Posts Tagged Billboard Magazine
Soon after the release of the masterpiece Exile On Main Street in 1972, the Rolling Stones got caught in a fog of self-indulgent superstardom and lost their bearings. The four subsequent albums – Goats Head Soup (1973), It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (1974), Black And Blue (1976) and Love You Live (1977) – were all chart toppers, but, with few exceptions, the material was largely mediocre. Ominously, while the band enjoyed its drug, booze and celebrity lifestyle, disco and punk rock were creeping in from the fringes of the mainstream, threatening to render the Stones superfluous to a new generation of rock and pop music fans.
Some Girls (released June 9, 1978) could aptly be named The Stones Strike Back. With Mick Jagger’s leadership and focus (Keith Richards was distracted by legal trouble from a heroin bust in Toronto in early 1977), the band settled into a five-month recording schedule in Paris that produced dozens of new tracks, many of which ended up on the LP. Some Girls takes direct aim at the mirror ball dance crowd with the thumping disco beat of “Miss You.” The steady roller “Shattered” serves up a 70s New York City street groove with a slice of proto-rap. “Lies” is straight-forward rock ‘n’ roll built on punk influences. “Before They Make Me Run” is Richards’ faux-country answer to the Toronto constabulary. The cover of the Temptations “Just My Imagination” provides a grittier, faster and louder version than the soul classic. “Respectable” and “When The Whip Comes Down” are decent second-tier Stones rockers. “Far Away Eyes,” and the title track add off-center flavor, and a personal favorite, “Beast Of Burden” is one of Jaggers’ best mid-tempo ballads, topping out the whole disc.
Some Girls jumpstarted the Stones’ career and led to three great albums and three major tours (two U.S. and one European) in the five years following its release. It registered #1 on Billboard’s Pop Album chart (#2 in the U.K.) in 1978 and is ranked #269 on Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 albums of all time. There are two Stones playlists for review and download (comments welcome!) in the Playlist Vault and Some Girls is on Amazon and iTunes.
Born To Run was Bruce Springsteen’s breakthrough album and a monster commercial and FM radio hit. But a three year legal impasse with his former (fired) manager delayed a follow-up LP until he released Darkness On The Edge Of Town on June 2, 1978. True to the title, it’s a subdued, deeper and somber exploration of the middle and lower-class people themes he’d introduced on his first three LPs, Greetings From Asbury Park in early 1973, The Wild, The Innocent And The E-Street Shuffle in late 1973 and the classic Born To Run in 1975.
The time lag, the legal troubles and the weight of sudden superstardom after years of toil quite plainly took their toll on Springsteen. But the result was positive. Darkness… trades the exuberant rock & roll, romantic ballads and full production of its predecessor for a heavier and tighter sound of brooding cynicism, melancholy dirges and repetitive, thumping rhythms. Although not a single Top 30 hit came off the album, there’s plenty of classic Boss music, with solid tracks like “Badlands,” “Adam Raised A Cain,” “The Promised Land” and “Prove It All Night.” For hard-core Springsteen fans and lovers of “deep cuts,” there’s “Candy’s Room,” “Factory” and the title track.
Born To Run pushed him over the top, but Darkness… carried the Boss into a remarkable 25 year run atop the pop-rock heap. The album reached #5 on Billboard’s Pop Album in 1978 and was selected as the #1 album of the year by New Music Express. Rolling Stones ranks it as #151 on their Top 500 albums of all time. You can download my Springsteen playlist from the Playlist Vault, and Darkness… is on Amazon and iTunes.
Live albums generally sell well, but very few make it into the Top 10 on the Billboard album charts. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 4 Way Street, released on April 7, 1971, broke that rule and then some by topping out in the #1 album position shortly after its release. Following re-release as an expanded CD in 1992, 4 Way Street became a multi-platinum seller and one of the highest selling live albums of all time.
Assembled from tapes made at a half-dozen shows in Chicago, L.A. and New York in June and July 1970, the double disc contains a nearly even sampling of songs by the four stars on its four sides. Most of the songs were previously released, either on solo works or in various groupings. And the live versions of their most well-known (“Ohio,” “Southern Man,” “Teach Your Children,” “Long Time Gone” and “Love The One You’re With”) are all quite good.
What isn’t evident in the music is the internal friction that was tearing the band apart just as the shows were being taped. Within weeks after the tour ended, the band split, and by the spring of 1971 all four had released highly-acclaimed solo albums (with Nash’s Songs For Beginners and Stills’ Stephen Stills 2 coming within weeks of each other right after 4 Way Street). CSN&Y re-formed in mid-1974 for a summer tour (without an album to support), issued the compilation So Far that fall, but didn’t return as a foursome until American Dream came out in November 1988 (though CSN sans Young had three albums between 1977 and 1983).
