Neverending Randomplay #121-#130
Neverending Randomplay is a weekly Wednesday night/Thursday AM feature in which I let my J-River Media Center choose what we get listen to. My collection currently stands at 17,966 titles. The lion's share are rock of all genres, with a mix of pop, blues, country, pre-rock, jazz, reggae, soul, electronic, avant-garde, hip-hop, rap, bluegrass, trance, Afrobeat, J-Pop, trip-hop, lounge, worldbeat, commercial jingles, etc. filling it out. I don't influence the track selection in any way; whatever comes up, comes up. Jam Tags, 1-5 stars, follow each track. iTunes links, when available, are included for your convenience.
121. AC/DC: Big Balls **
Australia's AC/DC certainly have to be included among the best hard rock/heavy metal bands of the mid-late 70's through the mid-late 80's. Their career can be neatly divided into two eras; the first being the Bon Scott-led version of the band, and the second being the Brian Johnson-led version. Both vocalists had their own distinct style, but bore similarities as well; chief difference was Scott's slightly bluesier vocal inflections and his hellbent self destructiveness. Angus Young's guitar was the constant and other chief asset; few guitarists have come up with as many killer hard rock hooks as he. The band was formed in 1973 by guitarist Malcom Young, whose brother Angus was only 15 at the time; Angus was encouraged to wear his school uniform onstage. "Big Balls" is from the album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, released in Australia in 1975, but not in America until 1981, a year after Scott died from his excesses. "Big Balls" is an attempt at vulgar humor, with a ridiculous vocal over some good riffing. It's fairly dumb and corny, a novelty more than anything else; other material on this spotty early album is much stronger.
122. The Nerves: Hanging On The Telephone *****
"Hanging on the Telephone" is best known as one of the best songs on Blondie's excellent Parallel Lines. Blondie's version is so well known, and so well incorporated into that band's style, many if not most listeners assume it is a Blondie original. In fact, the song is written by Jack Lee, and was recorded first by the Nerves, a late 1970's power-pop band based in Los Angeles. The Nerves are best known as Peter Case's first band; after one lone EP and some singles during their 1975-1978 existence, the band broke up, and Case went on to form the Plimsouls. Blondie's version was a hit in Europe, and received decent airplay in America; the Nerves' version remains heard by precious few. It's not too different from Blondie's version; the male vocals and sparer production are the chief differences; but those differences are enough to put the song in a whole new context for those who do hear this version. A must-have for power pop fans.
123. Paul McCartney: Good Times Coming/Feel The Sun ****
McCartney's 1986 album, Press To Play marked a substantial decline in his commercial success, particularly in the U.S., where the album never got higher than #30, his worst showing for a studio album to date. The album was also ruthlessly panned, produced only one charting single, the soggy "Press", and remains perhaps his least familiar work to many people. A pity; Press To Play, while very uneven, was actually a fairly interesting departure for McCartney, featuring a lot of electronic experimentation, and a number of very hummable melodies. "Good Times Coming/Feel The Sun" is one of the best moments; a reggae tinged number that segues into a big pop hook. Ambitious yet offhand-sounding, it captures some of McCartney's best tendencies, while avoiding his worst: its catchiness is sophisticated without getting too cutesy. McCartney would have to wait until 1997 to land an album in the American top-10 again.
124. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Up Around The Bend ***** iTunes
Originally the Golliwogs, who recorded a few failed singles in the mid-60's, Creedence Clearwater Revival became one of the most successful bands in American rock history during their brief 1967-1972 existence. The Golliwogs were led by the late Tom Fogerty, who sang lead most often; by the time of CCR's 1968 debut, younger brother John took over most vocal chores, which had a big effect on the band's overall sound. Musically, they largely avoided the psychedelic trappings of the day, sticking to an organic, stripped down instrumental approach until late in their career. "Up Around The Bend", from the 1970 album Cosmo's Factory was released as a single backed with "Run Through The Jungle"; both songs received airplay, and the single peaked at #4. Blessed with a tremendously memorable guitar riff, and some of John Fogerty's most enthusiastic and soulful singing, it's the type of road song the band excelled at; one of their finest moments.
125. Linda Ronstadt: Carmelita ***** iTunes
Linda Ronstadt's heyday in the pop/rock arena was from 1974-1978, when nearly everything she touched turned to gold, and when she recorded nearly all of the most memorable songs of her career. Her albums consisted of well known covers, a few offbeat and esoteric covers, and songs written by professional songwriters specifically for her. "Carmelita" is a sad, defeated Warren Zevon song about heroin addiction, which originally surfaced on his 1976 album Warren Zevon; Ronstadt's version appeared in 1977 on her Simple Dreams album. Ronstadt's big, luscious vocal threatens to pretty up the song too much, but she keeps herself restrained just enough; the playing, by many familiar 70's era L.A. names, is crack, as usual. The result is a fine piece of crying-in-your-beer country-rock that arguably surpasses the original.
