Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Joan Armatrading - Joan Armatrading (1976)

“Joan Armatrading” by Joan Armatrading (1976)

Release Date: September 1976
Produced by Glyn Johns
Genre: Rock, Pop, Folk-Rock, Blues
Label: A&M

Chart Positions: #11 (New Zealand), #12 (UK), #52 (Australia), #67 (US)
Certifications: Gold (UK, Canada)
Awards: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: 
“Love And Affection” #10 (UK), #16 (Ireland)
“Down To Zero” (no chart data)
 Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: N/A

Best Tracks: “Love and Affection,” “Water With The Wine,” “People,” “Join The Boys,” “Like Fire,” “Tall In The Saddle”

Trivia: “Joan Armatrading” is Joan’s third studio album and her first to chart anywhere in the world. This is the album that put Joan on the map. The album mixes acoustic work with jazz-influenced material and displays Joan’s range of interest in music. The album was a big hit in the UK reaching #12 accompanied with a Top 10 UK hit “Love and Affection.”

"Love and Affection" 1976

In 1976, Robin Denselow wrote in The Guardian that the album "showed that we now have a black artist in Britain with the same sort of vocal range, originality (in fact even greater originality in terms of musical influences) and lyrical sensitivity" as Joni Mitchell.

Producer Glyn Johns has produced albums for many greats including Steve Miller Band, Eagles, Humble Pie, The Who, Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton and more. He helped launch Joan Armatrading’s career when he was hired on to produce this album. He remained with her on her next three albums.

Joan signed to A&M Records is 1972 but it wasn't until after A&M gained worldwide rights to Joan's music that they decided to pour a good amount of money and effort into promoting Joan. A 3 1/2 minute film clip of the singer/guitarist performing "Love and Affection." A&M spent an unprecedented nine months promoting Armatrading's self-titled album, which included magazine ads, television spots (such as an appearance on Saturday Night Live) and promo copies of the album sent to every music critic and concert promoter throughout the world as well as a few film clips one of which shows comments from reviews. A&M spent near $300,000 promoting the album before it was even released.

Up to this point, Armatrading had shown that she had a lovely voice and an ear for interesting arrangements, but her work had been steeped in the folk idiom of the early '70s. Her third album changed all that, with producer Glyn Johns bringing in members of Gallagher & Lyle, Fairport Convention, and the Faces to punch up her folksy sound with elements of rock, country, and disco. The result is her most muscular music to date, with Armatrading adopting a swagger that showed her tales of unluckiness in love didn't have to have dire consequences ("Tall in the Saddle," "Water With the Wine"). Of course, it helped that the record featured her best material delivered in a wonderfully expressive voice that can capture the shades between song and speech like a sweeter version of Ian Anderson. "Down to Zero" (which features pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole) and "Love and Affection" are the album's most memorable tracks, the latter breaking into the U.K.'s Top Ten (the album itself made the U.K. Top 20). But what endears this record to fans is the quality of each song; it wouldn't be fair to call anything here filler. The artsy and eclectic "Like Fire," the beautiful ballad "Save Me," and the ingratiating melodies of "Somebody Who Loves You" are just as likely to strike a chord with listeners as the better-known cuts. While Glyn Johns deserves credit for bringing Joan Armatrading's songs into a more flattering setting -- it's not coincidental that the record feels like a polished version of The Who by Numbers -- his real stroke of genius was letting the artist flower to her full potential. For many, this album remains the high point in her catalog.

Joan Armatrading 


Monday, June 25, 2018

Antonio Carlos Jobim - Jobim (1973)

“Jobim” by Antonio Carlos Jobim (1973)
Release Date: January 1, 1973
Produced by Claus Ogerman
Genre: Bossa Nova, Jazz, Latin Jazz
Label: MCA

Chart Positions: N/A
Certifications: N/A
Awards: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: N/A
 Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Aguas de Marco,” “Mantiqueira Range,” “Nuvens Douradas”

“Jobim” is heavily orchestral and more on the easy listening side and less Bossa Nova, but not to fear the album certainly has it’s share of the Bossa Nova sound for which Antonio Carlos Jobim is famous.

“Jobim” was an experiment for Jobim putting less of an emphasis on the bass and rhythmic style of bossa nova and more priority on a bigger symphonic sound. The record lets listeners in on another side of Jobim, a classical interpretation of moody instrumental tone poems for films based on the works of Debussy and Villa Lobos. Jobim continued with his symphonic orchestrations throughout the 70s.

It is the symphonic orchestrations which brings this album to life. Jobim hired Claus Ogerman to produce the album. Ogerman had worked previously with Jobim (since 1963) on a total of five albums before this one and two more afterward. Ogerman also arranged and conducted the orchestral arrangements. Ogerman a famed German composer, conductor and arranger also worked with Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and in his later years with Diana Krall. Though he worked mainly with in the jazz genre arranging musicians such as Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery and Cal Tjader, Ogerman did foray into pop music and composed arrangements for several pop hits including Solomon Burke's "Cry To Me" and Leslie Gore's "It's My Party," "Judy's Turn To Cry" and "She's A Fool."

