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Old 03-21-2013, 04:29 PM   #241 (permalink)
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07. Bachman-Turner Overdrive Not Fragile 1974 (Mercury)
Hard Rock

Drivin' and trucker mid-west rock at its very best.

Overview
According to one source I saw, Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s third album Not Fragile was a play on the Yes album Fragile released a few years earlier, basically meaning that this album was not fragile in any way. Not Fragile was the third album by the mid-western band Bachman-Turner Overdrive, but they weren’t American mid-western but Canadian mid-western (is there any difference!) By the time of their third album, they had already made their commercial breakthrough on their previous two albums, the eponymous debut Bachman-Turner Overdrive with its fusion of Southern rock Lynyrd Skynyrd and American hard rock a la Grand Funk Railroad and Mountain. This album had been a decent debut despite lacking in a few areas. But it was their second album the imaginatively titled Bachman-Turner Overdrive II which despite being an inferior album to the debut, that actually gave them their first top 10 album success in the US album charts. This album would serve as a launchpad for their third album Not Fragile, which would turn out to be the biggest and best album of their career. Bachman-Turner Overdrive essentially put out a no-nonsense brand of hard rock, blended with a then contemporary American sound and moulded into a really crunchy rock sound with a healthy amount of rock anthems, as far as the singles charts were concerned. Throughout the 1970s they sold an amazing seven million albums, whilst representing the first of what would be known as ‘faceless’ North American bands of the 1970s. These were basically bands that put their music well before their image and band members were often hidden behind long hair and beards, just think Kansas and you have it in a nutshell! The band as the name might suggest, were made up by the three Bachman brothers Randy, Robbie and Tim (Tim had left though by the third album) and the quartet was made up of Fred Turner or just known as C.F Turner. The Bachman brothers and C.F Turner seemed to have an equal share when it came to writing the band’s material and both Randy and C.F shared the band’s vocals. The band were so faceless that their best known song “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” which is often regarded as one of the great rock anthems of the 1970s, as being one of those songs where the vast majority of listeners having no idea which band sang the song! The band were something of a religious brood and therefore never embraced the true rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle which may have alienated them at the time from the majority of listeners into heavy music.

C.F Turner- Bass/Vocals
Blair Thornton- Guitar
Robbie Bachman- Drums
Production- Randy Bachman

Album
Not Fragile- With a bass heavy intro and C.F Turner on vocals, this is a song that lays down the tone for much of the album and there’s no doubting the band’s credentials here. Rock Is My Life and This Is My Song- The volume comes down for this song and it’s almost Dylanesque start gradually gives way to some free rockin’ tunes. Roll on Down the Highway- With an almost classic sounding intro we hit heavy material again courtesay of C.F Turner and elements of this song if listened to carefully feature on Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet- The band’s most famous song and a classic tune from the era in general. A song most people have heard of but probably don’t know who the artist is. Free Wheelin’- A very competent and accomplished instrumental, that was dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman and an instrumental that I never get bored with. Sledgehammer- A heavy and bombastic intro which is then broken up by quieter and then stronger moments. The song maintains this pace constantly throughout. Blue Moanin- Basically a good ole boy song with some nice guitar touches but not my cup of tea really. Second Hand- A heavy sounding workout that stands as one of the strongest tracks on the album. Givin’ it All Away- Not the best song to close to album, but it’s obvious that this song was going to be one of the later tracks on the album, it has that feel about it.

Verdict
There’s no doubting the scope of this album as soon as you hear the boisterous opener the title track “Not Fragile”. This is a bass heavy hard-rock romp that still sounds tight and relevant today, but it should be noted that not all the heavy songs have aged well. For the most part “Roll on Down the Highway” is a great heavy number that has a somewhat cheesy sounding glam rock section, that is strangely embedded into the song. But if the listener can ignore this, there is some great guitar on this song and great heavy playing in general, and then there is “Second Hand” one of the best songs on the whole album. The band then contrast the heaviness of songs like “Not Fragile” with the much more melodic and quieter tracks like “Rock Is My Life and This Is my Song”. The band also show just how good they are at mixing melody and tunefulness into the same song with hard biting rock, and this mixture doesn’t get any better than the album’s most famous song “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” which mixes in Van Morrison type pop sensibilities with Free era “It’s Alright Now” giving us one of the essential rock anthems of the decade. “Sledgehammer” also mixes in these attributes to great effect as well, and give balance to the album. Downsides to the album, include the odd touch of what I call ‘good ole boy’ country style influences, which make themselves evident now and again on the band’s discography and on this album they are highlighted on “Blue Moanin” and sections of “Givin’ It All Away”. Bands like Bachman-Turner Overdrive were often not seen as being cool to like, but Not Fragile displays some really authentic sounding crunchy guitar and a bass heavy plodding sound to back it all up. This faceless band prove that they don’t need the sexuality of Led Zeppelin or the theatrics of Kiss to pull in the fans and were one of the first arena rock bands around. Overall Not Fragile is one of the heaviest albums of the year which might surprise some readers, as the band were not often remembered as being ‘heavy beasts’ by the rock world, but more of an arena rock band from their era.

