Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pat Benatar - In The Heat Of The Night (1979)

“In The Heat Of The Night” by Pat Benatar (1979)

Release Date: August 27, 1979
Produced by Peter Coleman, Mike Chapman
Genre: Rock, Hard Rock, Pop-Rock, Classic Rock, Alternative Rock
Label: Chrysalis

Chart Positions: #12 (US), #3 (Canada), #8 (New Zealand), #20 (France), #25 (Australia), #98 (UK)
Certifications: Gold (France), Platinum (US), 4xPlatinum (Canada)

Singles: “If You Think You Know How To Love Me,” (No Chart Data), “Heartbreaker” #3 (France), #14 (New Zealand), #18 (Canada), #23 (US), #95 (Australia), “We Live For Love” #3 (France), #8 (Canada, New Zealand), #27 (US), #28 (Australia), “I Need A Lover” #19 (Belgium), #31 (Netherlands), “Rated X” #28 (France)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Heartbreaker,” “My Clone Sleeps Alone,” “ We Live For Love,” “Rated X,” “So Sincere”

Pat Benatar blast on to the music scene in a big way with her debut album “In The Heat Of The Night,” she was the very pulse of popular music. Her sound, style and look could not go unnoticed. Despite her huge popularity in the US and Canada, the album only made it to #95 in the UK and none of the singles charted in the UK. It wasn't until 1981's "Precious Time" and 1983's "Shadows Of The Night" that Pat had a hit album and single respectively in the UK.

The album included 3 original songs written either by Pat Benatar or her partner Neil Giraldo. Despite the originals the albums was largely full of cover tunes. Three of those covers were written by producer Mike Chapman and his songwriting partner Nicky Chinn. Those three are “If You Think You Know How To Love Me” and “In The Heat Of The Night” (both originally recorded by Smokie) and a cover of the Sweet tune “No You Don’t.” The other covers include John Cougar Mellencamp’s “I Need A Lover,” Nick Gilder’s “Rated X” and Alan Parson’s “Don’t Let It Show.”

“In The Heat of The Night” laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most remarkable careers in rock music. People Magazine called the album, "Perhaps the hottest debut of the year."

The first single released from the album, "If You Think You Know How To Love Me," was Pat's second single in her career. The song was original recorded and released in 1975 by Smokie and was a Top 3 hitting the UK. Pat's release of the song failed to chart and signaled a slow start to her career with Chrysalis records.

But hold on... it wasn't over yet for Pat... the very next single, "Heartbreaker," with its Cars like bass line, garnered the attention of hard rock and FM radio programmers. Before you knew it her voice was on almost every rock and Top 40 station across the US and Canada. Though, the song only reached US #23 it spent a very impressive 18 weeks on the charts and the album was taking off like wildfire. Pat Benatar was instantly a star that could not be ignored.

Though most of the chart success of the album and it's singles happened in 1980, the album itself and the first two singles were released in 1979, thus is a product of the 1970s.

"Heartbreaker" got Pat all the way in the door and the next hit "We Live For Love" kept her in. The song written by boyfriend Neil Giraldo, sounded very similar to Blondie's "Heart Of Glass," though Benatar's song did't hit the top of the charts as Blondie did but it still performed well scoring Pat her second Top 30 hit in the US and made it to #3 in France and the Top Ten in Canada and New Zealand. Benatar was certainly firmly on her way to superstardom.

"We Live For Love" (1979)

John Mellencamp, who at the time was known as John Cougar, just a few months earlier had a hit with "I Need A Lover," a song he wrote and recorded in 1977 and released initially in 1978. His 1978 release did not chart but he did not give up on the song and rereleased it again in 1979 and the song made it to US #28. Pat's hypnotic mid tempo rocking version of "I Need A Lover" was initially released as the b-side to "We Live For Love" but radio programmers in the Netherlands and Belgium picked up the song and it became a hit charting in both areas.

Finally, that brings us to "Rated X," a promiscuous song with a rock steady beat was written by Nick Gilder (Hot Child In The City) and was featured on his 1977 album "You Know Who You Are," which also included the song "Roxy Roller," initially recorded in 1975 by his band Sweeney Todd and then recorded in 1977 by Suzi Quatro. Benatar's "Rated X" was released only in France where it charted at #28.

Other songs that received minor amounts of airplay were; "In The Heat Of The Night," "My Clone Sleeps Alone," "Don't Let It Show" and "No You Don't."

