Friday, March 7, 2014
1. Blue Suede Shoes
2. I'm Counting On You
3. I Got A Woman
4. One-Sided Love Affair
5. I Love You Because
6. Just Because
7. Tutti Frutti
8. Trying To Get To You
9. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)
10. I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')
11. Blue Moon
12. Money Honey
Before he ballooned to twice his original size, before he made a string of crap movies, before he became a lounge singer, before he went away and then came back, before deep fried sandwiches, tv shootings and before military service; before all the things that tarnished his reputation, there was this LP. The first ever Elvis Presley album and the first rock and roll album to top the Billboard charts.
This is where it began kids. You can trace a line from this release through the Beatles, The Stones, Cream, David Bowie, The Clash, Queen, Motley Crue, Guns and Roses, U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Radiohead and beyond. Anyone who has released an album of Rock and Roll owes a debt to these 12 songs in this format. Rock and Roll stepped out of the clubs and bars and into the recording studio and onto a format that had been reserved for big band sounds. Someone finally made music for young people and had the tenacity to package it in a format that adults regarded as their own.
You can see why this made such an impact. The opening track is Blue Suede Shoes which Carl Perkins had written and recorded earlier but will always be associated with the King. Elvis sings it as if he's just discovered his life calling. His rendition is definitive and as passionate as anything he's ever done. I'm not sure if Elvis has ever actually wore any blue suede shoes but they way he belts this out you could easily believe that he wore nothing else and protected his footwear with his life. Nobody has ever been this committed to what they're wearing on their feet in music history before or since.
Much has been made of the fact that Elvis owes his success to his ability to make black music accessible to white people. There's definitely something in the accusation, there are no originals on Elvis Presley and there are lots of tracks which were hits for black artists but ignored by white america until Presley recorded them. Little Richards Tutti Frutti and Ray Charles' I got a Woman were big songs for their original artists but nobody who got sunburnt was listening. Elvis turned a generation onto music that racism prevented them from appreciating.
But it's not fair to suggest that anyone could have done what Elvis did. Writing him off as just the first white guy to tap into a different market does him a huge injustice. Presley is a dynamic interpreter of other people's material and he makes every song he sings his own. Anyone could have sung the songs on Elvis Presley but only The King could have made them great.
There's some great rock on Elvis Presley but it's not all the Devil's music. Elvis covers old standards like Blue Moon and Just Because which was first recorded way back in 1929. I'll never let you go is a song by Singing cowboy Jimmy Wakely which showed off Presley's love of country and western music.
Listening to Elvis Presley close to 60 years after it was recorded, it's easy to see why it lit such a fire under the music world. Adults were indignant at the idea of "Race Music" getting a respectable face, even if that face was contorted in wild abandon on the cover. It's been pointed out that while the famous cover features Elvis singing and strumming his guitar, the face he's pulling could easily be the result of sexual release. I've never seen Elvis orgasm before but it's not hard to imagine that the face he pulls looks a lot like the one he's producing on the famous cover. Sinatra never looked like that on the front of an album, no wonder people were scared.
For the teenagers however this was exactly that they'd been waiting for, even if they didn't know it. Paul, John, George and Ringo heard these tracks and knew what they wanted to do with their lives. Suddenly music wasn't just something their parents enjoyed, it was their life calling. I got a woman and I'm Gonna Sit right down and cry over you became part of their repertoire thanks to this album and it helped set them on the path they were destined to take.
Sadly it wasn't long before Elvis went from being young and exciting to being middle aged and a bit crap. His fall was quick and ugly and a massive waste of real talent. There's a reason why the only people who listen to Presley movie soundtracks are die hard obsessives. But his early output has something for everyone and this album is definitely one that you should hear if you haven't. It's one of the great voices in rock and roll backed by Scotty Moore and some gun players. It's golden stuff and we have to offer our thanks for the legacy it left us.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "if you were a seeing eye dog, wouldn't you want your name to be elvis? and wouldn't you want your owner to carry around a huge box of milkbones? and wouldn't you want to go out drinkin' and watch the final four? and wouldn't you want your tail to get stepped on forcing you to yelp in pain? if you answered yes to the last question than you are weird."
-I have a feeling I'm not the only one.
So what are you thoughts on Mr Presley? Let me know below.
