Saturday, 31 August 2019

Thin Lizzy - Black Rose (1979)

Waiting for an alibi....

  

Released on 13 April 1979

Running time 38.49

This was arguably Thin Lizzy's last really great album. It features their by now familiar crashing two guitar attack, but also their popular themes of Irish folkiness, mythology and legend mixed with an appealing sad melancholy. Phil Lynott always liked a bit of troubador-inspired romance too, so, as often on their albums, a genuine hard rock edge is mixed with the charismatic ear-ringed outpourings of a Celtic gypsy soul. They were really quite special in this respect and there was no-one quite like them.

TRACK LISTING

1. Do Anything You Want To
2. Toughest Street In Town
3. S & M
4. Waiting For An Alibi
5. Sarah
6. Got To Give It Up
7. Get Out Of Here
8. With Love
9. Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend      

Do Anything You Want To starts with a jaunty, almost glam rock-ish drum beat and continues as a very catchy guitar-driven rocker. It was a hit single, unsurprisingly. It features a very typical Thin Lizzy guitar break in the middle and Lynott's strong and reassuring vocals carry it along effortlessly.

Toughest Street In Town is even more in the archetypal Lizzy style. It would have fitted well on Jailbreak or Johnny The Fox although its chorus is decidedly punk/new wave influenced. the guitar break is superb too, and the lyrics touch on Lynott's increased drug use. He seems to acknowledge that drugs are not a good thing in many street life and substance abuse-themed songs, yet obviously he didn't cut back.

S & M is a deep, shuffling, rhythmic rocker, full of menace and seedy atmosphere. Its lyrics are about the sado-masochism scene and are very tongue-in-cheek cynical but vaguely amusing in places. There is a funky feel to it, something that Lizzy had often been able to conjure up as far back as 1974's Nightlife. Waiting For An Alibi was another single and is standard Lizzy commercial rock fare, with great riffs and an infectious hook. Lizzy were like Status Quo in that, as well as being able to rock hard, they knew the value of a classic piece of pop rock.


Lynott gets all sentimental on the album's other big hit - the lovely, laid-back strains of Sarah, written for his recently-arrived young daughter. He is soon back on the ultimately fruitless anti-drug message on the appealingly riffy Got To Give It Up. The song, unfortunately, becomes sadly prophetic for Lynott.

The frantic rock of Get Out Of Here has some sparkling guitar interplay, Despite punk being all over the place in 1979, Lizzy seemed to ride the waves and their brand of no-nonsense rock always had something punk in its spirit so they remained respected, even by the slash and burn "no more old school rock" punks.

With Love slows down the pace a little, but only a little, on a melodious but strong thwarted love-themed number. The final number, the bloated Roísín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend, is a medley of traditional Irish folk songs mixed with some classic Lizzy rock. It is a romantic view of Ireland, something Lynott has always liked (no Stiff Little Fingers-style anger about contemporary issues here) and fair enough, he makes no bones about it. For many, it is the jewel in the album's crown. However, for me it is the opposite. I find it a bit of a mess, lacking true cohesion, despite not being in any way unlistenable. It just sort of rambles on, albeit in a fine rocking style. The bonus track, the 'b' side Just The Two Of Us returns to the sort of thing I prefer. This is a bit of a nit-picking opinion on my behalf though, I have to admit, as this is a fine album overall.

Below is a clip of Thin Lizzy performing Sarah on Top Of The Pops.


B-

Friday, 30 August 2019

1968




Click on an album title to read the review -

Ridin' High - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Presenting Isaac Hayes - Isaac Hayes
Fairport Convention - Fairport Convention
Electric Ladyland - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Waiting For The Sun - The Doors
White Light/White Heat - The Velvet Underground
Truth - Jeff Beck
Silk 'n' Soul - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Engine 54 - The Ethiopians
Lady Soul - Aretha Franklin
I Wish It Would Rain - The Temptations
Yesterday's Dreams - The Four Tops
For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder
The Pentangle - Pentangle
Diana Ross & The Supremes Joins The Temptations - Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations
Music From Big Pink - The Band
Cheap Thrills - Big Brother & The Holding Company
Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac
Friends - The Beach Boys
Bookends - Simon & Garfunkel
Child Is Father To The Man - Blood, Sweat & Tears
The Notorious Byrd Brothers - The Byrds
Sweetheart Of The Rodeo - The Byrds
Feelin' Bluesy - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
John Wesley Harding - Bob Dylan
Beggars' Banquet - The Rolling Stones
The White Album - The Beatles
Wheels Of Fire - Cream
Life - Sly & The Family Stone
Dance To The Music - Sly & The Family Stone

