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)


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Robin Trower - Bridge of Sighs (1974)

“Bridge Of Sighs” by Robin Trower (1974)
Release Date: April 20, 1974
Produced by Matthew Fisher
Chart Positions: #1 (UK, Australia, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden), #2 (US), #5 (Netherlands), #23 (Japan), #29 (Germany)
Certifications: Gold (US) Silver (UK)
Singles: “Too Rolling Stoned”
Label: Chrysalis

Bridge of Sighs is the second solo album by the English guitarist and songwriter Robin Trower. It was released in 1974. Bridge of Sighs, his second album after leaving Procol Harum, was a breakthrough album for Trower. Songs from this album, such as "Bridge of Sighs", "Too Rolling Stoned", "Day of the Eagle", and "Little Bit of Sympathy", have become live concert staples for Trower.
The album was produced by organist Matthew Fisher, formerly Trower's bandmate in Procol Harum. Acclaimed Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick was this album's sound engineer.

In an interview with Guitar World, Robin Trower explained how the album got its title. Robin said that he had had the first line of the song for years and then one day he saw some sport pages which listed a racehorse called Bridge of Sighs and thought that would be a great title.

Bridge of Sighs (Chrysalis 1057) reached #7 in the UK during a chart stay of 31 weeks. It was certified Gold on 10 September 1974. Early printings of the original album cover had the front image upside-down, and were more greenish in colour.

“Bridge of Sighs” is Robin Trower’s career watermark. It is his highest charting UK album. “Bridge of Sighs” was a throwback to the ’60s. Even if it was behind the times, the Cream and Jimi Hendrix inspiration resonates, particularly on the LP bookends, “Day of the Eagle” and “Little Bit of Sympathy,” and “Lady Love,” which is reminiscent of Free.

Even the liquid dreamscapes conveyed by the brilliantly languid title track and “In this Place” seem to hearken back to the previous decade, which quite possibly explained why they connected deeply with listeners still mourning for the quickly fading, unfulfilled promises of the Summer of Love. As such, just as the real Bridge of Sighs, located in Venice, Italy, had once transported medieval convicts from court to gallows, Trower’s masterwork carried the musical ghosts of the ‘60s into the new decade, before paying them a teary goodbye forever.

“Too Rolling Stoned” was the only single release from the album. The song failed to chart but has become a favorite of Trower fans.

"Too Rolling Stoned"

Robin Trower (1974)


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Television - Adventure (1978)

“Adventure” by Television (1978)

Release Date: April 1978
Produced by John Jansen and Tom Verlaine
Chart Positions: #7 (UK)
Certifications: N/A
Singles: “Foxhole” (#36 UK), “Glory” (No chart data), “Ain’t That Nothing” (No chart data)

“Adventure” was the second album release for the New York City formed proto-punk band Television. The album was released in April 1978. It was issued in standard black vinyl in the US, but in red vinyl (matching the cover and inner sleeve) in the UK.

“Adventure” exposes a softer side of the band than their first album “Marquee Moon,” which in the end only enhances the talents and versatilities of this rock guitar driven band. “Adventure” is a brilliant work of the 70s that deserves more recognition than it has received. The guitar work is outstanding with its nuances and intensity well displayed in the performances by Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. Television blends guitar punk with a garage band rawness that gives the music a certain sort of soul and intimacy that doesn’t exist with the more popular polished bands of the time. Some of the songs are similar to Magazine meets the Rolling Stones.

There isn't a weak song on the album each song flows together creating a work of music that is reflective yet maintaining an uptown type punk rock emotion. "Carried Away", the best ballad on the album, floats away on an organ instead of a guitar; "The Fire" is a melodramatic piece that is defines the band’s introspectiveness.

The merry martial beat and blithe vocal harmonies of "Careful," conjure up memories of folk-rock pop ditties of the 60s such as the Turtles’ “Happy Together.”

