Friday, March 31, 2017

The Cotton Was High

The Persuasions : Willie and Laura Mae Jones

In 1977, The Persuasions released the all a capella album Chirpin', a critical smash that received a rare five star "indispensable" review in the 1979 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide and finished #22 in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll. 

  Village Voice critic Greil Marcus was most taken by the group's version of Tony Joe White's "Willie and Laura Mae Jones", first recorded by Dusty Springfield in 1969:

White, a white Southerner, wrote the song as the reminiscence of a poor white fanner thinking back over the friendship he and his family shared with his black­ neighbors, before hard times forced them all off the land and down separate roads. The song had virtually no plot-line—nothing was wrapped up—and, save for a fewer words about dirt farmers not having “time to worry ’bout another man’s color,” it had no explicit politics. It called up the past, and past friends, and paid tribute. The Persuasions sing the song from the black man’s point of view, and the manner in which they shape that point of view is extremely interesting. 

 Where Dusty sang (and validly understood) the song as an ordinary story utterly lacking in drama, the Persuas­ions orchestrate it as a dirge. The mood is somber, even ominous. On first listening, this seems appropriate, because White’s lyric is, among other things, about how friendships are broken up by conditions poor people cannot control. But this is not what the Persuasions are singing about. Within their dominant mood is an almost shocking note of good riddance. The blacks of the Persuasions’ version maintain a crucial distance between themselves and the whites. The most affectionate verse in White’s song has the white and black families making music together; such a subject would seem irresistible to a group as committed to folk music forms (albeit urban folk music forms) as the Persuasions, but they drop the verse entirely. In its place, they add their own. White’s tale of the two families ends when they leave the land; here, the black farmer chances to see the white farmer and his wife 20 years later—standing in line for their welfare checks. There is no emotion in the singer’s voice as he describes this scene, and he doesn’t say hello. 

 Even more striking than the shifts in lyric and mood is the Persuasions’ arrangement of the second verse, an arrangement that would lose half its force were voices replaced, muted, or adorned by instruments. The singer is describing how, every Saturday, the white family makes a trip into town. They ask the black family if they can get them goods from the store; the blacks decline, but invite the whites to come over later for something to eat. In Dusty’s version it is all very prosaic; in the Persuasions’ it is an explosion. “Do y’all need anything from town?” asks the white farmer, and the response is a hard no, a stark outburst of saddened moans from lead singer Jerry Lawson and wild field-holler screeches from tenor Joe Russell. It is a cacaphony that at first seems out of control and after a time sounds like the black man’s retrospective fantasy of the resentment and rage he would have revealed had he dared. “That was another place, and another time,” runs the last line of Tony Joe White’s chorus; as the Persuasions sing it, it is full of dignity, close to bitter, and empty of regret. I don’t know that I have heard new black music this strong since the days that followed Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

When My Spark Got Hot

The Trammps : Disco Inferno

This infectious disco classic, supposedly inspired by The Towering Inferno peaked in the middle of the charts in March of 1977 and then fell off, only to come roaring back to life after movie goers saw John Travolta dancing to the song in Saturday Night Fever. Its inclusion on the soundtrack earned the Trammps a Grammy and a permanent place in the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Be My Friend

Status Quo : Forty Five Hundred Times

For a generation of U.K. fans, the definitive version of "Roadhouse Blues" isn't The Doors version from Morrison Hotel, but the 14-minute version on Status Quo's Live, released in March of 1977. You can hear the special relationship Status Quo had with its fans who chant "Quoooo-wooahh" throughout much of the performance. Lead singer and guitarist Francis Rossi also leads the Frantic Four through a bit of a traditional Irish reel and a snatch or two of "Shakin' All Over". While many consider this to be one of the classic live albums of the 70's, Rossi can only hear the mistakes on the album. He tells :

“Unlike every other live album from those days, there are absolutely no overdubs on that album, no going back and fixing the bum notes, nothing other than what we actually put out there on stage at the time. We wanted to prove we weren’t like the others, we weren’t cheating. But every time I listen to it now, all I can hear are the mistakes. I sit here cringing, thinking: ‘I wish we’d put fucking overdubs on.’

