Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Stevie Nicks

Bella Donna (1981)


Bella Donna/Kind Of Woman/Stop Draggin' My Heart Around/Think About It/After The Glitter Fades/Edge Of Seventeen/How Still My Love/Leather And Lace/Outside The Rain/The Highwayman  
                                     
This was Stevie Nicks' first solo album, from 1981, before Fleetwood Mac's Mirage and five years or so before her drugs meltdown. It is a veritable who's-who of guests - Tom Petty, Roy Bittan, Benmont Tench, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Don Henley, Davey Johnstone and Waddy Wachtel among others. The sound on it is more muscular, more obviously rocking than the ethereal material she contributed to Fleetwood Mac’s albums. She either wrote or co-wrote all the material too.

Bella Donna starts slowly and quietly before breaking out into a solid piece of guitar-driven rock, more rockier than her Fleetwood Mac material. Kind Of Woman is a slow, sensual number, but again Nicks' voice is strong, coarser and gruffer than on the Mac albums thus far.

Stop Draggin' My Heart Around was a duet/co song-write with Tom Petty and you can tell, it has that typical Petty mid-pace rock sound. It is a fine track. 

Think About It was co-written with E St. Band pianist Roy Bittan (the first time I have seen him credited with writing a song) and it is a good one, unsurprisingly featuring his piano. It has a bit of an E St. feel to it, also unsurprising. I really like it. Stevie sounds so vibrant, so alive, so confident on this album’s material, as if she is really enjoying herself.

 

After The Glitter Fades is a nice piece of tough country rock and Edge Of Seventeen rocks consistently along, Nicks’ voice rising strongly above an insistent, chugging guitar riff. It is many people’s all-time favourite of hers (including the Principal in the movie School Of Rock), but I have others I put before it, such as the next one along, the Fleetwood Mac-ish, seductive How Still My Love. Edge Of Seventeen, for me, is lacking in definite hooks, with comparatively indistinct vocals and doesn't quite go anywhere. That's just me, though, lots of others absolutely love it.

Leather And Lace has an Eagles feel to it and, of course, features Eagle Don Henley. It is an attractive slow country rock ballad. 

Outside The Rain is standard driving radio AOR rock, but none the less appealing for it. The Highwayman is a slow, evocative guitar-driven ballad, full of quiet dignity. It is a high quality track from an album that doesn’t have any particular “wow” moments but lots of quality ones. It is always highly listenable and showcases what an underrated songwriter Nicks was, for many years.

** The non-albums tracks feature the excellent brooding rock of Gold And Braid; the slow country bar-room ballad Sleeping Angel; the beguiling, acoustic If You Were My Love; the solid, enjoyable mid-pace radio-friendly rock of The Dealer and the equally muscular rock of Blue Lamp. All were quality songs.




The Wild Heart (1983)


Wild Heart/If Anyone Falls/Gate And Garden/Enchanted/Nightbird/Stand Back/I Will Run To You/Nothing Ever Changes/Sable On Blond/Beauty And The Beast

Two years after her debut solo album, Stevie Nicks was back in 1983 with basically more of the same tried and tested AOR but often quite hard-edged rock formula. There is nothing surprising on here, but it is also solid, quality rock and full of vibrancy, well worth forty minutes of your time.

Wild Heart is a powerful rocker with some gospelly backing vocals, pounding drums and a similar strong vocal to those Nicks used on the previous album. This is really good stuff. Check out that rocking piano too. 

If Anyone Falls is a slow burning, synth-powered number. The synth is not typically eighties, however, and doesn't blight the song too much. There are still "proper" drums and guitars. Nicks' voice is great, again, well, it always is.

Gate And Garden is a slow, piano and backing vocal country-ish ballad, at the beginning, which then breaks out into a piece of Fleetwood Mac-style rock with hints of Sara about it. Enchanted is a rousing serving of piano-driven bar-room rock with Stevie sounding as lively as she ever has, not so much ethereal or dreamy, she rocks, big time, on this one. Don't worry, seductive Stevie fans - her croaky bedroom voice is back on the Dreams-like Nightbird.

 

Stand Back is the most eighties-sounding track thus far, backed by layers of synthesisers and what are probably proper drums that sound like programmed ones, you know that Robert Palmer/eighties Rod Stewart sound. Nicks' voice is strong and throaty, however, which is the song's selling point. 

I Will Run To You is a duet with Tom Petty (there was one on the previous album too). It is brooding in ambience and slow in tempo. Nothing Ever Changes is a solid saxophone-enhanced rocker.

