Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rock Albums Post Five

Joan Armatrading - Me, Myself, I (1980)

Joan Armatrading is a British singer, songwriter and guitarist. She is a member of the Order of British Empire (MBE). Joan was awarded her MBE at Buckingham Palace in 2001 from Prince Charles.  She began her career in music in the early 70's when she performed in a stage production of the musical "Hair". "Me, Myself, I" is her 8th studio album released in May 1980 (so far she has released 21 albums).

Her previous albums were more along the lines of folk oriented confessional songs. In 1980 she hired Richard Gottehrer to produce a rock edged sound for her. Gottehrer had produced albums for Blondie and the Go-Go's.The album featured Anton Fig on drums (he's from David Letterman's house band), Chris Spedding on guitar, Clarence Clemons on saxophone, Paul Shaffer (Saturday Night Live, David Letterman) on keyboards as well as other well known musicians.

"Me, Myself, I" went on to become Armatrading's best selling album in both the UK and U.S. The title track was released as a single and reached #21 in the UK and received a fair amount of radio airplay in the U.S. The second single release was "All The Way From America".

The Cult - Love (1985)

 The Cult is a British rock band which formed in 1983. Lead singer Ian Astbury had formed the Southern Death Cult in 1981. The band was very short lived and disbanded in early 1983. Astbury than formed The Cult which went on to achieve mulit-platinum success. 
"Love" was their 2nd studio album and was released on October 18, 1985. This is the album which brought The Cult commercial on the worldwide music scene. It reached #4 in the UK and #87 in the U.S. and was certified Gold in both countries. The album has been described as equal parts psychedelic, hard rock and new wave goth. 

The songs on this album emanate a bright guitar sheen, tight arrangements, crisp drumming and an outstanding performance by vocalist Ian Astbury.

The first single from the album, "She Sells Sanctuary", widened their following in the UK reaching #15 and was the start of their popularity in the U.S. The song has been covered by several artists including the British band Keane. The intro to the song was used in a Nissan commercial a few years back.

The second single "Rain" followed in the success of "She Sells Sanctuary" and reached 317 on the UK singles chart. for a brief period of time (during recording) the song was known as "Sad Rain". The lyric is inspired by a Hopi rain dance.

Containing great rock riff and big choruses, "Revolution" was the 3rd single from the album. It reached 330 in the UK.

"Big Neon Glitter" was one of the album's more popular album tracks garnering huge airplay in both the UK and U.S. In the U.S. it was played on alternative music and album oriented FM radio such as the popular KROQ. With it's U2-like guitar intro "Glitter" was probably more popular in the states than any of their singles.

"Love" is one of those few albums in music history which has aged very well and sounds better today than it did in it's original release. Every song is outstanding with "Nirvana", "Brother Wolf, Sister Moon", "Phoenix" and "Hollow Man" also being highlights.

Florence + the Machine - Lungs (2009)

It's rare to see an artists debut album garner as much attention as Florence + The Machines "Lungs" has. From 2009 to 2011 the album and the artist have received countless award nominations throughout the world. Some of the awards they've won include 2009's Critics Choice (Brit Awards), Best Breakthrough Artist of 2009 (UK Festival Awards), Mastercard Album of 2010 (Brit Awards), Best International Band (2010 Meteor Music Awards), Best Female (2010 Q Awards), Best Newcomer (2010 European Festival Awards) and several other wins. It's easy to say "Lungs" touched on the pulse of a generation of music listeners.

I mulled over this album for several weeks before buying it. I wasn't sure if this would be my "cup of tea". I didn't want to buy it and get it home and hear something like Britney Spears or Selena Gomez. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the music and the inbred soul in Florence's powerful voice. her voice is somewhere in the league of Joss Stone meets Janis Joplin meets Kate Bush but quite a bit more refined and versatile. Florence has a bright future ahead of herself.

