Frank Zappa called 200 Motels "a surrealistic documentary." Leonard Maltin described it as a "visual, aural assault disguised as a movie; completely berserk, freeform film...some of it ingenious, some funny, but not enough to maintain [an] entire film." Roger Ebert compared the surreal musical to the work of experimental composer Harry Partch before observing that it "assaults the mind with everything on hand...a full wall of sight-and-sound input." Zappa never wrote and directed another
From the first seconds of the opening "Life Is a Carnival," it was clear that Cahoots was no ordinary album by The Band. The quintet's first three albums had established them as major proponents of the rootsy genre that would later be called "Americana." But now, the sound blasting from the speakers was one of sheer funk: simultaneously dark and joyful, aggressive yet inviting. In what might have been considered a heretical move by some, the group was bolstered by three saxophones, two
"Well, I've been down so goddamn long that it looks like up to me..." Jim Morrison knew of what he spoke. When The Doors entered Sunset Sound in November 1970 to record what would become their sixth studio album, L.A. Woman, the quartet was ready for a reboot. In September, Morrison had been convicted on profanity and indecent exposure charges related to a March 1969 concert in Miami. With an appeal in place, he was free on bail. But some radio stations had banned The Doors, and even concert
When Elvis Presley entered RCA's famed Nashville Studio B in June 1970, expectations were high. His last major recording sessions - not counting those for the Universal film Change of Habit - had taken place at Memphis' American Sound Studio with producer Chips Moman, resulting in the acclaimed From Elvis in Memphis LP. Could he follow up that career triumph? Many would argue that he did. Rather than strictly repeat the formula, he and producer Felton Jarvis crafted the concept album Elvis
Holiday Gift Guide Review: Joni Mitchell, "Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971)"
Last evening in Washington, DC, Joni Mitchell joined the 44th class of Kennedy Center Honorees alongside Bette Midler, Berry Gordy, Lorne Michaels, and Justino Diaz. The singer-songwriter who has blurred the lines of folk, pop, rock, and jazz was celebrated by friends and admirers including Brandi Carlile, Herbie Hancock, Ellie Goulding, Norah Jones, Brittany Howard, Dan Levy, and Cameron Crowe. President Joe Biden, also in attendance, had earlier summed up the thoughts of many when he
By his own account, Billy Joel stumbled into the singing part of the singer-songwriter equation. He explained of his 1971 debut Cold Spring Harbor, "I wrote this album not as a singer-songwriter, but as a songwriter. I was thinking of other people doing the material on this album. But the advice I got from people in the music business was, 'Well, if you want people to hear your songs, make an album. And then you go out on the road and you do shows and you promote your album. I thought,
Everybody had a hard year/Everybody had a good time... The Beatles' twelfth and final studio LP may have been titled Let It Be, but that particular admonition has been all but ignored over the years. The album - recorded before, but released after, 1969's Abbey Road - was in some respects a step backward from the band's previous, experimental LPs as they sought a "back to basics" sound that didn't involve overdubs and studio wizardry. Ultimately, though, that approach was rejected. The
1978's Time Passages concluded British singer-songwriter Al Stewart's trilogy of albums with producer-engineer Alan Parsons which began with 1975's Modern Times and continued with the following year's Year of the Cat. During this purple patch, Stewart earned his first hit singles in the United States, transitioning from folk troubadour at home to bona fide pop star abroad. And while Year of the Cat, the album, charted higher than Time Passages, the latter's title track was a bigger hit in the
A book about a film about an album? The new coffee table book from Callaway Arts and Entertainment and Apple Corps, The Beatles: Get Back, is essentially that: a hardcover, 240-page tome based on the film footage shot in the buildup to The Beatles' final album, 1970's Let It Be. Get Back was, of course, the name of the first version of Let It Be. It's also the name of director Peter Jackson's upcoming three-part, six-hour documentary (the first part of which premieres November 25 on the
Señor, señor/Can you tell me where we're headin'? Only Bob Dylan knew where he was headin'. In the fall of 1980, when Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 (1980-1985) opens, Dylan was two-thirds into his so-called "Christian trilogy" comprising Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980), and Shot of Love (1981). He had wrapped up a fiery tour on May 21, 1980 in which he only performed his gospel material. Audiences and critics alike were divided on Dylan's immersion into
Like a Companion for Your Lonely Soul Those placing the needle on The Beach Boys' Sunflower upon its release in 1970 might have been taken aback by the sheer drive of its opening track. The lusty "Slip on Through" - co-written, produced, and primarily sung by Dennis Wilson - rocked harder than just about anything else in the band's discography to that point. The song announced that Sunflower was not just The Beach Boys' first album on a new label but the beginning of a new chapter
Joni Mitchell fiercely announced her independence with "I Had a King," the haunting soliloquy which opens her 1968 debut album, Song to a Seagull. "I can't go back there anymore," she proclaimed. "You know my keys won't fit the door/You know my thoughts don't fit the man. They never can...they never can..." The song is bold, wise, and flecked with a graceful equanimity as the singer declares her freedom both from a husband who "lives in another time" and the societal constraints of the day.
