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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Gladys Knight and The Pips - Neither One Of Us (1973)

“Neither One Of Us” by Gladys Knight and the Pips (1973)

Release Date: March 1973
Produced by Joe Porter, Johnny Bristol, Clay McMurray, Nick Zesses, Dino Fekaris and Hal Davis
Genre: R&B, Soul, Pop
Label: Soul Records (Motown)
Chart Positions: #9 (US)
Certifications: N/A

Singles: “Neither One Of Us” #2 (US), #5 (Brazil), #9 (France), #11 (Canada), #31 (UK), “Daddy Could Swear, I Declare” #19 (US)

“Neither One Of Us” is Gladys Knight and the Pips ninth studio album and their first to make it into the US Top Ten. The Soul Records label released the album shortly after the group left the label for Buddah Records while the title track was rising up the charts.

Two singles were released from the album including the title track “Neither One Of Us,” the song rose to #2 in the US and was a hit in various parts of the world including France, Brazil, Canada and the UK. The song also topped the US R&B charts for four weeks, their fourth of ten to top the chart. It was preceded by the O’Jays’ “Love Train” and followed by The Temptations’ “Masterpiece.” “Neither One Of Us” was written by Jim Weatherly who also wrote “Midnight Train To Georgia” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” both hits for Gladys and the Pips. In March 1974, at the Grammy Awards ceremony, Gladys Knight & The Pips won their first Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for "Neither One of Us (Wants To Say Goodbye)." That same night, they won a second Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for "Midnight Train to Georgia".
Neither One Of Us

The second single “Daddy Could Swear, I Declare” was a minor hit reaching US #19 and #2 on the US R&B chart.

The album contains a dusky and smoky slower soul ballad rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life.”

Famed songwriter, arranger, musician Michael O'Martian composed the musical arrangement for the tracks "Who Is She" and "Neither One Of Us."

Gladys Knight and The Pips (1973)


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

David Bowie - Heroes (1977)

“Heroes” by David Bowie (1977)

Release Date: October 14, 1977
Produced by David Bowie and Tony Visconti
Genre: Art-Rock, Rock, Experimental Rock, Ambient
Label: RCA
Chart Positions: #35 (US), #3 UK, Netherlands), #6 (Australia), #13 (Norway, Sweden), #15 (New Zealand), #19 (Austria, France), #34 (Switzerland), #38 (Italy), #44 (Canada, Germany), #57 (Japan)
Certifications: Platinum Gold (UK, Canada)

Singles: “Heroes” #24 (UK), #8 (Holland, Ireland), #9 (France, Netherlands), #11 (Australia), #14 (Austria), #17 (Belgium, Italy), #19 (Germany, Denmark), #20 (Spain), #34 (New Zealand), #37 (Sweden), “Beauty and the Beast” #7 (France), #30 (Belgium), #39 (UK)

+++ 70s Music: Album by Album certifies David Bowie's "Heroes" as one of the great albums of all-time. +++

“Heroes” was David Bowie’s 12th studio album and his third installment of the Berlin Trilogy, which also includes 1977’s “Low” and 1979’s “Lodger.”

The album was recorded with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, "Heroes" continued the ambient experiments of Bowie's previous album Low (released earlier that year) and featured the contributions of guitarist Robert Fripp. Of the three albums, it was the only one wholly recorded in Berlin.

Upon its release, it was met with positive critical reception and was named NME Album of the Year. The title track remains one of Bowie's best known and acclaimed songs. David Bowie composed all the lyrics and music with the exception of “Heroes,” “Moss Garden” and “Neuköln” were co-written with Brain Eno and “The Secret Life of the Arabia” co-written by Brian Eno and Puerto Rican guitarist Carlos Alomar.

Every track on the album was a first take. According to producer Brian Eno, the first take of every song ultimately need up being the best one.

Two singles were released from the album; “Heroes” which was a hit throughout the world and though it is considered a classic in the US the song never made it on to the US singles charts. Written by written by Bowie and Brian Eno, “Heroes” was inspired by the sight of Bowie's manager Tony Visconti embracing his girlfriend by the Berlin Wall, the song tells the story of two lovers, one from East and one from West Berlin. Visconti can be heard in the song banging on a metal ashtray that was found in the studio. The song was also released in German and French. The German version is called "Helden" and the French is called "Heros."


The second single “Beauty and the Beast” was a minor hit in select countries in Europe.

