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)


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Phoebe Snow - Second Childhood (1976)

“Second Childhood” by Phoebe Snow (1976)

Release Date: January 1976
Produced by Phil Ramone
Genre: Soft Rock, Pop, Adult Contemporary, Lite Jazz
Label: Columbia

Chart Positions: #13 (US), #18 (New Zealand), #10 (US Jazz), #33 (US R&B)
Certifications: Gold (US)

Singles: “All Over,” “Two Fisted Love” (No Chart Data on both singles)
Singles Certifications: N/A
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “All Over,” “Two Fisted Love,” “ Sweet Disposition”

"Second Childhood" is the second album by singer–songwriter Phoebe Snow, released in 1976. The album Certified Gold by the RIAA on July 09, 1976 .

Phoebe's voice caresses the melodies, soars and swoops with ease and great accuracy over the astonishingly wide vocal range she possesses. The musicians accompanying her play with a sensitivity and empathy rarely heard in popular music, but that's hardly surprising when you consider that the players featured on the album read like a who's who of America's finest. Artists in their own right, they bring their expertise to the magic in this amazing work. Featured on the album is jazz legend Ron Carter (on bass), Ken Ascher (who co-wrote “The Rainbow Connection” with Paul Williams), highly prolific session drummer Steve Gadd, guitar legend Tony Levin (who has played with everybody from King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Paul Simon and John Lennon), percussionist Ralph MacDonald and saxophonist David Sanborn amongst a host of others.

Phoebe Snow wrote seven of the ten tracks. Interestingly, although there were three singles from this album not one of them charted anywhere in the world - not even on side charts such as jazz, adult contemporary or R&B.

"All Over" (1976)


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Heatwave - Too Hot To Handle (1976)

“Too Hot To Handle” by Heatwave (1976)

Release Date: 1976 (UK), May 30, 1977 (US)
Produced by Barry Blue
Genre: R&B, Funk, Disco
Label: GTO (UK), Epic (US)

Chart Positions: #11 (US), #5 (US R&B), #14 (Canada), #36 (New Zealand), #46 (UK)
Certifications: Platinum (US), Silver (UK)

“Ain’t No Half Steppin’” (No chart data)
“Super Soul Sister” (No chart data)
“Boogie Nights” #1 (UK, New Zealand), #2 (US, Canada), #3 (Brazil), #5 (US R&B), #6 (Norway), #11 (Sweden), #17 (Netherlands), #27 (Belgium), #31 (Germany), #54 (Australia)
“Too Hot To Handle” #15 (UK), #28 (New Zealand), #36 (US Disco)
“Always and Forever” #2 (US R&B), #9 (UK), #10 (Canada), #17 (Ireland), #18 (US), #33 (US Adult Contemporary), #89 (Japan)
Singles Certifications: “Boogie Nights” Silver (UK), Gold (Canada), Platinum (US), “Always and Forever” Silver (UK), Platinum (US)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Boogie Nights,” “Ain’t No Half Steppin’,” “ Always and Forever,” “Super Soul Sister,” “All You Do Is Dial”

Trivia: “Too Hot To Handle” is the debut album from Heatwave, an international funk/disco band formed in 1975. Its most popular lineup featured Americans Johnnie Wilder, Jr. and Keith Wilder (vocals) of Dayton, Ohio, Englishman Rod Temperton (keyboards), Swiss Mario Mantese (bass), Czechoslovak Ernest "Bilbo" Berger (drums), Jamaican Eric Johns (guitar) and Briton Roy Carter (guitar).

Initially “Boogie Nights” was released in France in 1975, where it became a hit in the dance clubs but did not catch on in other parts of the world. Soon after, in 1976, they released two singles in the UK; “Ain’t No Half Steppin” and “Super Soul sister” both songs failed to chart. Finally another push was given to “Boogie Nights,” this time on an international level, this time around the song because a huge hit making it into the Top 10 in more than half a dozen countries around the world. In the US the song reached #2 and was certified Platinum for more than 1 million copies sold.

