The Crazy World Of Aurthur Brown

If you look up the word “psychedelic” in any dictionary, it should define it as “The Crazy World Of Aurthur Brown”.

Yes, there are many bands that are associated with psychedelic music, but there is only one that defines it: “The Crazy World Of Aurthur Brown”

From the sometimes dark and always twisted lyrics, to the swirling and sometimes explosive music, to the outrageous pyrotechnics and stage antics and makeup that influenced so many bands for decades, including Alice Cooper, Yes, Genesis, George Clinton, Queen, and numerous others. “The Crazy World of Aurthur Brown” helped define psychelelic music and influenced countless bands inside and outside that genre.

It should also be noted that Aurthur Brown had one of the most truly amazing voices in music. His was a rare anomaly that could span four octaves – something he took full advantage of on the band’s self titled debut album.

“The Crazy World of Aurthur Brown” only had one actual hit song, “Fire”, which is on this album, so they are considered to be a “one hit wonder” band. But their true legacy is in the influence they had on so many other bands.

I originally discovered The Crazy World Of Aurthur Brown” when I was looking into where the members of Emerson Lake and Palmer came from. I knew Keith Emerson was formerly in The Nice and Greg Lake had been a member of King Crimson, but I had no idea of where drummer Carl Palmer had started.

I found that answer, and so much more, in “The Crazy World of Aurthur Brown”.

Eagles – The Long Run

I don’t care what kind of music you prefer, it’s nearly impossible to not like the Eagles. All through the ’70s, their albums just seemed to get better and better, culminating in their 6th and final album for nearly 20 years, “The Long Run”.

The Eagles recorded “The Long Run” after being on the road for an excruciatingly long tour supporting the success of their previous album, “Hotel California”. The exhaustion from touring combined with the pressure of trying to come up with a worthy successor to their most successful album to date, resulted in writers block setting in for all the band members. It took a year and a half to come up with the songs for “The Long Run”, but it was well worth the wait.

The critics weren’t very receptive to “The Long Run” when it came out, giving it mostly lukewarm reviews. But what do they know? This is easily one of the best and most varied albums by the Eagles. There is something here for everyone, and it’s all something good.

But don’t take my word for it. “The Long Run” topped the album charts in multiple countries including the United States, where it sold over 8 million copies alone. It also scored three hit singles for the Eagles. “Heartache Tonight”, “I Can’t Tell You Why”, and the title track. And “Heartache Tonight” would end up earning the Eagles a Grammy for best rock performance in 1980.

My personal favorite song from this album is the side two opener, “Heartache Tonight”. Partly because of its addicting drum beat that you can’t help but stomp your foot to, partly because of Joe Walsh’s exceptional slide guitar solo, and partly because of the perfect vocal harmonies the Eagles were known for. But mostly, I think I like it because of the writers block that had set in. It prompted the Eagles to seek some outside writing assistance from one of my favorite artists and songwriters – fellow Detroiter, Bob Seger.

UFO – No Place To Run

Michael Schenker is a brilliant guitarist. But that isn’t always good enough to keep yourself from being kicked out of a great band. You also need to be reliable. Unfortunately, Schenker’s drug and alcohol use made him anything but reliable, especially when it came to touring. So, after recording seven albums with Schenker as lead guitarist, the members of UFO kicked him out, replacing him with their much more reliable friend, Paul Chapman.

Chapman may not have been as creative as Schenker, but he was still a great guitarist. So good in fact that he helped make “No Place To Run” UFO’s most successful album in the U.S.

Some might say the success of the album was due to the record company choosing to have George Martin, known for his work with The Beatles, produce and help mix The album. But personally, I think the album could have been better with someone different at the helm.

I have nothing against George, he is a great producer. But to me, this really wasn’t a good fit. Although the members of UFO were great musicians, they were also known as a wild and hard rocking band. That wild edge seemed to be held in reserve on “No Place To Run”. It’s still a great album. But with the strength of the songs on it I think it had potential to be even better had they been allowed to cut loose more as on their previous records.

Nearly four decades later, UFO continue to perform as a successful recording and touring band. They just released their 22nd album, “The Salentino Cuts” in September, 2017.

Rick Springfield – Living In Oz

Rick Springfield had been in the music business a long time by the time he had his third hit album, 1983’s “Living in Oz”.

It didn’t take long for “Living in Oz” to sell over a million copies once it was released. Springfield’s two previous albums, 1981’s “Working Class Dog”, and 1982’s “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet”, were hugely successful albums for the Australian guitarist and singer and “Living in Oz” rode in their wake.

Not that it needed any help. This is in my opinion, Rick Springfield’s strongest album. The songs on it rocked harder and the lyrics had an edgier and more personal feeling to them than on his two previous records, which broke away from, but still somewhat bordered on the more bubblegum pop he recorded early in his career.