That 4 Way Street was a big hit isn’t surprising given that every album from CSN&Y (and those without Neil) between 1969 and 1982 reached into the Top 10. They were (and in many was still are) the premier American folk-rock band in the 70s and 80s, and for live versions of their hits and other good tunes, 4 Way Street is required listening. It’s number 14 on my Top 25 Live Albums list and available on Amazon and iTunes.
Neil Young released his fourth solo album, Harvest, on February 25, 1972, a long 18 month gap following After The Gold Rush (for Dr. Rock’s Neil Young playlist, click here). The delay didn’t seem to matter to his fans, and likely stoked their collective interest. Harvest met with an enthusiastic reception; the LP quickly went to the top of the Billboard album charts and eventually became the highest selling album of 1972.
Along with the #1 hit “Heart of Gold” and the #31 single “Old Man,” Young delivered a masterful collection of second-tier slow, plodding and mid-tempo country-rock and folk tunes. Background vocals were provided by Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and Young’s former bandmates, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. Two tracks (“A Man Needs A Maid” and “There’s A World”) feature the London Symphony Orchestra, a potentially disastrous mix that could have resulted in schmaltzy elevator music, but Neil pulled it off with his plaintive vocals topping just the right level of soaring orchestral background.
Harvest brought Young into the glare of rock stardom as a solo artist. While his later work includes many great albums, he never matched the widespread popularity of Harvest, his biggest seller. It’s available on CD, LP or mp3 at Amazon (click here). Downloads for iPods are on iTunes (click here).
Spirit was one of the more adventurous groups to emerge from the Los Angeles psychedelic rock scene in the late 60s. Over 20 years and more than a dozen albums they presented a quirky, amorphous blend of psychedelia, jazz, blues, hard-, folk- and art-rock that benefited first from the emerging, album-oriented FM radio of the late 60s and later from a devoted fan base during the early 70s progressive rock era.
Spirit’s 1968 eponymous debut was released on January 22, 1968 with songwriter/guitarist Randy California and his stepfather, drummer Ed Cassidy leading bandmates Mark Andes (bass), Jay Ferguson (percussion and vocals) and John Locke (keyboards). The album includes the heavy, thumping “Mechanical World,” which was pressed as a single but never caught on. Two better choices for chart action might have been “Uncle Jack” (pop-rock harmony vocals) or “Fresh Garbage” (a rocker in the vein of several contemporary Doors tunes). Two modest hits would come over the next few years with “I Got A Line On You” and “Nature’s Way,” both of which are now staples on the few classic rock radio stations that dig deeper into the period.
The revolving door of personnel changes doomed Spirit to remain a might-have-been band and a venue for California and Cassidy’s eclectic genre experimentalism. In 1971 and 1972, Ferguson left for Jo Jo Gunne and a solo career (remember 1977’s “Thunder Island”?), Andes went to Jo Jo Gunne and then Firefall, and Locke left for Nazereth. The two originals kept at it through the 80s and 90s with several decent art-rock LPs, but with California’s untimely death in 1997, Cassidy called it quits and Spirit’s long-run ended.
Spirit spent more than six months on the Billboard album chart through the summer of 1968, peaking at #31. It is available as downloads for iPods and mp3 players on iTunes (click here) and can be purchased as a CD or mp3 downloads from Amazon (click here).
America’s favorite bar band-turned-rock superstars, Aerosmith (click here for my Top 25 Aerosmith playlist) burst from their Boston-centric fan base on January 13, 1973 with their self-titled debut album. They’d been touring the Northeast for nearly three years after frontman Steve Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry met in an ice cream parlor in central New Hampshire in the summer of 1970. Through constant road work, Aerosmith steadily honed the swaggering bluesy hard rock that made them the hottest hard rock band in America in the late 70s.
The debut LP Aerosmith attracted generous, but not universal attention. It peaked at #21 on the Billboard 200 album chart with two memorable rock gems (“Mama Kin” and “Walkin’ The Dog”) plus “Dream On”, a classic rock track and an early entry in the 70s/80s “power ballad” genre. As a single, “Dream On” peaked at #59 in 1973 and rose to #6 in 1976 when re-released after the band reached superstardom with the LPs Toys In The Attic (1975) and its follow-up, Rocks (1976).
Aerosmith is not available on iTunes but can be purchased as a CD or mp3 downloads from Amazon (click here).