Steven Wilson – Transience

Four time Grammy nominee Steven Wilson is one of the most creatively talented recording artists around today. Yet so many people have not really heard of him.  If you happen to fall into that category, the album “Transience” is a great place to start.

Consisting of three sides of music recorded between 2003 and 2015 (the fourth album side is etched with lyrics to one of the songs) “Transience” is a collection of songs taken mostly from Steven Wilson’s previous solo albums. Three of them are reworked exclusively for this album and differ noticeably from their original incarnations. There is also a new re-recording of the song “Lazerus” which was previously recorded by Wilson’s former band Porcupine Tree.

If you haven’t given any of Steven Wilson’s music a listen, you owe it to yourself to do so. He has received praise from critics, numerous other musical artsts, and most importantly, those who have bought his records. He writes and records some of the most adventerous music being produced today. Sometimes intricate and complex, it quite often falls outside of the mainstream, but in no way does that mean his music is extreme or excessive.

The songs on “Transience” are selections that fall more in line with modern contemporary music. This is music that departs from the commonplace and defies being a mere musical backdrop. This is an album that is enticing and unique. It demands to be listened to; not just once but over and over. Because, as with all of Steven Wilson’s albums,  there always seems to be somthing new to hear.

Led Zeppelin IV

There are some albums that should be in everyone’s record collection…

There is a reason Led Zeppelin’s fourth record is so iconic. It is an icredible collection of songs that few bands have been able to equal. The album practically defines rock and roll from the ’70s – the golden age of viny. It has become an influential and inspirational focal point for generations of rock band. It became the goal of almost every rock guitarist to learn how to play “Stairway to Heaven”.

Led Zeppelin’s fourth album was the first record from the band that was well received by most critics, their previous album “Led  Zeppelin III” beingg the most severely panned. Record buyers obviously agreed with the positive reviews, as it has become one of the biggest selling records of all time.

Referring to to the album as “Led Zeppelin IV” is actually inaccurate. But then,  how do you refer to an album that has no name?  Zeppelin decided to officially not give it one. They even deferred from putting the bands name anywhere on the album cover.

Fans often refer to it as “Led Zeppelin IV” for a couple reasons. First off, It’s Led Zeppelin’s fourth album and it came out following “Led Zeppelin II” and “Led Zeppelin III”. Secondly, the inner sleve shows four symbols that were created by each of the four band members. The album is also commonly referred to as is “Zoso” because the first of the four symbols was created by guitarist Jimmy Page which dolts that word.

Although it has sold millions of copies, it can be hard to run across an original copy of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album that is in excellent condition.  Partly because many people in the ’70s did not know how to properly care for vinyl records (vinyl takes a little more TLC than CDs) and also because when CDs came out, unless someone decided to get rid of their entire collection, this was one of the few the had to hold on to. After all, there are some albums that should be in everyone’s record collection.

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand The Weather

There was a huge pawn shop just outside gate 4 of Fort Campbell. When I was stationed there back in the ’80s, I want to that pawn shop all the time to see if there were any goodies that I could pick up for a steal. When I visited it one particular day in 1984, my favorite radio station in Clarksville, Tennessee was doing a remote broadcast in the parking lot. When I approached the tent, they told me I could win a free record if I could correctly answer a music trivia question. I don’t remember the question I was asked, or answer, but I do remember the album I chose from their selection: “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I didn’t choose a Stevie Ray Vaughan album because I was a fan. I had never had of him. But the album had a add sticker on it that said he had been voted guitarist of the year by a guitar magazine. I figured “well, then the guy should be pretty good”.

I had no idea.

There will neverf be another guitarist like Stevie Ray Vaughan. He had it all – the tone, the feel, the emotion, the skill. He was the kind of player that could make you stop dead in your tracks, forget what you were doing and just listen. He was, in my opinion, the best blues guitarist that ever lived.

Sadly,  the world lost Stevie Ray on August 27, 1990 when the helicopter he was flying in while on tour crashed shortly after takeoff.

