Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Stylistics - Let’s Put It All Together (1974)

“Let’s Put It All Together” by The Stylistics (1974)
Release Date: May 1974
Produced by Hugo & Luigi, Thom Bell
Genre: R&B, Philadelphia Soul, Quiet Storm
Label: Avco

Chart Positions: #14 (US), #26 (UK), #4 (US R&B)
Certifications: Gold (US), Silver (UK)
Awards: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: 
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” #1 (Canada, Brazil), #2 (US, UK), #3 (Australia), #6 (South Africa), #11 (Netherlands), #23 (Belgium), #5 (US R&B), #6 (US Adult Contemporary)
“Let’s Put It All Together” #4 (Brazil), #9 (UK), #18 (US), #8 (US R&B), #26 (US Adult Contemporary)
Singles Certifications: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” (US Gold, UK Silver)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A

Best Tracks: “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” “Let’s Put It All Together Again,” “I Got A Letter,” “We Can Make It Happen Again,” “Doin’ The Street”

“Let's Put It All Together is the fourth studio album by The Stylistics and was their best selling album overall.

The album reached #14 on the Billboard 200, their highest ever position on that chart, and #4 on the R&B albums chart. "You Make Me Feel Brand New", which originally appeared in a five-minute version on their previous album, Rockin' Roll Baby, was included in an edited version. This version was released as a single and became a huge hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. It also peaked at #5 on R&B singles chart and #6 on the Easy Listening chart. “You Make Me Feel Brand New” ended up being The Stylistics biggest hit worldwide and was their last to reach the Top 15 in the US. This was written by the Philadelphia songwriters Linda Creed and Thom Bell. Both songwriters made huge contributions to the Philadelphia Soul sound, writing many hits for The Stylistics and The Spinners. Bell also produced this track.

You Make Me Feel Brand New (1974)

The title track, “Let’s Put It All Together,” was also successful, peaking at number #18 on the Billboard Hot 100, their last big hit on that chart, #8 on the R&B singles chart, and #9 on the UK Singles chart. The Hugo & Luigi tracks were arranged and conducted by Van McCoy.

The following review appeared in the May 11, 1974 issue of Billboard Magazine in the Top Album Picks section:
"One of today's finer soul congregations, able to offer a variety of styles both vocally and instrumentally. The falsetto vocals so popular in soul is prominent, but the group is also able to offer lead singers with more traditional sounding vocalizing as well as serving up a healthy dish of harmonizing. Production of Hugo & Luigi is as outstanding as it was 15 years ago. Sure to get Pop and MOR play as well as soul play. Best Cuts: Let's Put It All Together," "You Make Me Feel Brand New," "I Got Time On My Hands." Dealers: Group has been around and is well known. Use step down display if possible."

The Stylistics 1974


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger (1975)

“Red Headed Stranger” by Willie Nelson (1975)
Release Date: May 1975
Produced by Willie Nelson
Genre: Country, Outlaw Country
Label: Columbia

Chart Positions: #28 (US), #88 (Australia), #90 (Canada), #1 (US Country), #7 (Canadian Country)
Certifications: 2xPlatinum (US), Gold (Canada)
Awards: Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance for “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”

Singles and Chart Positions: “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” #21 (US), #40 (Canada), #57 (Australia), #1 (US Country), #12 (US Adult Contemporary), #2 (Canadian Country), #9 (Canadian Adult Contemporary), “Remember Me” #67 (US), #78 (Canada), #2 (US Country), #6 (Canadian Country)
 “Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Time of the Preacher,” “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” “Red Headed Stranger,” “O’er The Waves,” “Hands On The Wheel,” “Bandera”

“Red Headed Stranger” is Willie Nelson’s 18th studio album and his first for Columbia Records. A concept album, Red Headed Stranger is about a fugitive on the run from the law after killing his wife and her lover. The content consists of songs with brief poetic lyrics and arrangements of older material such as Fred Rose's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain", Wolfe Gilbert's "Down Yonder" and Juventino Rosas' "O'er the Waves". Despite Columbia's doubts and the limited instrumentation, Red Headed Stranger was a blockbuster among country music and mainstream audiences. It was certified multi-platinum, and made Nelson one of the most recognized artists in country music. The cover of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," released as a single, previous to the album’s full release became Nelson's first number one country music hit. The title of the album would become a lasting nickname for Nelson. The song also won the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. Also nominated that year were; "Country Boy (You've Got Your Feet In L.A.) by Glen Campbell, "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" by John Denver, "Before The Next Teardrop Falls" by Freddy Fender, "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" by Waylon Jennings and Misty" by Ronnie Milsap.