- Love's In Need Of Love Today
- Have A Talk With God
- Village Ghetto Land
- Sir Duke
- I Wish
- Knocks Me Off My Feet
- Pastime Paradise
- Summer Soft
- Ordinary Pain
- Isn't She Lovely
- Joy Inside My Tears
- Black Man
- Ngiculela - Es Una Historia - I Am Singing
- If It's Magic
- Another Star
No other artist has the effect on me that Stevie Wonder does. He's unique amongst musicians as far as I'm concerned because there's nobody else who can provide such extreme reactions in during the course of one album.
There are moments on Songs in the Key of Life that I genuinely can't stand. The album opens with Love's in Need of Love Today which is Wonder at his most syrupy and tedious. It's a seven minute plod down the middle of the road and easy listens its way through a run time which is both boring and irritating in equal measures. I've often wondered how someone like Hendrix could choke on his own vomit but listening to Loves' in Need of Love today I think I finally understand. It's a track that is capable of sending you to sleep while forcing you to propel your lunch at the same time. Hendrix probably got to about the five minute mark before his brain shut down and his stomach went into eject mode. It's possible this song killed Jimi.
A few songs later, Wonder manages to create a similar effect with Village Ghetto Land which is just a tuneless list of complaints about ghetto life (apparently people are eating dog food) sung over a string section who sound like they're trying to work out what happened to the rest of the band (they were probably sitting around saying "Dog food? Really? Dog Food?") It's terrible stuff as is If It's Magic which features nothing but Wonder's vocals accompanied by a harpist playing every cliche her instrument has to offer.
If the entire album was like the opening few tracks I'd be howling with complaint and shedding tears of sorrow at its extended running time. Thankfully this is not the case.
I Wish is four minutes of perfect funk of the sort that only Wonder can do. It's got a rock solid rhythm which propels it along driven by horn blasts and Wonder's soulful voice. It's fantastic and the sort of track that you have to turn up loud and rock along to. It even makes you want to get up and dance. I Wish knocks me off my feet and I wish the whole album was as good. Sadly it stops and Knocks Me Off My Feet starts which is immediately a return to the bland and awful Wonder that started the album off. I can't think of another artist who can lift me up so high and then drop me so low in the course of a single album.
I had the same reaction listening to Talking Book (which has the highs of Superstition and the lows of Looking for Another Pure Love) and Music of My Mind (which starts off on a huge high with Love Having You Around but falls away when songs like Seems So Long comes along). If there is a compilation of just Wonder's upbeat funk out there then I'd buy it and treasure it as a great album. A collection of his love ballads however would have me running for a mile.
Unlike his two other inclusions in the list however there is more variation on Songs in the Key of Life. It's a double album which gives him room to explore other feelings and moods rather than ballad and funk. Contusion for example is an instrumental jazz fusion experiment which sounds like most other Jazz Fusion experiments. If that's your thing then it's probably a great addition to the album, if it's not then you're probably a lot less keen.
One of Songs in the Key of Life's most famous tracks is Past time Paradise which Coolio subsequently turned into Gangsta's paradise and Weird Al Yankovic turned into Amish Paradise. I wonder how many people who loved and enjoyed Coolio's smash hit realised just how much it owed to Stevie Wonder's original? The famous chorus of Gangsta's Paradise is lifted wholesale from Wonder's original track and he deserves much more than just a co-writing credit giving him equal billing with three other guys.
There's some great stuff on Songs in the Key of Life. I Wish, Black Man and As are all worth multiple listens and Past Time Paradise deserves to be appreciated in its original form (because the lyrics are much better if nothing else). But there's also a lot of horribleness that I never need to hear again. Wonder is the only person I can think of whose highlights are so great but whose lowlights are so truly terribly low.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Stevie, I love you. You are my favorite Presbyterian."
-Just out of interest: who rounds out the rest of your great Presbyterian top ten?
So is this key of life opening your door or are you slamming it in Stevies Face? Let me know below.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
1. Sympathy for the Devil
2. No Expectations
3. Dear Doctor
4. Parachute Woman
5. Jigsaw Puzzle
6. Street Fighting Man
7. Prodigal Son
8. Stray Cat Blues
9. Factory Girl
10. Salt of the Earth
Some bands are lucky enough to have a classic album in their catalogue. A select few can manage two or three. The Stones not only have (at least) four great albums to their name, they were fortunate enough to have them in a row. The run of albums that they started in 1968 hasn't been matched by anyone, with the possible exception of their Liverpuddlian rivals, before or since.
