Nina Hagen – Nunsexmonkrock (1982)

Catharina “Nina” Hagen (born March 11, 1955) is a German singer, songwriter, and actress. She is known for her theatrical vocals and is often referred to as the “Godmother of Punk” due to her prominence during the punk and new wave movements in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

After her European tour was canceled in 1980, Hagen moved to the United States and signed with Bennett Glotzer, the former manager of Frank Zappa. She began working on songs in English, since most of her previous material was in German and after six month she returned to Germany with her new tour. Shortly after discovering she was pregnant, Hagen broke up with Karmelk and moved back to Los Angeles. In 1982, Hagen signed a new recording deal with CBS Records.

NunSexMonkRock is the debut studio album by German singer Nina Hagen. It was released on June 12, 1982 by CBS Records. It marked Hagen’s first release since her departure from the Nina Hagen Band and was also her first album with all songs in English language. Hagen recorded the album in New York City with Mike Thorne and collaborated with musicians Paul Roessler, Ferdi Karmelk, and Karl Rucker when writing the songs for the album. The lyrics deal with various themes including motherhood, religion, drug abuse, and UFOs. Musically, NunSexMonkRock is an experimental rock with influences of post-punk and new wave music.

Upon its release, NunSexMonkRock received mixed reviews from music critics. While some praised Hagen’s theatrical vocals, others criticized its experimental production. Rolling Stone called it the “most unlistenable” album ever made. Commercially, the album achieved a moderate success. In the United States, it peaked at number 184 on the Billboard 200. In Germany, it reached number 27.

Tracklist

1.  “Antiworld”  (Nina Hagen, Paul Roessler) – 4:41
2.  “Smack Jack”  (Ferdinand Karmelk) – 5:16
3.  “Taitschi-Tarot”  (Hagen, Roessler) – 2:05
4.  “Dread Love”  (Hagen, Karmelk) – 4:08
5.  “Future Is Now”  (Hagen) – 2:55
6.  “Born in Xixax”  (Hagen) – 2:55
7.  “Iki Maska ” (Hagen) – 5:08
8.  “Dr. Art”  (Hagen, Karl Rucker) – 4:49
9.  “Cosma Shiva”  (Hagen) – 3:17
10.  “UFO”  (Hagen, Rucker) – 4:52

Personnel

  • Nina Hagen – vocals, synthesizer, guitar
  • Mike Thorne – production
  • Allan Schwartzberg – drums
  • Karl Rucker – bass, synthesizer
  • Chris Spedding – guitar
  • Paul Shaffer – synthesizer
  • Paul Roessler – synthesizer, piano
  • Axel Gath – baritone saxophone, contrabass clarinet,
  • Michael Ewasko – engineer
  • Don Wershba – additional overdubs
  • Harvey Goldberg – mixing, additional overdubs
  • Jack Skinner – mastering
  • Nicolaj Ilieff – design
  • Juliana Grigorova – photograph

Notes
Released: June 12, 1982
Recorded: 1981–82 Studio Blue Rock Studios (New York City, New York)
Genre: Experimental rock, post-punk, new wave
Length: 40:06

Label – CBS Records

Jerry Harrison: Casual Gods – Walk On Water (1990)

Walk on Water was the third and (to date) last solo album by Talking Heads keyboardist/guitarist Jerry Harrison.

Jerry Harrison was so impressed with the performance of his backup band on his 1988 tour that he brought them back around to share billing on his third album, Walk on Water. It’s ironic, then, that none of his star players and partisans feature audibly on the recording. The soulful backing of vocalists Dollette McDonald and Nona Hendryx creep into the mix from time to time, as does Bernie Worrell‘s blistering keyboard work, but it’s clear that Harrison has chosen Walk on Water, his first post-Talking Heads album, to be a stylistic departure from his earlier works. For one, the dense, syncopated textures from his previous albums have given way to a significantly more laid-back and monorhythmic feel. No doubt Harrison felt a simpler, pop-oriented approach would seem less self-conscious than his tense, meticulous early material. Tension, however, has always been an important quality in Jerry Harrison‘s music. Without it, his songs suffer here, as listenable but vaguely unremarkable tunes. Harrison brings his political activism to the fore, too, most notably in “I Cry for Iran” and “Cowboy’s Got to Go.” Unfortunately, the lyrics come across heavy-handed and lack personality, hardly benefiting from the sparser production. It’s only when Harrison truly lets his guard down that Walk on Water succeeds. A handful of surprisingly tender ballads manage to buoy the album up from mediocrity. “If the Rains Return” is an affectionate ode to a lover with a lush tropical backdrop, while the exquisite lullaby “Sleep Angel” seems to channel Chris Isaak with its silvery steel guitar and husky vocal delivery.

