It's hard opening a comment sometimes, especially when it's on someone you have discussed before. Perhaps you need something punchy, something to suck the reader(s) in? That opening line can be crucial, and I've probably just wasted it with my observation above.
Okay, I'll try again.
There is no reason I should like Shawn Phillips.
He represents a genre of music which I largely, at worst dislike, at best am ambivalent to.
Well, Phillips plays in the singer-songwriter style but I'm not talking about that because I like a lot of that. Where I start to nod off is where the singer-songwriter is also a virtuoso on their instrument and the music is designed to show off that as well as any emotion in the lyric and song.
Phillips is a guitar virtuoso.
Worse still he was recording mainly in the late 60s through to the late 70s … a decade when singer-songwriters, generally, took themselves very seriously.
At worst: the music is too hippie (or if it isn't, former hippie types like it), the lyrics can be a bit vague and overly spiritual (there is no Woody Guthrie directness here), because Phillips was an album artist there aren't any pop singles, his songs are rarely short, the music seems designed, at times, only as a display of his virtuosity, his songs lean to the precious and, on their face, lack humour, and, his fans would be total bores (well most fans are bores but Phillip's show would be populated by people who were into him in 1973 and were bores then).
Okay I have probably offended a few fans. But then why would they be reading this? They would already have this record.
So, to you non-fans or, people not in the know who may be reading this, what I have said may be true but, I like Shawn Phillips.
Well, Phillips plays in the electric folkie style but he is like the "pure form" of that style. He writes, plays, sings and, it is clear, he is gifted. Importantly he draws in other forms of music and incorporates them into his sound … sometimes singer-songwriter, sometimes eastern influences, sometimes country, psych, folk, classical, Hawaiian. He is never afraid to mix it up and he is never afraid to let the songs ramble with his emotions … so he becomes a sort of prog folk jazz singer-songwriter.
His songs may be long but lyrically they can be sparse, and normally his song lines are usually short. There is wordplay though there isn't excessive wordplay in his songs. His father who was a crime novelist, James Phillips who wrote under the name Phillip Atlee, may have had an influence:
Though, I'm sure you wouldn't see mystical dancing pixies in any of his fathers novels and at times in Phillip's music you fully expect one to hop out.
Then there is his voice … Phillips has a four octave vocal range and he isn't scared to use it and uses it all to punctuate the emotion in his songs. It can be direct but normally likes to be otherworldly. He comes across as a hippie cosmic Roy Orbison.
Or at least Roy Orbison who has been hanging out with Donovan, Sandy Bull and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.
But, what I like about this music is you put it on and it is disarming and quite relaxing. You can't dance to it, you can't sing along to it, you can't even hum to it. But like the jazz or classical you can put it on and it will stimulate the senses.
Now I'm sounding like a hippie but, hey, we all need some time out to sit and think and this music tells us stories and allows us to chill out.
This album came at Phillips most creative peak and was recorded in 1972 apart from three that date back to 1969 ("Landscape", "Chorale", "Parisien Plight II").
All sorts of legends including Steve Winwood, Leland Sklar, Sneaky Pete Kleinow assist him on this record though the Glen Campbell is Juicy Lucy (and The Misunderstood) steel guitarist Glen Ross Campbell.
Tracks (best in italics)
Landscape – Nice, really nice and a little ethereal. An ethereal landscape?
'L' Ballade – so gentle and delicate it seems to barely exist.
Hey Miss Lonely – another one cone in the familiar Phillips style but genuinely enjoyable
Chorale – one of Phillips wordless songs, though not an instrumental. Have I used the word "ethereal" yet? A mix of Catholic chorale and Eastern traditions. It is meant to open the mind I suppose … all seven and a half minutes of it.
Parisien Plight II – The song starts with mood and percussive sounds combined with sound effects (monkey chattering, exotic birds chirping) before going off into a funky beat. If Woodstock had of been held on the West Coast of Africa instead of in upstate New York you would have an idea of where this is coming from. Thirteen minutes of it. It is of its time but enjoyable
We – a love song and a bouncy (well, as bouncy as Phillips gets) one.
Anello (Where Are You) – a playful song about musicians in a Donovan style but taken away on a tangent. Very funny.
I Took A Walk – a nice pointed song about America circa 1972.
I do like Phillips but I'm not sure where you would play him unless you were alone or with a lot of people who were stoned … I'm keeping it.
Whenever I comment on a Pat Boone album I inevitable start off by defending him.
Pat Boone isn’t very popular with hard core music fans.
Apparently he stole songs from black artists and denied them the charts. Him personally. But in reality was a to and fro from before the first time Nat King Cole crooned or Chuck Berry heard "Ida Red" and wrote "Maybelline" . Covering songs for different markets or rearranging them to have the largest potential market was the norm in the music business.
Arguably, Boone's covers were more blatant though. Elvis and others were recording songs and sounds they grew up with where in Pat Boone’s case his label would approach him and say sing this and we provide a softer sound with new arrangements. This led to the new, clean, and white versions of Afro-American R&B songs.
He is roundly criticized for that despite the fact that trad pop singers like Johnny Ray, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra had also doing the same to black songs for years.
And, regardless what people say his hit versions must have brought attention to the original versions.
And, then their are the royalties. Would a black composer complain about Pat Boone taking his song to the Top 10?
There is the impression that Boone's entire fifties output was covers of R&B songs and that those white washed covers (initially) stopped black artists getting high up in the charts
This is rubbish and lazy historically whether you like Boone or not.
In that era it was quite normal for three or four covers of a popular song to be released in the same year. The one with the broadest appeal would make the most money.
America wasn't ready for hard black R&B sounds to dominate the charts but they were warming up to it. Boone's records just picked up the people who hadn't warmed to it yet.
His version of Fat's Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" went to #1 (1955). Fat's version had already had its run getting up to #10. Some Afro-Americans must have liked it also as it went to #14 in the R&B charts.
His version of the El Dorados' "At My Front Door (Crazy Little Mama)" went took to #7 Pop, #12 R&B 1955). The El Dorados had a #1 R&B , #17Pop (1955) hit with it.
His version of Ivor Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind" went to #1 Pop, #14 R&B and didn't impact on the original which went to #1 in the R&B charts in 1950.
His version of Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" went to #12 in 1956. Little Richards version had peaked at #2 in the R&B charts in early 1956 and wen t to #17 in the pop charts. A little extra in royalties doesn't hurt.
His version of Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" went to #8 Pop #18 R&B in 1956. Little Richards version released in early 1956 went to #6 Pop, #1R&B.
In all cases except for the El Dorados the singers were the authors or co-authors of the songs … the royalties must have been nice.
Importantly, the songs above represent most of the R&B songs he covered in the fifties. During that era he released another 35 or so singles which were tin pan alley or pop and all very white …. and contain some of his biggest hits:
"I Almost Lost My Mind" (1955), "Don't Forbid Me" (1956), "Love Letters In The Sand" (1957), April Love" (1957) were all #1s but others charted well: "I'll be Home" (#4 1956), "Friendly Persuasion" (#5 1956), "Why Baby Why" (#5 1956), "Remember You're Mine " (#6 1957), "A Wonderful Time Up There" (#4 1958), "It's Too Soon to Know" (#4 1958), "Sugar Moon" (#5 1958), "If Dreams Came True" (#7, 1958),
He was only second to Elvis in sales (and also was the only 50s popster to have a film career) and he clearly didn't do that by just covering and stealing black tunes.