One of the album's most popular tracks "V-2 Scneider" was written as a tribute to Florian Scnieder, a co-founder of the German electronic band Kraftwerk. Bowie has said Kraftwerk influenced him heavily in producing his Berlin albums.

David Bowie (1977)

Dvid Bowie (Heroes Tour 1978)

Check out The David Bowie Resource Center: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1789895121229585/


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Average White Band - Cut The Cake (1975)

“Cut The Cake” by Average White Band (1975)

Release Date: June 1975
Produced by Arif Mardin
Label: Atlantic

Chart Positions: #4 (US), #28 (UK), #21 (New Zealand)
Certifications: Gold (US)

Singles: “Cut The Cake” #10 (US), #31 (UK), “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” #39 (US), “School Boy Crush” #33 (US)

Cut the Cake is the third album released by Average White Band, released in 1975. This album included the hit single "Cut the Cake", the title track, which reached #10 on the US singles chart. Average White Band (also AWB) are a Scottish funk and R&B band that had a series of soul and disco hits between 1974 and 1980. They are best known for their million-selling instrumental track "Pick Up the Pieces" and the 1975 hit “Cut The Cake.

The follow-up album to the immensely successful AWB in 1974, recording was plagued by creative and artistic differences, with several members of the band walking out of the studio on three occasions. One point of conflict was the band's mourning for original drummer, Robbie McIntosh, who died of a heroin overdose in 1974. Producer Arif Mardin considered pulling the plug on the project due to this tension but ultimately persevered and oversaw its completion.

"Cut The Cake"

In the informative liner notes that he wrote for Rhino's early-'90s reissue of Cut the Cake, writer A. Scott Galloway explains that this excellent album was recorded under less-than-ideal circumstances. The Average White Band's original drummer, Robbie McIntosh, died of a heroin overdose in 1974, and the surviving members were still in mourning when they started working on their third album, Cut the Cake (which originally came out on LP in 1975). Steve Ferrone, a black drummer from London, England, was hired as a replacement -- ironically, he became the first black member of a Scottish soul/funk band that had a very African-American sound and a largely African-American following. Despite the fact that AWB's members still had McIntosh's death on their minds when they were writing and recording Cut the Cake, this isn't a depressing or consistently melancholy album; far from it. In fact, parts of the album are downright fun, especially up-tempo funk gems like "School Boy Crush," "Groovin' the Night Away" and the hit title song (which made it to number seven on Billboard's R&B singles chart). Cut the Cake is also the album that gave us the ballad "Cloudy" (one of the more melancholy tracks) and AWB's version of "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," a smooth soul classic that was originally recorded by Quincy Jones in 1973. The song wasn't a chart-buster -- it peaked at number 25 on Billboard's R&B singles chart -- but it did become a favorite amongst AWB fans and enjoyed a lot of exposure on quiet storm formats. AWB's members certainly don't sound like they're in mourning on Cut the Cake. If anything, they honor McIntosh's memory by showing their resilience and delivering one of their finest and most engaging albums.

Average White Band (1975)


Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Runaways - Queens of Noise (1977)

“Queens Of Noise” by The Runaways (1977)

Release Date: January 1977
Produced by Kim Fowley and Earle Mankey
Chart Positions: #172 (US), #28 (Sweden), #30 (Japan)
Certifications: N/A
Singles: “Queens of Noise” (UK Release), “Midnight Music” (German Release), “Heartbeat” (US & Australian Release)(#110 US), “I Love Playin’ With Fire” (Australian Release), “Neon Angels On The Road To Ruin” (Japanese Release)(#84 Japan)

Queens of Noise is the second studio album by the American rock band The Runaways. Released in January 1977 on Mercury Records, it is fundamentally a hard rock album, although it also exhibits influences from punk rock, heavy metal, and blues rock. While the album features a range of different tempos, most of it consists of the "heavy" guitar-driven tracks that have come to be seen as The Runaways' signature sound, although it also features two noticeably softer songs that have sometimes been described as early power ballads. While stylistically similar to the band's self-titled debut album The Runaways, Queens of Noise features greater emphasis on volume and musical sophistication. The album has received generally positive reviews and has remained the band's best-selling record in the United States.

Queens of Noise features a total of ten songs that are evenly split between the two sides of the original vinyl record. Nine of the ten songs were written or co-written by members of the band themselves, while the other (the title track "Queens of Noise") was written specifically for The Runaways, meaning that the album does not include any true covers. Joan Jett described herself as "really proud" of "Queens of Noise" as a whole and declared that it "is a lot more listenable" than "The Runaways," while Jackie Fox felt that it is "not a very good album" overall.