Tracklist

1.”Flying Under Radar” (Harrison, Dan Hartman, Ernie Brooks) – 3:49
Produced by Harrison, Hartman and Brooks
2.”Kick Start” (Harrison, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell, Ernie Brooks) – 3:51
Produced by Harrison, Weir, Worrell and Brooks
3.”I Don’t Mind” (Harrison, Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie, Ernie Brooks) – 3:29
Produced by Bailey, Harrison and Brooks
4.”Confess” (Harrison, Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie, Ernie Brooks) – 6:05
Produced by Bailey, Harrison and Brooks
5.”Sleep Angel” (Harrison, Ernie Brooks, Joyce Bowden) – 6:01
Produced by Harrison and Brooks
6.”I Cry for Iran” (Harrison, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell, Ernie Brooks, Joyce Bowden) – 3:40
Produced by Harrison, Weir, Worrell and Brooks
7.”Never Let It Slip” (Harrison, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell, John Sieger) – 4:52
Produced by Harrison, Weir, Worrell and Brooks
8.”Cowboy’s Got to Go” (Harrison, John Sieger, Ernie Brooks) – 3:18
No Producer credited
9.”If the Rains Return” (Harrison, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell, Ernie Brooks) – 4:23
Produced by Harrison, Weir, Worrell and Brooks
10.”Remain Calm” (Harrison) – 2:40
Produced by Harrison
11.”Big Mouth” (Harrison, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell, Tom Bailey) – 3:32
Produced by Harrison, Weir, Worrell and Brooks
12.”Facing the Fire” (Harrison, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell, Ernie Brooks, Arthur Russell) – 4:35
Produced by Harrison, Weir, Worrell and Brooks
13.”The Doctors Lie” (Harrison, Ernie Brooks, Alex Weir, Arthur Russell) – 5:39
Produced by Harrison and Brooks

Personnel

  • Jerry Harrison – guitar, keyboards, vocals

with:

  • Tawatha Agee – background vocals
  • Tom Bailey – keyboards
  • Adrian Belew – guitar
  • Joyce Bowden – background vocals, vocal arrangements
  • Ernie Brooks – bass
  • Sherrell Harmon – background vocals
  • Dan Hartman – keyboards, background vocals
  • Rick Jaeger – drums
  • Jason Klagstad – guitar
  • Jim Liban – harmonica
  • Samuel Llanas – background vocals
  • Etienne Mboppe – bass
  • Abdou M’Boup – percussion
  • Arlene Newson – background vocals
  • Loveless Redmond – background vocals
  • Chris Spedding – guitar
  • Vaneese Thomas – background vocals
  • Brice Wassy – drums
  • Alex Weir – guitar
  • Arthur Weir – bass
  • Michael Webb – background vocals
  • Bernie Worrell – keyboards

Production

Producers: Jerry Harrison, Ernie Brooks, Dan Hartman, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell, Tom Bailey.
Engineers: Jay Mark, Richard Manwaring, David Vartanian, Dan Hartman.
Mixing: Tom Lord-Alge, Bob Kraushaar, Dave Jerden, James Farber, Tom Bailey, Keith Fernley, Jay Mark, Jerry Harrison, David Henszey.
Mastering: Ted Jensen.

Notes
Released: 1990
Genre: Rock
Length: 55:54

Label – Sire Records (USA)

Harvey Danger – Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone? (1998)

Harvey Danger was an American alternative rock band that was formed in Seattle, Washington in 1993 by journalism students at the University of Washington. The band rose to prominence in 1998 with the single “Flagpole Sitta“, which was later used as the theme tune to the British sitcom Peep Show.

All of the 10 songs on the album were recorded in 1996; “Private Helicopter” and “Terminal Annex” were released as a demo that same year sent to music industry professionals on a commercially produced cassette tape, titled simply “Harvey Danger.” Three more, including “Flagpole Sitta,” were sent on a one-off cassette tape to Slash/London Records at the request of Greg Glover, an intern who was convinced on the strength of the recordings that he should fund a full album. All of the recordings, save one (“Carjack Fever”), became Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?

“I’m not sick, but I’m not well” whines vocalist Sean Nelson in “Flagpole Sitta,” the first single released from Harvey Danger‘s 1998 debut album. Such studied bile and wry wordplay abound on this lyrically and musically very solid first effort. Rather than pigeonholing themselves into a sub-genre, Harvey Danger seem to have incorporated a variety of “alternative” influences — notably the Pixies, the Wedding Present, and Joy Division — plus bits of Gang of Four, Sonic Youth, the Smiths, Hole, Green Day, Buzzcocks, Ride, and Iggy Pop. The band’s use of dynamics on this album is subtle and skillful, gliding within one song from a whisper to a Wall of Noise and back again seamlessly. With its melodic basslines and roomy, fuzz-box guitars chugging away at forceful riffs that straddle the line between ’70s British punk and ’80s indie, Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? should be immediately accessible to fans of intelligent, sardonic, hard-edged rock. In “Private Helicopter,” Nelson sneers “If you’ve got greatness in you, would you do us all a favor and keep it to yourself?” Fortunately, Harvey Danger have chosen not to take their own advice.

