Led Zeppelin (reissue)

One of the nice things about the resurgence of vinyl’s popularity is the reissues of many albums. Not only are many of them pressed on 180 or 200 gram records, which cuts down on potential resonant feedback when you crank the volume up and adds weight to the platter which can help to maintain speed consistency (think of a flywheel).

Also, many reissues come with bonus records, with material not included with the original release. Often, this bonus material is not available anywhere else.

This reissue of Led Zeppelin’s debut album came with two additional records of an October 10, 1969 Zeppelin concert in Paris, France. An incredible performance.

Sweet – Level Headed

Sweet was a band that went through many style variations. Early on, they didn’t even write their own songs, relying instead on Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who were at that time, known for writing “bubble gum” pop songs (and whose own writing style would mature as they wrote early songs for John Cougar (Mellencamp) and Pat Benetar). Once Sweet started writing their own music on their fourth album, they had a hard rock/progressive rock feel. On their seventh album, “Level Headed,” Sweet found themselves aiming for some kind of middle ground  with a pop/progressive/neo-classical feel. It made for an interesting album and garnered them one of their most memorable hit singles, “Love Is Like Oxygen.” 

One of the things I alway disliked about most singles is exemplified with “Love Is Like Oxygen.” On the album, it was a beautiful piece, with many stylistic changes. Much of this was lost on the single, which edited the song to almost half its length of what is on the album.

Lone Justice

Lone Justice’s self titled debut album that combined element of country, punk, rockabilly with a little R&B. Unfortunately, their sound was too country sounding to do well with rock and alternative fans, and to diverse to do well on the country scene at the time. Although it did chart fairly well in all three categories and was well received by music critics.

Fronted by dynamic and passionate singer Maria McKee, they were very popular on LA’s music scene. I had the pleasure of seeing them in Detroit, and rank them as one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.

Bill Haley and his Comets – Rockin’ the “Oldies”!

I wonder if Bill Haley and his Comets put the quotes around “oldies” on their fifth album because they knew that one day their own original music would be labeled the same.

Released in 1957, this album was a collection of he and his band, famous for issuing in the era of rock and roll with their hits “Rock Around the Clock” and “See You Later, Alligator,” covering popular song’s from the three decades prior to their own success.  Unfortunately, it gained them no more popular hits. 

Still a great record though.

Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue

When Jeff Lynn was getting ready to write the songs for their seventh album, he decided to lock himself away, alone in a secluded Swiss chalet. He wrote the entire double album, “Out of the Blue” in just three and a half weeks. It became the biggest selling album of their career.

Although side three consists of four songs, collectively, they are also a suite entitled “Concerto for a Rainy Day.” The last song in the suite is one of their most popular songs, “Mr.Blue Sky.” 

If you listen closely, the beginning of the opening song to the suite actually says “Concerto for a rainy Day” inside the thunderclap. Also, the violin bursts that come in a short while later are musically playing Morse code for “ELO.”

I love when bands do those little things that you don’t discover until after many listens. Every time you listen to the songs after that, they are so obvious, you can’t help but wonder how you never heard them all those times before.

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams

Hank Williams was one of the greatest American songwriters ever. He died way too early at only 29 years old, yet he left us with so many great and influential songs. But he also left many more songs unrecorded. He always wrote the lyrics to his songs first, usually putting them to music shortly before recording them, sometimes right in the studio.  All the lyrics on this album are from notebooks that Hank kept his future songs in.  The artists on this album were asked to select a song from Hank’s notebooks, write the music for it and record it.  The results were amazing, and an incredibly heartfelt tribute.

Although all of the artists on this album are self-proclaimed Hank Williams fans, not all are country music stars. Along side Alan Jackson, Merle Haggard, Patty Loveless, Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, are Jack White, Noah Jones, Bob Dylan, Jacob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, and Levon Helm. Plus, as a special treat, one song was done by Holly Williams, Hank’s granddaughter, with her dad, Hank Williams Jr. singing backing vocals.

A bit of Hank trivia: his real name wasn’t Hank, it was Hiram King Williams.

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. 

Styx – The Mission

It’s funny how easily you can have misconceptions.

An old friend of mine went to see Styx in concert yesterday. From the post on Facebook, a friend of hers and I got into a debate about Dennis DeYoung, their singer, keyboardist, and one of their songwriters in the ’70s and ’80s, and his replacement, Lawrence Gowan. In that discussion, I made a comment in which I give them kudos for knowing that their new album wasn’t going to sell because their style of music just wasn’t popular anymore, and wasn’t what sold today, yet still releasing it anyway.

She posted that at the concert, Tommy Shaw (vocals and guitar) said their newest album was currently at number 6 on the Billboard charts. I had to check this out, and yes, that is the truth.

Here are the official chart positions for “The Mission” as of today:

#6 Top Rock Albums
#11 Physical Albums
#11 Vinyl Albums
#13 Current Albums
#14 Billboard Top Albums
#16 Retail
#29 Digital Albums
#45 Billboard 200 (includes catalog and streaming)

My faith has been restored in popular music.

As for the debate over Lawrence Gowan or Dennis DeYoung … Having seen Styx in concert a few years back as well as hearing their last two studio albums, I feel Gowan is just as accomplished on keyboards as DeYoung was. Plus, as a singer, he has all the vocal range that Dennis DeYoung had but can also have much more power in his voice when he wants. Lawrence Gowan can sing every part Dennis DeYoung could, but not so the other way around; and “The Mission” proved that Gowan is also an equal or better songwriter. I think Styx is a better more versatile band with him and the success of “The Mission” proves it.

The Tragically Hip – Road Apples

April, 1991. 

My wife and I were on our Honeymoon in Toronto, staying at the Delta Cheslea Hotel downtown. The clock radio was playing a local station as we were getting ready to head out and experience Canada’s biggest city on our first morning there.  Through the tiny speaker next to the bed, a guitar riff grabbed my ear, and I stood motionless, listening to one of the best new songs I had heard in a long time. It was a straight forward R&B tinged rocker, and it kicked! The DJ said it was “Three Pistols,” off “Road Apples,” the new album by local heroes, The Tragically Hip. I made a mental note to check them out further when my new bride and I got back to the U.S.  

When the radio station went into a commercial break, I decided to go out on the balcony and take a look out onto Young Street. As I gazed across the road, glaring back at me was a huge record above an even bigger record store – “Sam The Record Man.” I told my wife of only a couple of days then (over 25 years now) that I was going there to get that album by that band before we went back home. She just shook her head, knowing full well that I would. And, on our last day in Toronto, before heading to the train station, that’s what I did.

And that’s how I discovered The Tragically Hip.

T. Rex – The Slider

T. Rex combined folk rock, psychedelic rock, and glam rock to produce a totally unique sound.  The Slider was released in 1972 to and received both critical and popular praise.  

The front and back cover photographs were taken by Ringo Starr while he was filming a documentary about the band.