Sometimes strange is good. “Sound & Color”, the second album from Alabama Shakes, certainly is a strange. It is also exceptionally good. Soulful psychedelic blues garage rock is the best way I can find to describe this album. It is one of those I have to be in the right mood to listen to. But when I’m feeling that way, almost nothing else will suffice.
Alabama Shakes formed in 2009 released sound and color in 2015. The album immediately topped the Billboard charts. It was nominated for 6 Grammys, winning four of them, including best alternative album.
Sometimes what seems like the worst scenario can turn out for the best. That was the case when Deep Purple went to record their sixth album, “Machine Head” at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. The arena at the casino was closed every winter for repairs and renovation. Deep Purple had booked it for right after the last event there, a December 4 concert by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Unfortunately an overzealous fan at that show decided to shoot a flare gun off during the concert and the building was set ablaze. No one was hurt, but Deep Purple had to find a new place to record “Machine Head”.
The empty, cold and damp conditions at the Swisse Grande Hotel had the band making a lot of compromises to what they felt was the best sound for the album. According to Ritchie Blackmore, the band’s lead guitarist, they quite often settled for “good enough” just to get the recording sessions over with.
The whole ordeal was captured and documented in the lyrics of their song “Smoke on the Water”, which became by far their biggest hit song off the album, and also in their career. “Machine Head” also became their most successful album, despite the compromises the band felt they made.
The title to the song “Smoke on the Water” alludes to what the band saw when they woke up the morning they were supposed to start recording their new album. The hotel the members of Deep Purple were staying at in Switzerland was on the opposite side of the Lake Geneva Shoreline from where the Montreux was. When they looked out the hotel room window, all they saw was Smoke on the Water.
While it’s true that picture discs don’t have as good of sound quality as their pure vinyl counterparts, that doesn’t mean they sound bad. Unless you’re critically listening, the difference in sound quality is miniscule. To a collector, they are wonderfully rare and limited editions of their favorite albums.
Linda Ronstadt is probably my favorite female singer of all time. Simple dreams probably my favorite album by her. She had the ability to phrase the lyrics of a song perfectly to the emotion in it. She had one of the most beautiful voices and knew how to adapt it for country, rock, or pop. On “Simple Dreams” she used it for all three.
One of the things I really liked about Linda Ronstadt is that she never placed a lot of Focus on her image. She focused on the music. She had the unique ability to take anything she chose to sing and make it her own. Even if it was a song that was a big hit by another artist, her version never sounded like a carbon copy and it was always exceptional.
Simple dreams Linda Ronstadt’s most successful album ever. It’s sold more than three and a half million copies in its first year, surpassing Carole King’s “Tapestry” as the most successful album by female recording artist and was nominated for several Grammy awards.
Wishbone Ash is a British rock band that formed in the early ’70s and used dual lead guitars that many would bands would try to emulate, but few could equal. Wishbone Ash’s seventh album, “New England” saw them move somewhat away from the strong progressive rock sound they had in their beginning towards a more blues and contemporary sound. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any impressive musicianship on “New England”. By this time Wishbone Ash had become more concise with their songwriting. They were able to fuse a wider array of styles together in the span of one album than they ever did before while still including some impressive dual lead jamming. This helped make “New England” one of Wishbone Ash’s most diversified albums ever and my favorite by them.
Wishbone Ash chose the name “New England” for their seventh album because they had recently moved to that area of the United States to avoid the high tax rates in Great Britain. The tax rate could go as high as 95 percent if you grossed enough income in a year. Many bands simply could not afford to pay their taxes and relocated themselves and their assets to other countries they had lower tax rates. most didn’t advertise that they were tax exiles. Apparently, Wishbone Ash wasn’t one of them.
Contrary to some accusations that have been made, Black Sabbath is not a devil worship band (I wouldn’t listen to them if they were). They originally called themselves “Earth”, but had to change their name after they discovered there was another band already using it. They chose to name themselves after the marquis on nearby movie theater, which was playing a Boris Karloff horror movie titled “Black Sabbath”.
Because they didn’t want to be associated with the occult and devil worship, when it came time to re-release the album “Paranoid”, on vinyl in 2012, the band chose to press it on light blue vinyl instead of black vinyl to avoid any negatively dark connotations.
Actually, I’m making that last part up. I have no idea why it was pressed on light blue vinyl. But it does look pretty cool.
I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.
Aerosmith’s third album, “Toys in the Attic” was a huge success for them. It was also the album where the band had to really prove its songwriting ability – and they did.
Aerosmith’s two previous albums, “Get Your Wings” and their eponymous debut, both consisted almost exclusively of songs the band had written and performed live before going into the studio. For “Toys in the Attic” they had nothing except a few bits and pieces of songs that they had come up with during sound checks while touring. They basically had had to do everything from scratch on this album and were under pressure from the record company to release a new record.
