Friday, March 30, 2018

10 Albums in 10 Days; Day 7: "Eroica," by Wendy & Lisa

This 1990 release, Eroica, is Wendy & Lisa's 3rd release, and without a doubt, their best.

Yes, there is a Prince influence. After all, these girls were a part of the Revolution and played with him for years. But, they wrote all their own material and the album was produced by Tony Berg. So apart from the influence, this is a relatively Prince-free effort. And I know this will be blasphemy to many, but I would prefer to listen to this record over any Prince release.

Highlights are "Mother of Pearl," "Don't Try to Tell Me," "Why Wait for Heaven," "Valley Vista," and "Staring at the Sun." "Mother of Pearl" is worth the price of admission alone. What an amazing song with killer chord progressions.

These tracks are made all the better by the killer rhythm section of Carla Azar on drums and Allen Kamai on bass. 

There's a lot of funk and groove on this record, but the feel and atmosphere of the songs I've mentioned above make it much more than just a funk-pop record and into something really unique and special.

10 Albums in 10 Days; Day 6: "Out of the Silent Planet," by King's X

Ok, those of you who know me knew this was coming - not necessarily this album, per se, but definitely this band.

Picking one album from King's is like my Sophie's Choice.

Back in the late 80's, my band was playing at a club, Union Station, in Wilmington. The sound man, Aaron (R.I.P.) was tuning up the system to a CD I'd never heard before. The music that was coming out of the sound system stopped me in my tracks. I remember standing on the edge of the stage and listening. I had to know what I was hearing. "King's X," Aaron replied when I asked. I responded, "Who?" This is the same response I get every time I mention this band.

Few people have heard of them, but those who have tend to have huge respect for them as players, songwriters, innovators, and many view Doug Pinnick, their lead singer, as one of the best voices in rock. (Richie Blackmore asked Doug to front Deep Purple for a tour.)

This album, their 1988 debut, is one of the best first efforts by a band, ever. The harmonies layered over drop-tuned riffs, featuring the growling sound of Doug's 12-string bass, offer a new and different sound: Beatles meet Black Sabbath with a tinge of Texas rock. There's also an American Indian influence to some of their music. Many musicians, including Jeff Ahmet of Pearl Jam, credit King's X as being the first grunge band. (I never thought of them as grunge, but I appreciate the influence they had on those bands,)

The second track, "Goldilox" is the hit ballad that never was. I often state that it's my favorite song. "Power of Love," "King," and "Shot of Love" are all songs that could have, should have been hits. "Far, Far Away" is another powerful favorite of many King's X fans. 

This album came at a time in my life when I was also going through a spiritual re-awakening. I hated most "Christian" rock and wanted to be anything but that. These guys were able to sing about their faith in a way that was refreshing- it wasn't preachy. I was inspired by them to find a way to write about what mattered to me in a way that wasn't contrived. They definitely had a big influence on me in the years that followed my discovery of them.

I've been a huge fan now, for almost 30 years. Next to the Beatles, they are my favorite band.

10 Albums in 10 days; Day 5: ELO, "Out of the Blue."

I am a huge fan of Jeff Lynne. Many of his songs have left an indelible impact on me. "Can't Get It Out of My Head," is an all-time classic song. (Loved Velvet Revolver's cover of that song.)

In 1976, the top-ten hit "Telephone Line," dominated the airwaves.

In 1978, ELO released the double-album, "Out of the Blue." It would become their highest-charting album, reaching #4 on the US charts.

I loved this album when it came out, particularly the end of side two, "Believe Me Now" and "Steppin' Out," and side three's "Concerto for a Rainy Day." "Big Wheels" is one of my favorite songs, ever. I get chills every time I listen to it. Over time, this album has gained even more popularity and songs like "Mr. Blue Sky" have become a staple.

I could have easily chosen "El Dorado," "Face the Music," or "New World Record," a record that I love just as much as this one. ("Mission: A World Record" is a masterpiece.) So why "Out of the Blue?"