Sable On Blond is a typically enigmatic number and Beauty And The Beast finishes the album on a haunting, heavily-orchestrated low-key note.

** The non-album tracks from the period's sessions are the excellent mid-pace rock of Violet And Blue; the Springsteen-esque and attractive I Sing For The Things, a great song that definitely should have made the final cut; the sober but strong All The Beautiful Words; the excellent bluesy rock of Sorcerer; Dial The Number, which is a vaguely ABBA-like piano-driven ballad; the moving, autobiographical Garbo; the quiet, acoustic Are You Mine and the robust rock of Wild At Heart (Alternative Version) All these songs are really good - as good as anything on the actual album, in most cases.





Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Jellybread



First Slice (1969)


River's Invitation/I Pity the Fool/Never Say No/Chairman Mao's Boogaloo/Evening/I've Got To Forget You/Boogie Sandwich/Rusty Blade/No Brag Just Facts (Parts 1 & 2)/No One Else/Don't Pay Them No Mind   
                              
Jellybread were a relatively short-lived British blues rock band formed in 1968-1969 and lasting until 1971. They arrived pretty much at the end of the UK r'n'b/blues boom but their music in none the worse for it, being lively, bluesy and in possession of superb sound quality. The one of their members that went on to further fame was pianist Pete Wingfield, who played on countless tracks in the seventies. The other members were Paul Butler (guitar), John Best (bass) and Chris Waters (drums). Recording on the now-legendary Blue Horizon label, along with Fleetwood Mac, Christine Perfect and Chicken Shack among others, the group's sound merged jazz piano with traditional blues rock sounds to great effect. Their music was quality and it was a shame that they were never very successful.

River's Invitation begins with a drum intro straight out of Led Zeppelin's Rock And Roll (which of course had yet to be recorded - maybe John Bonham had listened to this) and it continues with a positively jazzy beat reminiscent of South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. Wingfield's piano is to the forefront on this and also on the brassy, powerful cover of the blues standard I Pity The Fool. The groove is an insistent, addictive one and once it gets going it chugs along most infectiously.  

These guys, straight out of Sussex University, could play. Never Say No is a delicious, slow bassy blues. Check out that cymbal work and killer piano. The topically-titled Chairman Mao's Boogie is a magnificently bassy instrumental featuring some Traffic-esque piano breaks. Really good stuff.

Evening is over seven minutes of late night smoky blues. Again, the bass is superb and the sound quality outstanding. This was really solid, mature music. Listen to the bass-drum-piano interplay half way through and then when the lead guitar comes in. Wingfield's piano runs at 5:45 are impressive too. 

I've Got To Forget You is a melodic, slow ballad. Boogie Sandwich is, as you might expect, a brief and lively boogie-woogie piano-only instrumental. 

Rusty Blade returns us to traditional blues of the kind that was so popular for bands to cover at the time.

No Brag Just Facts (Parts 1 & 2) is a fine instrumental number with a hint of the Handbags And Gladrags piano break to it. You'll know what I mean when you hear it. The second part of the track has some excellent bass/percussion/guitar jamming. 

No One Else is a deep, warm blues ballad and this truly excellent blues rock album ends with the upbeat, brass-enhanced Don't Pay Them No Mind. This is a really enjoyable album and well worthy of half an hour of anyone's time. Listen to some of those piano breaks and you will hear The Style Council from 1983 too. I reckon it was more influential than it has ever been given credit for.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Seventies Lesser-Known Singles Playlist




I spend a lot of time reviewing albums on this blog, albums that are considered as “credible”, and I love them all, but, sometimes, I simply enjoy just listening to some good old fashioned singalong POP. Here is a selection of comparatively lesser-known seventies singles to which I know every word and every note. Again, I love them all and they were part of the soundtrack to my youth. The cassette recorder pictured is the exact model I used to own and it was my main source of music, the songs usually recorded from the Sunday evening BBC Radio One chart rundown show.

