Linda Ronstadt – Simple Dreams (1977) – CD review –
Linda Ronstadt walked away from rock n’ roll in 1983 and never looked back. Perhaps that’s why she’s mostly ignored by classic rock radio and rarely shows up on “greatest singer” lists. The truth is, Ronstadt was incredibly influential.
She showed an entire generation that women could keep up with the boys in the rock n’ roll department. She was also a gifted interpreter of other people’s songs, always being able to inject some new life into even the most shop-worn classic. Simple Dreams is her finest moment; a varied mix of rock, country and oldies, and Ronstadt handles them all equally well. She takes the obscure Buddy Holly song “It’s So Easy” and turns it into a rocker, Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” becomes a twangy masterpiece, and even “Tumblin’ Dice” keeps pace with the Stones original.
It’s not that these are vast reinventions of the songs; they’re basically the same arrangements, but filtered through Linda and her great band. And who else could turn Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” into a hit song? It’s time to give this lady some more credit. –Tony Peters
Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – CD review –
So much has been written about this album that it can be difficult to separate historical significance from the actual music. Upon its release, Sgt. Pepper sent shockwaves through the music industry. It stretched the boundaries of what was acceptable in pop music and it also introduced many elements of studio trickery that were equally unique. However, over 40 years later, what really matters is the music, and frankly, this is not the best the Beatles had to offer.
This isn’t their best album by far; it probably isn’t even in the top five (I would put Rubber Soul, Revolver, Abbey Road, Help and Beatles For Sale all ahead of this one). There are several songs here that simply aren’t that good, like “Lovely Rita,” “Good Morning Good Morning,” “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” and “When I’m Sixty Four.” Then, there’s the George Harrison Indian flavored “Within You Without You” which is experimental, but listenable?
Not really. Only “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Getting Better,”and “A Day in the Life” truly stand as spectacular moments. Greatness transcends time and circumstance. But, without the historical background, this album doesn’t really stand on its own. If you’re trying to explain the Beatles to someone who’s never heard their music, start with Beatles 1. –Tony Peters
Jann Klose is a Grammy-nominated entertainer, musician, singer/songwriter to be reckoned with. There is a need for this many titles for him because, well, the man is just hard to peg down to specifics or a genre. Reverie, Jann’s latest release, which contains 12 songs, has strong singer/songwriter qualities minus that big yawn that this sometimes means. “Beautiful Dream” is the first track off of his album and it literally will take you on a trip into, yes, a beautiful dream.
“Hold Me Down” has a nice groove that is a bit funky and not at all comparable to “Beautiful Dream”. “Doing Time” is more of the same, in that it is completely and totally different from the songs that lay in its wake. This song, featuring a ¾ time signature and steel guitar, is a demonstration of Jann’s wonderful range of musicality. The video for this one is just as entertaining as the song, and is shot in stop-motion which is reminiscent of a Peter Gabriel video. “Give Into This Life” is another golden one with its gorgeous harmonies and incredible passion; the best on the album. This song is authenticity — you will believe in what Jann is telling you in this song! “All These Rivers,” “Question Of The Heart,” and “Remember Your Name” all have one common thread and that is that you can tell it is the same artist performing, but the songs are all so uniquely their own, brothers and sisters to one another, but clearly not multiples.
One can hear all the different musical influences that may have played a role in what makes up Jann’s “musical soup.” He has lived in several different corners of the world, which include Kenya, Germany, South Africa, Ohio and now New York — all those lovely sounds are present. Reverie is something that you will continually go back to for a good listen to hear something familiar, comfortable, and solid in what it has to offer. Jann is someone to keep an eye on, for he has the same spark that people like Don Henley and James Taylor have. He is currently working on new material. In the meantime, Reverie is something that will be revered.
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971) – CD review –
The Dark Side of the Moon of soul music. Artists on Motown records were only allowed to sing, and were not involved with the creative process, until Marvin broke free with this stone-cold masterpiece, which he helped write and produce.
Covering topical subject matter like war, race relations and pollution, you’d think What’s Going On is a bummer. But, that’s what makes this so special: Marvin wraps these songs in lush arrangements that are as sweet going down as honey. Yet, never once does he sound preachy. This is the art of gentle persuasion (something he would perfect in the bedroom suite Let’s Get it On two years later). “What’s Going On,” “Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology),” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” were all singles, but the entire album is flawless. And the whole record fades from one song to the next, a trick Pink Floyd would use to great effect a couple years later. Marvin Gaye actually did the impossible: he made a listenable protest album. –Tony Peters
The story seems crazy now: a band of blues-rockers from a decade earlier became the darlings of MTV, and this is the album that did it. Sure, you have to give some credit to the clever videos with the 1933 Ford in them, but it’s the music that lingers even today.