His English chart positions were also impressive (one #1 and nine Top 10s in the 50s)
Clearly people responded to his music
But never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
You don't have to like Boone but accusations of this sort are historically dishonest.
But that is not the only reason he is unhip. His music can be middling. It wasn't so much a white version of raucous black music but rather a softer version of Elvis (even though Elvis loved his ballads also).
He didn't typify rock either … He was married young (faithfully) (at 19) , didn't smoke or drink, was open about his religion and wasn't a hellraiser. As times moved on his views seemed more archaic. His religion approached fundamentalism, his politics were far right, his faith in his country was maudlin. These aren’t bad traits necessarily but it doesn’t endear you to the rock n roll crowd who like some cynicism.
The most unforgivable thing of course was to take the rock 'n' roll of your white and black contemporaries and sanitise it. At the time it paid dividends but history doesn’t look on it kindly. Both Bobby Darin and Bobby Vinton have suffered because of their love of trad pop and move towards smoother sounds …t hough admittedly Darin and Vinton were doing it later.
But Boone was incredibly effective on the charts and in film.
Does it make his music good?
Yes and No.
A lot of it is bland
It is not as innovative, dangerous, or memorable as Elvis but there is a lot of good material in there and Pat Boone can sing especially if he sticks to ballads and mid-tempo pop. He suited trad pop but a version rooted in the 50s obsession with rhythm. He was a pop singer who moved to trad whereas, say Guy Mitchell, was a trad pop singer who moved to pop and rhythm.
Within his best range (mainly in the 50s) Boone has created some bona fide classics.
As mainstream rock n roll mutated from it's hard ragged origins into something smoother and gentler in the early 60s Boone moved further and further into trad pop.
This album is a no brainer.
Boone was a movie star at the time and loved trad pop so why not have him sing themes and hit songs from other films.
After all they were songs people had in their collective and individual memory from the films.
Singers (as well as composers and orchestras) doing movie songs was a norm in mainstream popular music from the fifties through to the early seventies.
Sinatra did "Sinatra Sings Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River, and Other Academy Award Winners" (1964), Tony Bennett did "The Movie Song Album" (1966), Matt Monro did "From Hollywood With Love" (1964) and "Born Free (Invitation To The Movies)" ( 1967), Joni James did "100 Strings & Joni In Hollywood" (1961), Helen Merrill did "Sings Screen Favorites" (1968), Eddie Fisher did "Academy Award Winners" (1955) and Andy Williams did "Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes" (1962) and "The Academy Award-Winning "Call Me Irresponsible" and Other Hit Songs from the Movies" (1964).
Williams, perhaps, influenced the creation of this album and also had a lot of influence on Boone's trad pop style. Boone does four songs on this album that Williams had done on his "Moon River And Other Great Movie Themes" (1962) album (Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing, The Exodus Song, Moon River, Three Coins In The Fountain). Williams repaid the favour (perhaps) and does three songs on his 1964 album that Boone does here (Mona Lisa, Laura, The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart))
I note for completeness that some of Boone's pop rock fellow outcasts also put out movie them albums: Bobby Darin did "Hello Dolly To Goodbye Charlie" (1964) and Bobby Vinton did "Drive-In Movie Time: Bobby Vinton Sings Great Motion Picture Themes" (1965)*.
On this album Boone sings the songs well but, as to be expected because he isn’t a trad pop vocalist of the skill of a Sinatra or Bennett, how good the songs are depends on arrangements and the material itself.
The arrangements for his albums around this time are all standard trad pop and they are glorious. Sinatra, Tony Bennett or Andy Williams could have done these songs in these arrangements. Here they are by Jimmie Haskell, Milt Rogers and Ernest Hughes. (Album produced by Randy Wood)
The material is flawless and well tested.
I love this stuff, or make excuses for it, because I love films. So in my lounge of the mind these songs remind me of the films they came from.
There are no surprises but if you let it wash over you it is quite relaxing and perhaps comforting.
Tracks (best in italics)
Days Of Wine And Roses – (Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer) – beautifully warm
Mona Lisa – (Livingston & Evans) – no one can match Nat King Cole but the song is a classic
Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing – (Paul Francis Webster, Sammy Fain) – not quite as head in the clouds as the original theme or version by The Four Aces but quite good.
Laura – (David Raksin, Johnny Mercer) – well done but not as haunting as some of the other versions.
Song From Moulin Rouge – (Georges Auric, William Engvick) – I'm not a big fan of this song in any of the versions I've heard … but there could be an interpretation out there that works on me.
Sweet Leilani – (Harry Owens) – could have been a little more Hawaiian
Moon River – (Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer) – a beautiful song beautifully done.
Ruby – (Heinz Eric Roemheld, Mitchell Parish) –
Three Coins In The Fountain – (Jule Styne And Sammy Cahn) – Not as great as Sinatra but Boone gives it a good interpretation.
Be My Love – (Nicholas Brodszky, Sammy Cahn) – full of swirling strings but the operatic bombast of Lanza is needed.
Fanny – (Harold Rome) – he doesnt really suit this song.
The Exodus Song – (Ernest Gold, Pat Boone) – also known as "This Land is Mine". Powerful and dramatic. A side you don't hear from Boone outside some of his religious records, which his is in many ways. For any nation who have fought for lands taken from them this song would resonate. I don't know for sure if this is the 1961 single or whether it was re-recorded here. It is the only song on the album which was arranged by Ernest Hughes though the 1961 single was arranged by Milt Rogers.
From the films:
Days of Wine and Roses – from the great 1962 Blake Edwards film of the same name about alcoholism in marriage. The song has been done by every trad pop singer but Billy Eckstine (1961), Andy Williams (#26 Pop, #9 Adult Contemporary 1963), Frank Sinatra (1964) and Tony Bennett (1966) do it best. Co-Writer Mancini had an instrumental hit with it in 1963 (#33 Pop, #10 Easy Listening). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Days_of_Wine_and_Roses_(song)
Sweet Leilani – A song sung first in the 1937 film, "Waikiki Wedding" by its star, Bing Crosby. It became one of the biggest hits of 193 and is a standard on both Hawaiian themed albums and movie albums. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Leilani
Moon River – It received an Academy Award for Best Original Song for its performance by Audrey Hepburn in the Blake Edwards film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961). It became the theme song for Andy Williams, who first recorded it in 1961 and performed it at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1962 though he never released it as a single. It has been covered many times. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_River
Ruby – a song from the 1952 film "Ruby Gentry" (starring Jennifer Jones and Charlton Heston), also performed by Ray Charles in 1960. The song has become a standard.
