Alice Cooper – School’s Out

Alice Cooper wanted to do something special with the cover of their fifth album, “School’s Out”, so to fit the theme of its title, it folded out into and opened like an old school desk…with a pair of schoolgirl’s panties wrapped around the album.

That’s what’s cool, outside of the sound itself, about vinyl. I mean, just try to do that with a CD. The tiny size just wouldn’t work.

But “School’s Out” isn’t an album that’s just about the packaging. It is considered by many, including your’s truly, to be the original Alice Cooper band’s best album.

The fold-out cover was only used on the original pressings of “School’s Out” and the panties were pulled after the very first issue of the album. It’s rumored that some of the executives at Warner Brothers records felt it was in poor taste.

The full package, with the panties included, is so rare that I had to steal this copy from the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas.

Just kidding. But it is hard to find. And the Hard Rock, Las Vegas does have a copy on display there.

Neil Diamond – The Jazz Singer (Soundtrack) – Original Master Recording

Terrible movie. Amazing soundtrack.

You can tell I really like an album if I have an original master recording of it. If you have a decent turntable and turntable and sound system, the dynamics of an original master recording are so much better than standard records. They were also much pricier. I only ever bought an original master recording if it was an album that I felt should never be listened to as a backdrop. Whenever it was cued up, it deserved to be appreciated.

“The Jazz Singer” was Neil Diamond at his absolute best. Well, at least the album was. The movie on the other hand… … …Let’s not go there.

Sade – Diamond Life

There’s a reason “Diamond Life” by Sade (pronounced shah-DAY) was one of the best-selling debut albums in the ’80s. It’s musical combination of jazz, soul, and pop made the songs infectious and irresistible. And then there’s Sade Adu’s sultry and seductive voice. This is the perfect album to start off the day or relax to at the end of it.

Born in Nigeria, Helen Folasade Adu eventually moved to England where her creativity and beautifully exotic looks landed her careers in both modeling and fashion design. But it was while singing background vocals for a local band, Pride, that she found music to be her true calling. Changing her performing name to Sade Adu, she convinced three members of Pride to form a band with her. My guess is it didn’t take much convincing.

“Diamond Life” went on to sell over 4 million copies worldwide and topped the charts in numerous European countries. It hit number 2 in the U.K. and number 5 in the U.S. In the following years, Sade released many more successful albums earning them 9 Grammy nominations, taking home four. Their most recent album, “Soldier of Love” was released in 2010. It hit number 4 in the U.K. and topped the U.S charts.

The Alarm – Strength

Hailing from Wales in the United Kingdom, The Alarm was a band that had a sound falling somewhere in between mainstream rock and alternative rock music of the 1980s. It was both a blessing and a curse for them. The blessing was they got some airplay on both the long-established rock radio stations and the newer alternative stations that were gaining an audience. The curse was they were too alternative for the mainstream and too mainstream for the alternative to really make a significant mark in either market.

Personally, it was that finding the middle ground that drew me to their music. I always felt they were one of the most underrated bands of the ’80s.

The Jam – Live At The Music Machine 2nd March 1978

I wonder…
If I had been a London teen in the ’60s, would I have been a Mod or a Rocker?

Thank God I was born a decade too late for that and was able to experience the mutation of the two in Great Britain’s mod revival of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The problem was I grew up near Detroit and had somewhat limited musical exposure until I went in the U.S. Army. I had never heard of the mod revival or The Jam, until they were about to split up in 1982.

There was probably no band more significant in the mod revival than The Jam. Combining new wave and punk rock music with rhythm and blues reminiscent of The Who and The Kinks along with a relaxed yet formal presentation of the 1960s jazz modernists, The Jam were like the new second coming of rock and roll to me.

It was the clashing and symbiosis of the old and new music that intrigued me. It made me realize that there were so many bands and so much music beyond just what was popular in the United States. The Jam were highly influential for me expanding my musical tastes beyond just what I was comfortable with. To me The Jam was life changing music. Although I was disappointed that The Jam broke up shortly after I discovered them, Paul Weller did move on to form Style Council and release some great solo stuff. That was a pretty good consolation.