The concept for the album was inspired by the "Tale of the Red Headed Stranger", a song that Nelson used to play as a disk jockey on his program in Fort Worth, Texas.

In 1973 Nelson signed a contract for $25,000 per year with Atlantic Records, the first country artist signed by the label. His first album with Atlantic was the critically acclaimed Shotgun Willie, which was followed by one of the first concept albums in country music, Phases and Stages. Due to the success of these recordings, Nelson signed with Columbia Records, and was given complete creative control.

During his return to Austin, after a ski trip in Colorado, Nelson was inspired by his then-wife, Connie Koepke, to write a western concept album. Koepke suggested the inclusion of Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith's "Tale of the Red Headed Stranger", which Nelson sang during his radio shows on KCNC in Fort Worth and previously, to his children at bedtime. Nelson decided to write a complete story that included details of events prior to the ones described in the song. As he spontaneously composed the songs, Koepke wrote down the lyrics. With his original writings, Nelson included on the story, Fred Rose's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain", Wolfe Gilbert's "Down Yonder", Juventino Rosas' "O'er the Waves", Hank Cochran's "Can I Sleep in Your Arms?", Eddy Arnold's "I Couldn't Believe it Was True", and Billy Callery's "Hands on the Wheel". When he arrived in Austin, Nelson recorded a demo of the songs on a tape recorder accompanied with his guitar at his ranch in Fitzhugh Road.

"Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" (1975)

Red Headed Stranger's critical success cemented Nelson's outlaw image, and made him one of the most recognized artists in country music. Rolling Stone writer Paul Nelson wrote: "Red Headed Stranger is extraordinarily ambitious, cool, tightly controlled.... Hemingway, who perfected an art of sharp outlines and clipped phrases, used to say that the full power of his composition was accessible only between the lines; and Nelson, on this LP, ties precise, evocative lyrics to not quite remembered, never really forgotten folk melodies to create a similar effect, haunting yet utterly unsentimental. Meanwhile, music critic Chet Flippo wrote in a Texas Monthly article entitled "Mathew, Mark, Luke and Willie: Willie Nelson's latest album is more than a good country music; it's almost Gospel": "The difference between Nelson's Red Headed Stranger and any current C&W album, and especially what passes for a soundtrack for Nashville, is astounding. What Nelson has done is simply unclassifiable; it is the only record I have heard that strikes me as otherworldly. Red Headed Stranger conjures up such strange emotions and works on so many levels that listening to it becomes totally obsessing".

Prior to the success of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," Nelson had enjoyed widespread success primarily as a songwriter, with such songs as "Crazy" (Patsy Cline) and "Hello Walls" (Faron Young). As a performer, meanwhile, Nelson had hit the Top 10 of the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart just twice; it had happened in 1962, once as a solo artist ("Touch Me") and again as part of a duet with Shirley Collie ("Willingly"). Thereafter, Nelson had approached the Top 20 on occasion, but went 13 years without a Top 10 hit.

In October 1975, the song became Nelson's first #1 country music hit as a singer, and at year's end was the third-biggest song of 1975 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. In addition, the song gained modest airplay on Top 40 radio, reaching #21 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" #302 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Billboard Magazine Review (June 14, 1975):
One of country's all-time great writers and performers and a man whose material is equally well known to the pop world ("Funny How Time Slips Away," "Night Life," "Crazy," "Hello Walls") comes up with a concept LP that is already receiving strong pop FM play. Lots of instrumental work and particularly fine piano from Bobbie Nelson and the usual distinct highly stylized Willie Nelson vocals. Best Cuts: "Red Headed Stranger," "Can I Sleep In Your Arms," "Remember Me," "time of the Preacher."

