Monday, February 23, 2015

The Police - Synchronicity 1983

This week, we're going back to the early 80's with an album that monumental for a few reasons, all of which I'll dive into in a bit.  First though, let's talk briefly about The Police.  In an era where groups were breaking out of the 60's and 70's with newer sounds and solo projects, some creating super groups and embracing technology, The Police came through with their own style by rapidly changing and evolving their sound in a short 5 or 6 years.  They went from a group in London embracing the Punk scene, to a trio embracing world music and new wave.  One could even argue that given the time and influences, that they evolved into one of the first New Wave groups of the time.   (Indeed, New Wave was born of Punk, or should I say America + Punk = New Wave)

Like every album I've ever owned and each album I showcase, this one is special to me for a lot of reasons.  None of which I'll dive into at all though.  Instead, let's talk about why 1983's Synchronicity was monumental.  First, it was the final studio album that the Police would release as a group.  (Best of's aside) What's interesting about this is, no one had an expectation for the group to continue either.  By 1984 music was on such a roll with great new artists and a breakneck pace of releases not seen since the 50's that many groups born in that era came and went without ever being known for little more than a hit or two.  Sting however went on with an epic solo career that to a degree exists 30+ years later.

Next, the album ended up with a bunch of hits, but only 4 official singles.  Of course everybody's heard of Every Breath You Take, King of Pain, Synchronicity II and Wrapped Around Your Finger.  But if you're not familiar with Miss Gradenko or Mother, you'll probably wonder how these weren't all over the radio.

1983 also saw Michael Jackson celebrating 1982's year end carryover release of Thriller hard, which to this day still stands as one of the biggest albums of all time.  Jackson's Thriller had been the number 1 album since that January and was briefly set back by Flashdance, (Which to this day shocks me that both the movie and album was ever that popular), for two weeks over the summer where upon it came back.  Now here's where it get's funky...  Thriller, (released in November of '82), comes back at number 1 for 2 weeks, (In June) to be unseated by Synchronicity.  Synchronicity became the album of the summer until Thriller made a last stand when Michael released the single Human Nature that summer but it only carried the album back for 2 weeks as the release of Wrapped Around Your Finger would set Synchronicity up a back and forth battle of the singles through the fall of 1983.  All things said and done, it was The Police with this album, that ended Michael Jackson's Thriller, almost year long run at the top of the charts.
The Police - Wrapped Around Your Finger

This original 1983 release of Synchronicity was purchased at Listen Up! Records in Natick MA sealed and like all vinyl versions of this album was pressed on audiophile vinyl.  Depending on the light, this record is actually purple, and should be listened to in the best environment possible.  Get a great set of headphones, plug it into an awesome player and try to resist pulling an Eddie Murphy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Vinyl Monday!! The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Lets Face It & The Rascal King

Ska.  When you hear the term Ska, what comes to mind?  The answer depends on how old you are, and to a degree, what you classify ska as.  I could do an entire post on what Ska is, where it came from, where it went, what happened to it, and why it's thankfully no longer mainstream.  (Thank you Gwen Stefani)  Instead, I'm going to talk about one of the groups that made it mainstream.  At their best, they created an aggressive form of Ska that was approachable to even the most tuned out 90's crowd.  At their worst they were the hardest Ska-core band period.  1997's Let's Face It from Boston's own Mighty Mighty Bosstones was an exposition in power Ska.  

In an era dominated by so many different kinds of sub-genres of music gaining in popularity, each one had it's definitions.  To that end, each one had a popular voice, a real voice, and an underground.  For example;

Popular: Nirvana
Real: Soundgarden
Underground: Mudhoney.

For Ska
Popular: No Doubt

Real: Sublime
Underground: Aggrolites 

The Bosstones were one of the few artists that kept true to the roots of Ska while energizing a fan base of hard core, (Ska-core)  with soaring anthems, power brass, and high energy rhythm.  This album show's that effort off in grand fashion.  It's the groups 5th studio album and easily one of, if not the best one they ever produced.  Being certified platinum and presenting 3 of their biggest singles since their inception as a group in 1983, kinda makes this one of the most legit albums of that era of music.  The album starts off hitting you hard with the intro from Noise Brigade and only goes deep from there.  Check out Royal Oil and The Rascal King for something that again depending on your age will either send you head trippin' back to the 90's or wanting to do some serious downtown Boston drinkin' with your college crew.  