Three Coins in The Fountain – from the 1954 romance film of the same name. It refers to the act of throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome while making a wish. Each of the film's three stars performs this act. Frank Sinatra recorded the song first but The Four Aces had the #1 hit on the US (1954). Sinatra did well also (US #4, UK #1) and the song is associated with him. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Coins_in_the_Fountain_(song)
Be My Love – Mario Lanza sang the song with Kathryn Grayson in the film "The Toast of New Orleans" (1950) which they starred in. Bobby Vinton did it also on his "Bobby Vinton Sings the Big Ones" album from 1962. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_My_Love
* Composers and orchestras also did the movie theme thing … Henry Mancini: "Our Man in Hollywood" (1963) and "Theme From "Z" And Other Film Music" (1970), Peter Nero: "The Screen Scene" (1966), Marty Gold And His Orchestra: "Stereo Action Goes Hollywood" (1961), Nelson Riddle: "Interprets Great Music Great Films Great Sounds" (1964), Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra: "Most Popular Movie Hits As Styled By Cugat" (1962), Victor Silvester and His Silver Strings: "Great Film Melodies" (1962), Percy Faith: "Hollywood's Great Themes" (1962), "Held Over! Today's Great Movie Themes" (1970), Higo Montenegro: "Great Songs From Motion Pictures Vol. 1 (1927 – 1937)" (1961), "Great Songs From Motion Pictures Vol. 2 (1938 – 1944)" (1961), "Great Songs From Motion Pictures Vol. 3 (1945-1960)" (1961).
As did musicians … Ferrante & Teicher: "Music From The Motion Picture West Side Story And Other Motion Picture And Broadway Hits" (1961), Roger Williams: "Academy Award Winners" (1964), Liberace: "Piano Song Book Of Movie Themes" (1959) and "Plays Golden Themes From Hollywood" (1964), Buddy Morrow: "Night Train Goes To Hollywood" (1962), Chet Atkins: "Chet Atkins in Hollywood" (1959), Al Caiola: "The Return Of The Seven And Other Themes" (1967)
RIP: Leon Russell (born Claude Russell Bridges; April 2, 1942 Lawton, Oklahoma, United States – November 13, 2016 Mount Juliet, Tennessee, United States)
I've spoken about Frankie Miller before. Check out that comment for biographical detail and what not.
A little of this goes a long way with me.
Especially the 70s variety where Miller made his name.
Well, the later varieties are even worse..
This was 1980.
Synths and the desire to sound contemporary invaded the music of many a white bluesman. And not in a good way. Steve Miller, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Bob Seger, Long John Baldry, Jeff Beck all put out shit as a result.
Frankie was not immune.
The desire to sell records is a strong desire. It's not just ego, though that must be a component. Lifestyle, career, mortgages, a family are all dependent on you selling records. The more records that sell the more likely the label will cough up money for your next album, the more they will promote you, and the more people you will get at gigs.
So if synths and slick sounds are in it's easy to be seduced, especially if everyone around you is doing the same. It becomes acceptable. You don't think about looking back, from 20 years in the future, to see what you put out.
And even when you have the sense to think about your legacy the label may have forced the sound on you, either overly ("this is what we are doing on this album") or subtlety ("we are going to drop you if you font have a hit, it's up to you").
Of course who is to say that the sound you are embarking on won't become the standard that the future wants to emulate? Who is to know what is right or wrong in music and sound at the time you are doing it?
To add synths and smooth sounds to blues rock may have seemed quite reasonable.
But, to me, blues rock, was always raw and ragged even when it made concessions to pop. The slickness and the smooth lines just don't sound right. All you have left is the rhythm but none of the emotion, no matter how hoarse and loud the vocalist is.
Luckily this early on in the 80s so the rot hasn't totally set in
Miller had put out some convincing blues rock in the 70s but the pressure was on to have a hit. He had scored a runaway Top Ten hit (#6, 1978 ) in the UK with "Darlin'" a single included on the album preceding this, "Falling in Love (aka Perfect Fit)" (1979). That was quite slick, so I assume it was more of the same and lets take advantage of the technology and instruments emerging.
The joy is, Miller's vocals. He is such a persuasive bluesy rock vocalist (with a good ear for pop and soul not to mention a good ear for new music) that he can lift a good song to greater heights. At the time of release 1980 this is as good, if not better than Rod Stewart, though Rod was having all the hits.
In my other comment I mentioned the fact that Bob Seger has said Frankie was a big influence on him. I think, and this isn't out there as Rod has said so himself, he is quite a influence on Rod Stewart. Though, the influence isn't one of musician and pupil because they were both around at the same time. A Glaswegian, Miller's first group was The Stoics in the late sixties before joining the short-lived Jude which Robin Trower had formed shortly after leaving Procol Harum. Upon their demise Miller recorded his first solo album, "Once In A Blue Moo" (1973). Rod started in 1963, played in a variety of bands before releasing his first album in late 1969. I think the influence is a result of their love of the blues and the fact that their voices are similar and they are both Scottish (well Rod identifies as a Scot and is of Scottish descent on his fathers side).
Rod generally has (had in the 70s) better material and can swagger.
Frankie has got the balls but, to the record buying public, he is a less sexy Rod Stewart.
Check out the sleeve to this album and then compare it to any Rod Stewart album of the time if you need further proof.
And sex helps pay the bills.
Produced by Hitmen and Frankie Miller. The Hitmen are Troy Seals and his (Miller's) backing band (and some of Nashville's finest session musicians at the time), Reggie Young, Bobby Thompson, Larry Londin, Joe Osborne). The album was recorded at Sound Stage Studios, Nashville.
Tracks (best in italics)
Easy Money – (Miller, Setser, Seals) – very slick and quite empty. Strange as this is the title song.
The Woman In You – (Miller, Seals) – this is quite good and shows a very Rod Stewart feel and has some great full horns.
So Young, So Young – (Camilleri, Faehse, Burstin) – Originally written by Joe Camilleri and others and released in 1978 on the Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons album "So Young". The song was a #48 hit in Australia. I'm not sure how Frankie Miller came across it as Jo Jo Zep were a popular blues and rock band in Australia only. (though they toured the US in1980). Elvis Costello & The Attractions did a version in 1987.
Heartbreak Radio – (Miller, Seals) – a nice (small) rip of "Pretty Woman" at the start turns into a honk blues rock.
Cheap…Thrills – (McDill) – David Allan Coe had a #45 country hit with this in 1983. Confederate Railroad covered the song in 2007. So-so and very barroom country rock circa 1980s.
No Chance – (Martin) – quite a nice rootsy mid tempo song. Originally by the author, rockabilly and pop singer, Moon Martin, released in 1979 (#50US).
Gimme Love – (Miller, Setser, Seals) – funky breaks about five years too late.
Tears – (Miller) – a power ballad. Bonnie Tyler covered this as a duet with Frankie on her "Faster Than the Speed of Night" album from 1983.
I thought this was going to be a lot worse this is, actually, quite good. Dated by 1980 but quite good … I would normally tape a couple of tunes and sell it, and I still might, but I may just keep it and file it alongside Rod Stewart,
Buck Owens was riding high in the mid-60s. Every single he released (and there were fourteen of them) between 1963 and 1967 went to number one in the country charts.