"Roadhouse Blues" may have more historical significance than the other cuts, but if we're going to offer something you'd want to listen more than once, I'd suggest the 17-minute version of "Forty Five Hundred Times". Play it loud!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Life Will Hit You

The Kinks : Life Goes On 

To support their comeback album, Sleepwalker, The Kinks recorded a ten song set at The Rainbow for Whistle Test on March 28, 1977. Ray Davies introduces "Life Goes On" as a song about a man who tries to commit suicide and fails. A nice happy sort of song".

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Old Farts Counter Offensive

The Pirates : Don't Munchen It

Once the backing band to Johnny Kidd ( They recorded the 1960 UK#1 smash "Shakin' All Over"), The Pirates re-emerged in 1976 as one of the most popular bands on the pub rock circuit. Dubbed "Old Farts" by NME, The Pirates were a sensational power trio, emphasis on power. Punks loved them because they had lived hard and looked it, sweating attitude on stage. Guitarist Mick Green's chunky lead guitar playing inspired Wilko Johnson of Dr Feelgood. In March of 1977, the band recorded six tunes at Rockfield Studios in Wales( where the Flamin Groovies recorded Shake Some Action). They would appear on the album  Out of Their Skulls, with an A side jammed with live tracks recorded in April of '77 at the Nashville Rooms in London.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Riot Of My Own

The Clash : White Riot 

On March 27, 1977 The Clash;s  single, "White Riot", a tune inspired by a real riot from the Summer before, entered the UK charts at #46 .

 On August 30, 1976 The Notting Hill Carnival erupted in riots between mostly black youths and police. More than a hundred police officers wound up in the hospital . So did 60 carnival goers. About 66 arrests were made. 

The riot is believed to have been ignited when police tried to arrest a suspected pickpocket. Members of the crowd came to the suspect's aid, throwing rocks and other objects. As the police protected themselves, the youths marched up the street throwing rocks through windows and tipping over a police van. 

Among the witnesses were Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon of  The Clash. When they wrote "White Riot" they included the lyrics

Black man gotta lotta problems 
But they don't mind throwing a brick 
White people go to school 
Where they teach you how to be thick  

The song was recorded as a demo for Polydor in late 1976 and appeared on the Clash's debut album.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Elvis stiffs

Elvis Costello : Less Than Zero

March 25, 1977 is kind of an inauspicious date for Elvis Costello and his fans. It's the date Stiff released his first single, "Less Than Zero", a song that has the prescient line "Let's talk about the future now/ We'll put the past away". Though produced by Nick Lowe, and considered by many to be a classic in the  Costello song catalog, this mix of "Less Than Zero", with a slightly more prominent organ,  was not the breakthrough single.

Maybe it was the subject matter. Costello wrote the lyrics after watching former British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley deny his antisemitic past on television:

"Less Than Zero" was a song I had written after seeing the despicable Oswald Mosley being interviewed on BBC television. The former leader of the British Union of Fascists seemed unrepentant about his poisonous actions of the 1930s. The song was more of a slandering fantasy than a reasoned argument

Friday, March 24, 2017

Saw Delight

Can : Don't Say No

I loved Saw Delight's lead off track "Don't Say No" back when it was on Future Days and called "Moonshake". Surely Can knew that. They played both tunes of their 1977 tours.

We should have probably stopped following Can an album or two back, but this is record that absolutely says give up. The addition of  former Traffic bassist Rosko Gee and percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah, as vocalists does nothing to help this band find its way back into relevance.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Whatever Happened to ...?

