Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks (1975)

“Blood On The Tracks” by Bob Dylan (1975)

Release Date: January 17, 1975
Produced by Bob Dylan
Genre: Folk Rock, Classic Rock
Label: Columbia
Chart Positions: #1 (US, Canada, New Zealand), #2 (Norway), #4 (UK, Australia), #5 (Netherlands), #35 (Japan), #45 (Germany), #54 (Ireland)
Certifications: 2xPlatinum (US), Platinum (UK, Canada)

Singles: “Tangled Up In Blue” #31 (US)

Blood on the Tracks is the fifteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on January 20, 1975 by Columbia Records. The album marked Dylan's return to Columbia Records after a two-album stint with Asylum Records. Dylan began recording the album in New York City in September 1974. In December, shortly before Columbia was due to release the record, Dylan abruptly re-recorded much of the material in a studio in Minneapolis. The final album contains five tracks from New York and five from Minneapolis.


In a 1975 radio discussion with Mary Travers, Bob Dylan stated that “Blood On The Tracks” was a personally painful work. He has claimed it was not autobiographical yet many of the songs seem to mirror what he was experiencing during the break-up of his marriage.

“Blood On The Tracks” is one of Dylan’s best selling albums having reached #1 in the US, Canada and New Zealand. The album reached #2 in Norway as well as #4 in the UK and Australia.

Initially, Dylan considered recording Blood on the Tracks with an electric backing group, and contacted Mike Bloomfield who had played lead guitar on Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited album. When the two met, Dylan ran through the songs he was planning to record, but he played them too quickly for Bloomfield to learn. In the end, Dylan rejected the idea of recording the album with a band, and instead substituted stripped-down acoustic arrangements for all of his songs.

Dylan had finished recording and mixing, and, by November, had cut a test pressing on the album. Columbia began to prepare to release the album before Christmas.

Dylan played the test pressing for his brother, David Zimmerman, who persuaded Dylan the album would not sell because the overall sound was too stark. Robert Christgau also heard the early version of the album and called it "a sellout to the memory of Dylan's pre-electric period". At his brother's urging, Dylan agreed to re-record five of the album's songs in Sound 80 in Minneapolis, with backing musicians recruited by David. The new takes were accomplished in two days at the end of December 1974. Blood on the Tracks was released into stores on January 20, 1975.

While recording the album Dylan kept a tiny notebook in which he worked out lyrics and other aspects of the songs that became the album "Blood On The Tracks." This notebook and others numbering up to around 6,000 pieces have been kept in a secret archive for several decades. He sold this archive for $20 million in 2016.

“Tangled Up In Blue,” the albums only single release, was a minor hit reaching #31 in the US but failed to chart anywhere else. The Telegraph has described the song as "The most dazzling lyric ever written, an abstract narrative of relationships told in an amorphous blend of first and third person, rolling past, present and future together, spilling out in tripping cadences and audacious internal rhymes, ripe with sharply turned images and observations and filled with a painfully desperate longing."

During the song Dylan sings "some are carpenter's wives," which was a reference to Laura Nyro. NYro had been part of the New York music scene in the late 1960s and was very much inspired by Dylan. You may remember some of the hits she wrote such as "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Stoned Soul Picnic" (both hits for The Fifth Dimension), "And When I Die" (Blood Sweat and Tears, "Eli's Coming" (Three Dog Night) and "Stoney End" (Barbra Streisand).

The sixth verse, which begins: "I lived with them on Montague Street," is a direct reference to John Lennon. Lennon had moved into Ringo Starr's Montague Square apartment in 1968 (with Yoko) after Cynthia kicked him out.

Dylan wrote "Tangled Up In Blue" in the summer of 1974 at a farm he had just bought in Minnesota. He had been touring with The Band earlier that year. Dylan sometimes introduced this on stage by saying it took "10 years to live and 2 years to write." Dylan said he wrote this song after spending an entire weekend mesmerized by Joni Mitchell's album "Blue."

