Saturday, August 3, 2013
It may be hard to guess but Loggins & Messina are a pretty killer live act. They were one of the most popular touring acts in the 1970s and have a massive range of musical abilities. They can sit on stools with only an acoustic guitar and sing "Danny's Song" then pull out electric guitars and do a rocking ten minute "Angry Eyes," transition into a country hoedown with "Holiday Hotel" and then return to a band ballad "Another Road."
Released in 1974 Loggins & Messina are assisted by a crackling back up band made up of Jon Clarke on horns, Al Garth on fiddle/violin/horns, Merel Bregante on drums, and Larry Sims on bass. All members of the group add immensely to the concerts and all get opportunities to show off their talents. The album has a nice mix of country rock stylings and it feels like a big country jam sometimes.
The centerpiece of this double album is a spectacular 21 minute(!) version of "Vahevala" that opens disc 2. It goes through several movements starting the way the studio version does then moving into a fiddle guitar battle, then slowing to a crawl in the center with barely audible notes, before revving back up for a rocking finish. It's a spectacular version.
Compiled from five concerts two at Winterland San Francisco April 1972, two Carnegie Hall March 1973, and one at Boston's Orpheum Theater also March 1973. Released in a remastered Legacy "live from the vaults" edition in 1998 this CD version features a recreation of the inner artwork from the original fold out LP case. It also features a brief paragraph essay about the album. A must have for Loggins & Messina fans especially those interested in their live performances. I had the opportunity to see them live in 2010 and I must say they are still quite excellent.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Lightfoot was one of the most popular singer/songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s. Hailing from Canada, some considered him the closest thing to a Canadian Bob Dylan. Lightfoot focuses on mellow acoustic based songs with strong lyrics that often tell stories. His deep, warm and husky voice carries his tunes well and he has more vocal ability than Leonard Cohen or Dylan.
This collection covers basically the first ten years of his career. This period actually turned out to be the best part of his career as well. He would continue to write good songs and have a very dedicated fan following but his commercial popularity and creative abilities are at their best here.
Picking at least one song from each one of his albums from his 1966's debut "Lightfoot" to his 1975 hit "Cold on the Shoulder." His earlier songs have been re-recorded like "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" and also turned into medleys like "I'm Not Sayin'/Ribbon of Darkness" (John Denver did the same thing with his early songs on his Greatest Hits album). The versions are not drastically different, but the new recordings do make a number of the songs sound similar since Lightfoot's voice and style on the old songs sounds similar to the "new" songs.
Upon first listen the songs may all blend together (it is a 21 track album!). But repeated listens will reveal the great nuance and quality of Lightfoot's music. Originally released in 1975 as a two record set, to fit the album on one CD they deleted the song "Affair on 8th Avenue" (die-hard fans will complain about this omission for years). The CD has a short but nice booklet with an overview essay of Lightfoot's career and photos of his longtime band members. This is a great compilation for those unfamiliar with Lightfoot. A 2002, 20 track CD called "The Complete Greatest Hits" is another option for those looking to get Lightfoot all on one album. That disc covers a larger period of time 1966-the 1980s and features the original versions of the songs. In the end it is up to you dear listener to see which compilation fits your needs. I like this one.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Here is my triumphant return, hopefully not followed by another long gap. Returning to my alphabetical listings here is the mighty Huey Lewis & The News.
Released in 2006 this is the perfect compilation for the 1980s hit makers. Lewis and company were essentially a good time bar band that hit it big in the 1980s with a string of top ten hits and platinum albums. Their sound is a mix of rock, pop, soul, r&b, with some great acappella chops. They incorporate catchy pop hooks with big brass horns and electric guitars. They also did not take themselves too seriously, they took their music seriously. Always making sure they were putting out great products, but they also made sure they were having a clean good time. Their music videos were mini movies, with elaborate sets and costumes, featuring the band dressing up and even being buried in the sand.