Tracklist

1.  “Carlotta Valdez” – 2:44
2.  “Flagpole Sitta” – 3:35
3.  “Woolly Muffler” – 4:30
4.  “Private Helicopter” – 3:31
5.  “Problems and Bigger Ones” – 5:41
6.  “Jack the Lion” – 5:30
7.  “Old Hat” – 3:48
8.  “Terminal Annex” – 3:43
9.  “Wrecking Ball” – 4:39
10.  “Radio Silence” (Includes hidden track after – 5:15
(a partial recording of “Carjack Fever” from Fuel Soundtrack played backwards.) 5:15/8:26

All lyrics written by Harvey Danger; all music composed by Harvey Danger.

Personnel

Aaron Huffman – Bass, cover design
Jeff J. Lin – Guitar, organ, violin, backing vocals
Sean Nelson – Vocals
Evan Sult – drums
Abby Grush – Backing vocals
John Goodmanson – Production, engineering, mixing
Harvey Danger – Production
Greg Calbi – Mastering
Chuck Robertson – Photography

Notes
Released: July 29, 1997
Recorded: 1996 Studio John & Stu’s Place (Seattle, Washington)
Genre: Punk Rock
Length: 42:56

Label – Arena Rock Records

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Tomorrow Belongs To Me (1975)

Alexander James “Alex” Harvey (5 February 1935 – 4 February 1982) was a Scottish blues/rock musician. Although Harvey’s career spanned almost three decades he is best remembered as the frontman of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, with whom he built a reputation as an exciting live performer during the era of glam rock in the 1970s.

“Gather around, boys and girls” is a phrase well-known to fans of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, who might actually be the best of the great lost rock ‘n’ roll acts of the ’70s. They blended elements of contemporary hard rock with old school R&B and non-rock covers, and played them with a sensibility that straddled glam, punk, performance art and vaudeville.

At center stage was the Scottish-born Alex Harvey, equal parts circus ringleader, delinquent, superhero, street person, pirate, school teacher and troubadour — all distilled into one rock ‘n’ roll singer, complete with Scottish accent. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was the band he fronted when he was nearly 40 years old, which even back then was pretty late in the day for anyone still waiting for their big break in the music biz.

The group did manage a decent six-year run at the charts, recording albums, touring and making numerous TV appearances, but made only a moderate impression in the important U.S. market.

Tomorrow Belongs to Me, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s fourth album, is considered to be one of their best. Recorded in 1975, it contains all the elements they had become known for on their previous studio offerings.

There’s the easy R&B characterized by “Soul in Chains.” There’s the edgy rock of “Give My Compliments to the Chef.” There’s even a straightforward reading of the title track “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” a song which had recently appeared in the popular 1972 movie Cabaret. This led some to mistakenly believe that Harvey, a staunch pacifist, was promoting Nazism, a charge to which he replied: “More lives have been changed by a Fender Telecaster than an AK-47.”

And then there’s “The Tale of the Giant Stone Eater.” This parodies the sort of multi-part progressive rock epic in vogue during the mid-1970s, executed with a precision worthy of any of Frank Zappa’s genre-jumping sound collages. Lyrical images rush by as quickly as the musical changes take place: “Another tree dies of shame. Hamburgers at the barn dance tonight. Rain on Tuesdays, Thursdays guaranteed dry.” Like many of the SAHB’s oddball pieces, upon repeated listens it actually starts making sense.

The Sensational Alex Harvey band broke up in 1978, and Alex Harvey himself passed away just one day shy of his 47th birthday in 1982. But he left behind a legacy that includes Tomorrow Belongs to Me: Through memory, perhaps tomorrow really did belong to him after all.

Tracklist

  1. “Action Strasse”  (Alex Harvey, Alistair Cleminson, Hugh McKenna)  – 3:12
  2. “Snake Bite”  (Alex Harvey)  – 3:55
  3. “Soul in Chains”  (David Batchelor, Alistair Cleminson, Alex Harvey, Hugh McKenna)  – 3:55
  4. “The Tale of the Giant Stoneater”  (Alex Harvey, Hugh McKenna)  – 7:20
  5. “Ribs and Balls”  (Chris Glen, Alex Harvey)  – 1:51
  6. “Give My Compliments to the Chef”  (Alex Harvey, Alistair Cleminson, Hugh McKenna)  – 5:32
  7. “Shark’s Teeth”  (Alex Harvey, Alistair Cleminson)  – 5:54
  8. “Shake That Thing”  (Alex Harvey)  – 3:30
  9. Tomorrow Belongs to Me  (Fred Ebb, John Kander)  – 4:14
  10. “To Be Continued…(Hail Vibrania!)”  (Alex Harvey, Alistair Cleminson)  – 0:50

