upbeat rocker, featuring edgy lyrics, horns and a sax solo. “Age” was co-written by Jim and Ingrid Croce and a version of the song was recorded on their 1969 album together. The song also commences the heart of this album as a folk ballad on top of an upbeat rhythm and a pedal steel lead. “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues” is written in the same spirit as “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” with the distinction being the shuffling drum rolls and the pointed slide guitar.

“I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” is a classic love ballad and one of Croce’s most indelible songs. The song peaked at #9 in April 1974, becoming his fifth and final Top 10 hit. The Muehleisen-composed “Salon and Saloon” is an old-timey piano saloon ballad and bears the distinction of being the last song that Croce recorded in his lifetime. Rounding out the album is Sal Joseph’s folk song “Thursday”, the upbeat “Top Hat Bar and Grille”, the interesting mellow folk vibe of “Recently”, and “The Hard Way Every Time”, Croce’s retrospective and haunting folk track, which works perfectly as the final song.

Just one week after recording wrapped in September, Croce’s plane clipped a pecan tree at the end of the runway and could not gain sufficient altitude, with the resulting crash killing five. Released on December 1, 1973, I Got a Name was another very successful album commercially, peaking near the top of the charts. A 1974 greatest hits album entitled Photographs & Memories was one final blockbuster success and it nicely encapsulated his rapid run at stardom as it totally drew from Croce’s three incredible albums from 1972 and 1973.

~

1973 Images

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

 

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Secret Samadhi by Live

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Secret Samadhi by LiveThe third overall album by the rock quartet Live, the 1997 release Secret Samadhi debuted on the top of the American charts immediately after its release. The album is named after a state of Hindu meditation and features a mix of mainstream rock and alternative Avant Garde. Although the album did not receive the most positive critical reviews, it is an original work which makes a unique statement and draws influence from diverse musical influences from both contemporary and historical rock artists.

Live reached mainstream success in 1994 with the release of their second album, Throwing Copper, along with the band’s inclusion in the Woodstock ’94 festival and other prominent tours. Throwing Copper had a long rise to the top of the album charts in 1995 and sold over eight million copies in the US alone.

The group returned to the studio in 1996 with producer Jay Healy, who had worked with the band years earlier on an EP entitled Divided Mind, Divided Planet. The goal of this album’s production was to achieve a less polished, more hard-edged sound. The result is a slightly darker and more introspective aesthetic than that which they had produced previously.


Secret Samadhi by Live
Released: February 18, 1997 (Radioactive)
Produced by: Jay Healy & Live
Recorded: Hit Factory, New York City, South Beach Studios, Miami & The Record Plant, Los Angeles, 1996
Track Listing Group Musicians
Rattlesnake
Lakini’s Juice
Graze
Century
Ghost
Unsheathed
Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe
Turn My Head
Heropsychodreamer
Freaks
Merica
Gas Hed Goes West
Ed Kowalczyk – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Chad Taylor – Guitars, Vocals
Patrick Dahlheimer – Bass
Chad Gracey – Drums

 
Secret Samadhi by Live

 

The opening track “Rattlesnake” features many differing textures culminating in an almost a dark Western overall feel. The initial verses are calm and refrained and, although this track never reaches full frenzy, there is a wild, unhinged guitar lead by Chad Taylor. On the unique masterpiece “Lakini’s Juice”, the atmospherics of the opener give way to a drilling main guitar riff, oddly paired with orchestral string interludes, provided by arranger Doug Katsaros. Although this song was not released as a single, it received enough airplay to top the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

The next several tracks, while not horrible, collectively form the album’s low point. The slow and methodical “Graze” is apparently a song about aliens who spookily state their intentions, while “Century” is an upbeat acoustic track with some unfortunately amateurish and adolescent lyrics by front man Ed Kowalczyk. “Ghost” starts with a methodical drum beat by Chad Gracey to complement a very refined guitar and bass and whispered vocals throughout, while the uneven “Unsheathed” features a strong presence by bassist Patrick Dahlheimer.