After the misstep that was 1967's psychedelic pop experiment For their Satanic Majesty's Request, the Stones decided to forgo any attempt at mysticism and get back to what they did best: riff based rock and blues based ballads.
Anyone who was still smarting from the disappointment that was Satanic Majesties must have entered the Banquet with a sense of trepidation. An opening track called Sympathy for the Devil would seem to suggest more lame psychadelia. How wrong they were. Sympathy is just magnificent and it's testament to how good the Stones are that this isn't universally acclaimed as their best song. If it was recorded by any other band it would be their signature tune that stood head and shoulders above all else but it comes from the same group who gave us Jumping Jack Flash and Satisfaction which means it's up against some fairly stiff competition.
Sympathy has a roaring groove and lyrics that are just insanely fun to shout loud. I've got dozens of live versions of Sympathy and in every one you can heard the audience go nuts when that opening drum beat sounds. When Mick kicks in with a "wow" it's just electric. "Pleased to meet you! Hope you guess my name!" if there are words more fun to shout out loud then I'm not sure what they are. I love this song so much that not even the 7,000 "woo woos" at the end get repetitive. It's just golden all the way and for anyone worried by the previous effort it sent a loud and clear message: the Stones are back.
Further outstanding blues riffage is available courtesy of Street Fighting Man which opens side two with some more explosive brilliance. Street Fighting is a powerhouse rock and roll track which picks you up, slaps your around the face for a bit and then deposits you satisfied in your furniture. It sounds like a band who have studied the art of combining force with groove and mastered it quickly.
There's a lot of fairly low key Stones songs on Beggars, probably more than any other album. No Expectations is one of their most overlooked ballads which is a pity because it's phenomenal. Mick's brash attitude and sleazy blues credentials made him a difficult thing for a lot of people to accept in the late sixties but if he'd had angelic looks and a clean cut image this track would have received a lot more attention. It's a blinder.
Jigsaw Puzzle deserves to be liberated from it's current status as mere album filler. It's a great chance for Charlie Watts to show off his drumming skills and even though Nicky Hopkins sounds like he's still playing Sympathy for the Devil on piano it's still a great chance for him to demonstrate his much missed ivory tinkling abilities.
Unlike Sticky Fingers, Beggars does have a misstep or two. Most notably Salt of The Earth which is a woefully patronizing attempt to idolize the working class. It's a horrible piece of shlock songwriting which should have been forgotten about completely but their occasional attempts to revive it in a live setting have never served to turn it into anything more palatable. It didn't work back when The Stones were struggling artists and it works even less now that they use private jets to fly between their multiple mansions. The same can't be said for Factory Girl which is always a treat when it gets a surprise run during a show (and even when it was rewritten as Glastonbury Girl for their 2013 Glasto debut).
If you only know the Stones from their multiple best-of albums you deserve to check out their four album run. Beggars, Bleed, Fingers and Exile are four albums who have to be heard in their entirety to appreciate what an incredible run this band was on back in the late sixties. It didn't matter that their founding member was sliding out of their musical sphere, all that mattered was Mick and Keith's incredible songwriting ability, which for a few years eclipsed anyone else writing music anywhere in the world.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review: "Even though I don't like much of the Stones' work I know that, at lest to me, all music is good to someone, even if I don't like it. I gave this five stars because I myself trying to write songs, know that I would hate to have a LP that didn't get any reviews."
-That's kind of sweet. I don't like this but I gave it five stars because I know songwriting is hard. Presumably he's given a five star review to every album on amazon then?
So is this a Banquet you'd like to be invited to or not? Let me know below.
Friday, February 14, 2014
2. The Dust Blows Forward 'N The Dust Blows Back
3. Dachau Blues
4. Ella Guru
5. Hair Pie: Bake 1
6. Moonlight On Vermont
7. Pachuco Cadaver
8. Bills Corpse
9. Sweet Sweet Bulbs
10. Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish
11. China Pig
12. My Human Gets Me Blues
13. Dali's Car
14. Hair Pie: Bake 2
17. When Big Joan Sets Up
18. Fallin' Ditch
19. Sugar 'N Spikes
20. Ant Man Bee
21. Orange Claw Hammer
22. Wild Life
23. She's Too Much For My Mirror
24. Hobo Chang Ba
25. The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica)
26. Steal Softly Thru Snow
27. Old Fart At Play
28. Veteran's Day Poppy
I promise I'm not making any of this up. I know this will sound like I'm freeforming the plot of a bad novel but all of the following is genuinely true...