Tom Verlaine as always is, a unique and masterful guitarist who doesn't play lines so much as shape them with a sculptor's deliberation. A connoisseur of timbres, he draws on everything from a Middle Eastern jangle to the blues to a crystalline tinkle to achieve — on a song like "The Dream's Dream" — an encyclopedic but unified grandeur.

“Foxhole” the first single from the album was a top 40 hit in the UK reaching #36. The anti-war song opens with the crisp and clear guitar chords of Tom Verlaine and works into his always-recognizable lead vocals.


The second and third singles “Glory” and “Ain’t That Nothing” both failed to chart but remain highlight on the album.

Television (1978)


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cher - Dark Lady (1974)

“Dark Lady” by Cher (1974)

Release Date: May 1974
Produced by Snuff Garrett
Chart Positions: #69 (US), #33 (Canada), #86 (Australia)
Certifications: N/A

Singles: “Dark Lady” #1 (US, Canada, Sweden), #4 (France, South Africa), #10 (Norway), #15 (Netherlands), #17 (Australia, Holland), #22 (Belgium), #36 (UK)
“Train Of Thought” #27 (US), #10 (France), #18 (Canada), #84 (Australia)
“I Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wife” #42 (US), #31 (Canada)
“Rescue Me” #82 (Canada)

“Dark Lady” is Cher’s eleventh studio album and her fifth (and final) for MCA Records (the first two were on Kapp-MCA). Released the year following “Half Breed”, “Dark Lady” is very similar, like an extension of that album with an inclusion of a rock edge and a dark edge that did not exist on “Half Breed.” The album was produced by Snuff Garrett. He produced four albums for Cher in the 1970s and also produced a few Sonny & Cher albums as well as Bobby Vee, Gary Lewis and the Playboys. One of the biggest hits he produced is Vickie Lawrence’s “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia.”

After the success of “Half-Breed,” Cher once again chose Snuff Garrett and Al Capps to produce “Dark Lady, her final album for MCA. During that same year, she divorced Sonny Bono, this ended their professional musical ties and television show for a while. Due to the success of previous albums produced by Garrett, “Dark Lady” followed the same narrative ballad style.

"Dark Lady", the album's first single release, reached #1 in the US, Canada and Sweden. The song became Cher's third solo U.S. #1 hit on March 23, 1974, and her last until "Believe" twenty-five years later. It also reached #3 on the US Adult Contemporary chart. "Dark Lady" also charted at #36 in the UK, #4 in France and South Africa, #10 in Norway and the Top 40 in many countries around the world. "Dark Lady" was written and composed by The Ventures' keyboard player, Johnny Durrill. He recalled: "I spent a week in Snuff Garrett's office playing him songs, and Cher ended up recording “Carousel Man.” Later, when I was on tour in Japan with the Ventures, I was writing an interesting song. I telegraphed the unfinished lyrics to Garrett. He said to 'make sure the b#!ch kills him.' Hence, in the song both the lover and fortune teller were killed." Thus, "Dark Lady" may with some accuracy be described as a murder ballad, even though the narrator of its lyrics essentially commits a crime of passion. The "Dark Lady" of the song's title is a gypsy fortune teller in New Orleans with a history of disdain for men (the narrator of the song describes seeing scratches on the inside of the teller's limousine from her previous conquests). The narrator follows the fortune teller's limousine to her lair and pays money for a fortune; as a result of the fortune, she learns that her lover has been unfaithful to her with, "someone else who is very close to you". Advised to leave the fortune teller's shop, never to return, and to forget she has ever seen the fortune teller's face, the narrator returns home in a state of shock, unable to sleep, and then realizes to her horror that she had once smelled, in her own room, the very perfume the fortune teller had been wearing. Sneaking back to the fortune teller's shop with a gun, she catches her lover and the fortune teller "laughing and kissing", and shoots them both to death.