1969




Click on an album title to read the review -

Bayou Country - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Neil Young - Neil Young
Goodbye - Cream
20/20 - The Beach Boys
Cloud Nine - The Temptations
What We Did On Our Holidays - Fairport Convention
Tons Of Sobs - Free
Dusty In Memphis - Dusty Springfield
The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground
Nashville Skyline - Bob Dylan
Green Is Blues - Al Green
It's Our Thing - The Isley Brothers
Chicago Transit Authority - Chicago
Stand! - Sly & The Family Stone
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Crosby, Stills & Nash - Crosby, Stills & Nash
The Meters - The Meters
Empty Sky - Elton John
From Elvis In Memphis - Elvis Presley
Back In Memphis - Elvis Presley
Beck-Ola - The Jeff Beck Group
Blind Faith - Blind Faith
The Soft Parade - The Doors
Unhalfbricking - Fairport Convention
The Brothers: Isley - The Isley Brothers
My Cherie Amour - Stevie Wonder
Santana - Santana
Abbey Road - The Beatles
The Band - The Band
Hot Buttered Soul - Isaac Hayes
Puzzle People - The Temptations
Together - Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations
Love Chronicles - Al Stewart
Elvis In Person - Elvis Presley
Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin
Free - Free
The Allman Brothers Band - The Allman Brothers Band
David Bowie (Space Oddity) - David Bowie
Mott The Hoople - Mott The Hoople
An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down - Rod Stewart
Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones
The Woodstock Experience - Janis Joplin
Liege And Lief - Fairport Convention
Beginnings - Ambrose Slade
Years Gone By - Albert King
I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama! - Janis Joplin
Look Ka-Py-Py - The Meters
The Four Tops Now! - The Four Tops
Basket Of Light - Pentangle
Ruff 'n' Ready - Jimmy Ruffin
Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out - The Rolling Stones
Nitty Gritty - Gladys Knight & The Pips
The Pious Bird Of Good Omen - Fleetwood Mac
Soul Spin - The Four Tops

1979




Click on an album title to read the review -

Armed Forces - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Look Sharp! - Joe Jackson
Inflammable Material - Stiff Little Fingers
Manifesto - Roxy Music
You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic - Ian Hunter
Breakfast In America - Supertramp
Squeezing Out Sparks - Graham Parker & The Rumour
Life In A Day - Simple Minds
I Love To Sing The Songs I Sing - Barry White
At Budokan - Bob Dylan
Black Rose - Thin Lizzy
Voulez-Vous - ABBA
The Undertones - The Undertones
Do It Yourself - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Lodger - David Bowie
I Am - Earth, Wind & Fire
Communiqué - Dire Straits
Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division
Live Killers - Queen
Fear Of Music - Talking Heads
Off The Wall - Michael Jackson
Slow Train Coming - Bob Dylan
In Through The Out Door - Led Zeppelin
Into The Music - Van Morrison
Join Hands - Siouxsie & The Banshees
The Raven - The Stranglers
Entertainment! - Gang Of Four
Singles Going Steady - The Buzzcocks
A Different Kind Of Tension - The Buzzcocks
The Glow - Bonnie Raitt
Marathon - Santana
Regatta De Blanc - The Police
Survival - Bob Marley & The Wailers
I'm The Man - Joe Jackson
The Fine Art Of Surfacing - The Boomtown Rats
Victim Of Love - Elton John
The Complete Thom Bell Sessions - Elton John
Eat To The Beat - Blondie
The Message Is Love - Barry White
One Step Beyond... - Madness
Prince - Prince
The Specials - The Specials
Broken English - Marianne Faithfull
Setting Sons - The Jam
Real To Real Cacophony - Simple Minds
London Calling - The Clash
The Crack - The Ruts
Deltics - Chris Rea
Damn The Torpedoes - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Mystic Man - Peter Tosh
Forces Of Victry - Linton Kwesi Johnson
Going Through The Motions - Hot Chocolate
Nightout - Ellen Foley
The Jukes - Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
Live At Wembley - ABBA
Gypsy Blood - Doll By Doll
Remember - Doll By Doll
Cut - The Slits
Jumpin' In The Night - The Flamin' Groovies
No Discrimination - Tony Allen
Are We A Warrior - Ijahman Levi
TRB2 - Tom Robinson Band
Glory Boys - Secret Affair
Back To The Drawing Board - The Rubinoos

Steely Dan - Gaucho (1980)

She don't remember the Queen of Soul....

  

Released on 21 November 1980

Running time 37.49

This, the last Steely Dan album for many a year, has always suffered as a supposed poor relation to its illustrious predecessor, Aja. While there is no doubt as to Aja's luminescence, I have always had a lot of time for Gaucho. There is some excellent material on it, for sure. The problem with Steely Dan albums is that they are all so good, that some get criticism they don't deserve, just for being maybe slightly inferior to another brilliant album.

TRACK LISTING

1. Babylon Sisters
2. Hey Nineteen
3. Glamour Profession
4. Gaucho
5. Time Out Of Mind
6. My Rival
7. Third World Man                                       
Babylon Sisters is a superbly evocative opener, with its lightly funky guitar underpinning it and an infectious backing vocal chorus part. It is a great piece of jazz rock perfection. Lovely saxophone and the usual perplexing lyrics enhance it even more.

Hey Nineteen is an instantly recognisable classic Steely Dan piece of music. It is a quirkily appealing number, with a commercial, breezily soulful ambience and a great harmonica solo too.

Glamour Profession has an easy, almost disco riff to it, together with that very late seventies/early eighties light orchestration to it. The lyrics appear to be about professional basketball and it is probably the only song ever to mention "Szechuan dumplings" in an aside lyric. There is also a sumptuous jazz guitar solo near the end. Quality stuff.


Gaucho has a delicious bass line and a lovely jazzy feel to it. Apparently the drum sound took 46 different takes to get it as they wanted it. Time Out Of Mind is a smooth, chugging number with drug references in its lyrics - "tonight when I chase the dragon....". Mark Knopfler guests on guitar, although you can't really hear him. His contribution was reduced to 40 seconds, I have read. Once more there is a jazzy vibe to it. All very slick and polished.

