Pink Floyd – The Wall

Sometimes, rock and roll can be home to the most unlikely collaberations.

Question: What do you think “In The Flesh?”, the opening track to Pink Floyd’s eleventh album and “Muskrat Love”, by the Captain and Tennille have in common?

Answer: Toni Tennille sings on both of them.

I love music and I’m  a curious person. So naturally, whenever I buy a new album I have to read the liner notes. Who wrote the songs, who produced the songs, who mixed them, and who played and sung on them. The more information, the better.

So when I bought The Wall back in 1979, reading liner notes was of course, a given. When I saw Toni Tennille’s name listed as one of the seven background singers on The Wall, I was like “WHHAAA??? NO WAY!” But after some research, I learned that she actually sang backing vocals on four songs on the album. In addition to the opening track, Tennille also sang on “The Show Must Go On”, In The Flesh” (same title as the opening track, but no question mark at the end), and “Waiting For The Worms”.

Now, as much as I try, I can’t totally dislike “Muskrat Love”. There is now forever, this wierd connection between that song and one of my favorite albums by my favorite band. I still don’t like “Muskrat Love” that much, but I have to admit, it’s not that bad.

Well played Toni.

Roxy Music – Country Life

Some album covers can cause quite a stir. Although up to this point, all of their LPs had featured women in provocative poses, on The Fourth Roxy Music Album, some censors felt the cover had crossed the line of decency.  Consequently,  the cover was originally banned in the United States, the Netherlands, and Spain. In those countries, the back cover artwork, basically the same picture minus the two lovely ladies, was used instead. I know which one I prefer.

By this time in Roxy Music’s history, their flamboyant keyboardist, Brian Eno, had left the band to pursue a solo career that would lead to future colaberations with David Bowie, Robert Fripp, Talking Heads, and Devo, among others. Eno was replaced by virtuoso Eddie Jobson. Although Jobson lacked The flash and extravagance of his predecessor, he brought the additional dimension of electric violin to the band’s music. 

While it still maitained the extreme blending of multiple musical influences and styles of Roxy Music’s previous albums, Country Life showed more consistency than its predecessors.  It is quite possibly, my favorite Roxy Music album; right up there with Avalon.

Aerosmith

Times change, and sometimes, so do album covers. When Aerosmith released their first album in 1973, the cover featured a small picture of the band in front of a cloudy sky. The back cover also had a misprint with the very last song, a cover of the Rufus Thomas song “Walking The Dog,” incorrectly listing it as “Walking The Dig.” The slight defect was corrected before all the copies were printed, but the misprints were still used for some of the the first pressings. So there is version one and two.

The album was released with no promotion at all from the record label. It failed miserably, selling only a measly 5 thousand copies; and those copies sold only in their hometown of Boston and in Detroit. When Aerosmith’s second album “Get Your Wings” came out in 1974, it sold far better than the record label anticipated. In the wake of this sudden success, Columbia records decided to re-release the first album along with the single “Dream On,”two years later. They also redesigned the cover with a much larger picture of the band and ‘Featuring “Dream On”‘ printed below the band’s name. And there is version three, in three years. 

Aerosmith was eventually dubbed “America’s Greatest Rock And Roll Band” by the music press.

Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms

WhIle the video for “Money For Nothing” certainly helped Dire Strait’s fifth album’s popularity, it was the strength of the eight other songs on the record that made it sell more than 30 million copies.

The songs on this album are as varied as they are timeless; and Mark Knopfler’s guitar tone and playing are absolutely exquisite. This is a record that anyone who calls themself a music lover, should be required to have in their collection in one form or another.

…But vinyl is best.

Jethro Tull – Living In The Past

A short while back, Jethro Tull announced their 50th anniversary tour. I’m bummed that I won’t be able to make it to the show that’s nearby me tomorrow. I saw Tull back in 1980 and they were incredible. Ian Anderson is simply amazing on the flute.