Aguas de Marco (1973)

“Aguas de Marco” has grown to become a classic for Jobim. He wrote the lyrics for the song originally in Portuguese and later in English. The inspiration for the song came from Rio De Janeiro's rainiest month. March is typically marked by sudden storms with heavy rains and strong winds.

Antonio Carlos Jobim (1973)


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Barbra Streisand - Superman (1977)

“Superman” by Barbra Streisand (1977)

Release Date: June 1977
Produced by Gary Klein, Charles Calello (produced “My Heart Belongs To Me)
Genre: Pop, Easy Listening, Adult Contemporary
Label: Columbia

Chart Positions: #1 (Canada), #3 (US), #11 (Australia), #23 (Netherlands), #32 (UK), #33 (New Zealand), #44 (Japan), #46 (Sweden)
Certifications: 2xPlatinum (US, Canada), Gold (Australia)
Awards: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions:
“My Heart Belongs To Me” #4 (US), #3 (Canada) #1 (US Adult Contemporary, Canada Adult Contemporary)
“Superman” #29 (US Adult Contemporary) #18 (Canada Adult Contemporary)
 Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: "My Heart Belongs To Me," "Superman," "Cabin Fever," "New York State Of Mind"

Trivia: “Superman” is Barbra Streisand’s 19th studio album (if you include the soundtracks it is her 27th album). At this point in time “Streisand Superman” was her second most successful album worldwide topped only by 1976’s “A Star Is Born” soundtrack. As the years progressed other such as 1980’s “Guilty,” 1985’s “The Broadway Album” and 1997’s “Higher Ground” have outperformed “Streisand Superman.”

Having been released only 7 months after the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack, “Superman” follows with a similar pop-rock feel. Two of the song that showed up on the album (“Answer Me” and “Lullaby For Myself”) were written for “A Star Is Born” but did not make it into the movie. Streisand co-wrote “Answer Me” with Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher. Streisand also co-wrote the rock inspired “Don’t Believe What You Said.”

Many have stated Streisand’s cover of “New York State of Mind” fit her so well that it has become the definitive recording. Billy Joel, who wrote the song claimed, “I thought, ‘This is one of the greatest woman singers ever, doing … me? Me?’ I really loved it, though, because it kind of finally made me legitimate in this business to my mother.”

The first single release was the classic ballad “My Heart Belongs To Me” which was a huge success reaching the Top 5 in both the US and Canada. Columbia Records and Barbra put together a “publicity film” for “My Heart Belongs To Me.” It was shown at Columbia’s 1977 convention to industry insiders. Barbra lip-synched to the track. During the musical interlude, she “conducted” the orchestra, then started coughing from the smoke machines, all very comedic. At the end of the video, she spun toward the camera and made a funny face.

My Heart Belongs To Me (1977)

The second single, the title track “Superman,” was released about a year and a half after the album and did not fare to well, but was a moderate hit on Adult Contemporary radio.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

“Unknown Pleasures” by Joy Division (1979)
Release Date: June 15, 1979
Produced by Martin Hannett
Genre: Post-Punk
Label: Factory

Chart Positions: #1 (New Zealand, Holland), #71 (UK), #82 (Australia), #85 (Italy), #1 (UK Indie Albums)
Certifications: Gold (UK)
Awards: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: N/A
 Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “She’s Lost Control,” “Disorder,” “New Dawn Fades,” “Shadowplay” but realistically all tracks on this album are outstanding!!!

Trivia: “Unknown Pleasures” is the debut studio album by English rock band Joy Division, released on 15 June 1979 on Tony Wilson's Factory Records. It followed an abandoned session for RCA Records, and was recorded and mixed over three weekends at Strawberry Studios, in Stockport, England in April 1979 with record producer Martin Hannett. The cover artwork was designed by artist Peter Saville.

The album cover perfectly captures the raw emotion and attitude of the album. The ten songs inside, quite simply, are stone-cold landmarks, the whole album is a monument to passion, energy, and cathartic despair.

Factory did not release any singles from the album, and it did not chart (at the time) despite the relative success of the group's non-album debut single "Transmission". “Unknown Pleasures,” which sold more than a million copies worldwide during it's release year, has gone on to receive sustained critical acclaim as a pioneering and influential post-punk album. The album did eventually chart having made it to #1 in New Zealand and Holland.

Though there weren’t any singles released from the album it does include several classic Joy Division tunes including “New Dawn Fades” a song which has been popularized from it’s inclusion in several films such as “Heat,” “House of Wax” and “The Equalizer.” John Frusciante (former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist) has recorded the song and most widely known, Moby, did an outstanding version that received airplay and is one of his best-known recordings.

"New Dawn Fades" (1979)

“She’s Lost Control” has been highly popular, so much, that one would think the song was released as a single. Along with  “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” “She’s Lost Control” is Joy Division’s signature tune. A re-recording of the song was released on a 12” single in 1980 with more electronic parts added. This was one of the last recordings released by Joy Division.

Sadly “Unknown Pleasures” is only one of two albums that were completed and released by Joy Division. On the morning of May 18, 1980, lead singer Ian Curtis, watched Werner Herzog's "Stroszek," played Iggy Pop's The Idiot, and then hung himself in the kitchen. This was the end of a band that was on the rise and with only two albums has become one of the most influential bands in the history of rock music.

Joy Division (1979)


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