Album Chart of 1973

<1972 1974>

  • This chart features albums released in 1973 and is limited to all of the albums in my collection which have “A-list” status.
  • The Top 30 albums are profiled, and the full chart (Top 86) is summarised, in sortable table form, on the Albums released in 1973 page, which shows the full range of albums in this sites' database, including the “B-list” records.
1973-a-the-wailers.jpg

THE RISE AND RISE OF JA MUSIC

Pictured at the BBC in May ’73 are (L to R): Earl Lindo, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Carlton Barrett (hidden), Bunny Wailer and Aston Barrett. The Jamaican recording industry had come a long way since it all started barely 20 years before, however, many of the key artists were still battling to break down that final barrier; namely to win recognition and gain credibility for Reggae as a serious art form in the World’s consciousness. Neither Mento, Ska, Rocksteady nor, thus far, Reggae had managed to break through amongst the taste-making critics, and thus the album markets, of the western world. Some insular Jamaicans would rather it stayed that way too – but not your Jimmy Cliffs, your Toots Hibberts, your Ken Boothes or your Bob Marleys. They were out to push Jamaican music on to the next level, and were looking to win over those chin-stroking journalists that were oh so influential in the UK and the USA. The Wailers were at the forefront of the offensive from the island, and both of their 1973 long-players were available on an international basis, in a professionally co-ordinated fashion. They toured incessantly at this time and in ’73, they played in New York alongside Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and opened for Sly and the Family Stone in Las Vegas. Nyabinghi drums and chants echoed around college campuses on both sides of the Atlantic. With the Wailers on their very doorstep, the critics sat up and took notice – the rock world could no longer ignore this irresistible force.

Elsewhere, the hardest working man in showbiz is living up to his moniker – there were 3 new-music albums from James Brown, as well as one from The J.B.’s. The new rap spiel pioneered by the Last Poets in the last few years is furthered by a solo release from Lightnin’ Rod – his “Hustler’s Convention” LP is unmissable.

After seven years absence on the album’s front, Irma Thomas re-surfaces with a third brilliant entry for her catalogue but, alas, it struggles to be heard via the platform of a tiny indie label.

Both The Dubliners and Steeleye Span touch on centuries-old Celtic grievances and emerge, once again, as leaders in the folk world, whilst Can, Faust and Neu! continue to push an all-new German sound, big on groove, repetition and experimentation. The latter sabotage what would have been a sure-fire Top 5 album on this chart by including a lot of nonsense filler, namely by repeating 33 RPM album cuts at 16 / 78 RPM speeds.

The incomparable Kevin Coyne secures a Top 10 slot with me for the second-year-in-row – his “Marjory Razorblade” astonishes and delights in equal measure.

Bryan Ferry gives James Brown a run for his money in the hard-working stakes – not only are their two fine Roxy Music albums, he also takes time-out in-between to deliver his solo-debut set.

Likewise, David Bowie serves a double helping, albeit one is an all-covers affair. Bowie mania sweeps the UK and 4 of his albums feature in Britain’s year-end Top 20 best-sellers list.

In February, John Cale pipes up with the stately “Paris 1919” and in July, his former VU colleague, Lou Reed, delivers his ‘personal Macbeth’ via “Berlin”. A capital co-incidence, surely?

The Jukebox Rebel
13-May-2016

TJR says:

7.96 “Brilliant”

“Burnin’” arrived in October ’73, just six months on from “Catch A Fire” – by this stage these guys seemed like they were on a mission to convert the world to Reggae. It helped a lot that they had become an identifiable bona-fide group – a rarity in Jamaica. The Wailers could safely be described as a sextet at this time: Bob Marley (vocals, rhythm guitar); Peter Tosh (vocals, lead guitar); Bunny Wailer (vocals, percussion); Aston Barrett (bass); Carlton Barrett (drums) and Earl Lindo (keyboards). As with the preceding LP, they clearly felt they had unfinished business with earlier songs. Usually, I’d take that as a sign that desperados were at work, but it must be said that on this set they created definitive versions of “Duppy Conqueror” and “Put It On” (both of which had appeared on “Soul Revolution Part II”, 1971) and “Small Axe” (which was first out as a 7" in 1970). The album opens mightily with “Get Up, Stand Up”, which digs heavily into War’s 1971 tune “Slipping Into Darkness” for inspiration. It’s sheer dynamite musically, if a little confused lyrically. Of the many messages in this song “we’re sick and tired of your ism/schism game” is probably my favourite bit of Christian bashing this side of Lennon’s “God”, although I doubt I’ll be converting to Rastafarianism anytime soon – apparently, almighty God is a living man. Altogether now: “you can fool some people sometime”… ahem, yes… moving quickly along… it’s brilliant how Bob and Peter take turns with verses on this one – a real show of unity and brotherhood on the surface, even if it belies the reality of inter-group writers credit tensions that exist between the pair. On the militant aspect, my right fist is clenched, with my arm raised high. Next, Bunny Wailer steps forward for a rare lead vocal on “Hallelujah Time” – the album’s weakest moment due to the namby-pamby lyrics and vocals. His high-pitched voice is better suited to back-up, ably demonstrated immediately on “I Shot The Sheriff”, Bob’s universally appealing justice fantasy. Civil unrest is to the fore again on “Burnin’ and Lootin’”, almost an answer record to Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross” as Bob moans: “How many rivers do we have to cross, Before we can talk to the boss? Eh! All that we got, it seems we have lost; We must have really paid the cost. (That's why we gonna be) Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight” Ghetto struggles and spirituality are the recurring themes on this album – Peter Tosh provides a late album highlight with “One Foundation”, a call for unity amongst peoples. “Rastaman Chant” serves as a great finale; a glimpse for westerners into traditional nyabinghi drumming and chanting. Aston Barrett’s bass may not be pure to the form but it’s killer and, with the excellent harmonies of Bob, Peter and Bunny, it leaves a real warm glow by the end.

The Jukebox Rebel
24-Jun-2007


TJR says:

7.66 “Brilliant”

Superfly 30 years before gangster rap got naff, this terrific LP was conceived and executed by Jalal Mansur Nuriddin who had come to some degree of prominence in the last few years as a member of The Last Poets. His Lightnin’ Rod pseudonym was a one-off; a long-promised sequel never did materialise. For me, this is by far the most interesting album of 1973; a semi-autobiographical tale centred around “Sport” and “Spoon” – two young hustlers who each lay down £10,000 to attend a convention which can only be described as the hustlers World Cup, as a room full of sharks try to outdo each other in all sorts of ways, notably through shooting pool and playing cards. Predictably, they get tangled up in a financial disagreement that leads to a shootout and a police chase, culminating with a contemplative Sport on Death Row. On the album closer “Sentenced To The Chair”, we learn that he finally gets a reprieve after a long sweat: “It had cost me 12 years of my time to realise what a nickel and dime hustler I had really been, while the real hustlers were ripping off billions from the unsuspecting millions who are programmed to think they can win.” The real-life twist-in-the-tale comes from Kool and the Gang who had underpinned this work with funky grooves and some neat brass. Robert ‘Kool’ Bell would later lament: “we never got paid for what we did”. Beware those 2-bit hustlers y’all!

The Jukebox Rebel
05-Oct-2010


TJR says:

7.64 “Brilliant”

This was the third brand new 1973 album from the highly prolific James Brown stable – and the finest LP that he ever made. Despite being a doubler, it has strength in depth. The set was originally scheduled to become the soundtrack for the Blaxploitation film “Hell Up in Harlem”, but was rejected by director Larry Cohen for “not being funky enough.” What? Does he even have ears? DEAR LARRY COHEN, YOU’RE THE LOSER! These have got to be some of the deepest funky grooves you could ever wish to hear; not only do they plunge low and deep down the scale, they go round and round for so long that the glorious trance-out is irresistible. How much you love this album will depend on how much you love getting tranced out; Kraut funk baby, that’s what I’m talkin’ about! These funky shamen are where it’s at in 1973. On Rate Your Music, user “telephone_junkie” made me laugh out loud with his review… “Basically there are two types of people in this world. James Brown is a pretty good example of one of the types. Dick Cheney is a pretty good example of the other.” I wonder if Dick was related to Larry Cohen?