Released in 1972, Living In The Past was a double album collection of past material by Tull, but not a greatest hits album by any stretch. It contained B sides, album outtakes, a few songs from previous albums (but not the big hits from them) and was rounded out with all five songs from a previously released EP.  The album’s packaging was quite elaborate, with both records inside a 20 page full color book.

Like a lot of albums from this era, the song selection is slightly different between the US and UK versions. I’m listening to the former.

Robin Trower – Bridge Of Sighs

One of my all time favorite albums, and also one of my biggest regrets, having “upgraded” it to a CD a couple decades ago.  Yeah, CDs offer convenience, and some older recordings transitioned fine from analog to digital. But for some albums, like Robin Trower’s second solo effort, it just seems like the soul gets stripped out of them. 

I’ve been looking for a good vinyl copy of this album for a while now. I decided to stop at a local music store on my way home today, so I could gawk at and drool over the guitars I wish I was able to play more than a couple chords on, and also sift through their used record bins. And there it was, along with a few too many others albums that bridge my “in search of” list.

Sigh.
Sigh.

Head East – Flat As A Pancake

The golen age of vinyl albums lasted roughly from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. This was also a time when radio station’s and DJs could be responsible for breaking new songs and new bands.

Head East’s debut album, Flat as a Pancake was originally released in 1974 on a small, independent record label, which produced only 5000 copies on vinyl. The album would have died in obscurity had a couple radio stations in the Midwest U.S. not decided to start playing “There’s Never Been Any Reason.”

The popularity of the song on those stations caused A&M Records to sign the band. They re-released the album in 1975, and Flat As A Pancake went on to sell over 500 thousand copies, certifying it as a gold record. The album would also spawn the band’s second hit single, “Love Me Tonight.”

Foreigner

Shortly after its release, Foreigner’s eponymous first album became one of the most successful debut albums ever; Spawning multiple hits, including “Cold As Ice,” and “Feels Like The First Time.” It would eventually go quadruple platinum selling over 4 million copies.

Although the band seemed to come out of nowhere, it was hardly the overnight success it seemed to be.  Foreigner was composed of seasoned musicians who had struggled many years trying to make it. A couple of its members were also fomer players in other bands that had made a name for themselves among rock critics and fans. Founding members Mick Jones (guitar and vocals) and Ian McDonald (guitar, keys, horns, and vocals) repectively played with Spooky Tooth and King Crimson early in their careers.

The band chose the name Foreigner because of their mixture of American and British members.

Porcupine Tree – Coma Divine

It’s funny how some things come full circle. When CDs were introduced, many albums originally released on vinyl were rereleased on the then new digital format. Today, many recordings previously released only on CD are being pressed to vinyl.

Coma Divine was recorded live in Rome in 1997 and released later that same year as a single CD. Years later, it was expanded to two CDs and reissued. Eventually, with the resurgence in the popularity of vinyl records, the band finally rereleased it as a three album set in 2012.

Porcupine Tree’s music, and more especially this album, seem pefectly tailored for an analog medium, even though their music gained popularity, and this recording first came out, in a strictly digital age. Meloncholy songs that merge unnoticed into an extended guitar solo lathered in slides, bends, and an occasional drenching of wah pedal.  Vintage synthesizers resonating obscure ebbs and flows alongside sequenced electronics. One can’t help but think of Pink Floyd in their finest hour. Then again, this is nothing like Floyd. This is truly original music. This is music that contridicts itself on the surface but languishes in unification at its core. This is modern vintage music. Coma Divine.

A Motown Anniversary Collection

Growing up near Detroit, in an age when vinyl ruled the airwaves, I can’t help but to have a great appreciation for Motown. Barry Gordy Jr. established Motown Records in 1959.  In the ’60s and ’70s Motown not only defined a specific style of music, the record label and the artists signed to it, also helped define a city.

The only bad part about this five album set is deciding which side to listen to when you only have time for one. I usually decide by randomly grabbing one and playing whatever side is facing up when it comes out of the sleeve. 

Today’winner:  record four, side one.

  • Diana Ross &The Supremes – Come See About Me
  • Stevie Wonder – Fingertips
  • Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
  • Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On
  • Commodores – Brick House