Tuesday, April 17, 2018

FIVE OVER LOOKED ALBUMS THAT ARE GREAT

A while back I did an entry that listed ten great studio albums that I feel should be in everyone's collection.  I have decided to return to the subject and this time list ten albums that are mainly over looked in artists libraries.  Ground rules are simple: Greatest Hits albums are not allowed nor are live albums.  In the previous post, which included Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Willie Nelson, Miles Davis, The Allman Brothers Band and Chicago.  There was also one album that could be included on this list as well.  That one being Nicky Hopkins "The Tin Man Was A Dreamer"  However since it was included in the previous post, it will not be included here although it is a great album that nobody knows about.  You can read about the album on my "Great Music Installation" post.

So here are some great albums that are often over shadowed and over looked by music lovers everywhere.

CAT STEVENS - "CATCH BULL AT FOUR"
Like so many albums on this list, "Catch Bull At Four" is the casualty of the greatness of Cat Stevens other albums such as "Tea For The Tillerman", "Teaser And the Firecat" and "Buddah and the Chocolate Box" all of which were filled with great songs and hits.  This album has just two songs known to the casual Cat Stevens listener "Sitting" and "Can't Keep It In".  The album is for the most part quieter than his previous albums and let's face it, this album was up against some pretty stiff competition for the casual Cat Stevens listener.  It is more acoustic and the lyrics are a bit more complicated as Stevens was starting his journey to find spirituality for his life.  Still, this album holds up against those other three if it is given a chance.

DAVID BOWIE - "STATION TO STATION"
This album suffered much the same fate as "Catch Bull At Four" did.  Bowie had already amassed a fairly large following and had several songs hit the charts before this album was released.  There is only one song that is considered a vital part of his canon in "Golden Years".  The rest of the songs slipped between the cracks.  The first problem for this album was that there were only six songs on it.  "Golden Years" clocked in at 4:00 and was the only song that would fit the single release format.  All of the other songs range from 5:34 to 10:16.  Those other songs were great though.  The album follows the seventies Bowie formula music wise with each song a master to itself.  TVC-15, Station to Station, Stay and Wild Is The Wind are to Bowie fanatics must haves.  This album deserves a better placement than it gets in the Bowie Catalogue.  Give it a listen if you get the chance.

WARREN ZEVON - "WARREN ZEVON"
Long before "Werewolves Of London" became a standard classic rock song, Warren Zevon was sitting at home writing songs and working as a studio musician.  He met Jackson Browne and the two became very good friends.  One weekend Browne visited Zevon to listen to some songs that the piano player had written.  Browne was dutifully impressed and talked the record studios into recording a record with some of these early songs.  This album was the result.  Actually, almost all of Warren Zevon's career was over looked.  He only charted two songs with "Werewolves Of London" peaking at #21 and "A Certain Girl" hitting #57.  Even though his recordings were overlooked his songs weren't.  Other artists needing songs for their own albums were directed to some Zevon songs.  "Hasten Down The Wind", Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and "Carmelita" were all covered by several artists and became hits.  Zevon continued to record though and when "Werewolves Of London" finally made a splash his name became a little better known.  It was then that he became one of David Letterman's favorite guest musicians and Zevon sat in for Paul Schieffer  several time on Letterman's show.  This exposure brought more attention to Zevon and his later songs but this first album was loaded with what would became an integral part of his library.  Along with "Hasten Down The Wind" and Poor Poor Pitiful Me" were "The French Inhaler", "Mohammed's Radio", "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" and "Desperados Under The Eaves".  As Zevon was closing out his career due to cancer, his songs began to catch the attention of the music world and by the time he passed, he was considered one of rock's greatest composers and entertainers.  Although the album is still relatively unknown, the songs from it appear on his greatest hits packages and are well know as songs unto themselves, not songs from a certain album.  This album in hindsight is one of Zevon's greatest and deserves a listen.

THREE DOG NIGHT - "COMING DOWN YOUR WAY"
Anyone who knows me knows about my lifelong love affair with this band.  I truly do love all the music they produced.  After landing on the charts with three #1's, 11 top 20's and 20 consecutive top 40 hits, this album was released in 1975.  It would give Three Dog Night their 21st and final top 40 hit in the form of "Til The World Ends".  It was the year I graduated High School and so it seemed my public academic life and the life of Three Dog Night came to an end at the same time.  Coincidence?  I don't know ... maybe.  This album though is overlooked because it did just produce one single and it seemed like the music world in general was heading in a different direction than these guys.  This album though is classic Three Dog Night as it follows the formula of all of their previous albums.  It sounds like Three Dog Night and, to me anyway, it is one fantastic record.  This thing is loaded with songs that in an earlier point of the bands existence would have produced three singles easily.  After this album, Three Dog Night began to fall apart and they tried different sounds, and well, it all came crashing down.  For anyone who listened to and enjoyed Three Dog Night, this album is a must listen.  If anything it will help bring closure to the end of a great career by a great group.