Bonus tracks

  1. “Big Boy”  (Alistair Cleminson)  – 4:54
  2. “Pick It Up and Kick It”  (Alex Harvey, Hugh McKenna)  – 4:25
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
  • Alex Harvey – lead vocals, guitar, harmonica
  • Zal Cleminson – guitar, backing vocals
  • Chris Glen – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Hugh McKenna – keyboards, synthesizer, backing vocals
  • Ted McKenna – drums, percussion, backing vocals

with:

  • Barry St. John, Liza Strike, Vicki Brown – backing vocals on “Action Strasse” and “Soul in Chains”
  • Derek Wadsworth – string and brass arrangements
Technical
  • Dennis Weinreich, Ray Hendriksen – engineer
  • Peter Swettenham – extra recording and mixing
  • Dave Field – sleeve illustration
  • Jack Wood – art direction
  • Produced (by) – The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, David Batchelor

Notes
Released: April 1975
Recorded: 1975, Studio Scorpio Studios, London
Genre: Hard rock
Length: 37:15

Label – Vertigo Records

The Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania (2012)

Following up on, and in many ways amending, much of the bombastic overcompensation of 2007’s Zeitgeist, Smashing Pumpkins 2012 release Oceania is an exuberant, gloriously melodic, fluid return to form for Billy Corgan. While Zeitgeist certainly contained many of the elements that make for a classic Smashing Pumpkins release — including slabs of distorted guitars, passionate vocals, and poetic lyrics, not to mention drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who was the sole remaining original member besides Corgan and who subsequently left the band — there was something cold and perhaps a bit too calculated about the production. Ultimately, Zeitgeist didn’t do much to dissuade audiences that Corgan, undeniably the mastermind behind the best Pumpkins work, was now overvaluing his abilities in an attempt to recapture fans disillusioned by his various side projects. Thankfully, none of these concerns are applicable to Oceania. Ostensibly an “album within an album” of the greater 44-track Teargarden by Kaleidyscope concept project, Oceania works as a stand-alone album. Conceptual conceits aside, these are some of the most memorable and rousing songs Corgan has delivered since 1993’s Siamese Dream, the album that Oceania most closely mirrors in tone and aesthetic. Which isn’t to say that Corgan is treading old ground; on the contrary, there is something fresh and inspired about the songs on Oceania. Admittedly, kicking the album off with the heavy psychedelic acid rock groove of “Quasar” — in which Corgan croons several EST-era-style affirmations including, “God right on! Krishna right on! Mark right on!” — is a move that almost begs comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins‘ euphoria-inducing 1991 single “Siva.” A similar sentiment comes to mind with the latter album rocker “The Chimera,” a classic rock-sounding groover that sparkles with crisscross laser-beam guitar lines recalling the jewel-toned guitar heroics of Queen‘s Brian May. But these are welcome comparisons, born out of Corgan finally delivering a gorgeous and cohesive set of songs that balance some his more arch, cerebral inclinations with his generously romantic and sweepingly cinematic gift for revelatory guitar rock. Elsewhere, we get the soaring “Panopticon” and the minor-key, prog rock-inflected drama of “Violet Rays.” However, Oceania is perhaps best represented by the euphoric mid-album ballad “Pinwheels.” Starting with a repeated keyboard line and building to swells of acoustic and electric guitar before settling into one of the most swoon-worthy melodic anthems Corgan has ever written, “Pinwheels,” much like the rest of Oceania, is a masterpiece of pop songcraft and rock production. As Corgan croons on the song’s chorus, “Sister soul, lovers of the tune, sing!/I got you/I got you.” On Oceania, the Smashing Pumpkins definitely have us.

Tracklist

1. “Quasar” – 4:55
2. “Panopticon” – 3:52
3. “The Celestials” – 3:57
4. “Violet Rays” – 4:19
5. “My Love is Winter” – 3:32
6. “One Diamond, One Heart” – 3:50
7. “Pinwheels” – 5:43
8. “Oceania” – 9:05
9. “Pale Horse” – 4:37
10. “The Chimera” – 4:16
11. “Glissandra” – 4:06
12. “Inkless” – 3:08
13. “Wildflower” – 4:42

All tracks written by Billy Corgan.

