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Old 01-20-2013, 04:09 AM   #201 (permalink)
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I had never heard of Ursa Majoru or their 1972 album, before reading your post. I've listened to some tracks on You Tube and they did not disappoint. Wagner can sing too. I keep stumbling across these obscure power trios; the last was Bogert, Derringer and Appice who were short-lived, but not bad.
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Old 01-20-2013, 05:26 AM   #202 (permalink)
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Both Montrose's first s/t and second album, Paper Money, are both great, but Ronnie Montrose went on to form Gamma which were at least as good, if not even better. I would say Sammy Hagar was well established before Van Halen, but I think he joined through the Ted Templeman connection and for the big money. Ronnie could not put a foot wrong for me, whereas Chickenfoot showed the decline in Sammy's creative output. I was sorry when Ronnie died, particularly because of the tragic circumstances of his illness, but also because he took the prospect of another Gamma album with him.
I never thought Paper Money was anywhere near as good as the debut BUT I think Montrose's best album to be their third Warner Brothers Presents..... with Bob James on vocals. Saying this though, I'll be listening to Paper Money for 1974. I've not listened to Gamma in years, so I'll enjoy listening to them again. Sure Sammy Hagar was well established before he went to Van Halen, but my point was he became an even bigger star after he joined VH. Everything Ted Templeman got involved in meant big money and commercial success, Montrose were the exception to that rule. How Ronnie died was indeed very sad and it's not a nice subject to dwell on.

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I had never heard of Ursa Majoru or their 1972 album, before reading your post. I've listened to some tracks on You Tube and they did not disappoint. Wagner can sing too. I keep stumbling across these obscure power trios; the last was Bogert, Derringer and Appice who were short-lived, but not bad.
Many eons ago I used to think of power trios as something really special and quite unique, I quickly realised when doing this journal, just how common they actually were back in the late 1960s to the mid 1970s. Most could play though, as it always seemed something of an achievement to be able to play and make as much noise as a four or five-piece band. The Ursa Major album was a good album, not great but certainly very good and Wagner could sing as you say.
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Old 01-20-2013, 08:34 AM   #203 (permalink)
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09. Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy 1973 (Atlantic)
Hard Rock

Close the door and put out the light.

Overview
Led Zeppelin up until now have twice topped my yearly lists and on the other two occasions have finished second (once to themselves) and so a lowly ninth spot, might well seem extremely low for a band of this calibre! Of course this is still a very good album, but certainly not as blistering as their previous releases were! Another point of real note, is that this is the first Led Zeppelin album to actually have a proper named title, rather than just being called Led Zeppelin V, so the band were breaking with tradition here as well. In fact the album would see the band breaking with tradition in numerous aspects. The title of the album is actually dedicated to all their fans, who would see the band in concert venues and these venues would be referred to as ‘The Houses of the Holy’ so the title was dedicated in respect of this. Much like their main rivals Black Sabbath for global domination, the straight-forward production techniques of their earlier work, had long given way to the sophisticated and multi-layering techniques that were available at the time and so Houses of the Holy, would prove to be one of those real studio albums rather than a raw band input that had characterized the band, it would therefore be their most accomplished studio effort. Furthermore, this would be the first Led Zeppelin album to be completely composed of original material and the old blues covers were now a thing of the past. The album’s production techniques, would see Jimmy Page’s guitar riffs become more multi-layered and his heavy blues riffs were diminishing album by album. In many ways Led Zeppelin appeared like a new band on this album and after the mammoth success of Led Zeppelin IV, it appeared they could do no wrong. This album would see the band tackle untested musical genres such as funk and reggae, and give us their most eclectic release since Led Zeppelin III. In fact the eclectic style of Led Zeppelin III had just revolved around having the novel idea of two different types of music on each side of that album, whereas Houses of the Holy was truly eclectic song for song. Finally, a number of songs that were recorded in the album sessions here, would be held over to appear on future Led Zeppelin releases.

