Wednesday, February 24, 2010

 

Album of the Day: Fleetwood Mac (2/24/68) 42 Years!

Fleetwood Mac (for Dr. Rock’s playlist, click here) is more than the 70s superstar group that brought “Rhiannon,” “Go Your Own Way” and “The Chain” to the top of the pops. Surely those are undeniably great and lasting tunes, but long before Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and John and Christine McVie cut those classic pop-rock tracks, FM was a hardcore 60s British blues band organized around and named for the rhythm section of bassist McVie and drummer Fleetwood. But the two led the band in name only. Founder, blues guitarist and songwriter Peter Green and his partner Jeremy Spencer controlled things, at least until Green succumbed to lengthy drug fests and left Mick and John to move forward on their own in 1970. Seven years and seven LPs later, the latter two had the last laugh en route to the bank.

Debut album Fleetwood Mac (2/24/1968) is top-notch material from the British blues-rock bloom of the mid- and late 60s. A mix of Green/Spencer originals and covers of mid-level Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James, it’s one of the era’s best and a terrific counterpoint to what the world thinks is the real Fleetwood Mac.

Fleetwood Mac made it to #4 on the album charts in the UK but barely registered in the US. It’s available on CD, LP or mp3 at Amazon. Downloads for iPods are on iTunes.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

 

Album of the Day: ZZ Top (1/18/94) 16 Years!

No other rock band can match ZZ Top’s record for longevity and consistency (click here for Dr. Rock's playlist). They’ve been playing and recording for over four decades with the same line-up: Billy Gibbons (vocal and guitar), Frank Beard (percussion) and Dusty Hill (bass and keyboards). Since forming in Houston in 1970, the band has kept their sound firmly rooted in pounding, Texas-baked blues-rock with occasional updates to match the changing decades and musical tastes. Theirs is a remarkable test of time and critical and commercial success.

After seven straight-ahead blues-rock albums between 1970 and 1981, ZZ Top layered in New Wave synthesized backing sounds and a bit of MTV glamour to their trademark. There followed three Top 10, multi-platinum albums – Eliminator (1983), Afterburner (1985) and Recycler (1990) – that brought the band a level of success unmatched by even their best 70s discs. For their eleventh studio album, Antenna (released on January 18, 1994), the boys returned to the hard edge of Tres Hombres (1973 and Fandango! (1975) but maintained just enough synth-pop to keep the music relevant. Antenna is not their best, but it’s quite good and worth a long listen for its two Top 10 singles, “Pin Cushion” and the slow-burning “Breakaway,” the searing guitar on “Lizard Life” and the growling pump of “Fuzzbox Voodoo.”

ZZ Top has scheduled a concert tour of South America in mid-2010 and is expected to release a 15th studio album later in the year. Those events will kick-off the fifth consecutive decade for the “little ol’ band from Texas”. Antenna is available for download on iTunes (click here) and can be purchased as a CD or mp3 downloads from Amazon (click here).

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

 

Album of the Day: Led Zeppelin (1/12/69) 41 Years!

The original (and many believe still the best) heavy metal band, Led Zeppelin (click here for my LZ playlist) was formed in mid-1968 by ex-Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page, who recruited John Bonham, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant to his band when his dream of a supergroup featuring himself, Jeff Beck, Keith Moon and John Entwistle failed to materialize. By summer’s end they’d played several dates in Scandinavia as The New Yardbirds, then changed the band’s name and secured a recording contract and fat advance from Atlantic Records.

Led Zeppelin’s debut album was recorded in a total of 36 hours in several sessions during October 1968 and released on January 12, 1969. It’s a great blend of different styles and moods, with most of the songs coming from the band’s set lists from the just-completed Scandinavian tour. Notable tracks are two decent Willie Dixon blues covers (“You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby”), a longer, tougher blues-rock original by Jimmy Page (Dazed And Confused"), the frantic, punk-precursor “Communication Breakdown,” a sweetly folksy acoustic instrumental “Black Mountain Side” and the rolling “How Many More Times.” The lone single, “Good Times Bad Times” reached #80 on the U.S. Billboard charts in the U.S. and is #19 on my 25 Best of Led Zeppelin playlist.

Led Zeppelin is available as download tracks from iTunes (click here) and as a CD and mp3 downloads from Amazon (click here).

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

 

Album of the Day: Led Zeppelin (10/22/69)

41UGySBN4OL._SL160_We’ll argue forever about which Led Zeppelin album is better, their debut or Led Zeppelin II, which came out 40 years ago today on October 22, 1969, nine months after its predecessor. If you’re on the “other side’, you still can’t deny that Led Zeppelin II was a monster album, and together they are a formidable duo of highly influential hard blues-rock music (tracks from both are included in my LZ playlist on DrRock.com). One interesting fact: while Led Zeppelin I was recorded at a leisurely pace in the fall of 1968, Led Zeppelin II was laid down during breaks in the band’s hectic touring schedule in the U.S. and U.K. between January and August 1969. With no time for unlimited retakes and overdubbing, II is a raw and energetic album, a full set of great guitar riffs, distorted vocals, heavy metal rhythms and very memorable tunes (“Ramble On,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Thank You” and “What Is And What Should Never Be” are the best).

Now back to the argument at hand. Rolling Stone magazine fails provide any true guidance on the issue of which is better. Led Zeppelin II is listed on the RS Top 100 albums at #59, is included on the RS200 (there were no rankings on that one), and takes the #75 spot on the RS Top 500 list. Led Zeppelin I isn’t on the Top 100 or Top 200 lists, but finds itself at #29 on the Top 500 list. Go figure.

Led Zeppelin II (my pick of the two) is available as download tracks from iTunes (click here) and as a CD from Amazon (click here).

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