1. Softly Whispering I Love You - The Congregation
2. Heart Of Stone - Kenny
3. The Free Electric Band - Albert Hammond
4. Gimme Some - Brendon
5. Tokoloshe Man - John Kongos
6. Wherewithal - Clifford T. Ward
7. Pinball - Brian Protheroe
8. Beach Baby - First Class
9. The Band Played The Boogie - CCS
10. Rock Me Gently - Andy Kim
11. Movie Star - Harpo
12. Life Is Too Short Girl - Sheer Elegance
13. Ghetto Child - Detroit Spinners
14. If I Had Words - Scott Fitzgerald & Yvonne Keeley
15. Rock ‘n’ Roll Baby - The Stylistics


  

16. Long Tall Glasses - Leo Sayer
17. Joybringer - Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
18. America - David Essex
19. Rock ‘n’ Roll I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life - Kevin Johnson
20. New York Groove - Hello
21. Watcha Gonna Do About It - Dan McCafferty
22. At The Club - The Drifters
23. Feel The Need In Me - Detroit Emeralds
24. Oh Lori - Alessi
25. Little Does She Know - The Kursaal Flyers
26. Dirty Old Man - The Three Degrees
27. Radar Love - Golden Earring
28. I’m Your Puppet - James & Bobby Purify
29. Angie Baby - Helen Reddy
30. Good Grief Christina - Chicory Tip


  

31. Dancing In The City - Marshall Hain
32. Lido Shuffle - Boz Scaggs
33. Sky High - Jigsaw
34. Na Na Na - Cozy Powell
35. Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman) - Joe Tex
36. Popcorn - Hot Butter
37. Dance Little Lady Dance - Tina Charles
38. Mind Blowing Decisions - Heatwave
39. Sugar Me - Lynsey De Paul
40. Summer (The First Time) - Bobby Goldsboro
41. You’re Having My Baby - Paul Anka
42. Our Last Time Together - Neil Sedaka
43. Breaking Up Is Hard To Do - The Partridge Family
44. Some Kind Of A Summer - David Cassidy
45. Goin’ Home - The Osmonds


  

46. Goodbye To Love - The Carpenters
47. Devil’s Answer - Atomic Rooster
48. Poolhall Richard - Faces
49. A Walkin’ Miracle - Limmie & Family Cookin’
50. I’m Doin’ Fine Now - New York City
51. Answer Me - Barbara Dickson
52. Love On Delivery - Billy Ocean
53. Desiderata - Les Crane
54. Let’s Work Together - Canned Heat
55. Uptown Uptempo Woman - Randy Edelman


  

Pictured above - Tina Charles, Brian Protheroe and
Randy Edelman. 

The Box Tops

The Letter/Neon Rainbow (1967)


The Letter/She Knows How/Trains, Boats & Planes/Break My Mind/A Whiter Shade Of Pale/Everything I Am/Neon Rainbow/People Make The World/I’m Your Puppet/Happy Times/Gonna Find Somebody/I Pray For Rain      
                                              
Until recently, I only knew The Box Tops for their huge hit, The Letter, so it has been interesting listening to this, their debut album from November 1967 (strangely given a double title).

It has been revealed over time that the music was played by session musicians, including Bobby Womack on guitar, giving the music a really professional sound, which, mixed with Alex Chilton’s unique vocals, resulted in a fine product, albeit a bit of a short-changing one, morally, or whatever. I have to say, though, that the sound quality is fantastic throughout. Ironically, The Letter was actually played by The Box Tops themselves. Genre-wise, the group were thought of as "blue eyed soul".

The Letter is the one track the group are really known for. It is an irresistibly catchy, soulful sixties groove of a song, full of great brass, bass, drums and a superb, gruff vocal from the (amazingly) teenaged (16) Alex Chilton. Only The Love Affair’s Steve Ellis had so mature a voice for one so young. The track was very short, however, not quite making two minutes. She Knows How is similarly soully in a Stax-ish, Southern way. Bacharach/David’s Trains, Boats & Planes is covered well (it was a hit for Dionne Warwick).

John Loudermilk’s Break My Mind has a growling, atmospheric vocal from Chilton, who sounds about fifty on it. Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale is an absolute revelation, for me, as one of my favourite songs of all time is done unbelievable justice, possibly, whisper it quietly, bettering the original. This was my late mother’s favourite song. She never heard this version, I know she would have loved it. Alex Chilton’s vocal is simply outstanding. It is one if the greatest little known cover versions around.

Everything I Am is a Stax-ish, gospelly brassy soul number while Neon Rainbow is a fine piece of sixties jazzy pop in a Donovan sort of way. 

People Make The World is an impressive ballad with a sumptuous bass line. I’m Your Puppet was also a retrospective hit in the seventies for James & Bobby Purify. While I like this version, I prefer the brassier Purify one. 

Happy Times has a very sixties-esque Latin tinge to it and an absolute killer bass line. Tommy Cogbill was the session bassist and he delivers once more on the punchy soul of Gonna Find Somebody. I Pray For Rain is a slow, very sixties ballad.

