Looking Out My Back Door 45 by Creedence Clearwater

October 31, 2010

Creedence Clearwater issued a number of high quality singles. Most sounded as if they were straight from the bayou and many had an ominous sound.

An exception to this rule was the up-temo/rocking “Looking Out My Back Door.” It was a joyful song of imagination as one looked out their back door to behold all manner of sights.

The song would be their fifth to reach the number two position on The United States singles charts. They would also have a number three and a four but amazingly never a number one hit in their home country.

The music was almost shuffle rock ‘n’ roll as it percolated along. It is one of the more joyful songs in the large Creedence catalogue.


Poor Little Fool 45 by Ricky Nelson

October 31, 2010

“Poor Little Fool” was released during mid-1958 and became Ricky Nelson’s first number one hit spending two weeks on top of The United States music world. He had reached number two, twice and three, once but had never made it to the top of the mountain.

It was close to a traditional ballad with a soft vocal that just flowed freely past the senses. While he would issue some up-tempo hits in the future, this song would lead him in a pop direction with good commercial results.

Also of note, it was the first song to reach the top of BILLBOARD MAGAZINE’S newly named Hot 100 chart.


Coda by Led Zeppelin

October 28, 2010

Led Zeppelin had dissolved and John Bonham had died a little over two years before Coda was released November 19, 1982. It was cobbled together from unused tracks that covered the band’s career. Whether intended or not, it ended up as a nice presentation of the development of their sound.

Why the album was actually released is open to question. One possible reason was to officially issue some of their tracks that were being bootlegged. Another reason may have been that the band owed their label one more album, and Coda fulfilled their contract.

The main weakness is the lack of any memorable or essential tracks, although the final one comes close. It is an album comprised of mostly good material that for one reason or another was left off previous albums.

Side one of the original vinyl release includes two covers of old blues tunes, and both were recorded January 9, 1970 at the same concert at The Royal Albert Hall in London. “We’re Gonna Groove” is a Ben E. King tune and at 2:42 is one of the tightest live tracks that Zeppelin would produce. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” was a Willie Dixon composition made famous by Otis Rush. The song has been inducted into The Blues Hall Of Fame. It is basic 12-bar blues and a perfect vehicle for Jimmy Page.

“Poor Tom” was a Page/Plant composition that was left off of their third album. The lyrics are somewhat of a mess but the acoustic work by Page almost saves the day. “Walter’s Walk” was left off of Houses Of The Holy. It is John Bonham’s drumming that is the best thing about this performance.

Side two features three productions eliminated from the In Through The Out Door sessions. “Ozone Baby” is a competent up-tempo rocker. “Darlene” is more interesting with nice piano runs by John Paul Jones and some rockabilly type guitar from Page.

The gem of the album and a song that deserved better is “Wearing and Tearing,” which closes the album and Led Zeppelin’s studio career. It is one of the hardest rockers of their career and was recorded at the height of the punk rock era in Europe.

The eighth track was a drum solo by Bonham titled “Bonzo’s Montreux,” which Page added instrumental backing too after the fact. It remains the least satisfying track.

Coda may not be the most exciting album and is among the weakest in the Led Zeppelin catalogue, yet is was a good way to fill in some of their career gaps. It is an acceptable listen but is mainly for Led Zeppelin fans who want everything.

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In Through The Out Door by Led Zeppelin

October 28, 2010

In Through The Out Door was released August 15, 1978, and it would be a number of lasts for Led Zeppelin. It was their last album to reach the number one position on The United States album charts. It was the last studio album before the group’s dissolution and the last album of drummer John Bonham’s life, as he would pass away during 1980 at the age of 32.

It remains somewhat of an oddity in the group’s catalogue. Jimmy Page and John Bonham were dealing with their addictions and were often late or missing from recording sessions. Robert Plant and especially John Paul Jones stepped into the breach and created a different sounding Led Zeppelin album. It was also the disco and punk rock era, and while the album cannot be classified as either of those styles, it did contain a heavy synthesizer sound.