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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(Double Header- When two great albums were released by the same artist within the year, but due to my top 10 criteria I couldn’t fit both without eliminating somebody else. Main album first and the not so strong album second)

06. Nazareth Loud ‘n’ Proud 1973 (Mooncrest)
Hard Rock
The power button is turned right up, we have heavy bliss!


Overview
After the release of the Razamanaz album from the previous year, Nazareth were now very much part of the second tier on the UK popularity echelon. Meaning that they were an extremely popular band on the same level as the likes of Uriah Heep, Humble Pie and UFO etc but not quite attaining the heights of the big three Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple as worldwide giants. Roger Glover had given the band want they needed with his production skills, something he could now even dedicate more time to since leaving Deep Pupple. Nazareth would quickly and intelligently build on the success of the Razamanaz album by releasing two more albums throughout 1974. These albums were Lound ‘n’ Proud (some sources suggest it was released at the end of 1973 but for convenience purposes I’ve put it in as 1974) and Rampant. Now Loud ‘n’ Proud does exactly what it says on the tin and along with their biggest ever album 1975’s Hair of the Dog, it probably stands as the band’s best ever achievement and I’d say it was actually their best. Rampant on the other hand the second part of this double–header review, was a patchier album and certainly the lesser of the two albums in this review. The band were also known for sticking touches of variety into their sound and this could involve touches of blues and country, glam rock and some of their material even showed a southern rock slant, a then burgeoning movement in the US at the time. But most surprisingly it was their use of covers which often raised eyebrows and these were often hit and miss in their execution and ranged to folky icons such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Woody Guthrie. Both Loud ‘n’Proud and Rampant were graced with two great albums covers and the band really had a knack of getting some interesting album artwork full of bright colours and interesting images. The band never went down the avenue of either overblown progressive rock covers, neither the more serious and minimalistic covers from some of the biggest bands of the day, or the lewd and provocative covers that the genre would embrace as time went by. In fact Loud ‘n’ Proud is one of my favourite album covers from the decade and the album’s not half bad either!

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

Production- Roger Glover

Album
Go Down Fighting
- An energetic opening song with some great riffing and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Not Faking It- A pounding number that actually sounds like something that a NWOBHM band could’ve put out and a very tight track. Turn on Your Receiver- A more mid-tempo tune here, with a country flavour and overall a very competent track with a real light edge about it. Teenage Nervous Breakdown- A pounding cover of the Little Feat song and the band really do stamp their authority on this cover track, this is a stunner of a cover song! Free Wheeler- A tight sounding rocky track and again this sounds like an album track with some nice guitar and percussion touches. On further listens though, this song becomes more than just another album track and it becomes clear that this is the song of an accomplished band. This Flight Tonight- A rocked up version of a Joni Mitchell song, nothing special but does the job and probably the weakest of the three covers on the album. Child in the Sun- The nearest thing to a ballad on the album and the chorus always reminds me a bit of a Neil Young track! The Ballad of Hollis Brown- Like most Bob Dylan songs, imo they always sound so much better when sung by somebody else and this cover version is no different in that respect. This cover version is so good that even today I'd say that this cover song is the finest ever recording that Nazareth ever put out!

Verdict
Released just six months after Razamanaz, Loud ‘n’ Proud sees the band continuing with the heavy theme that was very much evident on Razamanaz and Roger Glover was on production duties once again. The difference between the two albums, is that Loud ‘n’ Proud is basically just a consolidation album to build on the success of Razamanaz and therefore the tracks tend to be more predictable than Razamanaz before it! Despite that predictability Loud ‘n’ Proud is an even more solid album than its predecessor. Firstly there is the noticeable difference early on between the two albums, in that Loud ‘n’ Proud has a greater use of distortion overall, to create a louder sounding album in general. Secondly, the choice of covers on Loud ‘n’ Proud are a better choice of covers overall in general for the band and the pounding covers of the Lowell George (Little Feat) penned "Teenage Nervous Breakdown" along with the Bob Dylan cover "The Ballad of Hollis Brown" might be the best two cover songs the band ever put out! Finally Some of the tracks on Loud ‘n’ Proud, sound like really early metal classics and have stood the test of time, and none sound any better on this album than “Not Faking It” which sounds like an authentic NWOBHM track, almost several years before that movement would take shape! In many ways on “Not Faking It” Nazareth are touching on future Judas Priest territory here and I’m guessing Judas Priest would’ve been listening to Nazareth around this time anyway. Then there is the accomplished “Free Wheeler” which shows just how comfortable the band were, with rocking out for five and a half minutes! Also the band were at ease on the heavy ballad sound of "Child in the Sun" then there is the album closer, the cover of the Bob Dylan song "The Ballad of Hollis Brown" which may rank as the album's defining heavy metal moment! Overall Loud ‘n’ Proud is Razamanaz's heavier brother and an accomplished album in every way. This album is a fan favourite and a lot of this admiration comes from the fact of how heavy it is. Finally anybody listening to these Nazareth albums, will surely be able to hear the influence that they had on the future Guns N’ Roses and just how honest the band sounded on these as well.



06. Nazareth Rampant 1974 (Mooncrest)
Hard Rock


More heaviness but this time with a southern slant!


