Monday, March 25, 2013


YEAR:  1974
LABEL:  MCA/Rocket
TRACK LISTING:  The Bitch Is Back,  Pinky,  Grimsby,  Dixie Lily,  Solar Prestige a Gammon,  You're So Static,  I've Seen the Saucers,  Stinker,  Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me,  Ticking
BONUS TRACKS:  Pinball Wizard,  Sick City,  Cold Highway,  Step Into Christmas
IMPRESSIONS:  Happy 66th birthday, Sir Elton!  Sandwiched as it between between the monumental "GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD" and the much-loved "CAPTAIN FANTASTIC AND THE BROWN DIRT COWBOY", "CARIBOU" may seem like they're lesser cousin.  And in a way it is.  However, it is still a fantastic album filled with some of my favourite Elton songs.  Recorded apparently in a mere nine days under pressure from the record label, "CARIBOU" features my favourite Elton song of all time:  "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" as well as the boffo hit single "The Bitch Is Back".  However, it also features some of Elton's strongest deep album cuts:  "Pinky" which is simply one of Elton's best ballads (and least known), the "random-shooting-in-a-bar" epic album closer "Ticking" (which is one of my dad's favourites) and even the delightfully silly throwaway (but catchy) nonsense of "Solar Prestige a Gammon".  However, it also contains some of Elton's more forgettable songs:  "Grimsby", "Dixie Lily" and "Stinker" among them.  Naturally, when pumping out an album in 9 days at the insistence of your record label, there's bound to be some filler.  But then, that's why God invented the skip button.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  The Bitch Is Back,  Pinky,  Solar Prestige a Gammon,  Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me,  Ticking,  Pinball Wizard,  Step Into Christmas
GUEST ARTISTS:  Bruce Johnston (backing vocals on "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me),  Carl Wilson (backing vocals on "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me"),  Dusty Springfield (additional backing vocals),  Toni Tennille (additional backing vocals),  Tower of Power (brass/horn section),  Daryl Dragon (arranger)
FACT SHEET:  CARIBOU is Elton John's eighth album.  The title of the album derived from it having been mostly recorded at the Caribou Ranch recording studio.  The album was produced by Gus Dudgeon.  "Pinball Wizard" is a cover of the Who song written by Pete Townshend.  Elton's band consists of Davey Johnstone on guitars, Dee Murray on bass, Nigel Olsson on drums and Ray Cooper on percussion. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


YEAR:  1972
TRACK LISTING:  I'm Stone In Love With You,  If You Don't Watch Out,  You and Me,  It's Too Late,  Children of the Night,  You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart),  Break Up To Make Up,  Peek-A-Boo,  You're Right As Rain,  Pieces
IMPRESSIONS:  No, they're not the Impressions, they're the Stylistics, silly!  This is the only actual album (that's not a "greatest hits" collection) by the Stylistics that I own and I think it's well worth owning.  While critic Robert Christgau gives the album a B+ and thinks its not quite as good as the Stylistics' eponymous debut album, I think their sophomore effort is a classic early seventies soul album by the smooth-as-velvet Stylistics.  Just passing the 37 minute mark, ROUND 2 is sweet, soulful and satisfying.  While it's not a masterpiece, it is something akin to a perfect little listening experience that hangs around just long enough without overstaying its welcome; add a couple more songs of the same quality and the ears would begin to tire.  As it stands, however, ROUND 2 kicks out four hit singles ("I'm Stone In Love With You", "You'll Never Get To Heaven [If You Break My Heart]", "Break Up To Make Up" and {not-so-hit single}"Peek-A-Boo") as well as the exquisite ballad "You're Right As Rain" and a nice cover of Carole King's "Too Late" given a soul makeover.  Album tracks like the bouncy, Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions-sounding "If You Don't Watch Out", "You and Me" (which sounds like early-era Supremes) and "Pieces" (which sounds like later-era Supremes or Temptations) are very pleasant as is the album's obvious (by it's trumpeting appearance on the album cover) 7 minute epic "Children of the Night" (no, it's sadly not about vampires).  Also you've gotta love an album cover that looks so militant encasing an album which is filled with the sweetest soothing soul.  It's just a damn fine listen all around.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  All of 'em. . .ain't if funny how these half hour albums seem to contain nary any filler whereas modern-day 75 minute albums . . . well . . .
FACT SHEET:  ROUND 2 is the Stylistics' second album.  The producer was Thom Bell and was recorded at Philadelphia's Sigma Sound Studios.  "It's Too Late" was written by Carole King and Toni Stern.  "You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart" was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.   