"Tangled Up In Blue"

Album highlight “Shelter From The Storm” has been covered by several musicians through the decades. Dylan got the title from a line in Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop The Rain?": "I went down Virginia, seekin' shelter from the storm..."

In his April 1975 review for The New Republic J.T. Lhamon Jr writes, "The last verse of the last song on the album describes how the performer finds his highest art by attending to himself in order to attend to others: 'Life is sad, life is a bust / All you can do is what you must / You do what you must do and you do it well / I do it for you, ah honeybaby, can't you tell?' And that's it right there: that immediate consistent and thorough involvement with an audience both characterizes rock as the primary popular form of our time and determines it's promising esthetic."

Bob Dylan (1975)



BOB DYLAN

Friday, May 19, 2017

Nicolette Larson - Nicolette (1978)

“Nicolette” by Nicolette Larson (1978)

Release Date: September 29, 1978
Produced by Ted Templeman
Genre: Soft-Rock, Country-rock, Pop-rock
Label: Warner Brothers
Chart Positions: #15 (US), #1 (Canada)
Certifications: Gold (US, Canada)
Singles: “Lotta Love” #4 (France, Canada), #8 (US), #11 (Brazil), #22 (New Zealand), #61 (Japan), “Rhumba Girl” #15 (Canada), #47 (US), “Give A Little” #104 (US)

“Nicolette” is Nicolette Larson’s debut album and was released in September 1978 shortly after her 26th birthday.


Larson came to public attention singing backup for Neil Young on American Stars 'n Bars and Comes a Time. Her first charting single was Young's composition "Lotta Love" which reached #1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.

Eddie Van Halen appears uncredited on guitar on "Can't Get Away From You". Michael McDonald and Linda Ronstadt are both credited for providing backing vocals.

There were three singles released from the album, the first was her breakthrough, which to this day remains he biggest hit. “Lotta Love” was written by Neil Young and was first featured on Neil’s 1978 album “Comes A Time” which featured Nicolette Larson singing backing vocals. Nicolette’s version of the song was released shortly after Young’s version. Nicolette took Neil’s simple down home song and turned it into an upbeat sparkling song that contains this tone of optimism about it. A 12” single disco mix of the song was released to favorable response from dance club DJs and the song was played in clubs throughout North America. Having been a worldwide hit it looked as if Nicolette was well on her way to worldwide superstardom. Alas the following singles did not fare as well. She had a few subsequent minor hits but nothing that took storm, as did “Lotta Love.”

"Lotta Love"

The second single “Rhumba Girl” received minor airplay in the US and Canada but did not catch on like the former hit. “Rhumba Girl” was written by Jesse Winchester is a Canadian-American singer/songwriter he has had several hits in Canada including 1970’s “Yankee Lady” and 1981’s “Say What” which was a hit in both the US and Canada. The third single “Give A Little” came and went before anybody could notice it.

A soulful rendition of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” is a true album highlight which should have been released as a single. Larson proves with this song that she was a gifted vocalist that could tackle most any genre of song.

 Nicolette Larson (1978)



NICOLETTE LARSON

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Kraftwerk - Autobahn (1974)

“Autobahn” by Kraftwerk (1974)

Release Date: November 1, 1974
Produced by Ralf Hütter, Conny Plank, Florian Schneider
Genre: Electronic, Avant-Garde,  Krautrock
Label: Phillips, Vertigo
Chart Positions: #4 (UK), #5 (US, Canada), #7 (Germany, New Zealand), #9 (Australia), #11 (Netherlands), #27 (Sweden)
Certifications: Gold (France), Silver (UK)

Singles: “Mitternacht,” “Kometenmelodie 2,” “Autobahn” #3 (France), #4 (New Zealand), #9 (Germany), #11 (UK), #12 (Holland, Canada), #15 (South Africa), #16 (Netherlands), #20 (Ireland), #22 (Belgium), #25 (US), #27 (Belgium), #30 (Australia)

Autobahn is the fourth studio album by German electronic band Kraftwerk, released in November 1974. The 22-minute title track "Autobahn" was edited to 3:27 for single release and reached number 25 in the US, number 9 in Australia and performed even higher around Europe, reaching number 4 in the UK and number 7 in Germany. This commercial success came after the band had released three experimental and purely instrumental albums.