 JOHN MAYALL - "NEW YEAR NEW BAND NEW COMPANY"
It is hard to fathom the number of albums John Mayall has released and so it is easy to see how a few of them could get lost in the shuffle.  This album was special though.  Mayall was, and still is, considered a master bluesman who brought up guitarists who he had discovered like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor. Clapton would go on to form Cream and a solo career, Peter Green would co-found Fleetwood Mac and a solo career, and Mick Taylor who would join the Rolling Stones.  On this album though, Mayall took a chance and hung a HUGE left turn sliding a little bit away from the blues into a southern rock sound.  It was 1975 and the southern rock genre was hitting it big and Mayall wanted to give it a shot.  He put together a totally new band and included for the first time a female vocalist in Dee McKinnie.  When the record hit the shelves Mayall fans were stunned as they were expecting another great blues album and got southern rock instead.  The reviews were not good because it wasn't what was expected of the master but in hindsight, this album is a wonder.  It is a wonder that Mayall could take such a turn away from blues and still put out an incredible recording.  All of you Mayall blues fans out there ... give this thing a chance.  You may like it better than you think you will.

So there are five of many albums that are underrated or overlooked in my opinion.  Maybe you have a couple of your favorite albums that no one else seems to know about.  It is pretty easy to do.

Monday, April 16, 2018

SHOULD HAVE HAVE BEEN DOUBLE ALBUMS

This is a subject that has rolled around in my mind for a very long time.  Not often, but once in a great while, an artist or band put out two albums back to back that become a defining moment in time for the artist.  Every now and then two albums are released that are so good, close to masterpieces, that it is difficult to separate the two albums from each other.

Other than live albums, the first group to thrive on double albums was Chicago.  Their first three albums were double and they needed to be.  It was those three albums that threw Chicago into the forefront of rock in the late sixties and early seventies.  Chicago is often compared to Al Kooper's Blood Sweat and Tears because of the huge presence of horns giving their recordings a touch of jazz into the rock and roll.  Where Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears part ways is that Chicago using the double album format were able to actually record jazz and introduce the rock and pop world to the world of jazz.  They still had their rock singles from those albums but when the listener purchased the album they were gifted with a mixture that no other bands were doing.  Their fourth album was a FOUR record set of live performances from those first three albums.  As Chicago was starting to prepare for the fifth album, Columbia Records made it known that Chicago was big enough now that the company was losing profits on the double album format and it seemed that casual Chicago fans were starting to think it a bit too much music to absorb and frankly, the public were starting to hesitate on dishing out the price for a double record from Chicago.  So Chicago made the fifth album their first single record.  The effect of this was a great album but at the expense of a lot of the jazz influence.  The album were all songs that would play on AM radio.  The public apparently was grateful that they could buy a cheaper single disc from the band instead of a jazz filled double record.  It changed the overall Chicago sound that would progress through time and Chicago was never the same band that they were during those first three albums.

I have always thought that an artist could stand to put out at least one double record once in a great while that would have created some absolutely awesome albums that would rocket up the charts.  This piece is about a few select set of albums that would fit together wonderfully as a double record set.  Some groups have done this as Bob Dylan did with "Blonde On Blonde", The Beatles "White Album", Elton John "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and ELO did "Out Of The Blue" as very successful double records.

So let's start at the top.

The Beatles: "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver"
These two albums are special in The Beatles discography.  They seem to slowly divide the old Beatles sound with the new sound that would lead to the Sgt Pepper's album.  This was the beginning of the metamorphosis  of the Beatles when they began to experiment with different sounds and Harrison became more involved in creating the new sound.

Tracks for "Rubber Soul":
1. Drive My Car
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
3. You Won't See Me
4. Nowhere Man
5. Think For Yourself
6. The Word
7. Michelle
8. What Goes On
9. Girl
10. I'm Looking Through You
11. In My Life
12. Wait
13. If I Needed Someone
14. Run For Your Life

Tracks for "Revolver":
1. Taxman
2. Eleanor Rigby
3. Love You To
4. Here, There And Everywhere
5. Yellow Submarine
6. She Said She Said
7. Good Day Sunshine
8. For No One
9. I Want To Tell You
10. Got To Get You Into My Life
11. Tomorrow Never Knows

Quite a line up of tunes and it ends with a very Sgt Pepper's sound in Tomorrow Never Knows.  These two albums, when played back to back, sounds seamless between the two records.

Bob Dylan: "Blood On The Tracks" and "Desire"
These two albums still have a little political content included but what ties these two albums together is not only the greatness of the songs between the two, but Dylan goes into full story telling mode.  They are entertaining because of this.  You are listening to not only songs, but stories and it began a new style for Dylan.