Queens of Noise
The album's titular song has a "heavy" sound and features a distinctive riff as well as a guitar solo by Ford. The only song on the album that was not written or co-written by any of The Runaways themselves, "Queens of Noise" was penned by Billy Bizeau of The Quick, the other band that Fowley managed. Jett noted that the title of the song was derived from a lyric in the song "American Nights" from the album The Runaways, while Fowley referred to it as a "great opening song and statement". According to Fox, Currie believed that the song had been written with the intention that she would sing the lead vocals, but Jett insisted on singing them and, with the support of the rest of the band, did so. However, according to Currie, she was unable to sing the lead vocals because she had an abortion shortly before the song was recorded, and by the time she had recovered and returned to the studio, Jett had already recorded the lead vocals. According to Fox, Currie was infuriated by the decision to include Jett's version on the album, although as a compromise she was allowed to sing the first verse during live performances of the song while Jett sang the second verse. Both Fox and Andy Doherty believe that this song in particular serves as a microcosm of the growing tension between Currie and Jett over the issue of lead vocals, a tension reflected by those duties being evenly split between the two on this album.

Take It or Leave It
Written singlehandedly by Jett, who also handles lead vocal duties on the song, "Take It or Leave It" challenges the title track in terms of strength and power with its "thunderous" drumming from West, who begins the song with a drum fill, and "powerful" guitar playing by both Ford and Jett. Barry Myers praised it as "possible single material" while Fowley referred to it as "pure Runaways", although Fox dismissed it as "one of my least favorite Runaways songs". Alex Henderson nonetheless deemed it a "classic" in his review for Allmusic, along with the songs "Neon Angels On the Road to Ruin" and "I Love Playin' with Fire", while Jett noted that it "always went over really well" with audiences when it was played live.

Midnight Music
In sharp contrast to the first two songs on the album, "Midnight Music" is a softer and more melodic song with Currie on lead vocals. She was quite happy with the finished version of the song, remarking that it "turned out more fantastic than I thought it would". Written by local songwriter Steven Tetsch, Fowley, and Currie together, Fox noted that the song was initially unpopular with the other four members of the band, but in 2000 remarked that upon further listening it was "actually one of the better songs on the album". The album's iTunes review echoed this praise by deeming it and "Heartbeat" power ballads that are "unacknowledged precursors to the hair metal sound that would come to dominate Los Angeles in the ‘80s". Despite this, Doherty argued that it is not representative of The Runaways' style because it "lacks their spirit and rough around the edges approach".

Born to Be Bad
Written by Fowley, West, and former bassist (and future Bangle) Michael "Micki" Steele, "Born to Be Bad" is very slow in tempo and also features "unusually mellow" lead vocals from Jett for part of the song. Fox believed that Fowley intended the lyrics to refer at least in part to the Vietnam War but Jett interpreted them as concerning homeless people living in the Manhattan neighborhood of Bowery, a claim supported by Jett's declaration that the song is "about someone who is a born loser". The song has received both highly positive and highly negative reviews. iTunes went as far as to call it the album's "real left-of-center gem" and "a twisted, intoxicated blues workout" that is driven by a Ford guitar solo that it described as an "exhibit of electricity". Myers lamented that it is "not one of the best tracks" on the album, while Fox dismissed it as "almost as embarrassing as Johnny Guitar".

Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin
Written by Ford, Fowley, and Fox, "Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin" is driven by a slow riff and a guitar solo that are both provided by Ford. Described simply as a "crunching heavy rock track" and "hard-ass rock", the song is considered by both Henderson and Doherty to be one of the best tracks on the album. Fowley described it as reminiscent of a "European approach to heavy metal", while Fox viewed it as the band's "concession to Lita's heavy metal [desires]." Currie's performance on lead vocals has been called "outstanding" and even considered her "finest performance", although Fox observed that Currie hated to sing it live night after night because she had great difficulty repeatedly hitting the highest notes in the song.

I Love Playin' with Fire
The first track on the second side of the original album, "I Love Playin' with Fire" is the second song on Queens of Noise that was written by Jett alone. It is an up-tempo song with Jett providing lead vocals that Myers describes as "divinely decadent", while it also features both a powerful riff and another guitar solo from Ford. Fowley described the lyrical content of the song as Jett's perspective on "getting ripped off and almost destroyed by superficial love". The iTunes review described the song as full of "relentless, gleeful anger", while Fox remarked that it was "always a lot of fun to play" and that she thought that Ford's solo was "one of her best". The song also features hand clapping during the third verse, which The Runaways recorded with a group of friends that included Rodney Bingenheimer, an experience that Fox remembered as an excruciatingly long process because "someone was off on every take".

