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Old 05-06-2013, 01:30 PM   #281 (permalink)
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05. Budgie Bandolier 1975 (MCA)
Hard Rock

A last great splash, before the well dried up!


Overview

I’ve always been a believer that most bands have a creative lifeline before they start to go stale or try and do things they just aren’t capable of really doing, and this lifeline seems to usually last around half a decade for most, which usually equates to four to six albums. So following this logic and with those bands starting around the late 1960s and early 1970s period, 1975 would therefore be the turning point for a number of featured artists so far in my lists. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Nazareth and Budgie would all be bands that fell into this category. Budgie the band in question here, had always had the misfortune of never reaching the commercial heights of the other bands mentioned, but their place in the future of ‘metaldom’ was certainly assured after a classic run of five albums of which Bandolier was the fifth album in that grouping. Peter Boot who had been the drummer for their last album In for the Kill! had been given the boot (excuse the pun) and was replaced by Steve Williams on the drumstool, and he would become the band’s mainstay drummer for the rest of their time as a group. On the band’s previous two albums Never Turn Your Back on a Friend and In For the Kill! The band had mastered their own brand of very heavy bluesy hard rock, that matched the likes of Black Sabbath for heaviness and they usually had the odd quieter track for diversity, along with some progressive rock flourishes, which were all combined with the band’s own brand of humour for good measure. For Bandolier the album which would be the last great album in the band’s discography, the band streamlined their sound to focus on a more funk based sound, which was toned up with metallic riffs and their customary very heavy rhythm section. The album cover probably ranks as one of the band’s most bizarre album covers in their whole discography, with three armed men on horses sporting green birdlike heads! Around this time and due to the heaviness of the band’s live shows, they were augmented on stage by fellow Welsh guitarist Myf Isaac who stayed with the band until 1978 when he departed along with Tony Bourge.

Burke Shelley- Bass/Vocals
Tony Bouge- Guitar
Steve Williams- Drums

Production- Budgie

Album
Breaking All the House Rules
- Budgie are straight in with their trademark crunchy guitar and accompanying drums, and Burke Shelly sounds gruffer than normal here. The song is highlighted by a great riff and the song carries an infectious energy throughout. Slipaway- With a gentle acoustic intro, the song gently rolls along with its almost tropical party beat and then into a tranquil feel. Who Do You Want for Your Love- After a soft intro, the song moves into a superb funky piece, before then beefing itself up as expected and the song makes lyrical references to the Never Turn Your Back on a Friend album. I Can’t See My Feelings- One of the heaviest songs on the album and also one of the most solid with its jumpy beat. The song was later covered by Iron Maiden on one of their b-sides. I Ain’t No Mountain- A cover of the Andy Fairweather Low penned song and certainly not one of the band’s best cover songs and easily the poorest song on the whole album. Napoleon Bona-Part One/Napoleon Bona-Part Two- The album closer has a slow start before moving into a galloping main section. The song is the second longest track on the album after the album opener.

Verdict
One of the band’s heaviest and most funky releases, Bandolier also serves as possibly the bands most focused album in their whole discography, as the band by Bandolier have departed with the proggy and experimental flourishes that featured on their earlier albums. Bandolier is an album that starts how it means to go on and from the moment you hear “Breaking All the House Rules” you know that this is going to set the tone for the rest of the album. There are some exceptions to this though, as on a song like “Slipaway” which is about as soft as the band ever get on the album and is in contrast to nearly everything else on the album. Some of the best highlights of Bandolier are the funky pieces such as “Who Do You Want for Your Love” where the band beef up the Glenn Hughes (Trapeze and Deep Purple) type of funk and continue this into one of the album’s strongest tracks “I Can’t See My Feelings”. The funk though finally gives way to more harder fare for the album closer “Napoleon Bona-Part One/Napoleon Bona-Part Two” which is basically a hard galloping rocker to finish the album and a ‘bona-fide’ heavy track in every aspect. The album also has some of Tony Bourge’s most metallic riffs to date, especially on songs like “Breaking All the House Rules” “Who Do You Want for Your Love” “I Can’t See My Feelings” and “Napoleon Bona-Part One/Napoleon Bona-Part Two” and these songs are great examples of what a heavy rhythm section should be all about. The songs on Bandolier tend to be lengthy compositions, with the shortest song being the Andy Fairweather Low cover “I Ain’t No Mountain” which also happens to be the weakest track on the album. Bandolier is a stellar album from a band still at the top of their game, but international success always just seemed out of their grasp. In 1976 the band moved label to A&M and possibly due to label pressures, the band tried to record a more accessible mainstream sound, whilst keeping with a funky direction. The whole move just seemed to suck the creative spark out of the band and their creative juices also just seemed to dry up! Therefore Bandolier was the album, that brought to a close the golden age of one of the ‘heavy genres’ best and most pivotal bands of its early years.

