Music From Big Pink by The Band

Music From Big Pink by The Band

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Music From Big Pink by The BandAfter a decade of touring as a backing group for other artists, The Band released an incredible debut with Music from Big Pink in 1968. By blending their vast influences of country, Gospel, rock, folk, and R&B into strong compositions, influenced and helped along by Bob Dylan, the group forged an album with an honest, laid-back feel, which sharply broke with the current trends of over-the-top psychedelic rock. The album’s title stems from a (pink) house near Woodstock, NY, where several band members lived while they wrote and rehearsed material for this album. While many demo tapes were recorded there, the actual recording of the album, produced by John Simon took place in studios in New York City and Los Angeles. Concurrently, much of the Dylan-fronted material was recorded and eventually released as The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan in 1975.

The group’s originator was drummer Levon Helm, from the Arkansas side of the Mississippi Delta, who formed the rockabilly group The Hawks with front-man Ronnie Hawkins in the late fifties. In 1958, the group migrated to Ontario, Canada, which had a growing market for music from the American South, and toured clubs up there for many years. Along the way, Canadian natives Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Richard Manual, and Garth Hudson joined up at various points. When Hawkins took time off, the rest of the band continued to play club dates and soon migrated more towards the blues stylistically. In 1964, the group split from Hawkins and released a few singles as Levon and the Hawks with Helm on lead vocals. When Bob Dylan went “electric” in 1965, he enlisted The Band as his backing group, and they toured the world through 1966. However, Dylan suffered a near fatal motorcycle accident and was unable to tour for nearly a year. He retreated to the Catskill town of Woodstock and the Band decided to join him, taking a long deserved break from touring to try their hand at writing their own music.

With this brand new endeavor, The Band made a consorted effort to produce the most “legitimate” songs possible. This philosophy also extended the adaptation of the simple name “The Band”. While Dylan composed three of the eleven album tracks and there was one cover, Manuel and Robertson split most of the rest of the songwriting duties, later admitting they were students of Dylan’s various approaches to composing. Dylan also did the cover illustration for the album.


Music From Big Pink by The Band
Released: July 1, 1968 (Capitol)
Produced by: John Simon
Recorded: New York and Los Angeles, 1968
Side One Side Two
Tears of Rage
To Kingdom Come
In a Station
Caledonia Mission
The Weight
We Can Talk
Long Black Veil
Chest Fever
Lonesome Suzie
This Wheel’s on Fire
I Shall Be Released
Band Musicians
Robbie Robertson – Guitars, Vocals
Richard Manuel – Piano, Keyboards, Drums, Vocals
Garth Hudson – Piano, Organ, Clavinet, Saxophone
Rick Danko – Bass, Fiddle, Vocals
Levon Helm – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

With a “how slow can you go?” tempo, the opener “Tears of Rage” is full of deliberate anguish. Co-written by Bob Dylan and Richard Manuel, the song has a strong Biblical underlying theme, examining a relationship between parents and daughter. A version of this song with Dylan on lead vocal and the Band backing him was included on The Basement Tapes. “To Kingdom Come” is Robertson’s debut as a songwriter and contains more upbeat, sixties-style music with harmonized vocals and a great bass by Danko throughout, gluing together the slight bursts of musical motifs. The worst part of this fine song is that it ends too quickly, fading out during an interesting guitar lead by Robertson.

Manuel’s “In a Station” returns to the bluesy ballad with topical keyboards and slightly interesting guitar interludes. Written and sung by Robertson, the fine “Caledonia Mission” starts as a ballad but progresses to an interesting, jazzy number with strong horns throughout.

The most famous song on the album is “The Weight”, an iconic music marker in the history of rock n’ roll. A significant influenced on American popular music the lyrics return to Biblical settings, with fictional characters playing the modern day protagonists. Over time becoming one of The Band’s best known songs, it failed to reach the Top 40 when released as a single in 1968, although subsequent cover versions did much better for various artists. Robertson sites the movies of Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel as well as his initial visit to the Mississippi Delta as influences for the song, although Helm later claimed several member of the band had a part in writing the lyrics.

The Band in 1968

Side two of the original LP starts off with the funky “We Can Talk”, with Manuel, Helm, and Danko taking turns on vocals. “Long Black Veil” is an Americana cover, written by Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill, and contains a fine acoustic guitar and prevalent electric piano. “Chest Fever” starts with Hudson’s calm but catchy organ riff, topped by Manuel’s rock piano and Danko’s bass. Soon to become a fan favorite, this may be the closest to traditional hard rock that they get on this album.

“Lonesome Suzie” is a ballad with Manuel crooning above Hudson’s soulful organ and Robertson’s calmly picked guitars. “This Wheel’s on Fire” is a good solid track co-written by Dylan and Danko, featuring high-pitched harmonies, and a country-tinged backing. Dylan also composed the closer “I Shall Be Released”, which drips with melancholy and depth. Led by Richard Manuel’s haunting tenor vocals above gently stroked piano and acoustic, this is a real template for future power ballads. With more connotations of redemption, the song stands as a classic “prison song”. One of his unrecorded gems, Dylan later recorded his own impromptu version of the song, included on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. II.

Although not a great commercial hit, Music from Big Pink came as a big surprise to music insiders, with many established rock musicians siting it as an immediate influence. An eponymous follow-up album made of unfinished songs from these sessions was recorded and released in 1969 to near equal acclaim.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1968 albums.

 

Green by R.E.M.

Green by R.E.M.

Green by R.E.M.Years before alternative was “cool” (in other words, when “alternative” was still alternative), R.E.M. was forging their own way through the super-slick eighties. Their sixth album, 1988’s Green, was the breakout album that followed the group’s quintet of critically acclaimed but commercially light pieces earlier in the decade. The result was a successful attempt to strike the right balance in both of those fields and branch out to an international audience. This was the group’s debut album for the big label Warner Brothers Records after cutting their teeth with the indie I.R.S. Records with their late 1987 release Document, which received major airplay but was not widely distributed overseas. In their frustration, the band entertained big label offers and signed with Warner for reportedly between $6 million and $12 million.