I Love Playing' With Fire

California Paradise
Written by Fowley, Jett, West, and Kari Krome (Jett's friend and an important catalyst in the band's formation), "California Paradise" was the first of the Queens of Noise songs to be penned, and it was even one of the songs that Fox learned while auditioning for the band. After beginning with another opening drum fill from West, the song quickly becomes a guitar-driven "stomping rock track" with Currie on lead vocals and Jett harmonizing with her on the choruses. It is a unique track on the album because the guitar solo is split between Jett, who plays the first portion, and Ford. Fowley described it as an "answer to "California Girls" by the Beach Boys although musically it resembles a Gary Glitter record". iTunes characterized it as a "gloriously malevolent" tribute to The Runaways' home state, while Fox praised it as "probably the best song on the album".

Written by Fowley, Fox, and Jett, "Hollywood" features Jett on lead vocals for the fifth and final time on the album, while Fox provides backing vocals. According to Jett, the lyrics of the song concern "a girl wanting to become a star knowing that you can become one." Doherty described it as "one of the weaker [songs] on the album", although Myers considered it one of the four songs that made up the "consistently enjoyable" stretch between "I Love Playin' with Fire" and "Heartbeat".

Originally written by Ford and Fox, "Heartbeat" was conceived as a mock love song to Joey Ramone and was initially intended to feature Fox on lead vocals. Because Currie had already lost a significant number of lead vocals to Jett by the time it was recorded, Fowley decided to have Fox and Currie sing the lead vocals together in an effort to appease Currie, but Fox recalled that "Cherie's voice and mine didn't blend well at all" and they gave up trying to record together. Without Fox's knowledge or approval, Currie and Fowley then rewrote the lyrics to be about David Bowie and recorded the vocals without Fox. According to Currie, "[Fowley] wrote something and I rearranged it and wrote the melody". Jett described the lyrical content as the story of a frontman and a frontwoman who fall in love but "can't stay together because each one has to go their own way to help their career". Myers described it as one of the album's two "tear-jerkers", along with "Midnight Music", and praised Currie's vocals as "irresistibly moody".

Johnny Guitar
The concluding track "Johnny Guitar" was written by Fowley and Ford, and at 7:15 it is more than twice as long as all but one of the other songs on Queens of Noise. Described by Jett as a chance "for Lita to show off her lead guitar work", the "seven minute epic" has been criticized as "an unnecessary use of vinyl" and a "doom-laden attempt at a slow blues number". Fox even went so far as to declare it "without a question the single worst song the Runaways ever did". It has also garnered positive reviews, however, including Henderson's recognition of it being a "fine vehicle" for Ford's guitar playing and Moro's belief that it proved Ford "could actually play".

The Runaways (1977)


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (1971)

“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye (1971)

Release Date: May 21, 1971
Produced by Marvin Gaye
Chart Positions: #6 (US), #10 (Germany), #56 (UK)
Certifications: Platinum (UK), Gold (US)
Singles: “What’s Going On #2 (US), #6 (Brazil), #7 (France), #10 (Canada), #80 (UK), “Mercy Mercy Me” #4 (US), #2 (France), #12 (Canada), #15 (Brazil), “Inner City Blues” #9 (US, France), #11 (Canada)

What's Going On is Marvin Gaye’s eleventh studio album, released May 21, 1971, on the Motown-subsidiary label Tamla Records. Recording sessions for the album took place in June 1970 and March–May 1971 at Hitsville U.S.A., Golden World and United Sound Studios in Detroit and at The Sound Factory in West Hollywood, California. What's Going On was the first album on which Motown Records' main studio band, the group of session musicians known as the Funk Brothers, received an official credit.

The first Marvin Gaye album credited as being produced by the artist himself, What's Going On is a unified concept album consisting of nine songs, most of which lead into the next. It has also been categorized as a song cycle; the album ends on a reprise of the album's opening theme. The album is told from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning to the country he had been fighting for, and seeing only hatred, suffering, and injustice. Gaye's introspective lyrics discuss themes of drug abuse, poverty, and the Vietnam War. He has also been credited with discussing global warming before it became a hot topic .

