The Jam – Live At The Music Machine 2nd March 1978

I wonder…
If I had been a London teen in the ’60s, would I have been a Mod or a Rocker?

Thank God I was born a decade too late for that and was able to experience the mutation of the two in Great Britain’s mod revival of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The problem was I grew up near Detroit and had somewhat limited musical exposure until I went in the U.S. Army. I had never heard of the mod revival or The Jam, until they were about to split up in 1982.

There was probably no band more significant in the mod revival than The Jam. Combining new wave and punk rock music with rhythm and blues reminiscent of The Who and The Kinks along with a relaxed yet formal presentation of the 1960s jazz modernists, The Jam were like the new second coming of rock and roll to me.

It was the clashing and symbiosis of the old and new music that intrigued me. It made me realize that there were so many bands and so much music beyond just what was popular in the United States. The Jam were highly influential for me expanding my musical tastes beyond just what I was comfortable with. To me The Jam was life changing music. Although I was disappointed that The Jam broke up shortly after I discovered them, Paul Weller did move on to form Style Council and release some great solo stuff. That was a pretty good consolation.

Hank Williams – The Hank Williams Treasury

Growing up in the golden age of vinyl my main music of choice was the same as most of my friends: rock and roll. But that wasn’t the only genre I grew with up with in abundance. My dad listened almost exclusively to country music. Consequently, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Ray Price were as much a part of the soundtrack of my youth as were Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and The Who.

Even though my dad didn’t get my definition of rock and roll back then (his never went beyond Bill Hailey and the Comets, Elvis, and early Beatles) I liked a lot of the country music he listened to. Of all the country artists I grew up with, Hank Williams was by far, my favorite.

I had no Hank Williams records in my collection when I ran across this 1976 four album box set at a used record store four or five years ago. When I saw it and looked at the songs on it, I had to wonder why not.

Although considered to be one of the most influential country music artist ever, Hank’s heavy use of southern blues influences in the songs he wrote and performed made just as much of an impact on the formative days of rock and roll. Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to his music all those years ago.

U.K. – Night After Night

Eddie Jobson is an amazing musician. Case in point: his role in the British progressive rock band U.K. Not only could he play keyboards to a level that would make even Mozart smile, he was even more so a virtuoso on violin.

After their debut album, the prog rock supergroup lost its original drummer, Bill Bruford and lead guitarist extraordinaire Alan Holdsworth over creative differences. For their second album, “Danger Money”, U.K. replaced Bruford with the equally talented Terry Bozzio. The band decided to replace Holdsworth with…well, nobody. They instead placed more emphasis on Eddie Jobson’s keyboards and electric violin for the solos. Jobson was more than up to the challenge with their newer songs.

But what about playing the older songs live, on tour?

“Night After Night” answered that question in true evocation of Holdsworth’s talent. It’s on Alan Holdsworth’s solos where Eddie Jobson proves how amazing he is. He not only switches from keys to violin flawlessly but also adopts Holdsworth’s complex jazz infused solos perfectly to the violin without so much as flinching. If this was the album where you first heard U.K. you would swear the solos were written for electric violin.

Come to think of it, this is the album where I first heard U.K.

Well then, there you go.

Rhythm Corps – Esprit De Corps

The first album I ever heard by what is still one of my favorite Detroit bands. This is one of those records I took a chance on, having never heard anything by Rhythm Corps. I don’t know if I had even heard of them at all before I saw “Esprit De Corps” on the record store shelf.

What drew me to this record was the cover artwork, which reminded me of an M. C. Escher drawing. With the pictures of bombs morphing into crosses, I loved the statement it made against all the wars that have been fought and lives that have been lost over religion. I had to buy it. Never regretted it; one of my all-time favorite records from the ’80s.

Rick Springfield – Wait For Night

“Wait for Night” is a hidden gem in Rick Springfield’s discography. When he first started out, Springfield’s music was purely bubble-gum pop. He even did the music for a Saturday morning kid’s cartoon at one point. When he released his first two albums his music had become a bit more mature leaning toward light rock and pop.

It was Rick Springfield’s third album that first had the sound most people associate with the Australian singer, guitarist, and songwriter. This is the precursor to his multi-million selling breakthrough “Working Class Dog” and his mega-hit “Jessie’s Girl”. The songs here are very much in the power-pop rock style on that album.