Working with producer Scott Litt (who would produce five albums in all with the band), R.E.M. began recording demos in their home town of Athens, Georgia before moving to major studios in Memphis, Ten. and Woodstock, NY for the proper recording. The record’s tracks ranged from upbeat to more somber and political material. Led my vocalist Michael Stipe, the band made a consorted effort to “not write any more R.E.M.-type songs”. The group began what would become a tradition of swapping instruments and the result was a very eclectic and sonically diverse output.

Green is defined by the tweaks the group made to their creative process, grown out of the restlessness of their then eight-year career of near constant touring. For R.E.M., this meant composing positive, or at least satirical and playful, material for the first time in a while. The band were also more open to strong rock influences such as the Byrds, the Doors, and Led Zeppelin, than they had been in the past.

 


Green by R.E.M.
Released: November 7, 1988 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Scott Litt and R.E.M.
Recorded: Ardent Studios, Memphis & Bearsville Studios, Woodstock, NY, May–Sep 1988
Side One Side Two
Pop Song 89
Get Up
You Are the Everything
Stand
World Leader Pretend
The Wrong Child
Orange Crush
Turn You Inside-Out
Hairshirt
I Remember California
11
Band Musicians
Michael Stipe – Lead Vocals  |  Peter Buck – Guitars, Mandolin
Mike Mills – Bass, Keyboards, Accordion, Vocals  |  Bill Berry – Drums, Vocals

 

Green labeled its original LP sides, with side one being the “air” side. “Pop Song 89” is a twangy, three-chord, upbeat song with a memorable lead guitar riff by Peter Buck and harmonized, low key vocals by Stipe. This opener is a sarcastically titled, semi-parody of pop music which is deliberately simplistic. “Get Up” follows with a straight-forward rock arrangement but seems to be a little more forced than the opener, especially with the excess vocal parts. The lyrics were written about bassist Mike Mills and his habit to sleep late during their recording sessions.

“You Are the Everything” is the first song to use a completely alternate arrangement, with Buck playing mandolin, Mills on accordion, and drummer Bill Berry providing a simple bass. Set to the backdrop of chirping crickets, the song provides a Southern pastoral setting and straight-forward, love-song-like lyrics through a fine vocal melody by Stipe, making this the first really interesting song on the album. The group returned to this exact arrangement on the second side song “Hairshirt”, which adds even more melody and entertainment to the mix with top-notch mandolin and very laid back accordion and bass.

The ultimate R.E.M. pop song, “Stand” starts with carnival-like organ and moves towards some good guitar riff and great vocal hooks. With a kind of in-your-face singsong chorus sung by Stipe and Mills in close harmony and a signature wah-wah guitar solo by Buck, the song did well on radio, MTV, and the pop charts. “World Leader Pretend” is a much more serious piece led by a driving acoustic guitar, interesting drum accents and a subtle cello by guest Jane Scarpantoni. The song is notable as the first and only to have lyrics printed on the original album sleeve. The first side ends with “The Wrong Child”, an acoustic guitar and mandolin piece with several competing vocal parts which Make it almost interesting but a little too busy at times.
 

 
The second side is referred to by the band as the “metal” side, and starts with the military stomp of “Orange Crush”. Stipe sings through a megaphone that lends his vocals a corroded quality appropriate to the subject matter (the title refers to the chemical “agent orange”), which is counter-balanced by the very interesting tone and theme. Although not commercially released as a U.S. single, “Orange Crush” reached number one on both the Mainstream and Modern Rock Tracks.

The rest of the album consists of moderately interesting tunes. “Turn You Inside-Out” contains a slow, electric twang with a methodical and strong beat by percussionist Keith LeBlanc. “I Remember California” has a strong electric intro arrangement which gives way to just simple bass and busy, tom-filled drums by Berry during the verse, making it unique and interesting, although a bit too long. “11” (the eleventh, untitled track) close the album with Buck playing drums on an upbeat, new-wavish song with definite British influence.

Green has gone on to sell over four million copies worldwide and the band launched a visually developed tour to support it in 1989. Riding the worldwide success of this album, the band continued the momentum with the success withs Out of Time in 1991 and Automatic for the People in 1992.

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


1988 Images

 

Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid by Collective Soul

Hints, Allegations, & Things Left Unsaid
by Collective Soul

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Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid by Collective SoulPerhaps the best sounding “demo tape” of the 1990s (if not all time), Collective Soul forged a great sonic mix on their debut Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid . The sound took the best of arena-era rock and mixed it with just a sliver of new-era alternative, all forged in the basement studio of budding composer Ed Roland. In fact, the songs were recorded by Roland with the sole intent of using the demo as a showcase to sell the songs to a publishing company and Roland had no initial plans of performing these songs in a band setting. However, when an Orlando, Florida radio station began playing the lead off track “Shine” and it became the station’s most requested song in 1993, the demo caught the attention of Atlantic Records, who released the album “as-is” a year later.

With this turn of fortune, Roland agreed to perform live shows and formed a band starting with his brother Dean Roland on rhythm guitar and Ross Childress on lead guitar. Ed Roland was actually reluctant to have the unpolished demo be presented as their debut album. In fact, the reason for calling their next album simply Collective Soul was because Roland considered that their “true” debut record.

The group took it’s name from a phrase in the novel The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, while the album’s title comes in part from a lyric in the Paul Simon song “You Can Call Me Al” from the album Graceland.


Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid by Collective Soul
Released: June 22, 1993 (Rising Storm)
Produced by: Ed Roland, Matt Serletic, & Joe Randolph
Recorded: Rising Storm Studios, Atlanta, GA, 1992
Track Listing Band Musicians
Shine
Goodnight, Good Guy
Wasting Time
Sister Don’t Cry
Love Lifted Me
In a Moment
Heaven’s Already Here
Pretty Donna
Reach
Breathe
Scream
Burning Bridges
All
Ed Roland – Lead Vocals, Piano, Guitars
Ross Childress – Lead Guitars, Vocals
Dean Roland – Guitars
Will Turpin – Bass, Vocals
Shane Evans – Drums, Percussion

 
Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid by Collective Soul

The album starts off with four excellent tracks, including “Goodnight, Good Guy”, a song written about one recently departed, which musically alternates between heavy riffs and melodic pop. Session man Joe Randolph adds some guitar on the song. The slow burner “Wasting Time” begins with a sustained organ and interesting percussion and constantly builds until reaching a brilliant guitar lead. This song contains good backing vocal harmonies and a nice counter-riff which fades out with the song. “Sister Don’t Cry” is a slow, strong, and soulful song about faith when facing dire circumstances, in this case a woman undergoing chemotherapy.

Starting it all off is the infectious, muted riff of “Shine”, which establishes the album’s great sound and melodies right off. With this lead single the band gained their fame and the song served as a hallmark of 1990s rock, becoming the #1 Billboard Top Rock Track for 1994. Dean Roland has called the song “basically a prayer” and many mistakenly labeled the band a Christian rock band initially.

The very funky, nearly hip-hop “Love Lifted Me” is led by the strong bass of Will Turpin and a great drum beat by Shane Evans. “In a Moment” starts with a chorus of acoustic guitars and some sharp electric above, while taking a very new-wavish approach vocally. “Heaven’s Already Here” is a great short folk song with a picked acoustic and slight arrangement, giving it the perfect fireside feel.

The only real filler on the album is the instrumental “Pretty Donna”, which contains no real rock-oriented instruments just some synth and string arrangements co=producer Matt Serletic. The very melodic and pop-oriented “Reach” is acoustic throughout with some excellent electric guitar overtones, a sonic candy factory. “Breathe” is an electric dance song, reminiscent of INXS, which made it a moderate radio hit, while “Scream” is a hyper song which really seems like the band’s token attempt at modern punk and does little more than diversify the album a bit.

Collective Soul in 1993

The album ends strongly with two very melodic songs. “Burning Bridges” is passionate with a top level guitar solo, and calming vocals. “All” finishes things up nicely with a topical whining lead guitar over the rhythm mixture of electric and acoustic and a vocal chorus effect to make it a bit more interesting. “Beautiful World” finished the original album but was left off the The 1994 Atlantic re-release.

Hints, Allegations, and Things eventually peaked at number 15 on the Billboard album charts and launched Collective Soul towards a solid but short ride near the top of the rock world through the mid 1990s.

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1993 Images

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

Brothers and Sisters by Allman Brothers Band

Brothers and Sisters by Allman Brothers Band

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Brothers and Sisters by Allman Brothers BandBrothers and Sisters was at once the career peak and the first step into the abyss for The Allman Brothers Band. It was released in the wake of dual tragedies, a year apart, which took the lives of two founding members and saw the emergence of another founding member as the group’s primary driver. On the upside, this album served as the band’s commercial peak while still maintaining much of the quality blend which brought the band to critical prominence in earlier years. On the downside, this success marked the beginning of an era of celebrity which saw the band drift away from its music-centric approach of their earliest albums and start to produce “country-fried hit records and egos that ripped them all apart”, as drummer Butch Trucks would later state.

Like with the group’s previous album, Eat a Peach, a member of the band died while the band was in the process of recording, resulting in an album where the member only played on select tracks. In the previous case, the victim was lead guitarist Duane Allman, who offered much to that double LP but was completely absent from this one. Bassist Berry Oakley played on the first two tracks of Brothers and Sisters before he was tragically killed on November 11, 1972 from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident. Oakley declined medical treatment at the scene, thinking he was alright, but three hours later he was rushed to the hospital due to extreme pain, and died of cerebral swelling caused by a fractured skull. Ironically, Oakley’s accident in Macon, Georgia was just three blocks from where Duane Allman had his fatal motorcycle accident the year before and both had died of head injuries. Lamar Williams replaced Oakley on bass for the remainder of the album’s session.

More than any other group member, guitarist Dickey Betts stepped into the leadership role and shines brightest on this album, composing five of the seven tracks and maintaining guitar excellence throughout. Betts and Allman had established a harmonized guitar repertoire during the band’s early years, with Betts’ country flavored style contrasting perfectly with Allman’s blues/jazz fusion style. Following the death of Duane Allman, Betts stepped up to be the group’s sole guitarist, furiously practicing the slide guitar methods in order to cover the majority of Duane Allman’s parts. Led by Betts, the band put together a light but enjoyable album with a crisp sound which melts their unique style of rock with doses of country, blues, and borderline funk.


Brothers and Sisters by Allman Brothers Band
Released: August, 1973 (Capricorn)
Produced by: Johnny Sandline & Allman Brothers Band
Recorded: Capricorn Sound Studios, Macon, GA, October-December 1972
Side One Side Two
Wasted Words
Ramblin’ Man
Come and Go Blues
Jelly Jelly
Southbound
Jessica
Pony Boy
Band Musicians
Greg Allman – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Dickey Betts – Guitars, Vocals
Berry Oakley – Bass
Lamar Williams – Bass
Jaimoe – Drums, Percussion
Butch Trucks – Drums, Percussion

Gregg Allman‘s “Wasted Words” opens the album as a perfect “outlaw country” tune with Betts’s guitar riffs mocking the vocal melody and accompanied by a nice honky tonk piano, making for an upbeat introduction to Brothers and Sisters. “Ramblin’ Man” is, by far, the most popular song on this album and the only Top Ten of the band’s career. It would be the most typical of country/rock songs if not for the fantastic guitars throughout by Betts who composed and sings lead on the track.
Still, the song has rarely been performed live due its rigid structure not allowing for much improvisation, a must in the band’s concert performances. the recording was also the final track to feature Oakley.