"Dark Lady"

The album’s opening track "Train of Thought," written by Alan O’Day (“Undercover Angel,” Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby”), was the second single release. Though it was a sizeable hit through various parts of the world it was not quite the hit as “Dark Lady,” the album’s first single. The song is a raw and fast-moving rock track that reached #27 in the US and #9 on the US Adult Contemporary chart.

The third single chart was yet another story song of broken love to make a new love connection. “I Saw A Man and He Danced With His Wife,” a big band styled ballad touches on an emotion Cher was living after her recent divorce from her long-time husband Sonny Bono. The song was even less successful as a single than “Train Of Thought,” just missing the US top 40 making it to #42 and #31 in Canada.

A cover of Fontella Bass’ 1965 #1 hit “Rescue Me,” was a hint at what was ahead for Cher in the late 80s and early 90s.  The song contains a timeless vocal and musical arrangement that has aged very well. In the US the song was released as a promotional single and as a single throughout Europe but it did not chart. It did chart at #86 in Canada.

Bob Stone, who wrote her first success of the 1970s, “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves,” wrote the albums closing track “Apples Don’t Fall Far From The Tree.” “What’ll I Do” is a cover of the theme song from the 1974 film “The Great Gatsby.” “Miss Subway of 1952” is a tribute to Bette Midler as she sings the lyric, “To my idol the divine.”

Cher (1974)


Friday, April 7, 2017

War - The World Is A Ghetto (1972)

“The World Is A Ghetto” by War (1972)

Release Date: November 1972
Produced by Jerry Goldstein, Lonnie Jordan, Howard E. Scott
Chart Positions: #1 (US)
Certifications: Gold (US)
Singles: “The Cisco Kind” (#2 US), (#1 Canada), (#4 Netherlands), (#10 France), (#22 Holland)
“The World Is A Ghetto” (#7 US)

(70’s Music: Album by Album highly recommends this album for any music lover + this is a must buy)

The band's commercial high point - it topped the charts and quickly went gold. It brilliantly blends rebellious 60s experimentation with starry-eyed 70s hedonism, delivering all of their signature motifs: superbly lyrical Lee Oskar solos, inclusive group harmonies, taut Latin rhythms, wah-wah'ed guitar, and smoky jazz saxophone, all of it packaged as hard-driving funk and R&B with heavy hints of jazz. Rolling Stone Magazine music critic described the album as the black “Dark Side of the Moon.”

War has progressed far and fast since they split from Eric Burdon to develop fully as a band on their own merit. They continued and developed a full, luscious sound that's engagingly funk-filled. Their previous album, All Day Music saw the evolvement of this distinctly urban sound to a point just short of proficiency -- War could talk but hadn't yet mastered the language. With The World Is a Ghetto, they edge even closer to total mastery of their music as they attempt to use it to communicate the essence of ghetto life.

Their emphasis was to rely less on lyrical content, allowing space to develop the relaxed instrumental groove that became widely respected. In addition, their timing was perfect, as a host of African American stars such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield were experimenting and developing their own sounds and messages, all with increasing critical and commercial success. War’s style developed beyond soul, to loosely fuse progressive rock, jazz, R&B and a splash of calypso.

“The World Is A Ghetto” was War’s third studio album (fifth if you include the albums they did with Burdon). It has been certified Gold by the RIAA and topped the charts in the US. The album had been re-evaluated by music critics in 2012 when the 40th Anniversary Edition was released. The echoing verdict is that the album has held up extremely well through the decades and remained relevant to the social issues of the current day. With “The World Is A Ghetto” War created a visionary work of music.

