11:30 a.m. - December 05, 2005
The first entry in the series was here, but I wanted to give you answers to some FAQs.
1. Will there be other essays while you are doing this project? – Of course there will be. There’s enough mayhem going on write now there are endless possibilities for other entries. Look for one on the Crawfordsville Christmas Parade tomorrow (December 6).
With that outta the way, on with the show, this is it!
Black Sabbath Vol. 4 - Black Sabbath
Summary: A sludgy, creepy, downer of an album that has riffs crawling all over your skin. This would be the best Sabbath album except for ONE notable misstep.
Positives: The riffs are dirty, ugly and almost perfect. “Tomorrow’s Dream” may be THE best song Sabbath ever did.
Drawbacks: The one misstep? “Changes”, which you need to hear once and only once. It’s good for a laugh. (Imagine Ozzy crooning a love song…just imagine it.)
Verdict: It’s sludgy, but we all need some sludge in our lives. Sabbath would have two more fair to middlin’ albums in them (some great songs as well), but this is the end of the line for Sabbath making consistent albums.
Random Trivia: Tony Iommi lost the tips of his fingers on his right hand in an industrial accident, yet was coaxed back into playing guitar, and the rest is riff-ilicous.
Past Masters, Volume 1, Past Masters, Volume 2- The Beatles
Summary: Two CDs of their singles, b-sides, and EP tracks not officially released on any of their British albums.
Positives: Well, duh. This has everything from the original “Love Me Do” through “Let It Be”. The B-sides are the treat, with “Thank You Girl”, “I’ll Get You”, “Rain”, “I’m Down”, “The Inner Light”, “Old Brown Shoe” and others outclassing the A-sides at times.
Drawbacks: The German versions of “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” are rather superfluous, but that’s a minor quibble.
Verdict: It’s really interesting to listen to them back to back to hear the evolution of their sound, and of rock music in general in the 60’s.
Random Trivia: Brian Jones of the Stones played sax on “You Know My Name, Look Up My Number.” If John had his way, that number would have been a single along with “What’s The New Mary Jane”, and it’s likely that pairing would have been the weirdest single by a major artist in the history of rock.
Summary: The Cars’ second is just as good as their debut. The sound is impeccable and the vocals of Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr are spot on perfect for the mood of each tune.
Positives: Every song is worthy and fits well. The second side holds up very well against the first side, especially songs like “Night Spots” and “You Can’t Hold On Too Long”. “It’s All I Can Do” should have been another monster hit.
Drawbacks: “Dangerous Type” meanders too long at the ending, other than that, nothing.
Verdict: Track for track, this is the strongest Cars album.
Random Trivia: Ben Orr sings lead on “Let’s Go”. Well, it wasn’t obvious to me at first.
Summary: Ever the chameleon, Jackson jumps into stylish jazz songs, with winning results.
Positives: Frankly, this is one of the best SOUNDING albums I’ve ever heard. They recorded it in an old stage with vintage equipment. “Not Here, Not Now” may be his best ballad, and “The Verdict” just pops out at you.
Drawbacks: Some of the songs meander on a bit, but hey, it’s jazz-esque.
Verdict: If you liked “Night and Day” and the later Joe Jackson material you can’t go wrong with this.
Random Trivia: Ellen Foley, who played the defense attorney on Night Court before Markie Post took the role, was one of the backup singers. (Foley also dated Mick Jones for a spell in the 80’s).
Summary: Rude boy! You’d better go out and get this record! The two-tone revival in England reaches its pinnacle with the debut album by the Specials.
Positives: Packed to the gills with the best ska of the period, this album cooks from start to finish. It’s hard to single out one track, because all are worthy.
Drawbacks: The only drawback is that you wore out your copy of it from playing it too much. That, and sometimes you needed a translator to understand the lyrics.
Verdict: Buy this record and play it loud.
Random Trivia: Terry Hall, the lead singer, co-wrote “Our Lips are Sealed” with Jane Wiedlin, and later recorded it with his group Fun Boy Three.
Summary: This is the second album from the premier independent act of the 90’s, and it propelled them to indie “stardom”. The album is loud and tinny sounding with a huge bottom end, thanks to Laura Ballance’s distorted bass. (Yes, it’s tinny with a huge bottom – that means there is NO mid-range whatsoever. Get used to it).
Positives: “Skip Steps 1 and 3”, “Seed Toss”, and “Cast Iron” pack a mean wallop at the beginning, and while the momentum slows a bit near the end most of the songs are worthy.
Drawbacks: Near the end, the songs tend to blur together.
Verdict: Well worth having, as “Cast Iron” is my favorite Superchunk song. Even though it’s in the same time frame, it’s not Seattle-esque grunge. Superchunk staked out its own unique sound with this album.
Random Trivia: Steve Albini produced this album, and it took all of three days to record and mix it.
Cure For Pain - Morphine
Summary: Slow, sad, hang-dog songs from one of the most unique bands in the States. Utilizing just a baritone sax, a drummer, and a two-string bass, Morphine paints perfect pictures of dolor and loneliness. (Well, except that “Buena” is pretty upbeat.
Positives: “Buena”, “I’m Free Now” and “Thursday” are classic cuts showing all the strengths of Morphine’s unique instrumentation.
Drawbacks: As with all Morphine albums, there are a couple of cuts that don’t seem to totally work, but that’s OK when the rest of the songs are as strong as they are here.
Verdict: This album sounds like its 2 AM in a smoky club, where you hear sad songs and drink your fifth Jack and Coke and wonder what the heck happened to it all.
Random Trivia: Sadly, Mark Sandman (bassist and vocalist) died on stage with the band in Italy a few years ago.
Summary: Drunk? Yep. Shambling? Uh-huh. Brilliant? You bet!
Positives: Any album with “Color Me Impressed” is a must own, but there’s more than that here. “Within Your Reach” is poignant, and “Run It” is a gas, gas, gas. Even if some of the songs are jokes, they come off well for the most part.
Drawbacks: A few of the jokes wear thin after a while. Alas, the positives are such that this is a must own.
Verdict: It’s a fun record, and one that you can drink a lot of beers to, and that’s all you need sometimes.
Random Trivia: Paul Westerberg is the only ‘Mat present on “Within Your Reach”.
Summary: Don’t call it a comeback, but it really was. After floundering in the 70’s after “Exile on Main Street”, for the most part, the Stones regroup and release their last great album.
Positives: It kicks off with “Miss You” and ends with “Shattered”. And instead of fluff in the middle, there’s a lot of great stuff. Keith especially shines with his defiant “Before They Make Me Run”.
Drawbacks: A couple of cuts in the middle are throwaways, but you can easily overlook them.
Verdict: They did some good stuff after this, but nothing else has matched it. And “Shattered” may have the best groove of any Stones song.
Random Trivia: When they were on Saturday Night Live, Keith and Mick French kissed in front of God and NBC’s cameras.
Summary: The Smithereens' debut is an almost perfect power-pop homage to the 60’s. Pat DiNizio’s songs tell many stories, and the band comes through with great arrangements.
Positives: All 12 songs of the original album are filled with hooks and memorable moments. “Strangers When We Meet”, “Behind the Wall of Sleep”, “Groovy Tuesday”, etc. etc. etc.
Drawbacks: The bonus cut, “White Castle Blues” could have been left in the can for good.
Verdict: Sure, they recorded some better songs than the ones here, but they released no better album. Track for track, this is a keeper.
Random Trivia: “Blood and Roses” was an MTV hit for a while, thanks to it being included in a really bad movie’s (“Dangerously Close”) soundtrack.