Slade : Big Apple Blues

"Slade was never pretentious. It was just music to them. Pop, rock, was all the same to Slade. They wrote great songs. And, besides, I'd like to raid their wardrobe." - Noel Gallagher (Oasis)

Whatever happened indeed! By the time Slade released its heaviest and hardest rocking album on March 21, 1977, glam rock had all but vanished from the UK charts. Slade had returned from its year long attempt to conquer America with their tails between their legs. Their comeback album , Whatever Happened To Slade,  failed to chart upon its release but years later, it has earned a place of honor among Slade fans. The album was voted #1 of the top three Slade albums in the Slade Fan Club Poll of 1979.  More than a decade later members of Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana would cite the album as influential.

Record Mirror's 3 star (out of 5)  review
If you ever spent an evening, way back in 1972, swaying along with the raunchiest, sweatiest, rudest band in the world, you'll have the same fond memories of Slade as I do. The boys don't seem to have changed that much in five years - Noddy still looks like like a leery, dirty old man, and Dave Hill still has that ridiculous hairdo. This is their comeback album - the one that'll make them or break them. It features their last single "Gypsy Roadhog" which didn't get too far in the charts and most of the other tracks are in the same vein - solid, rocking numbers, just not quite distinctive as "Cum On Feel the Noize" or "Coz I Luv You" did. Part of the problem is that they seem to be trying too hard - laying everything on, instead of sticking with simplicity.  

 The result is that it sounds, heavy, cluttered, even a bit old fashioned. Noddy's voice still sounds great whilst Dave turns in some pretty nifty guitar, but there's just too much of everything. In the old days, the lyrics weren't too important to Slade, but now they're writing songs with meaning, like "Big Apple Blues", a song about New York where Noddy sings "city walls standing tall, if you fall no one hears you call" but finishes up with "the apple ain't bad, it's just bruised and I'm glad that it's there at all". Or, on "Dogs of Vengeance" - "come to my castle and I will unfold some exquisite passion so grand, some torment, the best in the land." (Slade get into sado-masochism?) All very well, but I still prefer the real good old nudge and wink ditties like "It Ain't Love but It Ain't Bad" - "some of them one night stands, ooh ooh, that I've had, keeping me happy all the time I'm on my own, keeping me satisfied when I'm away from home." At the moment Slade seem to be stuck between two fences, no longer making singles guaranteed to make the charts but not quite making it album-wise either. Still, their forte is really playing live, and I won't ever write them off until I've seen if they can still do it up there on stage.

Sound Magazine's review :

Remember those days when punk rockers were affable urchins who would no more have thought of vomiting obscenities into the nation’s living room than they would of leaving for a show with a spare pack of strings? Well those days are back. Back in the highly acceptable form of Slade.’ This is what the biog says and what a load of crap! If Slade are, or ever were a punk rock then John Denver is the next Messiah and Karen Carpenter was stand in for Linda Lovelace in ‘Deep Throat’. And as for the obscenity bit, I vaguely remember a story about Slade in the early days, when they were banned from a series of dates because they used ‘blue humour’ in their act. OK, so they once had bog brush hair do and attempted to project a skinhead image, but it didn’t some off, so what’s the point of a re-take on a campaign that’s failed? Anyway, this is a bloody good album. Whatever Happened to Slade? Well as far as I can make out, the band were always on form when they worked within the most basic of formats. Rock and Roll! Rock should be approached with a Neanderthal feel about it and these guys were one of the prime producers of commercially viable cranium crushing music. The singles were dumb but clever, almost manic in approach yet highly entertaining. The band have obviously been brushing up on their homework, since their self-imposed exile to the US of A. This album is high energy on a primeval scale. It’s got all the ball bustin’ riffs you’ll find nestling comfortably alongside yer ZZ Tops and Nugents. The tracks, run into each other, and it’s got the same suicide pace of the Aerosmith ‘Rocks’ album. Even though some of the chord changes are so old they’re almost heading for retirement, none of it sounds blatantly derivative.

