Friday, March 31, 2017

Blondie - Plastic Letters (1978)

“Plastic Letters” by Blondie (1978)

Release Date: February 1978
Produced by Richard Gottehrer
Chart Positions: #72 (US), #10 (UK), #32 (Netherlands), #33 (Sweden), #38 (New Zealand), #64 (Australia)
Certifications: Platinum (UK)
Singles: “Kidnapper (Japanese only release)
“Denis” (#1 Europe, Belgium, Netherlands, #2 UK, #3 Ireland, #8 France, #9 Germany, #10 Austria, #12 Australia, #19 Sweden, #30 New Zealand)
“(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear” (#8 Netherlands, #10 UK, #14 Belgium)

“Plastic Letters” was the second studio album recorded by new wave/punk band, Blondie. It was their first album to chart in the US as well as being the album released just before their major breakthrough “Parallel Lines.”

Less than a year after their self-titled 1976 debut, Blondie returned with the stronger, punkier `Plastic Letters', complete with their pop trash culture influences solidly intact. Again produced by 60s pop composer Richard Gottehrer, the songs on this second album have more drive, more attitude and, with the general increase in song-writing sophistication of everyone involved, must have indicated that the band were likely to deliver even better things in the near future.

The prowess of the band members became more evident as songwriters. Keyboardist Jimmy Destri's predilection for mod- infused new wave pop-rock was becoming increasingly clear with some absolute gems among his six contributions on the 13 tracks. `Fan Mail', `Contact in Red Square', `No Imagination', `Kidnapper' and the awesome rocker `Detroit 442' (with Chris Stein) all serve to anchor the harder, faster approach on this release. Stein's six are slightly less consistent, but `Youth Nabbed by Sniper' is a perfect companion piece to Destri's style while the awesome, giddy, acid-rock infused semi ballad, `Bermuda Triangle Blues', about a mysterious plane disappearance in said zone, is the album's super nova moment. Bassist Gary Valentine's `(I'm Always) Touched By Your Presence Dear' is also a high point. Debbie Harry and her partner (at the time) Chris Stein wrote the very and quirky “I’m On E.” The fast moving album highlight “Love At The Pier” was written by Deborah Harry and sports a strong percussive rhythm accented with moving surf guitar parts. The dark and melancholic “Cautious Lip” brings the album to a dramatic close.

Destri's keyboards soar into their own on this record while Deborah Harry's trademark sneer and coquettish phrasing become fully formed, stamping her as far more than just a good looking lead singer. There is something happening on `Plastic Letters' and, even not knowing back in 1977 what was to come, it must have pointed to a band that was not likely to fade away (and radiate) any time soon.

The first single release “Kidnapper” was only released in Japan but failed to chart. The second single “Denis” was a huge hit in Europe charting in many countries as well as charting #1 on the Eurochart Hot 100. Neil Levenson wrote “Denise”, his childhood friend, Denise Lefrak, inspired the song. In 1963, the song became a popular top ten hit in the US, when recorded by the American doo-wop group Randy & the Rainbows. The cover version by Blondie, re-titled "Denis", reached #2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1978 and charted all throughout Europe. The third single “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear” was written by Blondie bass player Gary Valentine, a/k/a Gary Lachman, for his then-girlfriend Lisa Jane Persky before his departure from the band. Valentine left Blondie prior to the recording of “Plastic Letters” to pursue a solo career.



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Roberta Flack - Killing Me Softly (1973)

“Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack (1973)

Release Date: August 1, 1973
Produced by Joel Dorn
Chart Positions: #3 (US), #40 (UK), #6 (Norway), #9 (Netherlands), #11 (Australia), #13 (Canada), #47 (Germany)
Certifications: 2xPlatinum (US), Gold (Canada)
Singles: “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (#1 US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, #3 Holland, #4 Netherlands, Norway, #5 France, #6 UK, Brazil, #8 South Africa, #17 Belgium, #19 Austria, #30 Germany, #32 Switzerland)
“Jesse” (#23 Canada, #24 Australia, #30 US)

Killing Me Softly reached US #3 and #2 on the US Soul chart. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album GOLD on August 27, 1973, and double platinum on January 30, 2006. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, which it lost to Stevie Wonder's 1973 album Innervisions. The album's title track was released as a single and topped the Billboard Hot 100 and won the 1974 Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

“Killing Me Softly” is Roberta Flack’s fourth studio album (her fifth if you include the collaboration albums with Donny Hathaway). She spent 18 months recording the album with producer Joel Dorn. Dorn, a jazz and R&B producer, has produced albums for Max Roach, Herbie Mann, the Neville Brothers and others. Dorn and Flack took a less is more approach in producing an album full of soulful heartfelt tunes. They left out all the catchy pop hooks that were popular in the 70s and went for a straightforward smooth soulful sound that has paid off as time has past. The album is still as fresh and heart felt as it was in 1973.

The first single “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, became a huge hit single and received major airplay all over AM and FM radio being played on Top 40 Pop, Easy Listening, R&B and Jazz radio stations. Gimbel and Fox also wrote the theme songs to the TV shows Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. Lori Lieberman was the first to record the song in late 1971, releasing it in early 1972. Helen Reddy has said she was sent the song, but "the demo sat on my turntable for months without being played because I didn't like the title." Roberta Flack first heard the song on an airline, when the Lieberman original was featured on the in-flight audio program. After scanning the listing of available audio selections, Flack would recall: "The title, of course, smacked me in the face. I immediately pulled out some scratch paper, made musical staves then played the song at least eight to ten times jotting down the melody that I heard. When I landed, I immediately called Quincy Jones at his house and asked him how to meet Charles Fox. Two days later I had the music." Shortly afterwards Flack rehearsed the song with her band in the Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston, Jamaica but did not then record it.

In September 1972, Flack was opening for Marvin Gaye at the Greek Theater; after performing her prepared encore song, Flack was advised by Gaye to sing an additional song. Flack – "I said well, I got this song I've been working on called "Killing Me Softly..." and he said "Do it, baby." And I did it and the audience went crazy, and he walked over to me and put his arm around me and said, "Baby, don't ever do that song again live until you record it." Released in January 1973, Flack's version spent a total of five non-consecutive weeks, more weeks than any other record in 1973 at #1. Billboard ranked it as the #3 song for 1973. Charles Fox suggested that Flack's version was more successful than Lieberman's because Flack's "version was faster and she gave it a strong backbeat that wasn't in the original."[7] According to Flack: "My classical background made it possible for me to try a number of things with [the song's arrangement]. I changed parts of the chord structure and chose to end on a major chord. [The song] wasn't written that way."[14] Flack plays electric piano on the track. Several well known jazz musicians performed on the song including bass is by Ron Carter, guitar by Hugh McCracken and drums by Ray Lucas. Flack won the 1973 Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, for the single, with Gimbel and Fox earning the Song of the Year Grammy. According to Lori Lieberman, who performed the original recording in 1972, the song was born of a poem she wrote after experiencing a strong reaction to the Don McLean song "Empty Chairs." She then related this information to Gimbel, who took her feelings and put them into words. Then Gimbel passed the words to Fox, who set them to music.