Speaking of The Rascal King.  Apparently it was released as a single.  What you see in the picture above is a release of both the original Lets Face It & Rascal King on Vinyl.  I stumbled on these sealed, again at Deja Vu Records in Natick MA.  If you can find ANY Ska on vinyl I recommend you snatch the fuck out of it and really try to experience it.  You'll never feel it quite the way you did 15 years ago otherwise.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Vinyl Monday!! Eric Clapton - 461 Ocean Boulevard

I realized that my record collection is leaning quite heavily toward's the 80's.  Nothing wrong with that, but it's important to bring things back where they belong for a while.  Back in August, when this was Vinyl Friday, I showcased an Eric Clapton classic, Slowhand.  This time we're going back further to 1974.  Eric Claptons 2nd solo album, 461 Ocean Boulevard.  

If you can fathom an album that for it's time in 1974 would set a standard for Blues Rock that wasn't quite established by Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.  Sure it existed, but now when you hear the term Blues Rock, Clapton defines it, and this album was instrumental in making that case.  

Part of the reason people stood up and took note of this album came from Claptons cover of I Shot The Sheriff.  One of the session guitarists on this album had played with Bob Marley and The Wailers and suggested that a blues version of I Shot The Sheriff be made and included on the LP.  Add to it Steady Rollin Man (A classic Robert Johnson tune) and the riffs from Willie and the Hand Jive and you have a fairly complex album that alters between heartfelt blues and enough rock to groove to.

Eric Clapton - Let It Grow

With few exceptions I can't think of any Clapton album that you would ever WANT to listen to that's not on vinyl.  You'll never hear master level production quality nor will you get the types of analog mid-ranges that made you want to concentrate on what you were listening to when the record dropped.  This release is an original 1974 picked up from Dave's Records in Chicago IL.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Vinyl Monday!! Peter Gabriel - So - 1986

Going platinum five times kind of certifies you as a legitimate artist.  Except for when you already are a legitimate artist.  Peter Gabriel best known in the 60's & 70's as the lead flute, lead singer and founder of the way ahead of its time progressive experimental group, Genesis.  He scored big with his 1986 album, So.  This was his 5th solo release, but it was the first one he made that actually caught on with a mainstream audience.  As one of the last members of Genesis to cut the cord with high level experimentalism and cross over to mainstream pop, he was the first to leave the group that he founded, simply because he was better than that.

Of course, that's a very conceited view on the way things were, but he founded Genesis to be a group of noise one that pushes the limits of machines to produce soundtracks of the world.  He figured that he alone could replicate such success on his own.  Sadly the group felt the same way and by 1977 they parted ways.  By 1986 Peter had released 4 albums that were so progressive they actually weren't even named!  After getting a lot of push back from contemporaries and of course Phil Collins, he ventured down the path of that commercial sound artists were searching for in the early 80's and he found it with So.

His first single from the album, a must listen, Sledgehammer is notable more for it's video believe it or not.   At the time the only video close to such a concept was Don Henley's Boys of Summer in 1984.  Sure, Thriller takes top honor's for the period in time, but it's stuff like this that made MTV the 80's juggernaut that it was.

Sound familiar?  It should.  It's been sampled numerous times, just remember where it came from.  It takes a special kind of genius to marry contemporary melodies to African and Brazilian music styles to pull off such a powerhouse of a song.  Is it any wonder why so many songs are sampled to fuck?  They're just that good.

Other singles from this album, In Your Eyes, Red Rain, and of course, Big Time, which is another video that's a must watch.

Peter Gabriel didn't stop at So, and again it didn't begin here either.  One of the most important facts about Peter and his craft...  He felt so strongly against naming is albums before so, (Named at the time as I, II, III, and IV) simply because titles to him distracted from from the literal art of the album.  (See ANY Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, or Frank Zappa album.)   Unfortunately this is the only Peter Gabriel vinyl that I own.  Fortunately it's common enough to find.  You want the vinyl fidelity here.  I've had this album digitally and it's nowhere near as deep.  To get the horns and drums you'll deed raw uncompressed unfiltered and under produced good shit.  Trust me.  You think you heard this album, you really didn't till you've done so on vinyl.   This original 1986 pressing was purchased from Deja Vu Records in Natick MA.