This 20-track Anthology Was Released By Disky In 1996. It Gives A Very Good Overview Of The Kink's Early Successes.
Issued by Disky in 1996 and named merely “The Kinks”, this CD anthologizes their early hits right up to the “Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1” album. There is not a lot to dislike and not that much to change either.
The CD has everything from their early smashes “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All Of The Night” to cuts like “Waterloo Sunset”, “Lola” and “Apeman”. Moreover, non-album sides that are key to the band’s appeal like “Days” and “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” are featured. The one and only blemish is the inclusion of “Dandy” at the expense of tunes like “See My Friends”, “A Well Respected Man” or “Set Me Free”. Continue reading →
The Kinks Were Ray Davies (Guitar, Lead Vocals), Dave Davies (Lead Guitar), Pete Quaife (Bass) & Mick Avory (Drums).
Some call the Kinks “the original punks” because of the dirty sound of their early records, others go as far as to call them the fathers of heavy rock. They were a quartet in which tensions were constant among its members, with the two brothers that led the band eventually becoming estranged from each other. The Kinks were actually banned from performing in the States owing to their riotous onstage behavior. And people like Pete Townshend have said that Ray Davies (the band’s main composer) should have been a poet laureate. And I think most people who listen to “Waterloo Sunset” is inclined to feel the same way.
Aggression, volume, wit, profoundness and delicacy. These are the adjectives you can extract from the above. And these adjectives apply either in part or in whole to my favorite bands, and to every band that has marked me – The Who, The Jam, Oasis… The Kinks were simply one of the most influential bands in the history of British music.
They were part of the initial wave of British Invasion bands, with their third single being a hit everywhere it started spinning. Dave Davies’ guitar insinuated the power that harder-rocking outfits were to unleash a decade later into the airwaves. He had sliced the amplifier with a blade in order to get the gritty sound. The song was called “You Really Got Me”, and it was to influence The Who both structurally and thematically, and the most realized punk and new wave acts of the late 70s such as The Clash, The Jam and XTC always expressed that they either dearly respected or even worshipped The Kinks. Continue reading →
The Band's Eponymous Record Is Also Known As "The Brown Album"
One year after releasing a debut album that made them the talk among musicians everywhere, The Band was to release an album that would also made them the talk among the buying public. The year was 1969, and their eponymous disc was to produce their only top 30 hit in the US (“Up On Cripple Creek”), while the record also featured the successful European single “Rag Mama Rag”.
It is easy to see what the hoopla was all about. The group had crafted a quasi-conceptual album about Americana in which different characters came alive in songs where the history of the country was revised time and again, and a clear debt was paid to genres like ragtime, blues, gospel and (most of all) country.
That was specially palpable in compositions such as “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” centered on the end of the Civil War, and its aftermath was seen through the eyes of different characters. A verse that mentioned Abraham Lincoln was not used – Robertson (the composer of the song) was advised to leave that out by Helm, the one American member of the band and a southerner at that – he hailed from Arkansas. I already posted the best live version of the song available as part of The Band’s general introduction, and what I would like to share with you now is the most famous cover of the song. The artist is no other than Joan Baez. Here you have the video:
Sharing this video is important since it truly brought the song to a wider audience in the same way that Smith’s cover of “The Weight” (featured on the “Easy Rider” soundtrack) became as popular as the original version itself. Continue reading →
The Band: Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson & Rick Danko
There were not that many performers whose beginning was as shrouded in mystery as that of The Band. They were known as Bob Dylan’s backing group during his early electric tours, and they were in fact the ones backing the master onstage during the infamous “Judas!” incident. They issued their first album in 1968 (“Music From Big Pink”), and the cover illustration was actually done by Dylan. After the album was issued, they gave no interviews. And a twist of fate dictated that they were not to perform live for some time since one of their members (Rick Danko) was involved in a car accident that left him out of business for a couple of months.
One of their most popular songs, from “Music From Big Pink”:
Gradually, the mystery was lifted and what we found was an ensemble of musicians that redefined the concept of collectiveness, and the idea of a performing unit taken as a whole. Their second, eponymous album was a major step forward. Released in 1969, it is now regarded as a seminal work in the history of Rock & Roll.