The same applies to the very pleasurable, gentle strains of My RivalThird World Man is a laid-back, appetising piece of smooth, late-night jazz rock. It is the sort of thing you hear played as a demonstration track in hi-fi shops. Despite that, the percussion is still a bit "sharp" for me. The song has a captivating atmosphere though.

Although Aja is more familiar to most people, this was a really good album and deserves to be listened to and enjoyed just as much. I really like it. Unfortunately, Walter Becker's increasing drug use drove a wedge between him and Donald Fagen for quite a while after this album's release. It would be twenty years before Steely Dan re-appeared.

B+

Thursday, 29 August 2019

1977




Click on an album title to read the review -

Leave Home - The Ramones
Bad Reputation - Thin Lizzy
Low - David Bowie
In Your Mind - Bryan Ferry
Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
Marquee Moon - Television
Dandy In The Underworld - T. Rex
Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk
The Clash - The Clash
Rattus Norvegicus - The Stranglers
Even In The Quietest Moments - Supertramp
A Period Of Transition - Van Morrison
In The City - The Jam
Travelin' At The Speed Of Thought - The O'Jays
Exodus - Bob Marley & The Wailers
Full House - Frankie Miller
Pure Mania - The Vibrators
My Aim Is True - Elvis Costello
Barry White Sings For Someone You Love - Barry White
Chicago XI - Chicago
77- Talking Heads
Aja - Steely Dan
Love You Live - The Rolling Stones
No More Heroes - The Stranglers
The Stranger - Billy Joel
New Boots & Panties!! - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
The Boomtown Rats - The Boomtown Rats
"Heroes" - David Bowie
Police And Thieves - Junior Murvin
Bat Out Of Hell - Meat Loaf
Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols - The Sex Pistols
News Of The World - Queen
Footloose & Fancy Free - Rod Stewart
Rocket To Russia - The Ramones
Death Of A Ladies' Man - Leonard Cohen
Saturday Night Fever - Soundtrack
Party Time - The Heptones
This Is The Modern World - The Jam
All 'n' All - Earth, Wind & Fire
Chic - Chic
Slowhand - Eric Clapton
Running On Empty - Jackson Browne
ABBA: The Album - ABBA
Out Of The Blue - The Electric Light Orchestra
Pacific Ocean Blue - Dennis Wilson
Cabretta - Mink De Ville
Equal Rights - Peter Tosh
Heart Of The Congos - The Congos
It's Alive - The Ramones
Gold And Ivory - David Essex
Go For Your Guns - The Isley Brothers
Peter Gabriel 1 ("Car") - Peter Gabriel
This Time It's For Real - Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
Super Eight - George Faith
Festival - Santana
New Direction - The Meters
No Strings -Ace
Sweet Forgiveness - Bonnie Raitt
Livin' On The Fault Line - The Doobie Brothers
Lee "Scratch" Perry Introduces Candy McKenzie - Candy McKenzie

Steely Dan - The Royal Scam (1976)

Babs and Clean Willie were in love they said....

  

Released on 31 May 1976

Running time 41.11

Along with 1974's Katy Lied, this album is sometimes overlooked as being the other one between Pretzel Logic and Aja. This is a bit of a shame as it is an impressive album. One thing that is clear is that after the lightly harsh, tinny sound of Katy Lied, there is a velvety, deep, warm sound to this, which is nice to hear. You can hear the difference immediately. As with its predecessor, I prefer it to Pretzel Logic, by far. I have never gone along with the hype of Pretzel Logic, actually, it is my least favourite Dan album, albeit one in exceptionally high quality company. For me, this one blows it away, easily.

What we have here is another album of captivating songs, full of hooks, almost perfect instrumentation and those serious-sounding, but often tongue-in-cheek lyrics. It is classic Steely Dan. Don't let anyone put it down.

TRACK LISTING

1. Kid Charlemagne
2. The Caves Of Altamira
3. Don't Take Me Alive
4. Sign In Stranger
5. The Fez
6. Green Earrings
7. Haitian Divorce
8. Everything You Did
9. The Royal Scam                                          
Kid Charlemagne is a sumptuous slice of slightly funky rock, full of big heavy bass, infectious, jazzy piano, syncopated drums and the familiar indecipherable Steely Dan lyrics. It also features a superb guitar solo from guest guitarist Larry Carlton.

The Caves Of Altamira is a beautifully laid-back but still powerful jazz rock number. It has a great saxophone solo in it. A solid, driving bass powers the atmospheric, graceful rock of Don't Take Me Alive.

Sign In Stranger is an intoxicating, slow, grinding number full of odd lyrics and superb instrumentation. The piano solo is top class, as indeed is the whole track. There have some some critics who have said this album contains no classic Steely Dan tracks on it. I would dispute that - it is pretty much all really high quality, containing innovative, inventive songs as we have come to expect.

The Fez has an addictive, funky guitar line driving it along and some mysterious Eastern-sounding organ breaks. It almost sounds like Euro-disco in places.