Live

The second half of the album features some of its strongest tracks. The ballad “Turn My Head” is the closest to a traditional pop song, complete with strings by Katsaros which are elegant and signature to the song. A strong REM influence is most striking here, especially with Kowalczyk’s crooning lead vocals. In striking contrast, “Heropsychodreamer” has a definitive punk/new wave feel. “Freaks” features great rhythms by Gracey and an excellent melody by Kowalczyk complete with ad-lib like extensions at the end of each verse. Meanwhile, Taylor’s atmospheric guitar notes are layered intensely to highlight the song. “Merica” features another cool, odd beat and riff with an overall feel of authentic classic rock, leading to the soulful rock closer “Gas Hed Goes West”, which is slightly repetitive but ends the album strongly.

Secret Samadhi album was certified double platinum and was a hit worldwide. Live continued to record and release albums into the 21st century, but would not again reach this top level of success.

~

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Someday Maybe by The Clarks

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Someday Maybe by The ClarksAlthough this group has had a long and fruitful career which continues to this day, The Clarks only had one major label release. The 1996 record Someday Maybe is a solid and steady effort full of steady rock/pop tracks crafted in multiple sub-genres. While neglected its due amount of promotion, this album is on par with some of the highly popular albums of the same era, making it a largely unknown or forgotten gem of the mid nineties.

Based in and around the Pittsburgh area, the group derived from a college band called The Administration, featuring vocalist/guitarist Scott Blasey, guitarist Robert James Hertweck and drummer David Minarik. After several lineup changes and the addition of bassist Greg Joseph in 1986, they changed the name to “The Clarks” as a generic nod to a common name in Western Pennsylvania. Next, the group began to focus more on original material and in 1988, the Clarks began independently recording their first album, I’ll Tell You What Man…, which sold modestly well in the Pittsburgh area. Two more independent albums followed, a self-titled release in 1991 and Love Gone Sour, Suspicion, and Bad Debt in 1994.

The steadily growing popularity of The Clarks finally scored them a major label deal for two albums with MCA Records in 1996. The group immediately began working with LA-based talent, producer Tim Bomba and engineer John Siket, to record Someday Maybe.


Someday Maybe by The Clarks
Released: November 25, 1996 (MCA)
Produced by: Tim Bomba
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Stop!
Courtney
Mercury
Rain
Caroline
Never Let You Down
Fatal
The Box
One Day In My Life
No Place Called Home
Everything Has Changed
These Wishes
Last Call
Hollywood
Lost and Found
Scott Blasey – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Rob James – Guitars, Vocals
Greg Joseph – Bass, Vocals
Dave Minarik – Drums, Vocals
 
Someday Maybe by The Clarks

In a bit of irony, the opening track “Stop!” starts abruptly as a solid rocker throughout. This strong opener features a choppy rhythm guitar riff and bluesy lead licks, while the chorus lyrics borrow from Buffalo Springfield’s hit “For What It’s Worth”. “Courtney” follows as a catchy, pure nineties pop/rock track with a bright acoustic and electric arrangement. “Mercury” leans towards folk/rock or almost alt country with plenty of fine riffs and hooks to accent the overall vibe, while “Rain” is a slow acoustic ballad which moves like a waltz and features slight desperation in Blasey’s lead vocals as well as a short but excellent ending guitar lead by James.

The heart of the album begins with the radio single “Caroline”, which is presented as pure new wave pop with rapid lyric delivery and much energy throughout. “Never Let You Down” may be the hardest rocking song on the entire album, due to the rapid riffing and relentless rhythms by Joseph and Minarik. Next comes the most unique track on Someday Maybe, the excellent, soft jazz “Fatal”, with some very interesting changes and rewarding musical interludes and duet lead vocals by guest Kelsey Barber.

the clarks

Coming down the stretch, the album returns to simple and straight-forward form. “The Box” and “One Day In My Life” are strong and steady rockers, with the latter one highlighted by the rich backing harmonies in the choruses. “No Place Called Home” is a folk/Americana acoustic ballad with dramatic lyrics from the point of view of a reluctant outlaw, while “These Wishes” is built on Minarik’s interesting drum shuffle. The album concludes with “Last Call”, a late night barroom anthem with a catchy sing-along hook.