"Lungs" is Florence + The Machine's first (and so far only) album released on July 6, 2009. the album has sold extremely well throughout the world reaching #1 in the UK, #2 in Ireland, #3 in Australia, #3 in New Zealand, #8 in Portugal, #14 in the U.S. and chart positions in several other countries in the world. Thus far the album has received gold and platinum certifications in 9 different countries throughout the world.

The album has spawned 8 singles (one of them being a remix of "You've Got The Love" called "You Got The Dirtee Love". Her biggest hits worldwide are "Dog Days Are Over" and "You've Got The Love".

"You've Got The Love" is only one of two songs on the album not written or co-written by Florence Welch. The song (written by Anthony B. Stephens) was originally titled "You Got The Love" and was recorded in 1986 by Candi Staton (and her band The Source). In 2008 Joss Stone recorded the song for her album "Colour Me Free". Finally it was Florence + The machine that brought this soulful tune to international prominence. Florence first released the song in December 2008 as the b-side to her single "Dog Days Are Over". The song was quickly released as a digital only download single in January 2009 when it began gaining more attention than it's A-side. Finally in November 2009 the song was officially released as single (along with a music video) and stormed up the charts around the world.

Another highlight on the album is "Cosmic Love". Florence said "Cosmic Love" was a joke title which ended up sticking. She wrote this song after having been at a party and drinking far too much). The song just wasn't working out and then she hit on one note )on the paino) and the rest came together. they ended up writing the song in about a half hour. Many critics have praised the song calling it the best track on the album.

"Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" featured Florence's voice overdubbed with so many harmonies that she sounds like a massed choir of one. In an interview with The Independent in June 2009 Florence commented that Cenzo Townshend (the guy who mixed the song) nearly had a nervous breakdown. The track includes elements of "House Jam" by Gang Gang Dance who originally were not credited on the album but since have been added to the album credits as well as receiving royalties. "Rabbit Heart" was written after her label asked her for something more upbeat, but ended up with a chorus about ritual sacrifice. In an interview for Steve Lamacq on his BBC Radio In New Music We Trust show, she explained: "I've been doing all this heavy dark stuff and I just wanted something to express that sort of joyful sort of side to the music. But then again once I started doing that, the lyrics started getting dark again and then it became all about like ritual sacrifice and like who is the lamb and who is the knife? And I think it was just all about me about to jump into the limelight and being in the music industry stuff like that. But it is sort of joyful in a way because its all about giving yourself up and letting it go and you start off being a sort of timid rabbit heart and you have to become courageous and become a lion heart."

Moody Blues - Days Of The Future Passed (1967)

What makes an album a classic? There are many aspects that make an album a classic. A set of great songs that the music listening public can get a hold of and relate to. Musical arrangements that are intense and precisely crafted. An overall theme that resonates in the heart of the culture of a universal community. A timelessness in the songs that only sound better as time progresses. There are many factors involved and Moody Blues' "Days Of The Future Passed" possesses many of these elements and much more.

"Days of the Future Passed" was The Moody Blues' 2nd studio album and the first to include lead singer Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge. Hayward and Lodge were instrumental in shaping the sound of which Moody Blues became famous.

The album sold extremely well throughout the world and reached #27 in the UK in 1967/68. It wasn't until 1972 (after the re-release of "Nights In White Satin" as a single) that the album took off in the U.S.  when it reached #3 on the Billboard chart and experienced a minor resurgence in the UK.

The album was an epic work of art using the London Festival Orchestra to create otherworldly instrumental interludes between the songs. The album flowed together in a simple concept tracing an "everyman's day" from dawn to night, from awakening to sleep.

The London Festival Orchestra was a fictitious orchestra of musician assembled expressly for the recording of the album. The orchestral parts were performed separately and edited between and around the Moody Blues parts, so the orchestra did not actually accompany the group.

The English musical arranger, conductor and composer Peter Knight was employed to orchestrate the album. Before working with The Moody Blues Knight produced numerous vocal scores and eventually assembled his own orchestra called The Peter Knight Orchestra. it was his richly textured orchestration on "Days of the Future Passed" that brought him to international acclaim. Knight built the orchestral parts around themes written by The Moody Blues.

