Just Dropped In 45 by The First Edition

June 15, 2012

“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” was one of Jimi Hendrix’s favorite songs. Written by Mickey Newbury, It was a song about LSD hat sounded the part.

The First Edition released a single of the song during early 1968. It reached number five on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

It was very different from any other material recorded by the band or during the long career of their lead vocalist Kenny Rogers. The distorted guitar sound was provided by Glen Campbell who remains one of the underrated guitarists of the era.

“Just Dropped In” was one of the more unusual songs to receive alot of AM radio airplay during the late 1960s. It was like listening to a rock ‘n’ roll drug trip. It remains a sometimes forgotten gem of the era.

We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper 45 by The Beatles

April 18, 2012

During late 1965, The Beatles were in a transition phase in their career. They were leaving the simple music of their early years behind and issuing more sophisticated songs.

The double sided hit, “We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper” was representative of that change. Released during December of 1965, “We Can Work It Out” spent three weeks at number one on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, while “Day Tripper” peaked at number five.

I have always preferred “Day Tripper side.” The guitar intro. was memorable and the odd tempo creative. It was the beginning of some experimental music and sounds that would lead to some of the best rock ‘n’ roll in music history.

Kokomo 45 by The Beach Boys

May 6, 2011

The Beach Boys have placed 59 songs on the American singles charts during the course of their career. Four have reached the number one position.

“Good Vibrations” reached number one during late 1966. It would be 22 yers before they had another number one hit.

“Kokomo” was released as part of the soundtrack to the Tom Cruise movie, COCKTAIL. Released as a singles, it rose to the number one position. It spent 28 total weeks on the charts, which was the longest of any Beach Boys single.

The Beach Boys also set a record for the longest time between number one hits. 22 years is a long long time. They have now passed the 22 year mark since “Kokomo” hit the top so they could extend their record. Anything is possible in the world of music.

The 25th Anniversary Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Concerts by Various Artists

October 14, 2010

Get ready for this: The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame just dropped a big one in the form of a close to six-hour, three-CD box set chronicling their 25th anniversary concerts at Madison Square Garden on October 29 and 30, 2009. Originally aired as an HBO Special, these shows now return in an extended version with unreleased tracks and extended performances.

The concerts began to take shape when Bruce Spingsteen and U2 agreed to headline the events. Mick Jagger quickly climbed on board, and it mushroomed from that point until it included a virtual Hall Of Fame live onstage.

It’s the format that made the evenings so special. Each headliner served as a house band and backed a number of guests. It allowed for quick transitions and combinations that may never be seen and heard again. The only possible complaint was the lack of younger artists, as the older or post-‘50s and in many cases ‘60s crowd dominated the evening. Still, time does pass and it was nice to see and hear this generation of rock stars.

Each night started with Jerry Lee Lewis at his piano. He is represented here by his classic “Great Balls Of Fire,” complete with knocking over his piano bench.

The first house band was Crosby, Stills & Nash, who rock through a rendition of “Woodstock” before David Crosby shows what a beautiful voice he still has on his own “Almost Cut My Hair.” They provide backing for Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne before James Taylor joins them for Stephen Stills signature song, “Love The One You’re With.”

Stevie Wonder is the next headliner and he runs through “For Once In My Life” before backing Smokey Robinson for “Tracks Of My Tears.” B.B. King, Sting, and Jeff Beck follow in quick succession. Wonder breaks down about halfway through an emotional cover of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

Paul Simon is the third headliner. “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard” flows into “You Can Call Me Al.” David Crosby and Graham Nash join him for some harmonizing on “Here Comes The Sun” before he reaches back into to rock ‘n’ roll history with the original Wanderer Dion, and Little Anthony and The Imperials. Art Garfunkel joins Simon for “Sounds Of Silence,” “The Boxer,” and a soaring “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Aretha Franklin brings the first night to a close ending with a scintillating duet with Annie Lennox on “Chain Of Fools.”

The second night rocks from beginning to end. Metallica opens with “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and in succession backs Lou Reed on “Sweet Jane,” Ozzy Osbourne on “Iron Man/Paranoid,” and finally Ray Davies with “All Day And All Of The Night.”

U2 was next, and after presenting “Vertigo” and “Magnificent,” they blister through “Because The Night” with Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. The combination of U2, Mick Jagger, and Fergie on “Gimme Shelter” was sheer brilliance.

Jeff Beck is next, and when he picks up his guitar, he demands your attention. His warm-up is with Sting on “People Get Ready.” Things heat up with Buddy Guy and especially Billy Gibbons on “Foxy Lady.

Bruce Springsteen and The E Sreet Band are the final act of the night. Tom Morello joins in on a jolting edition of “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” before John Fogerty runs through “Fortunate Son” and an ode to one of their heroes, Roy Orbison, with a cover of “Oh Pretty Woman.” Billy Joel and even Darlene Love of Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound combine with Springsteen as they rock into the night. All the artists unite on stage for a tribute to Jackie Wilson with “Higher and Higher.”

My feeling is that the songs on the bonus disc could have been integrated into the regular sets as they seem lost here. Four songs by Stevie Wonder would have fleshed out his performance. Why “London Calling” by Morello and Springsteen is regulated to this disc is beyond me. The same for Metallica’s cover of Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page” and Simon & Garfunkel’s medley of “Mrs. Robinson/Not Fade Away.”

The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Concerts present music that shall not pass this way again. It was a historic concert by a roster of artists that will become an essential listening experience.

American Dream by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

February 9, 2010

Neil Young decided to rejoin his erstwhile bandmates in the studio for the first time since they released Déjà Vu together in 1971. The resulting album, American Dream, was issued November 1, 1988 to middling commercial success.