The album possesses many ironies in it music. The arrangements are precise to the point of suggesting mechanism yet able to showcase the group's gift for simple, wistful melodies. Kraftwerk is able to capture and make beautiful the sensations of everyday activity - such as going for a drive along the highway (or autobahn if you may).  The album is based on the very first road opened in Germany in 1932, a year before Hitler's ascension to Chancellorship. The album however has nothing to do with Hitler and everything to do with an enjoyable trip on the autobahn.


Autobahn is an electronic album that includes violin, flute, piano and guitar used along with synthesizers. Autobahn is where the group's hypnotic electronic pulse genuinely came into its own. The main difference between Autobahn and its predecessors is how it develops an insistent, propulsive pulse that makes the repeated rhythms and riffs of the shimmering electronic keyboards and trance-like guitars all the more hypnotizing. Within Autobahn, the roots of electro-funk, ambient, and synth pop are all evident -- it's a pioneering album. The album brought Kraftwerk into the spotlight charting in high positions throughout the world with its highest peak positions in the UK (#4) and US (#5). he album cover, which features a colorful drawing of a motorway on a summer day, was painted by Emil Schult, who also co-wrote the lyrics to the title song.

Autobahn (Single Edit 1974)

There were three singles released from the album the first “Mitternacht” (Midnight) went almost unnoticed and failed to chart. The second single, an instrumental track, “Kometenmelodie” (Comet Melody 2) also failed to chart. Finally it was the third single “Autobahn” that burned up the charts around the world. “Autobahn” is a 22 minute long that was crafted to reproduce a journey on the German motorway. Band member Ralf Hutter recorded the passing cars in the background by dangling a microphone out of the window of his old grey Volkswagen, as it traveled down the autobahn. However, these recordings were not suitable for the song, so they recreated the car sounds using synthesizers. The song was was edited to a more modest 3 minute and 28 seconds running time and was released to the US market while a differently edited version of 3 minutes and 8 seconds was released in the UK. There has been confusion as to what Kraftwerk sings in the vocals. Some people have thought they were saying “fun, fun, fun on the autobahn,” but they were actually singing, "wir fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn" which means "we drive, drive, drive on the Autobahn.” The song was a huge hit reaching the Top 30 in more than a dozen countries around the world including its highest peak positions in France (#3), New Zealand (#4) and Germany (#9).

The influence of "Autobahn" only continued to grow with influence as each year has gone by. Hints of the Kraftwerk sound began to show up in the music of the artists such as David Bowie, Africa Bambaataa and Depeche Mode. 

Kraftwerk (1974)



KRAFTWERK

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Commodores - Hot On The Tracks (1976)

“Hot On The Tracks” by Commodores (1976)

Release Date: June 1976
Produced by James Anthony Carmichael and Commodores
Genre: R&B, Soul, Funk
Label: Motown
Chart Positions: #12 (US), #28 (Canada), #39 (New Zealand)
Certifications: N/A

Singles: “Just To Be Close To You” #7 (US), #12 (Canada), #62 (UK), “Come Inside,” “Let’s Get Started,” “Fancy Dancer” #39 (US), #2 (France), #65 (Canada)

Hot on the Tracks is the fourth studio album by the Commodores, released by Motown Records in 1976. It includes the Top Ten single "Just to Be Close to You". The album was the band's first to top the R&B albums chart, where it stayed for six non-consecutive weeks, and peaked at number twelve on the pop albums chart.