"Killing Me Softly"

The next single, the beautiful and somber, “Jesse” written by singer/songwriter Janis Ian. The song appeared on Ian’s 1974 album “Stars” of which its title track was inspired by Don McLean. Janis Ian began writing this song in the mid 1960s when she was around 14-15 years old. The song was going to be about a Vietnam vet coming home from the war. But then she thought that was too limiting. She ended up writing the song to have a more universal meaning, as the song could relate to anyone wondering when, or if, a loved one will return home. The song was a semi-hit reaching US #30, Australia #24 and Canada #23.

One of the album’s highlights is the upbeat and optimistic “When You Smile,” with Dixieland flavored guitars, banjo and horns the song has a universal groove that we don’t hear much from Flack. This would have made a great single. Written by jazz musician Ralph MacDonald, Roberta Flack was the first person to record the song. MacDonald also co-wrote “Where Is The Love” a Top 10 hit for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway in 1972. MacDonald also co-wrote “Just The Two of Us” a song that has become a standard as released in 1981.

Roberta Flack (1973)


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bee Gees - Spirits Having Flown (1979)

“Spirits Having Flown” by Bee Gees (1979)

Release Date: February 5, 1979
Produced by Bee Gees, Albhy Galuten, Karl Williams
Chart Positions: #1 (US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Germany), #2 (Austria, Japan) #3 (Netherlands)
Certifications: 5xPlatinum (Canada), Platinum (US, UK, Hong Kong), Gold (Finland, France)

Singles: “Too Much Heaven” (#1 US, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, #2 France, Ireland, Netherlands, #3 UK, #4 Finland, #5 Australia, China, #8 Belgium, #10 Germany, #13 Austria)
“Tragedy” (#1 US, UK, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, #2 Australia, Austria, Chile, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, #3 Belgium, #4 Netherlands, Norway, #6 Sweden, #7 Finland, #32 Japan)
“Love You Inside Out” (#1 US, Canada, #3 Chile, #6 Ireland, #13 UK, #17 Italy, New Zealand, #21 Germany, #22 Belgium, #35 Netherlands, #39 France, #77 Australia)
“Spirits (Having Flown)” (#14 Ireland, #16 UK, #36 Netherlands)

Spirits Having Flown is the fifteenth album released by the Bee Gees. It was the group's first album after their collaboration on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The album's first three tracks were released as singles and all reached No. 1 in the US, giving the Bee Gees an unbroken run of six US chart-toppers and tying a record set by The Beatles. It was the first Bee Gees album to make the UK top 40 in ten years (not counting the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever), as well as being their first and only UK No. 1 album. It has sold 20 million copies worldwide.

1979 was the year of Bee Gees they owned the radio airwaves. One of their songs was being played every 3 minutes everyday. It began in September 1977 when the single “How Deep Is Your Love (from the “Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack) was released. The song shot to #1 in an instant and set the stage for one of the most chart runs of consecutive #1 hits in the history of music. After “How Deep Is Your Love” the next five Bee Gees single releases all hit #1 including “Staying Alive,” “Night Fever,” “Too Much Heaven,” “Tragedy” and “Love You Inside Out.” Toward the end of 1979 the Bee Gees had become victims of over-saturation. They were everywhere – you just could not escape them. And then 1980 rolled around and the Bee Gees all of a sudden became passé. Their next five singles were only moderate hit with 1983’s “The Woman In You” being the highest charting reaching #24 in the US.

“Spirits Having Flown” signified the pinnacle of the Bee Gees’ career. Many fans of their earlier pop-rock sound with hits such as “Run To Me, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” “Lonely Days” and “Words” had long given up Bee Gees when they became the Kings of Disco in 1975 with the release of “Jive Talkin’.” But all was not lost as they adopted an even larger legion of new fans with the new sound. Disco brought more success than ever to the Bee Gees and they were bound to move full steam ahead with their newfound success.

At the start of 1978, Barry Gibb produced the album Shadow Dancing by brother Andy Gibb. By February, Barry wrote the title song for the film Grease performed by Frankie Valli; also in February, another Barry Gibb composition from 1977 "Ain't Nothing Gonna Keep Me From You" was recorded by Teri DeSario. The Bee Gees penned “If I Can’t Have You” was a #1 hit in May 1978 as well Samantha Sang reached US #3 with the Barry Gibb-Robin Gibb penned “Emotion.” By March, the Bee Gees has started to record “Spirits Having Flown.

Co-producer Albhy Galuten recalls Spirits Having Flown as being created primarily by Barry Gibb, Karl Richardson and himself putting in long days and nights at Criteria Studios. In the recording phase, Robin and Maurice now mainly played the role of backing and harmony vocalists, and even in that capacity Barry did many of the vocal dubs himself as he went over and over the recorded work. Robin contributed one lead vocal ("Living Together"), which was sung in falsetto with Barry providing alternating lead vocals in his normal register. This was Robin's least amount of lead vocals on any Bee Gees album with the exception of 1970's Cucumber Castle, for which he was not part of the group at that time. As with the last four Bee Gees albums, Maurice did not have any lead vocals.

The first single to be released from the album, "Too Much Heaven" is a song, which was the band's contribution to the "Music for UNICEF" fund. They performed it at the Music for UNICEF Concert on 9 January 1979. It was released as a single on October 24, 1978, 3 ½ months before the album was released. It hit No. 1 in both the United States and Canada. It also rose to the top three in the United Kingdom. In the US, it would become the fourth of six consecutive No. 1s, tying the record set by the Beatles for most consecutive No. 1 songs. This record was eventually surpassed in 1988 by American singer Whitney Houston when her single "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" became her seventh consecutive number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

The second single release “Tragedy” was an all-out disco tune that burned up the dance floors and zoomed to #1 in the US, UK, Canada and several other countries around the world.

"Tragedy" (1979)

The Gibb brothers wrote both “Tragedy” and "Too Much Heaven" (another American #1), in an afternoon off from making the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie in which they were starring. Then in the evening they wrote another American #1 single, "Shadow Dancing" for their brother Andy Gibb.

Stuck for a convincing thunderclap sound, Barry Gibb cupped his hands over a microphone and made an exploding noise with his mouth. Several of these sounds were then mixed together creating the large boom heard on this song. The 1979, NBC television program, The Bee Gees Special, showed how this sound effect was created.

The third single “Love You Inside Out” is a slow funk ballad that had just enough of an R&B sway to it to make it to #53 on the US soul charts. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in June 1979, interrupting Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff". This was their sixth consecutive #1 US hit and their 9th #1 hit overall. It was the ninth and final number-one hit for the Bee Gees in the US. In the UK, the single peaked at no.13 for two weeks.

The fourth single “Spirits (Having Flown) was released in Europe in December 1979 to promote the newly released compilation “Bee Gees Greatest.” The song is a Caribbean flavored R&B track sung by Barry in natural voice during the verses and joined by Robin and Maurice on the chorus which is sung in falsetto. The count-in (1,2,3,4) heard on the album version was omitted from the single version and on the album “Bee Gees Greatest.” Herbie Mann’s flute work is heard at the end of the song.  The single peaked at UK #16, Ireland #14 and Netherlands #36.

A few interesting bits of trivia:
The horn section from Chicago (James Pankow, Walt Parazaider and Lee Loughnane) made a guest appearance on this album. At the time, they were next door working on the Chicago album Hot Streets. Thus the Bee Gees would return the favor as they appeared on Chicago's song "Little Miss Lovin'" and their keyboardist Blue Weaver appeared on "No Tell Lover". The Bee Gees also wrote and recorded the song "Desire" for the album but it was rejected and instead released as a solo single by their brother Andy. Andy released the “Desire” as a single in January 1980 and reached US #4 and Canada #10 with it.