 Basically, it’s all down to the fact that Noddy Holder is a fine rock and roll singer. When it comes to boogie, this guys vocal chords are lethal. So powerful it’s as if he’s got a compressor implanted in his tonsils. The rest of the band aren’t dodo’s either. The drum and bass union of Don Powell and Jim Lea respectively, has an effect similar to a jack rabbit using your head as a practice pad. And I like Dave Hill’s geetar, ‘cause he knows his limitations and doesn’t overstep the mark. Eleven tracks in all, I haven’t listened to the album enough to evaluate how long the initial impact will last. But it’s packed with strong tunes, lotsa potential singles and the lyrical content is more interesting. I never knew that their single ‘Gypsy Roadhog’ was about Rich Man’s marching powder. The production is slightly flat, lacks the necessary sparkle. Basic and effective, producer and manager Chas Chandler has managed to capture and convey the live spirit of the band, but the overall sound lacks that trebly bite that people like Jack Douglas (Aerosmith/Patti Smith) manages to obtain. Slade always remind me of the Beatles at simplistic, gut level. Cold Turkey Trekkin’. I mean, if the fab four have ever decided to go gonzoid heavy metal, then this is what they might have sounded like. Play it when your neighbours are getting on your case, it’ll knock their Sunday dinner clean off the table. Play it when your party starts getting laid back and people are asking for ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’. If you liked ‘Get Down and Get With It’ and the first album, pin back your lugholes, no! staple them to the side of your head, now turn it up! Turn it up! Turn it up!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Motors at the BBC

The Motors : Dancing the Night Away

On March 22, 1977, days after debuting at the Marquee Club, The Motors recorded three songs for John Peel's weekly BBC 1 radio show, "Bringing In the Morning Light", the classic "Dancing the Night Away" and "Emergency". Peel was a big fan and suggested The Motors might be one of those bands fans follow from gig to gig.

Formed by two Ducks Deluxe bandmates, Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster, along with short-lived guitarist Rob Hendry and drummer Ricky Slaughter, The Motors would release a three minute version of "Dancing the Night Away" in September, a UK#42 hit. By then Bram Tchaikovsky had replaced Hendry. A full six minute version of the song leads off the pub rockers debut album 1. A year later they would score a UK#4 hit with "Airport".

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Ninety-Two Decibel Rocking Band

AC/DC : Let There Be Rock

On March 21, AC/DC released Let There Be Rock, the hardest rocking album, in Australia.  All you need to know about this album is what guitarist Angus Young said in an interview with Coundtown about rocking up such a storm that "towards the end, the fucking amp  was smoking. There was smoke pouring out of the back of the fucking amp! (Producer) George (Young) is fucking screaming , 'Don't stop!' I'm there fucking banging away and I could see this fucking smoke filling up the fucking room, It lasted until the end and then this fucking amp , it was just like it gave in --it was 'Blaaah!' It melted. That was an album where it was cooking!"

The album was released to the rest of the world on June 23, 1977 where it peaked at UK#17. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Loneliness Is Haunting Me

Graham Parker and The Rumour : Hold Back the Night

On March 20, 1977 Graham Parker and The Rumour's surprising cover of the Trammps's 1975 Top 10 hit "Hold Back the Night" peaked at #24 on the UK charts. It's the lead off track on their Pink Parker EP, which was released March 11 as a between meals snack for fans awaiting album number 3, Stick It To Me. .Brinsley Schwartz was sick the day the band recorded the song in Cologne so Thin Lizzy's Brian Robertson filled in.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

On a Summer Day 1951

Andrew Gold : Lonely Boy

On March 19, 1977 Andrew Gold's single "Lonely Boy" entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts at #83. The album track from What's Wrong With This Picture? would peak at #7. Up until this point Gold was best known as a studio musician and arranger who helped Linda Ronstadt break into the pop charts. He played nearly every instrument on "You're No Good". 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Idiot

Iggy Pop : Nightclubbing

On March 18, 1977 Iggy Pop released The Idiot, a haunting autobiographical album produced by David Bowie. Recorded in Berlin, Pop has described the album's sound  as "Kraftwerk Meets James Brown". Its release coincided with the advent of punk rock and helped earn the fallen star a new title as the Godfather of Punk.