The Jukebox Rebel
20-Apr-2012


TJR says:

7.63 “Brilliant”

Just as they did in 1968, Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje (The Now Now Girls) effortlessly breeze into my Top 10 albums of the year, although I should point out they are greatly assisted by some terrific male groaners, a formula which has been working wonders for many of the South African jive recordings of the recent years. As always, they are led by Hamilton Nzimande’s Isibaya Esikhulu production stable, and backed by the Gramophone Record Company. Clearly, this stable knows its business well – only the previous year they had been rocked by a mutiny, which left only one of the girls – Jane Dlami – standing. In no time at all, Nzimande hustled and re-recruited, bringing original member Nobesuthu Shawe back in to the fold, and adding others including Ruth Mafuxwana and Lindiwe Mthembu. The album kicks-off majestically with the title-track, “Siya Emshadweni”, which is not to be confused with their similarly titled single from several years previously. Apparently, they are going to a wedding. I don’t let that put me off though – those vocals are positively anthemic and stir my soul. Male vocalist Mthunzi Malinga plays a blinder here. Side 1 is by far the stronger – the first five tracks turn out to be my five favourite tracks. “Ziyathuthuka Izintombi” is next – it skips, stomps and rolls its rhythms in a way which is impossible to ignore; involuntary hipsway and headnod is an inevitability. Third track in, the foot-tapping “Siya Eswazini”, keeps up the high standard, although it’s a complete musical culling of Mahlathini’s “Shwele Baba” of 1972. The Mahlathini-esque groaner serves to cement the cheekiness. Completely different again is the fantastic “Udumbe Dumbe” which seems to have about 4 alternating male vocals. The drums on this one are also terrific, they really march and roll. Alas, the intense excitement is not maintained all the way, otherwise this may have been my album of the year, but there’s not a weak track on this fine LP. You can read more about it and download a copy from Electric Jive.

The Jukebox Rebel
12-Oct-2016


TJR says:

7.61 “Brilliant”

What were the odds that five of the greatest Dubliners ever to live would all find themselves in the same folk group? The hirsute balladeers were now on their 12th proper album after some ten years of action but they’re as fresh as ever, sparking off each other whilst each character gets a chance to shine individually. Early doors, Barney lays aside his banjo and takes a rare lead vocal on “Fiddler's Green”, a song that was written by John Conolly and first released by Maddy Prior and Tim Hart in 1969. Barney convinces effortlessly in his role as an auld fisherman looking to get to heaven (Fiddler’s Green) where “the girls are all pretty and the beer it is free, and there's bottles of rum growing from every tree”. He brought the house down when he sung that live – people just love Barney. In a group where the main vocalists, Ronnie and Luke, demand all the attention, it’s a nice recurring feature of their albums that the impressive talents of Barney McKenna (tenor banjo and mandolin), Ciarán Bourke (tin whistle, harmonica and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle and mandolin) are allowed to be set free on instrumental jigs and reels. There are three of them here; “Queen of the Fair / The Tongs by the Fire”, “The Wonder Hornpipe” and “The Three Sea Captains”, the latter of which is especially good and sees the group continue with their occasional dalliance with ye olde English folk vibe, even going so far as to be delivered complete with Georgian-style harpsichord. Luke Kelly’s main two pieces come at the close of side 1, “The Jail of Cluian Meala” and the track which opens side 2, “The Town I Loved So Well”, a ballad for once-beautiful Derry, now plagued with violence and scarred for life. Luke’s emotive style is a big hit with many and there’s no doubting the man’s got soul – with his humanitarianism he could be an ace diplomat in any peace process. Throughout, the magnificent Ronnie Drew is as reliable as ever with that unmistakeable rough brogue of his. He veers from the sentimental “Donegal Danny”, a tale of a once-proud fisherman turned tramp who has lost his mates at sea to the humourous “Johnson’s Motor Car”, a song which is based on a real event in 1920 when a doctor in Donegal had his car commandeered by the IRA: “What will my loyal brethren say, when ere they hear the news, my car it has been commandeered, by the rebels at Dungloe?” pleads Johnson. “We'll give you a receipt for it, all signed by Captain Maher, and when Ireland gets her freedom, you'll get your motor car.” He loves his punchlines does Ronnie. The Drewmeister saves his greatest performance ‘til near the end with “Skibbereen”; why, asks a curious son, did his father leave such a beautiful Irish town for America? Failed crops, poverty, brutality and tragedy comes the stark reply: “Tis well I do remember the bleak November day, when the bailiff vans and landlord came to drive us all away, they set the roof on fire with their cursed English spleen, and that’s another reason, I left old Skibbereen. Oh, your mother too, God rest her soul, lay on the snowy ground, she fainted in her anguishing seeing the desolation ‘round, She never rose but passed away from life to immortal dreams, and that’s another reason, I left old Skibbereen. Oh, you were only two years old and feeble was your frame, I could not leave you with my friends for you bore your father's name, I wrapped you in my cóta mór at the dead of the night unseen, and I heaved a sigh and I said goodbye to dear old Skibbereen.” Struggles of the past are linked with the present day as the album comes to a dramatic end. With Northern Ireland raw with recent atrocities such as the Ballymurphy Massacre (11 civilians shot by the British Army), the McGurk's Bar bombing (15 civilians killed by the UVF) and Bloody Sunday (14 civilians killed by the British Army), the Dubliners certainly weren’t shying away from the issue. Tit-for-tat retaliations had made 1972 one of the bloodiest and deadliest years in Northern Ireland’s recent history. “Rebellion”, the album’s stirring closer, tells it like it is without explicitly referencing topical events. Chest out, head high, Ronnie introduces the piece resolutely: “The history of Ireland is a history of oppression, and the struggle of the people against it. The history of grasping landlords and conniving politicians who sought to deprive the people of their birth-right. At regular times in Ireland’s past, these grievances have boiled over and the ordinary people have reacted in the only way open to them… REBELLION”. Luke and Ronnie proceed to take turns with the various pieces in the medley as the album goes out in a patriotic blaze of glory, with vocals and mandolins tugging at hearts and minds. As the album liner notes put it: “The Dubliners… each an individual talent, but collectively as powerful as a force ten gale.

