Radiohead – OK Computer

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.

Heart – Magazine

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.

‘Til Tuesday – Voices Carry

With ’80s new wave and alternative rock breaking into the mainstream, the timing couldn’t have been better for ‘Til Tuesday’s debut album “Voices Carry”. Of course, having a collection of great songs sung by Aimee Mann’s distinctive voice didn’t hurt either.

It’s no surprise that Aimee Mann would go on to great solo success in the 1990s and 2000s. She really is the shining star here. In addition to singing, she also plays bass guitar, wrote all the lyrics and helped to compose the music for every song. (She can also play guitar, though she doesn’t on this album).

It may be Aimee Mann’s voice that gives first notice to ‘Till Tuesday’s songs, but underneath, it’s her bass lines being very up front in the mix that becomes the glue holding them together. She has the restraint to keep things simple when necessary but also the ability to lay down some impressive low-end. The bass line to the album’s opening track, “Love in a Vacuum”, is a perfect example, as is her funk driven playing on “Looking Over My Shoulder”.

Cheap Trick – Dream Police

Cheap trick pulled out all the stops for “Dream Police”. Their fourth studio album, released in 1979, combined a hard rock edge with slick studio production. The occasional use of a string section, layered arrangements, textured vocals and of course, great rock and roll hooks – often reminiscent of the Beatles – helped it became the most successful studio album of Cheap Trick’s career. Following in the surprise success of “Live at Budokan” didn’t hurt either.

Tom Petersson’s use of an 8 and 12 string bass give many of the songs on “Dream Police” a growling underbelly that adds just the right amount of tarnish to the mostly otherwise polished production. It is the perfect compliment to Bun E. Carlos’ solid drumming and Rick Neilson’s playfully serious guitar work. The variety of songs on “Dream Police” also provide the perfect showcase for Robin Zander’s diverse snarling and crooning vocal styles.

One of the best albums ever by the boys from Rockford, Illinois.

Michael Stanley Band – MSB

The National spotlight was something that was forever elusive to the Michael Stanley Band, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t find success or dedicated fans. Easily the most popular band in Cleveland, Ohio and well-known throughout America’s heartland, MSB’s perfect blend of straight forward rock, pop hooks, and ballads had them filling arenas as headliners and opening up for huge national acts throughout the mid ’70s into the ’80s. Outside of the US Midwest however, they could have a hard time filling bars.

“MSB”, should have been an album that broke the Micheal Stanley Band out to the rest of the country – and the world for that matter. Then again, you could have said that about any of their records.

If I had to pick a favorite song off of “MSB”, I suppose it would be “In Between the Lines”, the album’s opening track. But thinking about it now, I really think that’s only because it primes me for what I know is coming: More great songs, more great hooks, more great ’80s rock.

Personally, I think “MSB” is one of the 100 greatest rock albums of the ’80s, even if it didn’t make that Rolling Stone list. They didn’t know what they missed out on back then. Neither did the rest of the world. Except for Cleveland and the rest of America’s heartland. We knew.

Grand Funk Railroad – Mark, Don & Mel

I don’t think there was a band loved more by their fans and hated more by the music press than Grand Funk Railroad. They sold millions of albums and sold out huge arenas in record time, yet their albums were almost universally dissed by music critics. Bad press was something that Grand Funk learned to get used to. Eventually, they laughed at it. After five solid albums in just three years, they began to revel in it.

“Mark, Don & Mel” is a best of compilation comprised of songs from those first five albums…and the brutal reviews of them. I think I get almost as much enjoyment reading the press reviews Grand Funk gathered up and put on the record sleeves of this double album as I do listening to the music. Puttin the scathing press reviws on the record sleeves was the Flint Michigan’s bands way of flipping the bird to the critics. It was their way of saying “What the F*** do you know? Did you sell millions of records? Did you top the music charts numerous times? Did you sell out Shea Stadium faster than the Beatles?”

Yeah, the critics loved to hate Grand Funk Railroad and Grand Funk loved it and wanted their fans to know it. Because Grand Funk knew their fans didn’t care about the critics; they cared about the music. And Grand Funk Railroad’s music kicked some serious ass.