Willie Nelson (1975)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco - Celia and Johnny (1974)

“Celia & Johnny” by Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco (1974)
Release Date: March 26, 1975
Produced by Jerry Masucci
Genre: Salsa, Guaracha, Bolero
Label: Vaya Records, Fania

Chart Positions: N/A
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: “Quimbara,” “Toro Mata,” El Pasa Del Mullo”
Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: N/A/
Best Tracks: “Quimbara,” “Toro Mata,” “El Paso,” “Lo Tuyo Es Mental,” “No Mercedes”

“Celia y Johnny,” undoubtedly the most important album in Celia Cruz’s career, opened the doors of success for the famous Cuban singer with the force of a raging bull.

The singer had been fighting to break out onto the salsa scene since her arrival to the United States in 1962. Her career had been lethargic during the era of the boogaloo. In the early 1970s, a series of commercial flights were hijacked to Cuba, becoming a weekly event. Fearing she might board a flight that was hijacked to Cuba, Cruz decided to stop flying altogether. This, combined with disagreements with the Tico label over the direction of her career, kept her isolated from the beginnings of the salsa movement that took shape under the Fania label.

After Celia’s participation in the Carnegie Hall stage concert of “Hommy”,  with the Fania All Stars, it was time for Cruz to record a full-length album that would showcase her interpretive skills. “Celia y Johnny” proved just the trick. Pacheco wasn’t the first to use the term salsa to describe music, but Fania Records made it nationally popular, and Celia & Johnny was its first breakout hit.

Johnny Pacheco had been enjoying a long and successful music career. Since his early days as a percussionist in the Xavier Cougat Orchestra, the Dominican had learned a lot about style and rhythm. His unique sound known as the “Pacheco Groove” had turned him into a favorite, particularly among New York dancers, and among lovers of Afro-Caribbean music in general.

Pacheco, a founding member of the Fania label, had noticed that Cruz’s early recordings on the Tico label with the Tito Puente Orchestra tended to limit her impressive voice, which he felt was not reaching its potential against the enormous sound of Puentes big band. Pacheco sad, “Let me put it to you this way: Celia sounds good with a stick banging against a can, she didn’t need all those instruments.”

Singers such as Melón, Pete El Conde Rodríguez, and later, Héctor Casanova, achieved great success and acceptance in combination with the Pachecho sound. Pacheco understood that his resounding style would help to highlight Cruz’s incomparable voice.

Paired with the Pacheco groove, the Queen of Rumba evolved, unleashing two of her greatest hits: “Toro Mata” and “Quimbara.” Both received wild acclaim among dancers, who immediately accepted her as the favorite on the growing salsa market, which was about to take the world by storm.

The first single to make a splash was “Quimbara”, a high energy rumba song which immediately showcased Celia’s vocal talent and stage energy immediately became an enormous and explosive hit.

“Quimbara,” written by Junior Cepeda (a talented young Boricua was killed by his live-in girlfriend at the age of 22), became Celia’s new signature song, and “Celia & Johnny” still had a lot more to offer. The “guaracha” “Lo Tuyo es Mental” became another hit, along with a Salsa version of the Peruvian folk song “Toro Mata”.

The Johnny Pacheco groove and the charming essence of Celia Cruz forged a bond that took control of the most important period in the history of salsa. This period has now gone down in history as The Golden Age of Salsa. This album is an intensely important one within the historical, political, and social context that marked the time.

"Quimbara" (1974)

Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco (1974)

Celia and Johnny

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Smokey Robinson - A Quiet Storm (1975)

“A Quiet Storm” by Smokey Robinson (1975)

Release Date: March 26, 1975
Produced by Smokey Robinson
Genre: Soul, Quiet Storm, Smooth Grooves, R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary
Label: Tamla

Chart Positions: #36 (US), #7 (US R&B)
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: 
“Baby That’s Backatcha” #26 (US), #1 (US R&B), #7 (US Dance)
“The Agony and the Ecstasy” #36 (US), #7 (US R&B)
“Quiet Storm” #61 (US), #25 (US R&B)
Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: N/A

Best Tracks: All tracks – Entire album is solid from beginning to end

Trivia: “A Quiet Storm” is Smokey Robinson’s third solo studio album, if you count his albums with the Miracles than this is his 22nd studio album release. From conception the album was destined to be classic & historic.

This is one of the most highly acclaimed soul albums of the 1970s. A longtime innovator at Motown, Robinson responded to the Funk revolution in black music (Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green) with an effective counterpoint: the stylish and mature album A Quiet Storm. This landmark album spawned and lent its name to the "Quiet Storm" musical programming format, a format still adopted by radio stations across America 40 years later. Quiet storm is a radio format and a subgenre of contemporary R&B music that is characterized by understated, mellow dynamics, slow tempos, and relaxed rhythms.