The album opens with "The Cisco Kid," a song just teeming with imagery about Cisco and obese buddy Pancho. Sittin' down by the Rio Grande, drinkin' wine and "eatin' salted peanuts from the can" C.K. and Pancho are no more than a fantasy in the minds of the ghetto youth singing their praises, but an important fantasy because it allows them hope, heroes, and a temporary respite from the harsh realities of ghetto existence. “The Cisco Kid” was the second single release from the album and shot straight to the top of the charts. War guitarist Howard Scott came up with the idea for this song. Drummer Harold Brown commented, "Howard has always been a major contributor. He was in Compton, he had this apartment. I visited Howard there and he was sitting on his amp. He said, 'Harold, I got this idea. Cisco kid was a friend of mine.' That idea came about because there were no ethnic heroes at that time. Mainly, we were seeing people like Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers. There wasn't really anybody to relate to except Cisco Kid. He was like the total different kind of person. We wanted to give kids, people, another alternative besides the ones that were right in our face, obvious heroes. And it worked out really good, because it had the right kind of hook, it was a fun song. People at that time didn't want to be hearing about wars or anything, they just wanted fun music." “The Cisco Kid” struck a chord with the African American community but the song went well beyond striking a chord with the youth of the US. “The Cisco Kid” represented a yearning of escaping from what had become viewed as acceptable by the norms of society. The song quickly rose to #2 on the US charts for 2 weeks as well as #1 in Canada and the Top 10 in a few countries across Europe. The song received a Gold record certification from the RIAA.

The first single release was the titled track, “The World Is A Ghetto,” the song was an instant hit making it to #7 on the US chart. The song was their first post Eric Burdon top ten hit leading to another five top tens. "The World Is a Ghetto" was written by Papa Dee Allen (percussion), Harold Brown (drums), Morris "B.B." Dickerson (bass), and Leroy "Lonnie" Jordan (keyboards): together with Howard Scott (guitar), Charles Miller (sax/flute) and Lee Oskar (harmonica), they formed the band War. The song was released as a single—it entered the Billboard Top 40 the week of December 30, 1972 and stayed for 9 weeks, peaking at #7 the week of February 10, 1973. "The World Is a Ghetto" was also the name of the album—the only one they ever released that topped the pop charts, it sold over three million copies—on which the song (over 10 minutes long) was placed. The song was edited down to 3:59 for the single release. The title track is simply the most successful use of the "Groovin'" motif since the Rascals tantalized urban America with the prototype. A study in casual, laid-back musical discipline, it soothes savage passions, lulling them to sleep to be awakened only by the stark, sudden refrain, "the world is a ghetto". Charles Miller's sax solo is magnificent, as definitive a statement of emotion as can be imagined.—Gordon Fletcher, Rolling Stone, 3/1/73
The title track was a triumphant blend of great exchanges and unison vocals, plus concise and spirited musical contributions all around.—Ron Wynn, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995
"Walkin' down the street, smoggy-eyed / Looking at the sky, starry-eyed / Searchin' for the place, weary-eyed / Crying in the night, teary-eyed / Don't you know that it's true / That for me and for you / The world is a ghetto / Don't you know that it's true / That for me and for you / The world is a ghetto / Wonder when I'll find paradise / Somewhere there's a home sweet and nice / Wonder if I'll find happiness / Never give it up now I guess / Don't you know that it's true / That for me and for you / The world is a ghetto / Don't you know that it's true / That for me and for you / The world is a ghetto /—long instrumental break—/ There's no need to search anywhere / Happiness is here, have your share / If you know you're loved, be secure / Paradise is love to be sure / Don't you know that it's true / That for me and for you / The world is a ghetto / Don't you know that it's true / That for me and for you / The world is a ghetto / Don't you know that it's true / That for me and for you / The world is a ghetto / Don't you know that it's true / That for me and for you / The world is a ghetto"

"The World Is A Ghetto"

The album is one highlight after another. There’s not one track that misses or slows the album down. "Where Was You At," which follows, is a true delight, a soulful get-down cut from the Isley Brothers mold. The kinda funk you need to get off on the good foot! These two cuts are truly Watts and Harlem unleashed -- ghetto life at its most brazen.

"City, Country, City" is a tour de force energizer in which each band member gets the chance to show off his ability. Through a series of solos ahead of varying rhythmic percussion accompaniment, War attempts to convey the hustle and bustle of a ghetto day, sandwiched between the comparative calm of morning and night. "City, Country, City" pointed toward dance music's future with a travelogue of deep beats, each melodic theme more euphoric than the next.