I had first heard of Rick Springfield in 1973, when I was still in elementary school. He was the main animated charachter of a Saturday morning cartoon called “Mission Magic!” In the cartoon, Miss Tickle, a teacher that had magical abilities would travel with her students to another dimension, always to resolve some type of problem there. There was usually some type of life lesson involved in the story line. Rick Springfield played himself and lived in the other dimension. As a child, I was drawn to the cartoon primarily because of the music in it and remember being disappointed when it did not make it to a second season.

“Working Class Dog” featured the hit single “Jesse’s Girl” which spurred a renewal in Springfield’s musical career. That single was followed up by “Don’t Talk To Strangers” from Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet”. His string of hits continued with “Affair of the Heart” and “Human Touch” from “Living in Oz”.

This newfound musical success prompted Springfield to break from his acting career (He was playing Doctor Noah Drake on the soap opera “General Hospital” at the time) and focus on his musical career. Unfortunately, he would never again experience the success he did on his trilogy of albums from the early ’80s.

Today, Rick Springfield still maintains a successful acting career and continues to release new music. His new album “The Snake King” is due out in 2018.

Huey Lewis and the News – Sports

“Sports”, the third album from Huey Lewis and the News is one of the best albums to come out of the ’80s.

I honestly can not understand how anyone can not like this album. It is chock full of infectious songs with great hooks that combined blues, soul, and a little doo-wop with ’80s pop and rock. Then, as a bonus, they even do a cover of an old Hank Williams song, “Honky Tonk Blues”. It’s no wonder this record became their most successful album ever. I mean, what wasn’t there to like?

Yet…

I remember being being on a first date with a girl in the late ’80s and at one point in the evening she said that she didn’t like Huey Lewis because she thought he was too commercial. I didn’t argue my point (not a good thing to do on a first date) but at the end of the evening, I took her home, and like a good gent, gave her a kiss and said goodnight. I never saw her again after that night.

I wonder what ever happened to her.

…No I don’t.

Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans

Middle ground isn’t always easy to find. Ask any fan of Yes where they think “Tales from Topographic Oceans” ranks in the band’s album catalog and you will almost always find it listed near the top or bottom of the list. Rarely, if ever, in the middle.

Then again, “Tales…” was not an album that offered much middle ground. And it did so very unapologetically. It is the epitome of self-indulgent rock and roll. That in itself is the pivotal point of this 1973 double album. Four sides. Four songs. No singles. No apologies.

Take it or leave it.

Most took it…at first. It’s pre-orders from record stores almost immediately placed the album into gold status (500 thousand copies sold)…but it fizzled after reaching that mark. Many copies would shortly thereafter remain burried in record collections, or like mine, end up on the shelves in used record stores.

When I ran across of “Tales…” again at a record show a few years ago, I decided to give it another chance. Maybe it was life and experience. Maybe I just didn’t really listen to it the first time. Maybe I was just stupid. The second time around, I absolutely loved this album. It is a masterpiece of musicality and interpretation!

The four sides of “Tales from Topographic Oceans” were based on the four bodies of Hindu Shastra. One side each dedicated to a philosophical teaching. I think maybe it was too deep for me decades ago. The lyrics and music both require a desire to interpret and understand. But as in life, when you take the time to analyse and truly understand, you finally realize the fruits of your labor – and it’s no longer a labor. It’s a beautiful thing.

Today, that’s my take of “Tales of Topographic Oceans” with no middle ground:

It’s four sides of a beautiful thing.

Rush – A Farewell To Kings

Many bands go through changes. Sometimes it’s to avoid getting bored, wanting to try something new. Sometimes it’s an attempt to better find their footing. Sometimes it’s a search for that ever elusive radio friendly single. For Rush, “A Farewell To Kings” was an attempt at all three.

Rush’s debut, self-titled album, was a combination of hard rock and metal. Their second, “Fly By Night” was not as rough around the edges and more straightforward hard rock. Their third, “Caress of Steel” ventured more into progressive rock territory. It was a change that alienated much of their established fan base. Although a good record, it was for the most part was a flop for the Canadian trio. “2112”, their fourth album, struck gold for them with its melding together the styles of its predecessors.

But what really had eluded Rush to this point, and what their musical career needed, was significant radio airplay. “Closer to the Heart” the sole single released from their fifth studio album, “A Farewell To Kings”, would change that.

For the most part, “A Farewell to Kings” revisted the progressive rock elements that had not done so well for them earier. But by this time, Rush’s songwriting talents had become more refined and their fans had come to expect more diversity from them.

Being just shy of three minutes long. “Closer to the Heart” was one of Rush’s shortest songs, which made it a great contender to be picked up for heavy rotation on rock radio stations. The fact that it had a beautiful underlying melody, insightful lyrics, and high caliber musicianship with a great guitar solo, made it an inevitable choice. Consequently, “A Farewell to Kings” and it’s accompanying single, “Closer to the Heart”, catapulted Rush’s popularity to the next level.