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

Production- Roger Glover

Album
Silver Dollar Forger, Pts.1 & 2- A fast and uptempo album opener about an outlaw on the run from the cops. The song has a superb riff throughout and one of the best cuts on the album. Just when the song seems to maintain that vibe throughout the rest of the song, we move into the second part of the song and the song gains an even deeper resonance. Glad When You’re Gone- A vibrant and humorous song with wah-wah guitar and again has that country feel to proceedings. Loved and Lost-The feel of the album really comes down here and this is the nearest thing we get to a ballad on the album and Dan McCafferty gives a solid vocal performance here, without ever giving way too much to his whisky rasp. Shanghai’d in Shanghai- A pile-driving rocker that AC/DC would go onto to master in future years. The song was a hit single in the UK at the time. Jet Lag- Crunchy and heavy and with a mid-tempo speed and again we see Manny Charlton’s tight guitar playing used to great effect. Light My Way- A plodding 4 minute song whose rhythm would be used the following year for the far better known song “Love Hurts” the song also uses subdued elements of the Mountain classic “Nantucket Sleighride” several years earlier, but “Light My Way” falls well below the quality of these two songs. Sunshine- With an acoustic intro the song gradually beefs up with the strong vocals of Dan McCafferty. Shape of Things/Space Safari- The longest track on the album and without doubt the best track on the album with the band putting out one of their best ever cohesive efforts ever.

Verdict
Rampant would be Nazareth’s most southern tinged album to date, this was a style that they had always hinted at on previous releases and now these Scottish rockers were taking the hard edged southern rock direction, from the authentic likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Oak Arkansas. Rampant also ranks as one of the heaviest releases in the whole Nazareth discography and it’s an album that often divides Nazareth fans, it should be noted that most of the southern rock feel is more noticeable on the a-side of the album. When I say heavy though, it does have quite a few softer moments but the overall feel of the album is that of a solid rocker overall. The album content can also be seen as being southern rock tinged as well. The album opener the driving “Silver Dollar Forger, Pts.1 & 2” is about an outlaw racing home with the cops on his tail and is an example of these southern influences. As is the second track “Glad When You’re Gone” with its light-hearted approach throughout and the same could be said about one of the better known tracks on the album “Shanghai’d in Shanghai” which gives a fair amount of references to southern rock subject fare in general, the song even features briefly the main riff from the Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction”. The album’s real highlights include the slow burning “Loved and Lost” where the band move into territory that had been the favourite stomping gound of bands like Free and Trapeze. The album closer though, the musically diverse “Shape of Things/Space Safari” is actually the stand-out track not just from the album, but one of the best from the band’s discography as a whole! Overall the Rampant album is a set of solid rocking songs that form a pivotal part of the Nazareth discography from this period, but the album is certainly not special in any way and certainly lags behind the other albums quality wise, that the band released between the 1973 to 1975 period. Interestingly the album was recorded at Montreux, the site of the famous Deep Purple Machine Head recording a few years earlier, I’m guessing this was a decision by producer Roger Glover in respect of this.

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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05. Aerosmith Get Your Wings 1974 (Columbia)
Hard Rock

The lord of the thighs oozes his way into your .....


Overview

Aerosmith aka ‘The Bad Boys from Boston’ were formed around the 1970-1971 period from a combination of two local Boston bands and one of these bands included Steven Tyler as a drummer! The pivotal line-up was formed around this time and included Steven Tyler-Vocals, Joe Perry-Guitar, Brad Whitford-Rhythm, Tom Hamilton-Bass and Joey Kramer-Drums and this line-up would go onto become one of the biggest bands of their generation. They would be a name that was synonymous to everything that was essential to the hard rock genre. Aerosmith’s sound was essentially basic and built around a blues meets hard rock melange (as so many bands had already done) Their sound was promoted as a heavier version of the Rolling Stones aimed at American kids, but it quickly became apparent that the band offered a lot more than this. Steven Tyler was born with a mouth designed for singing and it quickly became apparent that as soon as he sung, we had before us one of the greatest vocalists in the history of rock! Guitarists like Joe Perry, Brad Whitford and Tom Hamilton would be influential on all manner of future artists as well. The band quickly embraced the ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ lifestyle, but most importantly they were able to put out a sound that was instantly recognizable due to Steven Tyler’s voice and Joe Perry’s riffs, and it became apparent that the band were capable of writing songs with a real swagger! In fact the only other band that had that swagger were Led Zeppelin, but the difference here was that Aerosmith were distinctly American in both sound and feel! Their debut album had been a raw and fresh effort, and came out around the same sort of time as the New York Dolls and Kiss debuts, and as an album was certainly comparable in style to those two debuts, despite not being as strong as either of those two albums. The Aerosmith debut which is featured on my “Albums that missed the cut……..” section for 1973 still featured some of the band’s timeless essentials such as “Mama Kin” the raw and punchy “Make It” and the timeless ballad “Dream On” the album was a raw effort that showed potential rather than formulated ideas. Within the space of a year, the band were able to brush up in terms of songwriting, whilst keeping their essential raw and punchy edge that would be vital to the band. Their second album Get Your Wings, would see this future American legend forge their most important partnership and that would be with producer Jack Douglas, even though he is shared on the credits with Ray Colcord and even Alice Cooper’s buddy Bob Ezrin gets mentioned as well! The legend may have started on the debut, but the substance for that legend would really start on Get Your Wings.