The album generated 3 hit singles including Smokey’s first disco hit "Baby That's Backatcha" that went to #7 on the Billboard Disco chart ( as well as #1 R&B), it was Robinson's first number one single since leaving the Miracles. The album re-established Robinson's reputation as a master songwriter and producer and solidified his solo success after leaving his legendary group, The Miracles.

“Love Letters” is a high point in terms of tempo, and it displays how masterful Smokey is in leading an uptempo track. He never misses a beat, and his cadence is virtually unmatched. “Wedding Song," an album highlight, was written for Hazel and Jermaine Jackson's wedding.

As he sings in “The Agony And The Ecstasy”; “our two worlds intertwine”. It was a match made in musical heaven. That particular song also highlights the love metaphor very clearly. Trying to find a balance between two worlds, both of which are essential. “We got to have the agony, before we have the ecstasy”. Both are excessive, but somehow blend seamlessly.

The seven minute title track, "Quiet Storm" became the cornerstone of a more upscale and sophisticated Soul sound that captivated an older, mature and largely black middle class audience. Robinson helped bring Soul music to the forefront of adult contemporary and middle of the road audiences.

In a review for Rolling Stone Magazine Robert Palmer wrote: "The languid intimacy of "Quiet Storm," the intricate instrumental arrangements on "Backatcha" and "Love Letters," and the prominence given to Marvin Tarplin's classy guitar throughout the album are evidence that one of black music's brightest lights is still a dynamic creative force."

"Love Letters" 1975

Smokey Robinson 1975

                         Smokey Robinson

Friday, March 9, 2018

Linda Ronstadt - Living In The U.S.A. (1978)

“Living In The USA” by Linda Ronstadt (1978)
Release Date: September 19, 1978
Produced by Peter Asher
Genre: Rock, Classic Rock, Soft-Rock, Pop, R&B
Label: Asylum

Chart Positions: #1 (US), #3 (Australia, New Zealand), #9 (Canada), #19 (Netherlands, France), #23 (Japan), #37 (Sweden), #39 (UK), #3 (US Country Albums), #19 (Canadian Country Albums)
Certifications: 2xPlatinum (US), Gold (Hong Kong), Silver (UK)

Singles and Chart Positions: 
“Back In The USA” #8 (Canada), #11 (South Africa), #16 (US), 324 (New Zealand), #30 (US Adult Contemporary), #41 (US Country Songs), #43 (Canadian Country Songs)
“Ooh Baby, Baby” #6 (Canada), #7 (US), #10 (France), #2 (US Adult Contemporary), #26 (Canadian Adult Contemporary), #85 (US Country Songs)
“Just One Look” #45 (US), #46 (Canada), #4 (Canadian Country), #5 (US Adult Contemporary)
“Alison” #66 (UK), #30 (US Adult Contemporary)
“Love Me Tender” (Released in Europe – No Chart Data)
Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: “Love Me Tender” (duet Elvis Presley and Linda Ronstadt) #59 (US Country Songs)

Best Tracks: All tracks – Entire album is solid from beginning to end

“Living in the USA” is the 9th studio album by American singer/songwriter/producer Linda Ronstadt (her 12th if you count the three albums she released with The Stone Poneys). The album was Ronstadt's third No. 1 on the Billboard album chart and was the first album in history to ship Double Platinum. As a measure of her impact on popular culture in this time period, the front cover photograph of a roller skating Linda in a satin exercise outfit was noted to have increased the popularity of skating in the United States at the time. As People Magazine put it, “Anyone who gave Linda Ronstadt her first pair of roller skates deserves a place in this decade’s social history.”

It was Ronstadt's record sixth consecutive million-selling Platinum album. It was certified by the RIAA for 2 million copies sold in the US alone and has estimated real sales of 3 million US units sold.

“Living in the USA” was a smash hit even before it arrived in stores on Sept. 19, 1978. Given Ronstadt’s incredible streak of five million-selling albums, retailers couldn’t wait to pre-order the new disc; as a result, it reached the shelves as the first album in history to earn double-platinum status prior to its official release. And unlike certain other high-profile records that benefited from advance buzz, only to end up in the cutout bin, “Living in the USA” went on to dominate radio as well as retail sales.