The greatest thing about my love of music is being able to share it with my children. (They're all Beatle fans and King's X fans.) I took a road trip with DD Rachel this last year. She had a gymnastics meet in Erie, PA. On the ride back, I put on this record. She loved it. When we got home, she demanded that I put it on her playlist and that my wife add it to the van's music library.

The other night, we were coming home late from an event and I pulled this up on the van's library. I could hear Rachel quietly singing along with every track. I swear she knows this record better than I do.

Sharing this with her is ... the best.

10 Albums in 10 Days; Day 4: STP No. 4

2000 was an interesting time in my life. Several years earlier I had pretty much walked away from music. I wasn't listening to anything new, I wasn't playing, I wasn't singing. I was in a dark place, musically speaking. 

I took a 2-week-long trip to Arizona and, during a free weekend, I went on a trip into the desert. I took nothing with me except a T-shirt, a gallon of water, and 2 CDs I bought at the K-Mart. I hopped in the rental and drove the Beeline Highway, through several national forests, to Winslow. I was on a mission of self-discovery. (I would eventually arrive at the Grand Canyon where I was overwhelmed.)

One of the 2 CDs I bought was STP's No.4. 

I had heard "Sour Girl," somewhere, and had owned "Purple" at one time.

I wasn't prepared for what I heard. The opening track, "Down," was so heavy and demanded my attention. Then the band delivers a left hook with "Heaven and Hot Rods." I was hearing raw, heavy rock and roll like I hadn't heard in years. Other favorites include the brilliant pop song "Church on Sunday," the driving "No Way Out," the epic, "Glide," and "Atlanta," where Scott Weiland channels his best Jim Morrison. In the end, there's not a track on this record that I don't love."

We lost a brilliant artist when we lost Scott. His pop and raw rock sensibilities mixed with the musical brilliance of the DeLeo brothers made for some amazing songwriting. I miss him.

Moreover, I'm grateful that this album reignited something in me that I thought had died. I've listened to music much differently since then.

10 Albums in 10 Days; Day 3 - Chris Whitley, "Living With the Law"

Once in a while, an album comes along that, as a songwriter, I wish I'd written. Without a doubt, this is one of those few and rare albums.

I've written about Chris in the past. And here we are again. Chris should have been huge, but like most great artists, his material just wasn't accessible to the masses.

This debut record, released in 1991, stands as one of the greatest debut records I've ever heard. He has some other great records in his catalog, but none of them stand up to this amazing collection.

He writes about big open skies, dusty dirt roads, flirting with booze and guns, Texas prisons, neglectful fathers, forbidden love, and bible-belt inspired visions. His music - a perfect match for his lyrical content - features incredible blues and country-based riffs and melodies on a steel dobro. His vocal style is unique and mesmerizing - haunting. 

I love every track on this record, but the three that stand out for me are, "Big Sky Country," "Dust Radio," and "Bordertown."

We lost Chris to lung cancer - he was never without a smoke - in 2005. 

I got to see him twice on the tour for this album - once with the full band, and another time, solo, in a small club with about 50 people in attendance. That night, he played every song from the record in its rawest, purest form: just Chris with his dobro and a stomp box to keep the time. He wasn't going to play "Dust Radio" (if you hear the huge production on the album with the band, you can understand why he was reluctant) but we convinced him to do it. It was magical.

To this day, it's still the best show I've ever been to.

10 Albums in 10 Days; Day 2 - The Tubes.

My first exposure to The Tubes was the video stuff from "Completion Backwards Principle" that was rotated on MTV in the first few weeks of its existence. Then, a friend turned me onto "What Do You Want From Life," the second track on what was then the second side of this record. (Of course, the art of sides is lost on a CD.)

My life was changed in an instant.

I was blown away by the talent and diversity of this band. What I had originally dismissed as a glam-punk act like the Plasmatics turned out to be so much more.

