Jesus Christ Superstar

I never thought the album “Jesus Christ Superstar” was sacrilegious, but the BBC did, banning its broadcast in the U.K.

When I first heard “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 1971 it made me want to learn more about Jesus Christ and his teachings. It’s not an easy task to get a 9-year-old kid to want to learn about religion, but this album did for me.

Sacrilegious? I think not.

I think my favorite moment on the album is the song “Gethsemane (I only want to say)”. Where, in a brief moment of doubt, Christ initially asks God to “take this cup away from me” and moments later, realizing he needs die for our sins, tells God “I will drink your cup of poison, nail me to your cross and break me”. Ian Gillan (from Deep Purple) sings with such conviction I get teared up every time I hear it.

Since “Jesus Christ Superstar” is rock opera that tells the story of the final week leading up to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion that leads to His resurrection, I made it a tradition a few years back to listen to it every Easter Sunday.

Sacrilegious? I think not.

Journey

When most people think of the band Journey, they think of the songs “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Open Arms”. When I think of Journey, I think of a band that had three distinct phases. Although those two songs are solid pop and classic rock songs, they sound almost nothing like Journey’s original phase.

The three phases of Journey were their progressive rock beginning, their middle Steve Perry years, and their later Jonathan Cain era. Although they are from Journey’s least successful era, I find myself listening to the band’s first three albums the most. Today, it’s Journey’s self-titled debut from 1975.

The members of Journey were exceptional musicians and that is what this and the two albums that followed it were all about. A combination of progressive rock with a touch of jazz fusion, the songs had longer instrumentals, fewer lyrics, and almost none of the vocal harmonies that became a staple of Journey’s sound once Steve Perry was in as vocalist. Also missing are the pop hooks of songs like “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Open Arms” that dominated the band’s sound once keyboardist and vocalist Gregg Rollie was replaced by his friend Jonathan Cain (from The Babys).

In their early years, Journey was all about hard rocking complex musical arrangements and intricate playing. Intense music that was meant to be intensely listened to.

Blues Brothers – Briefcase Full Of Blues

What started out as a comedy/music skit on Saturday Night Live, turned into one of the best-selling blues albums of all time.

Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi were part of the original “not ready for prime-time players” cast on Saturday Night Live when they came up with the concept of a fictitious blues band from Chicago as a way to have some fun, pay homage to their appreciation of blues, soul, and R&B, and fill a slot for a musical guest that was lacking for the show that weekend. Little did they know, it would turn into an opening slot for comedian Steve Martin on his “Wild and Crazy Guy” tour, a hit album recorded from one of the shows on that tour, and a mega-hit movie based on the fake biographies of Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues.

They were just having fun with it all; but they had a band of crack musicians backing them up (who also happened to be the SNL band at the time). That’s what really made it all come together and work so well – taking their music, but not necessarily themselves, seriously.

That’s what I think I love most about “Briefcase Full of Blues” – it taught me that you need to think seriously about, and focus on what’s most important to you, but never forget to have fun with it at the same time.

How can I not love this album?

Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love

Did you know that Alice Cooper almost did the theme song to a James Bond movie? It’s no coincidence that the ninth Bond film, “The Man with the Golden Gun” shares its name with one of the songs on Alice Cooper’s seventh studio album.

Unfortunately, Alice Cooper completed the track a day after the producers had requested it. Instead of waiting an extra day, the impatient makers of the film decided to use an easily forgettable song by the singer Lulu instead. Such a shame; the song by Alice Cooper was so much better.

I’m just glad the band decided to not shelf it. It’s one of the highlights on “Muscle of Love”, the final album by the original band lineup.

Missing Persons – Spring Session M

I picked up “Spring Session M” by Missing Persons when it came out in 1981 because they had a really cool New Wave sound that I had started to get into. I had no idea they were also an offshoot from Frank Zappa’s band.

The name of their drummer, Terry Bozzio, rang a bell, but I couldn’t place where I had heard it before. The same went for guitarist Warren Cuccurullo and bassist Patrick O’Hearn. It wasn’t until I was listening to it with some Army buddies in the barracks at Fort Campbell when one of them said “this is so different from their stuff with Zappa, but I love it.”

I have to admit, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to who played with Frank Zappa through the years. I just paid attention to Zappa – but I guess not entirely. I recognized the names, so obviously something in my cranial gray matter had held onto them from a magazine article or album liner notes I had read at some point. After some digging, I found out that Missing Persons’ lead singer, the enigmatic Dale Bozzio (Terry’s wife at the time) had also sang vocals on Zappa’s album “Joe’s Garage”.

So, yeah, all but one of the members of Missing Persons (keyboardist Chuck Wild being the exception) had been a part of Frank Zappa’s band in the late ’70s. It’s no wonder I liked this album so much when I first heard it.

And I thought it was just because of the singles “Walking in L.A.”, “Destination Unknown”, and “Words”.

