Buffalo Springfield Again by Buffalo Springfield

December 30, 2009

The Buffalo Springfield returned with a new studio album in November of 1967. Despite infighting within the group and the absence of various members from recording sessions, Buffalo Springfield Again is recognized as the critical apex of the group and one of the best rock albums in history.

Stephen Stills and Neil Young would always have an uneasy relationship which was a tragedy as their talents and musical styles matched together so well. Young had already begun a withdrawal from the group and his contributions are more in line with his solo work, which would begin in the near future, than those of a united band. The other change was the emergence of Richie Furay as a third talented songwriter which meant fewer opportunities for Stills and Young.

Neil Young contributed three strong tracks. “Mr. Soul” is one of the first great rockers of his career. It featured his own lead vocal plus complimentary guitar work and backing vocals from Furay. “Expecting To Fly” was recorded without any other member of the group present. It is one of the more layered and complex songs of his career and was more ambitious than most of what was being produced during the late sixties. “Broken Arrow” is a six minute autobiography of the band and except for a short performance by Furay, it is another track without any other member of the group participating. In fact Stephen Stills does not appear on any of his original compositions.

I consider Richie Furay’s “A Child’s Claim To Fame” to be the most memorable track on the album. I remember playing this catchy country/rock song to death back in the day. His lead vocal is superb and it was one of the few true group performances. “Sad Memory” is a haunting love ballad. It is basically just him on electric guitar and vocal with Neil Young contributing some stellar acoustic guitar work in support. His “Good Time Boy” is a well structured song but the decision to have drummer Dewey Martin supply the lead vocal has always seemed a bit odd.

Stephen Stills had begun to leave his folk roots behind. “Rock & Roll Woman” was a joint effort with David Crosby who had been dismissed from the Byrds. It was an excellent rock track and would be the beginning of a too date, 42 year relationship between the two. “Bluebird” and “Hung Upside Down” are two more well crafted rock tracks. The only average song on the album is “Everydays” which has a jazzy element to it and feels out of place.

Buffalo Springfield Again may have been pieced together by a group which was beginning to fall apart but there is no denying its lasting brilliance. Listening to this album today makes it easy to understand why The Buffalo Springfield are members of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Buffalo Springfield by Buffalo Springfield

December 30, 2009

Stephen Stills began his musical journey as a folkie in the early to mid sixties. His career took a dramatic turn when he and fellow musician Richie Furay met or to be more exact collided with Neil Young. His folk sensibilities would mesh with Young’s rock leanings to form the basis for one of the most creative bands in American music history.

The Buffalo Springfield, under the leadership of Stills, Young, and the underrated Furay, would fuse rock and country music and leave behind a legacy that reverberates to the present day. Bass player Bruce Palmer and drummer Dewey Martin would complete the original lineup.

They would remain a functioning unit for only a little more than two years, yet such was their talent level and respect, they would be elected to The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1997. The group spawned the solo careers of Young and Stills, plus provided the foundation for Poco and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and sometimes Young.

Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled debut album was different than just about everything else being produced in 1966. Originally released in October to general disinterest by the American record buying public, it was re-released in March 1967. The re-release featured the group’s big hit “For What Its Worth,” enabling the album to become a moderate commercial success.

Stephen Stills’ “For What Its Worth” is two and a half minutes of musical bliss. Its introductory guitar notes are still recognizable over four decades after its initial release, and it remains the perfect and eternal song of protest. It is not only a relic of the sixties but is that rare song that has retained its relevancy over decades.

Neil Young wrote five of the album’s tracks but only sings lead on two as he lacked confidence in his vocal skills at that point in his career. Richie Furay fills in on the other three. Still his song writing ability is superb as “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong,” “Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It,” “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” and “Burned” which does feature his vocal, are universally excellent. Stills’ contributions are more hit or miss. “Hot Dusty Roads” is a nice country rock song, and “Sit Down I Love You” has remained a part of his live act for years.

The album features the interplay of three excellent guitarists and the clear harmonies of four wonderful voices that fit together well. Buffalo Spingfield remains a remarkable debut and an important one yet it was only the beginning as the best was yet to come.