Green Earrings is another piece of perfectly funky, jazzy soul that drifts along effortessly. The drums are excellent, as is the guitar. The material on here is some of the group's funkiest stuff thus far. I read somewhere someone describe their music as "funky, edgy playfulness". I couldn't have put it better myself. It is difficult to find phrases to describe Steely Dan's output, this is an excellent one.

The quality continues on the reggae/funk of the magnificent Haitian Divorce. Check out that wah-wah guitar. This was a hit single and rightly so. I remember a friend playing it to me back in 1976 and being blow away.

Everything You Did is a grandiose bit of muscular jazz rock containing a lyrical tease for The Eagles that they returned on Hotel California - all very amicable. The Royal Scam is an impressive six minute plus slow burner of a track to conclude this sometimes overlooked album. Personally, I don't think there is a bad track on it.

B+

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Chairmen Of The Board - Bittersweet (1972)

I read a book the other day....

  

Released in March 1972

Running time 35.50

Chairmen Of The Board, that most under-rated of seventies soul groups, became a trio (General Johnson, Danny Woods and Harrison Kennedy) for this album after the departure of Eddie Custis and moved away from the slightly restricting habit of including middle-of-the-road ballad covers on their albums. The nine tracks on here are all written by impressive singer General Johnson with the exception of one Holland/Dozier offering. It was their most credible and cohesive album to date.

Like The Temptations in the same period, a lot of the songs were lyrically "aware" of contemporary issues as well as being appealingly funky and soulful. The group also had deep gospel roots and this is apparent in much of the material.

TRACK LISTING

1. Men Are Getting Scarce
2. So Glad You're Mine
3. Working On A Building Of Love
4. I'm A Sign Of Changing Times
5. Elmo James
6. I'm On My Way To A Better Place
7. Bittersweet
8. Saginaw County Line
9. Weary Traveller                                         
The first issue they take on is the anti-war movement, and Men Are Getting Scarce confronts the endless loss of young men in Vietnam. Johnson beseeches the help of the burgeoning women's liberation movement to help out in their protests, unless they want to run out of men. It has echoes of Edwin Starr's War in its lyrics, strong vocal and solid, funky backing.

So Glad You're Mine is a classic piece of Chairmen Of The Board powerful, punchy soul. It is full of great vocals from Johnson and excellent backing, particularly the brass, bass and percussion. The interplay between those, the keyboards and the vocals near the end is superb.

The afore-mentioned Lamont Dozier/Brian Holland song is the wonderful, vibrant gospel glory of Working On A Building Of Love. I never tire of this song, it is one of my favourites of all time. A truly uplifting slice of soul and one of the true great examples of seventies soul.

I'm A Sign Of Changing Times is a thumping attack on prejudices and a call to look forward over an intoxicating wah-wah guitar and saxophone backing. It is a sort of psychedelic soul meets Southern soul.


Elmo James is a similar tale to the Patches story, featuring a poor, backwoods but honest character working hard against a heap of disadvantages. Johnson's vocal is immense once more and the song's sentiments are hard-hitting and moving. Good stuff.

I'm On My Way To A Better Place sees the group exploring their religious side. It brings back such memories for me of 1972. A most atmospheric, evocative song. Even in the midst of my beloved glam rock as a thirteen year-old, I still loved this.

Bittersweet is a soaring piece of sweet soul balladry that, for some reason, bursts into a shot of lively jazzy soul half way through, before returning to the late-night feel of the song.

Saginaw County Line has a lot of the gritty soul feel of Elmo James but with a deeper, bluesier beat to it. Weary Traveller is a muscular blues/soul ballad to end this impressive, highly credible seventies soul album on. Chairmen Of The Board, as indeed the already had done, showed themselves to be more than just a "soul singles" group with this release.

B

Neil Young - Tonight's The Night (1975)

I'm not goin' back to Woodstock for a while....

  

Released on 20 June 1975

Running time 44.45

This album, although eventually released in mid-1975, was recorded in 1973 by a grief-stricken* and (probably) drugged up Young. He toured the album and audiences, raised on Heart Of Gold and After The Goldrush were not too happy with this often maudlin, bluesy rock material. The album's release was shelved and On The Beach was recorded and released instead. Two years later the album got released and has, retrospectively, received much critical kudos. Personally, I prefer it to the often plaintive Harvest, so there you go.

TRACK LISTING

1. Tonight's The Night
2. Speakin' Out
3. World On A String
4. Borrowed Tune
5. Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown
6. Mellow My Mind
7. Roll Another Number (For The Road)
8. Albuquerque
9. New Mama
10. Lookout Joe
11. Tired Eyes
12. Tonight's The Night - Part II                          
Tonight's The Night is Young's tribute to his roadie Bruce Berry*, who died of a heroin overdose, six months after Crazy Horse's guitarist Danny Whitten* (Apparently, Young fired Whitten, gave him $50 and a flight ticket to LA. Whitten died of an overdose the next day). Young expressed his guilt, loss and grief, but it is done in a punchy, muscular rock format with Young's voice sounding gruffer and hoarser than on earlier recordings. It is as if Young is trying to sing it all out of his system.

Speakin' Out is a laid-back piece of bluesy rock, driven along by a strong bass and piano. Once more, it is a powerful rock-ish number. Nils Lofgren provides and excellent guitar solo.

