You And Me 45 by Alice Cooper

November 8, 2013

alice cooper you angel you

Alice Cooper is now a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He has sold tens-of-millions of albums and is famous for his live concerts. Sometimes his singles have flown under the radar but he has charted 21 different songs.

He has had three singles reach the top ten on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Charts. “You And Me” first reached the charts April 30, 1977, and before its 21 week stay was finished, it had peeked at number nine.

Cooper has always had a hard rock and roll sound and “You And Me” is know exception. One of only three of his singles have been issued with a picture sleeve.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers (CD Reissue) by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

September 23, 2013

A Girl Like You  Rascals

If you want some in-your-face hard rock/blues, then this reissue of George Thorogood and the Destroyers’ first album is for you. He had recorded a number of songs during 1974 but they were not released until 1979, after he had become commercially successful, so this self-titled album, released in 1977, was his official debut. The 2013 reissue has a new, remastered sound via Rounder Records.

The album consists of eight classic blues covers and two original compositions. Thorogood will never be mistaken for a traditional blues artist. He has a rock and roll heart and brings it to the music. He is also the type of guitar player that you will either like or hate. He is not a great or sophisticated technician but gets by on energy and passion. Think of him and his backing musicians as an excellent bar band that made good. The music may not be the way Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, or Elmore James intended but it is raucous and always fun.

While he has added and subtracted some additional musicians along the way, drummer Jeff Simon and bassist Bill Blough back him on the album, with only a second guitarist in places, and they remain with him today.

He is an artist who gained and has retained much of his popularity by constantly touring. In 1980 he embarked on a 50/50 tour, which meant performing in all 50 states in 50 days.

He is usually at his best when playing up-tempo and at times frenetic rock and blues. Earl Hooker’s “You Got to Lose,” Elmore James’ “Madison Blues,” and especially Bo Diddley’s “Ride on Josephine” all benefit from this approach. That is followed by the John Lee Hooker story song “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” which still receives radio airplay today.

Less successful are his slower tunes, which tend to expose his limitations. Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman” sounds forced and the Elmore James tune, “Can’t Stop Lovin’” never attains the energy level of the faster tracks.

His own compositions tend to be replicas of his blues covers. While not original in concept or execution, “Homesick Boy” and “Delaware Slide” present Thorogood for what he is, which is a competent, spirited, and at times forceful rock and blues guitarist.

George Thorogood and The Destroyers did not change the course of American blues or rock and roll but it made them a bit more enjoyable. It is an album for the beer hall or smoky night club.

Word Of Mouth by The Kinks

July 12, 2012

The career of The Kinks had reached the three decade mark when they returned with their Word Of Mouth album during November of 1984.

It was a solid, if not spectacular album of rock and roll. It seems as if Ray Davies was trying to create a commercially successful album by conforming to some of the musical trends of the era. He basically assembled an album of potential singles, none of which became hits. Still, a number of the songs were catchy, contained a little wit, and featured some fine guitar play.

It was a rare Kinks album where many of the highlights centered on brother Dave Davies rather than Ray. It seemed as if just about every Kinks album contained a hidden gem. In this case it was Dave’s “Living on a Thin Line,” which was a ballad of rare beauty. Even the lyrics of the poor and middle class being overwhelmed by the rich continues to resonate. His other composition, “Guilty,” contained one of the better lead vocals of his career. When you add in his riffing on the title track and the catchy guitar phrasing of “Do It Again,” you have an album that highlights many of the musical strong points of the often overlooked Davies brother.

The best of the Ray Davies concoctions was “Sold Me Out,” which would have fit in well with the punk movement. It was a song that just blasted out of the speakers. “Do It Again” should have been a hit single, as its catchy musical nature was perfect radio fare at the time and the tune remained in your mind for days. “Good Day” displayed the wit and sardonic nature of Ray, as the song was about anything but a good day. “Going Solo” was his philosophical musing about aging and empty nest syndrome. One could only wish for an update over a quarter of a century later.

On the other hand, “Missing Persons” struggled to be just an average song, and such tracks as “Too Hot,” “Summer’s Gone,” and “Massive Reductions” sort of disappear from memory after a couple of listens.

Word Of Mouth was one of those albums that probably deserved a little more respect than it has received. Given the brilliance of many albums in The Kinks catalog, Word Of Mouth has disappeared into the netherworld of their family of releases. Every once in a while, however, it deserves a listen especially for the Dave Davies contributions.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – Word of Mouth on Blogcritics.