The Smashing Pumpkins

Production

  • Geoff Benge – guitar technician
  • David Bottrill – mixing
  • Balthazar de Ley – studio technician
  • Kevin Dippold – engineer, backing vocals
  • Ryan Grostefon – engineer
  • Bob Ludwig – mastering
  • Greg Norman – studio technician
  • Richard Shay – photography
  • Bjorn Thorsrud – producer
  • Noel Waggener – art direction
  • Sam Wiewel – engineer
  • Jason Willwerth – assistant

Notes
Released: June 19, 2012
Recorded: April – September 18, 2011
Genre: Alternative rock, psychedelic rock
Length: 60:02

Label – EMI / Caroline Distribution / Reprise / Martha’s Music

Billy Corgan – The Future Embrace (2005)

TheFutureEmbrace is the debut solo album by American musician Billy Corgan, frontman of the alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins. Released in June 2005, the album’s sound was markedly different from most of Corgan’s earlier work, eschewing his characteristic “drums, bass, (and) big-guitars sound” in favor of an electronic sound punctuated with heavily distorted guitar parts reminiscent of shoegazing.

Billy Corgan sounded happy, relaxed, and refreshed on Mary Star of the Sea, the 2003 debut from his first post-Smashing Pumpkins project, Zwan, which just goes to show that art doesn’t always reflect the mindset of the artist. Zwan imploded in a matter of months after the release of Mary, and ever since then Corgan was on mission to let the world know that his time in the band was the worst time of his life, telling the world how perfectly awful and nasty the rest of the group was every time he spoke to reporters. Not only did he purge himself of the band in the press, but he bared his soul in a starkly confessional blog on Myspace, where he revealed more than most needed to know about everything from his childhood to the heyday of the Pumpkins. It was all part of a spiritual and creative rebirth that continued with 2005’s The Future Embrace, his first solo album. Abandoning the bright, fuzzy guitars of Zwan and never returning to the dense, heavy neo-psychedelia of the Pumpkins at their peak, Corgan constructs The Future Embrace with drum machines, synthesizers, and brittle, heavily treated guitars that echo into infinity on each track. Musically, it’s closest to Adore, yet it’s a distant cousin: if that album hinted at ’80s synth rock and goth, this re-creates the spirit and sound of 1986, right down to the robotic pulse of the rhythms, the cold, slick surface of the production, and the brooding, self-absorbed atmosphere. It’s not so much a progression as it an attempt to hit the restart button and begin all over again. Corgan not only returns to the music of his teenage years here, but his dramatic, emotive lyrics, which articulate his feelings far more directly than they have in the past, are terminally adolescent (and seem even more so when printed in the liner notes, where certain phrases are grandly emphasized via all capital letters). While the music mirrors the roiling emotions of his lyrics quite well — “The Cameraeye” is tense and restless, “Pretty, Pretty Star” is a gentle sigh — Corgan is more interested in texture than craft here, sacrificing hooks for mood music. Which is a roundabout way of saying that there aren’t too many memorable songs here (and it’s the reason why his cover of the Bee Gees‘ “To Love Somebody” works: it’s the only song here that not only has a strong melody, but the only one that has forward momentum; all the other cuts sustain one mood from beginning to end). But, to criticize The Future Embrace for not being chock-full of hits and hooks, the way Siamese Dream or Mellon Collie were, is to miss the point: like his confessional blogs, this album is a way for Corgan to sort things out and start again. Consequently, it’s for those fans who want to follow his journey, either out of empathy, curiosity, sympathy, or perhaps because they can also relate. Such a small-scale record seems a little odd coming from a rocker who was intent on conquering the world in the early ’90s — and surely there will be many who liked Smashing Pumpkins yet will never warm to this, either because of its electro-goth sound or because, like Trent Reznor on With Teeth, Corgan doesn’t quite seem able to break out of an angst-ridden lyrical rut — but he’s no longer concerned with being the biggest or the best. Corgan‘s exploring his own little world, one that may have a more selective appeal than either Smashing Pumpkins or Zwan, but will nevertheless resonate to those who bother to regularly check in on his Myspace page.

Tracklist

1. “All Things Change” – 3:59
2. “Mina Loy (M.O.H.)” – 3:53
3. “The CameraEye” – 3:04
4. “ToLoveSomebody”  (Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb) – 4:00
5. “A100”  (Billy Corgan/Bon Harris) – 4:23
6. “DIA” – 4:20
7. “Now (And Then)” – 4:43
8 .”I’m Ready” – 3:44
9. “Walking Shade” – 3:14
10 .”Sorrows (In Blue)” – 2:48
11. “Pretty, Pretty Star” – 3:46
12. “Strayz” – 3:31

Bonus track
13. “Tilt” (iTunes exclusive)

All songs written by Billy Corgan, except as noted.