The strange but true story of Trout Mask Replica, the unlistenable album that is apparently the 58th greatest of all time.
Don Van Vleit, otherwise known as Captain Beefheart wrote almost all the tunes for this album on a Piano. An instrument that he didn't know how to play. He would sit at a piano and poke at the keys until he heard something he liked. He would then ask his drummer (who was named John French but who Beefheart called Drumbo) to transpose the tiny, six note noodlings into musical annotation. They then took the tiny annotated musical doodles and smooshed them together into something that could be called a song but was really a lot of small phrases one after the other.
The collected noodly bits were then given a silly name by Beefheart and some lyrics that made no sense and then taught by French to each of the band members. Beefheart's lyrics are the sort of thing you would expect when you see the list of song titles: Dachau Blues, Hair Pie: Bake 1, Pachuco Cadaver, Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish, Ant Man Bee, Orange Claw Hammer etc etc. It's the sort of stuff you'd expect from a guy who told people not to disturb him at night because he was levitating. It's the product of a mind who tells people he once slept for a year and half by eating only fruit (without ever explaining how he ate fruit in his sleep). It's bonkers stuff.
The band then spent eight months living in poverty in a communal house while they rehearsed the tracks for 14 hours a day living off meagre rations. They survived on soy beans and stolen food and were constantly verbally and physically assaulted by Beefheart who was... and there's no other way to put this... kind nutty. He had a sharpened broomstick which he used to attack musicians who didn't play well enough even though the demands he made of them could sometimes be considered a bit esoteric. French was physically thrown down a flight of stairs for not being able to "Play a strawberry" on the drums. Beefheart apparently studied mind-control techniques rather than music while preparing to make the album and verbally abused his band to break them down and bend them to his will. The experience of rehearsing together in the house was so traumatic that the band couldn't listen to the album for years afterwards. French was so traumatised by the process that he was suicidal for months and ducked if anyone waved their hands because he'd been hit so often. The lead guitarist tried to write his autobiography and recalling the experience of recoding Trout Mask made him so unwell he threw up.
Beefheart would rehearse the band constantly and if they weren't rehearsing he'd gather them together for extended meetings in which he would berate the musicians and make them turn on each other thanks to his tendency of telling them what they'd all said to him in what they thought was a private conversation.
After months of rehearsing, the band went into the studio to record. The process of writing was so avante garde and out there so Beefheart needed a producer with a traditional set of studio values who could ground the entire project. Instead he chose Frank Zappa whose love of musical experimentation and avante garde lunacy was just what the project didn't really need. I've spoken often about what a genius I think Frank is and how I love his music. He's also a notorious control freak and totally in command of every project he's been involved in so it's impressive that Beefheart managed to convince Zappa to take a back seat and give the Captain total artistic freedom and authority.
Once the band had recorded the basic tracks (in four and a half hours apparently) they were set free to go and rock quietly from side to side muttering to themselves and screaming occasionally. Beefheart then set about recording his vocals which he did without listening to the tracks they'd recorded. He went into a soundbooth in front of a microphone but instead of wearing earphones he just let loose when he thought it was appropriate. Beefheart claimed to have a five octave vocal range but that doesn't mean he could sing sonorously at either end of it. His deep voice is a growl and his high range is a kind of screech. The stuff in between is fairly inaccessible as well.
So how does the album sound? It sounds exactly like you would expect an album to sound if it was written on a piano by a guy who couldn't play the piano, performed by emotionally unstable musicians who hated each other and sung by a madman who wasn't listening to the backing track at the time. It sounds like the sort of album that David Lynch would love (and apparently he does)
There are those who claim Trout Mask Replica is utterly brilliant, it just requires multiple listens to actually appreciate. Once you immerse yourself utterly in it a few times you begin to understand you're in the presence of genius. There are others who claim it's unlistenable nonsense and anyone who claims it isn't is fooling themselves.