Glad All Over 45 by The Dave Clark Five

December 30, 2009

The Dave Clark Five were the clean cut band of the British muisc invasion in the mid-1960’s. Dave Clark formed the band in 1960 to earn a little extra money for his soccer team. It sems hard to believe now but they were considered serious rivals of The Beatles for a short time.

The DC5 were a little different than many of the bands during their time period. Their line-up was composed of drums, organ, guitar, sax and bass which gave their sound a different feel. Organist Mike Smith was the lead vocalist, not Dave Clark.

When they broke-up around 1970 they never refromed for any reason. They were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame two years ago.

“Glad All Over” burst upon the American music scene in Feb. of 1964. It is joyous, driving rock ‘n’ roll at its mid-sixties best. Organ, guitar, and sax form the foundation for Smith’s vocals. It would be a huge hit reaching number six on the National charts.

While alot of sixties material sounds dated today, this is one you should not miss.

Society’s Child 45 by Janis Ian

December 28, 2009

Let’s see…..It’s 1967 and you have a teenage singer/songwriter composing and issuing a song about an interracial relationship. The song is immediately banned from play on a number of radio stations. The song goes on to become a national hit and one of the most respected hits of the late sixties.

“Society’s Child” was a unique song in its day and still rings true today.

Janis Ian would go on to a productive career. Her music would sell well if not spectacularly but would be respected as some of the most thoughtful and introspective of the last four decades.

“Society’s Child” is a gentle song that belies its message. It is basically a folk tune with pop leanings. It remains a lasting and effective commentary on one of the ills of American society.

You Really Got Me 45 by The Kinks

December 27, 2009

The Kinks were formed in 1963 by brothers Ray and Dave Davies. They were quickly signed to a recording contract and became part of The British music invasion of The United States in the mid-sixties.

The Kinks still exist today and have had a long and commercially succesful career but no song had more impact than their first big American hit.

“You Really Got Me” contains one of the best known opening riffs in guitar history and was a first blast of what would become hard rock. Ray Davies may have had the vision but it was Dave who got it just right. Many groups have built upon this riff over he years but The Kinks can always say they were first.

Surf City 45 by Jan and Dean

December 26, 2009

Jan & Dean had been producing light weight pop hits since the late 1950’s. All that changed when they released “Surf City” in the early sixties. They would grab onto the The Beach Boys coat tails and produce an excellent and popular series of surf and car songs during the next half decade.

Jan Berry may not have had the overall musical vision on Brian Wilson but he could produce almost as well. He would take his and Dean’s voices and make them sound like a virtual choir. While they could not reproduce their sound live, on a record it was spectacular.

“Two Girls For Every Boy” leads off this uptempo romp through the idyllic and long gone California surf scene. While in some ways it may be a relic of a bygone era, it still is an enjoyable listening eperience and remains an eternal song of summer. The music buying public agreed as it became their only number one hit. As a bonus it even came with a picture sleeve.

My Top Ten Albums Of 1959

December 26, 2009

Fifty years is a long time, especially in the music industry. I did not begin to buy/collect records until the mid-sixties, but quickly began accumulating older albums that appealed to me. As 2009 draws to a close I thought it would be nice to re-visit some of those lost gems and present my top ten albums of a half century ago.

1959 found Elvis in the army and Ray Charles playing out the string with the Atlantic label. It was the year of the teen idol as Ricky Nelson, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Annette Funicello and others dominated the music charts. Still there are a number of gems to be mined from 1959. So here are my top ten.

10. Hymns by Johnny Cash

Like Elvis, when Johnny Cash sang gospel he meant it. Songs such as “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “It Was Jesus,” “I Call Him” and “The Old Account” are presented reverently and sincerely. His deep baritone is in fine form and the tone is much better than his seventies and eighties work.

9. The Fabulous Little Richard

This was his third and last studio album for the Specialty label. It may not have been as strong as the first two but Little Richard in the studio was an adventure. “While Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Kansas City,” “She Knows How To Rock,” and “Shake A Hand,” are part of his last great album release.