Pat Benatar (1979)


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Grover Washington Jr. - Mister Magic (1975)

“Mister Magic” by Grover Washington Jr. (1975)

Release Date: February 7, 1975
Produced by Creed Taylor
Genre: Jazz, Smooth Jazz, Funk, R&B
Label: Kudu Records

Chart Positions: #10 (US), #1 (US R&B, US Jazz)
Certifications: N/A

Singles: “Mister Magic,” #54 (US), #16 (US R&B), #12 (US Dance)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “All Tracks

We remember Grover Washington Jr best for his 1981 smash hit “Just The Two Of Us,” a collaboration with Bill Withers. But it is his album “Mister Magic,” Grover's fifth studio album, that gave him his first true breakthrough on both the albums and singles charts. The album made it to #10 on the US Billboard chart and the single peaked at #54 (his first single to chart).

Grover Washington Jr is considered to be one of the founders of the smooth jazz sound. Though Washington’s brand of smooth jazz has always been of the highest form remaining true to the jazz soul styles of his earliest recordings. Because of it’s accessible smooth jazz style, with the musical arrangements composed by Bob James, “Mister Magic” was able to break through in many markets including the pop charts, R&B, dance and jazz charts. “Mister Magic” was a hit on adult contemporary light rock AM radio stations across the US and helped to bring jazz to the forefront in the mid 1970s. Now the album is considered a classic and revered by Washington’s many fans.

The title track, "Mister Magic," was written by jazz music legend Ralph MacDonald. The song is one of those few songs that was able to cross territories of music as not only did jazz radio stations love it but the song was a popular choice in dance clubs throughout the US - it's not too often that a jazz tune is a hit in disco clubs. And if that is not enough even easy listening pop stations liked the tune.

"Mister Magic" (1975)

"Earth Tones," with it's complex 6/4 beat, is the most experimental track of the album featuring a great way was guitar solo by Eric Gale. Washington on the sax and Gale on guitar get ample opportunity to improvise on this 12 minute track.

Grover wrote all the songs on the album with the exception of "Passion Flower" which was written by Billy Strayhorn. The soothing ballad features Grover's dreamy sax playing in a fashion that just brings you to a point where you just melt right in your seat by the beauty of the song. Grover does some fantastic things with the saxophone with a few twists and surprises about half way through.

The guitar solos by Grover Washington Jr and Eric Gale are a major aspect of the album that initially caught the attention of radio programmers and music listeners. Each man plays his instrument to the finest degree possible with each adding their own highly recognizable chords to the arrangements.

The album is a who’s who of jazz music including the legendary Bob James (member of the band Fourplay, composer of the "Taxi" TV Theme song and has composed arrangements and orchestrations for countless musicians), Eric Gale (Legendary jazz guitarist), Ralph McDonald (singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, percussionist. Wrote the songs "Where Is The Love," "Just The Two Of Us" and "Mister Magic") and Jon Faddis (jazz trumpet player, conductor, composer).

Producer Creed Taylor also produced a wide variety of musicians in the jazz field such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Carmen McRae, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Charlie Byrd, Wes Montgomery, Freddie Hubbard, George Benson, Nina Simone, Herbie Hancock and others. Taylor founded the record company CTI and later it’s sister label Kudu which focused on R&B Jazz artists such as Grover Washington Jr.

Grover Washington, Jr. (1975)


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sammy Johns by Sammy Johns (1973)

“Sammy Johns” by Sammy Johns (1973)

Release Date: 1973
Produced by Jay Senter, Jefferson Lee, Larry Knechtel
Genre: Country Rock, Folk, Pop
Label: General Recording

Chart Positions: #148 (US)
Certifications: N/A

Singles: “Rag Doll,” #52 (US), #34 (US Adult Contemporary), “Chevy Van” #5 (US), #2 (New Zealand), #8 (Canada), #80 (US Country), “America” (No Chart Data), “Early Morning Love” #68 (US), #79 (Canada), #19 (US Adult Contemporary), #79 (US Country), “Friends Of Mine” (No Chart Data)
Singles Certifications: “Chevy Van” (US Gold)

Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Early Morning Love,” “Chevy Van,” "Rag Doll," “Holy Mother, Aging Father”

Trivia: Sammy Johns was signed to his solo recording contract in 1973 to General Recording Corporation Records (also known as GRC). His first official recording was “Early Morning Love,” which was later released as a single in 1974, it was the fourth single release from his debut album “Sammy Johns.” Johns’ first single release “Rag Doll,” a country influenced ballad came and went without notice. “Chevy Van” was the second single which also came and went without notice. Two more singles were released (“America” and “Early Morning Love”) again no chart action. Finally 18 months after the album was released GRC recognized the hit potential of “Chevy Van” and re-released it as a single in 1975 and promoted the song. This time around it became a huge hit reaching #5 in the US and the top ten in New Zealand and Canada.  Due to the success of “Chevy Van” GRC re-released “Early Morning Love” and “Rag Doll” as singles and like "Chevy Van," both made it onto the charts. Much of the album has a country music character about it. Songs such as “We Will Shine” are reminiscent of John Denver while “Friends of Mine” begins with a twangin’ country music guitar.