Bee Gees (1979)


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets (1974)

“Here Come The Warm Jets” (album) by Brian Eno (1974)

Release Date: January 1974
Produced by Brian Eno
Chart Positions: #151 (US), #26 (UK)
Certifications: N/A
Singles: N/A
Label: Island

Here Come the Warm Jets is the debut solo album by Brian Eno, credited only as "Eno". Produced by him, it was released on Island Records in January 1974. The musical style of Here Come the Warm Jets is a hybrid of glam rock and art rock, similar to Eno's previous album work with Roxy Music, although in a stronger experimental fashion. In developing the album's words and music, Eno used unusual methods such as dancing for his band members and having them play accordingly, and singing nonsense words to himself that would form the basis of subsequent lyrics. The album features various guest musicians, including members of Roxy Music (Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay), Hawkwind, Matching Mole and Pink Fairies, as well as Chris Spedding, and Robert Fripp of King Crimson, who collaborated with Eno a year before with the album "No Pussyfooting."

"Here Come the Warm Jets" peaked at number 26 on the United Kingdom album charts and number 151 on the US Billboard charts, receiving mostly positive reviews.

Eno recorded “Here Come The Warm Jets” in just twelve days in September 1973. The album’s most popular track, "Baby's on Fire" is a bizarre fantasy about a photography session involving a burning infant and unthinking, laughing onlookers. Art-guitar guru Robert Fripp provides a jagged solo on “Baby’s On Fire” The sentimental "Some of Them Are Old" is constructed around harmonies highly reminiscent of the Four Freshmen giving it a melancholy feel. It is worthy of note that the “frippertronics” guitars of “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch” were later used on another Eno production, U2′s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” “Dead Finks Don’t Talk” is the closest thing to a Bowie song musically, predating “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” by some six years. All the lyrics to "On Some Faraway Beach" came to Eno in a dream. He would wake up often throughout the night to write down his dreams and from those scribblings would be lyrics to songs.

Eno has said about the song "Baby's On Fire," "Vocal techniques. That's something I've never even thought about. Why, I propose the question to myself do people sing certain ways at certain times in history? Why should I want to sing through my nose? What I like is when you get a combination of something that's very turned-down and dark and sinister, but not dramatic – very underhand and almost inaudible, as opposed to the kind of aggression that people like The Floyd use, which is very obvious assault. Iggy Pop does it as well."

Eno's compositions are quirky, whimsical, and catchy, his lyrics bizarre and often free-associative, with a decidedly dark bent in their humor ("Baby's on Fire," "Dead Finks Don't Talk").

"Baby's On Fire" (1974)

Brian Eno (1974)


#brianeno #eno

Monday, March 27, 2017

Carpenters - Horizon (1975)

“Horizon” by Carpenters (1975)
Release Date: June 12, 1975
Produced by Richard Carpenter
Executive Producer: Karen Carpenter
Chart Positions: #13 (US), #1 (UK, Japan), #3 (New Zealand), #4 (Canada), #5 (Norway), #21 (Australia, Netherlands), #42 (Germany)
Certifications: Platinum (US), Gold (UK, Canada, Japan)
Singles: “Please Mr. Postman” (#1 US, Australia, Canada, South Africa, #2 UK, #4 New Zealand, #5 Switzerland, #10 Germany, #11 Japan, #29 Netherlands) “Only Yesterday” (#4 US, #7 UK, #2 Canada, #5 Ireland, #10 New Zealand, #12 Japan, #43 Germany) “Solitaire” (#17 US, #32 UK, #6 New Zealand, #12 Canada, #61 Australia and #44 Japan)

“Horizon” was the Carpenters’ sixth studio album. After five consecutive albums peaking inside the US top 5, “Horizon” broke this run by reaching US # 13. The album has been certified PLATINUM by the RIAA for selling over a million copies and most likely will soon be certified DOUBLE PLATINUM. Although the album peaked outside the Top Five in the US, they were bigger than ever around the world. “Horizon” was one of their biggest worldwide sellers reaching # 1 in both Japan and England and Top Ten in several other countries. Richard Carpenter stated his goal was to produce an album in which every song could be a single.

“Horizon” is the album that most Carpenters fans claim to be their favorite amongst all Carpenters releases. Released on June 6, 1975, critics hail this to be the most sophisticated Carpenters album to date. The album is a technical triumph. It was recorded at A&M Records mainly in Studio D using state-of-the-art, 24-track recording technology, 30 Dolby, and recorded at 30 inches per second to create the cleanest and clearest sound possible.

The Carpenters took the patience to spend a good amount of time and many long hours experimenting with different sounds, techniques and effects. One of the most astonishing techniques used is the multitude of separate mikings. Every single instrument and voice has its own microphone. This helped to create a broad, full sound. The drums were recorded on four separate tracks: one for the kick, one for the snare and one each for the left and right tom-toms. On the song “Only Yesterday” a tape delay is used on the saxophone. This effect accents the instrument and lifts it above the canvas, giving it an extra dimension.

Jerry Moss (the “M” in A&M Records) sent Richard Carpenter a letter congratulating him on his production of “Horizon.” This was a big deal to both Karen and Richard as Moss rarely showed much appreciation for Carpenters. During the recording of “Horizon,” Moss visited Carpenters in the studio and recognized what a thrill it was to have a voice like Karen Carpenter’s recording for A&M.

Carpenters recorded and released “Please Mr. Postman” in late 1974 (a full seven months before “Horizon” was released). For its inclusion on “Horizon,” Richard Carpenter remixed the song and to match the sound quality of the album. While recording the song some of the engineers and musicians thought Karen and Richard were “nuts” to even consider it, but the duo got the last laugh when it became a worldwide #1 smash. “Please Mr. Postman” was the album’s biggest hit single and also Carpenters’ biggest hit worldwide. It reached # 1 in the US, Australia, Canada and South Africa, as well as reaching # 2 in the UK and Canada. It also reached #4 New Zealand, #5 Switzerland, #10 Germany, #11 Japan and #29 Netherlands. The driving, rhythm-based tune features Karen on drums and a great Tony Peluso guitar solo. "Please Mr. Postman" was previously a #1 hit for Motown girl group The Marvelettes in 1963.

"Please Mr. Postman"

The second single release, “Only Yesterday,” is considered by many to be the album’s strongest track. Written by Richard Carpenter and lyricist John Bettis, the song was a huge hit worldwide. Believing the song would not be a hit Carpenter and Bettis lost a one-thousand dollar bet to their recording engineer, Roger Young. Since the melody was upbeat, Richard asked Bettis to make sure the lyric was not completely sad, so the outlook of the song changes midstream. It goes from dark and deep to bright and propulsive. Bettis described “Only Yesterday” as, “a manipulated, positive song.” The song is an impressive “wall of sound” with each instrument clearly recognizable. It has the feel of the 60s with castanets and chimes and the technology of the 70s with electric guitar chords and soulful saxophone progressions. With all this outstanding technology it’s Karen’s voice that remains the focal point. She opens with a haunting Low E Flat and moves gracefully through the range of the song with ease. “Only Yesterday” is two songs in one with a lush ballad verse which effectively gives way to an up-tempo progressive pop chorus. The song was released on March 14, 1975, and was Carpenters’ last Top 10 hit in the US. The song did extremely well throughout the world, reaching US #4, UK #7, Canada #2, Germany #43, Ireland #5, New Zealand #10 and Japan #12. The song was also certified Gold in Japan and won the prestigious Japanese GRAND PRIX award in 1975.

Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody wrote “Solitaire” which was the third single from “Horizon.” The exuberance of the strings, Richard’s subtle keyboard and Karen’s deep, full-bodied voice give this song that chill factor that Richard looked for in a song. Many Carpenters fans consider this to be one of Karen’s most intense and finest readings. The sublime vocal arrangement was composed by Richard Carpenter, and in his words, he says, “the song was difficult to sing, and Karen nailed it perfectly.” Richard calls this one of Karen’s greatest performances. Although “Solitaire” was not a huge hit as were “Please Mr. Postman” or “Only Yesterday,” it still performed well on singles charts around the world and received a huge amount of airplay. The song’s chart stats are as follows: #17 US, #12 Canada, #32 UK, #6 New Zealand, #61 Australia and #44 Japan.

“Desperado” was another highlight on the album and received a good amount of attention from the critics stating this was a logical choice for release as a single. It was an instant favorite amongst fans and critics alike. Karen wrung out every bit of her soul as she brought this song alive. Tommy Morgan’s harmonica accents the overall aura of the song; his haunting performance establishes the song’s melancholy mood. The Eagles originally recorded “Desperado” in 1973, and was the centerpiece of their classic, cowboy-themed album also named “Desperado.” Several others have recorded this song including Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Rogers, Clint Black, Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. A&M Records decided against releasing Carpenters’ version as a single, due to the fact that it had been receiving radio airplay for both Eagles and Linda Ronstadt. Many fans consider this to be a “missed opportunity.” The song “Happy,” represents another technological triumph for Richard Carpenter. One of the main attractions of this power-pop tune is the ARP Odyssey Synthesizer solo, which brings the song to a close. It gives the song a lively, out-of-this-world feeling.
Carpenters guitarist, Tony Peluso, wrote the melody and music for “Happy” which ended up becoming the B-side on the single “Only Yesterday.”

Karen Carpenter (1975)


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here (1975)

“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd (1975)

Release Date: September 12, 1975
Produced by Pink Floyd
Chart Positions: #1 (US, UK, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark) #2 (Austria, Norway) #4 (Germany, Bolivia, Japan), #5 (Argentina), #7 (Uraguay) #8 (Croatia), #10 (Italy), #14 (Canada, Sweden), #15 (Switzerland, Greece), #17 (Spain), #19 (Finland, Portugal), #20 (Poland), #21 (Korea), #34 (France, Czechoslovakia), #77 (Belgium)
Certifications: Diamond (France), 7xPlatinum (Australia), 6xPlatinum (US), 4xPlatinum (New Zealand), 2xPlatinum (UK, Austria), Platinum (Germany, Canada) Gold (Argentina, Poland, Italy)
Singles: “Have A Cigar” (#48 Italy)

Written entirely by Roger Waters, Wish You Were Here is the ninth studio album by Pink Floyd, released in September 1975. Inspired by material the group composed while performing across Europe, Wish You Were Here was recorded in numerous sessions at London's Abbey Road Studios. Some of the songs critique the music business, others express alienation, and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is a tribute to Syd Barrett, whose mental breakdown had forced him to leave the group seven years earlier. It was lead writer Roger Waters' idea to split "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" into two parts and use it to bookend the album around three new compositions, introducing a new concept as the group had done with their previous album, The Dark Side of the Moon.

As with The Dark Side of the Moon, the band used studio effects and synthesizers, and brought in guest singers to supply vocals on some tracks of the album. These singers were Roy Harper, who provided the lead vocals on "Have a Cigar", and The Blackberries, who added backing vocals to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". The album became an instant commercial success and record company EMI was unable to print enough copies to satisfy demand.

The album opens with the 13-minute “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V), Part I begins with the fade-in of organ, harp and minimoog synthesizer and works into a bluesy guitar solo played by David Gilmour. During this section some very faint conversation in the studio can be heard in the left channel.
Part II comes in at 3:54 and begins with a four-note theme, known informally as "Syd's Theme" repeated throughout much of the entire section. Nick Mason starts drumming and Waters his bass playing. We’re treated to another solo by Gilmour.
Part III starts at 8:42 and begins with a Minimoog solo by Rick Wright accompanied by a less complex variation of Mason's drums from Part II. This part includes Gilmour's third guitar solo.
Part IV works in at 8:42 with Roger  Waters singing his lyrics, with Gilmour, Wright and female backing vocalists Venetta Fields and Carlena Williams on harmonies. (Fields and Williams were part of the vocal group The Blackberries)
Part V starts at11:10 with two guitars repeating an arpeggio variation on the main theme for about a minute with the theme of Part II (Syd’s Theme). Dick Parry comes in with saxophone, the sax solo is accompanied by an ARP string synthesizer keyboard sound. A machine-like hum fades in with musique concrète and segues into "Welcome to the Machine". “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” though it is was not released as a single peaked at #10 in Poland due to extensive airplay.

The second track “Welcome To The Machine” describes the band's disillusionment with the music industry as a money-making machine rather than a forum of artistic expression. The plot centers on an aspiring musician getting signed by a seedy executive to the music industry (the "Machine"). The voice predicts all of his seemingly rebellious ideas ("You bought a guitar to punish your ma / You didn't like school / And you know you're nobody's fool"). His illusions of personal identity are further crushed with lines such as "What did you dream? / It's all right, we told you what to dream."

Track Three “Have A Cigar” was released as a single but failed to chart. Regardless the song is considered a classic and is widely known by music fans around the world. Written by Roger Waters, the song's lyrics were a critique of hypocrisy and greed within the music business. The music is more straightforwardly rock-oriented than the rest of the album, beginning with a churning riff played on electric guitar and bass. The track is filled out with additional guitar, electric piano and synthesizer parts to create a rock texture. Concluding with a guitar solo, which is interrupted by a synthesizer filter-sweep sound effect as the music reduces in volume to tinny, AM radio-like levels. Finally, the song ends with the sound of a radio being dialed off-station; this effect is used as a transition to the title track, "Wish You Were Here". Roy Harper performs the lead vocals on “Have A Cigar”. Both Roger Waters and David Gilmour had attempted to sing the song on separate takes, as well as on a duet version, but they were unhappy with the results. Harper was recording his album HQ in Studio 2 of Abbey Road at the same time as Pink Floyd were working in Studio 3, and Roy Harper offered to sing the part ("...for a price").

"Have A Cigar" (1975)

Segueing in from “Have A Cigar” track four “Wish You Were Here” has a sentimental feel to it. Its lyrics encompass Roger Waters' feelings of alienation from other people and his distrust for the music industry. Like most of the album, it refers to former Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett and his breakdown. David Gilmour and Waters collaborated to write the music, and Gilmour sang the lead vocal.