126. Cyndi Lauper/Ann Wilson/Nancy Wilson: Maybe I'm Amazed (live) ***
This is a live recording featuring 80's pop icon Cyndi Lauper, augmented by the Wilson sisters of Heart; Lauper and Ann Wilson trade vocals. The song was recorded October 22, 2000 at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles at a benefit for breast cancer research; originally recorded by Paul McCartney in 1970, the song was chosen as tribute to Linda McCartney, who died in 1998 from the disease. Like all superstar events of this nature, the song is more of a curio than an enduring musical statement; the arrangement is show-bizzy and truncated. Still, both women have good-to-very good pipes, particularly Lauper, and the song has always been a pretty good one. Aired on the Lifetime cable network the song was never commercially released on CD, although it did appear on video as Women Rock!.
127. ZZ Top (Somebody Else Been) Shakin' Your Tree ***** iTunes
The leadoff cut from ZZ Top's 1970 debut, ZZ Top's First Album, this is an excellent career starter. Bluesy but hard rocking, with somewhat more of a psychedelic vibe to the lead guitar than the band is usually known for, it gallumphs along at an all-too-brief 2:32. ZZ Top were a better band than they've often been given credit for; their mix of blues and hard rock, coupled with Billy Gibbon's distinctive Texas guitar really is a sound that towers among many of their peers; their 1970's output in particular stands up remarkably well. The trio of Billy Gibbons (guitar), Dusty Hill (bass), and Frank Beard (drums) has never changed; after 35 years, they're still together, making this the longest lived lineup of any significant band currently active. ZZ Top was formed in 1970 by memebers of rival Houston area garage bands the Moving Sidewalks (Gibbons) and American Blues (Hill and Beard).
128. Foreigner: Double Vision *** iTunes
Formed by guitarist Mick Jones (ex-Spooky Tooth, ex-Leslie West band) in 1976, Foreigner is perhaps the epitome of late 70's/early 80's arena rock band. As such, they've never really gotten a whole lot of critical respect, although as far as arena rock goes, Foreigner were a cut above many of their peers. Known for Jones' gigantic guitar hooks, and Lou Gramm's textbook hard rock vocals that could wax soulful on occasion, they were huge in their heyday. Each of their first five albums made the top-5 over a period of 1977-1985, a time when other arena rock bands were losing commercial ground. Slick but catchy, "Double Vision" is one of their best, from their 1978 sophomore album of the same name. Indie and alternative rock fans probably won't be interested, but mainstream hard rock/arena rock fans might do worse than pick up an anthology. Gramm left the band in 1989, and although he returned a few years later, the band's commercial dominance hasn't.
129. Oasis: Don't Go Away **** iTunes
Oasis has always been a love 'em or hate 'em band; they've been hitmakers in the U.K. since 1994 in England, but have been a somewhat tougher sell in America. Still, their sales record in America would be the envy of most bands, and Be Here Now, from 1997, was their high water mark, reaching #2. "Don't Go Away" opens with an uncharacteristically bluesy guitar, before emerging as an emotional ballads sung well by Liam Gallagher. Lyrically, its words sound better than they read, but they're servicable, and the band can certainly play. Be Here Now is arguably Oasis' best album, where their Lennon influences reach a good synthesis with their rather eclectic other sources. Their sales have tapered off significantly since then, but they still retain a sizable following in America; and a big one in England.
130. Berlin: Sex (I'm A...) ***** iTunes
Berlin's moment in the sun was fairly brief; they released three albums from 1982-1986, and they only hit the top 40 twice, with "No More Words" and "Take My Breath Away". Local favorites in Los Angeles, where the band was formed by bassist John Crawford, singer Terri Nunn, and keyboard player David Diamond, they specialized in a dancable, club oriented synth-pop that had some more teeth than the usual synth-pop of the early 80's. "Sex (I'm A...)" was a big local hit in the clubs in 1983, and reached #62 nationally, putting the band on the map. It's still a lot of fun listening to Nunn call herself dirty names, and the beats and textures hold up a lot better than many of their peers'. Their core audience wrote them off after their big ballad "Take My Breath Away" (from the movie Top Gun) hit #1, and the band broke up in 1987 when Nunn left for a solo career that never really panned out. The band reformed in 2000; a full length album of new material, Voyeur, appeared in 2002.
Neverending Randomplay usually appears Wednesday Night/Thursday AM; it was bumped a day this week.
Listen to The Nerves: Hanging on the Telephone (1978)Back|Next