His hit making didn't dissipate until the mid-7os but as a solid block of successful singles the 60s run is undeniably impressive.
This album by all accounts was made up of bits and pieces that were cobbled together because of the demand for Buck material.
The tracks were recorded between May 1965 and November 1966.
Although these tracks weren't originally recorded with an album in mind, the mid-60s Buckaroos were generating so much great material that everything was getting released.
The album features three #1 country hits, "Only You", "Your Tender Loving Care", and "Sam's Place", all which were released before the album.
It was obvious that they were needed to be put on an album with whatever other songs hadn't been released yet.
The result, "Your Tender Loving Care".
This hodgepodge type of releasing which seems to affect country, trad pop and Elvis Presley releases can be open to criticism. People, generally, like to think an album, is a collection of material specifically recorded for an album with a specific vision. But, as long as the songs are recorded in short compass of each other, the stylistic vision of the artist will come through. Their proximity to each other taps into what the musician was feeling at the time.
And so it is with Buck Owens. The sound, mood and feel is such that all these songs hang together well as if they were meant to be on an album all along.
Buck is amazing for his sheer consistency. This album doesn't, despite the hits, have some of the killer mid-60s tracks and isn't as contemplative as his late-60s or early-70s albums (which I love) but just about every song is solid.
Impressive is, Bucks writing.
It seems that the vast majority of country music (especially in pre-outlaw days) was about, your partner lying to you, your partner cheating on you, your partner leaving you, with a smattering of having no one to love songs which I wouldn't think would be a bad thing in country music, given that partners seem to be always lying, cheating, and leaving.
Yes there are a few true love songs, faith in the family songs, getting drunk songs and on the road songs but the dramatic edge seems to lie with the difficulties of life in love.
Buck, manages, in a well established genre to make the songs about the vicissitudes of love sound fresh.
There is an honesty in the twang of his voice and a sincerity in the lyrics which makes him sound like he isn't just refrying old themes, which I suppose he is. But, then again, maybe all of life is just refried old themes.
All songs by Buck unless otherwise noted.
Tracks (best in italics)
Your Tender Loving Care – a country love ballad which Buck can pull off without schmaltz and cloying sentimentality.
Song and Dance – an great up-tempo number with great twanging Telecasters and harmonies. A woman leaves her man for another but gets tired and comes back looking for a second chance.
Only You (Can Break My Heart) – the pedal steel dominates here
What a Liar I Am – another good song though not a standout.
Someone With No One to Love – (Buck Owens, Red Simpson) – The pedal steel dominates again here is this of told tale of loneliness without love.
Rocks in My Head – another great song about a a faithful and loyal man
Sam's Place – (Owens, Simpson) – a great hoot of a song. I think we would all like to hang out at Sam's place. Good name for an alt country club also!
If I Had You Back Again – apparently the narrator would walk the "straight and narrow" if he had his chick back again. I want to believe him.
House of Memories – (Merle Haggard) – I'm not sure how this got recorded by Buck but Merle released his version on his "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive" (1967) album. But it makes sense to record a tune by fellow Bakersfield musician Merle Haggard, who had just started his climb to the upper echelons of country music. This is a good song and very Merle Haggard who writes about guilt so convincingly I'm surprised he isn't Catholic.
Only You (And You Alone) – (Robert J. Wooten) – a Mexican Latin lilt in this song give this song a very pleasant air, A treat.
Don't Ever Tell Me Goodbye – (Owens, Simpson) –
You Made a Monkey Out of Me – (Owens and Don Rich) – they lyrics are pure country corn but resonate because they are spoken direct English (despite the analogy)
Keeping up with current sounds is normal for a musician.
Where I have a problem with it is if the act have totally changed their sound for the sake of jumping on a trend or sound which wasn't there before.
At best, the new sound should just add a veneer to the musicians musical personality.
And, this is how we get to Jackie DeShannon in 1977.
She had been singing professionally since 1957. Her peak of popularity was in the 60s and ealy 70s. Through out that period she was remarkably consistent in musical personality , the only big shift in her musical personality (singer and songwriter) came in the late 60s where she became more of introspective (as was the trend). But even with that introspection Jackie never lost sight of pop melody.
In 1977 and without any substantial hits since 1969 she tried to keep on tops of the sounds that were popular. He previous album "New Arrangements" (1975) had already done that with it's MOR sound.
Here, backed by session men, she embraced the 70s California sound – MOR balladry, the mellower aspects of the singer/songwriter, studio rock mixed with faux country rock pop.
To be fair, though, she was ahead of the sound anyway. Her Laurel Canyon sound recordings anticipated a lot of this. Laurel Canyon in leafy semi-rural Los Angeles was more an attitude than a sound though the music did lend itself to singer-songriter, introspection, folky and country overtones.
From there it wasn't a big musical leap to the MOR soft rock, and country inflections of the California sound in the mid to late 70s.
This is slick stuff.
And it produced many hits.
Hits by The Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, The Doobie Brothers, Seals & Crofts, Linda Ronstadt , Steely Dan, Loggins & Messina, Poco, Bread, the later Fleetwood Mac.
Jackie's strengths have always been her sense of pop (which she continuously applies in her songwriting), her ear for a cover that suits her and her voice.
And that saves this album and, perhaps, gives it a distinction from much of the other similar music at the time. Having said that there are no self penned killer tunes and Jackie's voice is a little more wounded, emotional, aid back, and wavery than usual. I prefer it hen it is a little more bossy or unequivocal.
The album is very mid-70s Anne Murray at times which is not unusual as producer Jim Ed Norman produced Murray's hit albums at the time. Jim Ed Norman played with and then worked with much of the country rock and California sound acts of the 70s.
Everything was in place, but … the album failed to re-ignite her career.
Perhaps it is a little sad knowing that within a year a group of younger acts like The Go Gos, Rachel Sweet were taking the sprit and sound of her 60s pop and changing the music scene.
Cest la vie.
Tracks (best in italics)
Don't Let The Flame Burn Out – (Jackie DeShannon) – a great example of a pop sensibility overlaid on the sound of the day. Ultimately it is slight but it is undeniably catchy.
I Just Can't Say No To You – (Parker McGee, Steve Gibson) – released as a single by writer Parker McGee in 1976. Another catchy one with pop country overtones.
Just To Feel This Love From You – (Dean MacDougall, Jackie DeShannon) – a MOR power ballad with country overtones.
I Don't Think I Can Wait – (Jackie DeShannon) – slick, with tinkly keyboards and angelic female backing voices.
To Love Somebody – (B. Gibb, R. Gibb) – The song was the second single released by the Bee Gees from their international debut album, Bee Gees 1st, in 1967. It reached #17 in the US and #41 in the UK. This is a full bodied version of the song but it is done well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Love_Somebody_(song)
You're The Only Dancer – (Jackie DeShannon) – the album title tune though not the strongest song on the album. It is very MOR though catchy..
Try To Win A Friend – (Larry Gatlin) – Country singer and songwriter Larry Gatlin released this on his album "The Pilgrim" (1973) though the first release may have been by country songstress Dottie West, also in 1973. AMOR country pop weepie.