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 05-07-2013, 05:02 AM   #282 (permalink)
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it certainly is interesting how Lizzy's sound changed over the course of their first few albums. I recently reviewed "Shades" and was struck by how bluesy and at times boring it was. "Fighting" is a great album, but if it's the punch in the face and "Jailbreak" is the kick in the teeth, "Nightlife" is a gay little slap on the wrist or push in the back. I hated "Nightlife", such a boring album and very little I could take from it. Even the original version of "Still in love with you" blows: thank goodness they pumped it up live.

Great writeups, US: as I said in the update last week I'm trying to not just skim through the journals but read everything so as to have more to say in the weekly update, and reading yours just shows me what I've been missing.

I must say though, I'm waiting with bated breath for 1976!
Thin Lizzy did seem to be something of a wandering band in their early years and share quite a bit in common with Mott the Hoople and Nazareth in that respect. I'm surprised you disliked Nightlife but as an anamoly in their discography it's going to split opinions. I guess the album's crime kind of comes from the fact that it's classified as being part of the band's golden period without sound like a muscular record at all. And I may nick your "punch in the face kick in the teeth line" for when I do Jailbreak.
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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.
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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History
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Old 05-09-2013, 10:20 AM   #283 (permalink)
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04. UFO Force It 1975 (Chrysalis)
Hard Rock

A faucet of hot water and brimming suds!


Overview

After their commercial and critical breakthrough on the previous Phenomenon (see my ace review!) UFO had the world at their feet so to speak and they certainly didn’t disappoint on the recording of Force It their follow-up album. I’ve mentioned that 1975 had a slew of impressive guitar based albums, of which awesome guitar performances seemed to be high on the list of priorities for nearly all the bands featured in this year’s list. With this in mind it came as no surprise then, that UFO made the most of Michael Schenker’s guitar playing throughout the Force It album and most of the compositions on the album are yet again Schenker and Mogg penned like on Phenomenon. Also at this time UFO were possibly one of the most impressive live bands around and in Phil Mogg they had one hell of an impressive frontman who combined heaviness and melody to amazing effect, a scintillating guitarist in Michael Schenker who could run rings around others with his guitar and a pounding rhythm section of Pete Way and Andy Parker, and like any band of their ilk the band had a reputation for hard living and wrecking hotel rooms…….hell yer! The album also has one of the most striking covers of its time and actually caused some controversy in the UK at the time of its release, largely due to public decency standards……well this was the 1970s! This controversy was further highlighted over the gender of the couple in the shot as well! The US release at the time was even stricter in regards to public decency standards and it had the couple in a transparent form! Also to the left of the couple, the shower cables are all interlinked and there is also a heavy focus on taps which of course spurt water………. leaving the album cover pun open to interpretation. In keeping with the Ten Years After link on the album as they already had Leo Lyons on production duties, the band drafted in Ten Years After keyboardist Chick Churchill to play keyboards on the album. Overall on Force It, the band had said adios to the muddled sound of their early days and the album now saw the band a world away from their first couple of albums and basically past the point of no return.