World On A String continues the rock vibe, with another pumping offering. The tempo slows with the harmonica-driven strains of Borrowed Time. It is a moving, sad song that has Young trying to exorcise his feelings at the time. In typically Young fashion he straps his electric guitar on again soon enough, though, and gives us the scratchy, riffy joy of Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown. This is one of the album's rockiest moments.

Mellow My Mind finds Young's voice straining and cracking over its steady beat. It is a mournful lament of a song, but still full of power and featuring a killer harmonica.


Roll Another Number (For The Road) is a drunken-sounding slice of self-pitying country blues. Steel guitar backs Young's tired-sounding voice. "I'm not goin' back to Woodstock for a while...." he tells us as he finishes his drink and gets all reflective about "that helicopter day...".

Albuquerque is an excellent song, one of Young's best. It is another sombre country rock song, with Young once again mentioning how he is going to "roll another number...". More ghostly harmonica enhances the song's atmosphere. Young wants to find somewhere to enjoy some "fried eggs and country ham...". This is someone who just seems to want to get away from it all for a while, unsurprisingly.

New Mama is a gentle acoustic and keyboard wistful number. It is the lightest number thus far. It has a very Celtic, folky feel in places. The electric guitar is back on Lookout Joe, which is full of an attractive slow thump.

Tired Eyes sees Young back in that country bar, singing "please take my advice..." over a tinkling piano and a sad harmonica. Tonight's The Night is reprised at the end, slightly more in slightly more bluesy fashion, but still containing a real rock power.

Although this is an album expressing devastation and personal loss, its upbeat sound means when listened to it comes over as quite a lively, positive offering and is certainly a lot better than it was initially thought to be. Thankfully time has viewed it kindly.

B-

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Glam Rock Playlist





I was twelve in the spring of 1971 when Marc Bolan wore "glitter tears" on "Top Of The Pops" to sing "Hot Love". Glam rock started for me and many people with that wonderful single and Bolan's image. The sub-genre musically morphed from Bolan's hippy-style singalongs to something stronger, driven by a huge drum sound, lots of handclaps and raucous, instantly appealing choruses. At the start of all this tub-thumping, silly but glorious fun were the afore-mentioned T. Rex, skinheads turned stompers Slade, camp Sweet and the now never to be mentioned Gary Glitter. This was the commercial side of glam.

The serious side of glam saw David Bowie, Roxy Music, Mott The Hoople, Alice Cooper, Elton John and Cockney Rebel among others going through a glam phase around the same time. Those years from 1971 to early 1974 were joyous years for me. Forget prog rock and its pretentions. This was what the early seventies were all about.

So, put on your platform shoes, round collared shirts and flares and enjoy a great singalong.

1. Hot Love - T. Rex
2. Take Me Bak 'Ome - Slade
3. Little Willy - Sweet
4. Rock 'n' Roll Part 2 - Gary Glitter
5. Jeepster - T. Rex
6. Wig Wam Bam - Sweet
7. Gudbuy T' Jane - Slade
8. Virginia Plain - Roxy Music
9. All The Young Dudes - Mott The Hoople
10. John, I'm Only Dancing - David Bowie                            
11. Mama Weer All Crazee Now - Slade
12. I Didn't Know I Loved You Till I Saw You Rock 'n' Roll - Gary Glitter
13. Blockbuster - Sweet
14. Get It On - T. Rex
15. School's Out - Alice Cooper
16. Personality Crisis - The New York Dolls
17. Can The Can - Suzi Quatro
18. Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting - Elton John
19. Son Of My Father - Chicory Tip
20. Tiger Feet - Mud
21. Teenage Rampage - Sweet
22. Remember - The Bay City Rollers
23. Judy Teen - Cockney Rebel                                               
24. Honaloochie Boogie - Mott The Hoople
25. Hello Hello I'm Back Again - Gary Glitter
26. Angel Face - The Glitter Band
27. Elected - Alice Cooper
28. The Cat Crept In - Mud
29. 48 Crash - Suzi Quatro
30. Street Life - Roxy Music
31. The Jean Genie - David Bowie
32. Cum On Feel The Noize - Slade
33. Telegram Sam - T. Rex
34. See My Baby Jive - Wizzard
35. Shang-a-Lang - The Bay City Rollers                     
36. Tell Him - Hello
37. Goodbye My Love - The Glitter Band
38. Metal Guru - T. Rex
39. Skweeze Me Pleeze Me - Slade
40. Gonna Make You A Star - David Essex
41. Hey Rock 'n' Roll - Showaddywaddy
42. Sugar Baby Love - The Rubettes
43. Ballroom Blitz - Sweet
44. Roll Away The Stone - Mott The Hoople
45. Dancing On A Saturday Night - Barry Blue
46. The Groover - T. Rex
47. Crazy Horses - The Osmonds
48. This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us - Sparks               49. Angel Fingers - Wizzard
50. 20th Century Boy - T. Rex

Friday, 23 August 2019

Neil Young - Zuma (1975)

He came dancing across the water....

  

Released on 10 November 1975

Running time 36.34

Neil Young reunited again with Crazy Horse on this album and it revisits the hard rocking edge he had employed at intervals throughout the seventies. The music is played with a loose, buzzy guitar-driven energy by Crazy Horse (who didn't seem to be able to play in any other way, anyway) and is considered one of Young's best seventies rock offerings. It is another in what was now becoming a long line of highly credible and listenable albums from this enigmatic artist.

