Archive for the ‘ Power ’ Category

Link Wray “Bullshot”

Link Wray, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most important rock & roll guitarists of all-time, is a pretty familiar name with rock fans all over the world.  The man practically invented distorted, fuzzy, and wild rock guitar sounds.  He was one of the first, if not the first, guitarists to use the almighty power-chord.  Pete Townshend has famously cited Link’s importance, claiming that “he is the king;  if it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble’, I would have never picked up a guitar.”  By the way, “Rumble” has since been added by the Library Of Congress to the National Recording Registry.  Important stuff.  Link recorded tons of material throughout his long career, with most of it being great.  There’s just something about “Bullshot,” this dusty little fiery gem from 1979, that really stands out.

Recorded in NYC with Richard Gottehrer on production (need we say more?), this album is an atomic-bomb of a record, combining Link’s nasty rockabilly/psycho/mean/whatever-you-want-to-call-it guitar licks backed with some of the very best rhythm players I have ever heard.  Anton Fig, drummer extraordinaire, plays with such intensity and power.  The same can be said for Rob Stoner, who has played with countless people.  The bass playing on this album is a real ear-opener and jaw-dropper.  When deciding which categories I was going to put this album under, I had no hesitation to add “punk” to the list.  Sure, this may not be a straight-up punk rock album by definition, but the playing is so dirty and intense that it really does sound like a punk album!

Right from the beginning, you know you’re going to be in for a treat.  “Good Good Lovin'” starts off the album, and kicks everything into gear preparing you for the rockin’ ride the album sends you on.  “Fever” is one of the best versions of the song out there, giving it almost a strut or swagger about it, and a whole new vibe.  “Switchblade” is one hell of an instrumental, combining Link’s wild ehco-laden and distorted-to-the-max guitar and a rhythm backing not too far removed from the tune of “Peter Gunn”.  Side two is where the real magic is; Link’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” kicks off, and is something that needs to be heard to be believed.  Link executed this cover perfectly: adding his own twist to it, yet retaining the credibility and beauty of the original.  It was almost as if Link may have had the power-pop urgency of  “Baby Blue” by Badfinger in mind.  The guitar work in this song is positively amazing; he is just making every string scream and strain with so much power it leaves you speechless.  Link even gave us an extra treat of doing a new punked-up cover of his classic “Rawhide,” which again, is phenomenal and improves upon the original…somehow.  The other bright and shining moment on the record is the very last tune, a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t.”  At your first listen, you may not “get it” right away.  Give it a chance, and you will see the absolute brilliance Link gave this old ’50’ hit.  Pay particular attention to the guitar work at the very end of the song.  It sounds as if the song just decides to break down, explode, and go off to another planet.  Unbelievable.

Buying the album may be a bit tricky, especially if you need to go the digital route.  Your best bet, if at all possible, is to try and hunt down an original vinyl copy on eBay or scour the thrifts.  The album was reissued on CD as an import in the ’90s, but it has become quite pricey.  Trying to track down a copy of this album is worth the effort, though.  This record has become a definite main-stay in my collection, and I often find myself going back to it time and time again.  It is rewarding and a joy to listen to each and every time I put it on my turntable.  I will say, that since owning this album, Link Wray has become one of my favorite guitarists of all-time, and it may just do the same thing for you.

mp3: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
mp3: Don’t

:) Original | 1979 | Visa/Charisma | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 1995 | Line | buy ]

The Nerves “One Way Ticket”

Just when you think you’ve heard every little yellow pill of power pop, every filthy pebble of over-amplified teenage angst from the past, and every nugget of garage-rock glory that’s come back from the grave, you stumble onto something that stands a cut above the rest, that stands the test of time, that sticks in your brain like flies on sherbet–you come across The Nerves.

The Nerves were formed in San Francisco in 1974 by Peter Case, Paul Collins, and Jack Lee. By this time the hippy-dippy Haight Street magic of the late 60s had given way to a neurotic street scene in a nervous, anxious city by the Bay. Specializing in raw rock n’roll tunes with perfect pop hooks, the band played with a frenetic frenzy that, in hindsight, very accurately predicated the official arrival of punk rock that would hit the air in just a few years, and quite arguably created the template for the power-pop scene that was yet to come. Appropriately named as they were, the band made music that was perfect for the time. However, after failing to hit the big time from the surprisingly insular scene in San Francisco, the band headed south to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles they fell in with the burgeoning punk scene, playing gigs with bands such as The Avengers and X at the Masque, the Whiskey, and other fabled Hollywood venues of the time.