“Always and Forever” did not chart as high as “Boogie Nights,” though it was a worldwide hit and has gone on to become a smooth groove classic. The song has been used in weddings and proms throughout the world and remains a favorite Valentine’s Day song.

The album showed much potential for the group as the album employs nothing but quality tracks.

The legendary Rod Temperton (keyboards and synthesizer) composed all the songs on the album. Temperton went on to international fame as a songwriter and vocal arranger. He wrote several songs for Michael Jackson including “Rock With You,” “Off The Wall,” “Burn This Disco Out,” “Thriller,” “Baby Be Mine” and “The Lady In My Life.” Temperton also wrote hits for artists such as Manhattan Transfer, Donna Summer, Brothers Johnson, George Benson and Quincy Jones. Temperton also wrote three songs for Karen Carpenter’s solo album in 1979-80 for which he also composed the vocal arrangements.

"Boogie Nights" by Heatwave


Monday, September 18, 2017

Leon Russell - Leon Russell (1970)

“Leon Russell” by Leon Russell (1970)

Release Date: March 23, 1970
Produced by Leon Russell
Genre: Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, Blues Rock
Label: Shelter Records (US), A&M (UK), Phillips (Europe)

Chart Positions: #60 (US), #62 (Japan)
Certifications: N/A

Singles: “Roll Away With The Stone” #109 (US), “A Song For You”
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “A Song For You,” “Hummingbird,” “ Delta Lady,” “Roll Away The Stone”

“Leon Russell” is the debut solo album by the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leon Russell. It followed his debut with the Midnight String Quartet and a production by Russell and Marc Benno billed as the Asylum Choir. The album was released during the “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” Tour. Many of the musicians that were part of the tour were also featured on Russell’s debut solo album and many more. The album almost reads like a who’s who of music including George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Steve Winwood and other all-stars.

Previous to this album Russell was known as a producer, arranger and backup musician for several other artists such as Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ike & Tina Turner, Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Doris Day, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, The Ventures, BB King and a host of others. By the time he released his debut album Russell was a very well known name in the industry.

Despite the polish and detail put into this album, it still retains a down home, good time, late night jam sort of feel. That was the magic of Leon Russell, he always managed to make his music feel like as if he recorded it all right there at home ins own living room. When in truth the album was recorded in various studios in London, England, Memphis, Tennessee and Los Angeles, California.

The album is filled with songs that have been covered by countless musicians such as “Hummingibrd” covered by the likes of BB King, Bob Seger, Jimmy Page as well as others. Joe Cocker covered “Give Peace A Chance.” Clint Black and Bruce Hornsby collaborated on a great cover of “Dixie Lullaby.” “Delta Lady,” which became an early signature song for Russell has been covered by Joe Cocker, Bobby Gentry, Gary Puckett, David Cassidy and several others. The album’s most widely known song is Leon Russell’s classic “A Song For You” which has reached meteoric heights as recorded by Carpenters. Ray Charles’ version of the song made it to #9 on the US Adult Contemporary charts in 1993. Amy Winehouse did an effecting rendition of “A Song For You” as did the Temptations. Russell wrote the song with a female singer in mind, specifically Bonnie Bramlett, the fact that the song become such a huge hit for Karen Carpenter in 1972 is not such a far stretch from Russell's initial imaging the song.

"Delta Lady" (1970)

“Roll Away With The Stone” received the most attention at the release of the album making it to #109 on the US Billboard singles chart. It wasn’t a hit but it did garner attention and airplay for Leon Russell. The Gospel inflected “Give Peace A Chance” (not to be confused with the John Lennon song) is heralded by critics as an album highlight. “Hummingbird” features George Harrison on guitar and Ringo Starr on drums.

Other than "Give Peace A Chance," Russell borrows another famous song title for his composition "I Put A spell On You," a song not to be confused with Screaming' Jay Hawkins' blue fest. Russell's "Spell," features the Rolling Stones' rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman along with Russell's own lively piano parts gives the song a funky rhythm and blues southern rock style that is irresistible. The chorus is just as hooky and catchy as Hawkins' song. The laughing and false starts at the beginning of the song make it feel real when they finally get going.