“Come and Go Blues” is a nice break in the action from all the country and Gregg Allman’s finest moment on the album. This moderate funk jam contains great piano which drives the verse music and later comes to the forefront with a lead and a counter-riff during the intense final verse. The drumming and percussion by the dual of Trucks and Jaimoe and Butch Trucks is exceptional on this really cool track. The sides are bookmarked by a couple of live-sounding blues jams which sound like they could have been cut from the same session. “Jelly Jelly”, written by songwriter and producer Trade Martin, is the more forgettable of the two, not terrible but too overtly bluesy for a complex band like the Allmans. “Southbound” contains a little more funk but is rather mediocre compared to the band’s better material.

The instrumental “Jessica” is Betts’s finest moment on record, led by the three-part harmonized signature riff where the guitarist is joined by Allman on Hammond organ and Chuck Leavell on Fender Rhodes electric piano. Levell later plays piano during an intense long middle part, which also includes a further great lead section by Betts. One of the more focused jams in rock history, this song is really one last look back at the monumental music which built this band. The opening acoustic guitar is played by Les Dudek and the song is named for Betts then two-year-old daughter. “Pony Boy” starts as pure southern blues before morphing into a bluegrass beat. Sung by Betts who provides slide acoustic guitar and is accompanied by piano and upbeat country drum beat in a great, scaled down jam that provides a fitting conclusion to the album.

Brothers and Sisters five weeks at #1 on the U.S. albums chart and made The Allman Brothers Band one of the top concert draws in the country. However, personality conflicts started to tear the band apart and future releases suffered with the band never again reaching this level of critical or commercial prominence.

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1973 Images

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

 

Lynard Skynard - Pronounced

Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd
by Lynyrd Skynyrd

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Lynard Skynard - PronouncedLynyrd Skynyrd burst onto the national scene with their 1973 debut Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd, which not only featured many of the band’s most popular songs but also defined the genre of “Southern Rock” more than any other album. This six-piece group out of Jacksonville, Florida fused blues, country, and straight-forward rock to forge an edge that is totally unpretentious and unassuming. Produced by Al Kooper, there are few debut records which express such confidence and drive, with a balanced diversity between upbeat honky-tonk rock and the delicate jam songs, which would Be the prime templates for the “power ballads” which proliferated a decade or more later.

The grouped was formed nine years earlier, in the summer of 1964. High school friends Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, and Gary Rossington formed a band with two other friends called “The Noble Five”. Through many personnel and name changes in the late 1960s, these three remained the core. In 1970, the band changed their name to “Leonard Skinner” as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a strict phys-ed teacher at their high school in Jacksonville, who constantly harassed them because of their long hair (which played a big part in Rossington dropping out of school). The more distinctive spelling was adopted at the suggestion of Kooper in 1972 when he signed the band his Sounds of the South, a subsidiary of MCA Records.

The band had grown notoriety by opening for the band Strawberry Alarm Clock and that band’s guitarist Ed King joined Lynyrd Skynyrd to play bass on the debut album (later switching back to guitar, giving the band three guitarists). One day the band was playing a high school prom when their then roadie Billy Powell played what would become the intro piece to “Free Bird”, the band’s most famous song. Powell was immediately invited him to join the band as keyboardist and the classic lineup of Lynyrd Skynyrd was established.

 


Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Released: August 13, 1973 (MCA)
Produced by: Al Kooper
Recorded: Studio One, Doraville, Georgia, March 27-May 1, 1973
Side One Side Two
I Ain’t the One
Tuesday’s Gone
Gimme Three Steps
Simple Man
Things Going On
Mississippi Kid
Poison Whiskey
Freebird
Band Musicians
Ronnie Van Zandt – Lead Vocals
Gary Rossington – Guitars
Allen Collins – Guitars
Billy Powell – Keyboards
Ed King – Bass
Bob Burns – Drums

“Freebird”‘s majestic organ intro leads to one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock history, as Rossington used a glass Coricidin bottle for a slide to emulate his hero, the late Duane Allman. The poignant yet melancholy lyrics were written by Collins when he then-girlfriend (and later wife) spoke the opening lines verbatim;

“If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me?”

The moody ballad gives way to a frantic ending jam led by the dual guitar leads and ever-more creative ways to grind out the three backing chords and even contains a drum roll by Bob Burns that lasts nearly a minute. The song completes the band’s debut album in climatic fashion.

The album begins with some backward percussion effects that introduce “I Ain’t the One”. Although this intro is rather awkward, the song finally catches its groove with the Rossington riff and piano embellishment from Powell, saving the song from bring too ordinary. “Tuesday’s Gone” then provides an immediate contrast to the opener, instantly displaying the band’s range and penchant for differing moods. The great harmonized guitars throughout serenade the lyrical theme of changing times with guest Robert Nix filling in on drums and producer Al Kooper providing bass and Mellotron.

Aside from the later hit “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Gimme Three Steps” may the be the quintessential Southern Rock song for all time. Led by a great riff sequence by Collins and just the right amount of lead guitar activity between verses, the storytelling song became the band’s first charting hit. The lyrics are based on an actual experience by Van Zant in a biker bar in Jacksonville when he had a gun pulled on him. That bar was actually called The Pastime Bar, but was renamed “The Jug” (from the song’s lyrics) in September 2012. “Simple Man” finishes off side one as a rather “simple” song, which somehow stretches three chords for nearly six minutes, using some sonic dynamics which saves it from getting too mundane.