Personally I brought Trout Mask Replica in my early twenties when I was trying to get my hands on everything Zappa had touched. I took it home thinking to myself "I will love this because it's Zappa and I'm clever enough to appreciate the avante garde". I don't think I'd ever heard it all the way through until I forced myself to for this blog. I've tried several times before but it's like trying to read Ulysses. It just gets too much after a while and wears you down. It gets to the point where you think it might grow on you if you listen to it ten more times but it's just not worth the effort. Why subject yourself to multiple listens just so you can say you don't hate it anymore?
If you love Trout Mask I would genuinely love to hear from you below. I've read the positive reviews but I'd like to hear more because I'd love to understand it's appeal.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Either my ears have fallen off or this is just another overblown tree hugging recording of pure rot gut excuse for music."
-Tree Hugging? Where do you get Tree hugging from?
Have you actually listened to Trout Mask all the way through? If so please let me know below? I'm desperate to hear from you.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Meet the Beatles was America's 1964 attempt to catch up with the Fab Four. By the start of 1964 The Beatles had released two huge selling full length albums and some hit singles in the UK and finally the Americans were starting to realise that the guys over the pond had something that might be worth hearing.
Consequently Capitol Records, who had the US rights to The Beatles catalogue, sat down with the master tapes of everything the Beatles released in 1963 which they were then able to cherry pick for a US album release. Rather than just submit Please Please Me and With the Beatles for their nation's approval, they decided to create their own compilation tape which is basically most of With The Beatles with singles tacked on the front.
Here's my review Track by Track (with some comments shamelessly cut and pasted from my earlier review of With the Beatles, my views haven't changed)
1. I Want to Hold Your Hand
Isn't that sweet? The Beatles want to hold your hand. The Rolling Stones want to do all sorts of nasty things to you involving Mars Bars but the Beatles want to tentatively reach out to your hand and clasp it tightly but nervously in theirs. It's nonsense of course. The Beatles were much more interested in other body parts and were just as horny as the Stones but had better suits and a manager who kept saying "Don't look sexual" before every interview.
Still it might be an untrue sentiment but damn it's a good song. I want to Hold your Hand was the first song that made America sit up and realise what they were missing. It's a slice of perfect pop and incredibly infectious. It's no surprise that US audiences heard it and thought: "We want more!"
2. I Saw Her Standing There
And there was more. All they had to do was flip over the single and find the other A-side. I saw her Standing there was the flipside of I Want to Hold your Hand which proved they weren't just a one hit wonder. UK audiences had already enjoyed Standing as the opening track on their first album. Standing is just perfect. From it's raucous opening to "Well my heart went boom" and everything else in between. It's just joyous and it sounds great on a crap old radio or a shiny new system or headphones or even in your own voice in the shower.
3. This Boy
America's first chance to really appreciate the famous Beatles harmonies. John, Paul and George lift what might have been a fairly average tune into something much greater through the use of their vocal harmonising. Full credit to George Martin here for teaching the boys how harmony worked. They picked up their live performing skills in Hamburg but the clubs they played in weren't really the best venue to learn close harmony in.
4. It Won't Be Long
A With the Beatles song that John wrote to try and replicate the success of She Loves you. This song is so damn… Beatley. A catchy chorus, harmonies, yeah yeahs. It even finished with a big “oooo” sound the likes of which drove kids wild. You might not know it but if I played it in your house you could identify the authors within the first four bars and your toes would be tapping four bars later. The album version is Take 17 with some overdubs recorded in the same day.
5. All I've Got to Do
A song John wrote two years earlier and had lying around before digging out for With the Beatles. A slower number but still oozing fab-fourness. If beatleness was liquid this would flood your bedroom before the second verse started and you’d have a great time drowning. They laid down the entire track in under an hour. After a few false starts they played the track six times, chose the best version, recorded an overdubed backing vocal in one take and then moved onto something else.
6. All My Loving
This is 50 years old but it’s fresh and sparkly and new and fab every time you hear it. Try not to sing along. Go on try! Put your hand over your mouth and clench your teeth and try not to join in. Futile isn’t it? Paul wrote the lyrics while shaving and then later put it to music. They recorded it in the same session that produced It won't Be Long with only 13 takes required.