"Chevy Van" (1975)

"Chevy Van" was written by Sammy as were most of the songs from his album. The song epitomizes an era when hitchhiking was popular and picking up strangers for a one night stand was a lifestyle for many. The million selling "Chevy Van" struck a chord so much that van sales dramatically increased in the next year, making it one of the most popular vehicles of the time period. "Chevy Van" inspired the 1977 low budget teen film "The Van" in which Danny DeVitto was one of the stars and prominently featured Johns' epic tune.

Sammy's second biggest single "Rag Doll" was written by popular songwriter Steve Eaton. The melancholy song with its open feel and memorable harmony received a fair amount of airplay on some radio stations across the US but failed to reach the heights of "Chevy Van." Despite the song is one of Johns' best recordings and is well remembered by his fans. Songwriter Steve Eaton's songs have been recorded by many top rate artists such as Anne Murray's "Out On The Road," Lee Greenwood's "I'll Still Be Loving You" and probably his best known song "All You Get From Love Is A Love Song" by the Carpenters. "Rag Doll" was first recorded by Sammy Johns but has since been recorded by Art Garfunkel and Glen Campbell.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cheryl Lynn (1978)

“Cheryl Lynn” by Cheryl Lynn (1978)

Release Date: October 13, 1978
Produced by David Paich, Marty Paich
Genre: R&B, Disco, Soul
Label: Columbia

Chart Positions: #23 (US), #22 (Canada), #5 (US R&B)
Certifications: 2xPlatinum (US)

Singles: “Got To Be Real” #12 (US), #23 (New Zealand), #29 (Japan), #60 (UK), #1 (US Disco, US R&B), #11 (US Dance), “Star Love” #62 (US), #63 (Canada), #11 (US Dance), #9 (US R&B)
Singles Certifications: “Got To Be Real” (US Platinum)

Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Got To Be Real,” “Star Love,” “Come In From The Rain,” “Nothing You Say”

Trivia: Cheryl Lynn started her career in music was in 1976 as a backup vocalist in the national touring company of the musical “The Wiz.” But her real start was in early 1976, shortly before her role in “The Wiz,” when she appeared on an episode of the Gong Show (which was not aired until many months later in 1976). She was scored a perfect 30 and tied with a Juggling Clown. In an audience applause tiebreaker it was the juggler that won the show but it is Cheryl Lynn that moved on to national and international success when record producers shopped her for a record contract. With in months she had a Top 10 hit with the classic disco track “Got To Be Real.”

Lynn’s self-titled debut album contains the two disco hits “Got To Be Real” and “Star Love” but is mostly an album filled with soulful ballads, which is the direction Lynn would take with the remainder of her career. Indicative of this direction is how she started as she did a soulful rendition of Joe Cocker’s ballad “You Are So Beautiful To Me” on the Gong Show.”

Despite the fact that Cheryl Lynn's "Got To Be Real" received massive amounts of airplay both on radio and in dance clubs the song only reached #12 on the US charts (although it did stay at #12 for three weeks). The song has gone on to become a dance music classic and was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005. To this day the song still continues to get a decent amount of play in clubs, radio, streaming sites and youtube.

Ray Parker (of "Ghostbusters fame) played the guitar on "Got To Be Real" and several other tracks on the album. Parker also co-wrote the disco track "Give My Love To you" a song which could have easily been a hit for Cheryl. Cheryl wrote the vocal melody and lyrics for "Got To Be Real," while David Paich and soon to become well known songwriter David Foster composed the music. David Foster had his own hot with "Love Theme from St Elmo's Fire" in 1985 as well as winning 16 Grammy Awards for his work as a producer and songwriter.

The album includes a soulful and rhythmic jazz influenced rendition of the Carole Bayer Sager and Melissa Manchester penned "Come In From The Rain." Several recording artists have recorded the song including Captain & Tennille, Shirley Bassey, Diana Ross, Rosemary Clooney, Carole Bayer Sager and others.