Eventually, in 1976, the band made it into the studio to record a self-titled 4 song EP. This EP, which was distributed by the infamous Bomp! Records, ended up being the band’s only official release, as the band split nearly a year later without any time to deliver a follow up. After time this self titled 4 song EP became the stuff of legend, gaining a reputation amongst musicians in-the-know and record collectors as an irresistible slice of wax, a definite must own for fans of power-pop, punk, and garage rock. Copies always sell for a pretty penny and seem to practically never show up on Ebay, as if they are silently being passed down, from hand to hand by fanatics the world round. Fortunately for us, in 2008 Alive Records released One Way Ticket, which includes the self titled 4 song EP along with a handful of unreleased tracks, including live cuts, demos, and two songs that the band recorded for Bomp! that were intended to comprise a second release. Every studio recording made by The Nerves is included on this release.

Simply worth the price of admission alone for the fabled four song EP, “One Way Ticket” is almost too good to be true. The two cuts that were intended for the follow up release on Bomp! are incredible. “One Way Ticket” is an up-beat rocker to be reckoned with that recalls the early sound of The Beatles and showcases the singing and songwriting of bassist Peter Case (who had written and sung only one of the four songs on the initial EP), while “Paper Dolls” is yet another catchy tune delivered by guitarist Jack Lee that sounds like some lost Flamin’ Groovies outtake, only better! Both songs practically leap from the speakers with their infectious amphetamine energy, sounding more punk than most punk rock ever manages while showcasing pure golden California pop hooks. Case sounds practically frantic on the title-track, lamenting the insane urban environment of the time. When he sings “Get me outta here! “at the end of the hook he sounds fed up, like he’s had enough of the crazy narcotic, neurotic urban streets of post-war America.

Other standout tracks include, of course, the original version of “Hanging On The Telephone,” which reaches deep and just destroys Blondie’s later remake. The Nerves’ version seems to come from an altogether different place, with singer Jack Lee sounding desperate, pathetically pleading not to be left behind and forgotten–a (young) man at the end of his rope. Similarly, Case’s “When You Find Out” is a phenomenal slice of garage-rock glory that features an exceptionally smokin’ vocal performance from Case. Case sings it like he means it for real, and it’s the ultimate kiss-off when, amidst the minor chord jingle jangle of Rickenbackers and the thump and thud of Paul Collins’ drums, he sings “When you find out I was the one/It’s gonna be pretty hard on you”. On the other end of the spectrum is the upbeat pop tune “Working Too Hard.” With a sound influenced by The Kinks this tune shows a lighter side of the band and foreshadows the arrival of The Knack on the power-pop scene. The only complaint about this release is that some of the unreleased tracks suffer from the audio quality being a bit muddy, obviously due to the fact that most of these recordings were never intended to be released. The demo version of “Many Roads To Follow”, while interesting and catchy, definitely sounds like a demo–that is, not a completely finished song, and eventually has the affect of leaving one wishing for a proper studio version of the tune. Who knows, maybe more tapes will start being discovered in old suitcases.

This review couldn’t possibly be complete without mentioning the live tracks. This band delivers the goods, and then some. You can imagine them playing, peeling the paint off the walls of some bombed out North Beach dive to a bunch of burned out ex-flower-children assuredly watching in amazement, mouths agape and beers in hand or a bunch of jaded Angelino punks at a scuzzy Hollywood bar. These live tracks, which feature mostly guitarist Jack Lee on vocals, reek of beer and sweat and are valuable for the glimpse they provide of The Nerves’ live sound, which, after having become the stuff legends are made of, sounds to be markedly more punk sounding than any of the studio recorded material. All in all, the live tidbits really add to the overall package, providing a fuller view of the band.

Anyway you slice it One Way Ticket is a killer album, with the first six songs being practically perfect lost pop masterpieces. If you’re a fan of power-pop, garage rock, or punk this album is a must own and will surely became a new favorite within a matter a moments. If you’re a fan of rock music, period, you need this album. In the end, what’s so fascinating about The Nerves isn’t just their early input into power-pop, their involvement with the burgeoning Los Angeles punk scene, or the direct link they provide between garage rock and punk–but the fact that the first six tracks on this album sound like they could have been recorded yesterday by a handful of 22 year olds in a garage in San Francisco (ie. Girls, The Fresh and Only’s, etc…) or even at the turn of the century by a handful of 22 year olds in a basement in New York City.