Personnel

Guest musicians
Production
  • Todd Brodie – engineering assistance
  • P. R. Brown – sleeve photography and design
  • Nikola Dokic – engineering assistance
  • Roger Lian – final digital editing
  • Ron Lowe – mix engineering
  • John Maschoff – engineering assistance
  • Alan Moulder – mixing
  • Dave Rieley – engineering assistance
  • Paul PDub Walton – recording of Robert Smith’s parts
  • Howie Weinbergmastering
  • Produced – Billy Corgan, Bjorn Thorsrud

Notes
Released: June 21, 2005
Recorded: October 2004 – March 2005
Genre: Alternative rock, shoegazing
Length: 45:21

Label – Reprise Records

Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against the Machine (1992)

Rage Against the Machine (also known as RATM or simply Rage) is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1991, the group consists of rapper and vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk. They draw inspiration from early heavy metal instrumentation, as well as hip hop acts such as Afrika Bambaataa, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, and Dutch crossover band Urban Dance Squad. Rage Against the Machine is well known for the members’ leftist and revolutionary political views.

Probably the first album to successfully merge the seemingly disparate sounds of rap and heavy metal, Rage Against the Machine‘s self-titled debut was groundbreaking enough when released in 1992, but many would argue that it has yet to be surpassed in terms of influence and sheer brilliance — though countless bands have certainly tried. This is probably because the uniquely combustible creative relationship between guitar wizard Tom Morello and literate rebel vocalist Zack de la Rocha could only burn this bright, this once. While the former’s roots in ’80s heavy metal shredding gave rise to an inimitable array of six-string acrobatics and rhythmic special effects (few of which anyone else has managed to replicate), the latter delivered meaningful rhymes with an emotionally charged conviction that suburban white boys of the ensuing nu-metal generation could never hope to touch. As a result, syncopated slabs of hard rock insurrection like “Bombtrack,” “Take the Power Back,” and “Know Your Enemy” were as instantly unforgettable as they were astonishing. Yet even they paled in comparison to veritable clinics in the art of slowly mounting tension such as “Settle for Nothing,” “Bullet in the Head,” and the particularly venomous “Wake Up” (where Morello revises Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir” riff for his own needs) — all of which finally exploded with awesome power and fury. And even listeners who were unable (or unwilling) to fully process the band’s unique clash of muscle and intellect were catered to, as RATM were able to convey their messages through stubborn repetition via the fundamental challenge of “Freedom” and their signature track, “Killing in the Name,” which would become a rallying cry of disenfranchisement, thanks to its relentlessly rebellious mantra of “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” Ultimately, if there’s any disappointment to be had with this near-perfect album, it’s that it still towers above subsequent efforts as the unequivocal climax of Rage Against the Machine‘s vision. As such, it remains absolutely essential.

Know Your Enemy” features Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan on “additional vocals”, and also features Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins on trashcan percussion. Keenan has been known on occasion to appear onstage with the band to perform the song. The album cover features the self-immolation of Thích Quảng Đức that occurred on June 11, 1963.

Tracklist

1. “Bombtrack” – 4:04
2. “Killing in the Name” – 5:14
3. “Take the Power Back” – 5:37
4. “Settle for Nothing” – 4:48
5. “Bullet in the Head” – 5:07
6. “Know Your Enemy” (feat. Maynard James Keenan) – 4:55
7. “Wake Up” – 6:04
8. “Fistful of Steel” – 5:31
9. “Township Rebellion” – 5:24
10. “Freedom” – 6:06

All tracks written by Rage Against the Machine (Tim Commerford, Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk).

Rage Against the Machine

Additional musicians

Technical

Notes
Released: November 3, 1992
Recorded: April–May 1992 Studio Sound City, Van Nuys, CA, Scream Studios, Studio City, CA, Industrial Recording, North Hollywood, CA
Genre: Rap Metal, Funk Metal
Length: 52:52

Label – Epic Records

 

Glenn Frey – Strange Weather (1992)

Strange Weather is the fourth studio solo album by Glenn Frey, the guitarist and co-lead vocalist for the Eagles. It was released in 1992 by MCA. Though considered an improvement from Frey’s previous album by most critics, it went largely unnoticed by the public.

With his solo career fading, Glenn Frey got serious on his fourth album, but many of the album’s sentiments sounded strange coming from him. “He Took Advantage” was subtitled “Blues for Ronald Reagan,” but it came more than three years after Reagan’s retirement, and Frey‘s 1984 song “Better in the U.S.A.” could have served as Reagan’s campaign song. On “I’ve Got Mine,” Frey sang about how people in limousines don’t care about “us,” but when was the last time he was on the outside of a limousine looking in? Frey was out of his league going for the kind of philosophical/political territory better handled by his old partner Don Henley. So, although Strange Weather signaled a new commitment by Frey to his career, it missed the charts entirely. (The album concludes with “Part of Me, Part of You,” an Eagles-like tune used in the 1991 film Thelma and Louise.)