The most autobiographical song on the album is probably "Nightclubbing", with its zombified drum machine shuffle ( later sampled backwards by Trent Reznor for Nine Inch Nails's "Closer"). Pop says it's a comment on what it was like to hang out with Bowie every night."Dum Dum Boys", about meeting The Stooges,  is the album's funniest song : 

The first time I saw 
The dumb dumb boys 
I was fascinated 
They just stood in front 
Of the old drug store 
I was most impressed 
No one else was impressed 
Not at all

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Smorgasbord for the Ear

Weather Report : Birdland

An arrangemental tour-de-force, a smorgasbord for the ear.”
– Neil Tesser, Down Beat, 1977

In March of 1977, Weather Report released Heavy Weather, the band's most famous album,  and the first to feature bassist Jaco Pastorius as a full time member. We're talking about a jazz record that reached No 30 on the Billboard pop charts, went gold upon its immediate release, and was named Down Beat magazine's "Album of the Year" after earning a rare 5 star review. This may the greatest achievement in jazz fusion.

The album's highlight is Josef Zaniwul's "Birdland", a tribute to the club named for Charlie Parker. If you've never seen the band play "Birdland" you might be surprised that its bassist Jaco Pastorius who plays the melody in the introduction, his fingers on practically the highest notes his bass can play. To some ears, Pastorius dominates the album, almost to a fault.

In his review for Down Beat Neil Tesser complements the sound on the record: 

“Weather Report has never employed the studio-as-instrument as thoroughly or as well as Heavy Weather. The LP literally explodes with the clarity, separation and sheer variety of timbres, and Zawinul’s arsenal of synthesized tonalities is astounding (He’s listed on the liner as ‘producer/orchestrator’). Because of the recording quality, you can hear the smallest details of the intricately arranged layers of sound, with the versatile polyphonic synthesizer creating a vibrant, velvety richness that makes Getty look like a welfare case.

Rolling Stone critic has especially kind words about Jaco :
“Josef Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Co. have wandered far afield from the original Weather Report, assimilating and passing off new drummers and bassists with astounding speed. The wandering in itself is no big deal, for they couldn’t have played the understated and airy music of their early albums forever and kept it fresh… If they have lost anything, it’s the resonant, pulsing space between notes and the remarkable melodies that grew out of non-melodies… Their gains have been more palpable, though, especially since jazz rock has grown lazy. Jaco Pastorius, the bassist who joined them on their last album, has been instrumental in developing their busier, talkative style… [Pastorius is] vital to them now because he fills up the music where it used to diffuse, which suits their apparent aims just fine. There was a time when Weather Report’s music went up and up only; becoming more ethereal as it went; the new bottom makes all the difference in the world.”

And Jaco's friend Pat Methany also has raves :
“To me, Heavy Weather is the best [Weather Report album]. That’s one of the great records of all time. Pretty much from beginning to end, there is not a dead spot on that record. It’s conceptually brilliant and, execution-wise, it’s devastating. Also, the sound on that record is incredible.”

For a lot more about this album visit

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Three Way Love Affair

William Bell : Trying to Love Two

In March of 1977 60's soul singer William Bell made his comeback official when "Trying to Love Two" broke into the Top 40 on its way to peaking at US#10.  In April the milllion-selling tune would top the US R and B charts.  Among the hits, Bell wrote in his lifetime were "You Don't Miss Your Water ( Til Your Well Runs Dry)", "Born Under a Bad Sign" and Billy Idol's "To Be a Lover", which he originally recorded as "I Forgot to Be Your Lover".