Robert Plant-Vocals
Jimmy Page- Guitar
John Paul Jones- Bass/Keyboards
John Bonham- Drums

Production- Jimmy Page

Album
The Song Remains the Same
- A rampaging opener with its multi-layered sound, before it gives way to the subdued vocal approach of Robert Plant on the song. This may rank as one of the band’s more complex efforts and is often regarded as one of the truly classic Led Zeppelin songs. The Rain Song- A song of aching and gentle melody, and it demonstrates a real beauty. Over the Hills and Far Away- Starts off with a gentle acoustic intro, before evolving into a metal sounding session, an accomplished effort. The Crunge- Almost sounds like a homage to James Brown with its heavy funky feel. Dancing Days- A real strutter of a song with some real attitude and a cocky feel, it’s highlighted by its distinctive pick-me-up section in the middle of the song, and quickly moves into the vocals of Robert Plant, it’s one of the best songs on the album. D’Yer Mak’er- Basically a laid-back and easy listening reggae infused number. No Quarter- Starts off with an almost legendary haunting intro and later merges into a hard rock section, before taking us on an almost mystical journey and a great vocal performance again and some great work by John Paul Jones on the song. The Ocean- The album closer hits more traditional territory for the band and features some heavy drumming by John Bonham. The song is a reference to the huge amount of fans that saw the band at their concerts.

Verdict
I’ve often heard how some of Led Zeppelin’s weaker efforts, were often regarded as being better than the best efforts of many other bands and with this in mind, Houses of the Holy cannot be seen as a weak album, but it’s certainly a lesser effort than their previous four albums. So how does the album actually fair overall? The first thing that always hits me about this album, wasn’t how eclectic it was, but how it presented the listener to a certain lazy, laid back and at times a sloppy approach to the songs featured on the album! Whether this was truly intentional or just a result of the recordings, this is something to debate! Also I felt that the band were tackling musical genres they were far from adequate at doing, such as “The Crunge” which despite having a throbbing vibe, does come off as a half-baked funky effort and the lazy sounding “D’Yer Mak’er” was not a great choice and just sounds like a sloppy rock/reggae effort. Also “The Rain Song” just seems to ramble on for far too long, but that’s not to say that some of these choices don’t have a certain Led Zeppelin magic attached to them! I can also critique Robert Plant here as well, as a vocalist and a frontman he has always been one of the very best, but his vocals have always been very suspect once taken out of his ‘bluesy wail comfort zone’ he usually got away with them on the band’s folky meanderings (but then again does folk really require singers with a great voice!) and to a certain degree, he does get away with his style on this album. At times though, his vocals seem far more exposed than ever before and can be really found wanting on some of the compositions, such as on “The Crunge” and “D’Yer Mak’er” where his voice fails to ignite these two songs which they desperately need and on the album closer “The Ocean” his voice despite being on familiar territory does wander quite a bit for an album closer. But the albums negative aspects can also be heavily balanced by the positives, which includes the progressive leanings of the epic “The Song Remains the Same” so often regarded as one of the band’s most vital songs, with its multi-layered approach and subtle Robert Plant ramblings, in fact the song was originally planned as an instrumental. Then there is the superb “Dancing Days” always a favourite of mine from the album and has some real attitude, but it’s the haunting progressive mystique that dominates “No Quarter” that is the true album’s true saviour, as the song gels the gentle haunting melody of the intro with its later hard rock section and then swings through these styles for the rest of the song, a true delight of a song and the album closer “The Ocean” adds some real power to the album as well. Overall the album runs for 40.58 minutes and for an album of such diversity, the whole thing comes off as being short and sweet in general, despite the failings I’ve listed above and also the fact that the album doesn’t always get its experimental point across!

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Old 01-20-2013, 11:30 AM   #204 (permalink)
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I am not a Led Zeppelin fan, but I always liked Houses of the Holy and The Song Remains the Same (especially the remastered version). I remember them being accused of making a progressive rock album, which is probably why it appeals to me.
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Old 01-21-2013, 05:48 AM   #205 (permalink)
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I am not a Led Zeppelin fan, but I always liked Houses of the Holy and The Song Remains the Same (especially the remastered version). I remember them being accused of making a progressive rock album, which is probably why it appeals to me.
Apart from a couple of songs I certainly wouldn't call in progressive at all. It's just a rock band trying to be experimental.
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Old 01-26-2013, 09:18 AM   #206 (permalink)
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08. Buffalo Volcanic Rock 1973 (Vertigo)
Heavy Metal

A slice of ball busting metal from down under.