“Wait for Night” could have easily been Rick Springfield’s breakthrough record instead of “Working Class Dog”. The songs are well written (all of them penned by Sprinfield) and his backing band was as solid as you coul get, featuring the former rhythm section from Elton John’s band. Unfortunately, the a was released on a small record label that couldn’t really promote the record other than to send promotional copies to radio stations hoping they would play it. Most passed. Still, the record grabbed the ear of someone at RCA Records who signed Springfield, and the rest was history.

After the success of “Working Class Dog” RCA reissued “Wait for Night” with different cover art and the album broke onto the Billboard chats.

The record in my collection is one of the promotional copies that was given to radio stations. One of the things that make it unique to the commercial copies is that the song listings on the label show the musical intro time before the singing starts. This was so the disk jockey could know how far he could talk over the beginning of each song.

Janis Joplin – Pearl

Not every artist achieves their true masterpiece. In 1971, Janis Joplin released her true masterpiece. Sadly, she died three months before it came out. She was only 27.

Janis had one of the most soulful and passionate voices in rock and roll. I wouldn’t say it was a good voice, at least not by traditional standards, but Janis knew how to use it to wring every ounce of emotion out of any song.

Two of the most memorable songs on “Pearl” are “Me and Bobby McGee”, a song penned by Kris Kristofferson, and the a capella “Mercedes Benz”. The latter is the last song Janis recorded; she died three days later from a drug overdose.

Fripp & Eno – No Pussyfooting

Two eclecticly creative talents. One creatively eclectic album.

I knew I was in for something different when I picked up this 1973 album by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, but sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind.

Filled with often atmospheric soundscapes, “No Pussyfooting” is an album intended to subdue and entrance. Two extended songs performed solely on guitar and synthesizer. No drums or bass, no vocals, no outside musicians. This is an album that is intended to take your mind on a journey, painting pictures with sound. It could easily be the soundtrack to an avant-garde movie that was never made or a backdrop for deep meditation.

“No Pussyfooting” is a true original classic that sits far outside the mainstream. Then again, what else would you expect from the minds of the main creative forces in King Crimson and early Roxy Music?

Styx – Crystal Ball

The first Styx album with Tommy Shaw in the lineup.

Although superstar success appeared to be on the horizon for Styx, it was the addition of Tommy Shaw’s voice, Mississippi influenced blues and slide guitar style and songcraft that propelled them to become one of the most popular bands in the 1970’s.

That success wouldn’t happen yet with “Crystal Ball”, although the album and its title track (penned by Shaw) would become Styx’s most successful album and single to that point in time. Styx’s follow-up “The Grand Illusion” would become the band’s true breakthrough album. Even so, “Crystal Ball” is every bit its successor’s equal; at least in my opinion.

Hollywood Vampires

Hollywood Vampires is a the band started by Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Johnny Depp. It’s also the name of a club of celebrities (mainly rock stars) that existed in the 1970s. At the meetings, the members would try to drink each other under the table. Their meetings were held periodically at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in West Hollywood (hence the club’s name).

The rock band Hollywood Vampires formed in 2015 and named themselves in tribute to the past members of the club who are no longer here with us. Many of the surviving club members have since gone on to, like Cooper, follow a path of sobriety in order to survive.

The band Hollywood Vampires instead indulges itself in the excesses of rock and roll. Their 2015 eponymous double album opens with a couple of original songs that pay homage to club members past followed by a series of covers of hits by former, now deceased members. The band is joined throughout by guest musicians, most being surviving members of the former club. The album closes appropriately with the song “My Dead Drunk Friends”.

A great tribute album to the vampires of rock and roll’s past.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out

Listening to The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 album “Time Out”, it’s hard to believe that their style of jazz was once considered to be inaccessibly out of the mainstream because of Brubeck’s consistent use of unusual time signatures. The quartet had a hard time getting booked to play even small clubs that seated less than fifty people because a lot of owners felt Brubeck’s style was just too complex for people to get. Music critics felt the same and totally dissed “Time Out” when it was released.

As it turned out, it was the critics and club owners that didn’t get it.

“Time Out” sold over 50 thousand copies shortly after its initial release and eventually sold over a million, making it one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. It also nearly topped Billboard’s pop album charts stopping just short at #2.

After the success of “Time Out” the Dave Brubeck Quartet no longer had to worry about filling clubs that seated fifty people. The quartet started playing venues that seated a thousand or more.

In short, “Time Out” firmly founded Dave Brubeck’s reputation as a jazz pioneer and innovator who forever changed how jazz music is played and interpreted.