Steven Tyler-Vocals
Joe Perry-Guitar
Brad Whitford-Rhythm
Tom Hamilton-Bass
Joey Kramer- Drums

Production- Jack Douglas

Album
Same Old Song- This would become a typical Aerosmith type track, with its Joe Perry riff and Joey Kramer’s great rhythmic drumming, followed up by Steve Tyler’s dominant vocal style. The Brecker brothers feature on both sax and trumpet on the song as well. Lord of the Thighs- One of the most amazing intros ever into a song with Joey Kramer again on drums to lead in, as the song just seems to pass over a freeway at speed and then hits us with Steven Tyler’s singing, which is full of exaggerated attitude and then the song beats itself away. Amazingly this song was a last minute addition……as they were struggling to find more material. Spaced- A great album track that has that instant feel and features a great hazy sounding melody throughout, before the song starts to mix itself up again. The song also features co-producer Ray Colcord on keyboards. Woman of the World- An old song used for this album and probably the weakest song on the whole album. S.O.S (Too Bad)- The b-side kicks off with an upbeat almost punky sounding track, that has a pulsating riff that carries the song through and then features some great guitar work as the song goes on, a really quality track. Train Kept A-Rollin- A great choice of cover of the Tiny Bradshaw R&B track, that sounds like it easily could’ve been written by the band themselves and it’s one of the most solid tracks on the album, it features a live performance section as well. Seasons of Wither- With its sorrowful breezy intro, this is often regarded as one of the great Aerosmith songs from their early period and it’s another solo Steven Tyler composition as well. Pandora’s Box- The album closer is a raw rock ‘n’ roll track written by Tyler and Kramer and is probably best known as the name given to the band’s excellent box set released many years later.

Verdict
From the word go, we are served up with the “Same Old Song” and the bluesy swagger of the band never gets any more evident than on a song like this, and that swagger is served up equally well much later on in the album, with one of the best covers the band ever put out in “Train Kept A-Rollin” and these two songs really give the album its backbone. But it’s songs like “Lord of the Thighs” that really set this album alight and when the intro to this song is played loud, it always makes my temperature rise, as the song just seems to breeze in with consummate ease and then we’re treated to the some of the raunchiest singing that Steven Tyler ever did, and with so much attitude to go with it. The same could be said for the intro to “Seasons of Wither” with its eerie and mournful feel and it’s the nearest the band get to a ballad on the album, again the song has another great riff. But what is so great about the song though, is that whilst being mournful the song can also be seen as being quite heart-warming in an strange kind of way! So just how good is Get Your Wings as an album? The lion’s share of the material on the album is penned by Steven Tyler, the rest of the band gradually got a bit more writing time on the future albums that the band put out, but I think it’s fair to say that Steven Tyler may well have had control over the type of material that the band were putting out overall. Get Your Wings is a big fan favourite, but it quite often gets ignored largely due to the two mammoth albums that followed it Toys in the Attic and Rocks, and quality wise it doesn’t compete with either of those two albums! But what it does achieve, is to bridge the gap between the raw debut and the focused hard rock delights of Toys in the Attic and Rocks. I’m not going to say that if Get Your Wings hadn’t been recorded, then the band would never have made either Toys in the Attic and Rocks, but Get Your Wings really did set the stall out for those two releases. In just a few years, Aerosmith would record the material that would laud them the future title of ‘America’s Greatest Ever Rock and Roll Band’ and it’s obvious that the roots of that label were planted on the debut and then they started to sprout on Get Your Wings, in fact get your wings is an appropriate name for the album in every aspect.

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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04. UFO Phenomenon 1974 (Chrysalis)
Hard Rock

Just what the Doctor ordered and a repeat prescription.


Overview

UFO would become a pillar of the ‘heavy scene’ throughout the 1970s and recorded some of the genre’s most essential albums, but their beginnings were somewhat removed from the melodic hard rocking band that they would become well known for. They formed as far back as 1969 under the guise of Hocus Pocus but soon re-named themselves UFO after the London club they regularly performed at. Their first couple of albums featured the vital line-up of Phil Mogg on vocals, Pete Way on bass and Andy Parker on drums and for these first two albums they featured Mick Bolton on guitar. The first two UFO albums UFO a real homemade sounding effort with a 1960s sound and Flying often referred to as UFO II, were basically an amalgamation of hard rock Blue Cheer style, heavy blues, R&B, psychedelia and an obvious space rock influence, which became even more dominant on their second album Flying and is actually a very interesting listen. Whilst these recordings are of interest to any UFO fan, the band were never going to set the stage alight despite being quite popular on the European mainland around this period and with a vocalist of the calibre of Phil Mogg his talents were surely being wasted here. The band around the 1972 period decided that a change of direction was in order and guitarist Mick Bolton left for Mott the Hoople and his position was briefly filled by Larry Willis of the Pink Fairies and then by Bernie Marsden who would later go on to feature with Whitesnake. By 1973 they then decided on young German guitar maestro Michael Schenker to fill the role and he was recruited from the Scorpions. In fact the Scorpions were in much the same dilemma as UFO around this period, because like UFO they were struggling to find their true sound and would actually have to wait longer than UFO to find it (but that’s a story for another day) The band now decided to head into a more focused and heavier edged direction with Schenker on board, they had a new record label in Chrysalis and in maintaining producer Leo Lyons from the band Tens Years After, the band were all set to record their essential third album Phenomenon!