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

As Long As You're Groovin'

Marvin Gaye : Got to Give It Up (album version)

After overcoming his fear of flying and stage fright to record Live at the London Palladium, Marvin Gaye only had enough material to fill out three sides of a double album.  Now he needed something for side four. And that's where a song originally called "Dancing Lady" come in.

"He had this riff that seemed very danceable," recalls producer Ari Stewart. "He was doing crazy things like banging on a half-filled grapefruit juice bottle for rhythm. Well, I kept stuff like that on the track. Also people talking in the studio--that loose feeling."

Retitled "Got To Give It Up" and recorded on January 31, 1977, the song ran nearly twelve minutes on the album. The shorter single would top the soul charts in April, the disco charts in May and the Hot 100 for one week in June. Gaye had released a live album fewer than three years earlier. So this is the main reason to own Live at the London Palladium.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Rendezvous on Champs-Élysées

Kraftwerk : Trans-Europe Express

In March of 1977, the German electronic rock band Kraftwerk released Trans-Europe Express, an album so influential the LA Times called it "the most important pop album of the last 40 years". Pitchfork Media called Trans-Europe Express the sixth best album of the 1970's, writing"the day will soon come, if it hasn't already, that Trans-Europe Express joins the ranks of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band and Exile on Main Street as a record that simply cannot be written about". 

 The tunes on Trans-Europe Express are more melodious than in past releases. The rhythmic title track is a family favorite, because of its subject matter : the TEE, a network of European passenger trains. 

The band investigated the sounds of passing trains at railway bridges, modifying the sound until they came up with the hypnotic beat. A year earlier, Ralf Hutter and Emil Schult were in Los Angeles where they met their idols, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, putting finishing touches on Station to Station. That explains the lyrics :"From station to station/ Back to Dusseldorf City/ Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie".

Finding reviews from 1977 isn't easy. Robert Christgau was on top of things, as usual, giving the album an A- rating

No, I have not shorted out or fallen in love with a cyborg. No, I do not like Kraftwerk's previous craft-work, Radio-Activity, which consists mostly of bleeps. But this shares with Autobahn a simple-minded air of mock-serious fascination with melody and repetition. Plus its textural effects sound like parodies by some cosmic schoolboy of every lush synthesizer surge that's ever stuck in your gullet -- yet also work the way those surges are supposed to work. Plus the cover and sleeve photos are suitable for framing.

Looking back, after decades of critical and fan appreciation , Trans-Europe Express has become a true classic. Joy Division 's Ian Curtis convinced the band they should play the album before shows. Drummer Stephen Morris says "It worked because it gets up a lot of momentum. Trans-Europe Express just seemed to express an optimism - even if people see it as machine music".  

In 1982 Afrika Bambaata used part of the melody of "Trans-Europe Express" in his hop hop classic "Planet Rock".

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Charms of Someone

Smokie : Lay Back in the Arms of Someone

On March 13, 1977 Smokie's "Lay in the Arms of Someone " entered the UK charts at #45, the same week The Manhattan Transfer held on to the #1 spot with "Chanson D'Amour". The single, cow-written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman,  would peak at UK#12 and top the charts in Austria, Europe, Germany and the Netherlands. A pure pop confection for those who haven't completely gone punk.

The song would appear on the greatest hits album, released later that year.