The album certainly did not live up to its title either in content or results although the precise harmonies are in place and a competent group of musicians are gathered in support. It is the caliber of the songwriting that drags the album down. While a few songs are fine, the majority just did not measure up to the group’s past standards.

Even the members of the group have spoken poorly as to the quality of this release over the years. Crosby thought much of the material was sub par and, to compensate, they lengthened the album.

Neil Young had promised not to record with them again until David Crosby was clean and sober and kept that promise when in 1988 Crosby put his additions behind him. I don’t know whether Young wrote his songs specifically for this project or if they were just leftovers, but they seem more suited to his solo career. Whatever their origins they are overall the best selections on the album. He composed four tracks himself and co-wrote three others with Stephen Stills. The title song is folk/rock with a simple bass and guitar foundation. The lyrics are clever satire as they poke fun at the fall of prominent people. “The Old House” tells the story of a family losing their home. “Feel Your Love” is catchy and contains some nice acoustic guitar work.

Crosby was responsible for two songs. “Nighttime For Generals” has a good rock beat but becomes bogged down lyrically and his political agenda was getting old. The gem of the album and one of the best compositions on his career is “Compass.” It is a gentle and poignant look back at life and Young’s haunting harmonica effectively adds to the mood.

Graham Nash had been responsible for many of the memorable tracks which the group had produced through the years. Here, though, his writing is disappointing. His songs are preachy and his politics and social concerns may have been relevant a decade before but on this album they were just repeats to a generation that was moving on. The passion may still be present but the execution and judgment are lacking.

Stephen Stills’ writing credits are limited to the three Neil Young and one which he authored with multi-instrumentalist Joe Vitale and bassist Bob Glaub. “Drivin’ Thunder” is the best of an average-at-best group of songs. His vocals are still essential to the harmonies, though, and his guitar playing remains excellent in places.

American Dream was not a stellar stop in the musical journey of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. “Compass” stands head and shoulders above everything else and only a few Neil Young creations are above average and, when taken together, do not make for an excellent album.

After The Storm by Crosby, Stills and Nash

February 9, 2010

Throughout their career, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and especially Stephen Stills had an off-again, on-again relationship with Neil Young. 1994 found that relationship in off-again mode as they entered the studio to record After The Storm.

What emerged was a pleasant if somewhat average affair. It reminds me of a nice meal at a good restaurant which is enjoyed, digested, but quickly forgotten.

When I listen to this album I can’t help but think it could have been better. In some ways it was overproduced and just had too many back-up musicians. CSN would have been better served to have stripped back the sound as much as possible and relied on their own voices and instrumental backing. Keep it simple should have been the order of the day.

The album starts out strong but runs out of steam as it progresses. The first four tracks are the equal of their best work. “Only Waiting For You” finds Stephen Stills cranking up his trusty guitar and proving that when properly motivated he is a master of the instrument. “Find A Dream” features more of Stills on guitar plus some wonderful harmonies. Crosby continues his trend of presenting one superior song for each album and on this one it’s “Camera,” which has a gentleness and lyrical beauty that he was so good at creating. “Unequal Love” is centered on Nash’s voice and, yes, more Stills on guitar.

The rest of the album is a hit-or-miss affair. “These Empty Days” contain more classic harmonies which make the song worth while. “It Won’t Go Away” is only saved by Stills on electric guitar. Their cover of The Beatles “In My Life” is not so lucky as it was a poor choice of material and gets bogged down in its own excess. “Street To Lean On,” “Bad Boyz,” and “Panama” just do not rise to any level of enjoyment.

After The Storm was Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s first studio album of the nineties and while it was competent—and even very good in places—overall it showed they were not aging gracefully, at least in the studio. As the years passed this type of release have become all too representative of their eighties and nineties output. Still they remain a popular concert attraction and have built a respected body of work which allows them to remain in the upper echelon of the rock pantheon.

Right By You by Stephen Stills

February 9, 2010

Stephen Stills spent the early eighties involved with Crosby, Stills & Nash. He finally released his only solo studio album of the decade in July of 1984. Right By You would be his last release for a major label and the last one to reach the American charts.

In many ways the album was a product of its time. The disco era was winding down but synthesizers and programmed percussion were in style and they adorn a number of his songs here.

As with many of his solo albums there is both good and bad. In fact, this is the last album by Stills which I own on vinyl. The first side is excellent and I don’t know if the material was recorded in the sequence it plays, but it seems as if he ran out of ideas after the first five songs.

Nevertheless, he assembled a stellar cast of musicians to provide support. Guitarists Jimmy Page and Bernie Leadon, mandolin player and vocalist Chris Hillman, keyboardist Mike Finnigan, drummer Joe Lala, and old friend Graham Nash are all on board.

Side one is consistently strong. “50/50,” co-written with Jo Lala, uses brass to fill out the sound and has a wonderful Latin flavor. “Stranger” is a nice pop rocker and proves that an eighties-synthesizer sound can be quite good when used properly and creatively. “Flaming Heart” features the dual guitars of Stills and Page. “Love Again” is a very catchy tune and is another example of an eighties sound that works well. “No Problem” is blues with a strong rhythm driving it along.

The second half of the album is a very different affair. Stills’ cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” is representative of the material’s problems. He just tries too hard, which only proves that Young’s own simple version was definitive. The remaining songs are just forgettable.

Right By You continued his trend of producing inconsistent albums. And if you are planning on listening to some Stephen Stills music this is not the place to start. Today it remains just a stop in his musical journey and is only for serious collectors of his music who must have everything.