Overview

Hailing from Sydney Australia, Buffalo may well have been the quintessential heavy metal band from Australia and were also seen as one of the early purveyors of both doom and stoner metal. They were also out before their far better known Aussies AC/DC, as by 1972 they had put out their debut album Dead Forever. Dead Forever was a real mixed bag which contained several Black Sabbath style rockers and some softer tracks in its song selections, the album was nothing special but it’s still an interesting listen. The band’s sound was largely centred around their root psychedelic beginnings, which of course is how a lot of the heavy bands from this era started out and Dead Forever is featured on my “Albums that missed the cut……….” Section for 1972. The band by their second album Volcanic Rock, had trimmed down to just a foursome when they lost one of their vocalists in Alan Milano and leaving David Tice as the band’s sole vocalist. The rest of the band was made up of John Baxter-Guitar, Peter Wells-Bass and Jimmy Economou-Drums. Signed to the Vertigo label, Volcanic Rock was a major step-up in terms of heaviness for the band from their debut album and is probably the heaviest album in this year’s listings! The album is a real piece of Australian heavy metal history and along with its follow up album 1974’s Only Want You For Your Body, both albums rank as the band’s two strongest releases. On its initial release, the music on Volcanic Rock was somewhat overshadowed by its controversial album cover, which seems to feature an androgynous character (top half male/bottom half female despite the muscular legs) on its cover and standing above a phallus shaped rock…….spouting out lava! The group on this album were hot for sure and Volcanic Rock stands as a great slice of Aussie heavy music from this period.

Album
Sunrise (Come My Way)- The heavy crunching intro, then falls in to a heavy melodic pace and David Tice’s raspy hard rocking vocals dominate much of the song and meld superbly with the song’s flourishing hooks. Freedom- With what seems like a perfect metal start, the song then sets into a brooding sluggish pace and doesn’t let up on the heaviness for a second! Till My Death- Sounds more like an improvised track and a step back to their psychedelic roots. The Prophet- A heavy storytelling effort which harkens back to the biblical age and accompanied by some really heavy instrumental sections throughout, again the band excel at this heavy brooding sound. Pound of Flesh- An instrumental as the band get to grips with what they do best and this is to pluck their instruments at hand, this then leads into……..Shylock- Back on with the power here for the album closer, the dynamic Shylock sees the band on top notch again, as they blast their way through this stellar track. There are actually some sections of this song, that I’ve actually noticed have been pinched by future well known metal artists, this is not surprising given its quality!

David Tice- Vocals
John Baxter- Guitar
Peter Wells- Bass
Jimmy Economou- Drums

Production- Spencer Lee

Verdict
The album was essentially recorded as a live effort in the recording studio, with just the vocals and additional guitar sections being overdubbed later. This of course gave the album a raw and instant sound, something that a lot of these heavy albums from this period benefited from, depending on your point of view of course! As for the album itself, well it sounds like a real grassroots effort, as the band had recently undergone a so-called transformation from their debut set, sure the rambling instrumentals are still on-board here, but the focus of the songs and the overall heaviness have gone up a couple of notches, and for this reason this album very much belongs in this year’s top ten list! As for the songs themselves, well from the first moment you hear “Sunrise (Come My Way)” you know this album is going to be good, the song has a crunching melodic vibe with hooks to match, all accompanied by some no-nonsense raspy hard drinking sounding vocals, all followed up by some essential guitar sections. The second track “Freedom” sets out with a brooding pace and sounds like the type of song that a future Soundgarden could’ve put out and the fourth track "The Prophet" continues in much in the same vein, but it’s the album closer the show stopping “Shylock” that really steals the show here, this song is one of those mesmerising hard rock efforts that may rank as the best song that the band ever did. Its stop start dynamics, are full of both energy and power, and have the ability to leave the listener drooling and looking for more! On the negative side for the album, a track like “Till My Death” has a more improvised feel about it and is very much a glance back at the band’s heavy psychedelic beginnings, rather than a glance forward as the rest of the album seeks to do. At times the album does tend to pad itself out a bit as well, as on certain tracks there is extensive jamming seemingly out of necessity than design. This is not necessarily a big negative, but it does represent that the band were somewhat stuck on material for this album, but it was probably better that they opted for this remedy, instead of possibly just sticking on a couple of weaker tracks to bulk things out. In terms of attitude, hell this this album is what it’s all about!

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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07. Grand Funk We’re An American Band 1973 (Capitol)
Hard Rock

A phoenix rising from the ashes & shooting for the stars!