The first single released from the album was the classic "Nights In White Satin". In it's original 1967 release the song hit #19 in the UK and soared all the way to #1 in the Netherlands. In 1972 the song was re-released and it was then that it hit the status of "classic" reaching #9 in the UK, #1 in Canada and #2 in the U.S.

"Nights In White Satin" was written by Justin Hayward in 1965 at the age of 19. He got the idea for the song after someone gave him a set of white satin sheets. Hayward told the Daily Express Saturday magazine May 3, 2008: "I wrote our most famous song, 'Nights in White Satin' when I was 19. It was a series of random thoughts and was quite autobiographical. It was a very emotional time as I was at the end of one big love affair and the start of another.

The second single was "Tuesday Afternoon" which did not fare as well only reaching #12 in the UK and #24 in the U.S. Regardless the song is still considered a classic. The song gets it's unusual sounds from the use of the mellotron,  which is a keyboard that triggers taped loops of a chosen instrument recorded at different pitches.  Justin Hayward wrote the song originally intending to name it "Tuesday Afternoon". At the insistence of producer Tony Clarke, it was named "Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)" for its release on Days of Future Passed. However, when it was released as a single a year later, its name was changed back to "Tuesday Afternoon", and it has been more commonly known by this name ever since. Some of the Moody Blues compilation and live albums list the song as "Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)" to reflect both titles. Hayward wrote this song on a beautiful spring afternoon, in a field near his home in England, after he smoked a funny African cigarette, the song just came to him.

Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It (2008)

Raphael Saadiq reaches back to old school R&B classics such as the Stylistics, Temptations and Stevie Wonder to craft his appealing blend of music. Listening to any one of his albums one might think it's a long lost Stylstics album finally being released. He stays true to the genre.

"The Way I See It" is Saadiq's 3rd studio album. It was released by Columbia records on September 16, 2008 and sold fairly well throughout the U.S. and parts of Europe. It charted at #19 in the U.S., #15 in France, #24 in Finland and #69 in Belgium.

There were six singles released from the album and although not one of them charted on the Top 100 Billboard Singles chart several of them made it on to the R&B chart with the biggest hit being "Never  Give You Up" (featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica and CJ Hilton on vocals). CJ Hilton is a 22 year old R&B singer who's main influence is Marvin Gaye. Hilton shared lead vocals and co-wrote the song with Saadiq. The song reached #26 on the U.S. R&B chart (and #4 on the U.S. adult R&B chart). The song also received a Grammy award nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

Saadiq's approach to producing his music is refreshing. In a time period when many current R&B artists use synthesizers and stripped down bass and beat Saadiq employees a full band complete with horn players, guitarists, keyboards and the full spectrum of musicality. It's like Earth, wind and fire meets Smokey Robinson. 

Saadiq first came to fame in the 80's as a member of the neo-soul group Tony! Toni! Toné. then followed that up in the 90's with R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl (which included members from En Vogue and A Tribe Called Quest). Finally in 2002 he released his first solo album.

"Love That Girl" was the album's second biggest hit reaching #45 on the U.S. R&B chart (and #13 on the U.S. adult R&B chart). On his website Saadiq commented on the song: "Man, that's all about the swing... the way girls swing their hips! It's the type of song that will make people move and that shuffle beat reminds me of those ladies I used to see playing drums in church!". "Love That Girl" was also nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance category.

Along with the two Grammy nominations for "Never Give You Up" and "Love That Girl", the album was nominated for Best R&B Album. Due to the success of "The Way I See It" Saadiq got a Soul Train Award nomination for  Best R&B/Soul Male Artist.