This compilation lives up to its name as basically every hit the band put out contained on one CD (even Lewis' version of "Cruisin'" with Gwyneth Paltrow from the movie "Duets" is here). Their previous compilation "Time Flies" contained 12 songs and four new recordings none of which were super popular. "Greatest Hits" contains all 12 songs from "Time Flies" and adds nine more tracks!!! The live version of "Trouble in Paradise" is included as well. The song order is not chronological but instead like a concert set list. Not a bad thing as the songs flow well together, but it does leave one of their earliest rowdiest songs "Workin' for a Livin'" as the closer.
The CD packaging is well done with lots of photos and collages, three essays (one by Jimmy Kimmel) and chart listings for each of the songs. All in all this is the perfect hits compilation for fans or newcomers of the great band known as Huey Lewis & the News.
In the words of Mr. Kimmel, "I know what I like. I like Huey Lewis and the News."
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
After some special posts, one for Stephen Stills' birthday, I am returning to my alphabetical list of albums. This is the last CD I have by John Lennon. This 1997 single disc Best of compilation is really perfect. "Lennon Legend" subtitled "The Very Best of John Lennon" certainly lives up to it's subtitle.
Contained here are all his solo singles (even the ones released after his death) along with a few choice album tracks. Sure there are other good songs in his solo catalogue but this is the best of it.
After Lennon's first two solo albums, his remaining albums had a cobbled together and sometimes tossed off feel. A few great tracks then some stuff he was just playing around with. This grabs many of the best moments from "Walls and Bridges," "Mind Games," and "Milk and Honey." Also included are songs like "Cold Turkey," "Give Peace a Chance," "Instant Karma," and "Happy Xmas" which never appeared on any album.
All four Beatles solo work actually had the same feel, a handful of great songs then the rest of the album was devoted to forgettable songs. Each of the four had at least one excellent album though. So their solo catalogues are prime arenas for compilations.
As I said before this is an excellent compilation showcasing Lennon's best solo work. It follows basically chronological order, but when it does move songs around it is with good taste and for good effect. The sound is strong and the booklet contains many candid photographs and very brief information about each song.
I believe this compilation went out of print in 2010 when Lennon's entire catalogue was re-released in honor of what would have been his 70th birthday. Now the only compilations available are well packaged box-sets or a shorter compilation. The albums "Plastic Ono Band" and "Imagine" are must haves but if there is one Lennon compilation to seek out it is this one.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
[I previously posted about his debut album for his last birthday check it out.
Stills had been making great music with a streak of excellence that goes from Buffalo Springfield, Super Session, CSN, CSNY, to his solo debut. After all that success it was no surprise that Stills stumbles a bit here. He mostly falters when he goes into Chicago (the band) territory adding a horn section (The Memphis Horns) and creating his own version of the Wall of Sound. At the time of release the album went Gold but did not produce a big hit single like "Love the One You're With" and the critics ready to bash Stills found ample opportunity here.
Looking at the album now Stills really scores on about half of the tracks. "Change Partners" feels like a ballroom country dance with a swinging tempo and great chorus that gets things off to a great start.
"Fishes and Scorpions" starts slow with acoustic guitar then turns into a rocker in the second half with some nice work by Eric Clapton. "Know you got to Run," a banjo led tune (reworking of John Hopkins song) is a brooding dark accusation (the first two lyrics were used on CSNY's "Everybody I Love You"). "Singin' Call" has a tight acoustic picking and quiet reflective vocals that show off Stills' abilities. "Sugar Babe," is a blues based mid-tempo song with a great feel and good organ work. "Marianne" is superb catchy rock featuring Stills singing in a high register. "Word Game" is a fast acoustic number with swirling wordy ranting lyrics about racism and prejudice.
On the rest of the tracks is where Stills stumbles. "Nothin' to do but Today" and "Open Secret" mix gospel and rock, but they are take them or leave them tracks, listenable with choruses that may stick in your head but are not so great. "Relaxing Town" and "Ecology Song" feel unfinished and rushed. The lyrics are also below par on both and the production can be overbearing.
The closer "Bluebird Revisited" is one of those 'why would you remake this?' questions. Seemingly intended as a epic finish that does not succeed. It seems like Stills had a portion of a new song and decided to mix in verses from his Buffalo Springfield classic. The music has been redone and is not bad I especially like the trumpet playing before the last verse.