"Got To Be Real" (1978)

With it's cosmic lyrics and Cheryl out of the world powerful lead vocals "Star Love" became another disco classic the minute it was released. Though the song was not a huge hit on the charts (only #62 on the US Billboard singles chart) it did get a ton of airplay in dance clubs and on dance oriented radio stations. Upon it's release it looked as if the song was going to follow "Got To Be Real" into the Top 15. Radio programmers were keyed up for another big hit.

IN reviewing "Star Love" billboard magazine wrote the following in their February 3, 1979 issue:
"Lynn follows her infectious hit "Got To Be Real" with an equally sizzling track. Repetitive synthesizer, strong horns and good vocals make this cut stand out."

Lynn’s album was co-produced by song and father David and Marty Paich. David is best known for being a member of the popular pop-rock band Toto who had hits such as “Hold The Line,” “Africa” and “Rosanna” all of which were written by Paich.

Cheryl Lynn (1978)


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Malo - Malo (1972)

“Malo” by Malo (1972)

Release Date: January 1972
Produced by David Rubinson
Genre: Latin Rock, Soul, Chicano Rock, Latin Jazz
Label: Warner Brothers

Chart Positions: #14 (US), #10 (US R&B)
Certifications: N/A

Singles: “Suavecito” #18 (US), #8 (US Adult Contemporary), “Café” (no chart data)
Singles Certifications: N/A

Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Pana,” “Just Say Goodbye,” “Cafe,” “Suavecito”

Trivia: “Malo” is one of the great Latin music albums of any time period. It’s an album that inspired many Latin musicians to step out and rock a little with touches of brass and jazz. “Malo” is the debut album for this San Francisco based band that went on to release eight studio albums through their career. “Malo” remains their best selling album with their signature hit “Suavecito,” sadly Malo ends up being a one hit wonder despite releasing a long line of quality music. Their hit “Suavecito” is a “quiet storm” classic which is equally fitting for a sunny day or a rainy night. “Just Say Goodbye” is a smooth groove that is the epitome of the “quiet storm” with it’s gentle rhythms which transitions into a rousing jazz fusion passage then comes back around with a classic smooth vocal chorus. “Just Say Goodbye” should have been the followup single to “Suavecito.””Pana” is very reminiscent of something you would have heard from Santana during his early to mid 70s era. The combination of brass instruments and guitars works extremely well. “Malo” is an atmospheric album from a golden era of truly diverse music.

Suavecito (1972)


Monday, August 14, 2017

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (1977)

“Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Release Date: February 4, 1977
Produced by Fleetwood Mac, Ken Caillat, Richard Dashut
Genre: Soft-Rock, Pop-Rock, Pop, Classic Rock
Label: Warner Brothers

Chart Positions: #1 (US, UK, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa), #6 (Germany), #13 (France), #17 (Norway), #18 (Belgium), #19 (Sweden), #25 (Austria), #32 (Denmark), #33 (Japan), #79 (Switzerland)
Certifications: 2xDiamond (US, Canada), 13xPlatinum (Australia, New Zealand), 11xPlatinum (UK), Platinum (France, Hong Kong), 5xGold (Germany), Gold (Netherlands, South Africa, Spain)

Singles: “Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” “Don’t Stop,” “You Make Lovin’ Fun”
Singles Certifications: “Go Your Own Way”: Silver (UK), Gold (US), “Dreams”: Silver (UK), Gold (US)

Other Charting Tracks: "The Chain" #81 (UK), #93 (Ireland), #6 (US Rock Digital Tracks), "Songbird" #115 (UK), "Never Going Back Again" #35 (US Rock Digital Tracks)
Best Tracks: All Tracks

By the time "Rumours" was released Fleetwood Mac had been in existence for near ten years and they did achieve success in the UK with four top ten hits and top ten top albums. But once 1971 rolled around the hits dried up for this British band lead by John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. What was the next move? They added a female vocalist, Christine mcVie (John's wife) and American guitarist, songwriter and singer Bob Welsh, who had been gaining a name with his band Head West. But not much really came of this new collaboration - although they were gaining a steady popularity in the US. Finally it was the end of 1974 and Bob Welch left the band. The band was in peril - they lost a bit of direction. It was New Year's Eve 1974 (going into 1975) that American's Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the band. Lindsey Buckingham's and Stevie Nicks' influence was felt instaneously after joining. The album "Fleetwood Mac" was released in the summer of 1975 and was the band's first major worldwide hit. Though "Fleetwood Mac" was highly successful, it was the next album "Rumors" that went way over the top. It far surpassed all expectations.