What's Going On was an immediate success upon release, both commercially and critically. Having endured as a classic of 1970s, a deluxe edition set was released on February 27, 2001, and featured a rare recording of a May 1972 concert shot at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center. Worldwide surveys of critics, musicians, and the general public have shown that What's Going On is regarded as one of the landmark recordings in pop music history, and one of the greatest albums of the 20th century. The album was ranked number six both on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", and in the magazine's update nine years later.

Selling more than 2 million copies “What’s Going On” was one of the first Motown albums to sell in large amounts. Previously most Motown artists had lots of hit singles but album sales were secondary. After Gaye artists such as Stevie Wonder, Temptations, Commodores and others released albums that were multi-million sellers.

While traveling on his tour bus with the Four Tops on May 15, 1969, Four Tops member Renaldo "Obie" Benson witnessed an act of police brutality and violence committed on anti-war protesters who had been protesting at Berkeley's People's Park in what was later termed as "Bloody Thursday". A disgusted Benson later told author Ben Edmonds, "I saw this and started wondering 'what was going on, what is happening here?' One question led to another. Why are they sending kids far away from their families overseas? Why are they attacking their own kids in the street?" Returning to Detroit, Motown songwriter Al Cleveland wrote and composed a song based on his conversations with Benson of what he had seen in Berkeley. Benson sent the unfinished song to his band mates but the other Four Tops turned the song down. Benson said, "My partners told me it was a protest song. I said 'no man it's a love song, about love and understanding. I'm not protesting. I want to know what's going on.'"

Benson and Cleveland offered the song to Marvin Gaye when they met him at a golf game. Returning to Gaye's home in Outer Drive, Benson played the song to Gaye on his guitar. Gaye felt the song's moody flow would be perfect for The Originals. Benson, however, felt Gaye could sing it himself. Gaye responded to that suggestion by asking Benson for songwriting credit of the song. Benson and Cleveland allowed it and Gaye edited the song, adding a new melody, revising the song to his own liking, and changing some of the lyrics, reflective of Gaye's own disgust. Gaye finished the song by adding its title, "What's Going On". Benson said later that Gaye tweaked and enriched the song, "added some things that were more ghetto, more natural, which made it seem like a story and not a song... we measured him for the suit and he tailored the hell out of it." During this time, Gaye had been deeply affected by letters shared between him and his brother after he had returned from service over the treatment of Vietnam veterans.

Gaye had also been deeply affected by the social ills that were then plaguing the United States at the time, even covering the track, "Abraham, Martin & John", in 1969, which became a UK hit for Gaye in 1970. Gaye cited the 1965 Watts riots as a pivotal moment in his life in which he asked himself, "with the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?" One night, Gaye called Berry Gordy about doing a protest record while Gordy vacationed at the Bahamas, to which Gordy chastised him, "Marvin, don't be ridiculous. That's taking things too far."

Reuniting at their parents' suburban D.C. home, Marvin's brother Frankie discussed the events of his tenure at Vietnam, detailing experiences that sometimes left the two brothers consoling each other in tears. After Frankie explained witnessing violence and murder before he was to depart back to the states, he recalled Marvin sitting propped up in a bed with his hands in his face. Afterwards Marvin told his brother, "I didn't know how to fight before, but now I think I do. I just have to do it my way. I'm not a painter. I'm not a poet. But I can do it with music."

In an interview for Rolling Stone magazine, Marvin Gaye discussed what had shaped his view on more socially conscious themes in music and the conception of his eleventh studio album:
“In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say.... I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world.”
— Marvin Gaye

The song “What’s Going On” was released as a single in January 1971, several months before the album, and immediately zoomed up the charts. The song topped the US soul singles for five weeks. Gaye entered the recording studio, Hitsville USA, on June 1, 1970 to record "What's Going On". Instead of relying on other producers to help him with the song, Gaye, inspired by recent successes of his productions for the vocal act, The Originals, decided to produce the song himself. “What’s Going On” marked Gaye's departure from the Motown Sound towards more personal material. This was one of the first Motown songs to make a powerful political statement. Stevie Wonder and the Temptations were also recording more serious and challenging material, which was a radical departure from the Motown hits of the '60s. "What's Going On" (the song) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. "Mercy, Mercy Me" was inducted in 2002.

