Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives Of Henry VIII

Self indulgent and virtuosic, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” is Rick Wakeman’s first solo record. As the title implies, the album is a collection of six songs, each representing the lives and characteristics of the 16th century’s King of England’s wives.

Wakeman wrote and arranged most of the music for this album while reading a book about Henry VIII while on tour with the bad Yes. Members of Yes are some of the backing musicians performing with Wakeman on this album. Members from Wakeman’s first band, The Strawbs, also make appearances.

Henry VIII is most remembered for the six wives he had during his reign and the annulment of his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon. The Pope, refusing to recognize the annulment prompted the start of the English Reformation when Henry VIII created the Church of England, breaking away from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Even without the meaning behind each of the songs, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” is a joy to listen to just for Wakeman’s keyboard wizardry and the strength of his compositions that combine classical European with rock and roll. The underlying historic theme of the album just adds another layer to an already incredible solo record by Rick Wakeman.

The Kings – Are Here

“Nothing matters but the weekend
From a Tuesday point of view”

The Kings are a Canadian one-hit-wonder band from near Toronto. Well, kind of one-hit-wonder. Thry really had two hit songs. “This Beat Goes On” and “Switchin’ To Glide” flowed together so flawlessly that even though there is a well-defined break between the two songs, it is impossible to imagine them not being joined at the hip. Radio station never played one without the other.

“This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” went platinum in Canada and was a mainstay on U.S. radio stations. The Kings toured in support of the album; the success of the album earning them opening slots for acts like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, the Beach Boys, and Bob Seger. Unfortunately, The Kings’ second album failed to spark any interest to radio stations or record buyers and the band all but faded into oblivion, although they did continue to tour heavily into the ’90s. They still play occasional live shows in the U.S. and Canada and “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” can still be heard on classic rock radio stations today.

Bob Marley – Legend

So what do you do when it’s a humid 95 degees and the air conditioning decides it’s taking the week off?

Put on some reggae, pour some margaritas and start Jamming.

“Don’t worry ’bout a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright”

It may not bring the temperature down, but it will help you chill, mon.

The Who – Who Are You

It is the true mark of a great drummer when they become such an integral part of the band they are in, that if they die, the band can’t continue – or maybe shouldn’t have.

With Keith Moon’s untimely death in 1978, only a few months after the release of The Who’s eighth studio album, “Who Are You”, most people thought it marked the end of The Who. When The Who did eventually continue, many felt they should have thrown in the towel; that The Who would never be the same band without Moon on the skins. I have nothing against Kenny Jones, former drummer for The Faces who picked up where Moon left off. Kenny is great, but he’s no Keith Moon.

Keith Moon was a madman on the drums. He played with a fervor that mirrored his personality – a barely controlled craziness that seemed like it was going to break through the walls of sustainability at any moment. Unfortunately, that craziness brought about his all too early demise when he died from an overdose of Heminevrin, a drug used for the treatment for effects of alcoholism withdrawal.

When Keith Moon died, it was the end of an era for The Who. They lost an integral part of not only their sound but also their personality. They would never be the same band without him because no one could replace the dynamics, power, intricacy, and borderline insanity of Keith Moon’s drumming – not even Kenny Jones.

Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record

I remember when ELO released “A New World Record”. I listened to it until I was sick of it.

The album was a breakthrough for the Electric Light Orchestra. Sure, their previous album “Face the Music” had their first worldwide hit with “Evil Woman”, but “A New World Record” hit across the globe with “Telephone Line”, “Rockaria”, “Livin’ Thing”, and “Do Ya”. Plus, it also included a slew of other great prog rock leaning pop songs like “Tightrope”, “Mission (A World Record)”, “So Fine”, “Above the Clouds”, and “Shangri-la”. Any of these songs could have easily been hit singles for ELO at the time. I guess four was enough for the record company.

ELO’s sixth album definitely marked a shift towards a more pop oriented sound. That combination of progressive rock and pop hooks is really what makes this album so great. It was a perfect blend. Although I did grow sick of it at one point, that’s only because it was on my turntable nearly everyday – and it wasn’t even my record, I borrowed it from a friend. Hearing it again years later, I remembered how good it was and added it to my collection. It never left.

The Pretty Reckless – Who You Selling For

Although I like the music I grew up with, I sometimes get tired of what’s familiar to my ears.

