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

Brian May and Friends – Starfleet Project

When Brian May went into the studio with Eddie Van Halen and Alan Gratzer (drummer for REO Speedwagon) to record the songs on Starfleet Project, he had no intention of releasing the songs from the sessions.  Because of his son, he had become a fan of a Japanese sci-fi show on the BBC, and had been wanting to record a hard rock version of the program’s theme song.  Fate be as it may, Eddie, and Alan happened to be in the same town as Brian one day – and they all had some down time away from their repective bands. So they hooked up with a couple well respected session musicians and booked a nearby recording studio.

Of course, they all wanted to get a feel for playing together, so they warmed up by doing a couple improvised jams together. One was on top of a song Brian had recently penned and the other was a totally improvised, nearly thirteen minute instrumental blues jam. All three songs come across with such a loose feel, that it’s easy to picture them smiling at each other as they find their muse within each other. 

I’m just thankful that after hearing the songs, Brian’s family was able to convince him to release the songs from the sessions as a Mini LP.

Vinyl Jungle Trivia:  Brian May has a PHD in astrophysics and co-authored a book on the origins of the universe.

Jeff Beck – Loud Hailer

A true artist, Jeff Beck has never been one to rest on his laurels or one who is afraid to try something new. On 2016’s “Loud Hailer,” he shows that he’s also not afraid to speak the Truth, even if it’s not an easy message to consume. This is by far, Jeff Beck’s angriest and most politically charged album.

Although his guitar tone and virtuosity is unmistakable throughout, it’s delivered over the top of hip-hop and edgy rhythms along with the equally edgy vocal stylings of Rosie Bones, who delivers the songs’ messages with a perfect combination of angst, urgency, and gentleness.

Throughout, Beck shows he has the experience to know when to hold back and keep it simple and when to tear things up, with songs that swing the listener between somber feelings of abandonment and raging anger at the state of the world today. All the while, the album never gives in to a feeling of helplessness; In the end, reminding the listener that we all have a beauty and strength within us to turn things around – if we really want to.

The Joe Perry Project – Let The Music Do The Talking

Joe Perry left Aerosmith in 1979 because of band conflicts. He released The Joe Perry Project’s debut album shortly thereafter. A couple albums later Brad Whitford, the other guitarist in Aerosmith would also join the Joe Perry project. 

Perry and Whitford returned to Aerosmith in 1985, returning them to their original band lineup.  Although Perry has released solo material since rejoining Aerosmith, and toured again with The Joe Perry Project, he has also remained a member of Aerosmith, who have remained in their original lineup for more than 30 years.

Led Zeppelin (reissue)

One of the nice things about the resurgence of vinyl’s popularity is the reissues of many albums. Not only are many of them pressed on 180 or 200 gram records, which cuts down on potential resonant feedback when you crank the volume up and adds weight to the platter which can help to maintain speed consistency (think of a flywheel).

Also, many reissues come with bonus records, with material not included with the original release. Often, this bonus material is not available anywhere else.

This reissue of Led Zeppelin’s debut album came with two additional records of an October 10, 1969 Zeppelin concert in Paris, France. An incredible performance.

Sweet – Level Headed

Sweet was a band that went through many style variations. Early on, they didn’t even write their own songs, relying instead on Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who were at that time, kown for writing “bubble gum” pop songs (and whose own writing style would mature as they wrote early songs for John Cougar (Mellencamp) and Pat Benetar). Once Sweet started writing their own music on their fourth album, they had a hard rock/progressive rock feel. On their seventh album, “Level Headed,” Sweet found themselves aiming for some kind of middle ground  with a pop/progressive/neo-classical feel. It made for an interesting album and garnered them one of their most memorable hit singles, “Love Is Like Oxygen.” 

One of the things I alway disliked about most singles is exemplified with “Love Is Like Oxygen.” On the album, it was a beautiful piece, with many stylistic changes. Much of this was lost on the single, which edited the song to almost half it’s length of what is on the album.

Lone Justice

Lone Justice’s self titled debut album that combined element of country, punk, rockabilly with a little R&B. Unfortunately, their sound was too country sounding to do well with rock and alternative fans, and to diverse to do well on the country scene at the time. Although it did chart fairly well in all three categories and was well received by music critics.

Fronted by dynamic and passionate singer Maria McKee, they were very popular on LA’s music scene. I had the pleasure of seeing them in Detroit, and rank them as one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.