A few American country artists tried to make the song a Stateside hit, including Rick Nelson, Tanya Tucker and Randy Barlow who hit #13 in the country charts.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Judge And Jury Too

T-Connection : Do What You Wanna Do

On March 12, 1977 the Miami based funk band, T-Connection, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with "Do What You Wanna Do" which entered the chart at US#87, just a few spots below a few other debuts that week, Boz Scaggs's "Lido Shuffle" and Marshall Tucker Band's "Heard It In A Love Song". The following week "Do What You Wanna Do" would supplant The Trammps's "Disco Inferno" as the #1 song on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Rock 'n' Roll is Cruel

T.Rex : Jason B. Sad

   On March 11, 1977 T. Rex released Dandy in the Underworld, the final studio album in Marc Bolan's lifetime. In many ways, it was a return to form for the electric warrior,  who now dubbed himself a dandy in the underworld, "a gypsy explorer of the New Jersey Heights /Exalted companion of cocaine nights". ( He had to change the lyrics to "exalted companion of T.Rex nights" for television). If read as pure autobiography, this may be one of the most tragic songs ever written : "Distraction he wanted, to destruction he fell/ Now he forever stalks the ancient Mansions of hell"

To promote the album Marc Bolan toured with The Damned. "I was introduced to them," Marc would say. "Because one of them had the good taste to wear a Marc Bolan t-shirt".

The album reviews were, for the most part, kind. Sales were good ( reaching UK#26) and there were two singles, the rollicking classic "I Love to Boogie" from the summer before and "The Soul of My Suit", which reminds me of Hot Chocolate a bit.

In six short months, Marc Bolan would die in a car crash. He was just 29.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Let's Talk About the Distractions

The Isley Brothers : Footsteps in the Dark

  On March 8, 1977 The Isley Brothers released their fifteenth album, Go For Your Guns. By now the first family of funk has found a formula, relying on a 50/50 mix of upbeat danceable funk and Ron Isley ballads. In this case, the highly sampled ballad "Footsteps in the Dark" is the most memorable song. Though never released as a single, it was featured in Ice Cube's 1993 rap hit "It Was a Good Day". Usher also sampled the tune.

Some critics lost patience with the Isley Brothers formula. Among them, Robert Christgau who wrote

By the time the competent enough first side was over, I felt completely fed up with their mellifluous bullshit, especially since I'd noticed the title "Voyage to Atlantis" on side two. But that disaster excepted side two is the most hard-edged they've recorded since moving T-Neck to CBS in 1973. Needless to say, the one about "Climbin' Up the Ladder" is even more passionate than the one about "Livin' the Life." Nor is it surprising that the title tune has no lyrics at all. There's no riot goin' on. B.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Foreigner : Feels Like the First Time

 On March 8,1977 the British/American supergroup Foreigner released their self-titled debut album. Founded by ex Spooky Tooth Mick Jones ( who wrote "Feels Like The First Time"), the former King Crimson member Ian McDonald ( at least half responsible for the 1971 psychedelic classic McDonald and Giles) and vocalist Lou Gramm, Foreigner sold five million copies of its debut thanks to its hit singles "Feels Like the First Time"(US#4) ,"Cold as Ice" (US#6) and " Long, Long Way From Home" (US#20). 

This somewhat formulaic classic rock radio mainstay, like its even better follow-up Double Vision, quickly found an audience, vaulting the band into major stardom. Creem Magazine readers voted Foreigner the best new band, over the likes of The Babys and Cheap Trick.

The critics were not necessarily kind. Robert Christgau summing up the feeling in this way in his C graded review: "You've heard of Beatlemania? I propose Xenophobia."

And from Rolling Stone's John Milward:

Foreigner's influences are hardly alien -- two parts Bad Company and one part ELO spiced with just a pinch of Roxy Music. Endowed with an assured studio sound and strong writers (lead guitarist Mick Jones wrote or collaborated on all the material), Foreigner's debut album speaks with the kind of authority increasingly common in the Seventies hard-rock world of instant stars. 

 "Long, Long Way from Home" is Foreigner at its best, lead singer Lou Gramm pumping out the chunky rocker with the characteristic ease of Bad Company's Paul Rodgers but without that singer's occasional heavy-handedness. Synthesizer and a sax round out the rocker's edges, giving it the barest hint of Roxy sophistication. Thick harmonies serve the same function for the other uptempo standout, "At War with the World," though little could have saved the tired lyrical and musical ideas of the riffy "Headknocker." 

