Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Doors - Strange Days (1967)

The sophomore album from The Doors in 1967 was nothing short of genius.  It came from a few remnants of their first album, which should be expected given that both their first and 2nd albums were released the in the same year.  Wait.  What?  Yeah you see, during what is now known as the musics most creative period, the classic rock era, it wasn't uncommon for artists to pump out releases as often as possible.  That's where we get all these "bootlegs", studio tapes, random cuts, and B sides that we hear about being released years later.  Their first album, self titled, The Doors was out earlier in the Winter.  Strange Days was out late that summer.  Here's when things get really funky though,  Light My Fire, the 2nd single released from their first album was released in April 1967.  It charted well, but didn't hit number 1 till August.  Strange Days was released in September.  It reached number 3, while The Doors was still on the top 10.  Sadly, The Doors didn't have a #1 debut till the following year with their 3rd album, Waiting For The Sun.

The Doors came out and peaked right as the Beatles were facing the downside of their run as the greatest at the time.  While this album was a major commercial success going platinum twice and gold thrice, nobody was beating the Beatles that at the time had 3 of the top 10 albums charting and a ton of singles to go along with it.  The thing about The Doors though, specifically this album, they were something the Beatles weren't dark and poetic.  Until the Beatles went all pop and experimental, thus nailing their own coffin, the Doors were antithesis to that trend.  The Doors went with psychedelia and flowing stories of everything free in the rock era.  It was almost a reach back to the liberating 50's.  Since Zeppelin wasn't around yet, (1968) you really only had Pink Floyd in this area, and frankly, Floyd didn't become Floyd till the late 60's early 70's.  So you have a sound that really, nobody had ever heard before.  

So, what did this album sound like?  It had 2 singles, the first People Are Strange, released about a week before the album in early September 1967.
People Are Strange

Just let that song soak in.  Tell me it's not a commentary on the world around you when you're seemingly the only "normal" one around.  Or, are you the one who's strange, and the world around you is happy?  Incidentally, I know the picture above isn't the greatest, but the album cover was part of the scene in the beginning of that video.

Yeah, that picture is pretty useless too, but you get the point.  The 2nd single, Love Me Two Times, was released 2 months later closer to Thanksgiving.

Love Me Two Times

Shout out to New Haven Connecticut for fucking not only this song for being, and I quote, "Too risque", but the group as a whole by arresting Jim Morrison during a concert that December.  Ever wanted to know where that infamous mug shot of Morrison came from?

This vinyl pick above was procured at the ever awesome Listen Up! records in Natick Massachusetts. It was the Record Store Day reissue of Strange Days in mono.  Incidentally, just a quick note about sound mastering.  Up until sometime in the late 50's early 60's most music was exclusively recorded in mono.  Stereo was about as much of a fad as 3D believe it or not.  (Remember everyone's fascination with the future in the 1950's? Well this is stuff from that era.)  Some say the sound is distinct, and this is true with some recordings.  If an album was originally intended to be released in mono, and was recorded in mono, get your hands on the mono.  If you're a fan of early Beatles, you'll notice the difference as all their stuff back then was exclusively mono.  You pick up certain nuances and instrumentals and unbloated clarity that stereo has a way of literally channeling out.  I should warn you however, finding original mono recordings by anyone is going to be as rare as it will be expensive. Hold out for a master reissue (not remastered) if mono matters.  It should, especially music from rock music's greatest era.

Next post, all kinds of cool stuff.  It'll be the 50th!  New look, awesome pick, and maybe some other randomness it purely depends on what's on my plate.  Hang tight.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Now Spinning

I'm not around my personal setup today, but that doesn't mean that the vinyl stops spinning.  Vinyl Monday is coming, but it might be Tuesday.  Incidentally, this turntable is infinitely better than anything I've used in recent memory. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Huey Lewis And The News - Sports (1983)

I know, I'm beginning to sound like a broken record.  No pun intended.  Whatever though, if it wasn't for Michael Jacksons Thriller in 1982, and with the amount of awesome music around from '82-'85ish, music today would be radically different*.  Depending on how you look at it, and by some measures there were actually some releases that were a lot more popular than Thriller, at the time.  Let's take the combined strength of the 2 biggest Huey Lewis & The News releases, Sports and Fore!.  Both were released 3 years apart, and between the 2 of them featured 11 songs in the Billboard top 10 singles lists across 4 years.  That's a lot more impressive than it sounds.  There are some popular artists out now with unlimited resources that can't get more than 4 singles in their lifetime to crack the top 20.  