Give The People What They Want by The Kinks

June 28, 2012

I have always been amused by the title of The Kinks album, Give The People What They Want. Ray Davies and The Kinks did just the opposite for close to a decade with a series of concept albums. Even when they returned to a straight rock format and commercial success, Davies still traveled his own musical journey rather than pandering to the whims of music buying public.

Give The People What They Want was released in the U.S. during August of 1981 (January, 1982 in the U.K.). At the time, The Kinks were comprised of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Ray Davies, lead guitarist Dave Davies, drummer Mick Avory, bassist Jim Rodford, and keyboardist Ian Gibbons.

The album was weaker than most of their recent rock albums. The music was catchy and in places was some of the hardest rock The Kinks would produce. The lyrics were some of the darkest of Ray Davies career. Death, killing, and abuse did not make for a pleasurable listen. Also missing were doses of Ray Davies wit and satire, which had saved similar material in the past. It all added up to a half-good album that ranks somewhere in the middle of their catalogue of music.

The album had a promising beginning. “Around The Dial” contained scathing commentary about how corporations controlled the programming of radio stations.

There were two superior tracks that found the band on solid ground. “Predictable” was about the bliss of monotony. Davies always had the capacity for creating songs about ordinary things. “Better Things” closed the album on a high note and was very different from what had preceded it. It was a catchy and charming ballad and a rare upbeat concoction by Davies.

Songs such as “Destroyer” and “Back To Front” may not have contained memorable lyrics but they found The Kinks exploring the outer edge of hard rock. On the other hand, tracks such as the chilling “Killer’s Eyes,” “A Little Bit Of Abuse,” “Yo-Yo,” and even the title track found the band exploring the dark side of life.

Give The People What They Want presented The Kinks moving into the 1980s with a much harder sound. If you can shut out the lyrics to some of the tracks, the album becomes a lot more palatable but it ultimately remains an album for Kinks fans who want it all.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – Give The People What They Want on Blogcritics.

Misfits by The Kinks

May 23, 2012

The Kinks returned during the spring of 1978 with their second album of self-contained rock in a row. While it may not have been as cohesive as its predecessor, Sleepwalker, its individual parts were very good. Misfits contained fine examples of Ray Davies’ English wit, his biting social commentary, his always interesting thoughts about life, and best of all his ability to create energetic rock and roll with incisive lyrics. It all added up to one of the more consistent albums of The Kinks career.

The title song, in addition to setting the rock tempo for the album, was a lament by Ray Davies that The Kinks never really fit in. His series of concept albums had received little to almost no commercial success, resulting in the Kinks being referred to as, “The best band you never heard of.” His return to straight rock and roll rejuvenated the band’s success as it was more mainstream and smooth than much of their music of the past decade. Misfits proved to be a consistent seller in the U.S. and even contained a top 40 single. It seems as if one of rock’s ultimate misfits was finally learning how to fit in.

“A Rock & Roll Fantasy” was the hit single and was dedicated to the fan base that had stood by him through thick and thin. This song about the mirage of popularity would gain him a number of new fans as well.

There were several tracks that presented Ray Davies’ style in microcosm. His “Hay Fever” combined allergies and sex into one witty tale. “Permanent Waves” was a song about the mundane, in this case hairstyles. “Black Messiah” brought his satire front and center for this political tale. “Out Of The Wardrobe” picked up on the sexual themes of “Lola.”

Hidden away in the album was one of Dave Davies’ better creations. “Trust Your Heart” was an emotional song of beauty that featured some of his expert guitar licks.

Misfits may not have been a masterpiece but it was a strong album of rock songs. It continued the band’s resurgence in the U.S. and remains a fine example of their late 1970s and early 1980s career.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – Misfits on Blogcritics.

Born To Run 45 by Bruce Springsteen

May 7, 2012

Bruce Springsteen is now a rock ‘n’ roll legend whose career has passed the 35 year mark. He is famous for his live performances and album releases, which have sold in the tens-of-millions, but every once in a while he would issue a hit single along the way.”Born To Run” was issued during the late summer of 1975 and reached number 23 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

It remains on of his signature songs. As good as the lyrics are, it is the music that drives the song. It is intense and can almost be considered a modernization of Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound.

It remains one of the great rock ‘n’ roll performances of all time.