Friday, March 22, 2013


YEAR:  1963
LABEL:  Parlophone
TRACK LISTING:  I Saw Her Standing There,  Misery,  Anna (Go To Him),  Chains,  Boys,  Ask Me Why,  Please Please Me,  Love Me Do,  P.S. I Love You,  Baby It's You,  Do You Want To Know A Secret,  A Taste of Honey,  There's A Place,  Twist and Shout
IMPRESSIONS:  50 years ago today, the Beatles first album was released and we've now had a half century of Beatlemania!  The importance of this album's released has been talked about and examined enough by others so that I need not really go into it here.  If you're reading this music blog at all, you don't need the likes of me to tell you why the first Beatles album is important.  Surely this album must be considered one of the "big bangs" in music history.  There would of course be much better Beatles albums but no other can stand as the first.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  I Saw Her Standing There,  Chains,  Ask Me Why,  Please Please Me,  Love Me Do,  P.S. I Love You,  Baby It's You,  Twist and Shout
FACT SHEET:  PLEASE PLEASE ME is the Beatles' first album.  The album was quickly rushed out by their record label to capitalise on the band's singles-chart success; at the time the usual routine was to release an album only after enough hit singles existed to fill it.  It would mainly be the influence of the Beatles later in their career which would change the music industry from focussing on songs to emphasizing albums.  Eight of the fourteen songs on the album are composed by John Lennon & Paul McCartney with the remainder being covers.  In order to fill the album, George Martin essentially had the Beatles record their live song list.  The album was released in the U.S. on Vee-Jay Records as "INTRODUCING THE BEATLES" in 1964 and later on Capitol Records as "THE EARLY BEATLES"; it would not be issued as "PLEASE PLEASE ME" until it appeared on compact disc.  The cover photo is by Angus McBean and features the Beatles looking down the stairwell of EMI's London headquarters in Manchester Square.  In 1969, the Beatles asked McBean to recreate the cover photo for their "GET BACK" album but the photo would actually appear on their greatest hits collection "1967-1970".  In 2013, to mark the 50th anniversary of the album, a selection of modern-day artists re-recorded the entire album in one day (the time it took to record the original 50 years earlier) and the tracks were broadcast on BBC Radio 2 (with a "making of" documentary airing on BBC television).   

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


YEAR:  1973
LABEL:  Rak Records
TRACK LISTING:  48 Crash,  Glycerine Queen,  Shine My Machine,  Official Suburbian Superman,  I Wanna Be Your Man,  Primitive Love,  All Shook Up,  Sticks & Stones,  Skin Tight Skin,  Get Back Mama,  Rockin' Moonbeam,  Shakin' All Over
BONUS TRACKS:  Rolling Stone,  Brain Confusion (For All the Lonely People),  Can the Can,  Ain't Ya Somethin' Honey,  Little Bitch Blue,  Daytona Demon,  Roman Fingers,  Ain't Got No Home
IMPRESSIONS:  Speaking of Yanks who made it big in England but went nowhere in the U.S., we present Suzi Quatro.  Well-known and damn near beloved in England but practically unknown here.  Quatro is known primarily in the States as a character actor playing Leather Tuscadero occasionally on "HAPPY DAYS" and for having one minor radio hit with "Stumblin' In".  However, from the beginning Suzi Quatro hit it big in England with her raucous, glam-rock and this, her debut album, fit in perfectly with the year 1973 just as much as T. Rex's "ELECTRIC WARRIOR" did.  This is an album I would've loved had I had it when I was 8 years old.  I can just picture myself spinning the album on my black portable record player that closed up and could be carried like a suitcase.  After all, at the exact same time I was rockin' to "ELECTRIC WARRIOR" so here we have a lost opportunity for my formative years.  I only first heard Suzi Quatro's eponymous debut album decades later.  But who says you can't make up for lost time?
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  48 Crash,  Glycerine Queen,  Official Suburbian Superman,  I Wanna Be Your Man,  Primitive Love,  All Shook Up,  Sticks & Stones,  Skin Tight Skin,  Get Back Mama,  Shakin' All Over,  Can the Can,  Ain't Ya Somethin' Honey,  Little Bitch Blue,  Daytona Demon
FACT SHEET:  SUZI QUATRO is Suzi Quatro's first album.  The first pressing of the album in the U.K. omitted "Can the Can" and included "Rockin' Moonbeam"; subsequent pressings added the former when it became a hit single.  The album was entitled "CAN THE CAN" in Australia.  "I Wanna Be Your Man" is a Beatles cover written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney.  "All Shook Up" is an Elvis Presley cover written by Otis Blackwell & Elvis Presley.  "Shakin' All Over" is a Johnny Kidd & the Pirates cover written by Johnny Kidd.  "Ain't Got No Home" is a cover of a Clarence "Frogman" Henry song. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


