When you love music and you walk into a record store with no idea what you are looking for, you can end up buying a record for unconventional reasons; ones that have almost nothing to do with the music. Take for example, why “Script of the Bridge” by Chameleons U.K. is in my collection: I liked the front cover artwork. Yep, that was pretty much it. That and the notes on the back cover saying it was drawn by one of the band’s guitarists. Multi-talented, that’s good for bonus points in my book. I guess extra points were also given for the last line on the back cover: “To obtain the best effect from this L.P. please turn it up”. I think that really was the clincher. When I listen to music, I usually like to turn it up.
“Script of the Bridge” was the 1983 debut album for the U.K. band Chameleons. The band only used the “U.K.” suffix on its name for the U.S. releases of the album; there was already an American band that had dibs on Chameleons. Unfortunately, the U.S. version of this album also omits a few songs that appear on the U.K. version.
In the end, buying “Script of the Bridge” for the mostly non-musical reasons I did, paid off. The album is a post-punk masterpiece. When the needle hits the groove on this album, I have to turn it up.
After hearing The Tragically Hip’s 13th album, “Man Machine Poem”, many felt the songs were about lead singer and lyricist Gord Downie’s previously announced diagnosis with terminal brain cancer. They are not. Downie wrote all the words for them before receiving the news. Still, it’s easy to understand how the connection could be made.
Like on The Hip’s prior albums, Downie’s lyrics are poetic tapestries that can have many deep interpretations; mortality and the inevitability of death being among them. Gord Downie went beyond being a song lyricist; he was a talented and inspired poet, a humanitarian, and from what I have read, a genuinely nice guy. I had the pleasure of meeting the band members back in 1998 and my impression was that all them were.
Though Gord Downie is no longer with us, his words will forever live on in the songs of The Tragically Hip. From their 30 year of recording together, there remains more than enough unreleased material to fill a posthumous album; so maybe there is just a little more from The Tragically Hip on the horizon. One can only hope.
Samantha Fish is to blues, what Amy Winehouse was to jazz; a breath of freshness and youth added to old school inspiration. I had a friend recently recommend Samantha Fish to me. After checking her music out on the Internet, I knew it was time to add some more blues to my collection, a style that in the traditional sense I will admit my vinyl collection doesn’t have enough of.
Samantha Fish doesn’t look the part of the music she plays, not that there is a specific look for the blues. The blues is all about the music, and so is this multi-talented singer, guitarist, and songwriter from Kansas City, Missouri. “Chills and Fever” that is going to give Buddy Guy and B.B. King, and Bonnie Raitt have some serious competition when I’m in the mood to cue up an old school blues album.
Let’s Active only released three full length albums in their short recording career, but those records all but define the sound of college rock radio in the late ’80s.
“Every Dog Has His Day” was the swan song for the band fronted by Mitch Easter, who a few years earlier, made a musical name for himself producing REM’s early albums. Unfortunately, Let’s Active didn’t have the same success REM did, gaining a more modestly sized fan base, but no less dedicated fans. I was one of them. I was one of them. I remember how disappointed I was when I leaned that “Every Dog Has His Day” was going to be their last record.
Warren Zevon released “Transverse City” in 1989; a time when concept albums weren’t much en vogue. That’s the only reason I can think of for it not being as successful as his earlier, more popular albums. The songs on Transverse City are themed around a life in a futuristic world based on the stories of cyberpunk sci-fi author William Gibson.
I picked up this album not only because I liked Warren Zevon’s song writing and distinctive voice, but also because I am a fan of David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) who plays on the song “Run Straight Down”. Also appearing on this album are Jack Cassidy (Jefferson Airplane), Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), and Neil Young, among others.
But it’s not the star power that make “Transverse City” such a great recording. It is simply a collection of great songs that all revolve around a theme perfectly suited to Warren Zevon’s rock and roll style.
1975’s “One of These Nights” is the album that brought the Eagles’ popularity up to the next level.
It’s not that they didn’t already have a strong following…But when you release your first #1 album, an album that sells millions of copies, has 3 top 10 singles, and gets nominated for four Grammy awards, winning the prize for one of them…well, that becomes a game changer. Even though “One of These Nights” was the album that made the Eagles superstars, they would prove they were truly worthy of that status, following it up with 1977’s “Hotel California” and 1979’s “The Long Run“.
One of the things that is cool about record collecting is some of the unique differences between the first pressings of a record and subsequent issues. For instance, the cover on this copy of “One of These Nights” is embossed, giving the artwork more depth and definition. Also on first pressings only, the record itself has a message written on the run out area. Split between the two sides on this copy is the phrase “Don’t worry – Nothing will be O.K.!”
A hedonistic mix of alternative music and dance club beats, “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” is one of the most amazing and somewhat controversial debut albums from the ’80s.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood really held nothing back on this record, lyrically or musically. The double album had four successful singles, including the lyrically controversial “Relax” (which got banned by the BBC just before hitting #1 on the UK charts). Despite breaking the top 10 spot in numerous countries, “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” only peaked at a modest 33 in the US. It really didn’t get a lot of radio airplay here, but if you went out dancing, you couldn’t help but hear at least a few songs from FGTH in the bars and clubs. What I heard there, was enough for me to own it.
Every now and then an album comes along that breaks all the rules yet somehow still manages to become a huge hit. “OK Computer” was so unconventional that Radiohead’s record label considered it “commercial suicide”. But what do record execs know?
The lyrical themes of Radiohead’s third album revolve around increased social alienation in an age of technology, compensated for by consumerism. Musically, its influences are all over the map; hardly the stuff hit records are made of. Its musical aesthetics became significantly influential to the next decade of alternative rock and can still be felt today. Personally, OK Computer” is one of my top favorite albums; an amazing piece of musical art and social commentary.
The experimental adventure of “OK Computer” became one of Radiohead’s most successful albums, topping the UK charts and hitting #21 in the US. It has sold over 7 million copies. Receiving almost immediate commercial and critical success after its release in 1997, “OK Computer” was nominated for the Record of the Year Grammy and won for Best Alternative Album. In 2014 it was archived the US Library of Congress National Recording Registry as being a record of cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance.
The debut major label release from what should have been a band that deserved more than the moderate success the received near the end of the ’80s. The first thing I thought of when I heard Eleventh Dream Day’s “Beet” was Neal Young meets Sonic Youth.
I have to admit, it’s been years since I listened to this album. I’m amazed I didn’t buy more by Eleventh Dream Day back in the day. Then again, I was going to the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts at the time and there were a lot us there turning each other on to new sounds. There was so much new music I was discovering. The punk energy and raw emotion from these Chicago alt-rockers is what stood out from the pack to me with “Beet”. Listening to it again all these years later, it’s easy to remember why.
I know Heart had their biggest success in the ’80s, but I will alway like their stuff from the ’70s more. It rocked a little harder, but could still be just as soft and touching. Nancy Wilson’s vocals seemed more emotional and Ann Wilson’s guitar more inspired.
Heart made some great music during both eras, but on “Magazine” and their other earlier records, the songs seemed more personal. There’s more feeling, more raw emotion, more…Heart.
Well then…Enough said.