The Jukebox Rebel
13-Mar-2016


TJR says:

7.54 “Brilliant”

The coming together of Irma Thomas with Swamp Dogg was a mouth-watering proposition on paper – and the results were an artistic triumph, soured only for the participants by the back-story and the lack of praise, glory and fortune that was undoubtedly merited. Frozen-out of the biz on account of her determination not to be mistreated by chancers, Irma’s musical activity was extremely low-key by the end of the 1960s, an absolute travesty for one of the mightiest soul singers that ever recorded. In 1969, she was persuaded to have another go at Wally Roker’s new indie label, Canyon Records. To get the best out of her, Wally put the call out to Jerry ‘Swamp Dogg’ Williams, a maverick songwriter, musician and producer, but one who knew exactly how to deal the cards. Dogg’s recent long-player with Doris Duke had solidified his credentials, lest there be any doubt. Irma remarked: “He was one weird dude, but he knew how to take care of business”. These sessions were recorded in Macon, Georgia in 1970, pretty much with the same crew who had played on Doris Duke’s “I’m A Loser” in the previous year, and Swamp Dogg’s own “Total Destruction To Your Mind” earlier in the same year. In other words, these were ace soulsters through and through – the real deal. Tragically, Canyon were declared bankrupt before the planned Irma Thomas album could be released – yet another bitter blow for our leading lady. Ever the entrepreneur, Williams managed to work a deal with Roker, and the master tapes were now under his full control. Eventually in 1973, the master hustler managed to get some degree of backing for his own new label, Fungus Records, and he was able to get Irma’s album out there, albeit in a low-key manner. However, without a promotional budget and major distribution network, he was up against it at every turn. Irma’s career was in the doldrums at this time – an outrageous state of affairs considering she was in her prime. She would later lament: “At this point I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never have another national hit. You’ve just got to have big bucks. It’s been my luck to be with [either] a small company that can’t promote, or a big company that won’t promote.” “She’ll Never Be Your Wife” is an early highlight, as Irma stands strong in the face of a no-good divorce-seeking cheater – she ain’t signing no papers! She strawwng! “These Four Walls” is the only song on the LP which had previously seen the light of the day, having been issued as a last-hope, last-gasp 45 in 1970 for Wally Roker. Irma’s gut-kicking vocal is superb – this time she plays the part of the single-room low-budget mistress – I’m shocked! The one constant is the empathy and feeling that she manages to convey on behalf of these characters. The recurring theme of relationship quandaries takes another twist on “What’s So Wrong With You Loving Me?”; this time it’s an unfaithful couple, both of whom are already married. The production is epic, with a big rolling tympani drum which wouldn’t be out of place in a glitzy Elvis stage production. “You’re The Dog (I Do The Barking Myself)” finds Irma irritated with a lazy good-for-nothing who won’t pull his weight: “that wasn’t the deal when I said I will”. Once again, Dogg’s group are ace, extremely cool on the mid-tempo bass-led rhythm and sharp on the horns – this is music you can strut to. And then we come to the pièce de résistance: “Coming From Behind (Monologue) / Wish Someone Would Care”, as Irma revisits her self-penned 1964 classic and, encouraged and prompted by Swamp Dogg, extends the piece into a 12-minute stream-of-consciousness drama-thon where Irma runs through a full range of emotions; she’s heartbroken, but she remains defiant. This is classic Irma default mode. The album closes triumphantly and hopefully with “Turn My World Around”, an upbeat stormer full of passion and vitality, with strings, horns and rhythm section erupting in a blaze of glory, supporting Irma’s desire to find her place back in the sun. It’s devastatingly short at only 2 minutes. That crafty Dogg, he always leaves you wanting more ; - )

The Jukebox Rebel
18-May-2008


TJR says:

7.44 “Really good”

The demise of John Peel’s Dandelion Records label wasn’t all bad news for Kevin Coyne. His 1972 debut LP had come to the attention of Virgin records, who were sufficiently impressed to sign him and release his follow up, “Marjory Razorblade”. This was a terrific set from the 29 year old “anti-star” – the high quality fare within was remarkably maintained throughout the entire 80 minutes duration of the double LP. Uneasy, bizarre, troubled and never afraid to show his vulnerability, Kevin Coyne’s unique and highly expressive brand of folk blues stands him apart as superior to virtually all of his peers. On this kinda form, Coyne staked a real claim as contender for Van Vliet’s outsider art crown…

The Jukebox Rebel
07-Oct-2010


TJR says:

7.42 “Really good”

“Stranded” arrived in November ’73 – just 8 months after “For Your Pleasure”. Since then, Roxy had lost the synth wizardry of Brian Eno who, frustrated and bored with his position in the group, had decided to go and pursue his own musical visions. His place in the group was taken by the classically sensitive Eddie Jobson – ‘til now a prog-rocker with Curved Air – who had assisted Bryan Ferry with his solo LP in the summertime. Perhaps ironically given Eno’s departure, this is the first LP from the group where a couple of song-writing credits are dished out to members other than Bryan Ferry. There’s little doubt as to who’s really in charge here though; the songs are starting to be framed within a more conventional structure – it’s clear our Bryan enjoys a good ol’ croon. The set has a really laid back, cool feel to it. The instrumentation is ever-classy and the songs are strong throughout. For the third consecutive album the opener, “Street Life”, is gloriously dynamic, so much so that the group decided to break with their established practice of not releasing album tracks as singles. Speaking to Uncut, Ferry later said: “it begins with a cacophony of traffic noise, played by Jobson on synthesiser and Andy Mackay on sax, mingled with real sounds of the street – car horns, for example – and then the vocal enters. I wanted it to be a high-energy, fun song – buzzy and vibrant – and I hope the words convey some of that joie de vivre. Each verse seems to have its own character, like blocks on a street. And connoisseurs might notice the number of allusions to various brands of chocolate [Milky Way, After Eight, Black Magic], which is rather puzzling, since I never touched the stuff.” The croonster really comes into his own with the magnificent “Psalm” which closes side 1. Intensely soulful, the piece builds and builds forever before exploding in a grandiose swirl of rock-orchestration subtly enhanced by The London Welsh Male Voice Choir. Close inspection of the lyrics reveals this to be a genuine display of God-worshipping: “Forget all your troubles you will feel no pain, he's all that you need, he's your everything.” I wonder what the Big G reckoned to the front-cover model with the ripped-dress, wet in all the “right” places? The power balladry is to the fore again on side 2’s highlight, “A Song For Europe” – co-credited to Andy Mackay who plays some terrific sax – which appropriately renders lyrics in English, French and Latin. J'aime beaucoup. Now, where did I put my bright-white tuxedo?

The Jukebox Rebel
17-Jun-2007


TJR says:

7.38 “Really good”

Mellow vibes abound on the 5th LP from the egalitarian quintet; a series of electric symphonies big on atmospheric beauty and ever-complex rhythms. Opener “Future Days” is my favourite of the 4 pieces; the vocals from Damo Suzuki are stripped way down low although he is an integral part of the whole feel. This seems to be the way he himself wanted it. He later commented: “Future Days is for me the best album I made with Can, because it was very easy to quit from Can after that album. I wanted nothing from them after that. Musically, I was very satisfied.” The progressive jazz vibe is maintained immediately on “Spray”, a piece which almost seems to journey in an imagined film where a frantic, eerie situation finally resolves itself leaving the scene basking in a summer haze. “Moonshake” is notable for abandoning the template by introducing an insistent and chugging 3-minutes of action which is entirely danceable. “Better make this one a single” they said. By sheer contrast, “Bel Air”, widely regarded as one the greatest pieces in the Can story, takes up the entirety of side 2, with a runtime of some 20 minutes. Here, the aforementioned hazy summer afternoon is re-imagined for at least the first four and the last two minutes, giving way in the middle to almost a quarter of an hour’s worth of freaky dancing. Despite the track lengths this set is never tiresome; “Future Days” is a hazy, fuzzy, warmly satisfying experience.