"Four Cornered Room" is a Temptationesque choral ballad that introduces a darker element to War's music, one that would culminate with the title track. A slow, languid gospel/blues/jazz pattern carries the rhythm and tempo and conveys a sense of dark foreboding. A near instrumental, the vocals are only a chant in the first half of the song, eventually building to a chant of the title chorus. Soon after this, a spoken word recitation takes over, delivering a message of despair and urban dread. The street politics that the band often sang about come to a great climax here, mirroring the dark emotions of the early '70s. “Four Cornered Room” was used as the b-side to the single release of “The World Is A ghetto.” (Note this is my favorite song from the album).

Closing the album, after two downcast but brilliant songs that reflected the urban dread at the time, the rhythmic "Beetles in the Bog" is a life-affirming, almost joyous African-styled chant. Over a funk base, the group's vocal camaraderie is in full swing here, creating a feeling that is hopeful and empowering. As in many of War's songs, the percussion section almost acts as a melodic instrument, and this was one of the things that set the band aside from many of their contemporaries.

War (1972)


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Rod Stewart - A Night On The Town (1976)

“A Night On The Town” by Rod Stewart (1976)

Release Date: June 18, 1976
Produced by Tom Dowd
Genres: Rock, Pop, Classic Rock, Adult Contemporary
Chart Positions: #1 (UK, Australia, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden), #2 (US), #5 (Netherlands), #23 (Japan), #29 (Germany)
Certifications: 6xPlatinum (Australia), 2xPlatinum (US, Canada), Platinum (UK)

Singles: “Tonight’s The Night” (#1 US, Canada), #2 (Brazil, Ireland, New Zealand), #3 (Australia), #4 (France), #5 (Netherlands), (UK), #6 (Norway), #7 (Sweden, Holland), #13 (Belgium), #26 (Germany), #2 (US Adult Contemporary)
“The Killing Of Georgie” ##2 (UK), #7 (Canada), #9 (France), #24 (Holland), #25 (Netherlands), #30 (US), #36 (Germany), #38 (Australia)
“The First Cut Is The Deepest” #1 (UK, Germany, Netherlands), #4 (Ireland), #5 (New Zealand), #10 (France), #21 (US), #3 (US Adult Contemporary)
Singles Certifications: "Tonight's The Night" Gold (US, Canada), "The First Cut Is The Deepest" Silver (UK)

A Night on the Town is Rod Stewart's seventh album, released in 1976. The cover art is based on Pierre-Auguste Renoir's painting Bal du moulin de la Galette, with Stewart inserted in the centre in period costume. Stewart performed "Big Bayou" regularly with The Faces during their final US tour the previous year, although the version found on "A Night On The Town" was based on the one Ronnie Wood released on his 1975 solo album, Now Look.

“A Night On The Town” was a star-studded event with guest players such as Eagles band-member Joe Walsh on guitar, David Lindley (“Mercury Blues”) on guitar, legendary record producer and songwriter David Foster (known for his 1985 hit “Love Theme from St. Elmos Fire) playing keyboards, R&B and Blues musician Booker T. Jones on keyboards, Tower of Power on horns and Arif Mardin composing the strings arrangement. Producer Tom Dowd produced many other popular acts of the time including Kenny Loggins, Chicago, Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Meatloaf, J. Geils Band, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, The Eagles as well as many jazz greats such as Charles Mingus, Herbie Mann, Ornette Coleman, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and a host of others.

The first single release “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” shot up the charts instantly and was a huge hit throughout the world. This was his comeback hit in the US. His previous Top 15 US hit was 1972’s “You Wear It Well.” The song was 1977’s #1 song in the US and Canada.