Meh, what do critics know anyway?

Ringo Starr – Ringo

When Ringo Starr released his third solo album in 1973, it was the closest any album would ever come to a Beatles reunion. All three of Ringo’s former bandmates share writing credits and perform on the record. True, they never all appear together on one song and there were no Lennon & McCartney penned songs, but hey, Beatles fans would take what they could get.

The album also included a slew of other guest musicians throughout and became Ringo’s inspiration for touring through decades following with his “All Star Band” of constantly rotating members.

“Ringo” remains among the most successful among the solo records from any former Beatle. It sold over three million copies, hit number 7 on the UK, number 2 in the US, and topped the charts in Canada. The album also score three hit singles fo Ringo: “Photograph”, You’re Sixteen”, and “Oh My My”.

The Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now

You really can feel the influence of producer Todd Rundgren on the Psychedelic Furs third album, “Forever Now”. Still, I wonder what David Bowie had done with it.

Adding just a little polish to their post-punk sound and expanding their music with the occasional cello or horns, Rundgren helped give The Psychedelic Furs their first big hit album in the US. They already had two in the UK, with producer Steve Lillywhite in the control room.

But Todd Rundgren wasn’t The Furs first choice to sit at the helm of “Forever Now”. David Bowie was a big proponent of the Psychedelic Furs, speaking highly of them on numerous occasions. The Furs had also considered Bowie a big influence and approached him first. Unfortunately, Bowie was tied up with work on his own album, “Let’s Dance”.

Although Steve Lillywhite was responsible for opening American audiences to The Psychedelic Furs, giving them their first taste of success across the Atlantic with their second album, “Talk Talk Talk” it was “Forever Now” that opened the band up to a broader base and gave them their first album to break into Billboard’s Hot 100. The song “Love My Way” also received significant airplay on MTV. Along with “Talk Talk Talk”, “Forever Now” is the Psychedelic Furs at their creative best.

Still, I wonder what David Bowie had done with it.

Bob Welch – French Kiss

Bob Welch released French Kiss, his debut solo album, in 1974. Before that, he was the person most responsible for transitioning Fleetwood Mac from an edgy blues band to more melodic rock and roll superstars. Yet he was not inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of the band.

Welch joined Fleetwood Mac as their rhythm guitarist in 1971, when Jeremy Spencer and lead guitarist Peter Green left the group. Almost immediately, Welch’s musical opinions clashed with Fleetwood Mac’s remaining guitarist Danny Kirwan. A year and a half later Kirwin was fired for his alcohol abuse and increasingly volatile behavior. Although Welch’s influence had already started a metamorphosis in Fleetwood Mac’s sound, the change became much more pronounced once Bob Welch had more creative input.

Bob Welch left Fleetwood Mac in 1974 to pursue other musical interests. He was replaced by Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. With the new lineup, Fleetwood Mac continued on with the musical style Bob Welch was significant in helping them forge.

Although Bob Welch was not one of the original founding members of Fleetwood Mac and left the group just before they had their greatest commercial success, I think it was unfair for the RRHoF to not have included him in the roster of Fleetwood Mac band members to be inducted. Fleetwood Mac would have probably never transitioned into the superstar band they became without Bob Welch.

The Beach Boys – Endless Summer

It is truly amazing how much music the Beach Boys made in their first few years together. After their debut, they went on to release three albums a year for the next three years. “Endless Summer” is a compilation of The Beach Boys’ greatest hits from those first 10 albums from 1962 to 1965.

When “Endless Summer” came out in 1974 nobody expected it to do as well as it did. It was really just a case of the groups record label, Capitol, trying to cash in on some of the Beach Boys earlier songs following a drop in their popularity and Brian Wilson’s mental health issues. Even though the songs on “Endless Summer” were near or beyond a decade old, the album shot up to the number one spot on the Billboard charts and sparked a renewed interest in the Beach Boys’ music.

Overall, The Beach Boys have sold over 100 million records, making them one of the most commercially successful bands ever.