The Jukebox Rebel
04-Feb-2016


TJR says:

7.35 “Really good”

The second Roxy long player was every bit the equal of last years’ cracking debut, as they continue to push in new directions, ultimately creating an edgy brand of cerebral pop which is largely fresh and exciting. Once again, they get the album off to a flyer with a monster cut, this time “Do The Strand”, an unlikely attempt to re-instigate the notion that a new dance craze might be set to sweep the nation. Tired of the Tango? Fed up with Fandango? Dance on moonbeams, slide on rainbows, in furs or blue jeans is the advice. There’s no simple twisting with these artsy types is there? They’re at their best when they’re bristling with such a punky new wave edge, and this is witnessed again on “Editions Of You, a hard-driven rocker heavy on sax and keyboard which recalls the squalling glory of their classic “Virginia Plain” single of last August. Side 1 closes excellently with “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”, a slightly disturbing psychedelic creeper which mocks the lie-dream of penthouse perfection. Vacuous consumerism reaches a new low when the character takes delivery of his new love doll: “My plain wrapper baby, your skin is like vinyl. The perfect companion, you float in my new pool. De-luxe and delightful, inflatable doll.” You’ve got to laugh. It saves you from gazing at your shoes nervously. In contrast to the snappiness of side 1, the flip opts for the extended jam approach, most likely at the behest of the more progressive Brian Eno. “The Bogus Man” suggests one or more members have been digging on Can lately, whilst “The Grey Lagoons” flirts too much with Americana for my liking. If I were there I’d be saying: “Oi, you’re ROXY MUSIC, innovators not imitators, keep with the script lads”. Best of the side is the 7-minute title track which closes the set; a dreamy, proggy, twangy, druggy thingy that’s never less than intriguing. I get the impression that Eno is in his element here; Bryan Ferry’s “ta-ra” vocal is chopped, looped and echoes for what seems like an eternity before the ghostly voice of Judi Dench unexpectedly brings the set to a close by uttering the words “don’t ask why”. I daren’t.

The Jukebox Rebel
17-Jun-2007


TJR says:

7.31 “Really good”

Following their two LPs with Lee Perry, The Wailers delivered the first of their album’s conceived for the worldwide market, arriving in April 1973. To commemorate Island's first Wailers LP, label head Chris Blackwell had commissioned designers Rod Dyer and Bob Weiner to strike up something special. Dyer and Weiner conceived of a cover modelled after a Zippo cigarette lighter, which has a hinged top. Said Clark: “The top half was riveted to the bottom half, which was a receptacle for the record and its inner bag, so the thing literally opened as a Zippo lighter would.” Catch-A-Fire-Spliff-tastic laffs for the 20,000 who were quick enough to bag a copy! From the Upsetters crew, the services of the Barret brothers were retained, with Aston (bass) and Carlton (drums) being responsible for a rock solid backline. There are sweet backing vocals throughout from Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths; their earnest wails make these songs of trouble, strife and love all the more believable. Bob and his gang were busy, busy, busy at this time, and were heavily committed to hectic European and American tour schedules throughout 1972 and 1973. With financial backing by Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, the latest Wailers set was recorded at various stages between May-October 1972, while the group were back on home turf. Later in London, producer Blackwell made some “international friendly” overdubs, with notable contributions being made by Muscle Shoals session musician Wayne Perkins, who provided a guitar solo on “Concrete Jungle” and lead guitar on “Stir It Up”. This potentially horrific intervention worked out well – there were no dissenting voices from the naturally critical Jamaicans. The latter tune was finally realised here, having first saw the light of day as a rocksteady 45 in ’67 and having been given a pop treatment by Johnny Nash in the summer of ’72. All sides of Bob Marley’s songs are on display on this LP – themes of sufferation and poverty are prevalent on side 1, whilst messages of peace and love are the general order of the day on side 2. The deeply grooved “No More Trouble” is next best from Bob’s pen – “Make love and not war! 'Cause we don't need no trouble… Help the weak if you are strong now… Seek happiness!” These are positive vibrations in full-effect. Perhaps the most affecting songs on this LP are the two penned and sung by Peter Tosh. An excellently reworked “400 Years” (originally done on their “Soul Rebels” LP in 1970) is a plea borne of frustration – different century, same shit – how long must his people be subject to discrimination? Another improved rework is “Stop The Train” (originally done for Leslie Kong’s The Best of the Wailers LP in 1970) as Peter’s soulful vocal convinces he “can’t take it no more”. At last, the world was ready to listen to Jamaican songs that weren’t all about rum and frickin’ coconuts. Hallelujah for these wailing Wailers.

The Jukebox Rebel
30-Aug-2007


TJR says:

7.05 “Really good”

After his commercial breakthrough with “Transformer”, the purse strings were loosened at RCA and Lou got to work on an ambitious plan of producing a music album with a stage production – this “rock opera” thing was all the rage, “my version of Hamlet” as he put it . Lou himself sung and played acoustic guitar, and employed woodwinds, horns, piano, a mellotron and a lavish string section arranged by producer Bob Ezrin, who had recently worked commercial wonders for Alice Cooper. However, Lou’s secret concept was typically antagonistic – moving on from the wild side, this was a walk on the dark side. The plot centred ‘round a couple of screw-ups by the name of Caroline and Jim. All seems well in “Berlin” at the beginning. It soon emerges, however, that Jim is a drug-addict who beats Caroline. Caroline is also a drug-addict and takes revenge on Jim by having sex with as many men as possible. Before long, their children – my god, they have children? – are taken into care. A devastated Caroline commits suicide. “Sad Song” serves as the epic grand finale. “Staring in the picture book, she looks like Mary, Queen of Scots. She seemed very regal to me, just goes to show how wrong you can be.” Just when you think you might allow Jim a degree of sympathy he pipes up: “I'm gonna stop wasting my time. Somebody else would have broke her arms.” What a schmuck. Contemporary reviews struggled to be positive. Writing for Creem, Lester Bangs called it “a gargantuan slab of maggoty rancour that may well be the most depressed album ever made.” Rolling Stone opined that it was “so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance” on its creator. I do not understand these responses - and what a shame that they can do so much damage to an artist. Why should a gory music album be treated differently to a gory movie? Must we only favour music albums with a feel-good factor? I say give us this day, our daily Lou Reed, deliver us from the humdrum. Sadly, the planned stage adaptation was shelved due to the negative reviews and poor sales. Bizarrely, Rolling Stone now reckon “Berlin” to be one of the 500 greatest albums ever made – therein lies the problem with multi-journo mags. You're better off with a one-man review site I reckon ; - )

The Jukebox Rebel
16-Jun-2007


TJR says:

6.98 “Good”