"What's Going On" (1971)

The second single “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)” was the second single release from the album and followed the success of “What’s Going On” made it to #4 on the US chart. Many years before global warming became a hot topic, Marvin Gaye wrote this song about the environment and how we have an obligation to care for the Earth.

The third and final single “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” continued Gaye’s chart success reaching #9 in the US. Written by Gaye and James Nyx Jr., the song depicts ghetto life and bleak economic situations of inner-city America, and the emotional effects these have on inhabitants. The song helped Gaye make history by being one of the few artists to have three or more Top 10 songs on Billboard's Pop Singles chart peaking at #9 and one of the first to have three consecutive #1 hits on Billboard's R&B Singles chart where it stayed for two weeks. Although not certified by the RIAA at that time, all three releases from the What's Going On album gained Gold status by selling over 1,000,000 copies each in the US.

Album highlight “God Is Love” is a stirring ballad which was a return of sorts to Gaye's religious background dedicating this song to God and his father, Marvin Gay, Sr. The song was originally recorded as the B-side to "What's Going On" shortly after that song was recorded.

“What’s Happening Brother?” continues the song cycle, that begins with the song “What’s Going On,” about a man returning home from fighting in the Vietnam War only to discover that his world is abstractly different from what it used to be before he left for duty. In Marvin's case, the song was dedicated to his younger brother, Frankie, who was returning from a three-year duty in Vietnam. Musically the song follows the same path as "What's Going On" and features The Andantes as background vocalists.

“Flying High (In The Sky)” continued a song cycle begun with the previous track, "What's Happening Brother" after that song ended with the lyric, "Cause I'm slightly behind the time", creating a moody and ominous sound punctuated by the singer's falsetto. Co-written with wife Anna Gordy and confidant Elgie Stover, the song talked about drug addiction, particularly heroin, as heard in the lyric, "I know I'm hooked my friend/to the boy who makes slaves out of men".

Marvin Gaye (1971)


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bonnie Raitt - Give It Up (1972)

“Give It Up” by Bonnie Raitt (1972)

Release Date: September 1972
Produced by Michael Cuscuna
Chart Positions: #138 (US)
Certifications: Gold (US)
Singles: “Too Long At The Fair”

“Give It Up” was the second album release for the 22-year-old Bonnie Raitt. Her first album, a straight up blues affair titled “Bonnie Raitt,” released in 1971 failed to chart but managed to capture the attention of several music luminaries of the time.

Transitioning to her second album Raitt strengthened her recognizable style. When she went into the studio to record “Give It Up” Raitt had a new advantage from the attention she garnered with her first album. She hired producer Michael Cuscuna, a musician with a strong background in jazz. Along with recording Bonnie Raitt, Cuscuna’s also produced several albums throughout the 70s for jazz musician Dave Brubeck. Cuscuna’s brought in notable musicians such as Paul Butterfield (Butterfield Blues Band), Eric Kaz (songwriter of “Love Has No Pride” and several other hits), and Dave Holland (prolific jazz musician).

“Give It Up” maintained Raitt’s R&B and blues background melding it with a contemporary Californian soft-rock and folk sound.

“Too Long At The Fair” was released as a promo single in the US, Canada and the UK to promote the album. Early in the 1970s Bonnie Raitt's manager, Dick Waterman, dropped into Passim (Club 47) in Cambridge, attempting to get a booking for Raitt. While Waterman and the club owner were discussing the booking, he heard Joel Zoss sing "Too Long at the Fair." After the show Waterman introduced himself and asked for a tape of the song to play for Raitt. Raitt recorded the song along with another Zoss composition “I Gave My Love A Candle” which appeared on her 1973 album “Takin’ My Time.”

The title track, “Give It Up or Let Me Go,” written by Bonnie Raitt, opens with Raiit’s blues filled acoustic guitar and quickly works into a New Orleans Dixieleand Jazz celebration.

"Give It Up Or Let Me Go"

Eric Kaz’s “Love Has No Pride” closes the album. Raitt’s somber folksy blues rendition gave life to a song which was recorded a year later by Linda Ronstadt for her 1973 album “Don’t Cry Now.” Ronstadt released the song as a single and achieved minor chart success with it.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Santana - Caravanserai (1972)

“Caravanserai” by Santana (1972)

Release Date: October 11, 1972
Produced by Carlos Santana, Mike Shrieve
Chart Positions: #8 (US), #3 (Netherlands), #6 (UK), #7 (Holland), #10 (Norway), #11 (Australia), #13 (Denmark), #15 (Italy)
Certifications: Platinum (US), Gold (Canada, France)
Singles: “Song of the World”

