Archive for October, 2009
The Eagles were the quintessential 70’s soft-country-rock band, an amalgam of the pure country-rock of Poco and the harmonies and jangle guitar-rock of the Byrds with far greater recording production supporting their obvious talents as performers and songwriters (Eagles playlist here). The Eagles defined the 70s L.A. soft pop-rock sound and opened the way for the 80s light MOR country-pop sound that members Don Henley and Glen Frey exploited with multi-platinum albums. In the 70s the Eagles produced five #1 singles, 14 Top 20 hits overall and six #1 albums (including two of the best selling albums of all time, 1975’s Eagles: Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) and 1976’s Hotel California. By the end of 20th century, the Eagles were still going strong, although mostly as a huge selling retro-band, with an audience leaning toward the “classic rock” sounds of the 70s era the Eagles dominated. The band released sporadic reunion and “live” revival albums until Long Road Out Of Eden, their first album of any kind in 13 years and their first studio release in over 20 years, came out two years ago on October 30, 2007. Long Road Out Of Eden is a throw-back collection of songs that mirror their peak years (and initially available only at Wal-Mart Stores, the colossal global discount retailer). In an age where great rock music is limited, even a retro-album like Long Road Out Of Eden is a relief. It’s on my buy list and recommended for any Eagles fan or lover of 70s soft-rock.
The original line-up for the Byrds lasted just three short years, from 1965 through mid-1968, long enough to produce the timeless tracks “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (among a dozen others), plus four great folk-, psychedelic- and early country-rock albums. But guitarist Roger (nee Jim) McGuinn was forced to reconstitute the band when, over an 18-month period, original members Gene Clark quit, David Crosby left for Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Michael Clarke and Chris Hillman left for the Flying Burrito Brothers. From 1968 to their eventual breakup in 1972, McGuinn and the in-name-only Byrds underwent several other rounds of personnel changes, the middle of which led to the October 29, 1969 release of The Ballad of Easy Rider. The album has (obvious) close ties to the terrific July 1969 cult counterculture movie, Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. The film soundtracked several Byrds tunes, including the title track and the wonderful, rambling, spacey, folk-rock gem “Wasn’t Born To Follow.” Interest in a revitalized Byrds peaked after the movie’s summer release, and the working title of the album was originally Captain America (after the film’s anti-hero character). Despite all the hype, The Ballad Of Easy Rider peaked at just #36 in the U.S. Nonetheless, it’s a great late-60s country-rock album.
Prince found national prominence with his October 27, 1982 release, 1999, which set the table for his blockbuster 1984 LP, Purple Rain (check my Prince playlist at www.DrRock.com).
A double album, 1999 was Prince’s first Top 10 release (it peaked at #9) and the fifth best-selling album in all of 1983. And rightly so. 1999 is great electro-pop-R&B-soul as only Prince (or Michael Jackson) could deliver. Prince beat Michael’s Thriller LP into the record stores by all of five weeks, giving him a leg up of sorts in the race for supremacy atop the Top 80s R&B charts. Of course, Jacko ultimately won that contest, but not before Prince and 1999 delivered three big, enduring hits: the title track, “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious,” plus the lesser hit “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.” The album benefited from heavy airplay on the-fledgling MTV, which was barely 15 months old when 1999 came out. Rolling Stone Magazine lists 1999 as #163 on its Top 500 Albums. Jacko’s Thriller is #20.
Southern soul team Sam & Dave were arguably the greatest all-male R&B/soul duo of all time. Samuel Moore and David Prater recorded a string of hits in the mid-60s on the Stax label, the hugely influential Memphis-based affiliate of Atlantic Records. With songwriting, production and leadership from Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Sam & Dave topped the R&B and pop charts with “Soul Man” (1966), “Hold On! I’m Coming” (1967) and “I Thank You” (1968). “Soul Man” became the (sort of) title track to the duo’s October 26, 1967 album, Soul Men, which included several great non-hit songs penned by Hayes and the superb backing by Booker T. & The MG’s, the renowned house band at Stax.
Happy Birthday this week to:
1942 ● Helen Reddy → “I Am Woman” (1971)
1944 ● Jon Anderson → Yes
1947 ● John Hall → Orleans
1948 ● Glenn Tipton → Judas Priest
1956 ● Matthias Jabs → Scorpions
1957 ● Robbie McIntosh → Pretenders
1949 ● Byron Allred → Steve Miller Band
1949 ● Gary Tallent → E Street Band
1951 ● “K.K.” Downing → Judas Priest
1958 ● Simon LeBon → Duran Duran
1967 ● Scott Weiland → Stone Temple Pilots
1936 ● Charlie Daniels →
1941 ● Curtis Lee → “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” (1961)
1941 ● Hank Marvin → Shadows
1945 ● Wayne Fontana → The Mindbenders
1947 ● George Glover → Climax Blues Band
1948 ● Telma Hopkins → Tony Orlando & Dawn
1937 ● Frank Ifield → “I Remember You” (1962)
1939 ● Eddie Holland → Holland-Dozier-Holland
1939 ● Grace Slick → Jefferson Airplane/Starship
1945 ● Henry Winkler → “The Fonz”
1946 ● Chris Slade → Manfred Mann, The Firm, AC/DC
1947 ● Timothy B. Schmit → Poco, Eagles
1937 ● Tom Paxton → Folk singer
1940 ● Eric Griffiths → The Quarry Men
1944 ● Kinky Freidman → Country singer/bandleader
1947 ● Russ Ballard → Argent
1951 ● John Ford Coley → Partner of “England Dan” Seals
1952 ● Bernard Edwards → Chic
1961 ● Larry Mullen → U2
Cheap Trick hired former Beatles producer George Martin to oversee their fifth studio LP, All Shook Up, which was released on October 24, 1980 (to view my Cheap Trick playlist, click here). Despite Martin’s extraordinary work with the Fab Four – he produced all but one of their original albums, arranged and conducted the classical music instrumentation in many of their more complicated songs, and played piano on several – he and the band were unable to turn the trick. All Shook Up was widely labeled a disappointment, especially after the huge success of 1979’s Dream Police. All Shook Up couldn’t crack the Top 20 in the U.S., peaking at #24, and only had one single, “Stop This Game,” which reached to #48. All Shook Up wasn’t a bad album at all, it just wasn’t up to the level of raw, crunching power pop of Cheap Trick’s first four albums and the celebrated At Budokan live set.