The Clarks’ big label reign was short-lived as MCA fell into financial disarray before Someday Maybe received any notable promotion and, ultimately, their contract was terminated. However, after a short break, the band continued to record independently and remained a strong regional draw for years to come.

~

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1996 albums.

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River Songs by The Badlees

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River Songs by The BadleesAfter honing their sound for half a decade, The Badlees found their first real commercial success with River Songs. Originally released as the quintet’s third independent studio album in early 1995, the album was re-released internationally after the group signed with Polydor/Atlas later in the year. Led by guitarist and chief songwriter Bret Alexander, the group produced solid songs with scaled back musical arrangements utilizing an array of acoustic and native percussion instruments as well as a heavy use of harmonica as a lead instrument.

In early 1992, The Badlees released their first full-length album, Diamonds In the Coal, which featured a nice blend of pop, rock, and folk tracks. However, they decided to change directions for the 1993 follow-up, The Unfortunate Result of Spare Time, which had a slicker and more streamlined production style. Although disappointed with the overall result of this second album, the group worked hard to promote it through constant touring. This lead to the band getting the incredible opportunity to be one of the first Western rock bands to perform in mainland China during the 1994 Qingdao Beer Festival in August of that year.

After returning from China, the group started work on their third full length release. The daily 50-mile commute along the Susquehanna River inspired the title, River Songs, as they traveled to Harrisburg, PA to record the album. The deliberate musical intent of this record was to return to the distinct style they began forging in their early years.


River Songs by The Badlees
Released: February 28, 1995 (Rite-Off)
Produced by: The Badlees
Recorded: The Green Room, Harrisburg, PA, September-November 1994
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Grill the Sucker
Angeline Is Coming Home
Fear of Falling
Angels of Mercy
Queen of Perfection
Bendin’ the Rules
Gwendolyn
Ore Hill
Nothing Much of Anything
Song For a River
I Liked You Better When You Hated Yourself
Pete Palladino – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Bret Alexander – Guitars, Mandolin, Dobro, Vocals
Jeff Feltenberger – Guitars, Vocals
Paul Smith – Bass, Vocals
Ron Simasek – Drums, Percussion

River Songs by The Badlees

The brief, 73 second opening instrumental, “Grill the Sucker” was meant to make an immediate statement foreshadowing the tone of the subsequent album. It starts with a fade in of Ron Simasek‘s drum shuffle soon joined by the group in a blue-grass inspired stomp which includes such rustic instruments as the dobro, stumpf fiddle, and jaw harp. Unfortunately, the later release changed the running order so this intended opening statement gets lost in the mix. Co-written by longtime band collaborator Mike Naydock, “Angeline Is Coming Home” would become The Badlees’ highest charting single. Driven by the signature harmonica and fine vocal melodies of Pete Palladino, it features artful lyrics about an addict’s triumphant return from rehab.

A true highlight on the album, “Fear of Falling” is built upon Alexander’s mandolin and melodic lyrics which speak of reaching for lofty goals, failing, and then getting up and trying again. Musically, the mandolin is blended with acoustic and electric guitar as well as some strategic Hammond organ by guest Robert Scott Richardson. Throughout the song, there is a potent mix of backing harmonies by Jeff Feltenberger and Paul Smith with Palladino providing the climatic closing crescendo of harmonica intermixed with vocal ad-libs.

 

Through the middle part of the album, the group alternates between upbeat pop/rock and more somber, folk-influenced tracks. “Angels of Mercy” features intelligent lyrics, chanting hooks, and entertaining guitar riffs, while “Queen of Perfection” features a heavy dose of dark humor along with an opening harmonica that harmonizes with an electric guitar and an interesting, country-like ending. The dramatic and deliberate “Bendin’ the Rules” was co-written by Alexander, Naydock, and Smith and it is notable for containing two of the very few proper guitar leads on the album. The highlight of this part of the album is “Gwendolyn”, a strong pop song with an excellent hook that pulls you right in. The track is pure musical fun and entertainment, starting with the high-pitched wail by Feltenberger and a later strong blues/rock guitar lead.