Upon its release, everybody knew who they were and the way they operated. The names of the five members of The Band were on the lips of everybody within the scene and the industry: Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson. With the exception of Robertson, everybody could play multiple instruments. Three members also handled lead vocals: Manuel, Danko and Helm. Still, Manuel is traditionally considered “the” lead singer of the group.
Epochal songs dealing with American themes (like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”) constituted the backbone of that breakthrough album, and that was all the more remarkable since all of them (except for Helm) were Canadians.
The albums that succeeded had The Band gradually expanding their sound by approaching producers like Todd Rundgren, and working on elaborate arrangements with New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint among others. And their penultimate record together (“Northern Lights – Southern Cross”) offered a truly updated sound thanks to the addition of synthesizers into the mix.
The Band Performing Live At "The Last Waltz" Concert
As good as they were, those albums began showcasing some strains and rivalries within the group, as Robertson emerged as an authoritative figure – he took the credit for most of their compositions, and that caused serious problems in the long run, with other members accusing him of claiming authorship of what was essentially a collective effort. Robertson would be the first member to quit – his last performance with The Band was on the famed concert movie “The Last Waltz” in 1978. Continue reading →
Don’t forget to read part 1 of this review where the “25 O’Clock” songs are analyzed.
"Psonic Psunspot" (The Dukes Of Stratosphear's Second Disc) Was Issued In 1987, Right Between "Skylarking" And "Oranges & Lemons".
Things were different the second time the Dukes grabbed their instruments and donned their Paisley shirts. The record company was really interested in what could come out of it, and the budget had been doubled. And the sound was not to be the pastiche that characterized “25 O’Clock” – this time around it was an homage to most 60s bands, regardless of the fact that they had anything to do with pyschedelia or not. The leadoff single exemplified that perfectly, as “You’re A Good Man Albert Brown” was a buoyant sing-along in the vein of the Small Faces. While it didn’t hit as hard as “The Mole From The Ministry”, it was successful enough to warrant this new excursion in the eyes of the record company.
If anything, the second time around the line that separated XTC from the Dukes became indivisible, with songs like the impeccable “Vanishing Girl” and “Pale And Precious” being (needlessly?) sacrificed on the Dukes’ altar. “Vanishing Girl” (a song that trails the sound of The Hollies) was also used to promote the album, and I must admit it is my favorite song penned by Colin ever.
And “Pale And Precious” is one of the most honorable homages to the Beach Boys I have ever listened to along with R.E.M.’s “At My Most Beautiful”. The vocal harmonies are absolutely exhilarating all along, and the coda could go on for 10 minutes and not make you lose your interest for a single second. Continue reading →
The Dukes Of Stratosphear: Chips From The Chocolate Fireball
This CD-only anthology captures the original bouts of musical forgery that XTC undertook as The Dukes of Stratosphear. Both the EP “25 O’Clock” and the album “Psonic Psunspot” are included here in their entirety. And the anthology warrants all the laurels it is usually the recipient of.
The band (with Dave Gregory’s younger brother Ian on drums) showcases its coruscating pedigree, and the merits of its music become easier to apprehend in such a context. These recordings as their psychedelic alter egos were to lead to a phenomenal creative run and even a hit single at a time in which XTC had the rockiest relationship with the buying public. The song “The Mole From The Ministry” (a transparent nod to “I Am The Walrus”) outsold the singles from “The Big Express” so effortlessly that it was embarrassing.
It was also the most palpitating reminder for the Swindon rockers that having good fun on the studio fully translates into a finished piece of vinyl. Both “Mummer” and “The Big Express” suffered from a stiffness that was to vanish for “Skylarking” and “Oranges & Lemons”. “The Big Express” in particular had been labored at for a long time, leaving everybody but Andy jaded.