The first hint of anything from the album happened on April 3, 1978 when Linda made an appearance for the premiere of the film FM she did a live performance of Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender.” The song was not featured on the film’s soundtrack album but it did appear on Ronstadt’s upcoming album “Back In The USA.”

The album featured a mix of covers of proven hits and newer compositions by some of Ronstadt's favorite singers. Yet there were changes evident as well. For one, as the album's cover photo showed, Ronstadt had cut her trademark long hair and sported a short permed hairstyle. She also traded in her usual country-style dresses for hot pants, and her high heel shoes for roller skates.

In reference to the album cover Ronstadt said, "I remember I wanted to bring my roller skates into the studio. "My friend Nicolette Larson and I used to skate everywhere. She used to bring her skates into the studio because it was really big and she could skate around between takes. My studio wasn't that big. It had too much carpet, so I wanted them to take it out so I could skate."

While Ronstadt paid tribute to the King with a cover of "Love Me Tender," she also acknowledged the influence of the burgeoning British new wave movement by covering the other Elvis. "Allison" had first appeared on Elvis Costello's debut LP, My Aim Is True, and remains his best-known tune today. "I had a friend at the time and that song reminded me of her, so I sang it for her," Ronstadt says. "She was a really sweet girl, but kind of a party-girl type. I felt like she needed somebody to talk to her in a stern voice, because she was getting married and she would have to change." Ronstadt's version was released as a single in the U.K. but stalled at #66, and was dismissed in interviews by the acid-tongued Costello. Ronstadt commented, “I’ve never communicated with him directly, but I heard that someone asked him what he thought and he said he’d never heard it but that he’d be glad to get the money. So I sent him a message. ‘Send me some more songs, just keep thinking about the money.'” (Costello would ultimately end up contributing three songs to Ronstadt’s next album, 1980’s Mad Love.)

The album's first single, a remake of Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A," climbed to US #16. "Back in the U.S.A" was afforded its greatest impact when Linda Ronstadt remade the song in 1978. Ronstadt had heard the Berry original while being driven around Los Angeles by Eagles member Glenn Frey who had once been in her band, the track being on a "home-made" cassette Frey had playing in his tape deck. When 'Back in the U.S.A. came on Ronstadt said, “Boy that would be a great song to sing. I think I'll do that one."

"Back In The USA (1978)

A take of Doris Troy's "Just One Look" stalled at US #44, but Ronstadt wasn't happy with the recorded version. "It took me years to learn how to really sing that, but I could nail it now," she says, 15 years later.

The biggest hit from “Living in the USA” was Ronstadt's cover of Smokey Robinson's "Ooh Baby Baby," which climbed to US #7 and features alto sax by David Sanborn. "We used a live vocal from the rough mix," Ronstadt says. "We tried to go in and add things to it, but it never sounded as good as that live vocal."

Ronstadt is especially strong on her soulful cover of Little Feat’s “All That You Dream.” The song first appeared on Little Feat’s 1975 album titled “The Last Record Album.” Her soulful bluesy take of J.D Souther’s “White Rhythm and Blues” brings side one of the album to an inspiring close. Souther wrote this song for Ronstadt (he also wrote “Faithless Love” and “Heart Like A Wheel” for her). Souther later recorded “White Rhythm and Blues” for his 1979 hit album “You’re Only Lonely” as a duet with Phil Everly.

Although it was never released as a single, Linda Ronstadt's recording of "Love Me Tender" was edited together with the original by Elvis, creating a duet between the two that was played by many radio stations at the time. Elvis did the first verse alone, straight from his original recording, as Ronstadt didn't sing this verse on her version. It garnered enough airplay to chart at #59 on the US Country chart. Ray Quinn, program manager of radio station WCBM in Baltimore, dubbed together Elvis’s 1956 single and Ronstadt’s 1978 version. Although demand for the tape grew, no copies were made available to the public. A three-dollar bootleg single was made, however, on the Duet Label (Duet 101). The duet was inspired by the Barbra Streisand-Neil Diamond’s duet You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. Linda's version was in the same key as Elvis's record, and that would have made it easier for the record company to blend their voices together. There was some talk of recording additional instrumentation to smooth over the parts of the two recordings to give the impression it was just one recording. But that never came to be seen as RCA and Asylum could not agree on a contract for the release.