In 1972, Steeleye Span had provided the soundtrack for a stage adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” at the Lyceum in Edinburgh, which ran for 2 weeks in August. With the play being set against the backdrop of Scottish events of the 18th century, the group dug deep into the period for authenticity – many of the pieces formed the basis for their 5th LP, “A Parcel of Rogues”, laid down in the studio in January / February 1973. They line up: Maddy Prior (vocals); Tim Hart (guitar, dulcimer, vocals); Bob Johnson (guitar, vocals); Rick Kemp (bass, drum, vocals) and Peter Knight (violin, viola, mandolin, piano, recorders, harmonium, vocals). “One Misty Moisty Morning” (19c) starts the album off in a jolly fashion – there aren’t too many groups who get away with using a nursery rhyme to start off a new album, but Steeleye Span are no ordinary group. “Alison Gross” (19c) is next, a song about “the ugliest witch in the North Country”. We learn it’s unwise to say no to a witch – our man is turned into an ugly worm. Here, the group play pure rock guitar – but with no drums. It’s unusual and all the more effective for it. “The Bold Poachers” (17c) is a tragic ballad which tells the tale of three brothers tried for poaching pheasants; two are transported to a far-off land and one is hung as a token. Harsh! Jollity returns with “The Ups And Downs” (17c) as a pretty butter-selling Aylesbury maid is distracted by an admirer, puts out, but fails to snare her man, being dismayed to learn he is a soldier boy. “Fol-der-o diddle-o-day” is the oft-chanted refrain. Yep, you’ve guessed it, he’s Irish! “Robbery with Violins” then proceeds to close side 1 wildly and instrumentally, as Pete’s strings try to jig, and Bob’s guitars attempt to funky wah-wah. This is the definition of a culture-clash. I’m not entirely convinced that this works – but fair play to them for trying something different. Opening side 2 is “The Wee Wee Man” (19c), an improbable tale about a long-bearded wee guy, just six inches tall, who can lift up a 6ft tall stone and throw it farther than you can see. We’ll put that one down to a bit of escapism shall we? “The Weaver and The Factory Maid” is interesting as it explores an old tension from the days of the industrial revolution – our man, a respected hand weaver, falls for a factory maid who’s a steam weaver. Much to the chagrin of his family, he will give it all up for her. The album liner-notes tell: “There was a great bitterness felt between the hand-loom weavers and those who worked on the steam looms introduced during the industrial revolution. This feeling polarised in the Luddites (named after their mythical leader Ned Ludd) who were unemployed hand-loom weavers bent on destroying the steam looms which had put them out of work.” “Rogues in a Nation” (18c) depicts the treacherous devils in the Parliament of Scotland who accepted bribes to sign the Act of Union with England in 1707. “We were bought and sold for English gold, such a parcel of rogues in a nation!” They were dirty, rotten traitors – and never a truer word was sung. The group’s delivery recalls their “Gaudete”, in that it’s being sung a Capella earnestly. The primitive bhodran thump adds to the atmosphere – this is pure theatre which, I suspect, might have brought at least 45% of the house down in Edinburgh! “Cam Ye O'er Frae France” (19c) maintains the rebel-rousing, and openly mocks George I, the first Hanoverian King. After the House of Hanover succeeded to the British throne in 1714, the Jacobite risings intensified. As Dick Gaughan once dryly noted: “The Scots apparently found it illogical to have a puppet king who hardly spoke a word of English, seemed unaware of the existence of Gaelic, and appeared to have an intense preoccupation with gardening.” Steeleye’s classic version of the Jacobite traditional introduces some rare drum into the proceedings and the piece marches grandly, with a truly superb vocal from Maddy and some aggressive but disciplined guitar from Bob. “Saw ye Geordie Whelps and his bonny woman? Were ye at the place ca'd the Kittle Housie? Saw ye Geordie's grace riding on a goosie?” The nickname Geordie Whelps is a reference to the House of Welf, the original line of the House of Hanover. The “goosie” was the King’s favourite mistress, the lean and haggard Madame Schulenburg, crested Duchess of Kendall but commonly nicknamed “The Goose”. Who could deny the Jacobites their fun? “Hares on The Mountain” closes the set more pleasantly (i.e. boringly) with a Somerset-flavoured love song. Pete and Bob were responsible for bringing this one, a song which they had sung together in their folk club days. It’s not the best but it’d be churlish to moan – there are many sides to this wonderful group and that’s a major part of the attraction.

The Jukebox Rebel
25-Apr-2016


TJR says:

6.89 “Good”

The 5th album from these modern industrial urbanites was delivered in September 1973, and easily nestled into the affections of alternative music-lovers Europe-wide, small in number as they may have been. That said, the die-hards were split as to the merits of the work; many deemed it more bland and less abrasive than previous efforts. Not having heard these I couldn’t possibly comment, but I’d have to say these pieces sound pretty damn fine to my ears; the moody sonics are constantly inventive, and there’s rarely a dull moment across the electronic soundscapes, often to be found floating airily and throbbing without drum beat. Virgin's press release of the time was enlightening: “With 1973 came the arrival of what the band call their ‘sound generators’. These are black perspex boxes covered with dozens of white buttons: no one but Faust seem to know exactly how they work – they were custom-made, took two years to build and are unique. The sound generators are in part responsible for the highly individual sound of Faust – after all they are the only group in the world which have them. With these generators and other new equipment, Faust could now produce on stage effects that previously could only be achieved by lengthy adjustments to the PA inputs.” For this set, the group decamped from Wümme to Oxfordshire for recording, where they could play in Richard Branson’s new studio. They lined up: Werner ‘Zappi’ Diermaier (drums); Hans Joachim Irmler (organ); Jean-Hervé Péron (bass); Rudolf Sosna (guitar, keyboards) and Gunter Wüsthoff (synthesiser, sax). They ran out of time though, and in the end the drone-tastic 12-minute opener “Krautrock” was re-used from the March ’73 John Peel session and the fantastic closer “It’s A Bit Of A Pain” was re-used from the 7” single recording issued in 1972. This single emerges as my own personal favourite. Although not renowned for their lyrics, Jean-Hervé Péron later revealed his thought-process: “The lyrics try to express the way I felt being in the new situation of having money and equipment and a large house and time (very beginning of Faust, prior to and including first halfyear or so in Wümme) and being so fucking privileged and so fucking inneficient and powerless… 'but it's alright with, yes it's alright with me'. Because, after all, who is REALLY satisfied and WHO would not SELL HIS MIND?” I for one am delighted that this fantastic single was included – I might never have heard it otherwise. Curiously, a lady appears after 90 seconds and speaks in Swedish tongue: “The simple truth is that some men are hairy, and some are not. Some women have lots of hair, and some don’t. Different races have different patterns for the distribution of hair. The most virile of all men, the tall negro male, is almost entirely lacking body hair.” What can it all mean? I digress however… the aforementioned culling of material from outwith the album sessions was all Uwe Nettelbeck’s doing and this displeased the group immensely, so much so that founding members Hans-Joachim Irmler and Rudolf Sosna quit before the album was even released. Unfortunate background aside, for punk-minded adventurers, Germany was now well and truly on the map; Can, Neu! and Faust were trailblazing New Wave innovation in a way that was perhaps only equalled in Britain by Roxy Music. Alas, the mild reception afforded “Faust IV” further damaged the group irreparably. When the follow-up, “Faust V”, was rejected by Virgin, producer Uwe Nettlebeck finally lost interest, and they disappeared without trace for decades. Thankfully, time’s a great healer – they’re fine now and everyone recognises they were always great. Ain’t it a shame it has to be that way?

The Jukebox Rebel
05-Feb-2016


TJR says:

6.87 “Good”

At the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, the humiliated German aggressors were put in their place by the UK, the US, France, Italy and 28 others, as all sorts of treaties were signed and The League of Nations was formed to ensure there would never be another World War. Yep, that went well. Whilst this LP doesn’t explicitly linger on that subject, Cale described the title as being “an example of the nicest ways of saying something ugly.” He’s an impressionist of the highest order. This is an album which is best analysed in your dreams. Musically, it’s clear by this stage that the adventurous Welshman is refusing to be pigeon-holed, as he continues to surprise folks with his career twists and turns. I mean, you’ve only got to look at him staring back at you wryly on that front-cover to know he’s beyond frivolity or trend. His predilection for the avant-garde is truly abandoned on this springtime ’73 offering, as he explores his inner Randy Newman. Artsy and poetic, the set is graceful from beginning to end and never grates, despite some real MOR vibes from tracks such as “Macbeth” and “Andalucia”. There are moments to savour all over, be those from lyrical snips, or invigorating swells of cello. Early doors, on the curiously-titled “Hanky Panky Nohow”, I’m endeared to the singer when he serves up “Nothing frightens me more than religion at my door”. I also quite like the idea of “elephants that sing”. More worryingly, there are “cows that agriculture won't allow”. For me, the big standout on side 1 is track 3, “The Endless Plain of Fortune” which ebbs and flows gently and hypnotically, before tidally overwhelming anything and everything in its path. With those strings and horns in full effect, it’s quite the hi-fi experience. Frankly I have no idea what’s going on – Old Taylor, Field Marshall, Martha, Segovia and Amanda, who are these people? It seems to be shrouded in mystery and maybe it’s better that way; these are your lead characters – make your own plot. On side 2, “Paris 1919” is a goodie – a pseudo-classical pop production in the spirit of “Eleanor Rigby” with a catchy sing-a-long chorus: “You're a ghost la-la-la-la-la-la”. I can’t escape the thought that Cale is subtly re-enacting the perceived belittling of Germany. In the very next song, “Graham Greene”, the line “chopping down the people where they stand” seems to carry this same theme. In any event, any song which manages to include “Enoch Powell” and “the hounds of hell” in the same set of lyrics is alright by me. As an added bonus it’s played in a Paul-Simon-Reggae-Style, with a complex rhythm structure that would give even the best Tuff Gong innovators a run for their money. And so we come to the album’s crowning glory, the elegiac “Half Past France”, where, I imagine, we Europeans are lamenting the heavy toll that has been paid as a result of the war mongers’ insanity. I put myself in the mind of a soldier from Dundee – and I feel his torment at the incessant barbarism: “From here on it's got to be, a simple case of them or me, if they're alive then I am dead, pray God and eat your daily bread”. Who could fail to be moved by the homesickness? “We're so far away, floating in this bay, we're so far away from home, where we belong.” Only a philistine could deny the beauty within these pieces. “Paris 1919” – the album – was an artistic triumph.