According to Dan Peek of America, Stewart's inspiration for "Tonight's the Night" was America's Top 30 hit "Today's the Day": Peek recalls that one evening when he and his guest Rod Stewart were playing together in Peek's home recording studio: "I played 'Today's the Day', the song I had been working on. Rod said that he liked it and that it gave him an idea for a song. Of course after his recording of 'Tonight's the Night' came out I laughed when I remembered what he'd said. I'm sure I probably smacked my forehead and said: 'Why didn't I think of that?'"

The song features a French spoken part from Britt Ekland who was Stewart's girlfriend at the time. Some listeners have interpreted the song as an incestuous pedophile's successful seduction of his daughter. Stewart's persona explicitly refers to his partner as his "virgin child," and among her French comments at the end, she asks, "What is Mama going to say?" The song was partially banned in some parts of the UK because of its suggestive lyrics. Later the ban was dropped due to public demand.

“The Killing of Georgie” was the album’s second single release. This was a personal song to Rod. The song tells the story of a gay man who was killed in New York City. A two-part song, Part I was the more popular hit and was blended into the more melancholy and sombre Part II. The song's lyrics tell the tale of a friend of the narrator's, a gay man, the eponymous Georgie. The song follows Georgie through his life. When Georgie reveals his sexuality to his parents his father asks, "How can my son not be straight, after all I've said and done for him?" Georgie, cast out by his parents, leaves home and heads for New York City where he becomes successful and popular in Manhattan's upper class, "the toast of the Great White Way". The narrator visits him in Summer 1975, when Georgie tells him he's in love; the narrator is pleased for him. Georgie attends the opening night of a Broadway musical, but has no interest in lingering afterward so he leaves "before the final curtain call" and heads crosstown. He is attacked near East 53rd Street by a New Jersey gang of thieves that was waiting in a car on a "darkened side street" and one thief inadvertently kills him. The narrator remembers Georgie's advice on living life to the full while young, before it ends. The song ends with the narrator begging Georgie to stay.
The year of Georgie's death is given as 1975 purely for the purposes of the song's rhyme. The murder of the individual on which the song is based occurred in 1974.

"The Killing of Georgie"

In the May 1995 issue of Mojo, Stewart explained: "That was a true story about a gay friend of The Faces. He was especially close to me and Mac. But he was knifed or shot, I can't remember which. That was a song I wrote totally on me own over the chord of open E." The switchblade knife in the song's lyrics implies that Georgie was stabbed to death.

When he was asked about writing a song with a gay theme, Stewart said, "It's probably because I was surrounded by gay people at that stage. I had a gay PR man, a gay manager. Everyone around me was gay. I don't know whether that prompted me into it or not. I think it was a brave step, but it wasn't a risk. You can't write a song like that unless you've experienced it. But it was a subject that no one had approached before. And I think it still stands up today."

The third and final single from “A Night On The Town,” “The First Cut Is The Deepest” was released in the UK as a double a-side coupled with “I Don’t Want To Talk About It.” In the US the song was released with “Balltrap” as its b-side. “The First Cut Is The Deepest” was written by Cat Stevens and was first recorded by P.P. Arnold in May 1967. P.P. Arnold did a good amount of recording with Small Faces in 1967 and also recorded a duet with Rod Stewart the same year. Stevens released his version a few months later on his album “New Masters.”

Album highlight “Pink Flamingo” was recorded in 1966 by Manfred Mann and was a #1 hit in the UK and Top 30 hit in the US for them.

Written by Rod Stewart, “Fool For You” takes him back to his early 70s days with a sound similar to “Maggie Mae” and “You Wear It Well.” "Fool for You" is a melodic and heart-breaking tale of a man realizing he's involved with a woman who lives in a world in which he will never belong. He feels his out of his league and can never make her happy so he's breaking off the relationship (by letter, of course) with great sadness as he is still very much in love.(He's even leaving her his records!