YEAR:  2012
TRACK LISTING:  Everyday I Have the Blues,  Feeling Good,  Tell Me More and More and Then Some,  Rainy Night In Georgia,  This Bitter Earth,  Me Myself & I,  No Regrets,  One Day I'll Fly Away,  Almaz,  Street Life,  Last Night At Danceland
IMPRESSIONS:  There are certain singers who spend an entire concert trying to impress you; pulling out little tricks designed to impress an audience.  Look what a fantastic singer I am.  Aren't I so damn impressive?  And then there are other singers who impress by not trying to impress.  By simply interpreting a song superbly with little trace of ego because that's the only way they know how to do it.  This is Randy Crawford whose live album released last year is one of the most pleasurable listens you're likely to hear lately.  Crawford is simply a masterful interpreter of song whose also got a fantastic instrument with which to do it.  This (admittedly short "leaving-them-wanting-more" 50 minutes) concert recording finds Crawford never putting a foot wrong.  The song choices (many from her last couple albums together with Joe Sample) are without exception well-chosen.  Crawford tackles Nina Simone's "Feeling Good", Brook Benton's "Rainy Night In Georgia", Dinah Washington's "This Bitter Earth" and Edith Piaf's "No Regrets" and owns them all (as well as serving up her own hits "One Day I'll Fly Away" and the sublime "Street Life").  The virtuoso piano playing by Joe Sample does the rare thing of managing to sympathetically serve the song and the vocalist while still sounding interesting and full of star-power.  The excellent drumming by Steve Gadd is also a stand-out.  Together with Nicklas Sample on bass, this is one tight trio.  But, when all is said and done, it all comes back to Ms. Veronica Crawford from Macon, Georgia who puts on an impeccable, delectable show.
FACT SHEET:  LIVE (WITH STEVE GADD & NICKLAS SAMPLE) is Randy Crawford's 17th album and her third with Joe Sample.  The concert was recorded in Dusseldorf, Germany because Crawford is big in Europe while her native country basically ignores her.  Shame on you, America! 

Saturday, March 9, 2013


YEAR:  1978
LABEL:  Polydor
TRACK LISTING:  Pure,  Jigsaw Feeling,  Overground,  Carcass,  Helter Skelter,  Mirage,  Metal Postcard (Mittageisen),  Nicotine Stain,  Suburban Relapse,  Switch
BONUS TRACKS:  (On Deluxe Edition):  Makeup To Break Up (Riverside Session),  Love In A Void (John Peel 29/11/77),  Mirage (John Peel 29/11/77),  Metal Postcard (John Peel 29/11/77),  Suburban Relapse (John Peel 29/11/77),  Hong Kong Garden (6/2/78),  Overground (John Peel 6/2/78),  Carcass (John Peel 6/2/78),  Helter Skelter (John Peel 6/2/78),  Metal Postcard (Mittageisen) (Pathway Session),  Suburban Relapse (Pathway Session),  The Staircase (Mystery) (Pathway Session),  Mirage (Pathway Session),  Nicotine Stain (Pathway Session),  Hong Kong Garden,  The Staircase (Mystery)
IMPRESSIONS:  Truth be told; 1978 was a shit year for me.  I was the "new kid in town" for about a year when a number of things went wrong for me in my middle year of middle school.  But one thing I could rely upon was music.  And truth be also told; 1978 had some good music in it.  Disco, of course, was riding high and, while I was never a huge fan of disco I liked the "really good" disco.  I picked up the SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER soundtrack at the Sound Odyssey in the Cherry Hill Mall when it came out and its still a pretty interesting record.  However, through my friend Chris in Marlton Middle School I had gotten into AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Monty Python records (not necessarily in that order).  Besides that, there was the K-Tel (or somebody's) compilation THE MAGIC OF ABBA which I played to death as well as Parliament's MOTOR BOOTY AFFAIR, THE BEST OF EARTH WIND & FIRE VOL. 1 and Paul McCartney's WINGS GREATEST.  1978, for me, was also the year of The Alan Parsons Project's PYRAMID, Al Stewart's TIME PASSAGES and Steve Martin's A WILD AND CRAZY GUY.  This was a year of Blondie, Cheap Trick and The Cars for me as well.  This was also the year of Kate Bush's THE KICK INSIDE and LIONHEART, Rush's HEMISPHERES, Bob Marley's KAYA, Funkadelic's ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE and the Walker Brothers' NITE FLIGHTS; none of which I heard in the year 1978.  It would take a couple years for me to get around to them.  And Siouxsie & the Banshees' debut album THE SCREAM is also in this latter category.  I would be a fan of Adam & the Ants and Lene Lovich before I got around to Siouxsie; and both these acts owe a lot to Ms. Dallion.  Formed out of a group of kids known as the "Bromley Contingent" that circled around the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie & the Banshees would make a debut album which Garry Mulholland refers to as "a darkly comic storm of musical innovation and youthful dread".  Mulholland also describes Siouxsie as a sort of punk rock version of Liza Minnelli in CABARET; "...innocent decadents in a fascist nightmare".  Whether or not you can lay the birth of "goth" at their feet (and Mulholland keeps insisting it ain't their fault!), THE SCREAM is a seminal album of 1978.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Jigsaw Feeling, Overground,  Helter Skelter,  Metal Postcard (Mittageisen),  Nicotine Stain,  Switch,  Hong Kong Garden,  The Staircase (Mystery)
FACT SHEET:  THE SCREAM is Siouxsie & the Banshees' first album.  The album was produced by Steve Lillywhite.  "Helter Skelter" is a cover of the Beatles song written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