Tracklist

1.  “Silent Spring” [instrumental prelude]”  (Glenn Frey, Jay Oliver) – 0:40
2.  “Long Hot Summer”  (Frey, Jack Tempchin, Hawk Wolinski) – 5:17
3.  “Strange Weather”  (Frey, Oliver, Tempchin) – 5:03
4.  “Aqua Tranquillo” [instrumental]”  (Frey) – 0:50
5.  “Love in the 21st Century”  (Frey, Kortchmar, Tempchin) – 6:12
6.  “He Took Advantage (Blues for Ronald Reagan)” – 4:42
7.  “River of Dreams” – 6:07
8.  “I’ve Got Mine” – 5:35
9.  “Rising Sun” [instrumental]”  (Frey, Oliver) – 0:38
10.  “Brave New World” – 6:20
11.  “Delicious” – 3:47
12.  “A Walk in the Dark”  (Frey, Oliver) – 5:18
13.  “Before the Ship Goes Down” – 4:31
14 . “Big Life” – 4:18
15.  “Part of Me, Part of You” – 5:57
16.  “Ain’t it Love” – 4:04

All songs by Glenn Frey and Jack Tempchin, except where noted.

Personnel

Additional musicians

Production

  • Producers: Glenn Frey, Elliot Scheiner, Don Was
  • Engineers: Mike Harlow, Tim Nitz, Chris Rich, Elliot Scheiner
  • Second engineer: Chris Rich
  • Mixing: Elliot Scheiner
  • Mastering: Ted Jensen
  • Digital editing: Ted Jensen
  • Instrumentation: Glenn Frey, Jay Oliver
  • Programming: Glenn Frey, Mike Harlow, Jay Oliver
  • Production coordination: Ivy Skoff
  • Arranger: Glenn Frey, Greg Smith
  • Art Direction: Vartan
  • Design: Sarajo Frieden
  • Cover design: Carl S. Johansen
  • Photography: Caroline Greyshock
  • Cover art: Carl S. Johansen

Notes
Released: June 23, 1992
Recorded: 1991
Genre: soft rock
Length: 65:13

Label – MCA Records

Buddy Guy – Blues Singer (2003)

GeorgeBuddyGuy (born July 30, 1936) is an American blues guitarist and singer. He is an exponent of Chicago blues and has influenced guitarists including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, John Mayer and Stevie Ray Vaughan. In the 1960s, Guy played with Muddy Waters as a house guitarist at Chess Records and began a musical partnership with the harmonica player Junior Wells.

Blues Singer is the 12th studio album by Buddy Guy released in 2003 through Silvertone Records. Arriving after the unexpected blast of raw energy that was 2001’s Sweet Tea, 2003’s Blues Singer could idealistically be seen as the acoustic flip side of that high-voltage, raw electric blues. Like Sweet Tea, Blues Singer is supposed to exist deep down within the Delta blues tradition, only finding Buddy Guy armed with an acoustic guitar and the occasional minimal accompaniment; it’s even recorded at the same Mississippi studio that gave its name to the 2001 platter and is helmed by the same producer, Dennis Herring. If only it were that simple! Instead of being an extension or a mirror image of its predecessor, this record is a sleepy comedown from an exhilarating peak. Where Sweet Tea was filled with unpredictable song choices, this plays it safe, hauling out such familiar items as “Hard Time Killing Floor,” “Crawlin’ Kingsnake,” “I Love the Life I Live,” and “Sally Mae.” And while this retains Jimbo Mathus on guitar, when other musicians pop up, it’s not the lively Fat Possum crew, it’s studio pros like Jim Keltner, or guest shots by superstars Eric Clapton and B.B. King. While this does afford listeners the rare opportunity to hear B.B. on acoustic, it gives the affair the audience-pleasing veneer that weighed down his mid-’90s efforts. Plus, when it comes right down to it, Guy simply is off on this record, with lazy, mannered vocals and by the book guitar. Despite a few good acoustic duet sessions with Junior Wells, acoustic blues is not really Guy‘s forte, and the highly disappointing Blues Singer illustrates exactly why. 

The album is all acoustic and dedicated to John Lee Hooker with the line, “In Memory of John Lee Hooker. You are missed.”