This 2011 reissue version of “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” includes a second album of songs that were never released while SRV was still alive; many of them appearing on his posthumous  album “The Sky is Crying”. Included on the second album is Arvo incredible version of the Jimi Hendrix classic, “Little Wing”. Stevie Ray never had a chance to record the vocals for the song, but with the way he could make his guitar sing, none were necessary. I still get goosebumps listening to it.

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (white vinyl)

Fleetwood Mac’s 11th album, “Rumors”, is one of the best selling albums of all time.  It has sold over 40 million copies and is one of the only albums to give Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” a run for its money as the all time best selling album ever.

The album was recorded in a tumultuous period Fleetwood Mac’s history. There were members of the band having relationships with other members – sometimes multiple members. This caused a lot of tension in the studio.   But it was that tension between the band members that caused huge spark of creativity and resulted in an incredible work of art that stands the test of time. “Rumours” sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1977.

Not surprisingly, given the personal conflicts going on within the band, most of the lyrics “Rumors” are introspective poetry that speaks of love, relationships, and emotions.

This edition of “Rumors” is a limited edition, pressed on white vinyl. There is no reason albums need to be pressed on black vinyl other than that’s the way it was always done. The color of the vinyl doesnt affect the sound quality so every now and then, limited runs of albums are pressed on colored vinyl. They usually cost a little more, but every now and then I have to splurge. After all, colored vinyl is cool.

Pink Floyd – A Dark Side Of The Moon Live

This is not an official Pink Floyd album. Some would call it a live concert bootleg. Others would call it an Italian import.

Copyright laws are not the same in every country. Italy in particular, has some of the least restrictive when it comes to live performances. I’ve never looked up all the legal mumbo jumbo, but however their laws are written, there are a lot of unofficial live recordings that come out of Italy on obscure record labels.

Typically, Italian Imports are from a specific concert performance. “A Dark Side Of The Moon Live” is a recording of a Pink Floyd concert at the Wembly Empire Pool in London, England on November 16, 1974. Its a double album on which Floyd performs their incredible 1973 album “Dark Side Of The Moon” in it entirety as well as their epic song “Echoes” from 1972’s “Meddle” as an encore. It is an incredible performance one of the best I have heard actually. But It’s not without its flaws in both performance and recording.

You see, that’s the good and bad of Italian Imports. On the good side, you get a rare recording of a band performing live, with no studio overdubs or post production cleanup. If the band makes a mistake, or there’s tape malfunction, It’s going to be on the record. But you really get the feel of the performance. On “A Dark Side Of The Moon Live”, there is a part of the song “Breathe” that is chopped out with a horrible edit in the very beginning. Other than that, the recording is flawless. And the sound quality is excellent.

Oh yeah, that’s the other thing with Italian Imports. Because they are unofficial, the original source of the recording could be through the mixing board or some dude out in the audience with a microphone. Decades ago, it was hard to know what the quality of an Italian Import record was until you bought it. Today, with the Internet in your pocket, it’s easy to do a little on the spot research to get an idea.

Italian Imports are typically for the hardcore fans of a band. I am a huge Pink Floyd fan, and have a few Italian Imports by them. Some are on CD, and some, like “A Dark Side Of The Moon Live” are on vinyl.

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Night Moves

Bob Seger used to be known locally as Detroit’s best kept secret. By the time Seger’s ninth studio album was released, everything had fallen into place to ensure that the long kept secret was out.

Following his previous studio release “Beautiful Loser”, Seger put together a top notch group of local players to back him. They had one of the tightest rhythm section anywhere and were the perfect match for Seger’s compositions. They were his Silver Bullet to success. The “Beautiful Loser” album grabbed the ears of music lovers across the U.S. It was followed by “Live Bullet”, which had unprecedented success for a live record by an artist who had no huge hit album to date.

Enter “Night Moves”.