YEAR:  1982
LABEL:  Atlantic
TRACK LISTING:  Tell Me It's Over,  I See Red,  I Got Something,  Strangers,  To Turn the Stone,  I Know There's Something Going On,  Threnody,  Baby Don't You Cry No More,  The Way You Do,  You Know What I Mean,  Here We'll Stay
IMPRESSIONS:  The album's very pink.  This and Frida's membership in the extremely poppy ABBA would give the impression of bubble gum.  However, from the opening track's driven, rock-oriented (albeit early 80's) sound, Frida announced that she was going for a harder-edged sound.  And while the album features it's fair share of softer ballads, Frida managed to give us a surprisingly eclectic mix of rather strong material provided by a bevy of superstar songwriters.  By this point, ABBA was spending less and less time together and Frida was going through her divorce with bandmate Benny Andersson so she decided it was time to do a solo album; this time in English and designed to appeal to the current international music scene.  After obsessively listening to Phil Collins' solo album "FACE VALUE" and the "In the Air Tonight" single "...non-stop for eight months...", Frida's record label Polar Music approached Collins and offered him the producer's chair for her album.  Collins accepted and Polar Music announced the project and solicited suitable songs from publishing houses and songwriters around the world.  Over 500 songs were submitted and songs by Stephen Bishop, Bryan Ferry, Rod Argent, Giorgio Moroder & Pete Bellotte among others were selected for the project.  Frida asked future Roxette member Per Gessle to set Dorothy Parker's poem "Threnody" to music and she also chose to cover "FACE VALUE" track "You Know What I Mean"; a song which had become very important to her.  The album closer was to be a cover of the Sonia Jones 1980 Eurovision Song Contest pre-selection "Here We'll Stay" as a duet with producer Phil Collins.  The "FACE VALUE" Phil Collins sound is extremely evident in the gated drum sound, the brassy brass stings of the Phenix Horns (all over contemporary Phil Collins and Genesis albums) and the harder-rock sound of some of the songs.  However, while some songs evoke the sound of "No Reply At All" or "Turn It On Again", the album features a vast array of styles from the cod-reggae beat of "I See Red" to the dreamy "Strangers" to the chilly cold early 80's sound of "I Got Something" to the incredibly lush romanticism of "The Way You Do".  Some tracks naturally work better than others (the duet with Phil Collins is particularly weak) while others stand up to this day (the phenomenal hit single "I Know There's Something Going On", the mandolin-like "Threnody", the aforementioned Bryan Ferry confection "The Way You Do").  The album itself has quite a few features which mark it as a "divorce album"; both Frida and Collins were going through divorced in which they both claimed to be the injured party.  Perhaps that contributes to the nice edge in the listening experience.  All these years later, "SOMETHING'S GOING ON" remains a surprisingly strong and entertaining album.  The album received mostly good reviews with Billboard magazine saying "ABBA's auburn-haired songstress makes a bold solo project a stunning success" and Rolling Stone's Album Guide calling it "...a sharp, rock-oriented, delightfully eclectic album."
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Tell Me It's Over,  I See Red,  Strangers,  To Turn the Stone,  I Know There's Something Going On,  Threnody,  The Way You Do
GUEST ARTISTS:  Phil Collins (producer, drums and percussion, songwriter on "You Know What I Mean", vocals on "Here We'll Stay"),  The Phenix Horns (brass)
FACT SHEET:  SOMETHING'S GOING ON is Frida's first solo album in English; her previous solo albums were in Swedish.  Frida's real name is Ani-Frid Lyngstad and she is one quarter of the Swedish super-group ABBA.  The album was produced by Phil Collins with Hugh Padgham as sound engineer at Polar Music Studios in Stockholm.  Earth, Wind & Fire's horn section The Phenix Horns came to Stockholm for two days to record their brass section.  Strings, orchestra and harp were recorded at Sir George Martin's Air Studios in London with Martin and Paul McCartney in attendance.  "Tell Me It's Over" was written by Stephen Bishop.  "To Turn the Stone" was written by Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder for Donna Summer's 1981 double album "I'M A RAINBOW" which would remain unreleased by Geffen Records until 1996.  "I Know There's Something Going On" was written by Russ Ballard.  "Threnody" is a poem written by Dorothy Parker set to music by future Roxette member Per Gessle.  "Baby, Don't You Cry No More" was written by Rod Argent.  "The Way You Do" was written by Bryan Ferry.  "You Know What I Mean" was written by Phil Collins.  The cover portrait of Frida was painted by Yves Poyet.