The album closes with a 12-minute recording of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX).
Part VI begins with a howling wind from the preceding song "Wish You Were Here". As the wind fades away, Gilmour comes in on the bass guitar. Waters adds another bass with a continuing riff pattern. Then Wright comes in playing an ARP Synthesizer and after a few measures, several rhythm guitar parts and drums come in, as well as a Minimoog synthesizer to play the opening solo. At the two-minute mark, Wright's Minimoog and Gilmour's lap steel guitar play notes in unison before Gilmour does a lap steel guitar solo with some counterpointing from Wright's synthesizers. It lasts for about three minutes and Gilmour plays each section an octave higher than the previous one. Then the vocals come in.
Part VII starts at 4:39 with vocals by Roger Waters then segues into part VIII.
Part VIII opens at 6:09 with Waters playing a second electric guitar for a high-noted sound riff while Gilmour plays the arpeggio riff that bridges Parts VII and VIII. A solid progression of funk plays for about two minutes before very slowly fading out. Throughout this section, Wright's keyboards dominate, with the use of a Minimoog synthesizer, and a Hohner Clavinet. In addition to their guitar solos, there is occasional trading of leads from Gilmour and White instead of the keyboard sounds as heard on record.
Part IX begins at 12:28 Gilmour described Part IX in an interview as "a slow 4/4 funeral march... the parting musical eulogy to Syd". Again, Wright's keyboards dominate, with little guitar input from Gilmour. Mason's drums play for much of this part, and the keyboards play for the final minute before fading out. On the fade-out, a short keyboard part of the melody of "See Emily Play,” one of Barrett's signature Pink Floyd songs, can be heard. This was the final solo writing credit Rick Wright would receive in Pink Floyd during his lifetime, as well as his last writing credit of any kind until The Division Bell in 1994.

David Gilmour and Roy Harper (1975)


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Roxy Music - Siren (1975)

“Siren” by Roxy Music (1975)

Release Date: October 24, 1975
Produced by Chris Thomas
Chart Positions: #50 (US), #4 (UK), #8 (Sweden), #9 (Netherlands), #15 (Norway), #3 (New Zealand)
Certifications: Gold (UK)
Singles: “Love Is The Drug” (#30 US, #2 UK, #3 Canada, #9 Netherlands, #15 Belgium, #18 Australia, #24 New Zealand, #39 Germany
“Both Ends Burning” (#25 UK)

“Siren” is the fifth studio album by English art-rock band “Roxy Music. This is the album that put Roxy Music on radio stations across the US due to their hit “Love Is The Drug.”

“Siren” was well received by critics upon it’s release with many of them putting it amongst the best of the year. In the 1975 Pazz and Jop critics poll it was voted the 13th best album of 1975. Cream Magazine music critic, Dave Marsh, rated the album as the 4th best album of 1975 in his Book of Rock Lists. The album was ranked number 371 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The cover features band member Bryan Ferry's then-girlfriend, model Jerry Hall, on rocks near South Stack, Anglesey. Graham Hughes, working during August 1975, took the cover photo directly below the central span of the bridge on a south-side slope. He worked from sketches produced by Antony Price; with photography featuring Hall striking various poses. The idea for the location was Bryan Ferry's, after he saw a TV documentary about lava flows and rock formations in Anglesey, in which South Stack was heavily featured. Hall' recalled in her autobiography, Tall Tales that the blue body paint she wore to look like a mythical siren would not wash off. According to the model, Ferry took her back to his house to help her remove the paint. Jerry Hall left Ferry in 1978 to date Mick Jagger.

Producer Chris Thomas has worked with the most popular British musicians including The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Queen, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend and a host of others. Thomas produced a total of five albums for Roxy Music including “For Your Pleasure,” “Stranded,” “Country Life,” “Siren” and the live album “Viva.” Thomas met Bryan Ferry during recording sessions for Procol Harum.

The first single “Love Is The Drug” originated as an Andy Mackay instrumental which later Bryan Ferry added lyrics. The song was an instant hit in the UK where it zoomed up the charts to #2. It was kept off the top of the UK charts by a re-release of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” “Love Is The Drug” was their first song to bring attention to Roxy Music in the US where it received a good amount of airplay on progressive rock radio stations and eventually jumping over to Top 40 radio. The song peaked at #30 on the US Billboard chart.

"Love Is The Drug"

The second single “Both Ends Burning” was not nearly as successful but did manage to squeak out a #25 peak position on the UK singles chart. Singer Bryan Ferry recalled to The Mail on Sunday June 28, 2009: "We were on a punishing world tour schedule in 1975 and there were a lot of late nights to get the Siren album finished on time. I guess this was the inspiration behind this song.

Other album highlights include the Bryan Ferry/Phil Manzanera written “Whirlwind” and the Bryan Ferry/Eddie Jobson written “She Sells,” the latter a quirky song that is reminiscent of earlier classic such as “Do The Strand” and “Editions of You.”

Roxy Music (1975)

Roxy Music Siren (Alternate Album Cover 1975)


Friday, March 24, 2017

The Clash - Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978)

“Give ‘Em Enough Rope” by The Clash (1978)

Release Date: November 10, 1978
Produced by Sandy Pearlman
Chart Positions: #128 (US), #2 (UK), #15 (New Zealand), #36 (Sweden)
Certifications: Gold (UK)
Singles: “Tommy Gun” (UK #19)
“English Civil War” (#25 UK, #29 Ireland)

“Give ‘Em Enough Rope” is the second studio album released by the influential British punk rock band The Clash. CBS Records released it on November 10, 1978 and was their first album released in the United States. Shortly after their first studio album “The Clash” was released in the US. “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” was well received by critics and fans, peaking at #2 in the UK and #128 in the US.

The album's cover art was designed by Gene Greif, the front of which was based on a postcard titled "End of the Trail", photographed by Adrian Atwater and featuring Wallace Irving Robertson. The cover of the first US pressings showed the band's name written in block capital letters. Subsequent US pressings used a faux-oriental style font, which was then replaced with the more ornate faux-oriental style font used on the UK release. Before designing the Clash album cover Gene Greif had previously designed album covers for a variety of jazz musicians such as John McLaughlin, Lonnie Liston Smith and Woody Shaw. After his collaboration with The Clash he expanded to other punk, new wave and dance artists such as Gary’s Gang, Flash and the Pan, Nina Hagen and The B-52’s.

Sandy Pearlman, an American hard rock producer who was best known for discovering and producing Blue Oyster Cult, produced ”Give ‘Em Enough Rope.” The teaming was quite controversial within the punk community, the result was a much cleaner sounding album than The Clash’s debut, yet the more direct sound hardly tamed them.

“Give ‘Em Enough Rope” dealt primarily with political issues, terrorism, drug abuse and other contemporary subjects. "Tommy Gun" deals with Middle Eastern terrorism, specifically the hi-jacking of aircraft, while "Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad" is a commentary on the infamous "Operation Julie" drug bust that saw the largest LSD production ring in the world, based in Wales, dismantled by an undercover police operation. The song also makes a reference to the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" in the opening line, "It's Lucy in the sky and all kinds of apple pie". "Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad" was originally titled "Julie's in the Drug Squad", as listed on the original pressing of the album. The song's title was changed when Give 'Em Enough Rope was released on CD. "Guns on the Roof", is ostensibly about global terrorism, war and corruption, it was partly inspired by an incident that resulted in the Metropolitan Police's armed anti-terrorist squad raiding the Clash's Camden Market base. The Clash band members, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon, were arrested and charged with criminal damage (and later fined £750) for shooting racing pigeons with an air gun from the roof of their rehearsal building.

Rolling Stone Magazine described the album as being fire and brimstone with a sense of humor.