Tracks for "Blood On The Tracks":
1. Tangled Up In Blue
2. Simple Twist Of Fate
3. You're a Big Girl Now
4. Idiot Wind
5. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
6. Meet Me In The Morning
7. Lilly, Rosemary and The Jack Of Hearts
8. If You See Her Say Hello
9. Shelter From The Storm
10. Buckets Of Rain

Tracks for "Desire":
1. Hurricane
2. Isis
3. Mozambique
4. One More Cup Of Coffee
5. Oh Sister
6. Joey
7. Romance In Durango
8. Black Diamond Bay
9. Sara

Bob Seger "Night Moves" and "Stranger In Town":

These albums show Seger at his absolute best, his peak.  While he did do some great albums later, every song on these two albums are Seger classics.  Personally, I can not listen to one without wanting to listen to the other right after it.  You can shuffle all the songs on these two albums and it still sounds perfect, each song having the sound that it belongs on the album.  It was his live album released right before these two that brought him into the main stream of rock, but these two albums cemented his presence there.  While Seger would have a few more classic albums, none surpassed the quality of music that these two hold.

Tracks for "Night Moves":
1. Rock and Roll Never Forgets
2. Night Moves
3. The Fire Down Below
4. Sunburst
5. Sunspot Baby
6. Mainstreet
7. Come To Poppa
8. Ship Of Fools
9. Mary Lou

Tracks for "Stranger In Town":
1. Hollywood Nights
2. Still The Same
3. Old Time Rock and Roll
4. Till It Shines
5. Feel Like A Number
6. Ain't Got No Money
7. We've Got Tonight
8. Brave Strangers
9. The Famous Final Scene

Bad Company: "Bad Co" and "Straight Shooter"

Imagine a new band coming on to the scene.  The vocals sound familiar but you can't really place who it is until you see them.  That was the case with Bad Company.  Paul Rogers was in a band named "Free" who had one hit song "All Right Now" and people liked it.  They loved it.  But the band wasn't working out and Rogers wanted more freedom to do what he wanted to do and so he formed Bad Company.  The first album was a smash and by the end of their first tour as an opening act, fans were wondering why they weren't headlining.  Then within a year the second album "Straight Shooter" is released and it is, by most pundits, better than the first album and Bad Company's second tour had them as the headliners.  Every song on these two albums are instantly noticed as a Bad Company song and each one of these songs has fans asking "Why wasn't that a single?  These two albums go hand in hand with each other.  Bad Company would never again have a backlog of songs to release all at one time and the group would fade a little bit after these two albums.  If this had been a double record set, it could have been their first greatest hits album.

Tracks for "Bad Co":
1. Can't Get Enough
2. Rock Steady
3. Ready For Love
4. Don't Let Me Down
5. Bad Company
6. The Way I Choose
7. Movin' On
8. Seagull

Tracks for "Straight Shooter":
1. Good Lovin' Gone Bad
2. Feel Like Makin' Love
3. Weep No More
4. Shooting Star
5. Deal With The Preacher
6. Wild Fire Woman
7. Anna
8. Call On Me

Rod Stewart: "Every Picture Tells A Story" and "Never A Dull Moment"

Rod Stewart had already known some pretty good success with the group Faces with his pal Ronnie Wood before breaking out on his own.  He first few solo attempts were fairly good but overlooked as Stewart was still putting out Faces albums.  Then he decided to make a full break and focus on a solo project.  The result was the epic "Every Picture Tells A Story" which featured one of his best known songs "Maggie May"  The album is non-stop good with a different sound than the Faces had.  It is considered one of the greatest albums of all time and I still consider it so.  Within a year he did the follow up "Never A Dull Moment" which had some cover songs that Stewart breathed new life into.  The second of the two seemed to pick up where the first one left off.  In this case again, when put together, these two disc sound like they came off of the same album.  I think if Stewart had released these as a double disc would have really shot his solo career to a point where it would take a few more years to achieve.
 
Tracks for "Every Picture Tell A Story":
1. Every Picture Tells A Story
2. Seems Like A Long Time
3. That's All Right
4. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
5. Maggie May
6. Mandolin Wind
7. I'm Losing You
8. Reason To Believe

Tracks for "Never A Dull Moment":
1. True Blue
2. Lost Paraguayos
3. Mama You Been On My Mind
4. Italian Girls
5. Angel
6. Interludings
7. You Wear It Well
8. I'd Rather Go Blind
9. Twistin' The Night Away

Well I have some other ideas but they would not have worked out due to the circumstances surrounding the times.  I could see Elton John double up "Don't Shoot Me" with "Honky Chateau" but he already had "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" in the planning stages.  Eagles "On The Border" and  "One Of These Nights" would have been a classic double set, but then they would have been out of material waiting for Joe Walsh to come along.  In the seventies, when there were so many great rock albums coming out, the possibilities are infinite for possible double record sets.  These that I selected I feel would have really made a difference in the discography of the seventies.  They individual albums that seem to have a sibling type disc to go along as a double.

Next time you listen to one of your discs, think of one that truly is a companion disc and think what it would have been like if the two had been released simultaneously as a double record set.

This was a short and not too deep entry but one that I wanted to do just to put an idea out there.  Hope you enjoyed.