Overview

Grand Funk Railroad were amongst the ‘real pioneers’ when it came to heavy music and they’ve featured heavily on my yearly lists, before going off the radar a couple of years ago! Their first two albums On Time and Grand Funk were two stellar hard rock jamming efforts which featured on my 1969 list, their third album Closer to Home had featured on the albums that missed the cut section for 1970 and their superb live album simply called Live Album was the first ever featured live album in this journal. Since then they had maintained themselves as one of America’s foremost hard rock acts, selling a bucketload of albums and maintaining their status as a big concert draw throughout the USA, but music wise the band had seriously gone stale! They had fallen into the age old habit of producing bland albums loaded up with rudimentary rockers, which they knew were going to sell and at first it seemed they were loath to change that habit, especially after seeing so many of their more experimental American counterparts falling by the wayside! Albums like Survival and E Pluribus Funk were perfect examples of this, but then on the release of their sixth album Phoenix, the creative element of the band seemed to re-awaken itself and the album was seen as something of a rebirth, as a greater diversity was brought into their sound and most importantly they ended their relationship with long-time producer Terry Knight, and added a keyboardist in Craig Frost to achieve a new sound. Sadly though, Phoenix would end up being no better quality wise than the proceeding couple of albums and the band found themselves back to square one again! But in 1973 their prayers were answered and the rebirth that they sought arrived in the shape of Todd Rundgren, already an acclaimed music artist in his own right just check out Something/Anything? He was also one of the most creative producers around and had already produced a real mixed bag of artists over the years, including the legendary New York Dolls debut also released in 1973 and to be featured in my hard and heavy section for this year. So what did Todd Rundgren add to We’re An American Band? For one he got the band to work on songcraft, made the compositions generally tighter and the musical sections more accomplished overall. He then made three bold moves in adding drummer Don Brewer as an additional vocalist, to take the burden away from journeyman vocalist Mark Farner. Secondly he pointed the band in a heavier direction, thus allowing the band to re-stamp their hard rock credentials and finally he got the band to trim down their name to a more manageable Grand Funk!

Mark Farner- Guitar/Vocals
Don Brewer- Drums/Vocals
Mel Schacher- Bass
Craig Frost- Keyboards

Production- Todd Rundgren

Album
We’re An American Band
- With its percussion intro the song starts off like a driving rock tune that Mott the Hoople could’ve done, but with Don Brewer on vocals this is essentially a real American effort here, the song is featured on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs! Stop Lookin’ Back- With its tight musical opening section, Don Brewer starts hollering away and we’re treated to another wholesome effort from the band, the track is fleshed out with some very nice keyboards. Creepin’- After the power of the opening two tracks, the album leads into the more gentle and soulful Creepin’ and superbly sung by Mark Farner. Black Licorice- Starts off with a “Whoo weeee” and quickly moves into a hard driving sound, this is basically a track that relies on raw energy and power and is superbly fleshed out by Craig Frost on keyboards. The Railroad- A slow burning track that displays some great songcraft throughout and it gradually moves into some real pounding sections later on. Ain’t Got Nobody- with some neat sounding crunchy guitar, the song moves into a more basic straight forward sound, still a decent song from beginning to end though. Walk Like a Man (You Can Call Me Your Man)- Another strong soulful effort by the band and the song is lent some real weight yet again by Don Brewer on vocals and it keeps the tempo up throughout the song. Loneliest Rider- Mark Farner singing on one of his more politically motivated tracks here, a song more about lyrical content than musical content and closes off the album to a steady beat.

Verdict
The overall result of We’re An American Band is that of a tight and sonically accomplished album, an album that only six months prior Grand Funk Railroad (as they would’ve been called) would have never dreamed of being able to put together. Overall Don Brewer’s wholesome vocals would give an extra dimension to proceedings and gave the band a real boost and provided a contrast to Mark Farner’s more wailing style! Also the addition of Don Brewer, seems to have made Mark Farner more conscious of giving us one of his best vocal performances so far. Don Brewer also featured far more often on the song credits as well and this really showed on his contribution to the album. Without doubt, both he and Todd Rundgren were the two essential ingredients that made We’re An American Band such a great album. The opening track “We’re An American Band” is one of those early driving hard rock classics and without a doubt Don Brewer’s wholesome vocals give the song from start to finish, a boost for a real band rebirth and also his screaming vocals really highlight the energetic workout of a song like “Black Licorice” and even some of the more typical Grand Funk material is done really well here. There is the gentle melody and beats of “Creepin” and the plodding power of “The Railroad” two songs which see Mark Farner at his very best, and you can also see Todd Rundgren’s work on these tracks, especially when you consider these tracks run for more than six and seven minutes apiece! We’re An American Band is the perfect example of when Todd Rundgren got things right in the production room and the songs just flow so well. He especially made use of Craig Frost’s keyboards to great effect and they were so well used to flesh out several of the tracks on the album and his work on “Black Licorice” might be the pick of his keyboard work here. I think what is remarkable about We’re An American Band, is that Todd Rundgren revitalized the band without actually providing them with any songs or actually co-writing any of the songs with the band. I’m guessing he did a superb job advising and editing on what the band already had. Whilst the band’s first two albums were great hard rock jamming efforts and also the best place to start with this band, We’re An American Band probably just nicks it from those two in terms of quality and does stand as the band’s finest ever studio album.