The first single release “Tommy Gun,” was The Clash's first Top 20 hit in the UK, peaking at #19, but failed to chart anywhere else in the world. The "Thompson Submachine Gun" or "Tommy Gun" for short, is the typical gun from the American prohibition era, where it was used by both the police and gangsters. A series of rapid snare drum beats by Topper Headon mimics the "rat-ta-ta-ta" sound of them, and were suggested by him during recording. It was after recording the drum tracks for "Tommy Gun" in one take each time with no mistakes that producer Sandy Pearlman labelled Headon "The Human Drum Machine." Joe Strummer said that he got the idea for the song when he was thinking about terrorists, and how they probably enjoy reading about their killings as much as movie stars like seeing their films reviewed.

"Tommy Gun"

The next single release was “English Civil War,” it charted at 325 in the UK and #28 in Ireland. Their sound was in the beginning stages of expanding to other parts of the world. The song is derived from an American Civil War song, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", written by Irish-born Massachusetts Unionist Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, which is in turn derived from the Irish anti-war song "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye". It was popular amongst both sides of the conflict.
Having learnt the song at school, Joe Strummer suggested that the band should update it. The lyrics, passionately delivered by Joe Strummer, discuss the band's fears about the rise of the National Front and radical, far-right-wing politics in the UK, and fears that this will cause tensions and riots on the streets. In April 1978 the song had its first live performance at a Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park. The song features a series of interlocking guitar parts assembled and overlaid. Oddly Mick Jones has two extravagant solos, unusual for a punk rock song in which solos and over-the-top instrumentation were profoundly shunned.

The Clash (1978)


Yvonne Elliman - Love Me (1977)

“Love Me” (album) by Yvonne Elliman (1977)

Release Date: 1977
Produced by Freddie Perren
Chart Positions: #68 (US)
Certifications: N/A
Singles: “Love Me” (US #14, US Adult Contemporary #5, UK #6, New Zealand and South Africa #3, Ireland #9, Canada #11, Australia #15, Netherlands #16, Belgium #30), “Hello Stranger” (US #15, US Adult Contemporary #1, US R&B #57, UK #26, New Zealand #12, Canada #13, Netherlands #20), “I Can’t Get You Outta My Mind” (US Adult Contemporary #19, UK #17)

Yvonne Elliman performed for four years in the first cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. She scored a number of hits in the 1970s and achieved a US #1 hit with "If I Can't Have You". After a long hiatus in the 1980s and 1990s, during which time she dedicated herself to her family, she made a comeback album as a singer-songwriter in 2004.

Hawaiian born Yvonne Elliman first made it big in 1971 as a cast member of the stage show “Jesus Christ Superstar.” A single from the cast album “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” was released and became a Top 30 US and Canada hit as well as charting throughout Europe.  Over the next five years Yvonne released three albums that failed to chart. Finally in 1977 she released the album “Love Me” which charted only in the US but spawned two singles that charted throughout the North America, Europe and Zealandia.

Producer Freddie Perren worked primarily with Motown artists such as Michael Jackson, Jackson 5, Jermaine Jackson, The Miracles. By the mid seventies he branched out to other artists such as Tavares, The Sylvers, Minnie Riperton, Peaches and Herb, Gloria Gaynor and other.

There were three singles from the album the first was the title track which was a written by the Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb. The Bee Gees recording of “Love Me” appeared on their 1976 album “Children of the World.” The song was a huge hit for Yvonne and lead to several other hits in the next two years.

"Love Me"

The second single was “Hello Stranger” a remake of Barbara Lewis’ 1963 top 3 hit. Yvonne Elliman and producer Freddie Perren deliberately sought to capture the sound of the original. "Hello Stranger" was similar in chart action to her previous  "Love Me" and reached #15 on the US charts; the song also charted R&B at #57 and was most successful on the Adult Contemporary chart where it was #1 for four weeks.

The third single, “I Can Get You Outta My Mind” went almost unnoticed but managed to make it to #19 on the US Adult Contemporary chart as well as making it to #17 on the UK chart. This was Elliman’s third consecutive top 30 hit in the UK. Many fans have always felt this song should have reached a higher position on the charts.

Other album highlights include “Good Sign” a reggae-calypso influenced tune written by Carole Bayer Sager, David Wolfert and Melissa Manchester. We all know Melissa Manchester from her string of hits from the 70s and 80s including “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” “Midnight Blue” and “You Should Hear How She Talks About You.” During this point in time Carole Bayer Sager was becoming a well sought after songwriter with songs being recorded by Leslie Gore, The Mindbenders, Jackie DeShannon, Frankie Valli, Melissa Manchester, Helen Reddy, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Anne Murray, Leo Sayer, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, John Travolta and a treasure chest of others. “Good Sign” was used as the b-side to Yvonne Elliman’s worldwide #1 hit “If I Can’t Have You.”

Yvonne Elliman (1977)


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stevie Wonder - Innervisions (1973)

“Innervisions” by Stevie Wonder (1973)

Release Date: August 3, 1973
Produced by Stevie Wonder, Robert Margouleff, Malcolm Cecil
Chart Positions: #4 (US), #8 (UK), #11 (Canada), #26 (Australia), #264 (Japan)
Certifications: Gold (UK, Canada)
Singles: “Higher Ground” (US #4, US R&B #1, UK #29, Canada #9, Netherlands #28)
“Living For The City” (US #8, US R&B #1, UK #15, Canada #17, Germany #20)
“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” (US #16, US R&B #2, Canada #13, Netherlands #19)
He’s Misstra Know It All (UK #10)

Stevie Wonder is one of the most popular and prolific musicians in the history of recorded music, having sold well over 100 million records worldwide. He has had ten #1 singes and ten top five albums.

Just a year earlier Stevie added a rock sound to his music with the single “Superstition,” suddenly he was being played on FM classic rock stations as well as the R&B/Soul stations. With 1973’s “Innervisions” Stevie capitalized on that rock style and incorporated heavier guitars and propulsive drum work into songs such as “Higher Ground” and “Living For The City.” 1973 brought on a new direction for Stevie Wonder, rock and funk were now part of his sound. He was recording a heavier FM radio sound getting away from the AM radio format.

Innervisions is Stevie’s 16th studio album, released August 3, 1973, on the Tamla label for Motown Records, a landmark recording of his "classic period". The nine tracks of Innervisions encompass a wide range of themes and issues: from drug abuse in "Too High", through inequality and systemic racism in "Living for the City", to love in the ballads "All in Love Is Fair" and "Golden Lady".

As with many of Stevie Wonder's albums, the lyrics, composition and production are almost entirely his own work, with the ARP synthesizer used prominently throughout the album. The instrument was a common motif among musicians of the time because of its ability to construct a complete sound environment. Wonder was the first black artist to experiment with this technology on a mass scale, and Innervisions was hugely influential on the subsequent future of commercial black music. He also played all or virtually all instruments on six of the album's nine tracks, making most of Innervisions a representative one-man band. Critics received this album with overwhelming positive response.

“Innervisions” was Stevie Wonder’s second of eight consecutive top five albums. The album also won the Grammy Award for “Album of the Year,” this was his first of three albums to win the award, “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” and “Songs In The Key Of Life” are the other two. Wonder has won a total of 22 Grammy awards.