The melodic feel and production of the ballads and midtempo material reveal ELO sources -- "Woman Oh Woman" is a particularly fetching soundalike. The swirling vocals and stately guitar of "Starrider" reveal similar pop influences, but like most of Foreigner's tunes, the lyrics add little to the song's final impact. While more than half of these tunes are powerful performances, none of them invites much emotional involvement.

 Foreigner clearly has the moves to step into the big time, but needs a bit more time to gel before the group can offer more than already proven formulas. Unfortunately, in these days of prepackaged phenomena, such development sometimes seems secondary to producing a slick and marketable recorded sound. So while Foreigner already looks like a strong contender, one hopes success doesn't rob them of the time and space they need to grow.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Morry Thou

The Stranglers : (Get a) Grip ( On Yourself)

 On March 7, 1977 The BBC aired the first John Peel session of The Stranglers, a U.K. band considered punk more by association than in actuality. The Stranglers had opened for the The Ramones and Patti Smith on their U.K. tours, but they were a bit too old ( drummer Jet Black was 38),  too literate and too musically talented to be real punks.

The radio broadcast occurred during the last of four weeks their first single "(Get a ) Grip (On Yourself)" has been on the charts, where it had peaked at #44. For the BBC sessions, The Stranglers played "Goodbye Toulouse", "Hanging Around", ( both from the upcoming Rattus Norvegicus debut album)   the unfortunately named "I Feel Like a Wog", and "Something Better Change", the latter two appearing on the second album No More Heroes.

 A fan calling himself 60MancInBlack recalls the time:

I was 17 and had come back from a life changing moment having seen the Stranglers the previous Saturday night at the Electric Circus in Manchester. The Band had talked about the John Peel session after the gig and how things were really moving for them. I’d only ever seen bands up to then who were stars, were out of reach and not accessible. To see the Stranglers play literally in front of me at full tilt as Manchester was dealing with the gutter press punk headlines predicting anarchy and the end of life as we knew it was just was just one of those moments. Then to get to see them, slipping past what security there was, after all they had only released a single at that stage, Grip.

They were just cool blokes full of attitude and front and what a chemistry there was between them, yet they talked for ages to the four of us about life, nothing more, oh yeah and the wave they were rolling on. Can you imagine how they felt at that time to be listened to and watched after two and a half years of nothing. That night they were stunning and the crowd was mental. I have no idea how we made it home in one piece and my Mum’s old Renault car still had all its tyres on.

So we went to school on the Monday and were full of it. The other lads were green with envy. I put up a Pistols poster and an ACDC one of Angus in those shorts on the 6th form common room wall which we got from the venue. They were ripped down by the school and we got it in the ear. Shame because if I still had the Pistols one, it’s worth a bit. But the priceless ones of the Grip gig promo and Coming Your Way are still with me today. Had already sussed they weren’t going to school. And that night it just kept coming our way.

John Peel broadcast the first Stranglers session, the one we’d been talking to the band about only a few nights earlier. Microphone set. Captured for ever on a C60. Played it to death, well the copy anyway. It still comes out every now and then, the digi version. Full low fi with radio noise and fade off Radio 1, 247am.

Just couldn’t blend it any better. But that was how it was with John Peel ad libbing as he went. Was pretty on side with the band in those days. I appreciate a proper version came out, but this was mine; Goodbye Toulouse; Hanging Around; I Feel Like A Wog; Something Better Change……and it did.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I Remember You

Ramones : I Remember You

"Above all they are the best group on the planet at this moment and time".

The other day I asked my son to guess the name of this Ramones single, released March 7, 1977. He looked at me suspiciously, figuring if Dad was asking this must be a trick question. It couldn't possibly be the phrase repeated 22 times in 2:19. Only Bob Seger repeats a song title that many times. So he shrugged rather than commit the grievous sin of making a mistake. I've taught him well.