“Night Moves” was the album that finally gave Bob Seger the recognition he had so long before earned. It was kind of sad, knowing the secret was finally out. But I think most of us around Detroit who grew up with Bob Seger’s music, were happy to see him finally make it.

Bob Seger was always dedicated to Detroit – and Detroit always supported him. Struggling to make it for so long, he represented to many of us the spirit in the city of Detroit – the spirit of never giving up. He was the local underdog who had finally made it. The best kept secret was out.

Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door

There are many perspectives to the album cover for Led Zeppelin’s eighth studio album, “In Through the Out Door”. Six to be exact.

The album cover features a scene with a brooding guy about to burn a Dear John letter. There are six people in the barroom with him: the bartender, a blond girl at one end of the bar, a black woman at the other end, a curly haired brunette leaning on the jukebox, a bald guy standing by a table, and a piano player. The six different versions of the cover feature a view of the brooding guy at the bar from the perspective of each of these six other people. Each cover was viewed in a sepia tone with a wiped area that revealed a small part of the scene in color.

The thing was, when you bought “In Through the Out Door” new, you never knew which cover you were going to get because they all came wrapped in a brown paper bag stamped with the band’s name and album title.

Discovering which album cover was underneath wasn’t the only surprise to be had either. Although the inner record sleeve looked like it was printed in black and white, if you wiped it with a damp cloth (or spilled a drink on it) you would discover each of the objects depicted on it were suddenly colored.

Although “In Through the Out Door” sold well overall when it came out, because of its heavier use of synthesizers, it was mixed in its reception by Zeppelin fans. Some felt it was an abandonment of the band’s heavier sounds. Others saw it as a natural progression of a band trying to keep with the times while still keeping their musical integrity.

It all depended on their perspective.

Def Leppard – Pyromania

Although Def Leppard’s first two albums developed a solid fanbase for them, it was their third album that really broke them into the mainstream. Pyromania sold over 10 million copies and hit number 2 on the Billboard charts. Many of the songs on it still receive significant airplay on rock radio stations today.

Following the release of Pyromania, drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in an automobile accident. I give the friendship the band members held for him extreme kudos for what happened afterwards. They could have sought out another drummer. Instead, they decided to have a special drum kit designed for him that made greater use of foot pedals so he could still play drums with the band. The incident is documented in the 2001 film “Hysteria – The Def Leppard Story” which was named after their fourth album. I saw Def Leppard on tour, supporting that album. Rick Allen did a drum solo that was nothing short of amazing and was one of the highlights of the concert.

When I met my wife over 25 years ago, she didn’t have nearly as many records as I did. As a matter of fact, she only had a handful. Pyromania was one of them. I would have added it to my collection but I already owned a copy of it.

Prince – Purple Rain

I like all types of music.

But when you get right down to it, when I sit down to listen, I like the sound of guitars best. Acoustic or electric, it doesn’t matter.

Okay when you get right down to it I prefer electric.

Although I always thought Prince was one of the best funk, R&B, and pop performers ever, I never put him in the ranks of great guitarists… Until I heard Purple Rain.

I was absolutely blown away by this album the first time I heard it. It had the beat and groove that I expected from Prince, but it was his guitar playing that really grabbed me. He could wring the emotion out of his axe as good as any of the Guitar Gods I grew up listening to.

Released in 1985, Purple Rain won two Grammys and went on to sell over 13 million copies worldwide. It spent an amazing 24 weeks at number one on the billboard charts.

More importantly, at least to me, in my book it moved Prince into the ranking of guitar God.

Led Zeppelin III

Led Zeppelin focused more on their acoustic side for their third album. More diverse than its predecessors,  it even featured a banjo on one song (Gallows Pole).  But that’s not to say that the album didn’t have its moments of bombast that Zeppelin was known for.  Many critics panned the album, probably because they were expecting something heavier. That didn’t stop it from topping the billboard charts and going double platinum in sales. 

The cover featured die cut holes with a rotating cardboard disk behind them, allowing the appearance of the cover to be changed.