The first single release “Higher Ground” was released a month before the album and quickly sailed up to #4 on the US chart as well as reaching #1 on the US R&B chart, this was Wonder’s 7th out of 19 songs to top the R&B chart. Wonder wrote and recorded the song in a three-hour burst of creativity in May 1973. The album version of the song contains an extra verse and runs 30 seconds longer than the single version. The unique wah-clavinet sound in the song was achieved with a Mu-Tron III envelope filter pedal. The bass line is provided by a Moog synthesizer and using overdubs, Wonder played all instruments on the track, including drums and percussion.

The lyrics in “Higher Ground” deal with getting a second chance ("So darn glad he let me try it again") and making the most of it. Strangely, Wonder recorded it three months before he was almost killed on his way to a benefit concert in Durham, North Carolina. The car he was riding in was behind a truck carrying a load of logs, which stopped suddenly, sending a log through the windshield and hitting Wonder in the head. The accident put Wonder in a coma for four days. His road manager and good friend, Ira Tucker Jr., knew that Stevie liked to listen to music at high volume, so he tried singing this song directly into his ear. At first he got no response, but the next day, he tried again and Wonder's fingers started moving in time with the song - the first sign that he was going to recover. Recalling his time in the coma, Wonder said, "For a few days I was definitely in a much better spiritual place that made me aware of a lot of things that concern my life and my future and what I have to do to reach another higher ground. This is like my second chance for life, to do something or to do more and to face the fact that I am alive."

Wonder was a huge influence on The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who remade “Higher Ground” with a more up-tempo beat on their Mother's Milk album. They even thank him in the lyrics by adding the phrase "You know what Stevie says."

"Higher Ground"

The second single “Living For The City” was another smash hit receiving a huge amount of airplay on both AM and FM radio stations. It was one of the first soul songs to deal directly with systematic racism and use everyday sounds of the street like traffic, voices and sirens, which were combined with the music recorded in the studio. Wonder played all the instruments on the song and was assisted by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff for recording engineering and synthesizer programming. The song reached US #8 and US R&B #1 and also won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song. This was the second year in a row he won this award. In the previous year his hit “Superstition” won the award.

The third single “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” had a bit more of a pop funk vibe to it while maintaining the more urban edge Wonder had recently adopted. It reached #16 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart, #10 and #2 on the R&B chart. The song's lyrics convey a positive message, focusing on taking things in one's stride and accentuating the positive. The song's second chorus begins with Stevie taking the vocals up an octave with two vocal overdubs singing the same line. He also sings two other background overdub vocals, mimicking a horn line with the Spanish phrase "Todo 'stá bien chévere", which, loosely translated, means "Everything's really great."

The album’s closer, “He’s Misstra Know It All,” was the fourth single release and possibly the most controversial song from the album. The song is a scathing attack on then-US President Richard Nixon, similar to Wonder's song a year later, "You Haven't Done Nothin'". The mellow ballad with a steady beat charted only in the UK and made it to #10. In the US the song did not receive airplay most likely due to the nature of its rebellious lyrics.

Stevie Wonder (1973)


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Michael Johnson - The Michael Johnson Album (1978)

“The Michael Johnson Album” by Michael Johnson (1978)

Release Date: 1978
Produced by Steve Gibson and Brent Maher
Chart Positions: #81 (US), #83 (Canada)
Certifications: N/A
Singles: “Bluer Than Blue” (US #12, Canada #6, #1 on US and Canada Adult Contemporary), (New Zealand #24)
“Almost Like Being In Love” (US #32, Canada #40, US Adult Contemporary #4, Canada Adult Contemporary #10)
Sailing Without A Sail (US Adult Contemporary #44)

Michael Johnson, a Colorado born singer, songwriter and guitarist is best known for his 1978 Top Ten hit “Bluer Than Blue.” By that time he had been on the music scene for five years releasing music. “The Michael Johnson Album” was his fourth album, but the first that most people heard.

With producers Steve Gibson and Brent Maher, Johnson created a two-song demo consisting of "Bluer Than Blue" and "Almost Like Being in Love" (first made famous by Frank Sinatra in 1947 and later recorded by Nat King Cole in 1955). EMI America took one listen and wasted no time in signing him, quickly getting The Michael Johnson Album out in 1978. The first single, "Bluer Than Blue", became Johnson's first Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1978; the song became a chart-topping single on the Adult Contemporary chart. "Almost Like Being in Love" went to No. 91 on the R&B chart while hitting #4 on the AC chart and the #32 on the pop chart.

“Bluer Than Blue,” Johnson’s breakout single was written by Bernice Parks and veteran songwriter Randy Goodrum. Goodrum has written a string of Top 40 hits including “It’s Sad To Belong” by England Dan & John Ford Coley, “You Needed Me” and “Broken Hearted Me” both by Anne Murray, “Before My Heart Finds Out” by Gene Cotton, “Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry and several others. Michael Johnson recorded a second Goodrum song for his 1979 album “Dialog” called “The Very First Time.”

In 1978, Johnson was quoted as saying, "I knew “Bluer Than Blue” was potentially a successful song but I didn't think it would go this far. It seemed, well, too mature. The experience of being married or living with someone is hard to identify with for younger people.

Michael Johnson (1978)

Johnson’s next single “Almost Like Being In Love” was written by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, a duo that composed the music for several Broadway musicals including “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot.” “Almost Like Being In Love” was written for the musical “Brigadoon.” Johnson took the jazz influenced musical tune and revived it as a downbeat ballad.

"Almost Like Being In Love"

The third single “Sailing Without A Sail” did not fare so well but did receive a minor amount of airplay.

Another album highlight is a Latin influenced pop-jazz recording of Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Woman.” The mournful ballad “When You Come Home,” written by Eric Kaz and Tom Snow, was considered by many to be strong enough to have been a single release and received moderate airplay on MOR and adult contemporary radio stations.


Dolly Parton - All I Can Do (1976)

“All I Can Do” by Dolly Parton (1976)

Release Date: August 6, 1976
Produced by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton
Chart Positions: #3 (US Country Chart)
Certifications: N/A
Singles: “All I Can Do” (US Country Charts #3, Canada Country Charts #1), “Hey Lucky Lady” (US Country Charts #19, Canada Country Charts #11)

“All I Can Do” is the album released just before Dolly made her mark as a worldwide music superstar. It is her 17th solo album and her 29th album overall (including collaboration albums with Porter Wagoner).

The album includes eight songs written by Parton and two covers; Emmylou Harris' "Boulder to Birmingham" and Merle Haggard's "Life's Like Poetry". The album was released around the time Parton began appearing regularly in the supermarket tabloids, and "Shattered Image", which advised to "stay out of my closet if your own's full of trash" was said to be a reaction to that. Parton re-recorded "Shattered Image" for her 2002 Halos & Horns album. "The Fire That Keeps You Warm" was originally recorded by Parton and Porter Wagoner on the 1974 album Porter 'n' Dolly. This was the last Parton album on which Porter Wagoner would get producing credit.

Dolly received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal.

The upbeat “All I Can Do” was released as the album’s lead single and made it to #3 on the US Country Charts and #1 on the Canadian Country Music Charts. “Hey Lucky Lady” was the second single and reached #19 on the US Country Charts and #11 on the Canadian Country Music Charts.