Song after song this album never strays from its focus of funk and R&B jams. Several songs groove with a tight dance beat that gets you movin’. This was their last album that was pure funk and soul.

This was Commodores' last album true funk and soul album before taking the complete dive in pop and adult contemporary sound such as the classics "Easy" and "Three Times A Lady." "Hot On The Tracks" has a wonderful tight quality - never slick or too smooth, but just nicely put together - commercial, but not so much that it loses it's soul. It's a mixture of funk and sweet soul, done with a focused well crafted approach, and enough of a blend of the two style to keep things interesting.

Just To Be Close To You (1976)

The first single “Just To Be Close To You” was Commodores’ second Top Ten hit hot on the heels of “Sweet Love.” "Just to Be Close to You," initially met with strong resistance from pop radio stations. The song stayed at number one on the R&B chart for two weeks, and reached number seven on the US singles chart in the fall of 1976. The second single, a great funk groove, “Come Inside” failed to chart though continued the reputation they built on delivering heavy jams blended with soulful vocal harmonies. “Let’s Get Started,” the album’s third single reached #3 on the US Dance charts bringing a great dance jam to the table. The hard stompin’ guitar led jam; “Fancy Dancer” was the fourth and final single from the album. The song soared to the Top 40 reaching US #39 and #2 in France.

Commodores (1976)




COMMODORES

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy

“Houses Of The Holy” by Led Zeppelin (1973)

Release Date: March 28, 1973
Produced by Jimmy Page
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Blues Rock
Label: Atlantic

Chart Positions: #1 (US, UK, Canada, Australia), #3 (Austria, Netherlands, Japan), #4 (Norway), #8 (Germany), #9 (New Zealand, Spain), #11 (Finland), #12 (Portugal), #15 (Sweden), #17 (Italy), #20 (Switzerland, Belgium), #24 (Denmark), #29 (France)
Certifications: 11xPlatinum (US), Platinum (UK, France), Gold (Germany, Argentina, Spain)

Singles: “Over The Hills and Far Away” #51 (US), #63 (Canada), “D’yer Mak’er” #20 (US), #2 (France), #7 (Canada, Poland)

One of the most iconic record covers of the 1970s is Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy, released on 28 March 1973 by Atlantic Records. It is their first album composed of entirely original material and it represents a turning point in musical direction for the band, who had begun to record songs with more layering and production techniques.



This was Led Zeppelin's final studio release on Atlantic Records before forming their own label, Swan Song Records, in 1974. It was also the only Led Zeppelin album that contained complete printed lyrics for each song. Although intended for release in January 1973, delays in producing the album cover meant that it was not released until March, when the band was on its 1973 European tour. They had trouble designing and printing the unique album cover by the artistic company Hipgnosis, with the band completely rejecting the initial artwork and the first prints of the final artwork accidentally coming out with a strong purple tint. When they finally got the artwork correct, the album was banned from sale in many locations because of the naked children on the cover who pay homage to the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood’s End. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package.

The Houses of the Holy album cover was not a small army of naked children with wigs on, it was only two kids, a brother and sister, who were photographed over the course of ten days at dawn and at dusk. One of them went on to become a world famous TV presenter, Stefan Gates, of the BBC’s popular Cooking in the Danger Zone show.

Gates, who was five at the time said in an interview years later, “For the Zeppelin cover we went to Ireland during the Troubles. I remember arriving at the airport and seeing all these people with guns. We stayed in this little guest house near the Giant’s Causeway and to capture the so-called magic light of dawn and dusk we’d shoot first thing in the morning and at night. I’ve heard people saying they put wigs on several children. But there was only me and my sister and that’s our real hair. I used to love being naked when I was that age so I didn’t mind. I’d whip off my clothes at the drop of a hat and run around having a great time, so I was in my element. My sister was older so she was probably a bit more self-conscious.”