7. Don't Bother Me
A rare Harrison original. Early on in his career George couldn't write as well as the others but in only a few short years he was cranking out something like Something which is really something. It’s like great song-writing is contagious and over constant exposure to two carriers George caught it (but somehow Ringo was immune). Unlike most of the rest of the album, the Beatles took two days to record this track instead of one. They weren't happy with it after a run through on September 11th so they returned to it on the 12th. The final version on the album is Take 15 which they overdubbed with Claves, tambourine and bongos. Personally I prefer Take 10 without any overdubs at all.
8. Little Child
For the Beatles this is just an album filler but for any other act in the sixties an original composition like this would have been an instant single. And it would have charted as well. I may be spoiling some illusions here when I tell you that this track is constructed rather than performed. The basic take was taken from the seventh take. They then included some harmonica from the 13th take, the harmonica solo from take 18 and some piano from take 15. They were talented guys but John had yet to master singing while playing the harmonica at the same time.
9. Till There Was You
The Beatles were so damn good they could even cover tunes from musicals and make them rock. That’s true talent. This song is a ditty. I don’t know what makes a ditty and what makes a song but this is definitely in the ditty camp. Paul’s voice suits it perfectly and George’s solo is so good there were many who assumed it was played by a session musician. Thankfully the band included it in their live repertoire which gave George a chance to prove who was really responsible. The take on the album is from the second session they attempted this track but I prefer live versions without overdubs. Surprisingly this is the only cover on Meet the Beatles. Considering how definitive their renditions of Twist and Shout and Money are you'd think they would have included them instead of some of the lesser tracks like Little Child but instead they were left off. Odd.
10. Hold Me Tight
The lowest point on the album. An unconvincing song that Paul sings without any sense of conviction. It’s like he knows this isn't going to make it on the album. Imagine his surprise when it did. The band actually tried to record this for their first album but decided it wasn't worth pursuing. I wonder what made them change their mind a few months later? I've got a version which has been remixed slightly Out Of Phase which highlights the bass but still does nothing to redeem it as a song.
11. I Wanna Be Your Man
A song that Lennon and McCartney knocked off quickly in the presence of the Rolling Stones who were trying to learn to be song writers. They gave it to Jagger and Richards as a gift and then to Ringo as his song to sing on the album. Letting Ringo out from behind the drums for one song on every album was a masterstroke- he always sang as if he was so happy just to be given a microphone.To be honest he was probably thrilled to be in the band at all. He strikes me as the sort of guy who would be delighted just to be let into a lift. The version included on the album was recorded within a week of it being finished. I prefer live versions recorded later when the band and Ringo were more confident and capable of making it rock.
12. Not A Second Time
More piano than in the other tracks and a nice showcase for George Martin, the fifth Beatle and justifiably the most famous record producer who ever lived (or at least the most famous record producer who didn't attract fame by killing people). This track is the source of the famous Aeolian Cadences quote that gets mentioned a lot. A music critic from The Times praised John's songwriting especially his use of Aeolian Cadences. John said years later that he still had no idea of what an Aeolian Cadence actually was, claiming they sounded to him like a kind of exotic bird. It's a great example of how the Beatles caused professional music critics to witter about their abilities even though they had no formal musical training.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "The Beatles are arguably the most over-rated band in the world."
-Whenever I read a review that starts like that I immediately stop reading.
So are you happy to meet the Beatles or not? Let me know below.
Friday, January 31, 2014
1. I Want To Take You Higher
2. Everybody Is A Star
6. You Can Make It If You Try
7. Dance To The Music
8. Everyday People
9. Hot Fun In The Summertime
11. Sing A Simple Song
12. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
You can't buy this album any more. It's been entirely superseded but back in 1970 it was the Sly and the Family Stone album to get your hands on. It was the overview of their career up to that point (all three years of it) and the only compilation around. Two sides of vinyl comprising their greatest hits.
Since then, Sly and his kin have recorded some more classic material and later Best Of's reflect the fact that this album can no longer claim to contain their greatest hits without including material from There's a Riot Goin On which came out a year later and Fresh which came out two years after that. Consequently this album just doesn't need to exist any more. It's been comprehensively outdone by later Sly and the Family Stone releases which offer the same material in better audio quality with other essential songs that this release leaves off.
The Essential series has a two disc Essential Sly and the Family Stone which is definitely the release I'd recommend to anyone wanting to encounter their music. Its first disc has all 12 tracks on this album plus an extra six and the second disc picks up where the first leaves off to give an extremely comprehensive overview of their career. It's also remastered so it sounds better and it's chronologically sequenced which makes it a better document of their career.