"All I Can Do"


Freddy Fender - Before The Next Teardrop Falls (1974)

“Before The Next Teardrop Falls” by Freddy Fender (1974)

Release Date: 1974
Produced by Huey P. Meaux
Chart Positions: #20 (US), #1 (New Zealand), #9 (Netherlands), #10 (Canada), #1 (US Country Music Chart)
Certifications: Gold (US, Canada)
Singles: “Before The Next Teradrop Falls” (US #1, New Zealand #2, Canada #6, Netherlands #6, Belgium #12), “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” (US #8, New Zealand #1, Canada #6, Belgium #7, Netherlands #14)

Freddy Fender, who was born Baldemar Garza Huerta first made it to the music scene in 1957 using the name El Bebop Kid and released two singles: Spanish versions of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” (No Seas Cruel) and Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell.” Both songs were hits in Mexico and parts of South America. In 1959 Fender wrote and recorded “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” the song was a hit but shortly after he was arrested for possession of marijuana and served 3 years times in jail. He was released from jail, in 1963, with the condition that he stay away from music and alcohol for the duration of his probation. Freddy recorded four singles between 1964-1969 but nothing came of them

In 1971 Freddy met producer Huey P. Meaux. Meaux had Fender focus more on country music while maintaining his Hispanic roots and by 1973 he was releasing music again on a regular basis.

1974 was Freddy Fender’s banner year. It is the year he broke into the Top Ten. In the later part of ’74 Fender released his first album “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” but nothing happened with it until January 1975 when he released the single of the same name. The song took off immediately with airplay across the US on AM pop radio.

“Before The Next Teardrop Falls” was written in the late 1960s and had been recorded more than two dozen times. The song had achieved modest success with recordings by various performers; the original version by Duane Dee reached #44 on the Billboard country chart in early 1968, and Linda Martell sent her version to #33 in early 1970. Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version of the song on his 1969 album, Another Place Another Time.

In 1974, record producer Huey P. Meaux approached Fender about overdubbing vocals for an instrumental track. Fender agreed, performing the song bilingual style — singing the first verse in English, then repeating the verse in Spanish.
"The recording only took a few minutes," Fender once told an interviewer. "I was glad to get it over with and I thought that would be the last of it."

However, "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" immediately took off in popularity when released to country radio in January 1975. The song ascended to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in March, spending two weeks atop the chart. Thereafter, the song caught on just as strongly at Top 40 radio stations and it was not long before Fender had a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit as well. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song for 1975.

Riding on the success of “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” Fender released “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” as the next single. Fender wrote and recorded "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights", a blues ballad, for Duncan Records in 1959, during the early stages of his career. He was in the process of perfecting his mesh of rockabilly and Tejano, and the song showcased his new style. But he was arrested on charges of possession of marijuana, and in May 1960, he was convicted. The popularity of the song, along with his own popularity, plummeted.

Then, in 1975, "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" became a major hit, and Fender's career was rejuvenated. With the help of record producer Huey P. Meaux, Fender re-recorded "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights." This time, the song became a major pop and country hit, topping the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in August 1975. On other charts, "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" went to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, and number nine on Billboard's Easy Listening chart.

"Wasted Days and Wasted Nights"

"Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" was certified gold for sales of 1 million units by the Recording Industry Association of America. The song was a major hit in New Zealand. In 1975, it spent a total of 12 weeks in the number one position in the New Zealand singles charts, making it the longest running number-one single at the time and the third-longest running number-one single of all time.

Other highlights include a recording of “Roses Are Red (My Love)” a song made famous by Bobby Vinton and the Freddy Fender penned, mariachi influenced, “I Love My Rancho Grande.”

Freddy Fender (1975)


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rolling Stones - Some Girls (1978)

“Some Girls” by The Rolling Stones (1978)

Release date: June 8, 1978
Produced by The Glimmer Twins (aka Mick Jagger and Keith Richards)
Chart Positions: #1 (US, Canada), #2 France, New Zealand, UK), #3 (Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden), #4 (Austria), #5 (Spain), #6 (Italy, Germany), #11 (Japan), #83 (Belgium) #48 (Switzerland in 2011 reissue)
Certifications: 6xPlatinum (US), Platinum (New Zealand), Gold (France, Netherlands, UK)

During the mid 1970s the Rolling Stones went from releasing an album or two per year to one every two years. “Some Girls, their 14th studio album, was released 26 months after “Black and Blue.” Including the mega-hits “Miss You,” “Beast of Burden” and “Shattered,” “Some Girls” was Rolling Stones’ biggest selling album of their entire career.

Mick Jagger took a lead role on the album, mainly because Keith Richards had been arrested for drug possession in Toronto the previous year, and it was unclear what his sentence would be. Facing a maximum of life in prison, Keith had other things to worry about besides making an album. After this was released, the Canadian judge sentenced Richards to continue his addiction treatment and play a benefit concert for the blind.

The album cover for Some Girls was conceived and designed by Peter Corriston, who would design the next three album covers. An elaborate die-cut design, with the colours on the sleeves varying in different markets, it featured the Rolling Stones' faces alongside those of select female celebrities inserted into a copy of an old Valmor Products Corporation advertisement. The cover design was challenged legally when Lucille Ball, Farrah Fawcett, Liza Minnelli (representing her mother Judy Garland), Raquel Welch, and the estate of Marilyn Monroe threatened to sue for the use of their likenesses without permission. Similarly, Valmor did take legal action and were given a monetary award for the use of their design.

The album was quickly re-issued with a redesigned cover that removed all the celebrities, whether they had complained or not. The celebrity images were replaced with black and punk style garish colours with the phrase Pardon our appearance - cover under re-construction. Jagger later apologised to Minnelli when he encountered her during a party at the famous discothèque Studio 54. The only celebrity whose face was not removed was ex-Beatle George Harrison. As with the original design, the colour schemes on the redesigned sleeves varied in different markets.
A third version of the album cover with hand-drawn women was found on the 1986 CD reissue.

The album received a Grammy Award nomination for “Album of the Year,” the award that year went to the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.

In May 1978, the first single from the album, "Miss You", a prowling, moody number built on a stripped-down disco beat and bluesy pop harmonies, was released to very strong response, garnering the Rolling Stones their last US #1 hit and reaching #3 in the UK. The bass line, horns and drums gave this a disco sound. It alienated many of their fans, but also propelled it to the top of the charts. The Stones thought of it as more R&B than disco. "Miss You" was written by Mick Jagger jamming with keyboardist Billy Preston during rehearsals for the March 1977 El Mocambo club gigs, recordings from which appeared on side three of double live album Love You Live (1977). Keith Richards is credited as co-writer as was the case for all Rolling Stones originals written by either partner or in tandem. “Miss You” was an international hit reaching #1 (US, Canada), #2 (Netherlands), #3 (Belgium, Ireland, UK), #4 (France), #6 (Sweden), #8 (Australia, New Zealand) #11 (Norway, Switzerland) #12 (Germany), #13 (Austria),#18 (Italy) #19 (Finland). The single was certified Gold in the US and Silver in the UK.

"Miss You"

The second single “Beast Of Burden” only charted at #8 in the US but failed to chart elsewhere. “Respectable” was released as a single in Europe where it charted much better than “Burden.” The song made it to #23 (UK), #16 (Ireland, Netherlands) #91 (Australia). The fourth and final single “Shattered” reached #31 (US).

Other album highlights include a great remake of the Temptations 1971 classic “Just My Imagination (Running Away From Me)” and the country-blues tune “Far Away Eyes,” the Stones, longtime country music fans, incorporated many aspects of Bakersfield-style country music into this song. “Far Away Eyes” was used as the b-side to the single “Miss You.”

Rolling Stones (1978)