Almost all the songs on “Toys In The Attic” were either written by, or fleshed out by Aerosmith while in the studio. The two exceptions being “You See Me Crying” which was co-written by Steven Tyler and Don Solomon and “Big Ten Inch Record” which was a cover version of a song originally performed by blues and R&B saxophonist Bull Moose Jackson.
Big ten inch record is a song about an old blues record that a girl is very enthralled a girl, but the phrasing of the lyrics also gave the innuendo of it being about the singers private parts. This led lot of people to think that in the song, Steven Tyler sings “sucked on my big ten inch”, but according to Tyler, he’s actually singing “‘cept on my big ten inch”. Which is it really? I have my opinion, but you’ll have to listen to the song and decide for yourself.
Chilling and jamming to some jazz fusion courtesy of the violin musings from Jean-Luc Ponty’s true solo debut album.
Although he did come out with an album about five years prior, that album contained songs written primarily by Frank Zappa. “Upon The Wings Of Music” is a collection of songs that were also written by the French violinist.
Up to this point in his musical career, Jean-Luc Ponty was known primarily as a very in-demand session musician and was a former member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, another very influential jazz fusion group (this is where I first discovered him). In an interview, Ponty said that he felt restricted not being able to perform his own music. Because of the recognition he had achieved while playing with others, Atlantic Records signed him almost immediately when he announced is solo intentions.
“Upon The Wings Of Music” was very successful on the Jazz charts and also had some crossover success, holding a place on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart for several weeks.
I remember the first time I heard Billy Squire’s breakthrough album “Don’t Say No”. The song “The Stroke” totally grab me. When I heard it on the radio, I almost immediately went to the PX (that’s post exchange for anyone who hasn’t been in the military – kind of like a department store on a military base) and bought the album.
I remember thinking when I first listened to it “what band did this guy used to play in?” I was amazed after doing some digging, that he hadn’t really played in any band that had ever made it. I had heard of the band Piper, but never heard anything by them. And seriously, does anyone remember Piper? Maybe I’ll have to try to dig something up by them at a used record store one day, just for the historical record. I like doing stupid stuff like that.
But I digress.
Billy Squier was an incredibly talented guitarist. And he had some very talented friends who helped springboard his career. When it came time for William Haislip Squier to record his second album, he asked his friend Brian May, from the band Queen, to produce it for him. Unfortunately, Brian was tied up with Queen stuff.
Brian May recommended the services of Mack, whom Queen had started working with on their album “The Game”. It was a natural fit. If you listen closely to “Don’t Say No”, it’s easy to hear the influence of Mack and Queen in Billy Squire’s sound. Billy remained friends with the members of Queen throughout his career, and even teamed up with Queen members Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor on his follow-up albums.
I have to say, I never thought after being a DJ many, many years ago that I would ever be asked to play requests again. But I had a good friend tell me she really wanted me to put Billy Squire’s “Don’t Say No” album on my blog.
Thank you Jeannette for having me scour the used record stores trying to find this album and to rediscover what a gem of an album it is.
In many ways, Grand Funk was the Rodney Dangerfield of rock and roll – they got no respect.
Starting out as a power Trio from Flint, Michigan in 1969, Grand Funk Railroad, as they were known before they shortened their name on their seventh album, topped the charts album after album into the mid ’70s. Yet still they were panned by the critics and got no respect.
In 1971, Grand Funk equaled the Beatles’ record setting concert venue attendance at Shea Stadium – but Grand Funk sold it out in 3 days whereas the Beatles took 3 weeks. Yet they were still panned by the critics and got no respect.
In 1972, Grand Funk became a quartet, filling out their music by adding organ and keyboards. They became the sound of the working class in the United States – loud and proud and ready to take on the world. They defined arena rock and changed the music scene in ways they are rarely given credit for. They were the sound of Grit, Noise, and Revolution in the face of adversity. And still, they were panned by the critics and got no respect.
But their fans knew them, and they respected Grand Funk for what they were.
They were an American Band.
Grand Funk’s “We’re an American Band” was released on yellow colored vinyl for its first pressings only. I admit, I was too young to know what Grand Funk was all about when this album was originally released. However, when I ran across this copy a few years back, I knew exactly what it was – a necessary addition to my record collection.
Contrary to what some may think, Steely Dan is not a person. Steely Dan is a band formed in 1972 by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. They named the band after a steam-powered strap-on dildo mentioned in the William S. Burroughs novel “Naked Lunch”.
Steely Dan is a very deceptive band. Their music is most often classified as soft rock, but when you really listen to it, there is some seriously hard Jam going on. This was due largely to the strong jazz influence Donald Fagen and Walter Becker put into their music. It also didn’t hurt that they would bring in top-notch session musicians to play with them and that they were absolute perfectionists in the recording studio.
“Can’t Buy a Thrill” is Steely Dan’s debut album. It was released in 1972 and sold over a million copies within the first year of its release.