Aside from the closer, side two contains some lesser known yet interesting tunes. “Things Goin’ On” at times seems a bit and unsure of itself, especially due to its lack of a strong beat, but the song contains some very entertaining elements such as the alternating instrumental leads between Rossington and Powell. “Mississippi Kid” is the most unique song on the album while being a definite nod to southern blues. It was constructed by Burns and producer Al Kooper, who also adds the signature mandolin while Ed king plays a respectable slide for his only guitar part on the album. “Poison Whiskey” is a short, funky song with more use of the nice double guitar harmony by Rossington and Collins.

A shortened version of “Free Bird” was released as a single and the full song received heavy airplay for decades to come. After the band’s devastating plane crash, which took the life of Van Zant in 1977, a live version of the song re-charted with even greater success.

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1973 Images

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

Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers Band

Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers Band

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Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers BandA unique hybrid album that bridges two eras of The Allman Brothers Band, the 1972 double album Eat a Peach was recorded prior to and in the wake of the tragedy which took the life of lead guitarist Duanne Allman. Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in October 1971 and the album is a tribute to him and his fantastic guitar work. The album consists of live performances recorded at Filmore East in New York City in early 1971 (and not included in that year’s Live From Filmore east along with studio tracks recorded before and after Allman’s death. The original 4-sided vinyl version of Eat a Peach was uniquely laid out with the three tracks recorded post-Duane Allman on side one, live and studio songs featuring Allman on side three and the colossal, 34-minute live “Mountain Jam” split to occupy the entirety of sides two and four (on CD versions of the album this is one complete track #4).

There has been a long-standing rumour that the album’s title (and cover art) referred to the truck involved in Duane’s fatal motorcycle accident. But that was not a peach truck, but a flatbed lumber truck. The album name actually came from a quote by Duane Allman who, when asked what he was doing to help the “revolution” replied;

“There ain’t no revolution, it’s evolution, but every time I’m in Georgia I eat a peach for peace.”

This album showcases the band at their peak. It was originally intended to be light and free form but this mission soon tilted towards best showcasing Duane’s talent and paying tribute to him in his absence. In all it makes for one of the most interesting, diverse, and entertaining albums ever.


Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers Band
Released: February 12, 1972 (Capricorn)
Produced by: Tom Dowd
Recorded: Filmore East, New York & Criteria Studios, Miami, March-December 1971
Record One Record Two
Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
Les Bres in A Minor
Melissa
Mountain Jam (Part 1)
One Way Out
Trouble No More
Stand Back
Blue Sky
Little Martha
Mountain Jam (Part 2)
Band Musicians
Gregg Allman – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
Duane Allman – Guitars
Dickey Betts – Guitars, Vocals
Berry Oakley – Bass
Jai Johnny Johnason & Butch Trucks – Drums, Percussion

“Mountain Jam” may be the longest song ever attempted on a mainstream rock album and (understandably) may be a little hard to sit through for typical rock fans. Still, there is remarkably little repetition is this tune which is credited to all band members. Anchored in solid rock, the tune explores jazz-like improvisation, with guitarist Dicky Betts adding sharp but in-sync accompaniment to Duane Allman’s soaring leads. This track is really where the album should begin as it is chronologically the oldest and its opening notes can actually be heard in the fadeout of At Fillmore East‘s closer “Whipping Post”.

Other songs recorded at the Fillmore include two blues covers. Sonny Boy Williamson’s “One Way Out”, one of the most famous recordings ever by the band. Duane plays call and response licks to his brother Gregg Allman‘s vocals, which is later topped off by a more blazing slide guitar solo by Betts. It may demonstrate the Allmans at their absolute peak as they perform their core blues-rock roadhouse style. Muddy Water’s “Trouble No More” follows with more slide guitar by Duane on slide again in an updated version of a song the band originally recorded for their 1969 debut album.

Greg Allman’s “Stand Back” is the first of the three studio tracks with Duane. More funk-oriented and harder rocking than anything else on the album, with a more typical lyrical theme of scorned love. Dicky Betts “Blue Sky” was a minor radio hit written for his wife (whose Native American name translated to “Blue Sky”). There are some excellent harmonized guitar riffs between the verses and a long lead section of traded riffs between Betts and Duanne Allman during the middle section, all above a pleasant acoustic diddy. “Little Martha” was Duane Allman’s instrumental coda, an acoustic duet piece which ends the modern version of the album. It was the only Allman Brothers track written solely by Duane and was the most recent recorded prior to his death, making it a fitting tribute.

Allman Brothers Band in 1972

After Duane’s death, the shocked band members immediately went separate ways, assuming the group was over. However within a month, they got back together and began planning the format for this album, which included recorded three more tracks to generate enough material for a double album. “Ain’t Wasting Time No More,” was the first track by this “new” band, with Gregg Allman vocalizing both sadness and defiance with the wistful and melancholy lines. This simple but powerful and bluesy pop/rock song Makes a great contrast to the more extended tracks to follow. “Les Brers in A Minor” is a long instrumental composed by Betts, starting with very improvised, Miles Davis-like jam for the first three minutes or so before breaking into a much tighter rock/funk groove led by the bass of Berry Oakley and highlighted by the newer guitar/organ harmonies between Betts and Allman and some wild percussion parts by dual drummers Jai Johnny Johnason & Butch Trucks.

The most haunting and beautiful song on the album is “Melissa”, a sweet and melodic love song featuring somber vocals and acoustic guitar by Gregg Allman and weeping, decayed guitar notes by Betts. The song was actually originally written by Gregg Allman in 1967 and first recorded by his then-group called The 31st of February. A favorite of Duane Allman’s, The Allman Brothers had planned to record it on their debut album but it was never completed. Although Duane does not play on this track it all, it is clear his spirit echoes through every floating note on the beautiful ballad.