The Badlees in 1995
“Ore Hill” is Feltenberger’s sole composition on River Songs as a pure folk / Americana track with delicate acoustic guitar complimented by mandolin, harmonica, and interesting drum patterns. The thumping rocker “Nothing Much of Anything” seems a bit out of place at this point in the album but still features a good building chorus section along with interesting guitar textures by Alexander and bass patterns by Smith.

The quasi-title track “Song for a River” is actually about a person, using the “river” as a metaphor for that person’s life. The song was composed by Alexander and Naydock in the early 1990s but was not used because it was difficult to develop due to its length and unique arrangement. Eventually, Alexander decided to simply “talk” through the verses and add a repeating chorus throughout. Ultimately, the song employs three lead singers; Alexander, Palladino, and Feltenberger, whose majestic scat vocal notes were a tip of the hat to Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig In The Sky”. Closing out this eight minute track is a fine outro of pure acoustic folk instruments. The album concludes with the light and entertaining “I Liked You Better When You Hated Yourself”, complete with sarcastic nostalgia and a middle yodeling section which became a fan favorite during subsequent live performances.

Following the success of River Songs, the band embarked on several national and international tours, supporting headlining acts such as Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Bob Segar, Greg Allman, and The Gin Blossoms. They would shoot a Hollywood music video and record a follow-up material in a world class studio before reverting back to being a top-notch independent band for many more years.

~

Check out The Badlees’ Career Profile on Modern Rock Review

1995 Images

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Nervous Night by The Hooters

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Nervous Night by The HootersThe Hooters big label debut was, by far, their most successful album in America. Nervous Night sold over two million copies, achieving multi-platinum status, and spawned multiple Top 40 hits. The album features an eclectic mix of music that uses both traditional acoustic instrumentation and synth/keyboard heavy motifs with slick production. Together, this combination made for a sound that appealed to the pop audiences of the mid 1980’s while still maintaining quality musicianship and interesting arrangements.

Philadelphia musicians Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman had a decade-long musical association before they formed The Hooters in 1980. The group’s name comes from the nickname for the melodica, one of several ethnic instruments that the band plays in addition to traditional rock instrumentation. After gaining a local following in nightclubs and on Philadelphia radio, the group opened for The Who’s farewell tour concert shows at JFK Stadium in 1982. The following year the group independently produced their debut album, Amore, which sold over 100,000 copies through independent channels. Bazilian and Hyman then wrote, arranged and perform on Cyndi Lauper’s debut, She’s So Unusual, which was co-produced by long-time friend, Rick Chertoff, the producer of Nervous Night.

Guitarist John Lilley, drummer David Uosikkinen and newcomer bassist Andy King joined Bazilian and Hyman in the studio to record the album. While employing richer production techniques, the songs on Nervous Night remain true to the roots established on Amore, blending reggae and ska with traditional folk.


Nervous Night by The Hooters
Released: April 26, 1985 (Columbia)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff
Recorded: Studio 4, Philadelphia & Record Plant, New York, 1984-1985
Side One Side Two
And We Danced
Day by Day
All You Zombies
Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight
Nervous Night
Hanging on a Heartbeat
Where Do the Children Go
South Ferry Road
She Comes in Colors
Blood from a Stone
Group Musicians
Eric Bazilian – Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Vocals
Rob Hyman – Keyboards, Melodica, Vocals
John Lilley – Guitars
Andy King – Bass, Vocals
David Uosikkinen – Drums

The album launches with “And We Danced”, which starts with an opening mandolin and melodica section before launching into a rocker with an irresistible beat and lyrics reminiscing about simpler times and memories of having fun with friends. The first major hit by the band, “And We Danced” reached #3 on the Mainstream Rock charts. Bazilian’s mandolin is also prevalent on “Day by Day”, a song co-written with Chertoff two years earlier. This track features some strong synth/keyboards by Hyman and a vibe that hits the ground running and doesn’t stop.