Despite the unauthenticity of the session mens' involvement, this was still a really good album and should always be considered so, not least for the precocious talent of Alex Chilton.



** An enjoyable non-album track from the period was the lively pop of Turn On A Dream. The mono cut of The Letter sounds superb, by the way, pounding right out of the centre of your speakers with a big, warm bassy thump. 

Neon Rainbow also has a fine sounding mono version. Georgia Farm Boy is a country ballad with vague hints of Dr. Hook’s The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan. All are available on the extended edition of the album.

Cry Like A Baby (1968)


Cry Like A Baby/Deep In Kentucky/I'm The One For You/Weeping Analeah/Everytime/Fields Of Clover/Trouble With Sam/Lost/Good Morning Dear/727/You Keep Me Hanging On  
                                               
This was "blue-eyed soul" US group The Box Tops' second album. Again it was played by the house band at America Sound Studio, but the shimmering class of vocalist Alex Chilton shines through once again. Incidentally, this was the band of musicians that backed Dusty Springfield on Dusty In Memphis.

Cry Like A Baby is a wonderful bassy piece of soul/pop - blue eyed soul that has more than a hint of Stax about it. Alex Chilton's voice is superb as it had been on the previous album and the guitar is great too. 

Deep In Kentucky is a country soul song similar to the sort of material R. Dean Taylor would be recording on the Motown label in the early seventies. I'm The One For You is a slow pace brassy soul gem of a song, full of Stax feeling.

Weeping Analeah is a sort of Glen Campbell meets Gene Pitney country-ish ballad. Everytime is a upbeat groover of a track that reminds me a bit of Neil Diamond's early, poppy, vaguely Latin-influenced songs. 

Fields Of Clover is a solid, Elvis-esque number with Chilton's voice spine-tingling once more. He had one of the great under-mentioned white soul voices. Up there with Steve Ellis and Joe Cocker.

Trouble With Sam is a very sixties number in its slightly cheesy romanticism about a girl called Samantha while Lost is an organ and brass-driven piece of powerful poppy soul. It kicks ass in the middle of the song when all the horns break loose. 

Good Morning Dear is a lachrymose country ballad with some typically sixties instrumental breaks. 727 is a lively, drum-powered, rhythmic rocker about flying home on a 727. A few bits of late sixties Eastern instrumentation crop up too. 

You Keep Me Hanging On is a psychedelic take on Diana Ross & The Supremes' hit Motown track. It seems many who covered this song - Barry White, Rod Stewart and firstly The Box Tops here - felt the need to slow it down. It sort of works, though, in a crazy, drugged-up sixties party way.

The stereo sound on the album is outstanding, particularly for 1968.

** The bonus tracks are the slow Stax churchy soul of The Door You Closed To Me; the catchy, psychedelic pop of You Keep Tightening Up On Me (check out the bass line); the bluesy thumping Traffic-esque rock of Come On Honey (check out the guitar and organ soloes) and the sumptuous sad Tex-Mex-ish soul of Take Me To Your Heart. This final track is a bit of an undiscovered gem.




Non Stop (1968)


Choo Choo Train/I'm Movin' On/Sandman/She Shot A Hole In My Soul/People Gonna Talk/I Met Her In Church/Rock Me Baby/Rollin' In My Sleep/I Can Dig It/Yesterday Where's My Mind/If I Had Let You In

This album, from late 1968, has often been described as one  that saw The Box Tops treading water and going off the boil etc etc. Granted, it is a serving of similar catchy late sixties white soul but there's nothing wrong with that, for me. It is full of great brass, bass, soulful guitar, powerful drums and, of course, Alex Chilton's deliciously gruff voice. Personally, I feel it is a more soulful album than the previous one and is a bit of an undiscovered treasure.

Choo Choo Train is a Southern, Stax-influenced cooker of a soul track, with echoes of Al Green in both Alex Chilton's vocal and the punchy brass sound. Some swampy Southern bluesy guitar features too on what is a fine track. 

Movin' On is a guitar-picking piece of melodic country rock that breaks out into a great brass and bass bit. As often, there was a superb rubbery bass sound to the song. Sandman is a slow ballad with a strong chorus.

She Shot A Hole In My Soul is an upbeat, jaunty Motown-ish piece of brassy pop/soul. Southside Johnny would have loved this, I'm sure, and Steve Van Zandt. Similarly solid and muscular in its soulful groove is the infectious People Gonna Talk which rocks from beginning to end and features some great bluesy harmonica. I Met Her In Church is as gospelly as the the title would have you expect, loaded with killer organ and rousing voices.