TRACK LISTING

1. Don't Cry No Tears
2. Danger Bird
3. Pardon My Heart
4. Lookin' For A Love
5. Barstool Blues
6. Stupid Girl
7. Drive Back
8. Cortez The Killer
9. Through My Sails    

Don't Cry No Tears is a solid, mid-pace rocker to start the album off, with a nice deep bass sound to it and some by now trademark Crazy Horse riffing. A low-key bass and slow guitar riff introduces the sombre Danger Bird. It ends with a couple of minutes of outstanding guitar work. As will be said on any review of their work in this period - Crazy Horse could really play.

Pardon My Heart was a gentle, tuneful acoustic number that wouldn't have been out of place on 1972's Harvest album. Lookin' For A Love is a poppy piece of country-ish rock. Cynical old Neil Young could periodically come up with fetching, romantic, wistful songs like this. Its vocal harmonies are very redolent of CSNY.


Barstool Blues is a typical Young/Crazy Horse slice of solid riffy rock with Young's "marmite" high-pitched reedy voice straining a bit to cope with the song, but the backings are always so good that I always tolerate Young's voice (of which I have always had my problems with). The lyrics are aways great and the attitude too. That is why I always return to his music with enthusiasm.

Stupid Girl is not The Rolling Stones song, but another chugging Young deep rocker. Once more the guitar is top notch.

Drive Back continues along the same riff-paved road. Nothing new here, just trustworthy, reliable rock. Neil Young was like Tom Petty in that respect - album after album that you knew would not let you down.

Cortez The Killer sees Young going all historical as he sings of the Spanish conqueror of the Aztecs  over some sublime, extended guitar backing on one of his most lengthy, improvisational numbers since the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album. It is a minor classic. The laid-back and folky Through My Sails was apparently a remant from the CSNY sessions back in the early seventies. It provides a peaceful, reflective end to an otherwise upbeat, rock-oriented album.

B

Neil Young - Live Rust (1978)

It's better to burn out than it is to rust....

 

Recorded live on tour with Crazy Horse in 1978

Running time 73.47

This was the properly live companion to Rust Never Sleeps, which was "sort of live". The music is taken from Young's tour with Crazy Horse in 1978 and features Young backed with bass, guitar and drums and occasional keyboards. It is a back to basics performance, begun with acoustic/harmonica material before we get the solid, riffy, crashing, no-nonsense rock that Young and Crazy Horse would be known for over subsequent years. It has attracted criticism for including four of the tracks from Rust Never Sleeps but that is a bit churlish, really. You can never get enough of those songs anyway and there are still twelve others. This is still a very good live album, one that would set the standard for many more from Young and Crazy Horse over the years.

TRACK LISTING

1. Sugar Mountain
2. I Am A Child
3. Comes A Time
4. After The Gold Rush
5. My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)
6. When You Dance I Can Really Love
7. The Loner
8. The Needle And The Damage Done
9. Lotta Love
10. Sedan Delivery
11. Powderfinger
12. Cortez The Killer
13. Cinnamon Girl
14. Like A Hurricane
15. Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)
16. Tonight's The Night                                              
Kicking off things is Sugar Mountain, a sort of singalong acoustic number that finds the crowd getting into it and clapping along. The acoustic vibe continues on the plaintive I Am A Child and the harmonica-enhanced, enjoyable Comes A Time, from Young's latest studio album. Then it is time for an earlier classic, the wonderful After The Gold Rush. The studio version's flugelhorn is replaced by a Springsteen-esque harmonica.

My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) sees an electric guitar used, but it is gently utilised on the laid-back version of the grungy "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)". Once again the harmonica is excellent, very Dylanesque here. The electric guitar is fully introduced now on the riffy strains of When You Dance I Can Really Love. This is a full-on, copper-bottomed Young/Crazy Horse rocker, packed with outstanding guitar, throbbing bass and pounding drums. The riff-driven attack continues on The Loner from Young's debut album. Proper rock once more. Again the guitar power is truly pulsating.


For some reason, between this track and the next one, the acoustic, anti-drug The Needle and the Damage Done contains a thunderclap and stage announcements about taking precautions during the thunderstorm that were take from Woodstock, in 1969, when Young played there with CSNY. A most odd inclusion. Lotta Love is a peaceful, chilled-out piece of breezy soft rock that sits a bit incongruously with some of the more caustic material.

Back to rock next with the punky, energetic romp of Sedan Delivery, followed by the superb, powerful but melodic Powderfinger. The solidly dignified Cortez The Killer continues the high quality. It has an appropriately killer guitar solo. Young returns to his second album for the short, sharp, hard-hitting rock of Cinnamon Girl. You simply can't argue with the power of the chunky guitar attack on tracks like this. You can never hear Like A Hurricane too many times either. This begins with lots of feedback before launching into the familiar intro.

Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) is as chunkily industrial as you would expect. The album ends with the slow but powerful Tonight's The Night. As with so many tracks it is full to the brim of great guitar. This album has been an air guitarist's dream. Uncompromising, full volume stuff.

B+

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps (1978)

This is the story of Johnny Rotten....

