Triumph – Allied Forces

Canadians like to Rock!

When I think of bands from the great white North, the first three bands from the golden age of viny that come to mind are Bachman Turner Overdrive, Rush, and Triumph. Maybe it’s having to put out more energy in order to deal with all that snow and the bitter cold up there. I don’t know. But those are three of the hardest rocking bands from the ’70s.

“Allied Forces” is the fifth album by Trimph. It is, in my opinion, the album that best defines the Canadian power trio – and not just because it contains their two most successful songs, “Fight the Good Fight” and “Magic Power”. The songs on this album are collectively everything a good hard rock album should be. They are gritty, powerful, melodic, and lyrically inspiring.

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”.

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.

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.

The Beatles – Hey Jude

“Hey Jude” was an album that kind of made up for the exclusion of certain songs from the U.S. versions of earlier albums by the fab four. The album was never released in the U.K., and contained singles and other songs that had never been available on any Beatles album released in the United States. Most had only been released in the States as 45 RPM singles. “Hey Jude” also contained a couple tracks that were only released as 45s in Britain, most notably the album’s title track.

Capitol/Apple records originally planned to title this album “The Beatles Again”. It was a last minute decision to change the title to the same name as the Beatles’ latest single at the time, which opens up side 2. It was so last minute in fact, that a few copies were released with the originally planned title printed on the record’s labels. These rare versions are highly sought by collectors. I am fortunate enough to have one of these in my collection.

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.

The Clash – London Calling

When The Clash released their third album, “London Calling”, Did they abandon their punk rock roots or open the genre up to greater possibilities?

Punk rock started as a response to the more experimental and extravagant styles that had become commonplace with rock music in the late ’70s. When The Clash and other punk bands arose on the scene, they rebelled with rock music that was raw and stripped down to its very basic core.

Unlike The Clash’s first two albums, “London Calling” was anything but stripped down and basic. The Clash took influences from ska, reggae, R&B, rockabilly, lounge jazz and Celtic music, to create what many consider to be their best album. It surely is one that few will dispute was as groundbreaking as it was influential.

But the question remains: With “London Calling”, did The Clash abandon or expand the definition of punk rock?

It’s been at least a couple decades since I have listened to “London Calling” in its entirety. I had the album a long time ago but got rid of it, along with a lot of other albums I now regret parting with. My intent was to replace my vinyl copy with one on compact disc. The problem was, that never happened. So, this year I asked Santa for it for Christmas, and guess what? Santa came through!

I don’t know what my answer would have been when I first listened to “London Calling” all those years ago. But listening to in its entirety now, for the first time in decades, the answer is perfectly clear and obvious to me.

With “London Calling” did The Clash abandon their punk rock roots or did they expand on the genre?

The answer is “yes.”

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.