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

Production- Leo Lyons

Album
Let it Roll- With its high octane start and biting guitar, this song serves as an easy listening intro to the album and then moves into steadier territory. This song would end up being a concert staple of the band. Shoot Shoot- A rolling melodic piece with a sure eye on commercial appeal and it has some great hooks and it’s one of the band’s best known songs and essential in every way. High Flyer- An acoustic ballad that brings the energy of the album down a notch or two…. or even three. Love Lost Love- Released as a single and despite having a punchy feel, it’s one of the weaker tracks on the album. Out in the Street- With Chick Churchill on the piano led intro, the band go in for a more restrained sound here and it’s one of the more developed songs on the album. Mother Mary- We’re back into heavier fare here, as the song has a heavy strutting style and now and again there is still time for a softer bridge. Too Much of Nothing- This is heaviness true UFO style, where the heavy aspects of the song sit nicely with the melodic material on offer and there is also some great drum work here by Andy Parker, making this one of the strongest tracks on the album overall. Dance Your Life Away- An ambitious song that ends up being typical b-side material. The song at times moves into some poppier territory for the band, but still sounds beefed up when needed. This Kid’s including Between the Walls- Another heavy intro with some subtle crunchy guitar bits, before the songs moves into a lengthier rocking track with a soft outro. One of the bonus tracks on re-issues of the album include the previously unreleased “A Million Miles” which is a slow moving song that could’ve easily fit on this album on its original release.

Verdict
Force It is often seen by most critics as a step up from Phenomenon, but in my opinion both albums are to the same standard quality wise, so that means two great albums and two essential listens to anybody reading here. Force It as an album doesn’t waste anytime upon listening and kicks off in rousing fashion with “Let it Roll” and “Shoot Shoot” the first a heavy biter that basically just rolls along. The second a perfect example of the band’s hook laden melodic hard rock and there is also some sublime work by Michael Schenker throughout. Overall the band probably don’t go in for enough songcraft at times on Force It, but when they do a song like “Out in the Street” is a top notch effort that is piano led and features both Michael Schenker playing restrained and unrestrained guitar throughout! Force It would also be the band’s heaviest album to date and here the flowing energy and heaviness both go hand in hand, but there are some subtle moments as well like on “High Flyer” that despite being an acoustic ballad, still features some dominant guitar work. The band mix both quietness and heaviness well on a song like “Mother Mary” where to be fair though, the heavy aspects win out everytime. Then there is “Too Much of Nothing” where the band’s heaviness is tucked in nicely with the melodic side of the band, before giving way to a nice outro. These qualities are then finally repeated on the heavy album closer “This Kid’s” which finishes the album in rousing style, before fading into a gentle guitar led outro. Force It stands as a solid example of the hard rock genre of the mid 1970s and if a negative can be found on the album as a whole, it’s that the songs themselves are only effectively brought to life by the band’s superb ability of blending hard rock and melody in the same glass, rather than the actual song’s actually being top notch compositions. This formula though works more often than not, but there are songs like “Love Lost Love” where it doesn’t work at all and on the far more ambitious “Dance Your Life Away” this song really needed a greater overall development to enhance what was on offer. Despite these pickings by me, Force It firmly established another major player on the world scene.

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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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Old 05-10-2013, 05:20 PM   #284 (permalink)
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My memory of Hair of the Dog is that the title track was released as a single, but was withdrawn after BBC Radio refused to play the song. It was replaced by a hastily recorded cover of Tomorrow's My White Bicycle. Tomorrow was Keith West and Steve Howe's early band, but Nazareth's version is better and almost as good as Hair of the Dog. I do recall the band playing the song as part of a barnstorming (I think) Sight and Sound in Concert on BBC 2 TV. They were a band that seemed to get better and No Mean City is excellent too. I lost interest around Malice in Wonderland, when they seemed to be aiming for commercial success in America. The Manny Charlton band seemed pretty good, but I did not like their albums.
Well here I am leaning something from somebody that was actually there at the time. And the hastily recorded "My White Bicycle" sounds exactly like it was quickly recorded and sounds just like the kind of tripe that you used to get on Top of the Pops in the 1970s and 1980s. After Hair of the Dog Nazareth really went downhill........... but I aim to re-listen to a lot of those albums when I'm doing my years and they may spring a surprise which is often the case these days,
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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.
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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History
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Old 05-11-2013, 03:53 AM   #285 (permalink)
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Album Pick of the Year
03. Alice Cooper Welcome to My Nightmare 1975 (Atlantic)
Hard Rock-Shock Rock

Welcome to my nightmare, I think you’re gonna like it.