Produced by guitarist Jimmy Page (like all Zeppelin albums), the album featured sophisticated layered guitars, the addition of obscure instrumentation, and other rich production techniques. The album featured styles and sub-genres not heard on previous Led Zeppelin albums, such as funk, reggae, and doo-wop. The album is an indirect tribute to their fan base, who were showing up in record numbers to their live shows.  It perfectly straddles the bands early, more blues-based period from their later work, which consisted of more richly produced studio albums that tilted more towards pop and modern rock. Bass player and keyboardist John Paul Jones temporarily left the band for a few days during this album’s recording but soon returned and stayed with the band until the end.

There were also several recorded songs not included on Houses of the Holy but released on later albums such as Physical Graffiti and Coda. “Physical Graffiti” contained the songs “The Rover,” “Houses of the Holy” and “Black Country Woman.” While “Coda” contained “Walter’s Walk.”

In 1976 Led Zeppelin released their first live album named “The Song Remains The Same” the opening track of “Houses of the Holy.” Prior to the album's sessions the song had been rehearsed with the working title "Worcester and Plumpton Races," which was a reference to Page and Plant's homes. Successive titles were "The Overture" and "The Campaign." Finally as Plant was fine tuning the lyrics the title "The Song Remains The Same" was born.

"The Rain Song" was written in response to a conversation Jimmy Page had with George Harrison. Harrison asked Page why Led Zeppelin had never recorded any ballads.

The first single release “Over The Hills and Far Away” was a moderate hit in North America reaching #51 in the US and #63 in Canada. This evolved from the Yardbirds song "White Summer," an acoustic solo by Jimmy Page. Many of the same riffs and chords are in it. After The Yardbirds broke up, Led Zeppelin continued to play "White Summer" live. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant originally constructed the song in 1970 at Bron-Yr-Aur, a small cottage in Wales where they stayed after completing a gruelling North American concert tour. The song was first called "Many, Many Times", as shown on a picture of the original master on the Led Zeppelin website.

"D'yer Mak'er" (1973)

The second single “D’yer Mak’er” did better on the charts reaching US #20, #2 in France and #7 in both Poland and Canada. The title is a play on the word "Jamaica" when spoken in a British accent. The name of the song is derived from an old joke, where two friends have the following exchange: "My wife's gone to the West Indies." "Jamaica?" (which has a similar pronunciation as "D'you make her?") "No, she wanted to go". This song was meant to imitate reggae and its "dub" derivative emerging from Jamaica in the early 1970s. Its genesis is traced to Led Zeppelin's rehearsals at Stargroves in 1972, when drummer John Bonham started with a beat similar to 1950s doo-wop, and then twisted it into a slight off beat tempo, upon which a reggae influence emerged. The distinctive drum sound was created by placing three microphones a good distance away from Bonham's drums. Led Zeppelin had a curious history of single releases in America. While the band was active, they released just 10 singles, which typically did just well enough to get a mention from Casey Kasem on American Top 40. "D'yer Mak'er" was one of those singles (backed with "The Crunge"), peaking at #20. Zeppelin was never a "singles band," so these releases were intended to drive sales of the albums, which they did. They often sold well enough to make the charts, however, leaving poor Mr. Kasem to wonder how to pronounce the title to this one.

The third single “The Ocean” was released only in Germany and Austria and charted only in Germany at #8. "The Ocean" refers to the sea of fans seen from the stage at Led Zeppelin concerts, to whom this song was dedicated. The voice on the intro is drummer John Bonham. When he says, "We've done four already, but now we're steady and then they went, 1... 2... 3... 4...," he is referring to the takes. They had tried to record it 4 times prior but couldn't get it right, so as a pep talk he said his famous line. In the last line, the "Girl who won my heart" is Robert Plant's daughter Carmen, who was 3 years old at the time.