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“Hanging On The Telephone”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Alive Records | buy from bomp | amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Flames “The Flame”

The Flame

One of Carl Wilson’s inspired contributions to the Beach Boys, lead singer Blondie Chaplin and percussionist Ricky Fataar form the core of this unrecognized group. The album was recorded for the Beach Boys’ own Brother Records in 1970.

Before this record they were The Flames and fairly popular in South Africa. They even released six records before being spotted by Al Jardine and Carl Wilson in a UK nightclub. The band moved to California, changed their name to The Flame (avoiding confusion with James Brown’s Famous Flames), and recorded this solid but long neglected record. After this record, Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin would join with the Beach Boys for Carl & The Passions “So Tough” and Holland, Fataar going on to become one of the Rutles (the awesome mock Beatles act). Chaplin would later perform with the Band, the Byrds, and the Stones.

“See The Light” kicks it off high — this track even had enough to scrape the national charts. “Make it Easy Baby” and “Hey Lord” propel the album’s sensitive hard-rock mood with relentless multi-tracked guitar riffing. “Lady” reveals a Harry Nilsson influence and “Don’t Worry Bill” dives heavily into Abbey Road territory. But on tracks like “Get Your Mind Made Up” and “Highs and Lows” you can hear similarities to artists as diverse as Frank Zappa and Ernie Graham.

Unbelievably, the Flame recorded a follow-up record that has never been released. Both records are in desperate need of a reissue. The currently available “Fallout” CD is a blatant act of piracy and should be avoided at all costs. Why the Flame recorded such pure-hearted kick ass classic rock that hasn’t been reissued and never gets an ounce of airplay evades me.

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“Highs and Lows”

:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | Brother | search ebay ]

Michael Chapman “Fully Qualified Survivor”

Michael Chapman, apart from being a prolific English songwriter whose revered work spans four decades, is probably the best guitar smith you have never heard. While his skills are best evidenced on this album’s predecessor, Rainmaker, the original songwriting and tight production, seemingly informed by all music that came before it, steal the show here.

It’s as if every style of rock music were somehow harnessed and tamed into Michael’s unique folk vision. The album sounds fresh as anything recorded today, yet still of its time, sparkling with punchy drum fills and orchestral arrangements. The album opens with an understated triumph: experimental strings create a soundscape for the soothing rhythm of Aviator to “take my time away.” I cannot think of another 9 minute song that doesn’t seem to last long enough. The lyrics on the album evoke a feeling of hopelessness, and there is a kind of sad tone but all together I believe it can be an uplifting album. This may be thanks to sharing much of the same personnel responsible for early albums by Elton John and David Bowie. During Fully Qualified’s hardest moments, though, I hear a striking resemblance to Bowie’s classic Man Who Sold The World.

Stranger In The Room and Soulful Lady lend a classic rock balance to softer songs like the immortal Postcards From Scarborough, by far the most famous Chapman song. Through several interludes, we are treated to Chapman’s masterful six-string suites. I know my fair share of fingerpicking but still have trouble believing that Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime is actually performed on one guitar by one person. In any case, it’s a piece that should be standard fare in guitar workshops the world over. But note that I’m not talking about the trite electric guitar leads, performed by Mick Ronson who would team up with Bowie for Space Oddity thanks to this record.

Fully Qualified Survivor is an exceptional collection of songs and your best introduction to one of England’s great underappreciated artists. One of the best.

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“Andru’s Easy Rider/Trinkets & Rings”

:D CD Reissue | 2011 | LITA |  buy ]
:) LP Reissue | 2011 | LITA | buy ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | Harvest | search ebay ]

Kim Fowley “International Heroes”

This was waxed around the time he produced legendary recordings by the Modern Lovers so it’s no surprise that this is one of the best albums from the ubiquitous Kim Fowley. Son of actor Douglas Fowley, he produced the novelty hit “Alley Oop” in 1960, then went on to release some commercially unsuccessful solo albums, produced and wrote more oddities for other artists (including Kiss) and eventually unleashed Runaways on the world. And that’s just to name a few. He even found time to write songs with Skip Battin, which were recorded by the Byrds (Untitled LP) and Gene Parsons.

Those who’ve worn out their copies of Roxy Music/Eno/Bowie albums will be thrilled to exhume this forgotten (or never really even known) specimen of oddball glam. Judging from the cover, he didn’t want to leave anyone guessing about the sound he was shooting for. This platter plays like an instant classic, falling into some no man’s land somewhere between Roxy Music and the New York Dolls. Like Eno, he’s often playing post-punk years before it existed, but Fowley’s songs are looser and more accessible, sure to get you hooked on the first spin. “Something New” is simply a perfect pop song with a great update on a Byrdsian jangle feel. “I Hate You” is a gloomy slice of contempt that’ll leave you feeling good about your shitty mood. There are nice female soul/gospel backings throughout. “Dancing All Night” rocks like a garbage can bound outtake from Sticky Fingers.

