INXS – Shabooh Shoobah

“Shabooh Shoobah” was the first album from INXS, at least to everywhere in the world except Australia. For whatever reason, the two previous INXS albums were not released outside of the band’s native land. With those albums being hugely successful there in 1980 and ’81, it was decided to finally unleash their unique brand of alt/new wave synth-pop rock and roll to the rest of the world.

“Shabooh Shoobah” earned INXS a gold record and two international hit singles, including “The One Thing” which broke onto the US top-40 charts. All in all, “Shabooh Shoobah” gained INXS a loyal following around the globe, setting a strong foundation for the huge success of their next three albums.

Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

…or should I say “In the Garden of Eden”.

That is what the title song was originally supposed to be called. But when you’re too inebriated, sometimes the words don’t come out right when you try to tell your bandmates the title of the killer new song you wrote. Eastern philosophy and mysticism was hugely popular in 1968, and the drunkenly slurred title sure had that mystic vibe to it, so Iron Butterfly decided to call the song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” instead.

The song is a 17 minute psychedelic epic based around a heavy blues riff that fills the entire second side of the album. An edited down version, eliminating among other pats, a two and a half minute drum solo in the middle, was release to radio stations in 1968. It became Iron Butterfly’s biggest hit single. The album followed suit, eventually selling over 30 million copies. “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is considered by many to be the very fist heavy metal song.

Foghat

There are blues rock bands and there are blues rock bands…and then there are real blues rock bands like Foghat.

I’ve heard some modern artists today talk about being real. It’s almost become a cliché – sometimes it’s all talk. If you want to listen to a band that walked the walk…if you want to hear a band that was real, listen to any Foghat album.

Foghat was all about American blues rock. They played it hard and true. So true, that when most people first heard them, they didn’t realize they were a British band. As for me…well.. guilty as charged.

It wasn’t until I started digging back into Foghat’s early catalogue that I realized they weren’t an American blues rock band. Actually, it wasn’t until I dug beyond that. After going back to their eponymous debut, I was curious about how Foghat started; where they came from. And then I learned that Foghat was born from the ashes of Savoy Brown.

But wait…Savoy Brown was British…Holy crap! That meant that Foghat had to be…NO F’ING WAY! Foghat was a Brit band?!?! Up until then, I thought these guys were a tried and true American blues based rock band.

Then it dawned on me. That is what Foghat really is – an American blues based rock band. Sure, they came from across the Atlantic, but American blues is where their heart was. It’s what inspired them. It’s what they loved to play. It’s all they ever played. It’s what made them real.

Foghat was the most real American blues rock band ever. They just happened to be British.

Blue Öyster Cult – Agents Of Fortune

I can’t help it. Whenever I listen to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult, I can’t help but think of “More Cowbell!” (Thank you SNL).

With its combination of hard rock, prog, and pop, “Agents of Fortune” is an album often overshadowed by what became BÖC’s best known song. But true to nearly all of their albums, “Agents of Fortune” is rock solid from start to finish.

Also, like many albums by BÖC, the band collaborates with New York punk rock poet Patti Smith. Some time earlier, she and the band members had become good friends. Smith cowrote two songs on the record and sings on one them.

One of the things that gave BÖC such a varied sound, especially in their early days, was that all of the original members could sing lead vocals. On “Agents of Fortune” each one does on at least one song. It’s the only BÖC album where that is the case. Maybe that’s why it’s one of my favorite albums by them.

Peaches Records and Tapes – Atlantic Records Sampler

I remember the first time I went inside a Peaches record store in the mid ’70s. If memory serves me, it was at Grosebeck and Masonic in Fraser, MI. I used to think the local Harmony House was big, until my first time walking into that Peaches store. It was HUGE. I thought I was in heaven. If you were looking for an album, they probably had it. If they didn’t, they could get it.

Peaches, which started out in Georgia, was so huge that record labels actually made sampler records for them to play in the store. They were labeled “Not For Sale” but that didn’t mean employees couldn’t take them home after the songs had served their purpose. Inevitably, some of them would, in time, show up in used record stores or today at record collector shows. That’s where I picked this one up recently.

I had to add at least one Peaches in-store sampler to my collection, if for nothing else, the nostalgia. The joy of perusing the aisles of records, listening the latest music playing in the store is something all the dowloaders and streamers today will never understand. They have no idea of the joy they missed out on.

J. D. Blackfoot – The Song of Crazy Horse

The title track to J. D. Blackfoot’s 1973 album “The Song of Crazy Horse”, is an epic 14 minute American history lesson about the life and times of the Lakota (Sioux) American Indian leader, Crazy Horse. It’s a powerful song that speaks of the savage injustice done to the native Americans in the 19th century; how Crazy Horse led his people to fight back, ultimately wiping out the U. S. Army’s 7th Cavalry at Custer’s Last Stand, and wrapping up with Crazy Horse’s arrest and controversial death while in custody of U.S. officials the following year. With a combination of country and psychedelic rock, the song makes a powerful statement to the mistreatment of native Americans in the 19th century; a time in American history that is seldom spoken of.