Overview

After the commercially disappointing Muscle of Love, which effectively spelt the end of the Alice Cooper band, Alice Cooper then took the band name and launched his own solo career, and came up with the concept nightmare album Welcome to My Nightmare. The album would be a concept piece, about a child called Steven who surprisingly has a dream and then a nightmare! Alice Cooper’s previous band often known as the ‘Billion Dollar Babies” had been unceremoniously dumped as Alice Cooper (as he will now solely be referred to) decided that Muscle of Love had failed because “they” the band couldn’t hack it anymore! So for the recording of 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare, Alice Cooper hired Lou Reed’s backing band from his Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal album to shuffle up his musical array. Some of these artists like Steve Hunter and Dick Wagener (whose Ursa Major album has been featured on my ‘albums that missed the cut’ section) had previously worked with Alice Cooper anyway. But the biggest inclusion was surely the return of producer Bob Ezrin to Alice’s fold (he was like a band member) Bob Ezrin had been missed on Muscle of Love, which by the way was actually a decent album and nowhere near as bad as it was made out to be. Bob Ezrin was certainly vital to Alice Cooper and in many ways, his relationship with Alice Cooper was about as important as Jack Douglas’ relationship with Aerosmith! Alice Cooper for his solo career, now ejected the grittier edged material of his previous releases and focused this grit in a concept piece that revolved around a dark theatrical setting, whilst keeping both a cabaret and humorous appeal. In fact the nearest he’d been to cabaret had been on the 1972 School’s Out album, but that album had been completely different to Welcome to My Nightmare in almost every important aspect. In terms of image, Alice Cooper always went in for a certain amount of authenticity in his stage shows and aesthetics, but he surely surpassed himself on Welcome to My Nightmare with the services of Vincent Price, the American horror icon of all those classic AIP productions, who did a voiced monologue on “Devil’s Food”. The Welcome to My Nightmare album cover, is ranked on Rolling Stone’s best 100 album covers and whilst I don’t necessarily think the album cover is one of the best ever, it’s still an album cover that always strikes me and in many ways kind of mirrors Marvel comic covers and characters of the time, such as the X-Men villain Arcade who comes to mind. So successful was the album, that there was a “Welcome to My Nightmare” TV special later on in the year and a must for any Alice Cooper fans.

Alice Cooper- Vocals
Dick Wagener- Guitar
Steve Hunter- Guitar
Tom Levin-Bass
Prakash Jon- Bass
Bob Ezrin- Keyboards/Synthesizers
Pentti ‘Whitey’ Glan- Drums

Production- Bob Ezrin

Album
Welcome to My Nightmare- With its gentle guitar intro, Alice enters in with a subdued singing effort, before he and the song then liven up, and provide us with enough punch for an opening track. Devil’s Food- Starts off with a hard rock guitar intro and the song quickly sets itself out to be a heavy track in general. The song is more or less accompanied by the backing band chanting “Devil’s Food” in the background, before Vincent Price takes centre stage and leads us into…. Black Widow- Alice now takes over from Vincent Price and uses his now famous monologue style, before the song goes through some various styles. Some Folks- A cabaret sounding track, which has a humorous Alice Cooper in top form on the song and the song could’ve easily been on his School’s Out album. Only Women Bleed- A ballad about a woman in an abusive marriage and the song became one of Alice Cooper’s biggest hits. It has been covered by many notable artists over the years. Department of Youth- After a gruff rocking start, the song moves into lighter melodic territory and was another single off album, and it also features children vocal backers. Cold Ethyl-A vibrant sub 3 minute rock-out tune and one of the punchy highlights on the album and a concert staple over the years. Years Ago- The song where the dream starts to get more eerie and interesting, and forms part of a great trilogy of tracks together…… the song then ends with a cry out for the main character of the concept ‘Steven’. Steven- The showpiece track on the album, with its subtle musical array and Alice Cooper putting out some of his most diverse singing, truly a classic! The Awakening- With a spooky opening ambience, this songs forms an integral part of the sandwich that sits either side of “Steven”. Escape- A more pick-me-up track to finish this fine album.