With three sides of “old” and one side of “new”, Eat a Peach was both a sad ending and hopeful beginning, and showed the band had great perseverance to carry on. Although the group would not be quite the same without Duane, they did put out some respectable albums in the years after his life was cut tragically short.

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1972 Images

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

Southern Harmony & Musical Companion by The Black Crowes

The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion
by The Black Crowes

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Southern Harmony & Musical Companion by The Black Crowes With the follow-up to their blockbuster 1990 debut, The Black Crowes took a more rootsy and soulful approach with The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion. That debut, Shake Your Money Maker, sold over 5 million copies in its first two years and sent the band on a near-constant tour playing over 350 shows in a year and a half. The new record by the band featured Marc Ford on lead guitar, who replaced Jeff Cease after his departure the year before. This, along with the addition of a full-time keyboardist in Eddie Harsch and a strong presence of female backing vocals gave the Black Crowes room to explore, improvise, and jam with the new material.

The album borrowed its title from a popular book of hymns from the nineteenth century and was suggested by lead singer Chris Robinson. First published by William Walker in 1835, the original The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion was often the sole source of musical literacy for many rural Americans.

The core of the Black Crowes is their rhythm section, lead by Chris’s brother Rich Robinson on guitar who forges the cool, fresh-sounding grooves that anchor the band’s sound. Johnny Colt lays down the solid bass while Steve Gorman provides a very effective, assertive, and melodic form of drumming. The album was produced by George Drakoulia, who gave every instrument a sharp and clear voice, while embracing the looseness of the compositions.


Southern Harmony & Musical Companion by The Black Crowes
Released: May 12, 1992 (Def American)
Produced by: George Drakoulias
Recorded: Various Locations, 1991
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Sting Me
Remedy
Thorn In My Pride
Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye
Sometimes Salvation
Hotel Illness
Black Moon Creeping
No Speak No Slave
My Morning Song
Time Will Tell
Chris Robinson – Lead Vocals
Rich Robinson – Guitars
Marc Ford – Guitars
Eddie Harsch – Keyboards
Johnny Colt – Bass
Steve Gorman– Drums
 
Southern Musical & Harmony Companion by The Black Crowes

The album contains nine new songs written by the Robinson brothers, along with a Bob Marley cover “Time Will Tell”, which closes the album. Just as the band made a signature song out of the Otis Redding cover “Hard To Handle” on the previous album, they make the Marley song their own by rearranging the reggae into a more New Orleans sound. Unfortunately it does not work nearly as well as the previous cover.

The essence of the Black Crowes’ sound is their revival of the solid roots rock of the 1970s along with just enough chord changes, tempo shifts, and the decor of feedback and other effects including catchy lyrics. This is evident early in the album, starting with “Sting Me”. This album opener became a hit for the group, reaching number one on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart, while the next track “Remedy” had even greater success. This second track has a good hook in the beginning and evolves as the song goes on, never getting stuck in the same rut as some of the other songs.

“Thorn in My Pride” is one of the finest songs on the album and also sets the template for the type of approach the band took on many tracks here – a laid back, slow, and melodic build which introduces the instruments seperately above the picked out acoustic notes gradually building into an extended, 6-minute hymn which showcases all that the band is capable of doing. “Hotel Illness” is another strong track with a Stones-like riff and bluesy elements throughout.

While Southern Harmony contains a strong collection of songs, which bridge the metamorphasis between the concise pop/rock of Shake Your Money Maker and the more jam-oriented tracks of their future records, the album at times seems too even, with not enough peaks and valleys to make it an interesting adventure for the listener. This is true for the album as a whole as well as for many individual tracks. It would have been a respectable debut had it come first, but it really didn’t raise the bar for musical excellence.

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1992 Images

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

Automatic For the People by REM

Automatic For the People by R.E.M.

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Automatic For the People by REMAutomatic For the People is the eighth album by R.E.M., released in 1992 following their breakthrough Out of Time. Since the band did not tour to support that album, they were able to start writing and rehearsing for the next album shortly after its release in June 1991. The three musicians -guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry had informal rehearsals for months, often trading instruments and trying different musical arrangements. Lead vocalist and chief lyricist Michael Stipe was not present for these 1991 sessions and received finished demos at the start of 1992, when he started recording vocals.

The album is very much musically subdued and deals with mortality. This was not the original intent, as the band first strove to record a more “upbeat” album, but soon turned further away from the lighter, sweeter pop of previous albums. The finished product was co-produced by Scott Litt at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York. String arrangements by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones were recorded in Atlanta.

Many critics regard Automatic For the People as the finest R.E.M. album due to its beautiful and moving sounds mixed with melancholy themes of hopelessness and anger. It contains a core set of folk songs with majestic overtones resonating from the exotic instrumentation. This is the group’s coming-of-age album as they pass the “alternative” flame to the slew of new bands which now populated the rock landscape.


Automatic For the People by R.E.M.
Released: October 7, 1992 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Scott Litt & R.E.M.
Recorded: Various Locations, 1991-1992
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Drive
Try Not to Breathe
The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
Everybody Hurts
New Orleans Instrumental No. 1
Sweetness Follows
Monty Got a Raw Deal
Ignoreland
Star Me Kitten
Man On the Moon
Nightswimming
Find the River
Michael Stipe – Lead Vocals
Peter Buck – Guitars, Mandolin
Mike Mills – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Bill Berry– Drums, Keyboards, Vocals
 
Automatic For the People by R.E.M.