Rita Coolidge inspired both “A Song For You” and “Delta Lady”, Leon Russell wrote these songs for and about her. Coolidge was known as the “Delta Lady” because of the song.

Billboard Magazine featured a short review of the album upon it's release:
"Another newcomer exponent of contemporary blues at its best is American performer/ writer Leon Russell debuts on the Blue Thumb distributed Shelter label. Russell has written for some of today's top record stars and his own virile and gravely voice is well suited to his songs. Highlights include "A Song For You" and "Delta Lady."

Leon Russell (1970)

Amazon link to “Leon Russell”: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002TYM/ref=nosim/populasongsmu-20

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Suzi Quatro - Suzi and Other Four Letter Words (1979)

“Suzi… And Other Four Letter Words” by Suzi Quatro (1979)

Release Date: 1979
Produced by Mike Chapman
Genre: Rock, New Wave, Reggae Fusion
Label: RAK

Chart Positions: #4 (Norway), #36 (Sweden), #117 (US)
Certifications: Gold (Canada)

Singles: “She’s In Love With You” #1 (South Africa), #4 (Austria, Belgium), #5 (Ireland), #6 (Netherlands, Switzerland), #8 (Germany), #10 (Norway), #11 (UK), #24 (New Zealand), #30 (Australia), #41 (US)
“Mama’s Boy” #12 (South Africa), #19 (Germany), #21 (Belgium), #27 (Ireland), #34 (UK), 343 (Netherlands)
“I’ve Never Been In Love” #38 (Germany), #44 (US), #56 (UK)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “I’ve Never Been In Love,” “She’s In Love With You,” “ Hollywood,” “Four Letter Words,” “Mama’s Boy,” “Love Hurts”

Trivia: On the heels of her biggest US success, 1978’s pop sounding “Stumblin’ In,” Suzi released “Suzi… And Other Four Letter Words,” and album that brought her back to her hard rocking roots. The album became her second best selling in the US as well as producing her 2nd and 3rd biggest US hits with “She’s In Love With You” and “I’ve Never Been In Love” respectively.

"She's In Love With You" (1979)

This, Quatro's sixth studio album, was released after she moved from the United States to Britain. It is her last studio album before she decided not to renew her contract with record producer Mickie Most's RAK Records label. (Instead she signed a contract with Dreamland Records, which had been set up by songwriters/producers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn).

A few of the songs “Hollywood” and “Four Letter Words” are tuneful, keyboard-based mid-tempo tunes, that add a pop feel to the otherwise hard rock album. “Hollywood,” written by Quatro (with Len Tuckey), almost seems personal for Quatro as she sings about how the city eats up young innocents. The reggae based “Four Letter Words” gives us another view of Quatro’s musical diversity.

During this time period Suzi was being watched on television by millions in her role as Leather Tuscadero on the popular sitcom “Happy Days,” a role she played from 1977-1979.

Producer Mike Chapman produced other artists such as Nick Gilder, Blondie, The Knack and The Sweet as well as writing or co-writing several songs for each of these artists.

The September 22, 1979 edition of Billboard Magazine featured "Suzi and Other Four Letter Words" as one of it's Top Picks of the week. The following is their brief review:
Quatro rocks out on the album more than any previous effort, evidenced primarily in "I've Never Been In Love," a memorable, hook laden rocker in which Quatro let's loose with some of her most convincing vocals. Mike Chapman applies his production genius again and the result is a steamy collection of catchy, no nonsense melodic rock. Quatro's bass guitar is ably supported by her band which keeps the rhythms blazing. The album is a righteous followup to an album that produced a top five record "Stumbling' In" and returned Quatro to the rock ranks. Best Cuts: "I've Never Been In Love," "Mind Demons," "She's In Love With You," "Mama's Boy." Dealers: "I've Never Benn In Love" is a hot chart number.