We’ll argue forever about which Led Zeppelin album is better, their debut or Led Zeppelin II, which came out 40 years ago today on October 22, 1969, nine months after its predecessor. If you’re on the “other side’, you still can’t deny that Led Zeppelin II was a monster album, and together they are a formidable duo of highly influential hard blues-rock music (tracks from both are included in my LZ playlist on DrRock.com). One interesting fact: while Led Zeppelin I was recorded at a leisurely pace in the fall of 1968, Led Zeppelin II was laid down during breaks in the band’s hectic touring schedule in the U.S. and U.K. between January and August 1969. With no time for unlimited retakes and overdubbing, II is a raw and energetic album, a full set of great guitar riffs, distorted vocals, heavy metal rhythms and very memorable tunes (“Ramble On,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Thank You” and “What Is And What Should Never Be” are the best).
Now back to the argument at hand. Rolling Stone magazine fails provide any true guidance on the issue of which is better. Led Zeppelin II is listed on the RS Top 100 albums at #59, is included on the RS200 (there were no rankings on that one), and takes the #75 spot on the RS Top 500 list. Led Zeppelin I isn’t on the Top 100 or Top 200 lists, but finds itself at #29 on the Top 500 list. Go figure.
The Beach Boys (and Capitol Records) issued three separate albums in a seven month period in 1963, Surfin’ U.S.A. in March, Surfer Girl in September and Little Deuce Coupe on October 21. That’s a lot of surf oriented vinyl on the market in such a short period, all the more so considering the band’s debut album, Surfin’ Safari came out in October 1962 (making it four albums in 12 months!). But the rebirth of rock ‘n roll and Beatlemania were in full swing in the summer of ’63. America’s youth craved anything with a beat and harmonies with young studs to sing them. Capitalizing on the Beach Boys’ growing popularity was a smart decision with generally positive results; Little Deuce Coupe spent 49 weeks on the Billboard pop music chart, peaking at #4. Interestingly, the three best songs on the album, the title track, “409” and “Shut Down” all appeared on the previous albums, but the public didn’t seem to mind.
To view and download my Beach Boys playlist from the Playlist Vault at DrRock.com, click here.
New Wave synth-pop band Human League had a rough go from formation in 1977 until the hugely successful third album Dare!, which came out on October 20, 1981 and featured the hit “Don’t You Want Me” (one of the highest selling British singles of all time). HL started out as an all-male quartet playing art-synth-rock, although only two of the members (Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh) had any real depth in music. After two disappointing albums and with mounting debts and pressure from their record label, HL splintered and Ware and Marsh quit to form Heaven 17. That left Philip Oakley (lead vocals) and Adrian Wright (not much more than an equipment manager) to hire accomplished musicians to support them while Wright began to learn the synthesizer. Oakley ended up recruiting two teenagers, Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley, as backup vocalists, but they quickly moved to the front next to Oakley. Dare! was released on the heels of and includes three U.K. singles from mid-1981, “The Sound Of The Crowd” (#36), “Love Action (I Believe In Love” (#3) and “Open Your Heart” (#6). But it was the unexpected, runaway success of the chart-topping single lifted off the album, “Don’t You Want Me” that drove Dare! to #1 on the British album charts and #3 in the U.S.
Fleetwood Mac scored two chart-topping albums in the late 70s, their self-titled “debut” in 1975 and the massively popular Rumours in 1977. Despite riding a huge wave of rock popularity, any chance of three-in-a-row was largely squelched by the semi-incestuous turmoil tearing at the band in the wake of Rumours, plus the decision to issue a double album with Lindsey Buckingham providing most of the creative direction. The result, Tusk (released on October 19, 1979) was too long, overly ambitious and musically uneven. While it sold handsomely and reached #4 in the US, it could have and should have been released as a single disc. The three hits from the album, Christine McVie’s “Think About Me” (#37), Buckingham’s “Tusk” (#8) and Stevie Nicks’ “Sara” (#7) might have fit nicely with “Angel,” “The Ledge”, “That’s Enough For Me” and another two or three McVie floating ballads to create a neat single disc package. The rest is weird and unnecessary Buckingham experimentation.