Siouxsie and the Banshees -  Kaleidoscope (1980)

Released on August 1, 1980 "Kaleidoscope" was Siouxsie and the Banshess 3rd studio album and their first to breakout throughout other parts of the world outside of England. The album reached #5 in the UK (their first out of two UK Top 10's), #10 in Switzerland, #30 in New Zealand and #66 in Australia.

Following the departure of Kenny Morris (drummer) and John McKay (guitarist), the band regrouped and shifted the focus of their sound. Budgie (Big In Japan, The Slits) joined the band in late 1979 on drums and guitarist extraordinaire John McGeoch (Magazine, Visage) joins in early 1980. They experimented with synth based electro-dance sounds.

The album was released to immediate critical praise. Many critics dubbed the album a classic. Allmusic's David Cleary described it as a "strong record" with "extraordinarily imaginative production values featuring intricate synthesizer-flecked arrangements; psychedelic touches in "Christine," spaceship synthesizer swoops in "Tenant," and rhythmic camera clicks in "Red Light" all enliven their respective songs".

Two singles were released from "Kaleidoscope" although the album achieved chart success in various areas in the world the two singles only charted in the UK. The first single "Happy House", with a chilling beat and John McGeoch's classic atmospheric guitar riff, made it into the UK top 20 reaching #17.

The second single "Christine" begins with a distinctive riff played on an acoustic guitar. The chorus is topped with synthesizers and psychedelic touches throughout. The close of the song utilizes a strong flanging effect. The song was inspired by the story of Christine Costner-Sizemore, whose battle with dissociative identity disorder was dramatized in the film The Three Faces of Eve. Two of Christine's identities, the Strawberry Girl and the Banana Split Lady, are mentioned in the lyrics of the song. The two most extreme characters of this woman were named "Eve White" and "Eve Black" : that is the title of the B-side recorded for that single. Bassist/composer Steve Severin wrote the lyrics that told of the 22 personalities that had at the time emerged throughout Christine's life. This song reached #22 on the UK singles chart and was played heavily in underground clubs in greater metropolitan sections such as Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando and their neighboring areas.

Billy Squier - Don't Say No (1981)

"Don't Say No" was Billy Squier's 2nd studio album released on April 13, 1981. The album performed extremely well on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. It reached #5 and stayed on the chart for an amazing 111 weeks. By 1992 "Don't Say No" was certified triple platinum for selling over 3 million copies (in the U.S.).

Many music critics considered this to be a solid hard rock album and several FM rock radio stations would play the entire side one on rock block weekends. In the days of vinyl albums side one consisted of "In The Dark", "The Stroke", "My Kinda Lover", "You Know What I Like" and "Too Daze Gone". The songs "Lonely Is The Night" and "Don't Say No" also received rock radio airplay.

The first single released from the album was the classic "The Stroke" was a hit worldwide and reached #17 in the U.S., #7 in Canada and #52 in the UK,  #3 in Austria and #32 in new Zealand. It also reached #3 on the U.S. rock tracks chart. Squier admits a Queen influence in this song, and Queen's guitarist Brian May was at one point slated to produce the album. When May backed out because of scheduling conflicts, Reinhold Mack, who produced Queen's album The Game, stepped in. The distinctive drum sound was created by recording the snare drum backwards and playing it just ahead of the real drum. Despite popular belief, according to Squier "The Stroke" is about the music industry.

The album's 2nd single "In The Dark" with it's spiraling guitar chords barely made the U.S. Top 40 peaking at #35 but it received extensive rock radio airplay and reached #7 on the Rock Tracks chart. "In The Dark" was a great opening song to the album and features fat guitar riffs and rockin' drum work. The song is considered a rock music classic.

The 5th single from the album "My Kinda Lover" reached #45 on the U.S. singles chart and was released after it had already been receiving extensive rock radio airplay for the better part of a year.


  1. great post, i am glad you have this blog.

    Cosmic Love ♥

  2. YESS! keep the alternative up! I am glad there is one blog I know now that has some good music talked about!

  3. What a wonderful, eclectic mix of music! Thanks for the great post!



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