Released September 18th 1983, roughly when I started kindergarten, this album served as a late summer classic for a lot of folks.  In a year that saw Donna Summer work hard for the money, U2 went to war, The Police had Synchronicity, over the summer Black Sabbath was Born Again, and Billy Joel was an Innocent Man, September marked the official transition of 70's era rock and disco and entered into the metal and pop.   Huey Lewis & The News Sports, in my opinion anyway, was the game changer for which a lot of pop music through the rest of the decade is based.  (Unless you're Ray Parker Jr. in which case, you're on your own and I'm staying out of that.) 

Sports is the 3rd album released by the group, but the first one to garner a measurable amount of acclaim and popularity.  Sure there was Picture This in 1982 that wasn't bad by any means, I mean it had Workin' For a Livin' cor christ sake.  There was also the groups' self titled album in 1980, Huey Lewis And The News featuring the way ahead of it's time, Trouble in Paradise.  Sports however lead with Heart and Soul release about month before the album dropped and never looked back.  In kicking off a trend of the best music from the 80's which is now considered cheesy, you have a quick song with a great hook and a story.  

Heart and Soul

MTV was about 2 years old at this point so almost any video was watched like it was going out of style.  Heart and Soul carried this album into January of '84 when I Want a New Drug was released.  This in a round about way reignited the popularity of Sports and made it legitimate.  Three more singles would follow,  Heart Of Rock And Roll in April, If This Is It in July and Walking On a Thin Line that October.  See that right there?  October.  This album was dropping singles over a year after it's release.  Who does that!? 

Heart of Rock and Roll

Unfortunately, at the time, critics did not like this album, and wisely so.  You see, as I said earlier, pop wasn't really pop yet.  Rockers were still making the transition out of what is now known as the classic rock era and disco was just about gone.  Proof?  Robert Plant released The Principle of Moments and Rick James released Cold Blooded this year as well.  {Yawn}  The pop album as we came to know it in the 1980's was was seen as a cross between the blue collar rock and anti-prog.  Before Sports, there was catchy music, but none of it had a lot of soul.  All of it was borderline soft rock and synth tracks.  Rolling Stone hated this album mainly because they didn't know what to do with it.  Music buyers loved this album because it spoke to them.  Let me preface the following Rolling Stone review with something, isn't this the whole point behind pop music?  To make it as mainstream as possible, hopefully without becoming annoying, washed out, repetitive, senseless and, and recycled? /mini rant

"Sports was the band's biggest hit, with radio-friendly tunes such as "I Want a New Drug" and "The Heart of Rock & Roll." Yet the entire record could have passed for the soundtrack to a TV commercial." -Rolling Stone

Crazy how that quote was taken from a publication RS put out in 2004 where they gave the album 3/5 stars, though on Sports release, they only gave it 2.  Look, the album was great, for the group.  The public loved the blue-eyed soul quality of it, as well as the whole rockers keeping it rock with enough approachability to be blasted in many a parking lot diner on a Saturday night.  With Sports, Huey Lewis and The News found their identity and became iconic for this era of music going on to basically becoming the soundtrack for one of the biggest movies of that time.  Matter of fact, Sports was such an impact it shot into popular culture decades later.  Think I'm kidding?  How about we just go out with Huey's take on his album himself:

Ahhh, the 80's truly a metaphor for excess.  Good lord I have an unhealthy amount of 80's vinyl.  Speaking of which, I procured this album from the supremely awesome Telegraph Records in New London CT.  Again, highly recommended, and one of the best places in CT to buy new and used vinyl. Every $10 you spend there you get an entry into a raffle for some epic vinyl each month.  If you can spot this album anywhere it's so worth a buy at any price.  Check the condition and get to crate digging.  

We're teetering dangerously close to the 50th post which will be extra special, so I cannot say what next week's vinyl might be.  It could be the one, or it might be something else depending on what gets posted this week.  Any suggestions? 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday Vinyl Cataloging Post

Running With The Night

The weather is crappy outside, and I've been meaning to properly catalog my collection since I moved here, nobody said that I couldn't listen to a few and post some others along with way.  No more talking, just vinyl.