Rod Stewart 1976


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Judy Collins - True Stories and Other Dreams (1973)

“True Stories and Other Dreams” by Judy Collins (1973)

Release Date: January 1973
Produced by Mark Abramson and Judy Collins
Chart Positions: #27 (US)
Certifications: N/A
Singles: “Cook With Honey” (US #32), “Secret Gardens” (US #122)

“True Stories and Other Dreams” was Judy Collins’ ninth studio album. For the first half-dozen albums of her career, Judy Collins sang only traditional folk tunes and material by other songwriters. Even when she began to write songs in the late 1960s, her compositions were outnumbered by tunes from other sources on the records she issued during the next five years or so. The 1973 LP True Stories and Other Dreams, however, marked the first album on which her own songs comprised the majority of the material. As usual, though, the record also featured astutely selected tunes from a variety of other contemporary singer-songwriters, some of who had also been recording since the early days of the folk revival, and some of who were newcomers to the music scene.

True Stories and Other Dreams also marked the first occasion on which she received a producer's credit, shared with Mark Abramson, who'd produced her recordings since the mid-1960s. As Judy elaborates, however, throughout their association, "we produced together, truly. I would never have denied him his production credit. But it was also my choices, my thinking, my determination, and then Mark backing me up, helping me get what I wanted to get done. And we knew all these wonderful people, of course." On True Stories and Other Dreams, that support cast included her longtime friend Eric Weissberg on acoustic guitar, banjo, and upright bass; Bill Keith, whose pedal steel lent an occasional country flavor; and even Latin jazzman Ray Barretto on congos and bongos.

The songs on the album showcased Judy’s varied musical interests. The single “Cook With Honey” was alight flavored pop song that reached #32 on the US singles chart. The protest song, “The Hostage” brought us back to Judy’s folk roots. “Secret Gardens,” the second single from the album is a beautiful orchestral ballad about her family. The song bubbled under the US singles chart making it to #122. Opening with Judy’s tender keyboard playing, the wistful “Holly Ann” is about Judy’s sister. Of course there are the fantastic story songs like “Fisherman Song,” where Judy excels. Judy recalls, "I took a little time off in 1972 and went out to Long Island just to do some songwriting," remembers Judy today. "At that point, I wrote 'Fishermen Song.' I was on the beach there and these fishermen sing; they bring in the fish, and they would hand me a fresh bluefish or something for me to cook. So 'Fishermen Song' is really about that experience of watching them fish."

"Song For Martin"

“Song For Martin” is a poignant album highlight about Martin Hoffman, a school teacher, who composed the music for a poem written by Woody Guthrie titled “Deportee.” Hoffman and Judy became friends in the 1960s. Collins remembers, "He was the first person I ever heard sing 'This Land Is Your Land,' up at Lookout Mountain in Colorado," says Judy. "He was a wonderful man, just a sweet man." Hoffman committed suicide prior to the recording of “True Stories and Other Dreams.”

The album closes with the dramatic politically charged “Che.” In an entirely different vein, the seven-and-a-half-minute "Ché"–inspired, of course, by the famous revolutionary Ché Guevara – is one of the most ambitious compositions Collins ever put on disc. She'd been thinking about "the people who betrayed him, and how they might feel, because they were probably Catholics, they were probably poor, they were probably peasants in South America," she reflects. "And I thought, I want to see if I can paint that picture of him. Because all these people get told by leaders what they should do, and how they should live, and it must get to be a burden."

Judy Collins (1973)


Monday, April 3, 2017

Ornette Coleman - Science Fiction (1972)

“Science Fiction” by Ornette Coleman (1972)

Release Date: February 1972
Produced by James Jordan
Chart Positions: N/A
Certifications: N/A
Singles: N/A

Ornette Coleman's first album for Columbia followed a stint on Blue Note that found the saxophonist in something of a holding pattern. Science Fiction was his creative rebirth, a stunningly inventive and appropriately alien-sounding blast of manic energy. Coleman pulls out all the stops, working with a variety of different lineups and cramming the record full of fresh ideas and memorable themes. Bassist Charlie Haden and drummers Billy Higgins and/or Ed Blackwell are absolutely indispensable to the overall effect, playing with a frightening, whirlwind intensity throughout.