The Last Time 45 by The Rolling Stones

February 23, 2012

“The Last Time” was a transitional single for The Rolling Stones. They were about to leave their blues oriented roots behind and move toward becoming one of the world’s best rock bands.

While it still had some R&B elements, the Stones were in rock mode. It reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart in early March of 1965 and peaked at number nine.

The Rolling Stones were about to embark on the first classic period of their career and “The Last Time” was leading the way.

Mystery Train 45 by Elvis Presley

January 9, 2012

Elvis Presley released five singles for the legendary Sun Label before his contract was sold to RCA.

“Mystery Train” was the fifth single released during September of 1955. It reached number 11 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Country & Western Chart.

It was an up-tempo rockabilly track that would look ahead to some of his rock material during the last half of the 1950s.

The original Sun Label release is one of music’s most collectable 45’s bringing in the neighborhood of $2500 for a nice copy.

Paint It Black 45 by The Rolling Stones

December 20, 2011

The Rolling Stone of the mid-1960s had evolved from the rhythm & blue based band of their formation into a rock ‘n’ band. This change had elevated them to one of the world’s most popular bands, a position they would hold for decades. Fifty years years later they can still sell out stadiums and concert arenas.

“Paint It Black” was issued May 14, 1966 and spent two weeks as the number one single in the United States.

It remains a definitive song for the band as it it defined their personality at the time. It was an ominous slice of pure rock with Richards and Wyman combining on their guitars and Charlie Watts drums thundering as the foundation of the song.

It remains sixties rock ‘n’ roll at its best.

Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits 2 (New Vinyl Releases) by Journey

December 15, 2011

The Golden Gate Rhythm Section has traveled a lot of miles since their formation during 1973. Originally formed as a backing band for San Francisco Bay Area bands, fate allowed them to step out on their own, change their name to Journey, and go on to become one of the most successful rock bands in music history. Their albums have sold tens of millions of copies and 18 of their singles have reached the American Top Forty.

This all brings us to the resurrection of vinyl records. The venerable LP format was all but dead during the early 1990s but recently it has been making a comeback. Many artists now release their albums in both a vinyl and CD format. Also, music companies have been re-releasing some of their better selling albums of the past as vinyl LPs. The vinyl record format is now selling millions of records a year and the total is on the rise.

Twenty-three years after releasing their first Greatest Hits album, Journey has returned with Greatest Hits 2. Best of all they have also released the album in a record format via the Legacy label, which has been gracing my turntable for the last couple of days. The material has been remastered especially for the vinyl format. It has been pressed on 180-gram high quality, heavyweight vinyl. If you have an up to date record player and stereo system, the sound can be equal or superior to many CD releases. A free digital download of the complete album also comes with the purchase.

The material will be instantly recognizable to the band’s vast fan base. Covering the period from 1977-1996, it adds to the legacy of their first Greatest Hits album. Songs such as “Stone In Love,” “Just The Same Way,” “Still They Ride,” “Suzanne,” “Walks Like A Lady,” “The Party’s Over,” and “After The Fall” pick up where the first release left off. Add in a few lesser known tracks such as “Mother Father (Live),” “Patiently,” “Anytime,” and “Little Girl” and you have a release that should please new and old fans alike.

Greatest Hits 2 may not cover any new ground, but presents some of the old material very well. No doubt most people will buy the CD, but if you are in the mood for something a little different, the vinyl would be a good and interesting choice.

I am assuming that someone at Legacy figured if they were going to release Greatest Hits 2 as a vinyl album, they might as well release the original as well. Greatest Hits, released during 1988, has sold over 16 million copies in the United States and has crossed the 25 million mark worldwide.

The remastering and quality of the vinyl is the same as the newer release. As one of the most recognizable albums in music history, tracks such as “Any Way You Want It,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Separate Ways,” “Open Arms,” “Only The Young,” “Be Good To Yourself,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” are a trip through the best of late 1970s and 1980s pop/rock. It also comes with the bonus track. “When You Love A Woman,” which was a 1996 number one Adult Contempory Hit. Again, a free digital download of the complete album is included.

Love them or hate them–and a lot more people have loved them down through the years–Journey has maintained their popularity nearly four decades after their formation. It’s nice to find two albums of their best material back in circulation as record albums.

Article first published as Music Vinyl Reviews: Journey – Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits 2 on Blogcritics.