 

The cover of B.B. King's Rock Me Baby is simply superb - growling and gritty from the outset. The Box Tops were never given enough credit for their bluesiness. Here they drip with it. They would return to the song in extended fashion on their next album, incidentally. 

Rollin' In My Sleep is a tender serving of string-backed country soul. I Can Dig It sees the group going funky for the first time on a bass, guitar and fatback drums corker of a track. Excellent stuff, for sure. Alex Chilton goes full-on Joe Cocker on the massive thump of Yesterday Where's My Mind which is another absolutely top notch cut. This wonderful album ends with the soul of If I Had Let You In, which has a very Walk Away Renee-influenced chorus. Chilton sounds very Levi Stubbs, perhaps unsurprisingly.

What a great little find this has been. It didn't sell at the time, which is incomprehensible.

** The bonus tracks include the slow bar-room blues of Let Me Go; the Stax brass-driven soul of the lively Got To Hold On To You and the bassily beautiful acoustic tones of Since I Been Gone. This one sounds a lot like early Mott The Hoople. Ian Hunter must have been familiar with this.



Dimensions (1969)


Soul Deep/I Shall Be Released/Midnight Angel/Together/I'll Hold Out My Hand/I Must Be The Devil/Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March/(The) Happy Song/Ain't No Way/Rock Me Baby   
                                                 
This, the last of the four really high quality albums The Box Tops produced between 1967 and 1969 kicked off with an absolute stonker in Soul Deep, also covered by Gary US Bonds on his 1982 On The Line album. It bristles with soul from the first note. Next up is a convincing cover of Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released that (whisper it quietly) out-does the original. Midnight Angel is a sumptuous piece of gruff, brooding Alex Chilton soul featuring (unsurprisingly) a killer vocal and some mysterious, bluesy backing. Listen to that great guitar solo in the middle.

Together is a Traffic-esque organ and drum-powered serving of soul rock. This was really good stuff and should have received far more acclaim than it ever got. Another sublime guitar solo can be found on here. Proper rock music. 

I'll Hold Out My Hand is a brassy slow number of the kind that it seemed The Box Tops and Chilton could deliver in their sleep by now. The song carried echoes of The Band and Traffic once more.

As I said in the review for the previous album, The Box Tops could play the blues and they do so again on the very late sixties slow blues rock grind of I Must Be The Devil. The bass line on this is superb as are the vocals. The oddly-titled Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March is influenced by The Beatles, The Stones, Traffic, The Kinks and The Small Faces, all of whom went vaudeville and oompah brass band with music hall lyrics at times. This was very much in that vein, even down to The Beatles-style drums. Again in a jaunty, late sixties breezy style is The Kinks-like (The) Happy Song. It features some fine harmonica but it sacrificed soul and bluesiness on the altar of late sixties whimsy.

Ain't No Way was a punchy, ebullient cover of a Neil Diamond song and the album finishes with an extended version of B.B. King's Rock Me Baby, which had appeared in shorter form on the previous album. It features some fine slowed-down bass, drum and piano interplay. It was a finer, assured, mature way to end a brief but really impressive career.

** The non-albums tracks are the Johnny Cash-esque country rock of King's Highway; the dreamy easy-listening soul of I See Only Sunshine and the vaguely bubblegum soul of Lay Your Shine On Me.





Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Movement : John Peel BBC Radio Sessions 1977-1979

 

This is a truly wonderful compilation of live BBC session performances recorded on the iconic John Peel show. Anyone who was there in those years, tuning in after 10 pm as I did in my bedroom, on my tinny transistor, will love this. The sound quality is clear and surprisingly unspoilt and the performances are excellent, quashing the claim that punks couldn't play.

This is the track listing, it reads as a veritable who's who of the punk/new wave/post punk scene from 1977-1979 and plays like an audible holy grail :-