The album’s jacket was very creative. There were six different pictures used for it but it was covered by a brown paper wrapping so a person did not know which one they would receive when making their purchase. There was, however, a code on the jacket that would tell you which was inside, but that fact was unknown to most buyers. It was a challenge for fans and collectors who wanted a complete Led Zeppelin collection. It also received a Grammy nomination for Best Album Jacket Of The Year.

The band sounds a little tired but rises to the occasion in places despite being only average in other areas. The results are diverse and even eclectic, if you will.

I tend to prefer the first side of the original vinyl release as it contains the two best songs. More on that later.

“In The Evening” contains some nice guitar riffs and distortion on top of a synthesizer foundation. The vocals are layered in among the sound. “South Bound Suarez” features a honky tonk-type piano by Jones and complements Page’s guitar playing. The song was never performed live and was one of very few Led Zeppelin songs that Page did not write or co-write.

The last two tracks on the first side are the best. “Fool In The Rain” is part reggae and part samba. Cute lyrics of boy waiting for girl on a street corner only to be disappointed when she does not arrive and then realizes he is on the wrong corner highlight the track. It would be the band’s final successful single.

“Hot Dog” owes a lot to country and rockabilly, as Plant gives his best Elvis impersonation on this loose-sounding but fun track.

The second side is less appealing, but at least one song is very imaginative. “Carouselambra” is divided into three sections. It moves from keyboards to guitar, then to a final uniting of the entire band. It may not be completely successful, but it is interesting for 10 minutes and at least they took a chance.

“All My Love” is poignant, progressive rock as Plant had just lost his five-year-old son, and this is a tribute to him. “I’m Gonna Crawl” is an average rock/blues closer.

In Through The Out Door is one of the Led Zeppelin albums that I visit the least. Still, it contains a few high points and is a nice change of pace every now and then.

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The Green Blimp by Dwight Twilley

October 28, 2010

Dwight Twilley has been cranking out the tunes for over 35 years. He met future music partner and bandmate Phil Seymour back in 1967 as a teenager. They had both gone to the theater to see a performance of A Hard Days Night. This led to the formation of Oister which would become the Dwight Twilley Band. His long term lead guitarist, Bill Pitcock IV, would also be a founding member.

It would not be until 1975 that they would release their first single. It would become an immediate hit and reach number 16 on the American singles charts. His only other top forty single would be “Girls” issued in 1984. Seymour would leave for a successful solo career during the late 70s but would die of cancer at the age of 41.

Twilley is one of those veteran artists who have made a living from his music without having achieved overwhelming commercial success. The last fact is hard to comprehend as he has produced a large catalogue of catchy and sophisticated pop/rock songs. He has always been able to create memorable melodies for his compositions and his voice remains strong.

He has produced close to thirty albums during his career when you add up his studio, live, and compilation releases. His latest album, The Green Blimp, has just been issued. It is a typical Dwight Twilley project. It may not break any new ground but he continues to cover the old very well as he provides twelve tracks of jangling pop/rock at its best.

He gathers some old friends to assist him. Lead guitarist Bill Pitcock IV returns as a welcome guest plus second generation rockabilly artist Rocky Burnette lends a hand. Susan Cowsill had collaborated on a number of his past projects and she returns as well.

“Get Up” blasts the album off to a good and rousing start. His use of brass fits his style well and I wish he had used it on more of the material. The up-tempo “Doctor” is also a superior tune and has a nice bass/drum foundation. Also of note is the poignant ballad “Let It Rain” and “Me and Melanie” which contains gorgeous harmonies.

Dwight Twilley is one of those artists who are at the heart of rock ‘n’ roll. He continues to produce well crafted albums and take his music out on the road. One can only hope that The Green Blimp will fly high.

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The Concert Of Love by Darlene Love

October 28, 2010

Darlene Love is one of the legendary singers from the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. She began as a choir singer in Hawthorne, California but quickly became a part of Phil Spector’s legendary Wall Of Sound. She also backed dozens of artists such as Sam Cooke, The Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, Tom Jones, Elvis Presley, and many more.