When it came time for the band to record "Rumors" they were falling apart. 1975's "Fleetwood Mac" was such a huge success but with that success came turmoil. John and Christine's marriage ended, they began having problems in the summer of 1973 and as their music grew more successful the stress on their marriage also grew. Lindsey Buckingham's and Stevie Nicks' romantic relationship also ended. Their new found success and wealth led to heavy consumption of alcohol and drugs as well as deep misunderstandings. If that wasn't enough Mick Fleetwood and Stevie ended up having an affair - this just complicated things much further. With all this going on the challenges of recording an album seemed all the more heightened. Stevie Nicks had commented, "It took thirteen months to record and it took every bot of inner strength we had. It was very hard on us." Maybe it was all this drama that made "Rumours" the great album it is. The songs were brutally honest with the most personal and touching lyrics the band has written in their entire career - prior to and after "Rumors." As well the performances (both vocal and instrumentally) are deep and to the soul. The record has an inbred soul about it that soak right into your very being.

Christine McVie said, "We refused to let let our feelings derail our commitment to the music." In the end their commitment paid off with one of the most successful albums of the decade and of all-time. The album spent 31 non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the US albums chart and has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. The album won the Album of The Year Grammy Award along with being nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. It also won two American Music Awards and one Juno.

When it came time to edit the album and test running orders for side one and two once again drama arose. Seeing that in 1976/1977 vinyl albums were limited to around 20 minutes per side some songs had to be eliminated and/or cut down in length. One such song to be eliminated was Stevie Nicks' "Silver Springs." The original version was over six minutes long and it was decided the song was too long for the album. This was done without Stevie's knowledge. Ken Caillat and Lindsey Buckingham later took Stevie out to the studio parking lot to break the news. To appease her they told her they were replacing the song with "I Don't want To Know," a song she had written a few years earlier. Nicks was furious with this news as she really loved "Silver Springs" and felt it was one of her best works.

Two months before "Rumours" was released Lindsey Buckingham's "Go Your Own Way" was released as a single and the band chose "Silver Springs" as it's b-side, hoping this would make Stevie happy. Instead it added insult to injury. Nicks' "masterpiece" had been relegated to b-side status and at that the a-side, written by Buckingham, was less than complimentary to her with lines such as "you can go your own way" and "shacking up is all you want to do."

The release of "Go Your Own Way" saw an excited anticipation coming from Fleetwood Mac fans around the world. Fans got their first glance of what was just around the corner. This was the first Fleetwood Mac hit to be written by Lindsey Buckingham and to feature his lead vocals. In recording the drum parts for the song Lindsey Buckingham envisioned a pattern to similar to Charlie Watts' drum fills on the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man." Buckingham passed this idea to drummer Mick Fleetwood. In the studio Fleetwood did his best to mimic what he heard. But the result was far from what Watts had played. Despite the quirky rhythm and disoriented style Buckingham felt Mick's drum work was a perfect fit for the song. Mick credited his dyslexia for the eclectic drum patterns.

"Go Your Own Way" was Buckingham's message song to Stevie Nicks. In short he was telling her "go ahead date other men and live your miserable life. Buckingham was not one to mince words. He was pretty forward about how he felt and made it known to Stevie.

Lindsey Buckingham wrote or co-wrote four songs on the album and sang or shared lead vocals on six songs. Buckingham's voice was heard on the album more than anybody else's. He had the fortune of having the first single release and the opening track on the album. "Second Hand News," which began it's life as an acoustic demo titled "Strummer," saw "Rumours" beginning the tale of the break-up of the Nicks-Buckingham romance. Stevie Nicks commented that Lindsey's songs may have been a bit on the angry side, but they were honest. The first lyrics, "I know there's nothing to say, someone has taken my place," set the mood for the song. The aggressive drum beat symbolizes the songs angst. Buckingham wanted to infuse a slight disco beat similar to the chugging rhythms he heard in the Bee Gees' 1975 hit "Jive Talking'." Buckingham tried several different way to replicate that sound. He ended up pounding on the seat of a naugahyde chair in the studio and discovered the perfect time and sound for the song.