Dorothy – (Hugh Prestwood) – by Nashville songwriter Prestwood. The song was about what happened to Dorothy after she got back from Oz. At some point Prestwood sent the song out to producer Jim Ed Norman who gave it to Jackie. Judy Collins subsequently covered it on her #54 US album "Hard Times For Lovers" (1979) which gave the song more exposure. Too many stings and things here.
Your Love Has Got A Hold On Me – (Dean MacDougall, Jackie DeShannon) – this is better. It is quite bouncy like a 60s song updated to the 70s.
Tonight You're Doin' It Right – (Jackie DeShannon) – another catchy one.
Look, I love Jackie. This is very patchy but … I'm keeping it.
1977 Don't Let The Flame Burn Out #68, #20 US Adult Contemporary
If you read this blog enough you will hear me say, and, yes, I'm saying it again, the 80s were awful for mainstream music.
New mainstream sounded awful and "in the charts" mainstream was rubbish but the hardest hit by the 80s sound were the old acts from the 60s and 70s.
Many people would disagree with me but they are looking at the music, or rather, remembering the music through the joy of their youth.
Okay, I don't come to this argument with clean hands. I disliked mainstream 80s music in the 80s. I was a kid but I was listening to 50s, 60s and 70s music. I also lived for indie / underground / alternative music mainly because it (sounded then) so raw , under-produced and organic. One argument is that those bands sounded "raw" because they didn't that have the money to sound any "better". There is some truth to that because as soon as some of those bands were signed to major labels they ended up sounding like mainstream crap. I think, though, that most of those bands didn't sound like the mainstream because they were looking backwards trying to emulate their heroes of the past whilst the mainstream was looking forward to the future.
And their future was full of synthesisers, drum machines, loud guitars without any ragged edges, and full vocals that seemed to have been recorded at a different time laid and over the instrumental track.
It's one thing if you are a New Wave band doing this … you may get away with it because you sort of anticipated the sound. But, it is altogether something else, if you are an older act and you are trying to sound contemporary. It is sad.
Those albums (and everyone gave it a go: Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Joe Cocker, Van Morrison) may have sounded good then and even had chart success but now they just sound awful.
And this is how we come to Stephen Stills. His previous two albums hadn't done that well, so he came out with this attempt for chart success.
But, his folk rock, country, blues singer songwriter genes was not suited to synths and drum machines
It is better to stick to your (musical) guns and remain out of touch. The music will become fashionable again and with back catalogue sales you may have a career rise. Most importantly, your career won't be blighted by ill-conceived product.
Stills is a bit of a legend, albeit not a common knowledge one. Wikipedia: "Stephen Arthur Stills (born January 3, 1945) is an American musician and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young … Beginning his professional career with Buffalo Springfield, he composed their only hit "For What It's Worth," which became one of the most recognizable songs of the decade. Other notable songs he contributed to the band were "Sit Down, I Think I Love You," "Bluebird" and "Rock & Roll Woman." According to Richie Furay, he was "the heart and soul of BuffaloSpringfield." … After BuffaloSpringfield broke up, Stills began working with David Crosby and Graham Nash on their debut album. Stills, in addition to writing much of the album, played bass, guitar, and keyboards on most of the album. The album sold over four million copies and at that point, had outsold anything from the three members' prior bands: The Byrds, BuffaloSpringfield, and The Hollies. The album won the trio a Grammy Award for Best New Artist … Neil Young, formerly of BuffaloSpringfield, joined CSN months later for their second concert at Woodstock and subsequent album Déjà Vu. The album found Stills again as a leader of the group. Living up to his nickname "Captain Many Hands" he played bass, guitar and keyboard on the title track, and electric guitar and piano on Helpless. Young appeared on half of the album, which became a huge success and sold over eight million copies. In its wake all four members of CSNY released solo albums that reached the top 20 … ".
Stephen Stills released his first self titled solo album in 1970 which went to #3 in the US. Each subsequent album charted a little lower in the charts. The album preceding this one, "Thoroughfare Gap", charted at #83 (US).
That album had flirted with disco. You would have thought Stills would have learnt his lesson about chasing chart success by incorporating contemporary popular sounds.
No, he didn't.
It took six years to get to this album, "Right By You" though he wasn't quiet during that period as he put out two patchy Crosby Stills and Nash albums.
This album has a host of great guest musicians including Jimmy Page on guitar on three tracks (perhaps not that unusual as Led Zeppelin had done the Stephen Stills penned Buffalo Springfield song, "What It's Worth", live in 1975 and Stills had used Clapton and Hendrix before) and Herb Pedersen, Bernie Leadon and Jerry Scheff on one. Old cohorts Graham Nash, Chris Hillman and Mike Finnigan provide backing vocals (along with John Sambataro) and the occasional instrument.
But they are all buried under bad (atrocious and very typical) 80s production. This is truly awful. Stills knows how to write a song and choose a cover (though the use of professional songwriters with recent hits seems a little calculating) but almost nothing works here.
Chart wise, did the gambit pay off?
No, though the album charted marginally higher than his album previous. This was Stills last solo album for seven years and the last for a major label.
And, what is with the cover art? Stills must have been into speedboats, the back has him on one whilst the front pic is a speedboat in outer space with futuristic font. A visual attempt at relevancy. Granted the outer space sleeves were big in the late 70s early 80s (Chuck Berry's guitar spaceship on "Rockit" (1979) the only one that works) but this is particularly naff.
The album was produced by Ron Albert, Howard Albert and Stephen Stills apart from Can't Let Go" which was produced by (former 60s teen idol come) Steve Alaimo.
Tracks (best in italics)
50/50 – (Joe Lala, Stills) – a Latin feel and groove runs through this and it is awful. Starting an album with this does not offer any comfort. Page provides a short guitar solo in the Santana vein.
Stranger – (Stills, Christopher Stills) – fark, Shoot me. This feels like, err bad Top 40 radio in, errr, 1984 or 1985. I can see myself walking through a shop in 1985 with this playing in the background.
Flaming Heart – (Ray Arnott) – Ray Arnott was an Australian musician (drummer) from the bands Spectrum, The Dingoes, and Cold Chisel as well as fronting his own band, the Ray Arnott Group. I don't know how Stills got hold of this song. It came out on a Ray Arnott band album, "Rock n Roll" in 1985.The single came out in 1984). Page provides guitar. This is a slow but muscular rocker that is done in my the production. There is a good bit right before Page cuts loose, Stills proclaims " Talk about it James!"
Love Again – (Stills) – fark, utter pus. This could be The Hooters, though not as good!
No Problem – (Stills) – yes there is. A big one.
Can't Let Go – (Joe Esposito, Ali Willis) – Joe Esposito and Allee Willis were MOR pop rock American singers and songwriters. Marginally better with some nice electric guitar wankery by Stills himself.
Grey to Green – (Stills, James Newton Howard) – rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, and very , very, very 80s.
Only Love Can Break Your Heart – (Neil Young, additional lyrics Stephen Stills) – from Neil Yung's " After the Gold Rush" from 1970. The production is awful but the song is good and Stills vocals sound right.