In The City - The Jam
What Do I Get? - The Buzzcocks
Youth Youth Youth - Generation X
No More Heroes - The Stranglers
Gary Gilmore's Eyes - The Adverts
Love And Romance - The Slits
Science Fiction - XTC
She's A Wind Up - Dr. Feelgood
Don't Take No For An Answer - The Tom Robinson Band
Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Deutscher Girls - Adam & The Ants
Hong Kong Garden - Siouxsie & The Banshees
Another Girl Another Planet - The Only Ones
Get Over You - The Undertones
Top Of The Pops - The Rezillos
Love And A Molotov Cocktail - The Flys
Sound Of The Suburbs - The Members
Alternative Ulster - Still Little Fingers
The Saints Are Coming - The Skids
We Are The People - The Angelic Upstarts
S.U.S. - The Ruts
Homicide - 999
Readers' Wives - John Cooper Clarke
Movement - Penetration
Goodbye Joe/Strange Boutique - Monochrome Set
The Other Window - Wire
The Light Pours Out Of Me - Magazine
Transmission - Joy Division
Wardance - Killing Joke
Being Boiled - The Human League
Messages - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark 
Sister Europe - The Psychedelic Furs
Premonition - Simple Minds
Poptones - Public Image Ltd
Jay Pickney - Steel Pulse
Its Not Our Wish - Aswad
Food For Thought - UB40
Gangsters - The Specials
The Prince - Madness
Street Feeling - The Selecter
Ranking Full Stop - The Beat


The order of the songs progresses nicely from frantic, frenetic punk through jerky reggae crossover to comparatively poppy new wave and brooding post punk finally to crucial dubby reggae and effervescent ska. Look, I could describe how great each track is one by one but just take a look at the listing, I really don't need to do that, they speak for themselves. Just put it on and turn it up and it's the heady, sweaty, exciting days of the late seventies again. This really was the sound of that era, for me, anyway. Ok, here's a few of my favourites - The Jam, The Buzzcocks, The AdvertsThe Tom Robinson Band, Stiff Little Fingers, 999, The Rezillos, The Members, Public Image, Steel Pulse, Aswad, UB40, The Beat.



Monday, 16 March 2020

Daryl Hall & John Oates



I have divided Hall & Oates' career into two sections - click on an image to read the reviews from the relevant periods:-

1972-1979
1980-1990

Saturday, 14 March 2020

The Jacksons

The Jacksons (1976)


Enjoy Yourself/Think Happy/Good Times/Keep On Dancing/Blues Away/Show You The Way To Go/Living Together/Strength Of One Man/Dreamer/Style Of Life                                  
This was The Jacksons' debut solo album on the Epic label, from 1976. An acrimonious split with Motown had seen Jermaine stay on that label, and younger brother Randy joining the group to keep it as a five-man outfit. The album was produced by legendary Philadelphia label producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, so it has a late-era Philly feel to it, merging slick soul with lively disco rhythms/beats. It sort of provides a bridging point between the maturing of The Jackson 5 and the full-blown, vibrant disco sound that The Jacksons would come to personify in the 1977-1978 period.

Enjoy Yourself is a jerky sort of number that provides a very early prototype for Michael's solo material. Think Happy is a suitably upbeat, guitar and bass-driven groove. 

Good Times is a polished, slow soul number with Michael's now mature voice doing the business.

 

Keep On Dancing is probably The Jacksons' first big disco/soul stomper, with a solid, semi-funky backing and the lads' harmonies in fine sync. It is very much how I remember the group from the time. It is a good track, and breaks out half way through into a frenetic piece of funky mid-seventies disco. It was a track that very much said that it was The Jacksons not The Jackson 5.

Blues Away sees a return to smooth, harmonious, immaculately-played soul and then we get the absolute classic of its era and genre, Show You The Way To Go. This is where The Jacksons really nailed their sound down and paved the way for Michael's material on Off The Wall, three years later. This was polished, easy disco at its finest. It is just so 1976. It makes even an old punk like me very nostalgic. Truly good stuff. Michael's lead vocal was his best yet. 

Living Together is also a typical serving of 1976 soul/funk with that brassy movie soundtrack sound to its beat.

Strength Of One Man is a very Philly/Harold Melvin/O' Jays-sounding number and has a lot of class and quality to it. Once again, the vocals from all of the group are top notch. 

Dreamer is a smoochy, romantic slow burner while Style Of Life is an effortlessly impressive mid-pace workout. While this was certainly no classic album, it set the group well on the way to establishing a trademark sound that would serve them well for several years.



Goin' Places (1977)


Music's Takin' Over/Goin' Places/Different Kind Of Lady/Even Though You're Gone/Jump For Joy/Heaven Knows I Love You/Man Of War/Do What You Wanna/Find Me A Girl       
                                        
This was a really impressive album of enjoyable disco soul from The Jacksons. It was not as big as the album that followed it but it was confident, assured and most enjoyable. It is a top quality soul album of its day. Five of the nine songs were written by legendary Philadelphia pair Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, which pretty much guaranteed their class.