The album is filled with highlight after highlight, “The Crunge” is a funk tribute to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and James Brown and evolved out of a jam session built around Bonham’s off-beat drums and a bass riff by Jones. This song was used as the b-side to the single “D’yer Mak’er.” “Dancing Days” used as the b-side to “Over The Hills and Far Away” was the closest that Led Zeppelin ever came to writing a pop song. It was inspired by an Indian tune that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant heard while traveling in Bombay.

"Houses of the Holy (1973) Inside Gatefold Artwork

Led Zeppelin (1973)



LED ZEPPELIN

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Joni Mitchell - Blue (1971)

“Blue” by Joni Mitchell (1971)

Release Date: June 22, 1971
Produced by Joni Mitchell
Genre: Folk
Label: Reprise
Chart Positions: #15 (US), #9 (Canada), #3 (UK), #24 (Norway)
Certifications: Platinum (US), 2xPlatinum (UK)

Singles: “Carey” #27 (Canada), #93 (US), “California” (No chart data)
Best Tracks: ALL TRACKS. Again Joni gives us a solid collection of music.

“Blue” was Joni’s fourth studio album and her first to reach the Top Ten in her native homeland Canada.  “Blue” is regarded, by music critics, to be one of the greatest albums of all-time.


The pivotal experience in Mitchell's life that drove the emergence of the album was her relationship with James Taylor. She had broken up with Graham Nash and begun an intense relationship with Taylor by the summer of 1971, visiting him on the set of the movie Two-Lane Blacktop, the aura of which is referred to in "This Flight Tonight". The songs "Blue" and "All I Want" have specific references to her relationship with Taylor, such as a sweater that she knitted for him at the time, and his heroin addiction. Despite his difficulties, Mitchell evidently felt that she had found the person with whom she could pair-bond in Taylor, and was devastated when he broke off the relationship. She retreated to the studio to record Blue.

In 1979 Mitchell reflected, "The Blue album, there's hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong or to be happy. But the advantage of it in the music was that there were no defenses there either."

Mitchell continued to use alternate tunings on her guitar to allow easier access to augmented chords and notes in unexpected combinations. Due to the stark and bare revelations in the album, when it was first played for Kris Kristofferson he is reported to have commented, "Joni! Keep something of yourself!

Two singles were released from the album “Carey” was Joni’s follow-up single to her classic hit “Big Yellow.” In Canada the song fared well reaching #27 on their singles chart. Mitchell has stated that the "Carey" in question was a memorable character named Cary Raditz (or "Carrot" Raditz), a cane-carrying chef with bright red hair that she met in Matala during her European odyssey of 1970. At times it was rumored the song was about James Taylor. The second single “California” was recorded while Joni was living in France but longing for the creative climate she had experienced in California. In the song she expresses the depth of her longing for California by singing that if she was back in California she would even be willing to kiss a policeman, despite considering herself a member of the counterculture.

Little Green

“Little Green,” an album highlight was written by Joni about the daughter she had given up for adoption in 1965, when she was a poor folk singer in Toronto. The existence of her daughter, originally called Kelly Dale, was not publicly known until 1993, when a roommate from Mitchell's art-school days in the 1960s sold the story of the adoption to a tabloid magazine. Mitchell commented on the situation in an interview quoted in a 1998 article: "I was dirt poor. An unhappy mother does not raise a happy child. It was difficult parting with the child, but I had to let her go." Mitchell was reunited with her daughter, Kilauren Gibb, in 1997.

In his review for Rolling Stone Magazine, Timothy Crouse wrote regarding the song "All I Want," The accompaniment - James Taylor and Joni strumming a nervous, Latin-flavored guitar part over a bass heartbeat that throbs throughout the song - perfectly expresses Joni's excitement and anticipation."

The title track, "Blue," was supposedly penned for James Taylor. Blue is a nickname she gave Taylor during that time period.

James Taylor and Joni Mitchell (1971)



JONI MITCHELL