Lindsey Buckingham's "Second Hand News" was followed by Stevie Nicks' "Dreams," which in many ways was an answer to songs to the Buckingham song. Maybe Nicks' motive was not as intentional. In an effort to not rock the boat anymore than it had already been shaken Buckingham pretty much kept "Second Hand News" a secret from Stevie - until the last minute. Stevie's message wasn't quite as "in your face" as Lindsey's was. Stevie said she was trying to be philosophical and he was just plain mad. She used quite a bit of symbolism in her phrasing, but the message still came across loud and clear. In the opening line Stevie says, "Now here you go again, you say you want your freedom." Makes one wonder was it Mr. Buckingham that originate this breakup? Stevie follows it up with, "Well who am I to keep you down?" Possibly the split was a mutual agreement.

"Dreams" (1977)

Despite the fact that Stevie Nicks' presence and voice with Fleetwood Mac was a major driver of the success for both "Fleetwood Mac" and "Rumors," her participation was actually very low. She was the only band member that did not play an instrument on the album. She experienced a fair amount of down time between her parts. In the meantime Stevie would walk over to an unused studio down the hall from the Record Plant studio Fleetwood Mac recorded their sessions. This studio had been built for Sly Stone. Nicks would take her crocheting, electric piano, books and art as sources of stimulation. As she sat on a big black velvet bed that was set up that studio with red wall surrounding her, she wrote "Dreams," within ten minutes. Nicks often called "Go Your Own Way" and "Dreams" twin songs as they both chronicled the struggle to untangle their toxic romantic partnership from their wildly successful professional one.

"Dreams" was the second song on the album and became the second single. Where "Go Your Own Way" was a huge and memorable hit, "Dreams" was an even bigger hit sailing quickly to #1 and has the status of being Fleetwood Mac's only hit to top the US charts (the song their first of two #1 hits in Canada). This had to have been a great source of vindication for Stevie in that her song connected with more music listeners than Lindsey's did and though in many ways she was overshadowed by Christine McVie it was Stevie that wrote and sang the band's biggest hit.

The Buckingham/Nicks drama continued with the next song "Never Going Back Again." The lyrics were sparse in this song but once again in Lindsey Buckingham's style they were to the point. Basically he was talking about eh hurt and pain he experienced in love and that he will never go down that road again. The song was used as the b-side to "You Make Loving fun" on the UK pressing of the single.

"Don't Stop," the album's third single release was written and sung by Christine McVie (she shared the lead vocals with Lindsey Buckingham). This song ended up being her biggest hit and may possibly be Fleetwood Mac's best known song overall. "Don't Stop" already a huge hit and known worldwide gained even more notoriety when US President Bill Clinton used the song as his campaign theme during his 1992 presidential campaign and was prominently featured at the 1992 Democratic national Convention. When Clinton won he convinced the group (who had disbanded) to reunite and perform at his inaugural ball in January 1993.

"Don't Stop" (1977)

"Don't Stop" reflects Christine's views after her eight year marriage to Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie ended. She took an optimistic approach realizing that yesterday's gone so keep on moving forward - don't stop thinking about tomorrow - don't stop it'll soon be here - don't you live in the past. This was a healthy song with a good healthy outlook about what the future has in store if you just keep on going forward and letting go of the past. This message she said was more directed to John to let him know that time will heal the wounds. Christine commented, "I'm definitely not a pessimist."

"Rumours" originally was going to be named "Yesterday's Gone" after the line in the song "Don't Stop." John McVie came up with the title "Rumours" after realizing there was a lot of talk going around in Hollywood about the personal drama Fleetwood Mac was experiencing.

Next up we find "Go Your Own Way" which was discussed earlier in this post. Nicks however commented, "I very much resented him (Lindsey Buckingham) telling the world that 'packing up, shacking' with other men was all I wanted to do.

The delicately penned Christine McVie tune "Songbird" closed side one of "Rumors" with a sense of beauty and feeling of passion. Though it was not released as a single "Songbird" is one of the most emotionally powerful songs on the album. Christine McVie was reaching inside for a state of mind that was missing in Fleetwood Mac at the moment. They were a unit that was able to produce a product but were lacking in the side of a true emotional bond and devotion to the heart and soul of the people with which they worked and had once loved. The professionalism was there, the angst was there, the love of the art was there... but the love of each was missing. Christine McVie wrote "Songbird" to recapture that love.

Christine said that during the recording of "Rumors", "Songbird" held Fleetwood Mac together during their hard times. Once they heard the song, they reflected on how much they had been through together and how much love they shared.