It was her first group, The Blossoms, who brought her to the attention of legendary producer Phil Spector. He used them as a backing group but also as The Crystals upon occasion. The original Crystals group were in New York and he resided in California so it was easier to to use The Blossoms under The Crystals name. It leaves the history of this important and early girls group muddled but we know for sure that Darlene Love provided the lead vocals for such hits as “He’s A Rebel” and “He’s Sure The Boy I’m Gonna Marry.”

According to legend she had recorded the lead to the classic “Da Doo Ron Ron” but Spector erased it when she asked for a raise. She would also be a member of another Spector group, Bob-B-Soxx & The Blues Jeans, who would have a hit with “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” She retired for a spell after severing her relationship with Spector but for the last thirty years has been recording solo albums, performing on Broadway, touring, and working as an actress. Her most memorable roles were as Danny Glover’s wife in the four Lethal Weapon movies.

She has now released the first live album of her career and it is a welcome addition to hr legacy. The Concert Of Love is quite a production as she is backed by a full band, four background singers, an orchestra of strings, brass, and a small choir. They all combine to help her do justice to her music.

While the fourteen tracks include some gospel and Broadway, she wisely concentrates on the material that made her famous as she presents a generous number of tracks from her Wall Of Sound days.

She brings to life such classics as “Wait Til My Bobby Gets Home,“ “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Today I Met The Girl I’m Gonna Merry,” “He’s A Rebel,” “River Deep, Mountain High,” and her famous holiday song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

Her voice is still a fine instrument and when supported as it is here, it can become spectacular at times.

Darlene Love is on of the legendary figures of early sixties rock ‘n’ roll and its nice to find her in fine form. I don’t know how many albums she has left in her but if this one is any indication, let’s hope its quite a few.

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Be Bop Baby/Have I Told You Lately That I Love You 45 by Ricky Nelson

October 27, 2010

Ricky Nelson released the double sided hit “Be Bop Baby/Have I Told You That I Love You” during 1957. His first two hits had been issued on the Verve Label but now he switched to Imperial which would become his home for 38 of his 54 chart singles.

This was back in the era when one single could produce two hits and so it was here. “Be Bop Baby” reached number three and “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” checked in at number 29.

The songs were a good match. “Be Bop Baby” looked back to his rockabilly roots with a stacatto beat while “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” was a romantic ballad originally made popular by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters in 1950.

This is Rick Nelson at the beginning of his career and while the songs would not rank with his very best work, they were still very good.


Build Me A Buttercup 45 by The Foundations

October 25, 2010

The Foundations were a rare British rhythm & blue/pop group that had a couple of big hits in The United States. It was a rarer band to contain both black and white members.

Their breakthrough hit was “Baby Now That I Found You” which had top twenty chart success in The United States in late 1967 and early 1968. This set the stage for their biggest hit, “Build Me A Buttercup” in early 1969. It was melodic, catchy, with a soulful vocal in support which gave it appeal to a vast pop audience.

The Foundations consisted of vocalist Clem Curtis, guitarist Alan Warner, keyboardist Anthony Gomez, bassist Peter MacBeth, drummer Colin Young, plus a horn section of Eric Allendale, Pat Burke, & Michael Elliott.

The Foundations produced three more minor hits in The United States before the sixties ended but disbanded in 1970. Like many groups they left behind a gem or two and “Build Me A Buttercup” certainly falls into that category.


Return To The Matrix 02/01/68 by The Jefferson Airplane

October 24, 2010

Collector’s Choice Music has just issued four historic live albums by the Jefferson Airplane. The first was recorded at the Fillmore Auditorium October 15, 1966 and was singer Signe Anderson’s final concert with the group. The second was recorded a day later and featured Grace Slick’s debut with the group. Release number three is from a pair of shows recorded about a month later and finds Grace Slick settling in as a member of the band.