Phil Mogg- Vocals
Michael Schenker- Guitar
Pete Way- Bass
Andy Parker- Drums

Production- Leo Lyons

Album
Oh My- A thumping rocking intro which certainly sees the band in a new frame of mind. The song has a constant throbbing sound and is propelled by Schenker’s guitar. The only negative on the song is that it could’ve been longer as the song is there to be exploited. Crystal Light- This is a melodic rock number that is fuelled up by an acoustic guitar and is an accomplished effort. Doctor Doctor- One of the most famous intros which resonates 1970s rock in every way, the song then moves into its blistering galloping section with Phil Mogg singing “Doctor, Doctor please, Oh the mess I'm in!” and the song doesn’t let up for a minute and this really is a true hard rock anthem! Space Child- A gentle effort as the band chill out between the two songs either side of it. The song sounds like a possible farewell to their failed early sound. Rock Bottom- Electrifying guitar, amazing in every way, what more can I say about this song……. just listening to it for Michael Schenker’s guitar is enough, possibly one of the very best hard rock classics of the decade! Too Young to Know- An upbeat rocker that is a good album track that grows on you with each listen. Time on My Hands- One of the quieter more melodic efforts on the album, that possibly is one of those songs that goes on for longer than it needs to. Built for Comfort- A Willie Dixon cover song which unsurprisingly is the most blues orientated track on the whole album. It’s a very good cover but most definitely chosen as a filler effort. Lipstick Traces- A refreshing instrumental that surprisingly fits in nicely on the album. Queen of the Deep- A low key start and then we kick into some heavier terrain and a great pulsating riff. This song is a heavy number effort in every way and it's a song very much in the direction that the band would stay for the rest of the decade.

Verdict
Phenomenon was an album that I quickly fell in love with and in many ways that overshadowed some of the album’s weaknesses for me, which were essentially some lower energy level songs that sat between the album’s true stunners “Doctor Doctor” and “Rock Bottom”. The band on this album were truly forging the perfect marriage of incorporating melodic rock into their newish hard rock sound. It’s also fairly obvious that the band were divorcing themselves from their older sound, whilst trying to work out how much free rein they should allow the electricfying Michael Schenker on guitar! For all that though, the album does contain a fair amount of quieter material, but this material is accomplished and that’s what counts! With “Doctor Doctor and “Rock Bottom” the band ushered in two of the great hard rock tracks of all time. “Doctor Doctor” is just pure genius at its very best, whilst “Rock Bottom” even today leaves me drooling for its sheer power, energy and Michael Schenker’s friggin guitar soloing! These two songs were simply built to last and they sound just as great today as they did back then. Then there is “Oh My” a great rocker which just shows how the band had streamlined their sound from their earlier material and also the album closer “Queen of the Deep” which is a superb five minute plus track with again some truly great guitar featured throughout. On this album Michael Schenker was treated as a newbie and kept on a leash for this album, now this surely begs the question, had he been given a free roam here how much better could this album have been? Because let’s face it, when his guitar exploded the band played their best stuff. If a criticism can be aimed at the album, then it could be the few times that the band are reluctant to totally part with their earlier slower sound and this can be heard on “Crystal Light” which seems too bogged down in acoustics and does have a tendency to plod along. Then there is “Space Child” a kind of poignant reminder of the sound they gave up to move into a new harder edged direction and the idea of putting both “Too Young to Know” and “Time on My Hands” back to back is probably not that smart a move either. The band had an amazing grasp of what melodic hard rock was all about without losing their heavy edge and even today they could still give a lesson or two to a multitude of bands out there on how to achieve this perfect balance.

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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03. Bad Company Bad Company 1974 (Swan Song)
Hard Rock-Soft Rock
An unembellished set of rock songs built to last!


Overview
Bad Company were one of the first really true supergroups that dominated the hard rock genre. I say true, because when I think of supergroups I tend to think of bands that were big commercially, rather just than being members of other known bands. The genre had already contained supergroups such as Cactus etc, but none of these came close to achieving the level of commercial success that Bad Company would achieve during the rest of the decade! Bad Company were led by Paul Rodgers, whose lengthy stint with his previous band Free, had always seen him flirt with huge commercial success, but due to a serious of misfortunes (see previous Free album reviews) the band had never achieved the true heights that Paul Rodger’s melodic hard rock so desperately sought. Paul Rodgers brought Free drummer Simon Kirke with him and these two were joined by the highly respected and equally brilliant Mick Ralphs from Mott the Hoople whose praises I’ve often sung on here and King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell. Bad Company were formed in 1973 and direction-wise they were the baby of Paul Rodgers, who had continued with the basis of the sound that had been laid down across the Free discography, Bad Company of course and keeping with the times would be far less bluesy than his previous band Free in every aspect. But Paul Rodgers I guess in terms of leading the band, had learnt to compromise after his previous clashes with Andy Fraser in the Free set-up, which in the end turned out to be detrimental to the stability of the band. This time around though, the input of guitarist Mick Ralphs became just as important as that as Paul Rodgers, so much so that he was involved in about fifty percent of the writing credits on the album. As both commercial fame and success were the band’s primary aim, the band basically got all their groundwork spot on, not just with the band personnel but also in hiring Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, who had an uncanny way of promoting bands stateside and that was where the big bucks were! It was largely thanks to Peter Grant and the bands stripped down sound that they became a huge draw stateside throughout the decade.