“25 O’Clock”, conversely, was assembled in little more than two weeks with Andy and John Leckie at the helm. Out of the six songs, only “The Mole From The Ministry” was new (Andy wrote it at the piano one morning). The remaining songs had been around for a long time, and the strongest the plagiarism the most effective the EP turned out to be. “Bike Ride To Te Moon” recalled the days of Pink Floyd under Barrett’ aegis so close to the mark that it was staggering. The title track was also intoxicatingly fun, a true testament to an age in which daftness was a virtue and a torch to bear. The same can be said about “Your Gold Dress”, with an unmatchable druggy guitar. And Colin’ songs on both Dukes’ albums were the truest revelation of all. He had never kept such an even keel of excellence to my ears. For the first and only time he and Andy were absolutely equalized. Continue reading →
The Dukes Of Stratosphear: The Red Curtain (Colin Moulding), Lord Cornelius Plum (Dave Gregory), EIEI Owen (Ian Gregory) and Sir John Johns (Andy Partridge)
The Dukes Of Stratosphear were a side project of XTC that was started as a joke, and which ended up bringing a fair share of recognition to them. Basically, Andy and producer John Leckie had been hired to helm a record by Christian artist Mary Margaret O’ Hara. For circumstances too hilarious and too long to reproduce here, the pair were sacked hours before their work was to begin. Having had their agendas disrupted, they decided to employ the time on their hands to do some psychedelic recordings under a different moniker. The name “The Dukes Of Stratosphear” had been around for a long time, actually, as it was one of the names which were weighed up before the “I’m in ecs-ta-sy ba-bee!” incident that settled everything down for good.
The drummer for the project was Ian Gregory, Dave’s younger sibling. They all had alternative egos for the sessions – Andy was “Sir John Johns”, Colin was “The Red Curtain”, Dave was “Lord Cornelius Plum” and Ian picked the moniker “E.I.E.I Owen”. For years, the band denied that they were the Dukes, and if you have a look at the credits of “Skylarking” you will see an acknowledgement to “The Dukes of Stratosphear for letting us use their guitars”. Continue reading →
"Completely Hooked" Is One Of The Many Dr. Hook Compilations Available
Originally known as “Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show”, this band had a truly eclectic career. Their output can be divided in three main groups: 1) Comedy numbers, 2) Disco songs and 3) Ballads. All of these genres are impinged with a country sensibility, and this is one of their many compilations. It was released in 1992, and the 20 songs on offer map out these three genres more than adequately, stopping in each one for long enough without ever going too far.
The comedy numbers are mostly penned by Shel Silverstein, and they are absolutely hysterical. Located mainly at the beginning of the disc, they include “The Millionaire”, “Everybody’s Making It Big But Me” and the popular “Cover Of The Rolling Stone”. What many people don’t realize is that in addition to composing these comedy numbers Silverstein did also come up with many of the band’s ballads, such as the excellent “More Like The Movies” and “A Couple More Years”.
The disco songs included on this compilation are “Walk Right In”, “You Make My Pants Wanna Get Up And Dance” and “Sexy Eyes”. They are entertaining and to-the-point, but I would say that both the ballads and the comedy songs are more endurable. Continue reading →
This Is The Original CD Cover. A Re-release Saw The Light In The Year 2000, And It Features A More Informative Booklet. The White Lettering Is Different.
As you know by now, I am very attached to country music. It is probably my favorite American genre. It was only natural that I would start exploring Southern rock in due time, and that is exactly what has happened. Over the last week I purchased both a ZZ Top “best of” album and an Allman Brothers’ compilation, as well as locating a Lynyrd Skynyrd anthology that I will get my hands on soon.
While I enjoyed the ZZ Top album (and far more than I would have expected, to be frank), the one I came back to the most often this week was the Allman Brothers’ compilation. As its title implies, it collects their salient recordings during a whole decade, (1969 – 1979). Four studio albums and one live recording are covered here. Continue reading →
The Front Cover. It Was Actually Banned In Parts Of The States On Grounds Of Vulgarity.
As you probably know, The Who’s discography was extensively remastered and updated in the mid 90s, when the band celebrated its 30th birthday. A boxed set was released and every single album minus “My Generation” (owing to a legal dispute) was fortified with bonus tracks and big booklets including new liner notes and plenty of photographs. And none of these re-releases stood out so distinctly as this one.
You see – the original album (first issued in 1967) was structured as a pirate radio broadcast devoted solely to you-know-who, and the songs were interspersed with jingles and fake ads. But only on the first side. The ads disappeared from the second side, maybe because the songs themselves were more serious and they did not want to do the equivalent of painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. Or – fans always wondered – because they had run out of ads and ideas. Continue reading →