Give Me The Night

Toy Soldiers

Sweet Home Chicago

Would I Lie To You

Future Starts Slow

People Are Strange

Die By The Drop

There are some future Vinyl Monday picks in there.  But none of these are topping this coming Monday's post.  Stay tuned, Sports fans.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Soul To Soul (1985)

The Blues as a genre of music is so damn broad and important in music, that's it's impossible to find a gold standard within it.  Sure you hear about the Blues giants, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Blind Willie Johnson, or even more recent artists like Jonny Lang, and John Mayer.  What you don't hear are the artists that at their core, are Blues artists, but, they add another layer to it.  It could be a rock element, a jazz element, maybe even a more global sound.  Artists like Eric Clapton, Dr. John, and today's pick, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Blues is fundamentally the root of virtually all modern music.  Without it, there would be no Rock, R&B, Jazz, Funk, anything.  Everything that we've been listening to since the early part of the 19th century can be traced back to Blues. I could link a Blues influence to any vinyl pick that I've ever done, and every record that I've ever owned.  But, I wont.  Instead, we can talk about what makes this my first official Blues pick over say my Robert Johnson, another Eric Clapton, or even The Blues Brothers.

Soul To Soul was Vaughans' 3rd album, it was released in the late summer of 1985.  If you've been paying attention to previous 80's posts here, you may recall that 1985 was a crowded year for music.  You had to have an epic album to get any kind of notice on the charts that year.  Seriously, the year started with Purple Rain from 1984, (Yes, that post is coming, I assure you.  Matter of fact, it'll be the 50th overall post so we're 5 away.) Phil Collins was on and off the charts all year with No Jacket Required.  Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Tears For Fears, Wham, Dire Straits, and the Miami Vice soundtrack made 1985 an outstanding year for music.  Buyers were shifting more toward Pop and that 1st Wave sound and hoovering less around Rock and Blues.  It won't be until the Hair Band movement that Rock gets taken seriously again.  That means that an artist such as Stevie Ray Vaughan would have to, again like many other artists, go mainstream.  Enter Blues Rock, with Pop stories?  I know, weird right.

Believe it or not, a major reason that music was so damn successful in the 80's, had a a lot to do with lyrics and how simple they were.  It really came down how well can you tell a story and add a hook to it.  Thinking I'm kidding?  Listen to Parents Just Don't Understand.  Ok, too easy, how about Spandau Ballet, I Know This Much Is True.  Compare that to modern pop where sure they lyrics are simple, but the stories make no sense. [Warning, this is a risky click]

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble wrote some hard core stories, and Stevie's vocals amplified the feeling.  The fact that he was  gifted guitarist, I'm talking level Hendrix, made for something special.  An album that was so deep and rich with feeling that you would swear he was Classic Rock or Blues before the terms were invented for nostalgia sake.  Listening to his Texas blend of smoke really puts you in a place where you could swear that you need a drink listening to this.  While the album was generally poorly received by critics, it was well received by fans looking for an adult alternative to music that was for all intents and purposes dying off since the 70's.  There was no more Zeppelin, Who, and Doors, and those that weren't dead adapted and kinda sold out.  This album went completely against the grain and gave people something unlike anything they expected or ever heard of at the time.

Did anyone really expect someone to work a Stratocaster like that?  There were 2 singles released from that album, Look At Little Sister was one, the first, Lookin Out The Window, was very roadhouse.  Just not in the way would would assume by thinking about it.  He somehow pulled off Country Blues, and made it rock.  That's right sports fans, before Blake Shelton, there was Stevie Ray Vaughan.  

Since his untimely death in 1990, his music really hasn't been re-released.  That makes a bunch of his original release albums a bit more difficult to find.  So here's where the fun part of crate digging in a record store comes into play.  I discovered this gem at Stereo Jack's Records in Cambridge this past winter.  So well worth it, I was about to walk out of here but realized there was a whole section that was begging to be looked at.  A half hour later, I walked out with something special.  If you find this, snatch it up if for no other reason than knowing that you own a classic piece of Blues Rock before it get's it's renaissance again in a few years.

By the way, if you were paying attention, 2 paragraphs ago, I buried a huge hint at next weeks vinyl pick.  I'm sticking with the 80's and next weeks is going to be huge....  Ahem, sports fans.