  

Recorded live in 1978

Running time 38.16

This is a collection of live recordings by Neil Young that were later enhanced by studio overdubs. The first three tracks are largely acoustic and recorded in early 1978 at The Boarding House in San Francisco. The rest were recorded on the Young/Crazy Horse tour in late 1978. Two exceptions were not recorded live - Sail Away from the Comes A Time sessions and Pocahontas which dates from 1976.

TRACK LISTING

1. My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)
2. Thrasher
3. Ride My Llama
4. Pocahontas
5. Sail Away
6. Powderfinger
7. Welfare Mothers
8. Sedan Delivery
9. Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)                
My My, Hey Hey (Out Of the Blue) is the acoustic version of Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black). It has a haunting, mesmeric appeal, enhanced by some excellent harmonica.

Thrasher is a Springsteen-esque (later era) piece of folky country. It has shades of early Dylan with hints of Love Minus Zero/No Limits's rhyme scheme.

Ride My Llama is a deep but acoustic number, with some really sonorous, heavy rhythmic bits thumping behind its plaintive country-ish melody. Again, but in a different way, there is something Dylanesque about this. Another similarity with Dylan is that the first five tracks are acoustic (the old "side one"), while the second side is electric, like Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home.

Pocahontas is another one that you could imagine post 2010 Springsteen doing. It is acoustic as well, but strongly acoustic if you know what I mean.  In the lyrics, Young imagines that he was a trapper who got to sleep with Pocahontas. He then imagines "Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me...".   Hmmm, ok Neil. The afore-mentioned Sail Away is a fetching, laid-back folky number with a comforting country air to it.


Right, now it's time for Neil to strap on that electric guitar, get Crazy Horse to join him and give us some of that buzzy electric rock as only he and "The Horse" can. Powderfinger is a Young classic as well. Driven on by a superb riff, enhanced by a big, scratchy guitar solo and some great lyrics, it is up there as one of his best songs. Another corker is the similarly rifftastic and wryly amusing Welfare Mothers . "Welfare mothers make better lovers..." he tells us. You can find them "down at every Laundromat in town...". Really? I never did on any of my weekly visits to the Launderette back in the day.

Sedan Delivery is almost punky in its initial guitar attack and grungy drum thump. In between its frantic thrashing there are some slow, almost sixties psychedelic moments. For a member of rock's old school by 1978, this was incredibly punky stuff. Finally, we get the iconic Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) with more top class mega-chunky riffs and the mention of Johnny Rotten, "gone but not forgotten", in 1978. Old Neil had his finger on the pulse. He always was "old Neil" as Lynyrd Skynyrd described him, wasn't he? Even when he wasn't that old.

This was certainly an interesting album, but it never really comes across as a "live" album. That sort of feeling is better found on Live Rust, released soon after this.

B

Neil Young - After The Goldrush (1970)

Look at Mother Nature on the run in the nineteen seventies....

  

Released on 19 September 1970

Running time 33.41

Fifteen months went by between Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and this, Neil Young's third album. In the meantime he had been involved with CSNY's Deja Vu album, contributing two songs (Helpless and Country Girl) as well as the non-album single, Ohio. This album is not quite as "rock" as its predecessor, with no extended guitar "jamming" passages to any of the songs, and Young re-visits his more folky roots once more. There is quite a bit of a country rock vibe to it as well.

A newcomer to Young's backing band, Crazy Horse, was seventeen year-old Nils Lofgren (of latter day E St. Band fame) who contributed on piano as well as guitar.

TRACK LISTING

1. Tell Me Why
2. After The Goldrush
3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
4. Southern Man
5. Till The Morning Comes
6. Oh, Lonesome Me
7. Don't Let It Bring You Down
8. Birds
9. When You Dance You Can Really Love
10. I Believe In You
11. Cripple Creek Ferry                                                         
The album begins in gentle, acoustic fashion on Tell Me Why, which is folky Americana in the CSNY style, as if Young was still recording with them. It is full of breezy harmonious vocals, reminiscent of folk rock band America.

After The Gold Rush is one of Young's best-known songs - a haunting song that nobody really knows the meaning to, but there's something very Woodstock, very late sixties/early seventies hippy about it. The flugelhorn perfectly merges with Young's bleak but melodic piano. I can never hear this too many times.

Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a very late sixties, breezy, harmonious love song. It showed that the often cynical, caustic Young had a tenderness deep within him. Despite its airy feel, it also has a deep bass line.

Southern Man has achieved notoriety in that it was the song that provoked Lynyrd Skynyrd to write Sweet Home Alabama as a response to Young's daring to call into question the often racist ways of many in the south of the USA. Young was dead right if you ask me, particularly in 1969. Lynyrd Skynyrd should have taken a look out of their own window, much as I love their music. Anyway, it is a great song, with a solid, pertinent message and some excellent guitar. It is the album's most obviously rock song.

Till The Morning Comes operates as a short lively interlude backed by bass, drums and flugelhorn that, unfortunately ends just as it is getting started.

Oh Lonesome Me is a slow, wistful, harmonica-backed ballad, a sort of country blues, that finds Young's already high-pitched voice going a bit vibrato at times, while Don't Let It Bring You Down ups it a bit, being a bassy, muscular slow-paced rock number. That big, rumbling bass on it is just delicious. I love that deep sound.