As with many great albums, it’s true appeal is it’s danceability; a perfect blend of blues-rock and four-on-the-floor beat. The icing on the cake comes with the sprinkling of keyboards into the mix; this is ZZ Top with just a pinch extra. The Eliminator album produced several hit singles and radio hits, including “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs,” “Got Me Under Pressure,” and “TV Dinners.” Instead of sticking to this winning formula, the ‘Top decided to jump headfirst into synthesizers. It’s kind of like eating a cake with nothing but icing: it’s just wrong, there’s no substance. The resulting album, Afterburner now sounds dated and misguided, while Eliminator still stands up. –Tony Peters
Quite possibly the greatest debut LP in history, Boston reset the standard for perfection in a rock album. Sure, there were other LP’s that had strived for sonic perfection, Dark Side of the Moon comes to mind, but that was meant as a “headphone album.” Boston rocks, yet every note is where it should be:
The guitars are big, the vocals soaring and the hooks are 100 percent grade A. Taking a good part of a decade to create, Boston still stands as one of the most fully-realized debuts in history. The album would yield the anthemic “More Than a Feeling.” The stratospheric height that Boston achieved would be a one-time deal. Don’t Look Back from two years later, sounds rushed and unfinished. Subsequent LPs were mired in legal battles and over-production. But the first Boston still stands up after all these years. –Tony Peters
Bad Company – Hard Rock Live (Image Entertainment) – CD review
The inclusion of hits and fan favorites makes this the finest collection of Bad Company songs ever assembled
Name any band from the seventies that’s still around. You can take anyone you want — I’ll take Bad Company. The band’s resurgence over the last ten years or so is nothing short of amazing. At the heart of it all is vocalist Paul Rodgers, who exited the band in 1982. Although the group sauntered on and had hits, it wasn’t really Bad Company. When Rodgers finally returned some 16 years later, he picked up right where he left off.
Rodgers is frequently mentioned as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time. Yet, what sets him apart from his peers is that, even at the age of 60, he’s lost none of the muscle and resonance that graced so many of the band’s hits. While there have been other live albums from Bad Company, there are several things that sets Bad Company – Hard Rock Live apart. For one, it marks the first time the remaining three members (Rodgers, guitarist Mick Ralphs and drummer Simon Kirke) have played together in several years. Bassist Boz Burrell died of a heart attack in 2006. More importantly, this is the finest collection of Bad Company songs ever assembled on one disc. The hits are here, like “Can’t Get Enough,” and “Bad Company,” but the addition of such fan favorites as “Gone Gone Gone,” and “Burnin’ Sky” make this a great overview of a band still in top form. The set includes a DVD of the entire performance as well. — Tony Peters
Justin Currie – The Great War (Rykodisc) – CD review –
Perhaps it is time to give Justin Currie some credit. For almost 20 years, he fronted the Scottish band Del Amitri, guiding them through six albums filled with songs of failed relationships and unrealized dreams, wrapped in gleeful melodies that are as irresistible as the lyrics are bleak.
Therein lies Currie’s true talent; he makes the heartache sound so sweet. He took a sidestep for his first solo album; 2007’s What Is Love For was uncharacteristically maudlin, even by Currie’s standards. And, instead of the usual chiming melodies, most songs were filled with quiet, minor chords played on piano. Well, you might say Currie has let some of the sunshine back in for his new solo album, The Great War (Rykodisc). Sure, the lyrics are still barbed, with titles like “As Long As You Don’t Come Back,” and “Anywhere I’m Away From You.”
But, he’s once again surrounded these tales of misfortune with jangly hooks that promise to linger in your head. The first single, “A Man With Nothing To Do,” could easily fit right in next to Del Amitri’s best songs like “Roll to Me” or “Always the Last to Know.” And, that song contains one of Currie’s signature twists endings in that he’s “waiting to fall in love with you.” A must for fans of well-crafted pop songs. — Tony Peters
After sputtering for almost 20 years, Ratt finally has a CD they can be proud of.
It is dangerous territory trying to relive your past. Many bands attempt it, and most fall flat on their faces. Yet, with Infestation (Roadrunner), their first studio effort in 11 years, Ratt has set the “way back” machine to the mid 80’s and turned in their best effort in years.
Really, it’s simple: latter-day Ratt failed because they messed with their formula; whether trying to be bluesy or dancey, either way, it wasn’t what they did best. With Infestation, only their seventh overall, they concentrate on their strengths: crunching guitars, wailing twin leads (with the tasty addition of Quiet Riot axeman Carlos Cavazo), and catchy, melodic choruses, all traits of the band’s best work in the mid-80’s, way before flannel became the rage.
At least some of the credit must be given to producer Elvis Baskette, who resists the temptation to update the glam metal band’s sound. Instead, he captures a group that sounds downright re-energized. The album’s first single, “Best of Me,” is a pop-metal gem, complete with chiming chorus, sadly missing in rock for years. It’s as if the 20 years of hell the band went through actually benefited these guys. — Tony Peters
Solomon Burke – The Very Best Of (Rhino) – CD review –
His best songs will make you shout, just like you were in a gospel meeting.
Solomon Burke never enjoyed the chart success that some of his contemporaries, like Sam Cooke & Wilson Pickett had. But, that doesn’t mean he didn’t make incredible music. On the contrary, the songs collected on this disc are so full of passion and grit, they make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
This budget-priced collection does a pretty good job of collecting his seminal sides for Atlantic Records during the sixties. For money you could find in your couch, you get his early blend of country with R&B “Just Out of Reach,” plus the should of been smashes “Cry to Me” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (both covered by the Rolling Stones). Another standout is “Gotta Get You Off My Mind,” written the night his friend, Sam Cooke, was murdered. “Can’t Nobody Love You” is Burke at his pleading best. As a bonus, the set contains “Soul Meeting,” a collaboration between Burke, Ben E. King, Joe Tex, Don Covay, & Arthur Conley. A great set by an underrated legend. –Tony Peters