Suzi Quatro and Mike Chapman (1979)


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo? (1978)

“Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo?” by Devo (1978)

Release Date: August 28, 1978
Produced by Brian Eno, David Bowie (additional co-producer)
Genre: New Wave, Electronic, Punk Rock
Label: Warner Bros, Virgin

Chart Positions: #7 (New Zealand), #12 (UK), #57 (Australia), #78 (US)
Certifications: Gold (US), Silver (UK)

Singles: “Mongoloid” (No chart data)
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” #41 (UK), #48 (Netherlands), #98 (Australia)
“Jocko Homo” #62 (UK)
“Come Back Jonee” #60 (UK)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Uncontrollable Urge,” “ Space Junk,” “Mongoloid,” “Jocko Homo,” “Come Back Jonee”

In 1977, David Bowie and Iggy Pop received a tape of Devo demonstration songs from the wife of Michael Aylward, guitarist in another Akron, Ohio band, Tin Huey. Both Iggy and Bowie, as well as Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, expressed interest in producing Devo's first release. At Devo's New York debut show in 1977, Bowie proclaimed that "this is the band of the future, I'm going to produce them in Tokyo this winter." Eventually, Eno was chosen to produce the album in Germany. Bowie was busy filming "Just a Gigolo," but helped Eno produce the record during weekends. Eno paid for the flights and studio cost for the band, confident that the band would be signed to a record contract. In return for his work on the album, Eno asked for a share of any subsequent deals.

Brain Eno envisioned many sides of Devo after he first heard their music, he stated, 'What I saw in them always happens when you encounter something new in art - you get a feeling of being slightly dislocated, and with that are emotional overtones that are slightly menacing as well as alluring. This induced a stiffening effect because with Devo you have something that makes your body move in a new way."

The album quickly became a cult sensation in part because of it's highly stylized visuals - videos, album art and costumes which made the band members look alike. The album was a touchstone in the development of American new wave. It was one of the first pop album to use the synthesizer as a prominent feature in their music. Devo was pivotal in the explosion of synth-pop that would soon follow.

Devo’s quirky version of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was the second single from the album and chart debut and was originally from their “Be Stiff” EP released in 1977. Music History professor, Theo Cateforis had recognized that Devo's rendition of the Rolling Stones classic was a satirical contradiction of African American and Caribbean rhythms in a sense a parody of the nervous bodily awkward "whiteness" of the white male man machine torn between discipline and the urges of the flesh.

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (1978)

Their first single from the album was “Mongoloid” also from the “Be Stiff” EP.

"Jocko Homo," one of the album's several highlights was written in an unnerving and unusual 7/8 time which keeps the rhythm quirky on a level that outstrips any sort of quirky rhythms delivered by The Talking Heads or XTC.

Mark Mothersbaugh was a student at Kent State when he received a religious pamphlet from afraid titled "Jocko Homo" in which it debunked the theory of evolution. This was right after the students had been killed on campus at Kent State. The song was written based on a series of discussions Mothersbaugh and his bandmates had. They decided that what was happening to the planet and what they were seeing in the news was not evolution but more appropriately de-evolution. Hence the name Devo (which is short for de-evolution).

Devo (1978)


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

KC and the Sunshine Band (1975)

“KC and the Sunshine Band” by KC and the Sunshine Band (1975)

Release Date: July 6, 1975
Produced by Harry Wayne Casey, Richard Finch
Genre: Disco, Funk, Pop
Label: TK

Chart Positions: #4 (US), #5 (Canada, Netherlands), #26 (UK), #27 (Sweden), #34 (Japan), #1 (US R&B)
Certifications: Platinum (Canada), 3xPlatinum (US)

“Get Down Tonight” #1 (US, Canada, US R&B), #2 (Brazil), #3 (France), #5 (Netherlands), #11 (Belgium, US Dance), #21 (UK), #44 (Australia),
“That’s The Way (I Like It)” #1 (US, Canada, Netherlands), #2 (Belgium), 33 (Sweden), #4 (UK), #5 (Norway, Australia), #6 (South Africa), #8 (France), #12 (New Zealand), #17 (Ireland), #18 (US Dance), #20 (Germany, Japan),
“I’m So Crazy (Bout You)” #34 (UK),
“I Get Lifted” #9 (US Dance),
“Boogie Shoes” #29 (US R&B) #31 (New Zealand), #34 (UK), #35 (US)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A