Christine wrote the song during a time of solitude in about thirty minute when she woke up at 3:30 in the morning with the idea in her head. She said it was alike gift from an angel. It's as if the song was a short and gentle prayer of love - love that she wished upon those around her and for herself. During the recording session, producer Ken Caillat wanted to capture the song's warmhearted melancholic energy and felt the song needed the ambience of a concert hall. The song was recorded in a one-night session in Berkeley at the University of California's Zellerbach Auditorium. Ken Caillat decided the song needed to remain as McVie played it for him initially - with a stripped down production - McVie's voice and her piano. In order to set the mood Caillat ordered a nine-foot Steinway piano to be set up in the auditorium and as a surprise for Christine had requested a bouquet of roses to placed on Christine's piano with three colored spotlights to illuminate them from above. When Christine arrived the house lights were dimmed so all she could see were the flowers and piano. She nearly broke into tears then started to play.

"Songbird" charted on the US Rock Digital Tracks chart in 2011 most likely due to a cover version done on the popular TV program "Glee."

Flipping the record over we find "The Chain" opening Side Two. "The Chain" is the only song that is written by all five members of the band - Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. The song was a complicated undertaking as it was based on instrumentation from an unreleased Christine McVie demo called "Keep Me There" and a recording by Stevie Nicks which were both recut and heavily remixed and blended into the song. John McVie added his solo using a fretless bass guitar. The song was a combination of varying sources. Finally the lyrics came. Stevie brought some lyrics to the studio for the song which she felt would work really well. Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham liked what he saw and went to work to piece it together. Lindsey arranged and made a song out of all the bits and pieces the band had recorded over the past several months. The band ended up calling it "The Chain" because it was a bunch of pieces linked together.

"The Chain" (1977)

"The Chain" charted in 2009 in both the UK and Ireland after it had been reinstated as the BBC Formula One theme.

"You Make Loving Fun" was the fourth and last single released from "Rumors." Despite the fact that the album had already sold millions of copies throughout the US, "You Make Loving Fun" was still a huge hit and sold well reaching #9 in the US and #7 in Canada. The song was another one of Christine McVie's uplifting tunes. She wrote it about her boyfriend at the time, Curry Grant, who was the lighting director for Fleetwood Mac. In order to avoid any emotional flair up Christine told then husband John McVie that the song was about her dog. John later found out it was about Grant, with whom Christine was having an affair.

The next track "I Don't Want To Know" was written by Stevie Nicks in 1974 before joining Fleetwood Mac. Buckingham and Nicks never recorded the Buddy Holly influenced song officially but did perform it live in concert a few times.

The story of "I Don't Want To Know" begins with the song "Silver Springs. Written by Stevie Nicks "Silver Springs" was left off the album due to the fact, that at over six minutes, it was simply too long. Back in the seventies on a vinyl album you could fit only about 22 minutes of music per side. In order to include "Silver Springs" the band would have had to cut at least 30 seconds off of all the other songs on the album. The band and producers really wanted to see the song included on the album but it was not feasible. Instead without Stevie's knowledge it was decided to include "I Don't Want To Know." They were hoping to please Nicks by including another of her songs. Instead she was upset that she had been kept in the dark until the last minute. The news was broken to her when it was time to record the vocals.

"Silver Springs" was used for the b-side of the album's first single "Go Your Own Way" and received some attention and airplay at that point.

Christine McVie had a gift for writing songs that tug at those heart strings and "Oh Daddy" is one of those wonderfully beautiful songs. This poignant song was written about Mick Fleetwood and his wife Jenny Boyd, who had just gotten back together. The band's nickname for Mick was "The Big Daddy" as he was the only father in the band, with two daughters. Stevie Nicks wrote the lines, "and I can't walk away from you baby, if I tried." In 1979 Natalie Cole recorded an effectively moving rendition of the song.

Listening to "Rumours" in it's entirety back in 1977 was an experience, it was a journey through life and emotion. Each song brought out different sorts of emotions. There was pain, hurt, anger, joy, love, beauty and more pain. But more fulfilling than even the journey of emotions was the music itself, the fine tuned musicianship, the powerful vocals and the energy brought forth through the music. Each song built from the one before it. There was not one loser in the bunch. And here we are at the end of this exceptional album. We have just finished listening to ten excellent songs and we are now at the last song of the album. Will expectations are high - will Fleetwood Mac impress or will the album end on an even keel - not really impressing but also not really disappointing?