The remainder of “The Song of Crazy Horse” is not nearly as lyrically intense or musically dispersed as its namesake song. “Ride Away” closes out side one as a folksy epilogue to the epic that preceded it. Side two is filled with blues rooted rockers and ballads with one oddity thrown in. The contrast in the offbeat humor of “Flushed You from the Toilets of My Heart” can’t help but stand out from the rest of this album. It serves as a reminder from J. D. Blackfoot that amongst all this seriousness, he can still have some fun. After that diversion, the album closes out with the somberly beautiful “Comin’ Down”.

“The Song of Crazy Horse” was J. D. Blackfoot’s second album. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, he moved to New Zealand before recording this album. Although it was very successful in his adoptive country, it failed to dent the charts in the his country of origin.

Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat

Cat Stevens was all about introspective and inspirational lyrics along with beautifully moving acoustic music. His fifth album, “Teaser and the Firecat” was a bit more. It was also a collection of songs that coincided with the a children’s storybook that Stevens also wrote. The album came out in 1971; the book about a year later.

The story was a fantasy tale about a young boy named Teaser and his pet Firecat who set out on a journey to find the moon, which had fallen out of the sky, and put it back in the sky, where it belonged. In addition to writing the story and accompanying songs, Cat Stevens also did all of the book’s illustrations and the cover art for the album.

I have my sister to thank for my discovering this album. She owned Cat Stevens’ previous album “Tea for the Tillerman”. At eight years old, I was enthralled by it. I got a copy of “Teaser and the Firecat” (on 8-track tape) the following year. It may well have been the first tapes or records I ever owned. I played it so much, it eventually wore out.

Right now “Teaser and the Firecat” is the only Cat Stevens album I have in my record collection. Listening to it now, I’m thinking I need to change. Maybe keep an eye (and ear) out for “Tea for the Tillerman”.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ‘n Roll

I knew I had heard Joan Jett somewhere before when “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” became her breakthrough single and album. The Internet wasn’t around back in 1981, so it took me a while to realize that along with metal rocker, Lita Ford, she was previously in the all female punk band The Runaways, best known for their minor hit “Cherry Bomb”.

Joan Jett took the punk rock edge from The Runaways and gave it just enough polish to make one of greatest albums from the ’80s. With its perfect blend of of amped up covers and power chord originals, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” was an album that really couldn’t miss. It also has one of the most iconic album covers of all time. Perfectly capturing Joan Jett’s slicked back bad and reputation sides, photographer Mick Rock said he had set out to capture something memorable, in the vein of a female Elvis. Well done Mick.

Gentle Giant – Three Friends

The story of three childhood friends and the very different paths their lives take after going their separate ways; falling out of touch with each other in adulthood. That’s the concept behind Gentle Giants eclectic 1972 progressive rock showcase.

One becomes part of the blue-collar working class. He feels trapped in a dead-end job living paycheck to paycheck. Another becomes a starving artist. Answering to no one but himself and expressing the good and hidden evil he sees in the world through his paintbrush. The third becomes a successful businessman. With his trophy wife and materialistic lifestyle he looks uses people to his own ends and looks down on the on the lazy working class and unambitious artists.

It’s not a deep concept, but it’s one that can be easily combined with different musical themes that make for a diverse combination of intricately complex arrangements which is what Gentle Giant’s music is all about.

Alice Cooper – Zipper Catches Skin

The early 80s were kind of a rough time for Alice Cooper. Even though flashy hair metal had become a popular sound, so had new wave music. The former would have been the path of least resistance for the theatrical shock rocker, but Cooper chose the more drastic transition. “Zipper Catches Skin” was the third album of four in Alice Cooper’s new wave era. Unfortunately, long time fans weren’t buying into his new sound and image and he didn’t gain many new ones from the new wave crowd. Consequently, Alice Cooper’s popularity took a big hit during the early and mid ’80s.

Alice Cooper was also battling a very personal issue during the early 1980s – addiction. Cooper had spent time in a sanitarium in the mid ’70s for treatment of alcoholism. The experience became the inspiration for his 1978 album, “From the Inside“. Tragically, he fell off the wagon a few years after recording that album. In the new decade, his addiction took over with a vengeance as he dove into heavy cocaine use combined with alcohol. He went into treatment a second time after the disease nearly killed him. Today, the long-time sober Alice refers to “Zipper Catches Skin” and his other records from the early ’80s as his “blackout” albums because he has little to no memory of writing or recording them.

Like many, I totally wrote off Alice Cooper’s new wave era; at least at first. I actually didn’t realize how good his music was from this era until I happened to hear a couple of songs from it a decade or so later. Today, these albums are some of my favorites by Alice, partly because they are so different from anything he did before or since, yet they are still, unquestionably Alice.

“Zipper Catches Skin” is the sound of Alice Cooper trying to find a creative outlet in a rapidly changing musical landscape. It may have been a commercial misstep, but it was also an adventurous musical expression of a true artist. I just wish he could remember doing it.