A lot of bands have two disc best of's when their career barely justifies a one disc compilation. Other bands have huge bloated box sets which contain a lot of stuff only die hard fans will ever need. The Essential Sly and the Family Stone is the perfect length to capture how dynamic, exciting and downright funky Sly Stone was. He produced some great albums in the band's short career and a two disc retrospective lets you sample the best moments which makes for two discs of well written tunes presented in funky arrangements and played by some genuine funk talent. It really is essential stuff.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "They were one of the groups more kindly reminded in Woodstock Festival a true proof of fire that they surmounted with all the honors."
-You can always spot a google translate cut and paste when you come across it on Amazon.
So are these hits great for you or non-essential? Let me know below.
Friday, January 24, 2014
1. Welcome to the Jungle
2. It's So Easy
4. Out ta Get Me
5. Mr. Brownstone
6. Paradise City
7. My Michelle
8. Think About You
9. Sweet Child o' Mine
10. You're Crazy
11. Anything Goes
12. Rocket Queen
Guns and Roses exploded onto the musical scene in 1987 with such force that it was hard to imagine a time when they weren't around and impossible to conceive of a future without them. Their debut single It's so Easy, didn't make much of a splash but Welcome to the Jungle was a huge smash which seemed to be everywhere back in the late eighties. Sweet Child of Mine and Paradise City followed soon after and the band dominated radios and MTV. Appetite for Destruction became one of the biggest selling albums of '87 and was a hit with hard rockers and even with those who didn't normally associate their music tastes with leather, hair and guitars.
And then it all fell apart fairly quickly. The band followed up Appetite with a strange eight track EP which clocked in at just over half an hour and was padded with covers and rerecorded versions of already released songs. Four years after Appetite their first full length albums of original material were released when the massively bloated Use Your Illusions I and II were released with strings, excessive post production, massive video clips, a new drummer and new management. A half-arsed covers album followed and then the band fell apart completely. It continues in name only with a fat and bloated Axl Rose taking 13 Million dollars and over a decade to complete albums that nobody cared about that much.
It took just ten years for Guns and Roses to go from the biggest band in the world to the biggest joke in the music business. The slid from triumph to farce so quickly it must have worn the bottoms out of their leather trousers.
Personally I think they're a classic example of how success totally ruins some bands and the fame and fortune they strive for completely kills any creativity. The songs on Appetite were written by a young and struggling bunch of musicians who were travelling from smelly club to stinking bar, huddled in the back of a crap van. The wrote songs partly because they were desperate for hits and partly because they were too broke to do much else. They partied with a bottle of Jack Daniels between them and any girls they could lure back to the dressing room.
Appetite made them huge. Suddenly they were being flown from stadium to stadium in a jet. They were staying in 5 star hotels and partying with mountains of cocaine and rooms full of willing groupies. The years of near poverty paid off and suddenly 5 guys who were young and horny had more money than they knew what to do with. What motivation did they have to write songs? They were no longer sitting bored and resentful in cheap accommodation desperate to write the hit that will get them a better life, they were sitting in a penthouse suite surrounded by naked women, cocaine and stacks of cash.
When they finally went back into the studio they took their extravagant lifestyle with them and demanded orchestras, big budget production and a double album running length. The end result is as bloated as Axl Rose would later become.
Appetite for Destruction is a great album because you can hear the desperation on the band in every song. You can smell the sweat and cheap alcohol and you can sense the cocksure arrogance undercut with a fear that they will never make it big. It's the sound of a band playing for their life and a man singing as if it's the only chance he'll get to step into a studio. The songwriting is honed by years playing each track to audiences who had to be won over. It rocks and swaggers and swings and cooks and does everything a great rock and roll album should. Every track is a winner and nobody is thinking it needs a string overdub or they need another snort of cocaine or the drummer needs to be sacked because they're all too good for him now.
Appetite is the biggest selling debut album of all time but it would have been better for everyone if it was an underground hit which sold just enough for the label to invest in follow ups but not enough to actually chart. There's no doubt Guns and Roses are at their best when they're unsuccessful.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Stay far, far away from this and get Foreigner's Fourth album insted."
-Why is it that every single negative review of this album feels the need to point out a far superior album that the listener should hear instead?
So does this sate your appetite or not? Let me know below.