This brings us to "Gold Dust Woman," the end of the album. It's hard to top ten top rate songs but Fleetwood Mac did it - they truly saved the best for last. I feel the two biggest prizes in an album are the opening track and the closing track. The opener sets the mood of the album and the closing track leaves the lasting impression. The two newest members had those honors - Lindsey Buckingham had the opener while Stevie Nicks got the closing. This is not to play down any of the other songs because they are all equally great but there is usually a reason for the choices of opening and closing songs (anyway in albums that are carefully crafted - and it is evident that "Rumours" was a carefully crafted album).

"Gold Dust Woman" was written by Stevie Nicks and she also sings the soulful lead vocal. The song was inspired by Los Angeles and the hardships of living in such a metropolis. The lyrics focus on her cocaine addiction. The song is built on a free jazz frame in which each musician in which each musician develops their own progressions in the song.

In a 2017 Rolling Stone Magazine review of "Rumours" Andrew Unterberger wrote, "Nicks has openly admitted that she has no idea what Rumors' mystical closing track is even about, which is probably one of the reasons it's played such a large part in building the frontwoman's own gypsy-woman mythology. With it's reset-like production, guitar riffs spilling from everywhere like sand through the song's fingers, and Stevie's uniquely possessed vocals, Gold Dust Woman is as alluring and enigmatic as it's singer - a note of anti-closure for the LP to end on, the mysteries of love and life forever unknowable."

Now the album is over and we ponder do we play it again or neatly tuck it back in it's case and reminisce on each great tune. Ah why not let's play it again... it really is that great.

Fleetwood Mac (1977)


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Japan - Obscure Alternatives (1978)

“Obscure Alternatives” by Japan (1978)

Release Date: October 1978
Produced by Ray Singer
Genre: New Wave, Post-Punk, Alternative Rock
Label: Hansa Records

Chart Positions: #21 (Japan), #41 (Netherlands)
Certifications: N/A

Singles: “Sometimes I Feel So Low,” “Deviation”
Singles Certifications: N/A

Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Sometimes I Feel So Low,” “Obscure Alternatives,” “Suburban Berlin”

Trivia: “Obscure Alternative” is the second album release by Japan and was promoted toward US and European audiences. The album bombed in the US and made a very small dent on Europe where it charted in the Netherlands at #41. However the album found success in Japan having made it to #21 on the Japanese album charts where Japan and lead singer David Sylvian continued success for the next 15 years.

“Obscure Alternatives” is more rock orientated fuzz guitar driven than Japan’s previous album funk tinged “Adolescent Sex”, with the exception of "The Tenant"; the first of Sylvian's Satie inspired piano pieces. Other standout tracks are "Love Is Infectious" with it's punchy guitar, stuttering time signatures and Sylvian's raucous vocal interpretation remains a fan favorite "...Rhodesia", a live favorite which remained in the set until 1981, and "Suburban Berlin", a song about jaded city life in Berlin. "Suburban Berlin" hinted at the group's David Bowie influence as Bowie has recently released his album, "Low" the second release of Bowie's Berlin Trilogy and "The Tenant" was an ambient instrumental suite very similar to the Brian Eno/David Bowie ambient collaborations which appeared on "Heroes" and "Low."

Japan(mostly David Sylvian) considered that this album would have been better for their debut release, as for the first time they were able to assert themselves in the studio. This is evident - many features of the classic Japan sound are here: Richard Barbieri's synths are more experimental, using sound and the stereo sound field to create a mood, Mick Karn begins to use fretless bass, and Sylvian's vocals are getting deeper and less cockney sounding.

"Sometimes I Feel So Low" is easily the most upbeat song on the album. David Sylvian and Rob Dean's brilliant guitar work move the song into new rock territory while the drums and percussion give it a groove and rhythm that is right in line with the upcoming new wave sound which dominated the late 70s and early 80s. The song is deceptively upbeat overshadowing it's downcast and dark lyrics. If there was to be a hit single from this album it is "Sometimes I Feel So Low" unfortunately Japan was not quite yet in the public eye.

"Sometimes I Feel So Low" (1978)

The suggestive lyrics in "Automatic Gun" were somewhat a shocker hinting that one may find solace in an automatic weapon that could kill many in a matter of seconds. Was this rage over a broken love or a broken government? Japan combined elements of punk rock and alt-rock in this tune which worked well to convey their message of rebellion and angst.

"Obscure Alternatives" may not be Japan's finest work though it represents a shift in style that soon evolved into the classic Japan sound of the early 80s. Obscure Alternatives" is more solid than it is filler and it is definitely a good starting point for anyone that wishes to further their knowledge of Japan's music.

Japan (1978)