The Jukebox Rebel
04-Feb-2016


TJR says:

6.68 “Good”

With the Stooges having officially broken up, Iggy was on the march for a new solo pathway – he thought he might find it London where he had a key artistic supporter in David Bowie, who helped set up a management deal for him. This was, to all intents and purposes, his first solo album but, as it turned out, the Stooges boys flew in to assist when Iggy felt the English session musicians were lacking some of that raw power, and the Stooges name was kept alive for another year. Things are very promising from the off on the ferociously exciting “Search and Destroy”: “I'm a street walking cheetah, with a heart full of napalm, I'm a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb, I am a world's forgotten boy, the one who searches and destroys”. I also care for “Penetration” at the close of side 1 – it has some of that cool Stones swagger about it; I get the feeling someone’s been diggin’ on “Exile On Main Street”. They’ve never made a bad album but neither “Fun House” nor “Raw Power” were able to get anywhere near the phenomenal self-titled debut of ’69. What we have is a group slowly and surely moving from the punky avant-garde to the thrashy metal side of the fence. It’s acutely evidenced here by comparing the cool-thrills of side 1 to (what's getting towards) the rawk-wank of side 2. Towards the end of “Death Trip” my central nervous system is secretly relieved that the end is nigh. Are you Punk or are you Rock? Fight. Fight. Fight.

The Jukebox Rebel
20-Jul-2007


TJR says:

6.67 “Good”

If there’s such a thing as stoner-blues then I think this might be it. The action is largely slow-chugging, but rich and vibrant all the same. The album was recorded at Wally Heider Recording, San Francisco over the course of two days, September 28th-29th, 1971. Playing on this one were: John Lee Hooker (vocals, guitar); Van Morrison (vocals, guitar); Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris (violin); Steve Miller (electric piano); Mark Naftalin (piano); Robert Hooker (organ); Elvin Bishop (slide guitar); Gino Skaggs (fender bass) and Chuck Crimelli (drums). The semi-autobiographical title track opens the set and sets the mellow tone. Long jams are the order of the day, with only 3 tracks on each side of the LP. “Going Down”, the album’s sole cover version, closes side 1 and emerges as my favourite track in the set. Van Morrison appears casually, and plays his part in an intriguing 10 minutes, impressive for its spontaneity and heady mix of instrumentation. Written by Don Nix, it was originally done by Moloch in 1969. For added spice, the musicians flirt with motifs from Canned Heat’s “On The Road Again”. They’re all just lost in music here – John Lee and Van would meet sporadically on several occasions in the decades which followed, both live and in the studio. On this evidence, it seems their reasons for doing so were pure and true. It’s another long piece, the 9 minute “Younger Stud”, which steals my greatest affection on side 2. This time the mischievous blues orchestra have got the Doors “Roadhouse Blues” at the back of their minds as they rock out. There’s not a bad track here, with some cool highs along the way. With John Lee it was ever thus.

The Jukebox Rebel
17-Jun-2012


TJR says:

6.65 “Good”

Who could fail to be impressed by the scope and breadth of this work – the work of a teenager? Since 13, he had been a folk-rocker, was involved in making albums by 15, all the while building the ideas in his head that would come to fruition after a frustratingly long gestation period as “Tubular Bells”. Painstakingly, the young lad plays almost everything himself, building layer after layer with acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, Farfisa organ, Hammond B3 organ, Lowrey organs, flageolet, fuzz guitars, glockenspiel, piano, mandolin, piano, percussion, tape manipulations, timpani, vocals, plus tubular bells. The very thought of it all blows my mind. He eventually found support for his bold vision in Richard Branson, who heard the potential in artistic and commercial terms. “If no-one else will put it out”, thought Richard at the time, “we’ll start something called Virgin Records”. The wily operator invited John Peel to dinner and key support was duly gained [he’ll do anything for a quality glass of red that boy]. On his Radio 1 show, Peel played side 1 in its entirety – and so the momentum for the LP started. Stylistically, the album weaves a diverse musical tapestry – pop, rock, folk, classical, prog – with tones which veer between darkness and light, sometimes ominous, sometimes carefree. Moviemakers saw potential and, by the end of the year, the opening segment had been snared by the producers of the supernatural horror film, “The Exorcist” – a box-office smash which propelled “Tubular Bells” into the funny-money stakes. Long after the album has gone, it’s the opening gambit which remains memorable, as does the spoken word of Vivian Stanshall, who plays the role of “Master of Ceremonies” at the end of part one, listing the instruments played in this section, each time followed by an exaggerated playing of said instrument. Stanshall was around due to the fact that the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band were also recording at Richard Branson’s Manor studio at this time – this was one of many happy co-incidences in this storyline. The set of tubular bells that were used on the album had been left by an instrument hire company after John Cale's sessions for “Academy in Peril”. Seeing an opportunity, Mike requested that they be retained – fate had intervened! Having tried to produce a particularly loud note from the bells, using both the standard leather-covered and bare-metal hammers, engineer Tom Newman resorted to a use of a normal heavier claw hammer to produce the desired sound intensity. This certainly paid off – those bells seem like they are right beside me in my music room. Fate had a further part to play when Stanshall humourously accentuated his “tubular bells” shout-out – so tickled was Mike that the working titles of Opus One and Breakfast in Bed were soon ditched. Before he got on board with Branson, Mike was on the verge of quitting the UK for a safe career as a state musician in the U.S.S.R. Isn’t it amazing what fate can do?

The Jukebox Rebel
11-Feb-2016


TJR says:

6.64 “Good”

Although nowhere near as essential as “Ziggy Stardust”, “Aladdin Sane” maintains the good early 70s form of the restless, outlandishly made-up showman. Thematically, we’re lead to believe that this album should be viewed as “Ziggy goes to America”. Personally, I’m highly wary of these overly stylized and thematic productions – can we not just play some Rock n Roll without the histrionics? And besides, that plot was thinly conceived from the beginning – why continue to force such a weak storyline? Any old excuse to get the war paint on I reckon. Thankfully, Mr Bowie seemed to conclude the same, and dramatically “killed” Ziggy live in concert just two months after this LP was released. So what about the all-important music? I love the second track “Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)” – it has just the sort of repetitive intensity that strikes a chord with me, despite flirting with jazz motifs. I love the discordance which stems from Mike Garson’s piano. The player explained: “I had told Bowie about the avant-garde thing. When I was recording the "Aladdin Sane" track for Bowie, it was just two chords, an A and a G chord, and the band was playing very simple English rock and roll. And Bowie said: 'play a solo on this.' I had just met him, so I played a blues solo, but then he said: 'No, that’s not what I want.' And then I played a latin solo. Again, Bowie said: 'No no, that’s not what I want.' He then continued: 'You told me you play that avant-garde music. Play that stuff!' And I said: 'Are you sure? ‘Cause you might not be working anymore!'. So I did the solo that everybody knows today, in one take. I always tell people that Bowie is the best producer I ever met, because he lets me do my thing.” The title is a pun on ‘A Lad Insane’ and was inspired by Bowie's half-brother Terry, who had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Bowie would later reflect that you could view it as being “about young people, just before the two wars, wanting to go and screw girls and kill foreigners.” In that case, the sound is suitably mental. “Drive-In Saturday” is a rather plain Rock n Roll ballad on the surface, with all the interest being contained in the lyrics – the inhabitants of a post-apocalyptic world in the future (Bowie once said the year was 2033) have forgotten how to reproduce, and need to watch old porn films to see how it's done. The music’s much more important for me however – I love pucker 50s doo-wop too much to dig this second-class imitation. The bad-assed “Panic In Detroit” gets me back onside immediately though – Bo Diddley meets the Stooges downtown to re-imagine the Detroit riots of 1967. The major highlight for me is the album’s lead single, “Jean Genie”, the ultimate glam-rocker which was a major smash in the British pop charts at the tail end of ’72. It screams FUN, you can play some mean air-guitar to it, and it’s not naff – if I was there at the time I might have thought perhaps glam-rock’s not entirely a lost-cause. By sheer contrast, “Lady Grinning Soul” finishes the set off classically and elegantly, as Bowie explores his falsetto croon to the max against a stylish piano-led orchestration. Ever the clever-showman, he instinctively knows how to get a round of applause at the end.