Laurie Anderson – Mister Heartbreak

Perhaps one of the most unusual artists to gain popular success in the eighties was Laurie Anderson. “Mr. Heartbreak” is her second album. Like its predecessor, “Mister Heartbreak” is a combination of musical experimentation spun together with a combination of spoken word and sung lyrics.

It may take some people a couple listens to fully appreciate “Mister Heartbreak”, or any of Laurie Anderson’s music for that matter. The interplay of the words and sounds is unlike any album that had come before it.

With as different as “Mister Heartbreak” is, I am actually surprised the album did as well as it did, hitting number 60 on the Billboard top 200 album chart in 1984. Certainly, Adrian Belew (King Crimson) on guitar and Peter Gabriel (Genesis) appearing on a couple of songs didn’t hurt it having a broader appeal to some people, making them want to give it a listen. I am glad I was one of them.

Neil Young – Decade

I was never a big Neil Young fan – until I listened to “Decade”, the three album set that is the epitome of what a record set encompassing an artist’s retrospective repertoire should be.

Poetry, politics, emotion, power, and above all, passion, “Decade” defines better than any other compilation, what Neil Young’s music is all about. The songs were all hand-picked by Young, and with the exception of a few of the CSNY songs that had to be excluded due to contractual reasons, the choices are flawless.

It is an incredible achievement for any artist to leave three albums of worthy material from their entire musical career. It is absolutely amazing for an artist to be accomplished enough to do it from within their first decade alone. Then again, there have been few musical artists who have had the talent to exhume the poetry, politics, emotion, power, and above all, passion, of Neil Young.

Long live rust.

Santana – Welcome

There never has been, nor will there probably ever be, and artist who combined Latin rhythms along with rock and roll better than Carlos Santana.

1973’s “Welcome” was Santana’s was quite possibly the most varied and experimental album for the renowned guitarist and his namesake band. Perhaps more than any other Santana album, “Welcome” combined jazz fusion, soul, and a little funk with the band’s already distinctive latino-rock sound.

“Welcome” also marked a significant change in the band lineup. Keyboardist and lead vocalist Greg Rollie had left the group along with second guitarist Neal Schon to form the group Journey. This left the band without their primary vocalist. Instead of replacing their former singer, Santana chose to feature a variety of guest vocalists for the songs on this, their fifth album adding to the album’s varied sound. The decision to use a variety of singers would be a hallmark of future Santana records as well.

Meet The Monkees

Did you know that The Jimi Hendrix Experience was once the opening act for The Monkees, not once, but seven times? It’s true.

I remember as a very young kid watching the monkees on TV. I used to love watching the misadventures of this rock and roll band trying to make it in the music business. It wasn’t until years later that I first heard Jimi Hendrix.

The Monkees TV show aired once a week from 1966 to 1968 and looked very different from most other TV shows at the time. The scenes were typically edited in short clips that cut from one camera angle to another quickly. This was most evident during the selected song the band performed in each episode. Although it was not a style that was used by any TV shows the followed it, the video style became a precursor to many of the first wave of music videos on MTV in the ’80s.

Many people thought back then that the Monkeys on TV were merely actors and none of them could really play their instruments. That wasn’t true. Both Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork could play multiple stringed instruments, Micky Dolenz could play guitar and David Jones was an accomplished drummer. The producers felt Jones would make a better frontman, so he was handed a microphone and tambourine, and Dolenz had to learn the drums.

While it is true in the early days of the Monkeys, they did not play the majority of the instruments on their first record, they did play on some of it, and they could have played it all. The problem was that filming a TV show back in the ’60s – especially one as time-consuming as The Monkees was, with the complex editing and camera angles – made it impossible to have the time to be in both the recording and filming studios. After about of year of the band protesting they were eventually given more liberty to write their own songs and play the instruments themselves.

The Monkees went on their first live tour during the final year of the show and continued to record and tour until 1971. In one of the biggest mismatches ever in the history of rock and roll, a new up and coming band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was chosen to open for the Monkees on their 1967 tour. After seven shows, it was decided that the combination was bewildering audiences and not benefiting either group, so the team-up was cancelled.

No harm, no foul … except possibly to the concert promoter who set it up.

The Dave Clark Five’s Greatest Hits

What’s the first band that comes to mind when you think of the British invasion? Probably The Beatles. Now, what’s the second? The Stones? Fair enough. But you should also consider The Dave Clark Five.

The Dave Clark Five was the second band from England to appear on the Ed Sullivan show. The Beatles of course, were the first, appearing on the show three weeks in a row, marking the start of the British invasion. Right on their heels was The Dave Clark Five, stealing the spotlight for the next two weeks. They would make repeat appearances on the show more than any other band; an amazing ten times!

Combining ’50s doo-wop with pop music of the ’60s, The Dave Clark Five’s music lost popularity going into the ’70s. But with hits like “Do You Love Me”, “I Like it Like That”, “Bits and Pieces”, and “Glad All Over”, and the others on this album, their influence can still be head today.