Caravanserai is the fourth studio album by Santana released in October 1972. It marked a major turning point in Carlos Santana's career as it was a sharp departure from his critically acclaimed first three albums. Original bassist David Brown left the group in 1971 and was replaced by Doug Rauch and Tom Rutley, while original percussionist Michael Carabello left and was replaced by Armando Peraza. Keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie, who was having a falling-out with Santana, was replaced by Tom Coster on a few songs. The album also displayed a change stylistically. While Santana maintained his Latin rock signature sound he put a broader focus on a jazz-fusion twist.  Caravanserai reached #8 in the Billboard 200 chart and #6 in the R&B Albums chart in 1972.

The sound contrasted greatly with Santana's trademark fusion of salsa, rock, and jazz, and concentrated mostly on jazz-like instrumental passages. All but three tracks were instrumentals, and consequently the album yielded no hit singles. The album is the first among a series of Santana albums that were known for their increasing musical complexity, marking a move away from the popular rock format of the early Santana albums towards a more contemplative and experimental jazz sound. While Caravanserai is regarded as an artistic success, the musical changes that began on its release in 1972 marked the start of a slide in Santana's commercial popularity. This album has been mixed and released in both stereo and quadraphonic.

Caravanserai is daring even by Santana's high standards. Carlos Santana was obviously very hip to jazz fusion -- something the innovative guitarist provides a generous dose of on the largely instrumental Caravanserai. Whether its approach is jazz-rock or simply rock, this album is consistently inspired and quite adventurous. Like the type of jazz that influenced it, this pearl (which marked the beginning of keyboardist/composer Tom Coster's highly beneficial membership in the band) requires a number of listenings in order to be absorbed and fully appreciated.

It was the last Santana album to feature Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon, who went on to form Journey the following year.

“Song of the Wind” is the only single release from the album. Though the song failed to chart it displays the fine musicianship Santana came to be known for. The song is driven by Carlos Santana’s lead guitar and is an excellent example of his fluid ability on the guitar.

"Stone Flower" (1972)

Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote “Stone Flower” an album highlight with lyrics by Carlos Santana and Michael Shrieve. The Brazilian musician, Antonio Carlos Jobim, is best known for his samba and bossa nova compositions. “Stone Flower” first appeared in 1970 as an instrumental on Jobim’s album of the same name. Jobim is also known as one of the cowriters of the 1964 classic “The Girl From Ipenema.”

Santana (1972)


Monday, April 17, 2017

Thelma Houston - Any Way You Like It (1976)

“Any Way You Like It” by Thelma Houston (1976)

Release Date: October 28, 1976
Produced by Hal Davis, Michael L. Smith, Michael Sutton, Harold Johnson, Joe Porter, Clayton Ivey, Terry Woodford, Michael Masser, Ronald Miller, William Goldstein
Chart Positions: #11 (US), #21 Sweden, #25 Denmark
Certifications: N/A
Singles: “I Don’t Know Why I Love You,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way” #1 (US, South Africa), #4 (Canada, Netherlands, Sweden), #5 (Germany), #6 (Australia), #7 (Belgium), #11 (Spain), #13 (France, UK), #15 (Italy), #17 (New Zealand), #18 (Austria), “Anyway You Like It,”  (no chart data), “If It’s The Last Thing I Do” #46 (US), #81 (Canada)

Any Way You Like It is the fourth album by Thelma Houston, released late October 1976 on Tamla Records. The album features energetic disco songs with fierce vocal performances by Houston on side 1, while side 2 focuses on ballads.

In 1976, Motown gave the go ahead on a second album for Thelma, assembling it from the various sessions she had undertaken since her first LP with producers including the teams of Hal Davis and Michael Sutton, and Clayton Ivey and Terry Woodford. The album includes the major hit single, "Don't Leave Me This Way", Houston's remake of the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes 1975 song, zoomed to No. 1 in the US charts. In the US, "If It's the Last Thing I Do", a track originally recorded in 1972, was chosen for the second single release on MoWest, while Europe had an edited version of the Stevie Wonder cover, "I Don't Know Why I Love You".
A re-recorded version of "Don't Leave Me This Way" was #19 on the dance charts in December 1994.
Arthur G. Wright, Michael L. Smith, Harold Johnson, Paul Riser, Clayton Ivey, Ted Stovall and Terry Woodford arranged the album.