The pace of the album is immediately set with the opening track “Drive”. This doomy, acoustic-driven tune with heavily reverbed vocals and a touch of accordion has Neil Young quality along with a touch of some of the moodier material by the James Gang. “Try Not to Breathe” follows as another acoustic tune, but much lighter and brighter than opener, although the Stipe’s lyrics are every bit as dark as they narrate the plight of an elderly person who has chosen to end his life.

The radio hit “Everybody Hurts” contains high, sweet vocals and romantic chord progressions by Buck with topped off by themes of desperate hope. The lyrics are stripped of their usual crypto-poetic attributes to a pure, raw, and unambiguous message;

“…when you think you’ve had too much of this life, well hang on, don’t let yourself go, everybody cries, everybody hurts sometimes…”

“New Orleans Instrumental No.1” is an entertaining musical break with tremolo electric piano and a sustained-note guitar groove. “Sweetness Follows” contains more ethereal doominess and a comforting melancholy while “Monty Got a Raw Deal” is built like a traditional R.E.M. song with an acoustic folk beginning and the later addition of the accordion and mandolin. “Ignoreland” is the most rock-oriented song on the album, with strong fuzz guitars, distorted vocals by Stipe, and intense drumming by Berry while “Star Me Kitten” is a calm and moody, almost psychedelic tune with ethereal organ and synth effects and a melodic lead guitar.

Nearly a decade after his death, many people had all but forgotten about comedian Andy Kaufman before R.E.M. figuratively brought him back to life with “Man On the Moon”, a song which both pays tribute to Kaufman while poking fun at the theorists who thought he staged his own death as an elaborate joke. Musically, the somber calmness seems to fit this theme perfectly and the effective two-part chorus puts the song over the top. The song’s title was later used to name the Hollywood biography of Kaufman, starring Jim Carey.

The nostalgic, piano driven “Nightswimming” is an ode to teenage freedom and discovery. The odd musical arrangement and mood makes this a unique and interesting listen. The album concludes with “Find the River” a nice acoustic ballad with piano, fiddle, backing vocals, and an overall good mixture, ending the album with a more traditional song than much of the other material.

Automatic For the People was yet another in a string of hit albums for R.E.M., reaching number two on the U.S. album charts and yielding six regular radio tracks. The album would perhaps be the high-water mark for this innovative band who were truly alternative long before alternative was cool.

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1992 Images

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

Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos

Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos

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Little Earthquakes by Tori AmosLittle Earthquakes is the debut solo album of singer/songwriter Tori Amos. It followed the dissolution of her 1980s synth-pop band called “Y Kant Tori Read”, with a batch of a dozen compositions which set the stage for her solo career as well as forge a template for the more introspective music that flourished among female singer/songwriters during the 1990s. The songs are often stripped-down and raw, but consistently genuine throughout. The album shattered many long-held conventions in the popular music industry (especially for debuts) and launched a career for Amos where she would sell 12 million (and counting) albums worldwide and be nominated for 8 Grammy Awards.

The album was recorded in various phases between 1990 and 1991 in locations ranging from the renowned Capitol Records studios in Hollywood to the home studio of Amos’s then boyfriend. At the label’s urging, Amos then relocated to London (where it was thought there would be a more receptive audience for eccentric performers) where she spent the better part of a year performing in small bars and clubs, slowly getting the material exposed. Little Earthquakes was actually released in the UK in January 1992, a month ahead of its US release, to much critical acclaim.

Sonically, the album contains a balance of acoustic and electronic instrumentation and some very innovative use of vocals to build mood-inspiring crescendos throughout. The best example of all these elements is found in the closing title song, “Little Earthquakes”, which fluctuates between the introspective ballad with deep lyrics and the primal expression of vocal emotives over the consistent and haunting reverberation of a kick drum.


Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos
Released: February 25, 1992 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Tori Amos, Eric Rosse, Davitt Sigerson, Ian Stanley
Recorded: Capitol Records, Los Angeles, 1991-1992
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Crucify
Girl
Silent All These Years
Precious Things
Winter
Happy Phantom
China
Leather
Mother
Tear In Your Hand
Me and a Gun
Little Earthquakes
Tori Amos – Lead & Backing Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Piano
Steve Caton – Guitars, Bass
Eric Rosse– Synths, Percussion, Backing Vocals
 
Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos

All songs on Little Earthquakes written and composed by Tori Amos. The first single from the album was “Silent All These Years”, which did not make a huge splash on the airwaves but did connect with many listeners on an intimate level. A delicate song built on a chromatic piano figure with many subtle flourishes and more sudden and diverse voices from Amos, the song’s bridge is an intense release of pent-up fear and uncertainty into a new role of benevolence and confidence.

“Precious Things” and “Tear In Your Hand” 4:38 are more traditionally arranged with Will McGregor playing bass and Carlo Nuccio playing drums on each track, with “Precious Things” using more experimental sounds such as the intro breathy percussive effects. “Girl” is moody and hypnotic with a consistent drum beat and piano riff interwoven with a variety of orchestral and guitar effects and a building vocal ensemble during the bridge.

The opening “Crucify” is about guilt, self-doubt, and a bit of paranoia, using much Christian symbolism throughout. Lyrically, one may compare this to the type of self-examination Roger Waters used on The Wall. Despite the deep subject matter, the song is musically one of the brighter and more pop-oriented on the album, lead by a moody electric piano and accented by a vocal chorus.

