Wednesday, March 31, 2010

 

Album of the Day: Genesis (3/31/80) 30 Years!

A good number of people - critics and die-hard Genesis fans especially - accused the progressive rock band of selling-out when they released their tenth studio album, the pop-oriented Duke, on March 31, 1980. Truth is, the seeds of change on Duke were sewn years before. Anyone who failed to hear the drift toward pop-rock wasn’t paying attention to all the signals, foul-crying critics and fans especially. Check out and comment on my Genesis playlist here).

Peter Gabriel’s departure from Genesis in mid-1975 ended the growing clash over musical direction for the band and, more importantly, brought drummer Phil Collins into the lead singer role. Where Gabriel was into high brow, theatrical live shows and heavy-handed concept albums, the remaining three (Collins, bassist Mike Rutherford, guitarist Steve Hackett and keyboardist Tony Banks) knew a good pop-rock melody and could pen them easier than Gabriel could design the costumes and deep lyrics for his stage persona. The last Gabriel-era LP, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, gained radio airplay in the U.S. to chip away at their cult status (they were always big in the U.K.). Each successive album grew bolder with pop rhythms, riffs and harmonies, with “Robbery, Assault And Battery” (1976), “Your Own Special Way” (1976) and “Follow You Follow Me” (1978) setting up the two hits from Duke, “Misunderstanding” and “Turn It On Again.”

Duke is usually viewed as the mid-point between the “new” and the “old” Genesis. While I disagree that the distinction is that clear, the fact remains that it became their first #1 record in the U.K. (and #11 in the U.S.). It was followed by four more terrific Genesis albums in the 80s paralleling Collins’ solo career. CD issues and mp3 downloads are available on Amazon (click here). iTunes downloads are available here.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

 

Album of the Day: Rush (2/7/81) 29 Years!

Probably the definitive Rush album, Moving Pictures came out on February 7, 1981, a year after their biggest hit single (“Spirit Of Radio”), from the Permanent Waves album, and spawned two radio-friendly tracks, “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight,” which I won’t bore you by talking about (yay!). But you can check out these and other top Rush tracks in Dr. Rock’s Playlist Vault by clicking here.

Like its predecessor, Moving Pictures had a punning cover (check it out: not only are they [physically] moving pictures, but they are making [films] moving pictures, and the whole thing has people crying, making them [emotionally] moving pictures) and some great songs, and their last stab at a Proggy-concept track “The Camera Eye” with its intriguing intro (a typewriter tapping – do you kids even know what a typewriter is??) and very spacious sound and alternate major/minor backing to the guitar solo, was a graceful salute and farewell to the excesses of the Prog Rock era.

“Red Barchetta” was a brief return to the sci-fi/fantasy song themes of yore, and also a tip to Neil Peart’s individualist social/political thinking, which had drawn Rush so much criticism during the 2112 era. “Witch Hunt” has clear, pro-tolerance, anti-mob lyrics, and the absence of a guitar solo only reinforces the power of the words: “Quick to judge/Quick to anger/Slow to understand”. Nice. “YYZ” with its deliberately odd-rhythm/flattened-fifth intro (you did know “YYZ” was the code for Toronto airport, right? Sorry – just checking) now appears on Guitar Hero, for those of you who find Whack-a-Mole an acceptable substitute for musical ability.

Big “uh-oh” reserved for the final track “Vital Signs”, which was a taster for some of the clunkier tracks with just-plain-stupid lyrics that Rush did in the later 80’s, when they started to sound like a heavy-rock version of the Police (Sting’s old band), or Yes-plays-Bob-Marley or some such.

Moonglum rating: 4.5 gilt picture frames (out of a possible 5)

Review by Moonglum.

Moving Pictures is available for purchase as a CD or download as mp3 files on Amazon (click here) or as iPod downloads at iTunes (click here).

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Monday, January 4, 2010

 

Album of the Day: Yes (1/4/72) 38 Years!

Yes released their fourth album, Fragile on January 4, 1972, a scant six months after Rick Wakeman left the Strawbs and joined Yes (click here for my playlist), bringing synthesizers and another strong classical music background to a band on verge of breakthrough. While contractual issues precluded any official credit for his keyboard and co-writing work on the album, Wakeman’s presence solidified the band, their sound and their place in rock history. Fragile quickly rose to #4 on the Billboard 200 and pushed the band to the forefront of the burgeoning prog-rock movement.

The whole affair owes everything to the surprise hit single version of the 8-plus minute “Roundabout,” which became a cross-over AM and heavy FM hit after a shortened version was released as a single. That extremely unusual achievement lifted an otherwise excellent prog-rock album to unheard of heights and began a nearly 40 year reign for Yes as the quintessential and longest-running prog-rock show on Earth.

Surprisingly, Fragile is not on Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of all time, but it should be in the first 100. However, it is available as a CD on Amazon (click here) and download tracks on iTunes (click here).

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Monday, November 30, 2009

 

Album of the Day: Pink Floyd (11/30/79) 30 Years!

Only Pink Floyd could release a double-sided concept album filled with dark themes of personal despair, narcissism and condescension, and then sell millions of copies and find the album ranked as one of the best of all time. They did, and resoundingly. The Wall (November 30, 1979) is one of Floyd’s best and one of the hottest (for good reason) double albums of all time. It’s pure late-life Floyd: moody, rhythmic and spacey, but punctuated with top-classics like “Comfortably Numb,” “Run Like Hell”, “Hey You” and “Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2” (a #1 single). Bandleader Roger Waters penned all of the material (with occasional help from bandmate David Gilmour and others). That proved to be the beginning of the end for Pink Floyd. Their next album, aptly-named The Final Cut, was the last that Roger Waters composed in its entirety and his swan song with the band.

The Wall is ranked #87 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 albums of all time. It’s available as a CD from Amazon (click here) and as download tracks on iTunes (click here).

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

 

Album of the Day: Genesis (11/18/74) 35 Years!


Genesis was one of the few British rock bands that successfully made the transition from meddling 60s folk-pop-rock through late-60s psychedelic rock to 80s pop-rock superstardom.  Their November 18, 1974 concept album, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, was major point along that road and a huge FM radio hit (I remember playing it daily on my radio show at the time).  While well received on air, in the critics’ circles and in stores, The Lamb… unfortunately became the last Genesis album on which Peter Gabriel appeared. Gabriel was the lead vocalist, chief songwriter and stage frontman for the band (he wrote all of the material on The Lamb…).  His departure could have spelled doom, but remaining members Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett moved on to greater things, including a string of nine straight U.K. Top 10 albums (8 in the U.S.) before they called it quits in 1992.

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is available as a CD and DRM-free mp3 files on Amazon (click here).

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