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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06. Nazareth Razamanaz 1973 (Mooncrest)
Hard Rock


Just what the witch doctor ordered!

Overview
Nazareth were essentially one of the backbones of 1970s hard rock, with their honest sound and Dan McCafferty’s raspy sounding whisky soaked vocals (a future Axl Rose was a big fan, but of course he never had the vocal chops of Dan) and the other three members of this Dunfermline band featured Pete Agnew and Darrell Sweet on bass and drums, but it was guitarist Manny Charlton that really stood out with his ability on the guitar. The first couple of Nazareth albums were decent efforts and the second Exercises was actually produced by Roy Thomas Baker. These albums had some sound rockers on them, but they would heavily lose out as they were lacking in cohesion and were just too laid back in their final execution. The band had basically seemed too involved in trying out too many diverse styles, without really hitting the nail on the head! Anybody listening first to Nazareth’s heyday material of the mid 1970s and then listening to these first two couple of efforts, might think they were listening to another band, but of course they would still notice the great guitar work of Manny Charlton on these albums. So by their third album, it took Roger Glover of Deep Purple bassist come producer, to grab these Scottish warriors by the scruff of the neck and get them to produce an album (or three in this case) that was worthy of their hard rock talents. In fact the albums that Roger Glover did with Nazareth, were the albums that gave him his reputation as a great producer for this kind of music, as just prior to working with Nazareth he had worked with the bluesy ELF (a band Dio did some tenure with) but it was on Razamanaz that he forged his reputation as a producer. Just by listening to the opening and the title track on Razamanaz, the listener knows that here is a band that were born to churn out heavy music and for anybody looking to get into the Nazareth discography, this album is surely the place to start. Razamanaz would launch the band into the big time, with the album cracking the "Top 20" of the UK album chart along witn two hit singles. Razamanaz announced the arrival of another highly influential act on the 1970s heavy scene.

Dan McCafferty- Vocals
Manny Charlton- Guitar
Pete Agnew- Bass
Darrell Sweet- Drums

Production- Roger Glover

Album
Razamanaz- With its heavy pounding intro and crunchy vocals, this is a classic hard rock intro of its day, before the song then moves into a more glam chorus sounding section, the song then revolves around these two styles. Alcatraz- Starts off with a red indian style type of drumming intro and then moves into some real rocky territory, we are then constantly treated to these tribal beats throughout the rest of the song. This is a cover version of the Leon Russell song but just played much louder! Vigilante Man- A traditional sounding blues tune that gets more emotional and heavier as the track goes by, it’s a cover of a Woody Guthrie song. Woke Up This Morning- Following on from the blues of the previous track, this song moves into more traditional and melodic territory, the song has a touch of humour as well. Night Man- More glam style drumming and this song is effectively your average album track in terms of quality. Bad Bad Boy- Basically sounds like a rockabilly track, and of course it’s played really loud. Sold My Soul- A crunchy slow burning rocker and executed with real thought and musical prowess by the band. Without doubt it’s one of the best tracks on the album. Too Bad Too Sad- One of the more energetic rockers on the album and a decent track. Broken Down Angel- The album closer sounds like something that the Rolling Stones could’ve recorded around this period and it's one of two singles from the album along with "Bad Bad Boy"