Guy was ranked 30th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time

Tracklist

1. “Hard Time Killing Floor”  (Nehemiah Curtis “Skip” James) – 2:49
2. “Crawling King Snake”  (John Lee Hooker/Bernard Bosman) – 5:17
3. “Lucy Mae Blues”  (Frankie Lee Sims) – 3:34
4. “Can’t See Baby”  (Jack Nelson Owens) – 4:05
5. “I Love the Life I Live”  (Willie Dixon) – 2:47
6. “Louise McGhee”  (Son House) – 5:24
7. “Moanin’ and Groanin'”  (Johnny Shines) – 3:30
8. “Black Cat Blues”  (John Lee Hooker) – 4:30
9. “Bad Life Blues”  (Andrew Hogg/Joe Josen) – 3:45
10. “Sally Mae”  (John Lee Hooker) – 4:25
11. “Anna Lee”   (Robert “Nighthawk” McCullom) – 4:15
12. “Lonesome Home Blues”   (Willie Borum) – 5:00

Musicians

Production

Notes
Released: 2003
Recorded: Sweet Tea Recording Studio, Oxford, Mississippi
Genre: Blues
Length: 49:21

Label – Silvertone Records

Grandaddy – Sumday (2003)

Grandaddy is an American indie rock band from Modesto, California. The group was formed in 1992, and featured Jason Lytle, Aaron Burtch, Jim Fairchild, Kevin Garcia and Tim Dryden. Sumday is their third studio album, released on May 13, 2003 by record label V2.

Three years after the critically acclaimed The Sophtware Slump, Grandaddy returns with Sumday, which actually sounds more like a “sophtware slump” than their previous effort did. Like The Sophtware Slump, on Sumday the band attempts to reconcile the technological with the personal, both musically and lyrically. Several of the songs seem inspired by the rise and fall of the dotcoms and the Silicon Valley; this could have been a great opportunity for some interesting musical commentary, which is why it’s so disappointing that the results are bland and complacent. Musically, the album’s mix of chugging, fuzzy guitars; sparkly synths; and tinny drum machines is pleasant enough — it’s a mix of country-rock, soft rock, and new wave that suggests what a collaboration between Gram Parsons and the Alan Parsons Project might sound like — but it’s a little dated, and oddly enough, not as musically adventurous as The Sophtware Slump. Sumday‘s sequencing emphasizes its failings; the album begins with eight similarly quirky, mid-tempo songs that, on the first few listens, blend into each other so seamlessly that the first two-thirds of the album sound almost like one 30-minute track. That may have been Grandaddy‘s intention, but unfortunately it does their songs a disservice. Yet it’s the songwriting itself that makes Sumday so frustrating. Songs like “The Go in the Go-For-It,” “The Group Who Couldn’t Say” — a tale of corporate overachievers so bent on success that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be outdoors — and “OK With My Decay” focus on feeling stuck, bored, alienated, and dissipated to the point that they tend to sound that way too. The resigned, cyber-slacker vibe that permeates the album also adds to the impression that it’s a relic from the recent past; the songs involving robots and e-mail, such as “I’m on Standby” and “Stray Dog and the Chocolate Shake,” feel downright quaint. Sumday does feature some worthwhile songs, however: the opening track, “Now It’s On,” is bouncy and engaging, while “Lost on Yr Merry Way” and “El Caminos in the West” manage to make the emotional leap from resigned to poignant. Not coincidentally, the few times when Grandaddy writes songs about relationships rank among the album’s highlights. Sumday‘s overall complacent sound actually suits “Yeah Is What We Had,” a lackadaisical look at a blasé relationship; “The Warming Sun” is a sweet apology to an ex that is among the most heartfelt songs the band has written; and “Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World,” with its rolling pianos, layered harmonies, and lovelorn vignettes, is much more evocative than most of the album, and sounds a bit like the Abbey Road-era Beatles performing “Mr. Bojangles” to boot. Even though the album rallies in its second half, by the wannabe-epic closing track “The Final Push to the Sum,” it’s hard to escape how much effort was expended on these mostly disappointing songs about stagnation. It’s also unfortunate that Sumday comes out in the wake of the Flaming LipsYoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, an album that handles similar, the-world-is-shutting-down themes much more poetically and passionately. Thought-provoking and a bit of a downer in ways Grandaddy probably didn’t intend, Sumday isn’t a totally empty experience, but its ambitions and results don’t add up as well as might have been expected.

Tracklist

1. “Now It’s On” – 4:08
2. “I’m on Standby” – 3:13
3. “The Go in the Go-for-It” – 3:40
4. “The Group Who Couldn’t Say” – 4:08
5. “Lost on Yer Merry Way” – 6:17
6. “El Caminos in the West” – 3:22
7. “‘Yeah’ Is What We Had” – 3:45
8. “Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World” – 3:52
9. “Stray Dog and the Chocolate Shake” – 3:43
10. “O.K. with My Decay” – 6:11
11. “The Warming Sun” – 5:44
12. “The Final Push to the Sum” – 4:24

All tracks written by Jason Lytle.

Grandaddy

Technical
  • Lucky Lew – engineering
  • Michael H. Brauer – mixing
  • Nathaniel Chan – mixing assistance
  • Rick Chavarria – mixing assistance
  • Greg Calbi – mastering
  • Shinzou Maeda – cover photography

Notes
Released: May 13, 2003
Genre: Indie pop, indie rock
Length: 52:27

Label – V2 Records