Paul Rodgers- Vocals
Mick Ralphs- Guitar
Boz Burrell- Bass
Simon Kirke- Drums

Production- Bad Company

Album
Can’t Get Enough
- With its mid-tempo beat, tuneful sound and simple guitar lick, the opening track is the perfect example of the melodic Bad Company sound and was solely written by Mick Ralphs. Rock Steady- A return to heavier territory here with a heavy percussion beat, before the songs builds up to a heavier main section, one of the best songs on the album without any doubt. Ready for Love- One of the most beautiful and accomplished slower songs ever written in the 1970s! The song had originally been penned by Mick Ralphs whilst he was with Mott the Hoople (it was previously reviewed) but now its vocals are delivered by Paul Rodgers along with some actual changes to the song. Don’t Let Me Down- A slow burning track with a soulful almost gospel type sound, which really relies on Paul Rodger’s voice and he also his guest piano spot as well. Bad Company- The title track starts off with a subtle piano intro, before moving into some heavier rocking fare, before then moving down a gear and then kicks off again…… the song is one of the pillar of the album! The Way I Choose- The slowest song on the album and despite being a nice track, really lets us know that the emphasis of this album is most definitely on the slower more melodic material. Movin’ On- Penned by Mick Ralphs and a very upbeat track throughout. Seagull- Mostly acoustic and the song has a great flowing feel to finish what is a very polished and accomplished album. The album also had some additional omitted tracks and these include "Superstar Woman" a standard rocker and the best of the three, along with two b-sides "Little Miss Fortune" and "Easy on My Soul" which had previously been recorded with Free.

Verdict
The Bad Company debut was one of the big commercial success stories of the year and thus it achieved the aim of Paul Rodgers and company. Now what’s so special about the Bad Company debut, is that we have four artists that were already highly respected individuals who were masters of their trade and were fully capable of going toe to toe with anybody out there! But what we got was a perfectly stripped down brand of melodic hard rock, that was propelled by Mick Ralph’s guitar and driven by the ever soulful voice of Paul Rodgers, whose voice it should be said dominates every song. The album also had an enviable rhythm section of Boz Burrell and Simon Kirke, in fact Simon Kirke might be my pick of the musicians on here. Most of the compositions are perfect examples of the previously mentioned stripped down melodic hard rock, which has no complexities and certainly no thrills! The songs were built around basic licks and uptempo beats and they don’t get any more basic than on a song like “Can’t Get Enough” but the album’s stellar highlights include a number of timeless classics such as “Rock Steady” “Bad Company” and the glorious “Ready For Love”. This song is such a classic, that it always begs the question on which version was better, the original Mick Ralphs version from Mott the Hoople or the better known Bad Company version with Paul Rodgers singing? This album is so solid that there is no real filler and certainly no weak tracks to speak off! The Bad Company debut, may well have also been one of the biggest influences for the future AOR movement, the album doesn’t always get the credit it deserves in that respect, but this album was in many aspects an album that had so many softer rock elements, which would be a dominant feature in the AOR sound. At just 34 minutes running time, the Bad Company debut may well be one of the finest examples of hard rock meets soft rock from its era. The band tried duplicating this formula throughout the rest of the decade, but they could never quite match the shining light of this debut set.

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Album Pick of the Year
02. Budgie In for the Kill! 1974 (MCA)
Hard Rock

Living ain't easy it opens your head!


Overview

For the second year running the trailblazing Welsh trio known as Budgie, would have to be contented with another second spot in a row! In for the Kill would sit shoulder to shoulder with their previous album Never Turn Your Back on a Friend as the two essential Budgie releases! Album for album there isn’t too much difference in the focus and the direction of the band, as on their previous album Never Turn Your Back on a Friend, the band’s sound had completely gelled into place and the recording of In for the Kill just simply confirms that fact. The band though, had gone through a major loss in long-time drummer Raymond Phillips who decided to leave the band and his place would now be taken on the drum stool by the largely forgotten Peter Boot, who it has to be said does an amiable job on the album. Two of the songs on the album, would go onto become favoured cover songs by future metal giants in Van Halen and Metallica “In for the Kill” the title track and “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” would be the two songs that were covered. These are certainly two great indicators of just how influential Budgie were within metal circles and its development in the mid-1970s, and also shows why the band were constantly namechecked. After the departure of drummer Raymond Phillips, both Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge would dominate the songwriting and in turn would give us the band’s tightest songwriting so far. If anybody doubts just how influential Budgie actually were at this time, just listening to Tony Bourge’s loud pulsating guitar and Burke Shelley’s big thumping bass should alleviate any doubts concerning this. Also up until this album, Budgie had also blessed us with some great imaginative song titles and with the exception of the previously recorded 1971 song “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” the rest of the cuts on the album take on a more straightforward approach concerning song names, with the aim of possibly giving the band a more serious image. One again this classic album is decorated with another great Roger Dean designed album cover.

