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 of 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, known 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 its 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.

Big Brother & the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills

Janis Joplin had a voice that was unmistakable. Constantly cited as an inspiration to women singers in the generations that followed, she sang with an emotional intensity that will alway take another Piece Of My Heart and never be surpassed by singers of any gender in any generation. This was her last album with Big Brother and the Holding Company. 

The cover artwork was done by 1960’s underground artist R. Crumb. It was supposed to be the back cover, but Janis was a huge fan of his and pushed to have it used on the front instead. Rolling Stone has ranked it as one of the 10 best album covers of all time.

Part of the album was recorded in the studio and part live, in Bill Graham’s Fillmore East. The album opens with Graham introducing the band to the stage:  “Four gentlemen and one great broad – Big Brother and the Holding Company.”

Bill Haley and his Comets – Rockin’ the “Oldies”!

I wonder if Bill Haley and his Comets put the quotes around “oldies” on their fifth album because they knew that one day their own original music would be labeled the same.

Released in 1957, this album was a collection of he and his band, famous for issuing in the era of rock and roll with their hits “Rock Around the Clock” and “See You Later, Alligator,” covering popular song’s from the three decades prior to their own success.  Unfortunately, it gained them no more popular hits. 

Still a great record though.

Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue

When Jeff Lynn was getting ready to write the songs for their seventh album, he decided to lock himself away, alone in a secluded Swiss chalet. He wrote the entire double album, “Out of the Blue” in just three and a half weeks. It became the biggest selling album of their career.

Although side three consists of four songs, collectively, they are also a suite entitled “Concerto for a Rainy Day.” The last song in the suite is one of their most popular songs, “Mr.Blue Sky.” 

If you listen closely, the beginning of the opening song to the suite actually says “Concerto for a rainy Day” inside the thunderclap. Also, the violin bursts that come in a short while later are musically playing Morse code for “ELO.”

I love when bands do those little things that you don’t discover until after many listens. Every time you listen to the songs after that, they are so obvious, you can’t help but wonder how you never heard them all those times before.

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams

Hank Williams was one of the greatest American songwriters ever. He died way too early at only 29 years old, yet he left us with so many great and influential songs. But he also left many more songs unrecorded. He always wrote the lyrics to his songs first, usually putting them to music shortly before recording them, sometimes right in the studio.  All the lyrics on this album are from notebooks that Hank kept his future songs in.  The artists on this album were asked to select a song from Hank’s notebooks, write the music for it and record it.  The results were amazing, and an incredibly heartfelt tribute.

Although all of the artists on this album are self-proclaimed Hank Williams fans, not all are country music stars. Along side Alan Jackson, Merle Haggard, Patty Loveless, Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, are Jack White, Noah Jones, Bob Dylan, Jacob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, and Levon Helm. Plus, as a special treat, one song was done by Holly Williams, Hank’s granddaughter, with her dad, Hank Williams Jr. singing backing vocals.

A bit of Hank trivia: his real name wasn’t Hank, it was Hiram King Williams.