The Jukebox Rebel
03-Feb-2016


TJR says:

6.48 “Decent enough”

Recorded in August ’73, the final album from the urban blues veteran was in the shops by November. Now at 63-year-old, the big-feller’s taking it slightly easier, having suffered a couple of heart-attacks in the last few years. His trusty group leader, Eddie Shaw, pens 5 of these, the Wolf delivers 2. It’s his own “Moving” which opens the set, and he lets us know where his head’s at: “I’m still a backdoor man, but I ain't gonna tote my forty-four, no more”. It’s a compromise of sorts. He fancies headin’ back home in his retirement: “My name reign in Mississippi, An' Alabama an' Georgia, too, I'm goin' back down South, Where the woman sure know what to do”. Now that’s twice he’s been flirtin’ with the ladies in the first 3 minutes. What will Mrs Burnett have to say? Ha-ha – he’s playing his bad-boy role as well as ever. Heralding the album’s release, “Coon On The Moon” and “The Back Door Wolf” were issued as a 45 in September – both cuts are highlights in a consistently decent set. The former bites hard: “You know they call us ‘coon’, say we didn't have no sense, You gon’ wake up one mornin', an the ol’ 'coon’ gon’ be your president”. They can see a change is gonna come – but it ain’t happening quick enough. Even better is “Speak Now Woman” – I’m just a sucker for that that nagging Jimmy Reed slow-drag, although the prominent harpsichord, a recurring feature on this LP, seems a bit weird and takes a bit of getting over. Still, the big guy over-powers and retires with his credibility in A1 condition. Oh, and Wolf’s crew were spot on about that future president.

The Jukebox Rebel
12-Mar-2016


TJR says:

6.41 “Decent enough”

Dylan’s first album in three years was his first film soundtrack LP. He also had an acting part in the movie. There’s a certain purity and freshness to much of this work that is very heartening for the left-field Dylan fan like me. “Main Title Theme (Billy)” is a delicious instrumental guitar-picking starter of the melodious Americana variety. It’s immediately followed in the same vein by “Cantina Theme (Workin’ For The Law)”. The excellent “Billy 1” is next, the album’s first vocal track, and it takes a real back to basics approach – it’s noticeable that Dylan shines brightly when he plays it this way. The tune is laced with just a hint of Mexicana – in November 1972, Dylan and his family moved to Durango, Mexico, where filming took place. It seems the influence was very positive here. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” was the albums biggest hit, but is probably the worst piece here, what with its tedious middle-of-the-road outlook. “Billy 4” is a late album highlight – it’s really quite a joy to hear Bob Dylan back strumming his guitar and singing coolly with such genuine passion. Bob’s back. It’s music to my ears…

The Jukebox Rebel
12-Mar-2012


TJR says:

6.36 “Decent enough”

Bored with her modelling career, the 28-year-old Betty Davis decided it was time to focus in on her literate musical heritage which, to date, had seen her soak up the Greenwich Village culture and folk music of the early 1960s, release a few mid-60s singles, befriend Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, and marry Miles Davis. Armed with her own set of compositions, she moved from New York to Los Angeles with the intent of recording with Santana, but it soon became something else. With the help of Sly Stone’s drummer Greg Errico (who would produce the album), a twenty-strong cast was assembled including Neal Schon (of Santana), Larry Graham (Sly Stone’s bassist), several members of Graham Central Station, as well as a young Sylvester and The Pointer Sisters (who performed backing vocals). The eight songs are built on funk grooves, with driving percussion, rock guitars and vocals which were, in the main, all expressive grunts, screeches and drawls – she sure weren’t no soprano! The sexual aggression was, sadly, too hot for Radio and Billboard action. As Carlos Santana would later astutely observe: “She was the first Madonna, but Madonna is more like Marie Osmond compared to Betty Davis. Betty was a real ferocious Black Panther woman. You couldn’t tame Betty Davis.

The Jukebox Rebel
07-Oct-2010


TJR says:

6.32 “Decent enough”

At the time of release in July 1973 they were: David Johansen (23, gong, harmonica, vocals); Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane (24, bass guitar); Jerry Nolan (27, drums); Sylvain Sylvain (22, piano, rhythm guitar, vocals) and Johnny Thunders (21, lead guitar, vocals). Like almost every genre in musical history, Punk didn’t just suddenly appear from out of nowhere in the latter half of the 70s. Even by 1973, Rock n Roll n Garage n teen-rebel vibes have been messin’ with musical conservatism for some 20 years now. New York Dolls were simply the latest notable chapter in the move towards the famous genre term that would create a worldwide big bang a few years from now. The NYD can be right proud of their contribution; the debut set from these exciting degenerates was a spewed up feast of Shangri Las and Stooges motifs, with some terrific keepers such as “Personality Crisis” and “Trash” to recommend it. If I’m being honest, some of these guitar wails bore me in the 21st century, as does some of the rhythmic stodginess, but I can’t help but wonder if I might have felt differently in 1973 as I looked around and saw the alternatives from crushing bores such as Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and Wings, Marvin Gaye, Genesis and Steely Dan. I’m sure I would have. I don't reckon this to be a classic by any means, but it's good stuff anyway… oi… NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE’S THE NEW YORK DOLLS.

The Jukebox Rebel
25-Aug-2011


TJR says:

6.16 “Decent enough”

The debut solo LP from the 26-year-old finally arrived in January ’73 after a lot of stop-start stalling since 1970. The idler had been gallivanting in places various, notoriously spending distracted months in the South of France with his pal, Keith Richards, and the Rolling Stones. Against the odds, he snapped out of his drug-related malaise and proved his doubters wrong with this LP, finding a fair degree of focus, and giving his song-writing talent a chance to shine. Emmylou Harris proves to be a find, and her vocal duets with Gram ensure that these relationship dramatizations are as believable as they are enjoyable. Sadly, Gram’s sudden burst of productivity in 72-73 proved to be a false dawn. “GP” turned out to be the only new-music album released in his lifetime – by September ’73 his life was over and yet another young talent had tragically been lost to drugs.