Burke Shelley- Bass/Vocals
Tony Bourge- Guitar
Peter Boot- Drums

Production- Budgie

Album In for the Kill- With its bluesy start and heavy bass, this is very much an archetypal Budgie song and with a running time of over 6 minutes, the song goes through a couple of tempo changes, and is a real workout by the band on how to jam with real intensity! The song was regularly covered by Van Halen back in their early days. Crash Course in Brain Surgery- The quality of the previous song continues through to one of the best known songs from the album. This song was originally released back in 1971 as a single and would later be covered by Metallica on their Garage Days Revisited EP in 1987. Wondering What Everybody Knows- A delightful song which brings down the tone of the album and sounds like a Beatles meets Jethro Tull type song and hell…..even the song title sounds like a typical Beatles song! Zoom Club- With its slow moving but crunchy start, the band serve up another real driving number and at times the song sounds like Aerosmith’s “Lord of the Thighs”. I’ve no idea if this is just pure coincidence, or one of these bands copied the other! But at a glorious 10 minutes, it’s the longest song on the album. Hammer and Tongs- A slow heavy bluesy pounding number and yet again this stands as one of the best tracks on the album. The song goes through some impressive musical changes, that are both subtle and haunting at the same time. Running from My Soul- Probably the least impressive track on the album, as it’s basically a formula type sounding blues number, but it’s still a decent song in its own way. Living on Your Own- The lengthy album closer that has a running time of around 9 minutes and at times it can’t quite decide whether it wants to be an instrumental or just a normal vocal directed song!

Verdict
So just how good is In for the Kill? Firstly Tony Bourge’s guitar always sounded like it could provoke some kind of gutsy reaction, rather than just following a standard play and then repeat pattern played by so many others. Secondly Burke Shelley helped to re-define the bassist/vocalist in the heavy spectrum and with his wimpy sounding vocals, he may have certainly prompted Geddy Lee that he could do it as well! As for the album, Just listening to the title track alone, shows the confidence and ambition of the band, as they match the previous album Never Turn Your Back on a Friend song for song. For a pulsating six minutes on this track, the band serves up one of their trademark crunching bass heavy renditions and in many ways nobody quite did this type of song better than Budgie around this time. The second track “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” is one of the really dynamic highlights of the album, with its pacey hard driving feel! The band as was customary for them around this time, then give us one of their softer interlude type numbers and in “Wondering What Everybody Knows” with its Beatlesque feel, this may well have been one of the best softer tracks that the band ever did. The A-side of the album is finished by “Zoom Club” which again is just so good with its driving power chord and draws similarities with the Aerosmith track “Lord of the Thighs” which was released the same year. Then there is the heavy bluesy grinding of a song like “Hammer and Tongs” and band on this track, show us that the blues are very much alive and well on the hard rock scene circa 1974. If the album does lose the odd point or two, it might come on its lengthy album closer “Living on Your Own” which despite having some highlights especially in its execution, might not really be the closing track that this rich album truly deserves, as at times it feels too much like a light-hearted instrumental track when Burke Shelly decides not to sing. Overall In for the Kill, has Budgie showing us that their mastery of blending blues rock into the hard rock meets heavy metal genre was second to none around this time! If I had to pick a winner between the previous Never Turn Your Back on a Friend and In for the Kill, I’d go for the latter even though the previous album normally pegs top spot from most hardcore Budgie fans. In for the Kill is without a doubt one of the best albums served up by the heavy genre for the 1970s and shouldn’t be missed out under any circumstances, because lets face it this is one mother of a heavy album!

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 04-06-2013, 12:11 PM   #247 (permalink)
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I've been away from this thread for a couple months now and now just trying to catch up. I am using Google Chrome and as I clicked on page five it keeps warning me that there is possible malware on the page...

Does anyone else get that warning? I am thinking of using my regular internet explorer, but I wanted to bring this to someone's attention here. I suppose a PM might have been better, but I wanted to warn all about this.
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Originally Posted by Musicfanatic View Post
I've been away from this thread for a couple months now and now just trying to catch up. I am using Google Chrome and as I clicked on page five it keeps warning me that there is possible malware on the page...

Does anyone else get that warning? I am thinking of using my regular internet explorer, but I wanted to bring this to someone's attention here. I suppose a PM might have been better, but I wanted to warn all about this.
It could be to do with one of the links I guess.
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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History
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01. Blue Oyster Cult Secret Treaties 1974 (Columbia)
Hard Rock

A psychedelic noir of a secret career.

Overview
Blue Oyster Cult’s third album Secret Treaties would be the ultimate culmination of their early work and the album would go onto to top various musical polls as one of the best albums of its type. That in itself is a rather dubious point, because not many bands sounded like BOC at all, as not many bands set themselves out to be the ‘Thinking Man’s Metal Band’ either. So three albums in, this NY area based band and their core biker band sound, which had long been infused with a heavy psychedelic rock style, borrowed over from the late 1960s and then neatly blended in with some R&B, had succeeded where so many of their fellow other American counterparts such as Sir Lord Baltimore, Dust and Bang had failed! So what made the Blue Oyster Cult different from those bands? Firstly they had been able to shed their ‘American Black Sabbath’ label and had taken their sound to far greater depths and diversity than Black Sabbath could’ve dreamed or even dared go! Secondly they were a group of artists that were masters of their trade and felt totally at ease in what they were doing, whether that was complex jamming, hard rock overtones or brittle sounding pop flourishes. Thirdly they had created a unique murky sound and when you heard the band, you knew exactly who they were! Secret Treaties was without doubt, the album that the band had always sought to achieve and not just fall into like say Deep Purple with Machine Head. Just going back a few years, gave an indication of where the band wanted to be a few years down the line. The debut had a been a very subjective affair, but Tyranny and Mutation had the band knocking right on the door of where they wanted to be! Tyranny and Mutation had been the creative leap by the band and in many ways had Tyranny and Mutation not been recorded, it could be safe to say that we would never have got Secret Treaties a year later. The album cover was designed by Ron Lesser, with a German ME262 on the front cover and this was something of a change as far as the band were concerned image wise as well, and the plane would be an inspiration for one of the songs. More significantly though since I started these reviews, Secret Treaties would be the first ever album to attain the number one position by a non-British band (all five previous number ones had been British bands) and demonstrated a strong catch-up by the American bands within this genre.