One of the most indelible songs by The Hooters, “All You Zombies” is a remake of a song originally released on Amore. This newer version contains dark and mystical atmospherics blended with a heavy reggae beat, which all seems appropriate for the “zombie” theme. Not literally about zombies, the lyrics contrast the differences between blind belief and having faith. The melodica returns on “Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight” along with sharp tones and sudden staccato beats. This track may have been inspired by the car wreck by former bassist Rob Miller, an incident which cause him to be replaced by King. Side one ends with the title track, “Nervous Night”, a quirky song that could either be about a strange dream or a glimpse into the mind of a mad person. This track also contains a great saxophone by Bazilian.

The Hooters

“Hanging on a Heartbeat” is another track originally released on Amore, featuring an excellent rock riff that repeats throughout the song and easy, repetitive lyrics that work with the tempo. “Where Do the Children Go” is a beautiful but sad ballad about teen suicide, featuring Patty Smyth on backing vocals. This mandolin, driven track was the third and final Top 40 hit from the album.

The album wraps up with three lesser know tracks. “South Ferry Road” is co-written by Hyman, Bazilian, and Chertoff about memories from their younger days, while “She Comes in Colors” is an interesting rendition of a song originally recorded by the band Love’s, but with a completely different feel and tempo than the original. The closer, “Blood From a Stone” ,is the final retread from Amore with a similar arrangement but a bit of jazzed-up production.

Nervous Night reached number 12 on the album charts in the US and was assisted by The Hooters’ being the opening band at the Philadelphia Live Aid benefit concert, which was broadcast to an international television audience just a few months after the album’s release.

~

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

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Throwing Copper by Live

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Throwing Copper by LiveThrowing Copper is the second and most popular album by the Pennsylvania rock band Live. A signature album for the genre which would later be termed, “post grunge”, the album includes several radio staples along with tracks that would become live favorites throughout the group’s ensuing career. Throwing Copper contains a blend of heavy and moderate rock tracks, alternating between tight compositions and a freer form by the four-piece band, with many of the lyrics leaning towards the philosophical and the spiritual. The result of this is an indelible work which topped the album charts and has sold over eight million copies, while still sounding vibrant and fresh 20 years on.

The four members of Live had been together since middle school in 1980s, when guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer, drummer Chad Gracey, and vocalist Ed Kowalczyk first got together to perform at a talent show and remained together through high school, playing new wave covers under various band names. Following the production of a self-released cassette of original songs in 1990 and a professionally produced EP in 1990, the group scored a contract with Radioactive Records. Jerry Harrison, keyboardist and guitarist of Talking Heads, produced the group’s 1991 debut album Mental Jewelry, which was lyrically inspired by Eastern philosophy.

Harrison was again at the helm for this album, recorded in Minnesota during the summer of 1993. The group had significantly tightened their sound through extensive touring following their debut, and were able to forge more cohesive yet sophisticated songs, with Kowalczyk writing the lyrics and the other three composing the musical scores. The story-telling lyrics tend to be more tangential than recursive with music layered to create very interesting ambiance, led by Taylor’s guitars.