Bohemian Rhapsodies: A Closer Look at Vinyl Me Please's Reissues of Queen's "A Night at the Opera" and Al Green's "Call Me"
In April, record club Vinyl Me Please announced that it would be restoring some previously out-of-print titles to the catalogue to celebrate 100 releases in the club's Essentials series. (See the list of all ten titles here.) We've given a spin to the re-presses of Queen's A Night at the Opera and Al Green's Call Me. For Queen, too much was never enough. That attitude is perhaps best embodied by the band's fourth album, 1975's A Night at the Opera. While the title was derived from the Marx
Surely one of the most unlikely hits of 1976-77 was Al Stewart's "Year of the Cat." An atmospheric tale of romance in a faraway place with Casablanca name-checks of Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, the song propelled the British singer-songwriter to the top of the pops: No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and even higher, No. 4, in Cash Box) and No. 8 AC as well as No. 31 in the U.K., his only chart appearance there. Following its expanded reissue late last year of Stewart's 24 Carrots, Cherry
When Fleetwood Mac's Live reached store shelves in time for Christmas 1980, the deluxe 2-LP set was following another mammoth affair: Tusk, released just fourteen months earlier. While Tusk was a success by any measure - it reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and yielded two U.S. top ten singles - it fell off the album chart within nine months as opposed to its predecessor, Rumours, which spent a record-breaking nine consecutive weeks at No. 1 in 1977-1978 on its way to becoming one of the
Oh! You Pretty Things: David Bowie's 1971 song became an anthem for the glam era: "Don't you know you're driving your mothers and fathers insane? Let me make it plain, you gotta make way for the homo superior..." Bowie's alien persona - androgynous, dangerous, sexy, and flamboyant - connected with youth and caused a stir among their parents. The song's title has now been adopted by a new 3-CD box set from Cherry Red's Grapefruit imprint. Alas, "Oh! You Pretty Things" doesn't appear anywhere
Jon Anderson's 1976 solo debut Olias of Sunhillow was a lockdown album decades before those were in vogue. Recorded in his home's garage with Anderson on every instrument, the singer-songwriter recalled three months of 10-hour days to bring the ambitious sci-fi/fantasy concept album to life. While its success was modest - it peaked at No. 47 in the U.S. and a stronger No. 8 at home in the U.K. - Olias musically anticipated Anderson's collaborations with Vangelis and is today fondly looked upon
Motown's Rare Earth imprint intended to bring the sound of rock to the home of The Supremes, The Miracles, Martha and The Vandellas, The Temptations, and Four Tops. The imprint was named after a white rock band from Detroit and its artists were both home-grown and licensed from other parties. In the latter category was Toe Fat, a U.K. psych-rock band built around the talents of Cliff Bennett, formerly of the beat group Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers. Both of Toe Fat's albums - issued on
"Hey Clockface, keep those fingers on the dial," Elvis Costello implored on the jaunty, jazz-flavored title track of his 2020 album. "You said you'd be a friend to me, but time is just my enemy and it is hurting me so..." Despite his pleas, time has been rather good to Costello's artistry. Though initially branded an "angry young man" - and indeed, he channeled the punk zeitgeist early on with his fast and furious compositions - Costello has been able to travel wherever his muse takes him.
High Time: Cherry Red, Grapefruit Collects U.K. Band Byzantium on "Halfway Dreaming: Anthology 1969-75"
Byzantium was only active for a brief period at the tail end of the late 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, but the band is still well-remembered within the British underground rock scene. Now, the group's officially issued works (and more!) have been collected by Cherry Red's Grapefruit imprint on the new 5-CD set Halfway Dreaming: Anthology 1969-75. Byzantium emerged from the ashes of the band Ora, formed by students Robin Sylvester, Julian Diggle, and Jamie Rubinstein at University
Truth in advertising: Iron Butterfly's first album was titled Heavy. The 1968 Atco Records release introduced the band's dense sound fusing hard rock and psychedelia with a set of original songs plus a reimagining of Allen Toussaint's "Get Out of My Life Woman." While three-fifths of the band left after that debut, Heavy nonetheless began Iron Butterfly on a journey encompassing four studio LPs, one-off tracks, and live sets through 1971. Now, that journey has been lavishly chronicled on a
Happy 2021 and welcome to The Second Disc's 11th Annual Gold Bonus Disc Awards! The past year has presented any number of unprecedented challenges. But music has filled a more important role than ever, providing solace, comfort, and escape in a time unlike any other. With that spirit in mind, The Second Disc once again wishes to recognize 2020's cream of the catalogue music crop - those exemplary reissues and box sets big and small that proved to be truly outstanding for music lovers
Holiday Gift Guide Review: Legacy Looks Back at 1970 With Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix Archival Offerings
50 years ago, two of American music's greatest talents proved they were still venturing into new territories. Elvis Presley, some decade and a half after he first took the world by storm, was setting up shop in Nashville for a marathon session that saw him pulling from the new popular songbook and many songs written just for him. These sessions delivered several albums' worth of material and are now presented chronologically in a new box set, complete with exciting new mixes on From Elvis In
As our Holiday Gift Guide continues with a fourth and final look at Cherry Red's recent box set offerings, we wanted to bring to your attention two collections that would look great underneath the tree, whether for a prog-rock enthusiast in your life or for yourself (we won't tell!). First up: Barclay James Harvest's And Other Short Stories, recently reissued as a 2-CD/DVD set. The English prog rock outfit Barclay James Harvest had already made a name for themselves as part of Harvest
Prepare to elevate your soul with this 20th anniversary box set edition of U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind. Twenty years into their career, U2 rang in the new millennium with a career-redefining recording that saw them return to the upper echelons of the Billboard charts, with Grammy nominations and worldwide hits to boot. With enduring instant classics like "Beautiful Day," "Walk On," "Elevation," and "Stuck in a Moment That You Can't Get Out Of," it's no wonder the album remains a