Ted Nugent – Free For All

Ted Nugent is well known for his exceptional guitar playing as well as his outspoken political views. I don’t talk politics here, so let’s just talk about guitar playing. But not Ted’s. Let’s talk about the “other” guitarist in Nugent’s band, Derek St. Holmes.

I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Derek St. Holmes play last night at a local Detroit concert venue, the legendary Token Lounge (which I remember seeing one or two bands at way back in the ’70s and ’80s). I left that show last night realizing that, because he played as the “other” guitarist alongside Nugent, Derek St. Holmes was a vastly overlooked guitar legend.

St. Holmes, who now lives in Nashville, was up in his original stomping grounds in the Detroit area, I believe for the Christmas season. While in the area, he scheduled a night to perform at the Token. When he saw Glocksmith, a local Detroit area band, playing at a nearby venue, he immediately asked them to be his backing band. I have a couple friends who play in Glocksmith and I have seen them play live many times. There was no way I was going to miss this show.

After the show, I couldn’t help but realize what an awesome guitarist St. Holmes is. He was definitely held back by being the rhythm guitarist with Nugent. That’s probably why he left in the late seventies and teamed up with Aerosmith’s “other” guitarist Brad Whitford to form Whitford/St. Holmes. Unfortunately, Brad Whitford returned to Aerosmith when they reformed, squelching any chance of Whitford/St. Holmes ever having a chance of making it.

Derek St. Holmes put on a great show last night, Performing many of the songs he played and sang lead vocals on while in Ted Nugent’s band, as well as some from Whitford/St. Holmes. My only gripe with the show was that my friends, Randy Peavler on Bass and Dave Goldsworthy on guitar, were left somewhat in the shadows – although they were graciously given their moments to shine. That’s a personal thing though. For most people at the show last night, it was all about the often overlooked “other” guitarist from Ted Nugent’s band, Derek St. Holmes.

For me though, it was about my friends in Glocksmith getting do a show with one of their heroes, and a true guitar legend.

Derek St. Holmes and Glocksmith – Stranglehold

Styx – The Grand Illusion

As I think it was for many back in 1977, “The Grand Illusion” was my introduction to the music of Styx. This album hooked me right away because of its extensive use of the use of synthesizers throughout it. Dennis DeYoung was an incredibly talented keyboardist and knew how to fully take advantage of the synthesizers to expand his creative ability. Because of the synths, Styx had elements of prog similar to Emerson Lake and Palmer. A big difference though, was that they had three singers, all with very distinctly different voices, allowing them to add impressive vocal arrangements to their songs. Then there was James Young and Tommy Shaw, who had distinctly different playing styles that gave Styx a versatility that few bands could equal. Gluing all this versatility together was the rhythm section of the Panozzo brothers, John on drums and Chuck on bass.

But the thing that made “The Grand Illusion” such a good good album was the songs themselves. There is not a mediocre track on this album. Perfectly arranged and neither overly polished or too raw, it was a near perfect combination of pop, prog, and hard rock. It’s no wonder this was the album that broke Styx into the mainstream. And then there were the lyrics. If it was Styx’s music that initially hooked me, it was the lyrics that reeled me in. Sometimes they were insightful. Sometimes mystical. Sometimes beautiful. Sometimes scathing. Always deeply meaningful. It’s no wonder that Styx will always be one of my favorite bands and “The Grand Illusion” will always be my favorite album by them. Although there’s also “Pieces of Eight”…

The Smithereens – Especially For You

2017 was a sad year for rock and roll. So many legends and so much talent was lost this year. Perhaps more so than any other year.

Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Tom Petty, Chester Bennington (Linkin Park), Gregg Allman, Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave), J. Geils, Malcom Young (AC/DC), and most recently, Pat DiNizio from the Smithereens.

The Smithereens were formed by four friends from New Jersey who in 1980, decided to form a rock and roll band. They finally found success in 1986, with their debut album, “Especially For You”. The band had a hit single with the opening track to the album, “Strangers When We Meet”, and another with the opening song to side two, “Behind the Wall of Sleep”. But their biggest hit off the album…their biggest hit ever…was the unforgettable “Blood and Roses”. A song driven by an unfogettable bass line and lyrics about losing out on love because of not being able to express it. The song was an immediate hit on both ’80s alternative and mainstream rock radio stations.

Sadly, 2017 took its latest, and hopefully it’s last, rock and roll icon, Pat DiNizio, lead singer and guitarist for The Smithereens, on December 12, 2017. He will forever be remembered by so many for the multitude of emotions he brought to our ears.

In memory of Pat, and all the other legends and remarkable talent we lost in 2017, I will let the rhythmic thump/click of this album’s inner track resonate in the room for at least the next 17 minutes in honor of the rhythmic heartbeats of the those whom rock and roll lost in 2017.

‘Twas a sad year, 2017.