Birds is a plaintive piano and vocal number that was covered by Paul Weller on his Studio 150 album of covers in 2004. Although the track is gentle and low-key, there are parts of the "it's over" bit that are almost anthemic. Then the album gets more punchy again with When You Dance You Can Really Love which is a medium-paced rock song with some impressive guitar riffs. The riff reminds me a bit of Argent's Hold Your Head Up. The track gets quite heavy near the end. Its vocal is very CSNY.

I Believe In You is another CSNY-influenced, sombre-sounding, reflective song with some nice clear percussion. Its positive message is slightly nullified by its deadpan delivery. Cripple Creek Ferry ends the album with a brief bit of country fun. Although this is comparatively short album (nothing wrong with that) it is good one, an appealing mix of rock and country, folky material. It was very typical of Young's early seventies output.

B

Neil Young - Neil Young Greatest Hits

There is a town in North Ontario....

  

Trying to compile a "best of" covering Neil Young's vast career is a mighty difficult task. Furthermore, Greatest Hits is a bit of a misnomer of a tile, as Young never was, or is, a chart act. Anyway, as a compilation, this is a pretty good one, chosen by Young himself. anther issue with Young's work is that of remastering - some albums have been remastered, some have not. This album contains remastered material and boy, does it sound good. The original albums from which the tracks are taken still sound ok, but this sounds so much better, I have to say. I have the 2009 remasters of the first four albums, but these sound much better, to me, anyway. What is odd is that they are probably the same remasters, but they definitely sound different to my ears.

TRACK LISTING

1. Down By The River
2. Cowgirl In The Sand
3. Cinnamon Girl
4. Helpless (as part of CSNY)
5. After The Gold Rush
6. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
7. Southern Man
8. Ohio (as part of CSNY)
9. The Needle And The Damage Done (live)
10. Old Man
11. Heart Of Gold
12. Like A Hurricane
13. Comes A Time
14. Hey Hey My My (Into The Black) (live)
15. Rockin' In The Free World
16. Harvest Moon                                                        
The first three cuts are classics from Young's second album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, including the two extended tracks that bookended the album. Just check out Down By The River as an example of how good the remastering is - it is rich, deep, warm and bassy. A real pleasure to listen to,as is the great guitar work throughout the song. That exact quality is even more apparent on the superb, rambling (but never boring), Cowgirl In The Sand. Young and Crazy Horse could really ramp it up. For 1969, this was ground-breaking, impressive, improvisational stuff. Man, that guitar sound. Cinnamon Girl is one of that album's two shorter, rocky numbers. It is an infectious merging of late sixties slightly psych-ish vibes with the solid rock sound that would be used in the seventies.

Helpless came from Young's Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album, Deja Vu. It is a suitably atmospheric slice of folk rock. Slow, dignified, melodic and evocative. Young sings plaintively of his "town in North Ontario". The town was said to be Omemee, Young's hometown, which now has a museum dedicated to him. After The Gold Rush is one of Young's best-known songs - a haunting song that nobody really knows the meaning to, but there's something very Woodstock, very late sixties/early seventies hippy about it. The flugelhorn perfectly merges with Young's bleak but melodic piano. Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a very late sixties, breezy, harmonious love song. It showed that the often cynical, caustic Young had a tenderness deep within him. Southern Man has achieved notoriety in that it was the song that provoked Lynyrd Skynyrd to write Sweet Home Alabama as a response to Young's daring to call into question the often racist ways of many in the south of the USA. Young was dead right if you ask me, particularly in 1969. Lynyrd Skynyrd should have taken a look out of their own window, much as I love their music. Anyway, it is a great song, with a solid, pertinent message and some excellent guitar. Ohio continues in the "protest song" vein, detailing the Kent State University killings of four protesting students by the Ohio National Guard. Again, this song leaves you in no doubt as its meaning. Fair play to Young once more for highlighting this shocking incident in song.


The Needle And The Damage Done is a quiet, acoustic but hard-hitting anti-drug song. The recording here is a live one. Old Man is an appealing acoustic and bass-driven folky number, enhanced by some gentle drums and piano. It is very typical of the early seventies folk rock period. Heart Of Gold is another well-known song, a mixture of acoustic and more solid rock, taken at a mid-pace with another enigmatic and memorable lyric. Like A Hurricane sees Young return to guitar-driven, more conventional rock. It is full of searing lead guitar and is overall a barnstormer of a track. Roxy Music and solo Bryan Ferry have covered the song successfully over the years.

Comes A Time is a country violin-powered folky number. Hey Hey My My (Into The Black) is from Young's live album, Rust Never Sleeps (recorded live then overdubbed in the studio). It was Young's response to the punk genre and what he perceived as his growing irrelevance. It contains some buzzy, grungy guitar that went down well with punks at the time. Young's "difficult" and "irascible" persona also endeared him to many. It was popular in 1979 and remains so. It was notable for its lyrical reference to Johnny Rotten, already "gone but not forgotten". The solid guitar riffage continues on the iconic Rockin' In The Free World, with its easy to sing along with chorus. Young was, by now, seen as a sort of grand old man still protesting away. He was about to become "the Godfather of Grunge". Those titles are very annoying. Harvest Moon, from 1992, is a less abrasive and gently appealing, laid-back song.

Personally, I feel there are periods in Young's career and some songs that have been overlooked - Cortez The Killer, Welfare Mothers, Mansion On The Hill and Powderfinger, for example. That is nit-picking, though, as this, particularly with its excellent sound quality, is a great listen.

B+