No Hiding Place – (Louise Cirtain, Gladys Stacey, A. P. Carter, additional lyrics Stephen Stills) – The Carter Family song from 1934. Slick but great. This is one of the few songs that seems to be commentating on political and social issues which was a normal feature of (liberal) Stills song writing. Stills has added some new lyrics to the old country number. "There's No Hiding place down here" in 1984 during Ronald Reagan's presidency and Star Wars program can't be accidental. This sounds out of place on this album. The guesting of Hillman, Pedersen, Nash, Leadon, Finnigan and Scheff is welcome.
Right by You – (Stills) – a slow blues with Page on guitar. This is quite good (though a little, yawnsville, biker blues-ey) though, again, out of place on this album.
Awful, but I like Stills and have most of his other albums so for completeness …. I'm keeping it. I may try sneaking it on at a dinner party to se what happens.
I have written many comments on this blog about Rivers and his albums. Check them out for biographical detail but especially check out the "Slim Slo Slider" (1970) comment.
That album and this one have been joined on a 2fer on CD and it is right to do so but not just because of their chronology but because Rivers was really on a down home earthward bent.
Rivers was primarily a rock n roller. From straight ahead Elvis-like rock in the 50s, to his slick (but ragged?) Go Go rock of the 60s, through his boogie woogie of the 70s to his revival style in the 80s and beyond,
But, at various times, perhaps to keep up with the sounds and to remain to commercial (everyone does), or perhaps because of a significant change of outlook, he has interrupted his rock 'n' roll with drabs of folk rock, a whole lot of pop psych, a dash of MOR and on this southern, country, and Hollywood hippiebilly (country California) music.
Rivers has, however, kept his musical personality front and centre and hasn't tried to be something he isn't. He is / or seems to be just tapping into lesser known parts of his musical personality and bringing them to the fore.
Rivers, Louisiana born and bred, isn't reaching far to explores sounds with southern, country and soul roots. And, at 29, he wasn't too old to voice the concerns of the questioning young, even if he had been a pop star for many years.
Rivers has a distinctive style. On up-tempo songs he tends to have a straight rock 'n' roll voice (and there is nothing wrong with that) but lets his guitar and instrumentation give him his musical personality. On the slower songs he gravitates to singing in a soulful way regardless of the song which makes his interpretations of covers quite distinctive.
Rivers could write a tune, and had his first brush with fame writing songs. But, he is known mostly as a covers artist. Most of his hits have been cover songs. Most of his biggest hits have been cover songs.
And Rivers has been denigrated underrated and dismissed for being a cover artist.
But, he can write … if that is important to you (and its not to me, interpretations are). Rivers problem is that, at times, he seems have less faith in his songs than he does in the covers. "Slim Slo Slider" was all covers and this album has only three originals which fit into the whole and are nothing to be ashamed of.
His covers are exceptionally well chosen. He seems to have a knack for picking the right song for his album and for bringing exposure to young artists. Here he has recorded two classic Jackson Browne songs which he recorded before Jackson Browne or anyone else had released them as well as a classic James Taylor song which was climbing it's way up the charts.
All the songs deal with contemporary issues even though few are explicit. The early-70s in the US was a time of social disenchantment. As I have said before, elsewhere, environmental degradation, unemployment, urban decay, the Vietnam war, soulless consumerism had to led to civil unrest and a search for something else. Many songwriters and entertainers were affected by the same. A back to the earth movement, new spirituality and re-found appreciation of traditional agrarian community values (family, religion, less faith in science …), was one of the results of that. And songwriters reflected the same.
And so did Rivers through his songs and the songs he chose.
There is nothing "rock" here (unless it is in the earth – sic) and very little up-tempo but there is a lot of dirt under the nails, soul searching, religion and spirituality and reflection all surrounded with a ragged pop sensibility … which is also reflected in the albums gatefold sleeve artwork.
This then, with "Slim Slo Slider" is Johnny Rivers singer-songwriter album even though he wrote only a few songs on them.
Putting all that to one side River used a string of exceptional musicians (James Burton and Mike Deasy are legends). A lot were old friends he had worked with many times, and a few were newer on the California scene. A lot were in (not surprisingly) Elvis' recently formed touring band and were recording similar new country and southern sounds with him in the studio.
I was a fascinating time to be in California musically before it all became standardised in the mid-70s.
Tracks (best in italics)
Moving To The Country – (Charles D. Harris – Ron Milo Duquette) – the writers are from country rock band "Charley D. and Milo". This song wasn't on their only album from 1970. This encapsulates one of the central themes in early-70s American music … a retreat for the city to the country. The writers also supply guitar and backing vocals on the song.
My New Life – (Frank Kinsel) – Another great song about change. Kinsell was an emerging singer songwriter who had put out an album in 1970 (his only major release). This song was not on it.
Our Lady Of The Well – (Jackson Browne) – A beautiful Browne song
Look At The Sun – (Johnny Rivers – Frank Kinsel) – Quite spiritual. I don know how Rivers hooked up with Kinsell or if they sat down together to write this. But thematically it fits in perfectly with everything else
Think His Name – (Mincy – Shanklin – Coe – Mincy – Shanklin) – Martha Mincy, Wayne Mincy, Todd Shanklin , Wayne Shanklin & Tommy Coe I think were all professional writers with work going back to the 50s and trad pop. The name they want you to think is "Jesus Christ". A great tune which could have worked in a rural version of "Godspell". One of the catchiest Jesus songs I have heard. It could even make a believer out of a lapsed Catholics again (Cashie are you reading this? I mean no one has written songs about Richard Dawkins yet, have they?). I have no idea who the Guru Ramdas Ashram Singers are but Guru Ram Das was a Sikh Guru and there is a temple in Los Angeles so ….
Perfect, relaxing, reflective Sunday morning music … I'm keeping it.
At the risk of sounding twee I will say that in some ways knowing nothing about a band can be a good thing. There are no preconceptions because all you have to gauge the music is the music itself and art work. The music has to stand on its own. This is, perhaps, how it should be but popular music is more than just music, as has been proven many times.
The Rockspurs seem to be New Yorkers (well at least a couple of them are) who signed to English label DJM which had distribution and offices in the US.
Lead vocalist and bassist, Greg Hollister, had been in rock bands "The Silver Caboose" and , "Anthem" who released an album in 1970 and then went on to tour and do sessions in the 70s and 80s. He is currently in the band Marco de Sade.
New Yorker and guitarist Mike Festa ended up playing guitar, in the 80s, for Shakin Stevens. He now lives in Adelaide, Australia and fronts "Mike Festa & Bluesmen".
That's about it on history.
Artwork … make up your mind yourself but, in this age, charges of sexism would be levelled … especially regarding the back sleeve. The hand on the fly is a giveaway. Then again the album is called "Getting Off …", what did you expect?
But, to be fair, the late 70s was littered with hard rock, power pop and pub rock sleeves like this. A sign of the times? We are better than that now? And our music is better also?
The Rockspurs seem to be another rock band jumping on the skinny tie new wave, power pop
phenomena at the end of the 70s.