Hank Williams – The Hank Williams Treasury

Growing up in the golden age of vinyl my main music of choice was the same as most of my friends: rock and roll. But that wasn’t the only genre I grew with up with in abundance. My dad listened almost exclusively to country music. Consequently, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Ray Price were as much a part of the soundtrack of my youth as were Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and The Who.

Even though my dad didn’t get my definition of rock and roll back then (his never went beyond Bill Hailey and the Comets, Elvis, and early Beatles) I liked a lot of the country music he listened to. Of all the country artists I grew up with, Hank Williams was by far, my favorite.

I had no Hank Williams records in my collection when I ran across this 1976 four album box set at a used record store four or five years ago. When I saw it and looked at the songs on it, I had to wonder why not.

Although considered to be one of the most influential country music artist ever, Hank’s heavy use of southern blues influences in the songs he wrote and performed made just as much of an impact on the formative days of rock and roll. Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to his music all those years ago.

U.K. – Night After Night

Eddie Jobson is an amazing musician. Case in point: his role in the British progressive rock band U.K. Not only could he play keyboards to a level that would make even Mozart smile, he was even more so a virtuoso on violin.

After their debut album, the prog rock supergroup lost its original drummer, Bill Bruford and lead guitarist extraordinaire Alan Holdsworth over creative differences. For their second album, “Danger Money”, U.K. replaced Bruford with the equally talented Terry Bozzio. The band decided to replace Holdsworth with…well, nobody. They instead placed more emphasis on Eddie Jobson’s keyboards and electric violin for the solos. Jobson was more than up to the challenge with their newer songs.

But what about playing the older songs live, on tour?

“Night After Night” answered that question in true evocation of Holdsworth’s talent. It’s on Alan Holdsworth’s solos where Eddie Jobson proves how amazing he is. He not only switches from keys to violin flawlessly but also adopts Holdsworth’s complex jazz infused solos perfectly to the violin without so much as flinching. If this was the album where you first heard U.K. you would swear the solos were written for electric violin.

Come to think of it, this is the album where I first heard U.K.

Well then, there you go.

Rhythm Corps – Esprit De Corps

The first album I ever heard by what is still one of my favorite Detroit bands. This is one of those records I took a chance on, having never heard anything by Rhythm Corps. I don’t know if I had even heard of them at all before I saw “Esprit De Corps” on the record store shelf.

What drew me to this record was the cover artwork, which reminded me of an M. C. Escher drawing. With the pictures of bombs morphing into crosses, I loved the statement it made against all the wars that have been fought and lives that have been lost over religion. I had to buy it. Never regretted it; one of my all-time favorite records from the ’80s.

Rick Springfield – Wait For Night

“Wait for Night” is a hidden gem in Rick Springfield’s discography. When he first started out, Springfield’s music was purely bubble-gum pop. He even did the music for a Saturday morning kid’s cartoon at one point. When he released his first two albums his music had become a bit more mature leaning toward light rock and pop.

It was Rick Springfield’s third album that first had the sound most people associate with the Australian singer, guitarist, and songwriter. This is the precursor to his multi-million selling breakthrough “Working Class Dog” and his mega-hit “Jessie’s Girl”. The songs here are very much in the power-pop rock style on that album.

“Wait for Night” could have easily been Rick Springfield’s breakthrough record instead of “Working Class Dog”. The songs are well written (all of them penned by Sprinfield) and his backing band was as solid as you coul get, featuring the former rhythm section from Elton John’s band. Unfortunately, the a was released on a small record label that couldn’t really promote the record other than to send promotional copies to radio stations hoping they would play it. Most passed. Still, the record grabbed the ear of someone at RCA Records who signed Springfield, and the rest was history.

After the success of “Working Class Dog” RCA reissued “Wait for Night” with different cover art and the album broke onto the Billboard chats.

The record in my collection is one of the promotional copies that was given to radio stations. One of the things that make it unique to the commercial copies is that the song listings on the label show the musical intro time before the singing starts. This was so the disk jockey could know how far he could talk over the beginning of each song.