Best Tracks: “Get Down Tonight,” “Boogie Shoes,” “ That's The Way I Like It,” “What Makes You Happy"

Trivia: KC and the Sunshine Band forever shaped the perception people have of the 70s as the era of disco-pop with hits such as “That’s The Way (I Like It)” and “Get Down Tonight.” It seems as if they came out of nowhere and became an overnight sensation, but the reality is before their string of hits in 1975, KC and the Sunshine Band released their first album (in 1974) which did not chart and contained four singles all of which charted low. Finally with their second album they hit and they hit big.

“Get Down Tonight” was KC and the Sunshine Band’s first of five #1 hit singles. In an interview with Richard Finch, he explained that "Get Down Tonight" was inspired by the Gilbert O'Sullivan song called "Get Down," which is sometimes known as "Bad Dog, Baby." Finch explains: "O’Sullivan wrote that song about his dog. That record was really hot back then. And I was like, 'Okay, this guy has a great idea.' He's talking about 'get down.' But I didn't find out until later, he was talking about his dog. And I was like, 'Well, that's really square.' How hip is that?"

"Get Down Tonight" (1975)

The song features a distinctive introduction, in which a recorded guitar solo is rendered at double speed over a normal-speed guitar line in the background. After observing someone else slowing down a tape machine, Richard Finch had the idea of using this technique to create the guitar riff, as a way of adding something to the song "that really keeps the buzz, that really keeps the excitement going all the way through without being too artificial sounding." Finch states that he was "always doing weird science" in those days, referring to his various experiments with sound.

At the time, “That’s The Way (I Like It)” was considered by some to be rather risqué because of the obvious meaning behind the title as well as its chorus with multiple "uh-huhs" and its verses. Richard Finch stated, "We were all happy, and you could tell. We transferred the excitement of that hit feeling from 'Get Down Tonight,' and trust me, then we were all like, 'Oh, my God, this is amazing! We've done it! Let's put the magic on something else.' And you could definitely hear the excitement and the magic from that first hit record with 'That's The Way I Like It,' because we were all pumped, and we were all stoked. If you listen to that record closely, you can hear everyone smiling while they're singing, especially the background singers. It was a very, very magic moment. I mean, we're in Miami, Florida, and we're in a little independent label, and we're becoming successful? C'mon, man, this is not possible, this must be a dream!" “That’s The Way (I Like It)” was originally recorded in a more risqué manner by KC & The Sunshine Band before lead singer Harry Wayne Casey toned down the "uh-huhs," making them sound like cries of jubilation. As for the "controversial" lyrics, Finch tells us: "We had to tone down the words a little bit, it used to be called 'What You Want.' And I was like, 'No, KC. That's not commercial enough, people aren't gonna figure out what you're saying.' Back then you had to watch what you say. Not like today. People come on the radio and cuss and say all kinds of s--t, but back then, you had to watch yo' mouth. You can be suggestive in a poetic way. It can mean whatever to whoever the listener is, and it doesn't really tie it down to any one thing or gender. So I figured that the more open you keep it, and unresolved, the more people you draw in."

“KC and the Sunshine Band” was a rare album in that back in the 70s most artists usually only released 2 or 3 singles from an album and then moved to the next album. There were a total of five songs released as singles with the fifth being “Boogie Shoes.” Originally the song was not intended to be released as a single, but after it’s inclusion in the 1977 blockbuster film “Saturday Night Fever,” the song garnered quite a bit of attention and more than two years after it’s parent album’s release the song was put out as a single. The song was a success charting in the lower part of the Top 40 in The US, UK and New Zealand.

"Ain't Nothing Wrong" opens Side Two of the album and displays KCs determination to showcase more than just disco music. "Ain't Nothing Wrong" is a fine predecessor to his 1979 ballad hit "Please Don't Go." "What Makes You Happy" brings the funk out and sounds borderline between Ohio Players and The O'Jays.

KC and the Sunshine Band 1975