That said, this album was released in the very early days of new wave rock (in 1979) whilst their first self titled album was released in 1978 (and apparently is more of the same) and, accordingly, the band gets kudos for being earlier than the opportunistic efforts by latter-day "power-pop" bands.
The Rockspurs aren't fully power pop, they aren't frantic and there are quite a few standard hard rock and mainstream rock stylings but they hit enough power pop markers to come in under the banner. They also have strong vocal harmonies, sometimes sounding like power pop if it was done by The Four Seasons.
They are perhaps a bit more on the Greg Kihn (or The Babys) side, with nods to mid 70's Graham Parker.
Jerky hook laden pop with harmonies.
The musicianship is strong and there is a bit of humour and "street" attitude.
Power pop fans will, ultimately, get into this like this as there are a few good power pop songs, and there is that evocative artwork which reflects power pops musical obsessions with girls, love, sex, and good times.
Tracks (best in italics)
Thinkin' About The Good Times – (Gregg Hollister) – a good song though a little underwhelming.
She Can't Get Off – (Michael Festa, Mick Moran) – this one has more new wave stylings though it falls back on standard rock motifs.
Dream Love – (Michael Festa) – hmmm
You're With Me Tonight -(Mick Moran, Richard Tannum) – a hoot of a song with good vocals.
I Wish There Were More To The Story -(Michael Festa) – a pleasant song with some attitude.
Red Light Runner – (Mick Moran) – another good power pop tune.
Night Full Of Rain – (Gregg Hollister, Peter Yellen) – a retreat to 70s rock
I Could Give You It All – (Mick Moran) – quirky power pop but quite mainstream … this is just lazy. They could have committed fully to the sound.
Sabotage – (Gregg Hollister) – Someone said, "And now I will write a power pop song". This is full on new wave power pop. It's obvious and a little funny (with a few punk overtones , "annihilate" is used rather that "destroy" and "anarchy") but it is totally enjoyable.
I have a lot of power pop and I'm not a singular power pop fan … I will tape a couple and sell. But … you never know …
I had no knowledge about this band till now. They weren't on my radar and that's strange because the 80s and the 90s were the decades I spent a lot of time searching out new non-mainstream sounds, especially from the US.
I have high hopes for this. The band are American, look vaguely cowpunk-ish, are on a indie label, and have a cool name.
Cause for concern is that it is 1987, a little after the cowpunk genre had peaked, it was recorded in New Jersey (not that there is anything wrong with that but most cowpunk came from California) and they look quite slick.
The concern is mainly ill founded.
The Brandos are a roots rock band who have their roots in power pop and indie rock from the west coast.
Allmusic: " The gritty, back-to-basics rock & roll of New York's the Brandos has roots in the Seattle scene, but not the one that become famous. Brandos frontman Dave Kincaid once led the Allies, an early-'80s power pop band that won an MTV contest with the video for "Emma Peel." However, the new wave-influenced acts emanating from the EmeraldCity back then received little attention outside of the Pacific Northwest so Kincaid split from the Allies and moved to New York in 1985. While skimming through the Village Voice, Kincaid saw an ad from the group Soul Attack looking for another lead singer. Kincaid joined the band and changed their name to the Brandos. Featuring Kincaid on vocals and guitar, Ed Rupprecht (guitar), Ernie Mendillo (bass, vocals), and Larry Mason (drums), the Brandos released their first album, Honor Among Thieves, on Relativity Records in 1987. The Brandos reaped positive coverage in Rolling Stone and Time; moreover, the video for "Gettysburg" was played often on MTV, a channel that rarely supported artists on indie labels. In 1988, Kincaid was chosen as Best Male Vocalist (Independent Label) at the New York Music Awards. The Brandos also left Relativity that year to sign with Geffen Records. But the Geffen deal was tangled in legal hassles, and the group ended up at RCA Records in 1989. RCA dropped the Brandos after they finished their second LP, Trial by Fire, in 1990. The Brandos' third album, Gunfire at Midnight, was distributed by Germany's SPV Records in 1992. Rupprecht and Mason departed from the band in 1993, replaced by ex-Del Lords members Scott Kempner (guitar) and Frank Funaro (drums). In 1996, Frank Giordano (vocals, guitar) was added to the lineup; the group's fourth LP, Pass the Hat, also appeared that year. Kincaid completed a solo album in 1997 but returned to the Brandos for another LP and gigs in Europe with Bryan Adams, Van Morrison, and Deep Purple"
The band have a following in Europe and have recorded 13 albums. Lead singer and main songwriter Dave Kincaid has also recorded a couple of solo albums.
This debut album would have tickled me back in 1987. Listening to it now I still find it enjoyable though what came after it in roots and Americana has tarnished it a little perhaps.
A lot of the roots rock (and some of the cowpunk) from the 80s sounds quite slick today. At the time though it was anything but. The mainstream 80s, as I have said somewhere else was filled with some of the most dire music ever recorded. The dominant 80s sound ruined everything and was all pervasive. Even rockers and rootsy folkers from the 60s and 70s put out 80s albums that sounded over produced and slick. The only relief was from the US alternative indie scene … roots rockers, hardcore punk, paisley underground, leftover power poppers and any number of other fringe dwellers.
But, even then, the production techniques were against them. And, music is a job and most (well not the hardcore punkers) wanted sales and things couldn't get to dirty.
The ragged edges of the 70s roots rockers were filled out.
There is nothing wrong with this. I loved it then because it was different to the mainstream 80s, had links to American musical traditions and sounded positively confrontational when placed against the 80s mainstream.
But, we would have to wait till the 90s for roots, Americana, rock and roll to start sounding rightfully ragged again.
It is sad because ten years later and all these roots rockers would have the perfect mainstream rock sound and would have made a lot of cash.
Think The Del Lords, The Beat Farmers, The Blasters, True Believers, The Long Ryders, Jason and the Scorchers … and I don't mind thinking these bands as these are all bands I loved in the 80s, and still do.
The Brandos may have jumped on a rootsy bandwagon given their pedigree.
"The Allies had risen out of the ashes of Bighorn, a popular Seattle group that made a big-time, major-label record in 1976 and toured behind arena rockers like REO Speedwagon. After Bighorn tanked in 1979, drummer Adamek switched to guitar and fronted the Allies with newcomer Kincaid. The Allies gigged with abandon around Seattle for quite a spell, but Adamek quit the group after they failed to cash in on the buzz surrounding their self-released debut, and Kincaid called it a day in 1984. He switched coasts to try his luck in a bigger pond – New York City … The Brandos, in short order, David Kincaid had his second brush with greatness by, cynics might claim, hopping on yet another bandwagon. During the mid-80's, numerous American rockers were embracing their ostensible roots: country, folk, blues, and rock 'n' roll played the way God intended – loud and unencumbered. Perhaps these bands were reacting to the fey, synthesized road rock had taken since new wave supplanted disco in the hearts of the fickle public. Regardless, this "American Music" movement spawned acts as illustrious as the Blasters, Los Lobos, Long Ryders, Del Fuegos, and BoDeans, leading eventually to the acoustic-based "Americana" movement that persists to this day … Anyway, David Kincaid's new band, the Brandos (formed with former Allies drummer Larry Mason and members of local New York rockers Soul Attack) unblinkingly embraced this burgeoning genre. The Brandos readily affected the trappings common to bands of this ilk – working-class couture, heroic swagger, and a fetishistic obsession with American history".http://www.randysrodeo.com/pop/allies.php
Their roots rock don't come from a punk, new wave or outsiders background though I think come from Kincaid and a real interest in American musical history (and history generally). Kincaid is sharp and has throaty John Fogerty-like vocals with conviction.
