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.

Humble Pie – Smokin’

Humble Pie’s fifth album, “Smokin'”, can be summed up in two words: heavy groove. You can put those words together or keep them apart, either way, it’s accurate.

Peter Frampton had just left the Humble Pie in 1972, and the band had to prove they could make it on their own without him. With Steve Marriott at the helm, the Pie set out to make an album that was heavier and funkier than anything they had done before … or after. The result was magical.

Blues riffs and power chords dominate on “Smokin'”, making it an album that is best appreciated when played LOUD. The Pie have never sounded better than they do here. They play down and dirty electric blues-rock with a heavy dose of soul that makes it’s truly addicting. Don’t get me wrong, I love Peter Frampton … but in all honesty … he’s not missed here.

“Smokin'” was also an example of why CDs could really suck. When I purchased this album on CD, I could not believe how terrible it sounded. There was no care at all taken with transferring this album over to the digital realm. I’m not a vinyl snob. I have some old recordings that absolutely shine on CD. But when it comes to bringing a classic analog album over to digital, “Smokin'” is an example of how to do it wrong.

I had a friend ask me recently how vinyl albums could possibly sound better than CDs. This album is a prime example of how. There are cases where the opposite is true – where the CD is superior to the original album. Humble Pie’s “Smokin'” is not one of those instances. If you want to really appreciate this album, and know what it was all about, you need listen to it on vinyl.

And listen to it LOUD!

Foghat – Stone Blue

Ahhhh, blues rock. Easily one of my favorite genres. And in that genre, Foghat is easily one of my favorite bands. And by Foghat, easily one of my favorite albums is “Stone Blue”.

Stone blue was released as a follow-up to their hugely successful live album. It is their seventh studio album, comprised of a 50/50 mix of self-written songs and blues standards.

When Stone blue was released, for those who knew Foghat’s music, there really where no surprises here. Foghat was a band known for rocking hard and playing the blues, They did both with a vengeance on “Stone Blue”. The late Dave Peverett’s vocals we’re in top form and he captured the emotion of every song perfectly. Rod Price was relentless in his solos, especially with his slide guitar work. Between the opening title track and the mid-tempo Rocker on side two, “It Hurts Me Too”, it seemed as if he was challenging every slide player out there.

Two of the best covers on the album are the hard rocking versions of the blues standard “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Chevrolet”.

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

Sometimes strange is good. “Sound & Color”, the second album from Alabama Shakes, certainly is a strange. It is also excetionally 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.

Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

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.

Grand Funk – We’re An American Band

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, toped 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.

Cream – Disraeli Gears

Considered to be the first supergroup, Cream consisted of guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce, and drummer Ginger Baker. Eric Clapton was well known as one of the best blues guitarists in the ’60s, having formerly played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Jack Bruce had already made a name for himself playing with Manford Mann and also with Clapton in the Bluesbreakers. Ginger Baker was considered at the time to be the best drummer in rock and roll. He played with an intricate jazz style combined with intense hard rock pounding and was known for extensive drum solos when playing live. He is also noted for being the first drummer in rock and roll to use two bass druns instead of only one.

On their second album, “Disraeli Gears”, Cream held to their formally established blues roots but also ventured into psychedelic territory. The band spent only three and a half days in the studio recording it and it became their breakthrough album in the United States. 

The album title came from an inside joke within the band regarding Eric Clapton wanting to buy a road racing bicycle. Disraeli was a past Prime Minister of England, and one of the band’s roadies referred to the bike as having “Disraeli” gears, when he really meant “derailleur” gears. The band found the snafu so funny, they decided make it their new album title. …I guess you had to be there.

Traffic – The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

“The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” is the album I choose when I can’t decide if I need just kick back and chill out or if I want to totally jam out, because it offers the best of both. The songs on it are combinations of bohemian folk, jazz, blues, avant-garde experimentalism, and of course rock. As such, the album offers itself up to a hugely diverse sound that is as ambitious as it is creative.

The title track is probably the most well-known song off the album and which, to a degree, encapsulates what traffic’s music was all about. The name of the song and album are an obscure reference to rebellion against the establishment and adherence to personal originality. Or, in laymen’s terms, not running with the pack and just being yourself. 

A creed I have always, and will forever live by.

Foghat – LIVE

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, FOGHAT!” And so begins one of my all time favorite live albums. My only gripe is – and I ask this every time I listen to this album – “why didn’t they make this a double album?” I guess they wanted to leave you wanting more. And I’m sure Foghat’s performances on the nights the songs on this album were recorded left the audience doing just that.

An offshoot of Savoy Brown, Foghat formed in 1970 and specialized in straightforward blues-based rock and roll.  They were experts at it,  and by 1977 had honed and perfected their live performances. Although their preceding studio albums were good, on this album Foghat proved that they were a band that was meant to be heard live. This, their first live album, was their biggest selling record ever.

Foghat “LIVE” featured a die-cut cover with the word “LIVE” displaying the record sleeve behind it which had pictures of the band performing live. Unfortunately, if you didn’t keep this record in a protective sleeve, the “E” would eventually get mangled or torn off when other albums caught on it as they were slid in next to it in your collection. My original copy of Foghat live suffered this fate. It took me forever to find one that wasn’t ripped or torn off. Lesson learned.

Rory Gallagher – Aginst The Grain

Back in the days of vinyl’s first coming, Rolling Stone magazine printed a cover that said “Clapton is God”. Nothing personal against Clapton or Rolling Stone, but in my opinion, it should have said “Gallagher is God”. 

Maybe it was Rory’s Irish heritage that gave him a more emotional style, that you knew he, and more importantly you could feel. Maybe Clapton just tried too hard to make that “one note” feel just right. Whatever it was, whether Rory Gallagher was making his Strat cry in pain, sing in joy, or scream in agony, his playing always came across like a loose and free Irishman, which in comparison, left Clapton sounding somewhat like a stiff and reserved Brit. 

Don’t get me wrong, Clapton was great. It’s just that Rory was better.

‘Nuff said.