“Don’t Leave Me This Way,” a song which first appeared on Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes 1975 album “Wake Up Everybody” was released as a single by them in 1977 shortly after Thelma Houston’s disco version hit the charts. The Blue Notes' original version of the song, featuring Teddy Pendergrass' lead vocal was not issued as a single in the United States at the time, the Blue Notes' recording reached #3 on the US Billboard Disco Chart in the wake of Thelma Houston's version. The song proved to be the group's biggest hit in the UK, #5 on the UK singles chart, when released there as a single in 1977. Motown covered “Don’t Leave Me This Way” in 1976. Originally assigned to Diana Ross, it was intended to be the follow-up to her hit "Love Hangover" but was reassigned and given to the upcoming Motown artist Thelma Houston instead. Studio musicians on the track included James Gadson on drums, Henry E. Davis (of the band L.T.D.) on bass, and John Barnes on keyboards.
Houston's version became a massive international hit, topping the soul singles and disco charts as well as reaching #1 on the US singles chart for one week in April 1977. The song peaked at #13 in the UK. Later in the year, it was featured on the soundtrack of the movie, Looking for Mr. Goodbar. In 1978, "Don't Leave Me This Way" won the award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female at the 20th Annual Grammy Awards.

"Don't Leave Me This Way"

The album’s next single “Any Way You Like It” was co-written by Thelma Houston but failed to chart. Soon after the fourth single, “If It’s The Last Thing I Do,” a song that Thelma Houston first recorded in 1972 for Motown offshoot label Mowest. The song was never released but Houston gave it another try for her 1976 album and as a single was a moderate success reaching #46 in the US and #81 in Canada. The song also reached #12 on the US R&B chart. The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1957 for his album “Close To You” but was not included on the album. His version was finally released in 2002 as a bonus track on the expanded edition of the album.

One of the album’s more soulful and funky cuts the Stevie Wonder-penned “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” displays Houston’s Gospel vocal abilities. The song was the first single to be released from “Any Way You Like It,” but was only released throughout Europe. Wonder’s version simply titled “I Don’t Know Why” was recorded and released in 1968 on his album “for Once In My Life.” Wonder released it as a single and experienced minor success with the song reaching #39 in the US, #41 in Canada and #14 in the UK.

“Come To Me,” a shimmering ballad and album highlight was co-written by Jermaine Jackson.

Thelma Houston (1976)


Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Jam - In The City (1977)

“In The City” by The Jam (1977)

Release Date: March 20, 1977
Produced by Vic Smith and Chris Parry
Chart Positions: #20 (UK)
Certifications: N/A
Singles: “In The City” (#40 UK)

In the City is the debut studio album of British mod revival/punk rock band The Jam. It was released in 1977 by Polydor Records and featured the hit single and title track "In the City".
Paul Weller's guitar style on the album is very much influenced by Wilko Johnson and Pete Townshend. The album includes two cover songs, "Slow Down" (the Larry Williams song made famous as recorded by The Beatles for their 1974 album "Something New") and the theme to the 1960s television series, Batman,

“In The City” offers a good balance between the forward-looking, "destroy everything" aggression of punk with a certain reverence for '60s beat and R&B. In an era that preached attitude over musicianship, the Jam bettered the competition with good pop sense, strong melodies, and plenty of hooks that compromised none of punk's ideals or energy, plus youth culture themes and an abrasive, ferocious attack.

"In the City" was the debut single by English mod revival/punk rock band The Jam from their album of the same title. It was released on 29 April 1977 and reached No. 40 on the UK Singles Chart in May 1977, making it their first Top 40 single and the beginning of their streak of 18 consecutive Top 40 singles. While only a minor hit on the charts, the song was the UK's first introduction to The Jam, and was characteristic of Paul Weller's youth anthems—mod-influenced celebrations of British youth—that dominated the band's early output.

"In The City"

Musically, the song is in the vein of the band's first album, a mod/punk number influenced by The Who's early music, but with an energy and attitude updated for the punk era. "In the City" borrowed its title from an obscure Who song of the same name, which was released in 1966 as the B-side of the "I'm a Boy" single (and which can now be found as a bonus track on most CD re-issues of their 1966 album A Quick One).

Lyrically, the song is a celebration of youth in the big city, and of what Paul Weller called the "young idea", reflecting Weller's optimism for the punk movement. There was also a direct reference to police brutality: "In the city there's a thousand men in uniform/And I hear they now have the right to kill a man".

The Jam (1977)