Like his debut album there are some famous guest appearances by Eric Clapton, Nils Lofgren, Billy Preston and David Crosby. As well as Henry Diltz photography (the back of the cover photo shows what could be a bag of white powder on the table next to Stephen). The CD version I have sounds good, certain vocals seem really soft though. iTunes may help listeners with this album because they will pick their favorite songs and leave the rest.
All in all as many critics pointed out Stills seems to have rushed the album out before enough strong material was ready. His creative energy, however, would get a shot of adrenalin from Manassas a year later. In the end this album has some good moments that many critics chose to ignore and it is definitely worth a look.
Happy Birthday Stephen Stills, let's wish for the much anticipated and long overdue release of the Stephen Stills Box Set this year.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Lennon's second solo album "Imagine" was released in 1971 and became a number one hit. Again produced by Phil Spector who is able to incorporate more of his Wall of Sound techniques than he was on the previous "Plastic Ono Band" album.
"Imagine" finds Lennon moving toward the political activism that would comprise his next album "Sometimes in New York City" and his public life for much of the early 1970s.
The title track has become his signature tune and will always be a spectacular plea for peace and understanding that, for me, never gets old. It is Lennon being the master musician but also pushing a slightly political agenda. On my car I have a bumper sticker that reads "You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one."
"I don't Wanna be a Soldier" and "Gimme Some Truth" are straight forward political songs obviously protesting the Vietnam War and the latter calling out politicians. Despite the ranting lyrics (particularly on the latter track), Lennon is such a strong musician he makes them catchy.
The rest of the album focuses on confessional songs similar in content to "Plastic Ono Band." Yet where that album was raw and bare, the songs here are given smooth sweeping arrangements that slightly mask their raw emotions. "Crippled Inside" is a mix of two faced politicians and Lennon's own pain with his winking off-center humor. "Jealous Guy" is a beautiful apology (possibly to Yoko Ono) set to sweeping strings. "How Do you Sleep" is a snarling through gritted teeth confrontation with Paul McCartney (but Lennon later said the song was a way to separate himself from the Beatles). "It's So Hard," "How?" and "Oh My Love" are simple quiet emotions and would have fit well on his previous album.
This is a great album, especially for Lennon fans. The version I have has a lot of photographs and lyrics in the CD booklet. Thank you John for another gift of music
For Christmas 2012 lets imagine all the people living life in peace and the world as one. Merry Christmas Everyone.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
After a long unintentional absence The Music Man has returned. Nice to see you all again.
Picking up where my alphabetical listings stopped about a month ago. (Last post was Carole King, check it out). Coincidentally my next album is Led Zeppelin who received a Kennedy Center honor this year.
My Led Zeppelin "Best of" collection was made for me by a gorgeous ballet dancer that was very special to me for a time, but I sadly have not seen her in many years. Anyway she and I used to trade music and she made me what she claimed was the perfect Led Zeppelin collection and I am inclined to agree. At the time the group had only released an expensive Box Set and "Early/Later Days" (the later of which was an affordable two disc set but poorly selected, no "Ramble On" what the hell?). So she made a wonderful two disc collection for me. She picked it pretty well because a few years later Zeppelin came out with "Mothership" an excellent greatest hits collection that is basically identical to the one my ballerina friend made me.
First off I want to say I enjoy a number of Zeppelin songs, "Over the Hills and Far Away" is my favorite, and the albums "Led Zeppelin II," "Led Zeppelin IV," and "Houses of the Holy" are very good. I am not a Zeppelin obsessive that thinks they are the greatest band ever, I think they are very good though.
Zeppelin make great guitar riffs, Robert Plant's vocals, and John Paul Jones is one of the best bass players out there. There is not much I can say about Zeppelin that has not been said already if you enjoy 1970s rock and have not checked them out you probably should. Pick up the compilation "Mothership" or the three album I mentioned in the paragraph above. If you are looking for they live performance (with excess jams that last 30 minutes!) check out "How the West Was Won" triple CD live album.
Well hope all is well and next time we will talk about John Lennon's "Imagine" see you then.