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!

Jeff Beck – Wired

Jeff Beck will always be one of my favorite guitarists. Mainly, because of his versatility. The man can play anything. Like on his previous second solo outing, “Blow by Blow”, Jeff Beck chose to make his third album, “Wired”, a jazz fusion recording.

If I could own only one Jeff Beck album, it would definitely be “Wired”. Mainly because with jazz fusion being a melding of rock, funk, R&B, and pretty much any other style, with jazz stylings and improvisation, it is perfect for a guitarist who is as diversified as Beck.

Instrumental albums typically do not do very well on the record charts or in sales. “Wired” is one of the rare exceptions. But then again, Beck didn’t need vocals to put expression and meaning into the songs on “Wired”. All he needed was his fingers and six strings; Jan Hammer’s distinctly expressive synthesizer work didn’t hurt either.

Jeff Beck was known to almost always play without a pick, abandoning it early in his career. He claimed that once he discovered how to play with his fingers, he found a pick to be limiting. Listening to wired, and the rest of Jeff Beck’s musical canon, one finds it nearly impossible to dispute that statement.

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.

A Motown Anniversary Collection

Growing up near Detroit, in an age when vinyl ruled the airwaves, I can’t help but to have a great appreciation for Motown. Barry Gordy Jr. established Motown Records in 1959.  In the ’60s and ’70s Motown not only defined a specific style of music, the record label and the artists signed to it, also helped define a city.

The only bad part about this five album set is deciding which side to listen to when you only have time for one. I usually decide by randomly grabbing one and playing whatever side is facing up when it comes out of the sleeve. 

Today’winner:  record four, side one.

  • Diana Ross &The Supremes – Come See About Me
  • Stevie Wonder – Fingertips
  • Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
  • Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On
  • Commodores – Brick House