Verdict
Just listening to the opening barrage of both “Razamanaz” and “Alcatraz” shows that this band had been honed to perfection by Roger Glover and were simply going for broke on this album. But that’s not to say that the band weren’t up for the odd bit of diversity, as long as that diversity was heavy of course. This attitude can be seen on the re-worked covers of the Leon Russell song “Alcatraz” and the traditional bluesy sounding “Vigilante Man” then there is the bluesy humour of “Woke Up This Morning” a track actually lifted from their previous album Exercises! I don’t think this track was included because the band were short on songs here, but more to the fact that they thought it would work well on this album with its lighter vibes, to add some contrast. Throughout the album Manny Charlton’s blistering guitar can be noted, especially on songs like the heavy and humorous “Razamanaz” and every now and again you’ll hear Manny Charlton put down a Led Zeppelin style riff that even Jimmy Page would’ve been proud of! Just check out the scorching guitar section in the later part of “Razamanaz” to find out. Also Nazareth were not simply just about hard rocking with a bit of diversity now and again, because at times they could put out material that really resonated haunting emotions against a hard rock backdrop and one of the album’s best tracks “Sold My Soul” is a great example of this. In fact at times it reminds me of a Trapeze track, with Dan McCafferty’s whiskey soaked wail, replacing the more abstract melodic approach of Glenn Hughes, but in essence both bands could’ve played this song equally well in their own styles. Nazareth were also a band that really focused on their influences and at times they married the Led Zeppelin and glam rock styles so well, along with a strong infusion of both blues and country tinges. Razamanaz demonstrates that Nazareth were looking to put out an album that was both hard hitting and contemporary for its time. Razamanaz was the band’s breakthrough album, but it should be said that Nazareth got away with some rather average songs on this album, but when Dan McCafferty and Manny Charlton along with the rhythm section do their stuff, the whole album comes alive and gives us a potent long lasting hard rocker from the vault.

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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05. Free Heartbreaker 1973 (Island)
Hard Rock-Blues Rock


A swansong & a surprisingly heartwrenching last effort!

Overview
Heartbreaker would prove to be the last ever studio album that Free made and it also marks the first proper break-up, of one of the core British heavy bands of the period. They had initially called it a day in the later part of 1971 amidst internal group strife and creativity clashes principally between Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser. But in 1972 they had bounced back with their fifth studio release, which was prompted by the spiralling drug use of the afflicted Paul Kossoff, in an attempt to save his life! The album Free at Last, would actually turn out to be a somewhat disappointing set. Since then the band were on the verge of a second and more permanent break-up, and for the recording of their final album Heartbreaker, the initial signs weren’t looking good! The band had virtually lost two of its pivotal members in guitarist Paul Kossoff to an out of control drug addiction, which more or less now made him no more than a band spectator for the large part, much like Syd Barrett did with Pink Floyd! Then there was the loss of bassist Andy Fraser who had co-penned much of the band’s material with Paul Rodgers and the two had constantly clashed over the direction of the band, thus leaving the band in the sole control of Paul Rodgers! So it’s actually a remarkable achievement with almost 50% of the band gone, that the remaining two original Free members Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke were able to create such a sterling piece of work! Both Paul Kossoff (despite still being a band member) and Andy Fraser were replaced by Japanese bassist Tetsu Yamauchi and they also the band added the highly-rated Texan session musician John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards, to help compensate for the loss of Kossoff and also to diversify their sound, Paul Rodgers actually took up guitar duties on the album. In fact nearly all these artists had already worked together, on the under-appreciated Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit a one-off album recorded the previous year in 1972 when Free had initially split up. After Heartbreaker both Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke would go onto form the even more commercially viable Bad Company with ex-Mott the Hoople member Mick Ralphs and ex-King Crimson man Boz Burrell in 1974. The real downside of this album actually has nothing to do with the music, as yet again Free give us an absolutely terrible album cover, but of course underneath is what counts.

Paul Rodgers- Vocals/Guitar
Tetsu Yamauchi- Bass
John “Rabbit” Bundrick- Keyboards
Simon Kirke- Drums
(Paul Kossoff- Guitar)

Production- Free/Andy Johns

Album
Wishing Well
- With its pounding intro, Wishing Well would become one of the most vital songs that Free ever put out, quite simply a song that was built to last. The song was a sympathetic tribute by Paul Rodgers to the rapid demise of guitarist Paul Kossoff! Come Together in the Morning- The typical slower Free track but with a difference. The use of keyboards gives the song a different feel and a different type of depth than what we’re used to, a song extremely Beatlesque in style. Travellin in Style- A gentle rambling track that fits so well on this album. Heartbreaker- A pure heavy rocker with plenty of harnessed power and one of those blistering hard rock classics that I can listen to anytime, it also has some great keyboard touches to highlight overall proceedings. Muddy Water- Written by John “Rabbit” Bundrick and a slow burning track that does sound like a true Free composition in most aspects. Common Mortal Man- The second solo composition by John “Rabbit” Bundrick on the album. Easy on My Soul- A later album track, that does have some real feeling along with some roughness to it and shows the depth in quality on the album. Seven Angels- A rolling train of a song, which closes the album on a high note and doesn’t let up on the energy and power for a moment and all album closers should be like this.