The fourth album in the series is Jefferson Airplane: Return To The Matrix 02/01/68, which features two discs and 103 minutes of unreleased live music by one of the premier bands of the psychedelic era.

Recorded about sixteen months after Grace’s debut, she has now settled in as a key component of Jefferson Airplane. When she was hired, it is doubtful if the band members realized that they were getting one of the great female voices in rock history in addition to a woman who would become symbolic of the era. By late 1968, though, she had become the visual focal point of the band.

The Jefferson Airplane was one of those bands who would take their short, concise studio tracks and stretch them out when playing live. The instrumental skills of Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, and Jack Cassady were some of the best that rock had to offer. Their studio albums may have been commercially successful, but their live skills and reputation would ensure their induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Return To The Matrix finds the band at the height of their powers. They had been on the road and in the recording studio for three years. They could now draw material from three of their signature albums, Surrealistic Pillow, After Bathing At Baxter’s, and Crown Of Creation.

Grace Slick also brought two songs with her from her first group, The Great Society. Both “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit would become hit singles and be ranked among The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Slick is in fine vocal form and “Somebody To Love,” which begins the concert, immediately ramps up the energy. Her “Two Heads” is also a nice performance as well.

Marty Balin’s vocals were always a nice counterpoint to Slick’s, whether as the lead, in support, or as a duet. Here he is best represented by “It’s No Secret,” “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “Today,” and “Share A Little Joke.”

The old rock song “Kansas City” was a staple of their live act at the time although they would use it as a jumping off point for their guitar excursions. The last three tracks present the concert Airplane at its best as they cover about a half hour of time. “Ice Cream Phoenix,” Donovan’s “Fat Angel,” and the ten minute closer “Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil” stand among their best live work.

It is nice that the Jefferson Airplane vaults have been opened. Return To The Matrix is a stunning document of the era and one of the bands that defined American rock.


Live At The Fillmore Auditorium 11/25/66 and 11/27/66 – We Have Ignition

October 24, 2010

Collectors’ Choice Music has just released four historic and classic live albums by The Jefferson Airplane. The first two, chronologically, focus on Signe Anderson’s last concert with the band recorded 10/15/66 and Grace Slick’s debut 24 hours later. They present the future Rock And Roll Hall of Fame group at the crossroads of their career as they had just acquired one of rock’s supreme voices and enduring personalities.

The third album in the series was recorded a little over a month after Slick’s debut. Live At The Fillmore Auditorium 11/25/66 & 11/27/66 – We Have Ignition is a two disc, 28-song set which covers two of their performances. There is repetition as eight of the songs are repeated but as this is a live album there are differences and it’s nice to hear the variations that appear in the material.

My only major complaint is the lack of liner notes. Both of the first two releases came with booklets that provided biographical information about the group. This one has nothing and it would have been nice to have had connector material from Slick’s first six weeks with the band but since there is nada the music will have to do.

Grace and the band have come a long way in a short time. Here we find her beginning to assert herself as a vocal presence and force within the band. The appearance of her composition ‘White Rabbit” signaled her emergence as a rare sixties female rock performer of note. Slick wrote the song while she was a member of The Great Society and brought it with her to The Airplane. It became one of the signature songs of the psychedelic era. The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame ultimately honored it as one of The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock ‘N’ Roll. This early presentation shows a young Grace Slick on the way to stardom.

The sets are tighter than the first two albums in the series. While their improvisational styles are still very much present, they are more controlled as only two tracks exceed seven minutes. Still songs such as “Fat Angel,” “The Other Side Of Life,” “3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds,” and “High Flyin’ Bird” demonstrate the group’s developing improvisational prowess. When you combine those performances with such staples as “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “She Has Funny Cars,” and “It’s No Secret” you have the foundation of a classic Jefferson Airplane concert.

This third album in the series chronicles the continued development of one of the great American rock bands. They are still an excellent listen 44 years later.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org