Eric Bloom- Guitar/Vocals
Donald ‘Buck Dharma’ Roeser- Guitar
Allen Lainier- Rhythm/Keyboards
Joe Bouchard- Bass
Albert Bouchard- Drums

Production- Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman

Album
Career of Evil
- The opening of the song on the album, sounds like we’re entering the album in ‘media res’ as the track basically sounds like a mid-album effort and not an opening track. The song was jointly written by Albert Bouchard and Patti Smith (her only credit on the album) the song vibrates a strong R&B beat with a dash of glam rock. Subhuman- With its subtle low key start of echoing melody, the song then enters more concrete terrain, but the strength of the song remains in its subtle melody which resonates throughout the track. Dominance and Submission- With its clock ticking intro that is quickly followed up by its angsty start and Eric Bloom sounds quite different here (has more range than he’s given credit for) in fact the song resonates a nervous sharp beat and singing style, that a future Devo would adopt, the song is boosted up by some jokey speaking sections and fills out its 5 plus minutes amiably. ME262- A BOC work of art with its pacey leading and rhythm section in perfect unison and borrows in feel from the previous “Dominance and Submission” and the later guitar section is pure mastery from the band. Cagey Cretins- With its great title and drumming intro, and overall upbeat feel, the band continue on from the previous two efforts. Harvester of Eyes- We go into a slightly more serious and mid-tempo terrain here, and all is highlighted by razor sharp guitar riffs and yet again all is underscored by Allen Lainier on keys, before ending in a grouchy and then musical box affair. Flaming Telepaths- One of the showpiece tracks on the album, highlighted by the band’s profound lyrics and the song’s almost hypnotic piano, along with crossing guitar lines which at times throb with a real intensity and all this contrasts with an amazing rhythm section, a classic cut without a doubt. Astronomy- A far cry from the album opener, with its melancholic feel and slow opening, before taking on a more up-tempo middle section and shows just how visionary this band were right to the end of the album, but nothing can quite prepare the listener for the spiralling outro section, which hits the listener like a soft brick and then its final windy section! On the 2001 re-issue of the album, there are a number of bonus songs such as “Boorman the Chauffeur” a light-hearted cut focusing on the once disappeared Nazi Boorman and is somewhat inspired by the Who’s “Boris the Spider”. “Mommy” A crunching bass song and based around humour. “Mes Dames Serat” Easily the best of the bonus tracks and dominated by both guitar and drums and finally there is a cover of the song made famous by Steppenwolf “Born to be Wild”.

Verdict
Secret Treaties marks the end of the band’s black and white period and the brilliance of the album lies in its musical textures, along with Sandy Pearlman’s multi-layering thus giving us another muddy ambiguous mix, but this time with greater clarity. The twin guitar attack by Bloom and Dharma contrasts so majestically at times with Bouchard’s bass, along with some outstanding work by Lainier’s again on both rhythm and keyboards, yet again it is he that gels the whole band's sound together! This combination basically serves up a musical lesson on how a cohesive band of five highly talented individuals can function as a collective whole and without any wastage. The songs on Secret Treaties just seem to run seamlessly and songs like “Career of Evil” “Subhuman” ”Harvester of Eyes” “Flaming Telepaths” and the closing “Astronomy” example this to perfection, in fact there’s not a dud in sight! The album also shows us, just how effortlessly the band have added new ideas and musical add-ons to their traditional sound, the process had already started on Tyranny and Mutation and then completed right here! Most of the songs on Secret Treaties seem to have an up-tempo beat, whether that is from the guitars or the drums and this factor drives right through the whole album, and ultimately provides both its essence and soul. It does this by presenting us with a landscape of constantly shifting sounds, as the album moves in and out of both darkness and shadows in an almost seamless way. BOC are a band that desperately need multiple listens and so whether this brilliance sinks into the listener’s subconscious on the first or tenth listen, it’s sure to get its message across in the end! In fact the only detraction for me on this classic album, is that Buck Dharma doesn’t sing on any of the album’s songs as he had done on their first two albums, as this time Eric Bloom sings lead on every song, with the exception of “Cagey Cretins” which is co-sung with the Bouchard brothers. Despite that slight and a very small one at that, before us stands one of the very best albums of the decade, from a band that were able to go to musical dimensions that few could follow and they managed to do that without ever treading down the progressive rock avenue!

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 04-09-2013, 08:25 AM   #250 (permalink)
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^^^

Is it just me, or are some of those sorta homoerotic?
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