Verdict
Along with the debut Tons of Sob and their third album Fire and Water, Heartbreaker completes a trilogy of great studio albums that the band put out. Somewhere in the region of about 60% of the material on Heartbreaker, probably represents some of the finest work that Free ever did, which is surprising given the turmoil and somewhat rushed surroundings of the actual album! The other 40% of the album does bring down proceedings a bit but the songs are still great compositions and the album is still a classic. Overall the album may rank just behind both Tons of Sobs and Fire and Water as their best album, but in many people’s eyes it actually stands as their very best and I’m inclined to support that view as well. Maybe because the album has that instant feel about it and I don’t think Paul Rodgers ever sounded quite this spontaneous ever again! Songs like “Wishing Well” and “Heartbreaker” surely stand as two stalwarts of the band’s catalogue and in many ways Heartbreaker represents the end of the road as far as the band were concerned, especially once Paul Rodgers gained sole control of the group’s direction. The top end of the album in terms of quality, sees the majestic power of the album opener “Wishing Well” a song which sees Paul Rodger’s songcraft at its very finest, where he combines a powerful but yet heartwarming tribute to Paul Kossoff. Then there is the power and delivery of the title track “Heartbreaker” which show us that when Free crank it up, they can do the heavy stuff as good as anybody else out there and then there is the rolling thunder of the album closer “Seven Angels” a delight of a song. Quite often John “Rabbit” Bundrick’s contribution on the album often goes unappreciated by a lot of listeners and critics, but I always felt that his subtle keyboards worked so well on songs like “Come Together in the Morning” and the superb “Heartbreaker” In fact on Heartbreaker his keyboard work sounds like something that Traffic could’ve done, without the heaviness though! John “Rabbit” Bundrick added greater depth to the Free sound, but it has to be said that his two solo compositions on the album probably stand as the two weakest efforts! Overall Heartbreaker represents a final swansong by a band that were in their death throes and only a few years later the majestic and long suffering Paul Kossoff would pass away, surely one of the finest guitarists in the history of rock music! Free were there at the beginning and bowed out on a high.

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04. Alice Cooper Billion Dollar Babies 1973 (Warner Bros)
Hard Rock-Shock Rock

Sick things in cars, rotate around my stars!

Overview
Billion Dollar Babies would become the biggest selling Alice Cooper album to date and would achieve the number one spot in the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic, so you can’t get much bigger than that! The Alice Cooper band’s brand of shock rock combined with hard rock and good old fashioned rock and roll, had taken the rock world by storm and they also had the stage shows to match! The two classic 1971 albums Love it to Death and Killer (on my main 1971 list) were the breakthrough albums for Alice Cooper, but it was School’s Out that made the band a household name. School’s Out is often seen as a lauded album and anybody getting into the classic Alice Cooper era may well think about starting with this album. The album of course with its infectious and ever so famous single “School’s Out” may very well seem to be the logical place in which to start. The reality is though, that School’s Out sounded like a risky album and an early example of the band’s ambitious theatrical leanings. The overall result had been an ambitious concept album, that was extremely polished but lacked focus on most of its songs, as in that the theatrical leanings of the band didn’t always come off! Billion Dollar Babies on the other hand, would be the album that School’s Out just couldn’t be. The band took the rawness of their two breakthrough albums and combined that with the slickness of School’s Out whilst keeping the theatrical overload on board, and add on with the majestic touch of Bob Ezrin (almost a band member himself) the band put out their most accomplished effort to date. The album’s subject matter, contained all the juicy Alice Cooper fare that anybody would expect, such as horror and fear themes, but most of all Billion Dollar Babies stands out for its theatrical humour on most of its tracks. The album would see a vast array of guest musicians, as Bob Ezrin yet again took up keyboard duties and guitarist Glenn Buxton due to drug abuse was supplemented on a couple of tracks by the superb Dick Wagner ex Ursa Major, who had already played on School’s Out and the album also featured the likes of Steve Hunter and Mark Mashbir on guitar as well. The album cover with its green and yellow colouring, was certainly one of the most distinctive around at the time as well.