The band combines roots rock, with some hard rock & folk rock. The songs were given big rock productions with a tendency to anthemic sounds with (over) emotion always on display. The sound is very 90's so it amazing to hear this kind of sound in 1987.
The Brandos never spent much time in the sweaty trenches with their genre mates. After this albums release they were on MTV rotation, touring the U.S. and Europe, opening for The Georgia Satellites, INXS, The Cars and The Alarm and being reviewed favourably reviewed by out of touch, well behind the event, old fart magazines like Rolling Stone, Creem and Time (in its music review section). They even won Best Album (Independent Label) for this album at the New York Music Awards (Kincaid won Best Male Vocalist (Independent Label)).
I sound like I'm criticizing the band. I'm not. Well, not entirely. The Brandos have the skills, and there is some very angry writing in there (and befits the American indie underground of the 80s) as well as a couple of well chosen covers (every album should have a couple of covers as far as I'm, concerned).
It may be slick roots rock but is sure would have sounded good in the 80s.
Produced and arranged by Dave Kincaid.
Tracks (best in italics)
Gettysburg – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – catchy, full sound, sobering subject matter.
A Matter of Survival – (Dave Kincaid) – another catchy song (with a pulsating beat that reminds me a little of "Dont Fear the Reaper" by the Blue Oyster Cult) though there are some old school guitar wankerisms.
Nothing to Fear – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – …
Honor Among Thieves – (Dave Kincaid) – deliberately slow paced and angry but obscure. I assume it is about 80s greed, banks and the financial crisis at the time.
Strychnine – (Gerald Roslie) – The Sonics magnificent song from 1966. A good version …pity about the production on the 80s drums.
Hard Luck Runner – (Dave Kincaid) – …
In My Dreams – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – a slow grind.
Walking on the Water – (John Fogerty) – "Walk on the Water" was a song on. Creedence Clearwater Revival's first album from 1968. The track is a remake of "Walking on the Water", a recording released by the band as a single, in 1966, while they were still known as The Golliwogs. He has the right voice for this and sounds a little like Fogerty … and there is nothing wrong with that
Come Home – (Dave Kincaid) – the folk ballad which is given the big treatment … and again a little like Creedence.
Patchy, but with enough good songs in a genre of music I like … I'm keeping it.
Kincaid's solo albums are songs of irish volunteers in the US civil war. Allmusic: "Singer David Kincaid was best known as the frontman of the roots-rock band the Brandos when he took a break from contemporary life and music to join the 116th, a Civil War re-enactment troop. His fascination with history led him to begin researching the obscure traditional songs sung by Irish Union soldiers during the war between the states". http://www.allmusic.com/artist/david-kincaid-mn0001446804
This has been floating around for ages. I had it, I listened to it, I tried to sell it, and somehow it ended back in my "to listen pile".
At the time I thought this sounded too much like Elvis Costello and I found lot of Elvis Costello boring (yes, even the early stuff before he became American) but to be fair I haven't listened to all of Elvis Costello's albums.
It seems I'm not the only one that thinks this.
That The Jags sound like Elvis Costello not that a lot of Elvis Costello music is boring. Every review of the time or subsequently compares The Jags to Costello or The Rumour – some positively and some referring to them as mimics.
Wikipedia: "The Jags were a British rock band formed in North Yorkshire in 1978, composed of Nick Watkinson (vocals), John Alder (guitar/backing vocals), Steve Prudence (bass), firstly Neil Whittaker and then Alex Baird (drums), Michael Cotton (bass/backing vocals) and Patrick O'Toole (piano/keyboard) … They signed to Island Records in July 1978 and initially released a four-track EP … On 8 September 1979, the power pop single "Back of My Hand", written by Watkinson and left-handed guitarist Alder, entered the UK Singles Chart. It had a chart life of 10 weeks and peaked at number 17. "Back of My Hand" was included on their debut album Evening Standards, which was released the following year. Their follow-up single "Woman's World" entered the UK chart on 2 February 1980 at number 75 – dropping out the next week … 1981 saw the release of their second, and what proved to be, final album, No Tie Like a Present. The Jags disbanded in 1982".
There is a massive power pop fan base on line and The Jags first album seems to get reviewed and commented on a lot but a lot of it is just rehash because the band were short lived, a one (small) hit wonder (in England) and didn't really have a big, lasting impact.
Does this mean they are bad?
No, not at all, music is about enjoyment (for us the listener) but for the band some longevity, notoriety or substanital success would have helped pay the bills.
The Jags were a product of their time but it was a good time. Both sides of the Atlantic (but especially the US) were overrun which power pop bands. The Knack, The Romantics, The DBs, Cheap Trick, The Cars, Dwight Twilley, The Vapors, Bram Tchaikovsky . The Nerrves, The Plimsouls.
Strong song writing, nice harmonies, punchy guitars or touches of 12-String Rickenbacker, lyrics about love or love lost make for pretty good toe tapping listening.
I prefer my power pop American because there seems to be more of a tradition to the 60s (as opposed to just trying to sound 60s) and they also like to mix it up a little and experiment in a genre where bands are not known for their experimentation. Power pop bands tended to stick to the formula (a good one though) and only experimented on subsequent albums. Most power pop bands (like the Jags)) did follow up albums in a different styles altogether rather than tweaking power pop by adding to it.
By all accounts The Jags had the live chops but couldn't escape the Costello shadow.
"One positive constant of the band’s early press coverage is the assertion they were one of the most professional, musically tight and entertaining live acts on the U.K. new-wave/punk-pop circuit. Great rock ‘n’ roll lives onstage; by all accounts the Jags were a great live band. It should be also explained to American readers that the U.K. music press has the deserved reputation in some circles as being vicious and just plain arbitrary. Then, as now, they can saddle a band either as a “next big thing” or as unworthy of any attention—and then hammer the public relentlessly with their pontification. By 1979, Costello had been anointed by the U.K. music press as a pop savior, with all others to be seen as unworthy of even attempting his singular style. The Jags were easy targets as industry newcomers". http://www.magnetmagazine.com/2009/07/31/the-jags-power-goes-pop/
Guitarists Watkinson and Alder join on vocal harmonies and recall the young McCartney and Lennon and others but they aren't The Beatles and they lack the new-wave anger of Graham Parker, Elvis Costello or and Jackson which was rewuired.
Power pop died pretty quickly on the UK whilst in America its legs were a little longer, just a little.
As steam ran out of power pop, the band attempted to change their sound a bit. 1981's "No Tie Like The Present", featured a new direction (and some new personnel) but it was overlooked. They toughened up their sound, toning down the keyboards, amping up the guitars, and ending up sounding more like The Clash