The best composition on the album is “Winter”, one of  four singles released from the album. This is a deeply personal song where Amos incorporated her father, a Christian minister. Lyrically it uses the wonder and confusion of winter and transition of seasons in a reflective allegory for growing up –

“…when you gonna make up your mind, when you gonna love you as much as I do / because things are gonna change so fast”

“China” is often cited as one of Amos’ most traditional-oriented songs, a soft lament to lost with more highly allegorical lyrics. But a few of the songs on the album are so raw and and exposed that they are hard to listen to. “Mother” contains just piano and vocal and may be a bit drug out at seven minutes in duration. “Me and a Gun” is the most haunting song on the album It consists of a single,  acapella vocal by Amos which lyrically recounts her thoughts during a violent rape that she suffered through years earlier following a late-night gig. As she explained the experience and the reason for the song:

“How am I alive to tell you this tale when he was ready to slice me up? In the song I say it was ‘Me and a Gun’ but it wasn’t a gun. It was a knife he had. And the idea was to take me to his friends and cut me up, and he kept telling me that, for hours. And if he hadn’t needed more drugs I would have been just one more news report, where you see the parents grieving for their daughter…”

But then there are some lighter moments on to the album (at least musically). “Happy Phantom” is upbeat and jazzy musically, offering an light and entertaining break from the depth and moodiness of the rest of the album while still maintaining a rather dark lyrical motif. “Leather” is another good composition with excellent arrangement and production. The pleasant and melodic melody is complimented by poignant strings and subtle bits of heavy guitar by Steve Caton, along with entertaining sections of rag-time piano by Amos.

Following Little Earthquakes, Amos consistently released highly acclaimed albums throughout the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium. Her most recent studio release is 2011’s Night of Hunters.

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1992 Images

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

Freak Out! by The Mothers of Invention

Freak Out! by
The Mothers of Invention

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Freak Out! by The Mothers of InventionIn one of his last interviews, Frank Zappa said, “sounds are for people to listen to,” while summing up all the different types of instruments and objects he used to make sounds over the years. This is certainly a true motto for the musician who spent three decades creating the most avant garde art rock. His body of work was incredibly vast with 62 albums of original work released during his lifetime and about 30 more since his death in 1993. The first of these was an ambitious effort done by his band, The Mothers of Invention, in 1966. It was a debut double LP called Freak Out!.

Perhaps one of the most ambitious debut efforts ever, Freak Out!‘s two original LPs each contained a different approach. The first two sides consist of short, pop-oriented songs with edgy lyrics and musical flourishes while the final two sides are dedicated to longer art pieces, more in line with later psychedelia. This was all masterminded by Zappa who possessed incredible musical composition and arrangement talents and was able to replicate the pop music that he actually despised in order to make the highly satirical first half of the album. He then employed many innovative techniques such as shifting time signatures and disparate arrangement for the second part of the album.

The Mothers of Invention were formed in the early 1960s, when Zappa met vocalist Ray Collins. By 1965 the band was playing clubs along the Sunset Strip and were offered a recording contract basedupon the strength of one song, which happened to be the sole pop song to be recorded for the album. The entire album was recorded in four days in a Hollywood studio in March 1966 and produced by Tom Wilson, who had previously produced several albums by Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. Wilson was unaware of the band’s unique musical approach, thinking the Mothers were a blues band when they entered the studio.

CRR logo
Freak Out! by The Mothers of Invention
Released: June 27, 1966 (Verve)
Produced by: Tom Wilson
Recorded: Sunset Highland Studios, Hollywood, CA, March 1966
Side One Side Two
Hungry Freaks, Daddy
I Ain’t Got No Heart
Who Are the Brain Police?
Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder
Motherly Love
How Could I Be Such a Fool?
Wowie Zowie
You Didn’t Try to Call Me
Any Way the Wind Blows
I’m Not Satisfied
Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
Side Three Side Four
Trouble Every Day
Help, I’m a Rock
The Return of the Son
of Monster Magnet
Primary Musicians
Frank Zappa – Guitars, Vocals
Ray Collins – Vocals, Harmonica, Effects
Elliot Ingber – Guitars
Roy Estrada – Bass, Vocals
Jimmy Carl Black – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album begins with the fuzz-guitar driven “Hungry Freaks, Daddy”, a song with a 1966 beat and music along with 1977 lyrics and tone and contains the first hints of odd instrumentation including vibraphone and kazoo. The first side then proceeds through the bluesy rock of “I Ain’t Got No Heart”, the totally psychedelic “Who Are the Brain Police?”, and the doo-wop parody “Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder”, with a three-part harmony among Zappa, Collins, and bassist Roy Estrada.

“Motherly Love” is the best song on the first side, almost with pop sensibility although definitely dirty-minded. It became the sort of anthem for the band in the early years and probably one of the first to directly take on the world of groupies and sex on the road. “How Could I Be Such a Fool?” finishes off the first side as another good song with some nice Mexican horns in the mix.

The Mothers of InventionThe album’s second side is probably the most entertaining and interesting. Starting with the almost-bubble-gum kid’s tune “Wowie Zowie” with its frivolous play on words, the side then moves through two legitimate pop songs. The excellent “You Didn’t Try to Call Me” contains some additional horns, woodwinds, vibes, and extra layers of guitar by Elliot Ingber. “Any Way the Wind Blows” is a 50s-style love song, composed by Zappa in 1963, and was the song that ultimately got the Mothers their record deal. “I’m Not Satisfied” is an upbeat, sixties rock popper with more great background brass while “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here” is a bit more freaky, striking a balance between a totally off-the-rail piece and quasi-pop song.

Side three begins with “Trouble Every Day”, a groovy, bluesy number with poetic lyrics. It is perhaps the most memorable song from the album and has a rocked-out, Dylan-esque quality. The eight and a half minute “Help, I’m a Rock” is in three pieces, all very experimental, repetitive, and a bit lazy. Much of the track sounds like someone chanting along to a skipping record. “The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet” takes up the entirty of the fourth and final side. It is a studio jam over a simple rock motif with many street percussionists and other “freaks” brought in from the Sunset Strip to improvise thid final track.

While Freak Out! was far from a commercial or critical success upon its release, the album did develop a cult following among fans and fellow musicians. It was a major influence on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and would eventually make many “all time ” lists.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.