Billboard Magazine Review (September 1978)

Aside from being one of Linda Ronstadt's more perfect albums, this collection of 10 songs ranging from Hammerstein/Romberg's "When I Grow Too Old To Dream," to Elvis Costello's "Alison" provides a unique display of her vocal charm. The instrumentation, for the most part, is sparse, and it enables the special qualities of Ronstadt's voice to shine through. There are many moods portrayed here, including some husky ones that indicate maturity and a broadening taste, although Ronstadt has always chosen material beyond the merely popular. "All That You Dream" is a classic and could be her biggest song so far. Best cuts: "All That You Dream," "Back In The USA," "Mohammed's Radio," "Just One Look," "Love Me Tender," "Alison."

Linda Ronstadt (1978)

Linda Ronstadt (Rolling Stone Magazine 1978)


Friday, February 23, 2018

Elvis Presley - Moody Blue (1977)

“Moody Blue” by Elvis Presley (1977)

Release Date: July 1977
Produced by Felton Jarvis
Genre: Pop, Country, Soft-Rock
Label: RCA

Chart Positions: #1 (New Zealand), #2 (Spain, Sweden, Canada), #3 (US, UK, Netherlands, Norway, Australia), #4 (France), #7 (Italy), #19 (Germany), #20 (Austria), #1 (US Country Albums Chart)
Certifications: 2xPlatinum (US, Canada), Gold (France)

Singles and Chart Positions: 
“Moody Blue” #4 (Belgium), #5 (New Zealand), #6 (UK, Norway), #9 (South Africa), #10 (Netherlands), #17 (Australia) #31 (US), #57 (Canada), #1 (US Country Songs), #2 (US Adult Contemporary, Canadian Adult Contemporary), #3 (Canadian Country Songs)
“Way Down” #1 (Ireland, UK), #5 (France), #7 (New Zealand), #9 (Netherlands), #11 (Norway), #12 (Sweden, Spain), #13 (South Africa), #14 (Belgium), #15 (Canada, Germany), #18 (US), #94 (Switzerland), #1 (US Country Songs, Canadian Country Songs), #15 (US Adult Contemporary), #23 (Canadian Adult Contemporary)
Singles Certifications: “Moody Blue” Gold (US), “Way Down” Gold (UK), Platinum (US)
Other Charting Tracks: “She Thinks I Still Care” (#1 US Country Songs), “Pledging My Love” (#1 US Country Songs)
Best Tracks: “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)”, “Let Me Be There,” “Way Down,” “Pledging My Love,” “Moody Blue,” “She Thinks I Still Care”

“Moody Blue” is a historical album. It has the distinction of being Elvis’ last completed and released album during his lifetime.

Moody Blue is the 43rd and final studio album by Elvis Presley (this is including his soundtrack albums), released by RCA Records the month before his death in August 1977. The album was a mixture of live and studio work, and included the four tracks from Presley's final studio recording sessions in October 1976 and two tracks left over from the previous Graceland session in February 1976. "Moody Blue" was a previously published hit song recorded at the earlier Graceland session and held over for this album. Also recorded at the February session was "She Thinks I Still Care". "Way Down" became a hit after Presley's death less than one month after this album's publication. The album was certified Gold and Platinum on September 12, 1977 and 2x Platinum on March 27, 1992 by the RIAA.

The album was originally released on blue vinyl. During this time period colored vinyl was very rare and it was assumed that the blue vinyl edition of this album would be a collectors item. However it is the first pressings of the black vinyl that have become collectible as these were pressed for a short time immediately before Presley's death. After his death RCA shifted back to the blue vinyl.

The album made it into the Top 40 before his passing and then made it to US #3 after his untimely death in August 1977.

The recording also featured J.D. Sumner singing the words "way on down" at the end of each chorus down to the note low C (C2). According to the Guinness Book of World Records it is the lowest recorded note ever produced by the human voice, first accomplished by Sumner in a 1966 recording of the hymn "Blessed Assurance."

"Moody Blue" was written by Mark James who also penned Elvis' "Suspicious Minds". "Moody Blue" was Presley's last No. 1 hit in his lifetime, topping the US Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in February 1977. “Way Down” also topped the Country chart but didn’t reach #1 until after Presley’s death.