Monday, March 4, 2013


YEAR:  1967
LABEL:  Parlophone/Capitol
TRACK LISTING:  Magical Mystery Tour,  The Fool on the Hill,  Flying,  Blue Jay Way,  Your Mother Should Know,  I Am the Walrus,  Hello Goodbye,  Strawberry Fields Forever,  Penny Lane,  Baby You're A Rich Man,  All You Need Is Love
IMPRESSIONS:  Put the abyssmal film out of your mind; this is a superb album.  In fact, I've always preferred it to SGT. PEPPER actually.  I mean, just look at the tracks.  The eponymous album opener is one of my favourite Beatle songs ever.  There's the absolute classic "I Am the Walrus" (yet another of my top Beatle tunes).  One of McCartney's best "granny songs" appears in the form of "Your Mother Should Know" and the groundbreaking singles "Strawberry Fields Forever" (which many people think is actually on SGT. PEPPER) and the radio-friendly smash "Penny Lane".  Then, there's possibly my very first ever favourite song:  "Hello Goodbye".  I actually have a very solid memory of myself at 2 years old outside on a sidewalk somewhere toddling along to the sound of "Hello Goodbye" on a transistor radio someone was holding.  I remember very clearly hearing the song and running towards someone unsteadily on my toddler legs.  This has always given the song a mythic quality for me and whenever I hear it I get a lovely feeling of nostalgia.  Even the rather unimpressive "Fool on the Hill" holds a soft spot in my heart because my late friend Peg loved it.  After all this, the album ends with another of my faves ("Baby, You're A Rich Man") and the anthem "All You Need Is Love").  There aren't many albums as impressive as this and it was actually spliced together by adding a side two of singles to a side one originally released in Britain as an EP!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Magical Mystery Tour,  Your Mother Should Know,  I Am the Walrus,  Hello Goodbye,  Strawberry Fields Forever,  Baby You're A Rich Man,  All You Need Is Love
GUEST ARTISTS:  Mal Evans (percussion on "Magical Mystery Tour" and "Strawberry Fields Forever"), Neil Aspinall (percussion on "Magical Mystery Tour"), George Martin (piano on "All You Need Is Love"), Mick Jagger (backing vocals on "All You Need Is Love"), Keith Richards (backing vocals on "All You Need Is Love"), Marianne Faithfull (backing vocals on "All You Need Is Love"), Keith Moon (backing vocals on "All You Need Is Love"), Eric Clapton (backing vocals on "All You Need Is Love"), Pattie Boyd Harrison (backing vocals on "All You Need Is Love"), Jane Asher (backing vocals on "All You Need Is Love"), Graham Nash (backing vocals on "All You Need Is Love")
FACT SHEET:  MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR is the Beatles' ninth album.  Originally released as an EP soundtrack album for the film of the same name (side one), side two was added to make up a complete album in the U.S. by making side two a collection of recent singles.  The idea for the film was conceived by Paul McCartney as a scriptless coach journey which was broadcast over the BBC during the 1967 Christmas holidays; the film was universally panned but the soundtrack EP/album became a #1 album for 8 weeks.