"Science Fiction" is a free jazz classic.

In some respects, this is one of the last original statements of the musical approach Ornette had taken starting in the late 1950s.  Many of these songs open with a “head” with two performers playing a composed line in dissonant unison.  Then the songs open up with the performers playing in less coordinated ways.  But that approach only accounts for a portion of the album, mostly in the middle part.

The opener “What Reason Could I Give?” is something different from the traditional Coleman song structure.  Instead of a more structured head that gives way to less structured collective improvisation, the entire song is organized around unison playing.  Every one of the performers, with some slight exception for the two drummers who must accept the more limited tonal palettes of drum kits in exchange for unobtrusively skittering rhythmic attacks, seems to be guided by a close and commonly structured composition that tries to balance the tone, volume and overall intensity of performance.  A singer (Asha Puthli) provides an inherent focal point because of the lyrics, though really they are not “in front” of the other performers in any real way.  This type of song structure seems like a more fully realized version of things Ornette had hinted at in the late 1960s, when he started working with Dewey Redman, but never really mastered.  This song is fluid, engaging…convincing.  And the balance never falters.

The catchiest numbers -- including two songs with Indian vocalist Asha Puthli, which sound like pop hits from an alternate universe -- have spacy, long-toned melodies that are knocked out of orbit by the rhythm section's churning chaos, which often creates a totally different pulse. Two tracks reunite Coleman's classic quartet of Haden, Higgins, and Don Cherry; "Street Woman" just wails, and "Civilization Day" is a furious, mind-blowing up-tempo burner. With “Civilization Day,” Ornette is back to a kind of bop group combo formation that opens the song with a form of unison playing that leaves specific spaces in place.  After the initial statement of the songs theme, the drums drop out, and then solos are traded.  The bass (Charlie Haden) is very insistent throughout.  It provides the strong urging of a regular beat that undercuts what would otherwise be an oppressive intensity from the wailing of the wind instruments.  The next song “Street Woman” sort of combines the approaches of the first two.  The bass takes more liberal departures from a steady beat, both in a rubbery statement in the head (plus a similar closing to the song), and in a prominent mid-song solo. "Law Years" and "The Jungle Is a Skyscraper" feature a quintet with Haden, Blackwell, tenorist Dewey Redman, and trumpeter Bobby Bradford; both have racing, stop-start themes, and "Jungle"'s solos have some downright weird groaning effects. "Rock the Clock" foreshadows Coleman's '70s preoccupations, with Redman playing the musette (an Arabic double-reed instrument) and Haden amplifying his bass through a wah-wah pedal to produce sheets of distorted growls. “Rock the Clock” again opens right into a bunch of skronking from the wind instruments, but with Ornette on violin playing scratchy, abrasive and high-pitched bowed sounds, then an electric bass gives the song a touch of the sound of the jazz-rock fusion movement — very funky.  Between the bass and the violin, two extremes sit together, taking opposite approaches (pulsed beats on bass, extended tones on violin)  yet kind of create a meaning through their juxtaposition.  This proves to be a great performance of a song that would become standard in the Coleman repertoire. The title track is a free septet blowout overlaid with David Henderson's echoed poetry recitations, plus snippets of a crying baby; it could sound awkward today, but in context it's perfectly suited to the high-octane craziness all around it.

"Street Woman"

An open secret to Ornette’s music is the way he integrates composition and improvisation.  Performers are not simply cut loose to play whatever they want.  Ornette was a composer above all.  Yet his way of composing presented the opportunity for his compositions to seem to dissolve away amid the improvisation.  Paradoxically, the only way the improvisation can structure itself to overcome the compositional elements is through the compositions themselves. Science Fiction is a meeting ground between Coleman's past and future; it combines the fire and edge of his Atlantic years with strong hints of the electrified, globally conscious experiments that were soon to come. And, it's overflowing with brilliance.

Ornette Coleman (1972)