8. Here We Go Again by The Kingston Trio

The Kingston Trio is one of the forgotten groups of their era. They took the folk music of The Weavers and gave it a modern sound which set the stage for the folk movement of the sixties. They were one of the most commercially successful groups of their time. This album spent ten weeks in the number one position in The United States.

7. Belafonte At Carnegie Hall

At one time Harry Belafonte mattered and this album demonstrates why. Recorded live April 19 and 20, he was able to fuse rhythm & blues, folk, and calypso into one entertaining and creative mix. The old standards “Cottonfields,” “John Henry,” “Danny Boy,” and “Shenandoah” never sounded so good.

6. The Buddy Holly Story

Buddy Holly only released three studio albums prior to his death in a plane crash on February 3, 1959. His record label quickly released a greatest hits album to cash in on his legacy. While all of his best material has now been issued many times over, back in 1959 it formed a strong album. “Peggy Sue,” “Maybe Baby,” “Everyday,” “Rave On” and “That’ll Be The Day” remain as some of rock’s essential songs.

5. The Best Of The Everly Brothers

The Everly Brothers albums were typical of the day. They would gather a few hits and surround them with a bunch of cover songs. They were basically a singles duo and when their best material is gathered onto one album it is spectacular. Their well polished harmonies and production were ahead of its time and would prove influential in the decades to come.

4. Persuasive Percussion by Terry Snyder and The All Stars

I know this may seem an odd choice but it was a unique and influential release in 1959. It was the first album to be released with a gatefold cover. In addition the Command label bragged this was a high quality, state of the art release and the stereo mix proves them right. It is still very good even by today’s standards. The record buying public agreed as it would spend thirteen weeks as the number on album in The United States.

3. Go Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley was probably as good as he thought himself to be. He fused the blues with rock ‘n’ roll to create a unique and lasting sound. He also wrote all twelve tracks on this release. “The Clock Strikes Twice,” “Little Girl,” “Bo’s Guitar,” and “Dearest Darlin’” find him at his best and that is very good indeed.

2. Shout by The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers evolved into a funk group as time passed but their first release on the RCA label finds them as energetic and raw rhythm and blues artists. Their rendition of “Shout” may only have made it to number 47 on the charts but it remains a memorable song and one of the best performances of the year. That song alone is worth the price of admission but when you add a whole album of like material it is memorable indeed.

1. Gunfighter Ballads by Marty Robbins

Marty Robbins is remembered today as a country/pop artist but in 1959 he released a pop, country, and western album all rolled into one. It was filled with story songs of the old west and bridged the gap between early and modern country. It produced three huge pop chart hits as the number one “El Paso,” “The Hanging Tree,” and the brilliant “Big Iron” forms the nucleus of the best album of 1959.

Cash, Robbins, Bo Diddley, and Buddy Holly are now deceased as are members of The Isley Brothers and The Kingston Trio. So are Elvis, Rick Nelson, and Ray Charles. What they have left behind is their music and it all added up to a very good year.

Early Seger Vol. 1 by Bob Seger

December 22, 2009

Bob Seger has now sold tens of millions of records and CDs and is safely enshrined in The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Between 1976 and 1986 he released a series of commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums. Titles such as Night Moves, Stranger In Town, Against The Wind, Like A Rock, The Distance, and Live Bullet continue to sell well decades after their initial release as they contain some of the most memorable tracks in rock ‘n’ roll history. Songs such as “Old Time Rock and Roll,” “Hollywood Nights,” “Against The Wind,” “Fire Lake,” “Shame On The Moon,” and “Shakedown” are instantly recognizable by several generations of American music fans.

Seger has raided the vaults for his latest release, Early Seger Vol. 1, which consists of six remastered pre-1976 tracks and four previously unreleased songs.

He reaches back to 1972’s Smokin’ O.P.’s for “If I Were A Carpenter” and “Someday.” The first is an organ-based folk/rock tune and the second is a simple, moody slow song that looked ahead to his better ballads to come.