Music's Takin' Over is a solid groovy soul pop number, with Michael well into his hiccup vocal thing by now. The sound quality is great as are the vocals and the overall effervescence. There is some great brass and a nice funky bass/drum/vocal part. 

Goin' Places was the album's hit singles and it is one I have always liked, since back in 1977. The chorus is extremely catchy and sticks in your head. The brothers' energy and enthusiasm doesn't let up for a minute. Nice one.

Different Kind Of Lady, written by The Jacksons themselves, is another upbeat piece of classy disco soul that gets into its groove immediately and stays there. Incidentally, the musicians The Jacksons have performing with them are top notch.

 

Even Though You're Gone has an increasingly mature-sounding Michael leading convincingly on a smooth piece of laid-back soul. 

Jump For Joy is pleasingly funky and rhythmic with more impressive vocal harmonies. This is simply uplifting, catchy fare and so typical of 1977. The Jacksons were a class act and they were building strongly on the solid Jackson 5 foundations.

Tito takes lead vocals on the syrupy soul of Heaven Knows I Love You, which contains one of those very seventies spoken parts in the middle that now sound very cheesy but nobody minded at the time. He continues lead vocals on the sumptuous Man Of War. It is an anti-war song that suited the era. 

Do What You Wanna is another Jacksons-penned disco soul number that is lively enough and Find Me A Girl is a slow, romantic song to end on with some nice saxophone at the end.

The disco soul numbers that largely appear in the first half of the album are my personal favourites.




Destiny (1978)


Blame It On The Boogie/Push Me Away/Things I Do For You/Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)/Destiny/Bless His Soul/All Night Dancin'/That's What You Get (For Being Polite)  
               
This was The Jacksons most successful album thus far and it contains two of their best selling and well known singles. It was the first album that saw The Jacksons in complete control. Between them they wrote all the songs* and produced the album. An impressive job they did too.

*The one exception to this was Blame It On The Boogie, which, was, very confusingly, written by a British singer/songwriter called, would you believe, Mick Jackson! He had a number 15 hit with it too. The Jacksons reached number 8. There is an argument to say that his is the superior version too. It certainly has an appeal to it and Mick Jackson has a warm, deeper voice than any of The Jacksons. It was a good version, sounding at the beginning like Leo Sayer's You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, but I still prefer The Jacksons' one. It is funkier, Stevie Wonder-esque and sounds more effortlessly natural. Mick Jackson's sounds what it is - a white guy doing poppy funk.

Blame It On The Boogie is an iconic song now, driven by a funky clavinet, guitar and drums riff, Michael takes it higher with his pre-Off The Wall disco vocal. This was when the word "boogie" started to mean "disco dancing" as opposed to boogie-woogie piano. 

The tempo drops earlier than was usual on a Jacksons album with the sweet soul ballad of Push Me Away.

 

The disco/funk vibe returns with the muscular groove of Things I Do For You. Michael introduces his high-pitched "wee-hoo" yelp here, something that he would continue to use for years after this. A song like this provided the foundations for much of the Off The Wall solo album from the following year. 

The second big hit was the irresistible Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) which is again one of the group's finest songs and is a fine example of disco soul of the era. The Jacksons were leading the way with quality tracks like this - commercial, poppy yet credible too. The song is included here in its full eight minute form, featuring an excellent funky clavinet-powered ending. Stevie Wonder would have been impressed by that, I'm sure.

Destiny is a nice, mid-pace soulful number with a convincing lead vocal from Michael. It is a reflective song as opposed to a romantic one or a groover. Jackson just wants "a simple life" and to be left "to be me". Small hints of future inner turmoil, probably.

Bless His Soul features Jackie on lead vocals on a subtly brassy smooth soul song. All Night Dancin' is a superb, frantic unsurprisingly dance number, enhanced by some excellent rock style lead guitar. After the singles, it is the album's stand-out track. 

That's What You Get (For Being Polite) is a lyrically slightly cynical but sumptuously-backed soulful song to end with. Michael's Off The Wall came next and there were moire successful Jacksons albums, but this was possibly their best. Punk was all over the place in 1978, but in many ways, this was just as much the sound of the time, even for me. It was everywhere.