Throwing Copper by Live
Released: April 19, 1994 (Radioactive)
Produced by: Jerry Harrison & Live
Recorded: Pachyderm Studio, Cannon Falls, Minnesota, July–September 1993
Track Listing Group Musicians
The Dam At Otter Creek
Selling The Drama
I Alone
Iris
Lightning Crashes
Top
All Over You
Shit Towne
T.B.D.
Stage
Waitress
Pillar Of Davidson
White, Discussion
Horse
Ed Kowalczyk – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Chad Taylor – Guitars, Vocals
Patrick Dahlheimer – Bass
Chad Gracey – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Throwing Copper by Live

 

With an odd and distant album beginning, “The Dam at Otter Creek” meanders in a long swell and doesn’t really kick in until about two-thirds through, at which point it becomes so frenzied that it is barely audible. This sound collage of intensity that gives the track an almost progressive feel, may have alienated the casual listener who first tossed this in a CD deck but its ultimate break does set up the next song perfectly. “Selling the Drama” is, by far, the best song on the album. Where the previous track is opaque and uncertain, this is clear and direct with sonic treats ranging from Taylor’s electric riffs and acoustic strums to Gracey’s sock-hop drum beats to Kowalczyk’s melodic and pleasant vocals. However, it is Dahlheimer’s incredibly inventive bass lines which give this balanced song the edge that provides it with infinite potency. “Selling the Drama” was the first of three singles from this album to reach #1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. “I Alone” didn’t quite reach the top of that chart, peaking at #6 with its asymmetrical verse arrangements, which act as conduits for the contrast in dynamics between verse and chorus. The lyric to this song reach deep into the philosophical bag of tricks with lines such as;

The greatest of teachers won’t hesitate to leave you there by yourself chained to fate…”

“Iris” is a fine and original song with a sort of “fire one” approach to the arrangement. Gracey provides shuffle drums throughout with many melodramatic dynamics decorating the track, such as the layered vocals later in the song. This is followed by another great contrast, the slow and methodical “Lightning Crashes”, which became an instant classic and is the most popular song Live ever recorded. Taylor’s flange-drenched riffing compliment’s Kowalczyk’s nearly alien vocals which explicitly tell of a scene of simultaneous life and death in a hospital. Although there isn’t very much variation, save the interesting bridge with three rhythm guitars and bass line, the song was very well received in the mid 1990s, driving it just short of the Top Ten on the pop charts, in spite of not being officially released as a single.

The middle part of the album contains a couple of the more overtly pop songs on the album. “Top” is lesser known and unheralded, built much in the vein of the late 1980s pop/rock, as a rare track on this album which is straight-forward with little variance form standard formulas. “All Over You” is much more popular, perhaps a bit overplayed on radio, although it is pleasant enough due to its main rock riff. The best parts of this song are the instrumental and scat vocals during the bridge and outro parts. The group returns to the unconventional with “Shit Towne”, a rock waltz during the repeated verses of observant lyrics. While these lyrics (and title) leave much to desire, the music and melody are very potent interesting throughout.

A distant bass cut with reverb-laced percussion highlights the intro to “T.B.D.”, which stands for the “Tibetan Book of the Dead”. This song returns to the Eastern philosophy of Mental Jewelry, with inspiration drawn from Aldous Huxley’s writings. “Stage” is a proto-punk song with timely lyrics which seem to speak of the very recent demise of Kurt Cobain, while “Waitress” is almost frivolous while partly preachy, seeming like it was born out of an argument over tipping a waitress, a la the opening scene from Reservoir Dogs.

Live

The album concludes with three solid tracks, starting with the dramatic “Pillar of Davidson”, a nearly seven minute track that is driven by melodic vocals which compensate for the sparse music on the track. “White, Discussion” commences with an interesting and funky groove during the initial verses but  continually builds in intensity as it later breaks into something much harder and rawer, perhaps a bit over the top, before it closes with one of the longest feedback dissolves ever. Like many albums of the era, Throwing Copper finishes with a “hidden track”, which has come to be known as “Horse”. This track is pure country rock, complete with acoustic, pedal steel guitar, and Dahlheimer’s bouncy funk bass, which leaves the album with a good rock vibe.

The success of Throwing Copper built great anticipation for the 1997 follow-up Secret Samadhi, which debuted at number one but failed to match the overall popularity and longevity of this album. Harrison returned to co-produce 1999’s The Distance to Here, but that was even less popular. Ultimately, the original Live came to an acrimonious end when Kowalczyk was fired from the band in 2009 and a major lawsuit followed.

~

1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.

 

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