The Pretty Reckless are a band that impressed me from the first time I heard them. I discovered them because the daughter of my best friend is really into them. Even though I had only heard one song from their third album, “Who You Selling For”, which I thought was one of their best songs, I was familiar with both of their previous albums. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t picked one of them up at some point by now. But rather than buying one of their earlier records, I decided to take a chance on “Who You Selling For”.

Even more so than the two previous albums by The Pretty Reckless, “Who You Selling For” is a modern take on old school blues-based hard rock riffs. One unexpected surprise I found when reading the cover and liner notes is that the closing track on side two, “Back to the River”, features Warren Haynes (The Allman Brothers, Govt. Mule) who is one of my favorite blues/rock guitarists.

Part of what makes The Pretty Reckless such a good band is frontwoman Taylor Momsen. Depending on the song, her always powerful voice ranges everywhere between sultry and seductive to snarling, growling aggression. Not only a talented singer, she has also had successful careers as a model and actress (one of her first roles was playing Cindy Lou Who in the 2000 movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”). Momsen also cowrote all the songs on the album along with the band’s guitarist, Ben Phillips.

The Moody Blues – In Search Of The Lost Chord

The Moody Blues may very well be the most ambitious rock band ever. Their albums were never simple undertakings. The Moody’s third album “In Search of the Lost Chord” in particular, may very well be their all-time most ambitious album.

On their prior concept album, “Days of Future Past” The Moody Blues had incorporated an orchestra to augment their songs. Like its predecessor, “In Search of the Lost Chord” was also a concept album. The songs revolved around exploration; physically, emotionally, spiritually, and musically. Listening to it, you would swear there was also an orchrstra playing with them on certain parts, but you’d be wrong.

The members of the Moody Blues play every instrument on the “In Search of the Lost Chord”. Something in the vicinity of 35 different instruments were used in all. What the band members didn’t know how to play, they learned to play during the recording sessions.

“In Search of the Lost Chord” was initially released to mixed reviews, but that didn’t stop it from being considered one of The Moody Blues’ finest moments. Maybe the critics thought it was it was too ambitious at the time. Music loving fans of the band knew better.

Sweet – Strung Up

I don’t know if Sweet was really the first to release a live album and best of album packaged together, but in the liner notes of “Strung Up” they more or less stake claim to that honor.

The live album was recorded on December 23, 1973 at the Rainbow Theatre in London. The set is about as hard rocking as you will hear by any band. It includes a thundering drum solo that set to rest any doubts that Mick Tucker was one of the top drummers of his time.

The studio album includes Sweet’s hits “Ballroom Blitz”, “Fox on the Run”, and “Action” (which has a shorter, non echoing ending than the original), along with other songs that had success in Europe but were relatively unknown in the United States. It also included three previously unreleased songs.

Because Sweet was much more popular in Europe than in the US, this album was never released here until it was reissued on CD a couple decades later. My vinyl copy is imported from Germany.

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits

I always liked Bob Dylan’s music and his poetic lyrics, but – and I know some will be aghast when I say this – I didn’t care for his voice. In “Song for Bob Dylan”, David Bowie best described the voice of Robert Zimmerman (Bob Dylan’s real name which Bowie refers to in the same song) as “sand and glue”. I can’t think of a more accurate metaphor. In recent years, I have come to appreciate that sand and glue.

As I sit here listening to the mono version of Bob Dylan’s greatest hits, I can’t imagine another voice accompanying the melodies of these songs and the poetry of their lyrics.

Except for “All along the Watchtower”; that will always belong to Hendrix.

Golden Earring Live

It took Dutch rockers Golden Earring 12 years together and 12 studio albums before they released their first live album, but it was worth the wait.

I have to admit that when I first heard “Golden Earring Live”, I knew only one song on it; Golden Earring’s biggest hit, the driving “Radar Love”. But a live album doesn’t necessarily need to have a slew of hits in order to be great. It needs great playing. It needs great energy that captures the connection between band and audience. It needs great songs, but not necessarily hits. “Golden Earring Live” has all of the above. It doesn’t need anything more.

Buuut…

It’s also got a great 12 minute live version of their biggest hit, “Radar Love”.

Yeah, it’s a great live album.