This first album, produced by Al Kooper, features progressive Rock ("Up From the Deep"), San Francisco Swing ("Haloes"), Mariachi ("Malaguena Salerosa"), Las Vegas Show (What Do You Want From Life?"), and sounds that only The Tubes could make in raw rockers like "Mondo Bondage," and "Boy Crazy."

The writing is complicated, tight, soulful, technical, lyrically brilliant... I can't say enough about them, musically. Unfortunately, the band's on-stage antics always got more attention than their music - an assumption that I had fallen to - which is a real tragedy.

Prairie Prince is one of the greatest drummers alive, (Don't miss his playing in "Up From the Deep" and "What Do You Want From Life") and the playing of Roger Steen (lead guitar) and Vince Welnick (piano and keys) is unparalleled in almost any rock act. They are true masters of their instruments. Fee Waybill (lead vocals) and Bill Spooner (guitar, lead vocals) bring a vocal sound to the band that is raw and soulful. The band is rounded out by way-better-than-average bassist Rick Anderson and Synth player, Michael Cotten.

The first two records, this one and "Young and Rich," I think are must-haves in any serious collection.
This album was the start of a life-long love affair with this band. I have their entire catalog and have probably seen them live more than any other act. They also led me to Todd Rundgren, an amazing songwriter, performer, and producer that far too many people have never heard of. Todd produced two Tubes albums: "Remote Control" and "Love Bomb."

The Tubes self-titled debut is definitely cemented in my top 10 records, ever.

10 Albums in 10 Days; Day One. Abbey Road

Wow, almost 4 years since I last posted. That's sad ;)

Let's try this one more time...

I started this 10 albums in 10 days challenge on Facebook recently. I'm having so much fun with it that it has become 20 albums in ... you get the idea. I'm going to stay away from albums that a lot of people are familiar with, i.e. Zepplin IV, etc.

There may be a few exceptions to that if the album hit a particular milestone, such as this one.

This is where it all started for me. I was 12. Some friends were starting a band and I wanted to be included. They turned me onto some Beatles' stuff and I had just seen "A Hard Day's Night" twice in a row thanks to a screw-up at one of our local TV stations.

I didn't know anything about the Beatles, except that I occasionally caught "Help" on TV and a babysitter had taken me to the theater to see Yellow Submarine when I was 4. My memory of that was sketchy, to say the least.

I grew up in a strict, religious household, so rock and roll was verboten. My dad would listen to stuff with horns as he fancied himself a horn player, so there was some Chicago and Three-Dog Night, The Carpenters, and The 5th Dimension, etc., but that was it. No Beatles.

Eventually, my parents divorced and one night I asked my mother to buy me a Beatles' album. I didn't even know what titles to ask for. She came home that night with two: "Meet the Beatles" and "Abbey Road" - the bookends to their U.S. catalog. "Meet the Beatles" was more of what I was expecting: short pop tunes reminiscent of what I'd heard in "A Hard Day's Night." I hadn't heard of any of the songs on "Abbey Road."

I didn't know where to start. So my 12-year-old brain did the most logical thing and started with "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window." I liked it. Then I started at the beginning. "Come Together" changed my life. I listened to it over and over. That bass line... those lyrics... It made me feel like I was sinning. All sorts of things came alive in me that I didn't know were there. My mother begged me to play something else.

I was in love with that record. It opened doors to all kinds of other music that I had never known about: Yes, Genesis, Zappa, and on and on. It's still my second favorite Beatles' album. (My next purchase was "Revolver," my favorite.)

I could go into a long, track-by-track analysis, but if you don't already know this record by heart, my analysis won't do it justice. Just buy it and listen. I will say that my favorite Beatles' track is on this album: "You Never Give Me Your Money." I think that song is the start of some great stuff McCartney would do later, like "Uncle Abert/Admiral Halsey" and "Back Seat of My Car."

Speaking of which, "Ram" will definitely make this 10 album list.