International Heroes is another exceptional rocknroll record that is in dire need of CD release. Good luck finding any cheap copies on ebay.

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“E.S.P. Reader”

;) MP3 Album | download at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Capitol | search ebay ]

Skyhooks “Living In The 70’s”

Living In The 70s

One of the hallmarks of truly great albums is that they document the moment of their creation but sound as though they could have been recorded at any time; they transcend the era of their conception but record it perfectly. Skyhooks’ “Living in the 70’s” is such an album.

Straight ahead rock and roll with an eyeliner of glam, “Living in the 70’s” sheds a small but unblinking light on what it was like to be an inner-suburban post adolescent in Melbourne circa 1974. The opening lines of the album sum it up pretty well. “I feel a little empty, I feel a little strange. Like I’m in a pay-phone, without any change.”

Dislocated, disassociated, dissatisfied and slightly disillusioned, the songs on “Living in the 70’s” touch on the emergence of youth sub-culture that was just gaining a foothold at the time. The children of the sixties were waking up, and for the first time they had the guts not to listen to their parents or authority. It’s not the cry of an anarchist punk, but more the shout of “I’m getting my ear pierced and I don’t care what you say!” by a rebellious teenager. Mild, oh so mild, but still beyond what their parents were capable of. This album helped forge a youthful national identity.

Produced by Ross Wilson (ex Daddy Cool) and put out on the emerging Mushroom records label, the production is clean and crisp and captures the state of the songs much as they were when Skyhooks performed them live. Wilson reportedly fought for production duties on “Living in the 70’s” so that the content was not deliberately watered down to suit the “mature” taste of the times.

Filled with sex, drugs, and rock and roll, six of the ten tracks were banned by the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters, which dictated airplay on the commercial stations, but rather than hinder sales, the attraction of contraband was too hard for the kids to ignore and they sent the album to No. 1 on the Australian charts for 16 weeks.

In retrospect it seems hard to comprehend what all fuss was about, but in the political context of the times songs like “Smut” and “You just like me ‘cos I’m good in bed” were never going to be passed by the censors. The ambiguity that 1974 could give birth to the material, yet try to immediately abort it, was due more to the hangover of 20 consecutive years of conservative Government than anything else, but the country would quickly get over its headache and go in for another round of binge drinking at the party of which “Living in the 70’s” was the soundtrack. An Aussie classic!

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“Living In The 70’s”

:D CD Reissue | 2005 | Mushroom | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1974 | Mushroom | ebay ]

Roy Wood “Boulders”

Boulders

Roy Wood is one of the architects of ELO and The Move, and possessed some of the most eclectic tastes and interesting ideas of any pop artist in his time. Boulders, his self-produced 1969 (though released 1973) solo-outing combines the hard rock of The Move with Roy Wood’s classical tastes, satisfying pop composition skills, and studio wizzardry.

A fantastic listen from start to finish. “Songs of Praise” might throw off casual ears with layers of harmonized vocals, but throughout the record the dubbed vocals are played almost as masterfully, though more humorously to be sure, as our old friend Nilsson. There’s the brilliantly produced “Wake Up,” with double-tracked acoustic guitars in stereo, flutes, cello, best of all: percussion from a puddle of water! Elsewhere we hear sped up and slowed down vocals, plentiful horns and woodwinds. Delicate sleigh bells and shakers, tiny mistakes, xylophone accents; there are a million precious details. It sounds as if Wood had picked out toys and instruments from the studio like it were a candy store. Additionally, it gives the feel of a fellow finally getting the control over the studio he’s always needed, and just having a blast with it. It is comforting in a strange way to know the record was designed entirely by Roy, making each ornament of sound stand out a bit more.

Despite Roy’s legacy of music in other projects The Move, ELO and Wizzard, I consider Boulders to be his finest work. Roy writes to us on the sleeve of the recent reissue and asks that we not distribute this album illegally online. Boulders is a brilliant listen and is truly worth your money.

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“Wake Up”

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Iggy Pop “The Idiot”

The Idiot

Iggy Pop’s “The Idiot” is a record that breaks a lot of rules musically. It’s sweet but classless. It’s reminiscent as well as groundbreaking. Its sound is timeless as it is dated. This album will make you as confused as the mad men who wrote it. This is classic Iggy for the main reason that it’s nothing like he’s done before. It’s immediately likable for that best of reasons: because you don’t have a clear-cut idea of why you like it.