The Back In 72 LP yields Seger’s cover of the old Greg Allman tune, “Midnight Rider,” which had been out of print for years. He gives it a straightforward rock treatment with a loud drum mix providing the foundation.

Three songs are taken from Seven. “U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class)” features a smooth vocal and picks up steam as it progresses. The always entertaining “Get Out Of Denver” has been refitted with a new guitar solo but retains it frenetic uptempo style and energy. “Long Song Comin’” has basically been re-recorded as horns and a stinging guitar sound have been added to give it a more polished sound.

The four unreleased tracks consist of two interesting songs and two unearthed gems that are seeing the light of day for the first time. “Star Tonight” was covered by Don Johnson in 1986 but here Seger provides a gritty vocal to his own composition. “Gets Ya Pumpin’” builds on the 1973 tune “Pumpin’” and is essentially a power ballad. “Wildfire,” recorded in the mid-1980’s makes for a wonderful surprise. This polished, up-tempo rock cut was originally slated to be the title song of the Like A Rock album. “Days When The Rains Would Come” stems from the same period and is an up-tempo ballad with lyrics that paint a picture of love remembered. The song is equal to any he has ever created and that is saying something.

Bob Seger has returned with an interesting release that plugs a lot of holes in his career. Early Seger Vol. 1 is a must for any Seger fan as it presents some well-crafted music from an old master.

Last Call by Roger Salloom

December 22, 2009

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, by 1967 Roger Salloom had migrated to San Francisco to become a participant in the west coast psychedelic music movement. He formed the band Mother Bear and while they did not achieve great commercial success, they did share the Fillmore West stage with the likes of Santana, Procol Harum, Van Morrison, and B.B. King. The seventies found him moving to Nashville and assembling the group Area Code 615. As the years passed he returned to his native Massachusetts where he raised a family, created a cartoon strip, and virtually disappeared from the music scene.

The 21st century has found him creating music and touring extensively once again. Last Call is his fourth release since 2004 following Eventually, So Glad I Made It: The Saga Of Roger Salloom, America’s Best Unknown Songwriter and La Te Da.

This latest album of original material continues to showcase his ability as a wonderful lyricist. His gentle and introspective songs explore love, friendship, and life. He even adds in a little humor along the way. His creations are ably supported by lead guitarists Tom Filiault and Hal Benoit, keyboardist and accordion player Seth Glier, saxophonist Charles Neville, and vocalist Bekka Bramlett among others.

Salloom’s music can be divided into two categories. “O’Nello” and “If This Is It I’m Ready” are smooth flowing tracks and full blown productions. The first is breezy, up-tempo, and features fine co-lead vocals from Bramlett. The second has some nice tempo changes and makes creative use of background vocals. On the other hand, a number of his songs are stripped down which places the emphasis squarely on his voice as he presents and interprets his music and lyrics. Songs such as “When You Can’t Do Anything,” “I’m In Trouble Again,” and the title song appear perfect for the small and smoky night club as a mournful sax adds to the atmosphere.

Roger Salloom has aged well. Since coming out of semi-retirement he has created a number of albums that set the standard for singer/songwriters. In the final analysis, Last Call is an excellent release from a master craftsman.

Show Me The Way 45 by Peter Frampton

December 21, 2009

Peter Frampton was a rock veteran before he issued one of the biggest selling albums of the seventies, having been a member of The Herd and Humble Pie.

The album. FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE, was released in early 1976 and several weeks later it reached number one on the American charts. It went on to sell over six million copies and remains the fourth biggest selling live album in United States music history.

I was buying alot of music in 1976 and I didn’t get it then and I don’t understand it now. It was smooth and pleasant but not great. Still it resonated with a huge audiance so what do I know. Frampton would never again scale those commercial heights but would go on to have a solid career.

“Show Me The Way” would be the highest charting single from the album reaching number six on the American charts. Again it is nice mainstream rock but not truly memorable.

Peter Frampton remains active in the music field and if you want to hear him at his best pick up a copy of his 2007 release FINGERPRINTS which won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Pop Album.