Alice Cooper-Vocals
Glen Buxton- Guitar
Michael Bruce- Rhythm/Keyboards
Dennis Dunaway- Bass
Neal Smith- Drums
Bob Ezrin- Keyboards

Production- Bob Ezrin

Album
Hello Hooray
- Hello Hooray let the show begin…….as the album starts off with the almost anthemic feel. The song is a melodic paced opener with some great accompaniment by the rest of the band, to the powerful vocals on show. The song is a cover version of the Rolf Kempf song. Raped and Freezin’- A typical rock and roll number by the band and in essence could’ve appeared on any of the previous three studio albums, but the later Latin inspired section probably points it more towards the School’s Out album. Elected- With its crunching intro the song moves into an infectious mood, as Alice Cooper screams out to us the message of being elected again in another theatrical effort. The song is a re-write of “Reflected” from the band’s 1969 debut album. Billion Dollar Babies- A heavy drumming introduction gives way to another dominant vocal performance by Vincent Furnier and with a guest spot on vocals from Donovan, again we have some truly mesmerizing guitar here. Unfinished Sweet- The closing track to the A-side of the album and another humorous track built around a trip to see the dentist, and as the track progresses we are treated to some diverse moments, including the return of the sound displayed on the previous “Elected” song along with some other interesting ditties. No More Mr.Nice Guy- One of the biggest Alice Cooper tracks with its pop melodies and that ever so obvious hit single feel about it. Generation Landslide- A real band effort in terms of songwriting and a song which is heavy on its lyrical overload. The whole piece is accompanied by a solid beat boosted up with some strong harmonica sounding rootsy music. It also sounds like an unofficial title track for the album. Sick Things- This is authentic sounding Alice Cooper material and no Alice Cooper album is really complete without a dosage of fear and horror! Mary Ann- A 2 minute cabaret sounding track, which might be the weakest effort on the album, but even then it’s not bad at all especially with its piano outro. I Love the Dead- The epic closer to the album which of course focuses on the morbid subject of necrophilia, a subject which always seemed to fascinate Alice Cooper in general.

Verdict
Billion Dollar Babies ranks as the finest ever album that the Alice Cooper band put out, in fact only Welcome to My Nightmare is better in the whole Alice Cooper discography! So what is so good about Billion Dollar Babies? Firstly it takes the raw base sound and the sheer unexpected excitement of the classic 1971 releases Love it to Death and Killer, and combines them with the theatrical leanings of School’s Out, and serves up an exotic cocktail of these three albums. The end result is an almost cabaret sounding shock-rock album, heavy on both theatrics and humour, but its real trump card lies in its sudden and unexpected musical changes within some of its songs. We’re not talking about complex or proggy changes here, but more audacious changes to test the listener every part of the way! These could be the Latin vibes that appear suddenly on “Raped and Freezin” the anthemic mood of the song “Elected” that is repeated yet again on the superb “Unfinished Sweet” and then of course there is the racy almost James Bond 1960s adventure theme cut sound that also features on “Unfinished Sweet”. In fact every song on this album has something special to offer! This can be seen on the melodic stomp of the opening track “Hello Hooray” with its cabaret vibe to welcome us into the album and you can almost picture Alice Cooper welcoming us to the show here! Then there is the fun of the rock and roll inspired cuts such as “Raped and Freezin” the theatrical and fun loving “Elected” one of the biggest songs from the album with some amazing guitar being laid down by Glenn Buxton or one his replacements (It isn’t clear on the credits on who plays guitar on what songs) A lot of the songs are heavy on lyrical overload as well and this can be exampled on the often underappreciated “Generation Landslide”. Then there is the pop candy of “No More Mr.Nice Guy” and of course no Alice Cooper album would be complete without a couple of tracks dedicated to the darker side of things and these come in the sombre sounding “Sick Things” and the chilling and essential “I Love the Dead”. But the best is saved up for the title cut “Billion Dollar Babies” which shows Alice Cooper at his best with some outstanding guitar to match his vocal display! Here is an album high on twisted fun and dark humour, Billion Dollar Babies is without doubt one of the quintessential albums of its time.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by eraser.time206 View Post
If you can't deal with the fact that there are 6+ billion people in the world and none of them think exactly the same that's not my problem. Just deal with it yourself or make actual conversation. This isn't a court and I'm not some poet or prophet that needs everything I say to be analytically critiqued.
Metal Wars

Power Metal

Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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