As soon as “Sister Midnight” kicks in, the influences of the album’s co-author are evident. David Bowie (specifically of the Berlin Trilogy variety) touched this project. The man produced it and shares writing royalties from the first to last track, and it’s heard throughout.

This undoubtedly had a major hand in pop’s new direction, but that’s not to undermine the growth of Iggy as an artist.

This record showcases a lyrical prowess that wasn’t always expressed with The Stooges. Maybe it was the lack of the machine gun guitars, presence of the more soulful Bowie (prevalent on the track“Tiny Girls”) or the stay in the mental hospital that changed him, but pop music morphed.

“Nightclubbing” has a heartbeat intro that slowly bleeds life into the rest of the arrangement. It rises like a sedated Frankenstein and moves heavily towards Iggy’s lyrics – which have him sounding like he’s singing in an S & M themed karaoke bar. The song, along with “Funtime” and “Dum Dum Boys”, sets the stage for the new theme of the record – Iggy’s taking his time. He’s going to sing these songs slow and steady, fused with a new baritone and an amazing grasp of minimalist songwriting. “China Girl” is a perfect example. Take in the lines of any of these songs at face value and they can be dismissed just as easily as they were ingested. Accept the flaws and you will be rewarded.

Some may long for the frenzied sound of Raw Power. Some may dismiss the otherworldliness that reels in “Mass Production” – the closing track. But deserters will miss out on a lot of what makes The Idiot such an iconic album…the mood.
Iggy would make another record (the also brilliant Lust For Life) with Bowie at the helm the same year before moving on. Both are poignant because they accomplish a true rarity: a recording that is testament to a time when an artist had nothing to lose.

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“Baby”

[ $11 @ Amazon | Search eBay ]

Lou Reed “Berlin”

Berlin

This album came out after the smashing Transformer. Berlin doesn’t rock and thrash in a perfectly sensible way like T-former, but it is understated and melodically enchanting, and you can grow with it in an unholy, or perhaps sacred way.

It plays like a miniature opera, with eerie sound montage and smoky piano interludes. Don’t expect the stabby guitar glam punk of this album’s predecessor; Berlin is sleepy and sad, beautifully orchestrated and a moody concept album. A few upbeat numbers will keep you coming back for more. It’s hard to remember exactly why you like this album when you replay it for the third time, but you’ll find yourself saying.. “oh yeah, oh yeah this one too!”

How Do You Think It Feels is a great laid back driver, with some Kicks style Lou vox going on. Caroline Says I is a pretty raucous, loosely based version of VU song Stephanie Says, which receives its full tribute in Caroline Says II. Men of Good Fortune is another Reedy classic receiving the Berlinesque operatic treatment. All together it’s one weird record, but a perfect Lou Reed experience, it’s really what he should have been up to all along. Transformer for the pizza party, Berlin for the doped up after-hours party.

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mp3: Sad Song

[ Only 9 Bucks | Search eBay ]

T-Rex “Electric Warrior”

Electric Warrior

I grew up thinking T-Rex was mad lame. See, you hear this “Bang A Gong, Get it ON!” song on classic rock radio all the time, and somehow everybody knows it’s T-Rex. But that’s it… pretty lame, man. Pick up the nice digipak release of Electric Warrior, however, and you’ll experience your first bout of T-Rextacy.

I’m just writing this one up in case. Everybody in the UK is sick of this album, but I didn’t know about it until a few years ago. It simply can’t be missed. From the moment Mambo Sun sets the kicked back groove, Electric Warrior is an album with immediate resonance. It carries on to the beautiful Cosmic Dancer (watch the great film Billy Elliot for a healthy dose of Rextacy) before taking off with the rocking Jeepster. The album continues this way dynamically, but every song is so simple, every melody so smart, every lyric so strange, and every sound so classic.

It’s no wonder Marc Bolan was in love with himself. Check out the Born to Boogie DVD to see him perform next to a giant cutout of himself while wearing his face on his tee shirt. Electric Warrior is the album when Bolan took the folkier, mystic Tyrannosaurus Rex to the next level. Basically, he wanted to rock. So he brought out the electrics and the drum kit, but kept the bongos and added some strings. Just go get Electric Warrior, then The Slider. Then, if you’re up for it, old buddy Sergio will tell you about TANX.

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“Life’s A Gas”

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