RCA issued a very limited quantity of blue vinyl pressings of the 7" single "Moody Blue." I have seen mint copies of this issue going for as much as $400 US currency.

The guitar heavy “Way Down” was released as a single in June 1977 and initially reached #31 on the US chart just ten days before Elvis’ death (the same peak position of the single “Moody Blue” a few months earlier). After his passing the song immediately rose to #18 and stayed there for two weeks. The song was released Platinum and was his biggest selling hit since 1972’s “Burning Love.”

"Way Down" (1977)

Elvis Presley (1977)


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Supertramp - Crime Of The Century

“Crime of the Century” by Supertramp (1974)

Release Date: September 1974
Produced by Ken Scott, Supertramp
Genre: Art-Rock, Progressive Rock, Symphonic Rock, Classic Rock
Label: A&M

Chart Positions: #4 (UK, Canada), #5 (Germany), #12 (New Zealand), #15 (Australia), #19 (France), #21 (Spain), #25 (Netherlands), #38 (US)
Certifications: Diamond (Canada), Platinum (France), Gold (US, UK, Germany, Switzerland)

Singles and Chart Positions: 
“Dreamer” (#10 France, #13 UK, #34 New Zealand, #47 Australia)
“Bloody Well Right” #34 New Zealand, 335 US, #49 Canada)
“School” (#27 Netherlands, #1 France)
Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: All tracks – Entire album excels

“Crime of the Century” is the third studio album released by Supertramp. It spawned three hit singles “Dreamer,” “Bloody Well Right” and “School.” “School” was released as a single ten years after the album’s release in 1984 throughout Europe. “Crime of the Century” was Supertramp's commercial breakthrough in both the US and UK, aided by the UK hit "Dreamer" and the U.S. hit "Bloody Well Right."

Crime of the Century is a concept album that tells the story of Rudy. In "School," Rudy has lamented that the education system in England is teaching conformity above education (boy, Rudy, you should see America).

The album's dedication reads "To Sam", which is a nickname for Stanley August Miesegaes, the Dutch millionaire who supported the band financially from 1969–72.

After the failure of their first two albums and an unsuccessful tour, the band broke up, and Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson recruited new members, drummer Bob C. Benberg, woodwinds player John Helliwell, and bassist Dougie Thomson. This new line-up were sent by their record label, A&M, in particular A&R man Dave Margereson (who would become their manager for the next ten years) to a seventeenth-century farm in West Dorset in order to rehearse together and prepare the album. While recording the album, Davies and Hodgson recorded approximately 42 demo songs, from which only 8 were chosen to appear on the album. Several other tracks appeared on later albums (Crisis? What Crisis?, ...Famous Last Words...).

This new lineup recorded "Crime of the Century" with in a three and a half month period. Upon it's release the album became Supertramp's breakthrough album giving them their first hit singles and their first album to reach the Top 40 (and higher) throughout the world.

"Bloody Well Right" was Supertramp's first charting hit in the US, while it failed to chart in the UK. One theory on why the song didn't chart in their UK homeland has it that Brits were still offended by the adjective "bloody" in 1975. These days it is considered a mild expletive throughout the UK. Written by Supertramp leaders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, Davies sings lead on this one. The song deals with youthful confusion, class warfare, and forced conformity in the British school system (kind of like Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall (part II)"). This anti-establishment take was a theme of the album. "Bloody Well Right" is actually an answer song to the previous song on the album, "School."

“Dreamer” is about a guy with big dreams who is incapable of acting on them, so they never come true. As was custom with Supertramp, it was credited to their founding members Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, who wrote separately but shared composer credits. "Dreamer" was written by Hodgson, who also sang lead.

The following is a review which appeared in the December 7, 1974 issue of Billboard Magazine:
Rather old mix of rock in the more traditional vein, strong electronic and horn sounds and some humorous moments from British quintet who can rock with the best or move through quiet harmonies. Best material seems to be the up-tempo things that allow the band a chance to rock, but it all works well. Not really an AM group in the "singles" sense of the word, but one that should find a quick home on any station willing to play some LP cuts. One would also imagine that this kind of band would benefit greatly from a tour. Fairly unique in material and sound, which is worth a listen to itself these days. 
Best Cuts: "Bloody Well Right," "Hide In Your Shell," "Dreamer," "Crime of the Century"

Bloody Well Right (1974)

Supertramp (1975)