Triumph (1980)


Can You Feel It/Lovely One/Your Ways/Everybody/This Place Hotel (aka Heartbreak Hotel)/Time Waits For No-One/Walk Right Now/Give It Up/Wondering Who     
                                                  
This was The Jacksons' best-selling album and was released in the wake of Michael Jackson's platinum-selling Off The Wall, As usual, he took most of the lead vocals  so it was, to an extent, a Michael album with his brothers joining him. Personally I prefer Destiny to this one, being a more hooky album, but this was the one that really caught the public' s ear. I find it far less adventurous, though, and the sound is considerably inferior. It is a series of mainly upbeat, quite lengthy workouts that took the disco sound and merged it with a pop funk style that characterised both Michael and The Jacksons' work at the time.

Can You Feel It was the album's huge hit and is a rousing stomper of a track with an infectious, call-to-arms chorus. Randy joins Michael on lead vocals. 

Lovely One is a typically (by now) hiccupy Michael groover, very similar to his Off The Wall successes, full of upbeat pop funk and brass breaks. It sounds very much like Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

Your Ways is less obviously Michael, but it still gets into its groove and stays there, funking along solidly. Everybody is a slick piece of disco soul smoothness that doesn't particularly stick in the mind.

 

This Place Hotel (aka Heartbreak Hotel) is a track that sounds like a Michael Jackson track from a later era. It is sophisticated and features sound effects that sound ahead of their time. There is a futuristic feel to it reminiscent of Earth, Wind  & Fire. The track reappeared on Jackson's posthumous Scream compilation.

Six tracks in finds the album's first syrupy ballad in Time Waits For No-One but disco funk soon returns on the infectious Walk Right Now, which is a typical Jacksons mover. At nearly six and a half minutes, it is quite lengthy. The ending percussion part is intoxicating. Michael is really in control here, soaring above the fast funk with all those now trademark vocal yelps and wails. 

Give It Up is a harmonious, chunky slow soulful number that has Marlon sharing lead vocals. Wondering Who has Jackie taking the lead on a really good track that features some searing electric guitar and some Earth, Wind & Fire-style vocals. It comes to a strangely abrupt end.

For some reason, I have never been able to take to this album as much as to the previous three. Do not let that detract from it, though, it is a mature and accomplished piece of work
.



Victory (1984)


Torture/Wait/One More Chance/Be Not Always/State Of Shock/We Can Change The World/The Hurt/Body          
                                                     
This was the final Jacksons album, four years after 1980's Triumph and including Thriller-powered global mega-star Michael, talked back in to doing one last album with his five other brothers. It was the only Jacksons album to include all six brothers. It is very much an album of the mid-eighties and suffers accordingly due to all the programmed drums and keyboards. These are not really my thing and I find The Jacksons' seventies albums far more satisfying and authentic-sounding.

Torture is a strong, mid-pace stomper, with Michael sharing lead vocals with Jermaine over a backing dominated by typically mid-eighties synthesisers. Some searing rock guitar features too, however, rescuing it somewhat from the eighties sound. It is probably the album's best track. 

Wait is a very eighties piece of dance pop, driven by keyboards, but attractively so. It is bassier than some eighties material and once again contains a fine rock guitar enhancement. Jackie, Michael and Jermaine share lead vocals and interact perfectly. It is an enjoyable romp of a number that sounds a bit like The Detroit Spinners' Rubber Band Man.

The slow, brooding soul of One More Chance was written and sung by Randy. It sounds very Phil Collins-esque and is very representative of mid-eighties programmed soft soul. Be Not Always is a classic Michael walking pace slow romantic ballad. Now, I know many people like this sort of thing, but it not what I listen to The Jacksons or Michael Jackson for.

 

State Of Shock originally began life as a collaboration with Queen's Freddie Mercury, but it never really got going, so it was re-done with Mick Jagger. It is a thumping slice of synthesised eighties rock that would have sounded better in the seventies or nineties but within the context of this album is enjoyable enough. We Can Change The World isn't bad, actually. It is a vaguely Caribbean-sounding chugger with Tito on lead vocals. He wrote the song too. Lyrically, the title tells its story. I'm sure Michael loved it.

The Hurt has a relatively appealing keyboard riff and Randy taking falsetto lead vocals, not very convincingly, I have to say. Michael would have done a better job, let's be honest, but they were probably quarrelling at the time. It still has a bit of appeal, though. 

The Soul Makossa/Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' groove of Body features Marlon on lead trying his best to be Michael, doing the vocal yelping thing. It is catchy, however.

As I said at the beginning, it is the seventies material that I go for, this final one is actually pretty ordinary. That must not make us forget, though, that The Jackson5/Jacksons gave us fifteen years of phenomenal pop/soul/disco music. They were deservedly legendary.