The Jukebox Rebel
19-Sep-2007


TJR says:

6.13 “Decent enough”

In 1973, Bryan Ferry was giving James Brown a run for his money for the title of “the hardest working man in show-business”. Sandwiched in between the second and third Roxy Music LPs in March and November, the 28-year-old delivered his first solo LP, 13 carefully selected cover-versions, reflecting his pop tastes, and generally not in line with the progressive tactics currently employed by his main group. Explained Ferry: “It’s a very catholic selection, I've given up trying to please all of the people all of the time. Some will like it for one reason, some for another. And some will presumably dislike it for the wrong reasons though I hope the general point of it will be understood. Its amusement value I think.” Recorded in the summertime of ’73, Roxy bandmate Phil Manzanera assists on guitar, and Eddie Jobson puts in a power-shift on strings, keyboards and synthesizer. So impressed was Ferry with Jobson that plots were hatched which seemed to ease the departure of Brian Eno from Roxy Music; Eddie was drafted in seemingly overnight for the group’s “Stranded” sessions in September. As with Roxy’s albums, I find the set gets off to an absolutely stunning start. “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (Bob Dylan, 1962) does the unthinkable – surpasses the original classic. Noticeably, it’s the one track on this set which channels some of that irresistible Roxy-new-wave vibe. Alas, they aren’t all so glorious – “Baby I Don’t Care” (Elvis Presley with The Jordanaires, 1957) is little more than pub-rock fluff. This hit-or-miss feel never leaves me throughout the course of the album – “Don’t Worry Baby” (The Beach Boys, 1964) closes side 1 and lets us hear exactly how it might have been had Bryan Ferry been recorded by Phil Spector; two worlds collide wondrously. On side 2, “You Won’t See Me” (The Beatles, 1965) and “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” (Four Tops, 1966) are further examples of disposability, before “These Foolish Things” (first performed by Dorothy Dickson in the stage production “Spread It Abroad” in 1936) throws a curveball that delights; once again different eras come together with stimulating results, finishing the album on a great high that leaves you intrigued, hungry for more.

The Jukebox Rebel
21-Jul-2007


TJR says:

6.13 “Decent enough”

Arriving in February ’73 was “Solid Air”, already the sixth new-music album from the classy 24-year-old songwriter. By and large, the album don’t wanna know about evil – it only wants to know about love, but isn’t afraid to acknowledge problems and seek to help, exemplified on the title-track which opens the set, a thoughtful reach-out to his depressed buddy, Nick Drake. Clearly, he’s a good-egg – I like him. The overall tone of the set is positive, with the vibe mellow. Pentangle’s Danny Thompson plays a key role throughout with his big double-bass and bendy notes which intuitively wrap themselves seamlessly around John’s exquisitely picked acoustic guitar. Another key element for me is Martyn’s voice which exists half of the time in a hummable frame, almost blurring the lines between notes and words – voice as instrument. It’s a great trick and really adds to the relaxed atmosphere. “Over The Hill” is an early album highlight, a universally appealing song about going home to your babies and your wife; that house on the horizon sounds like a simple heaven. Almost celebratory, a full gang are on hand here to share the joy: Richard Thompson (mandolin); Simon Nicol (autoharp) and Sue Draheim (violin) – it’s a sure-fire winner. “I’d Rather Be The Devil” (originally done as “Devil Got My Woman” by Skip James in 1931) is a surprise cover – the only one on the album – and takes a proggish detour, heavy on a funky wah-wah tip. This confuses me – and I welcome that feeling. Somehow, it works as a lead-in to the album’s second highlight track, “Go Down Easy”, a piece which is absolutely representative of the whole set, chilled-out to the max and made for love. There was a time when I’d have run a 4½ minute mile to escape from an LP tagged folk-jazz – as I’ve subsequently discovered, it's not always wise to pre-judge an album by a genre tag.

The Jukebox Rebel
10-Feb-2016


TJR says:

6.03 “Decent enough”

Another thoroughly decent set from the 33-year-old soul singer, just that little bit rougher and tougher – therefore better – than Al Green, with high quality production from Memphis legend, Willie Mitchell, who delivers deeply soulful grooves and sharp horns as consistently as the sun sets in the east. This is O.V.’s fourth album of new music for Back Beat, and the first to be wholly conceived and executed as an album proper, rather than as a patchwork gathering of session various. There’s a slow-burning intensity to the work, which is at its best the more heart-breaking the tale – call me sick if you will. “He’s My Son (Just The Same)”, a song about a man who will take-on the child of his unfaithful wife, is so tragic you’ve got to laugh… if this was Swamp Dogg I’d be sure he was taking the piss but in the hands of O.V. he seems for real. Best of the mid-tempo groovers is “Lost In The Shuffle”, a beautifully orchestrated number that recalls the simplistic wonder of Redding’s “Fa-Fa-Fa” song and is rather magical. The funereal paced “Ghetto Child” is laced with lovely strings and a low-down organ which is downright churchly, a feeling which is nailed by O.V.’s mournful gospel moan. Right here, I get the feeling he could give it all up for “the lord” today. Thankfully, it never came to that…

The Jukebox Rebel
13-Jun-2012


TJR says:

5.99 “Average”

For the second J.B.’s album the twelve funkateers extraordinaire were: James Brown (lead vocal); Darryl ‘Hasaan’ Jamison (trumpet); Hearlon ‘Cheese’ Martin (guitar); Jimmy Nolen (guitar); Ike Oakley (trumpet); Maceo Parker (alto sax); St. Clair Pinckney (tenor sax); Jerone ‘Jasaan’ Sanford (trumpet); John ‘Jabo’ Starks (drums); Fred Thomas (bass); Fred Wesley (trombone) and Eldee Williams (tenor sax). Their brand of big band funk is often sheer dynamite, witnessed impeccably on the 10-minute-monster-epic, “Doing It To Death Parts 1 & 2”, which is relentlessly dynamic. Essentially, this LP consists of 5 extended pieces – my shockingly-low rating comes about as a result of the 3 filler segments which effectively sabotage the rating. “More Peas” is the second sizzler – another jam which sounds like a sure-fire dancefloor winner to me. The only extended piece which lets the album down is “Sucker”, an 8-minute ordeal which revels in progressive jazz forms which, although technically excellent, I find boring and irritating. Thankfully, “You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks And I’ll Be Straight” gets me back onside before the LP comes to a conclusion; it has a hand-clapping good-time jangle which is never uncool - and that comes from someone who would usually slope off through a side-exit as soon as hand-clapping good-time jangles were force-fed from the stage.

The Jukebox Rebel
13-May-2012


TJR says:

5.96 “Average”

Arriving in October ’73, just six months after “Aladdin Sane”, was “Pin Ups”, David Bowie’s cover-versions album. Ever since he started his career in the mid-60s he demonstrated that he was an accomplished imitator and recycler, although it seems quite a strange move that he would resort to an all-covers album at the height of his innovative powers. It’s not a bad effort, but I don’t hear anything which improves or adds to the originals, which makes it seem all rather pointless to me, pretty green notwithstanding.

The Jukebox Rebel
04-Feb-2016


TJR says:

5.89 “Average”

Having witnessed some of the success achieved by the likes of Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Womack, Team JB dived headlong into the soundtrack world with “Black Caesar”, the soundtrack album hitting the shops in February ‘73. The set gets off to a super-strong start with “Down And Out In New York City”: “Here’s A Dime Boy, Gimme A Shine Boy”… WOW! Mnsr. Brown could certainly hit home a lyric – check “Mama’s Dead”: “I wish I had made her proud to call me son”… damn. The album’s highlight comes via the only non-James-Brown track, Lyn Collins stealing the show with her “Mama Feelgood” (though JB nicks a writing credit). Think The J.B.’s in full on dancefloor mode with Aretha Franklin – it’s smokin’ hot. Considering it must serve a greater purpose, this wasn’t a bad album at all. That said, I’ve now seen the film – I’ll tell you what, that Black Caesar was a nasty piece of work. On reflection, this soundtrack could’ve done with being a bit more bad-ass…

The Jukebox Rebel
20-Apr-2012

chart first published 13 May 2016; last edited 14 Oct 2016

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