Verdict
Prior to the release of Welcome to My Nightmare, Billion Dollar Babies had been the crowning achievement of Alice Cooper, but it would be safe to say that Welcome to My Nightmare would match that album in every way, as for whether it was better read on! Welcome to My Nightmare is a concept album, so the album generally follows a logical storyline, even though a number of songs could be changed position wise and others don’t really seem to be part of the concept at all. Alice Cooper though, cleverly starts out with the more rocking numbers from the beginning and in the title track and “Devil’s Food” he certainly pleases his existing fan base sufficiently, and even on the cabaret sounding track “Some Folks” there is still some dominant heavy guitar playing. The rocking fare then continues right through to some of the later tracks, like the excellent “Cold Ethyl” a real album highlight. But where this album comes into its own, is through its pivotal part on the b-side with a trilogy of songs that consists of the eerie “Years Ago” the epic “Steven” and finally the finale sounding “The Awakening” with its spooky sounding start. The whole balance of the album is further enhanced, by the positive sounding and pick-me-up styles of songs like “Department of Youth” and the album closer “Escape”. As with most of Alice Cooper’s compositions, the majority are jointly written, with both Bob Ezrin and Dick Wagener taking big turns on the writing credits. The backing array of musicians also tick the right boxes and Bob Ezrin’s production and effects are done to a superb level, this of course would come under greater scrutiny on Alice Cooper’s following albums though. The single aspect that is so great about Welcome to My Nightmare, is that this was an album and style that Alice Cooper had spent almost half a decade building up to. The man had shock and horror appeal in his blood, and like the Tubes it was done in a theatrical way, rather than in a downright shock for pure attention format that some later artists would employ. Finally as a huge Alice Cooper fan, the lyrics and vocal style of the man have always been impressive, but on Welcome to My Nightmare he even exceeds his own high standards and the album overall just pips ahead of Billion Dollar Babies as his very best.

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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

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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02. Aerosmith Toys in the Attic 1975 (Columbia)
Hard Rock

It’s a sunny day outside my window.

Overview
Aerosmith’s previous album Get Your Wings should have been the band’s big commercial breakthrough, but with only moderate worldwide sales the band would have to wait another year for another stab at ‘El Dorado’ and all its gleaming delights! Get Your Wings as an album though, had definitely demonstrated the quality of the band and showed that they were aiming for the giddy heights of Led Zeppelin, but with a Rolling Stone’s type swagger. Aerosmith neither had the mystique of Led Zeppelin or the menace of the Rolling Stones, but what they did have by the bucket load, was a load of dirty riffs and a sleazy sounding vocalist to pull the whole thing off. Musically the band were very adept and in Steven Tyler and Joe Perry they had their very own charismatic type Robert Plant/Jimmy Page or Mick Jagger/Keith Richards frontman team, and as a band they fell somewhere in-between those two titans in terms of sound, image and style! Aerosmith had already shown that they were fully capable of producing both quality material either as singles or as just album material and so you could say that the band had no obvious defects in their overall armoury. So what was missing and why hadn’t Get Your Wings landed them as America’s biggest new act? Firstly, their vital relationship with producer Jack Douglas was still learning to flourish and these things take time. Secondly, it was always harder to break the American charts than say the UK ones. Thirdly, the band were out there having a good time with booze, blooze and bimbos! Toys in the Attic like most classic albums of its time, just came about because the band were at the height of their creative powers and according to Steven Tyler, the name of the album came from a teddy bear that he’d seen in an attic with its wrist slashed and all its stuffing was spread out on the floor. Toys in the Attic would be another one of the great guitar albums of the year and whereas most featured on here had been focused guitar playing, Aerosmith showed us that exaggerated guitar riffing works just as well. For good measure, the album is ranked on Rolling Stone’s somewhat well known “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list at 228 and the band also achieved their huge commercial breakthrough with 8 million copies sold in the US and position 11 on the Billboard 200….. the band were now famous!

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

Production- Jack Douglas

Album
Toy’s in the Attic- With its pummelling start, the title track would quickly become a popular staple of the band and the song is often regarded as one of the songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll. Uncle Salty- A great second track after the opening title track and its laid back feel features some great vocals by Steven Tyler and some real depth by the rest of the band as well. The song would be the b-side of “Sweet Emotion” Adam’s Apple- One of the great rock ‘n’ roll tracks put out by the band and the band don’t miss a beat anywhere here. Walk This Way- One of the most famous songs in the band’s discography and with a main riff to die for! This song would also garner greater fame in the 1980s, where it helped to re-establish the band as a major force again. Big Ten Inch Record- A cover of the Bull Moose Jackson 1952 single, as the band give us another aspect of their humour to finish the first side of the album. Sweet Emotion- With its opening bass riff and guitar talk box, Steven Tyler and Tom Hamilton ushered in one of the band’s best and most accomplished songs ever. Also it’s regarded as one of the band’s timeless classics and not unsurprisingly it’s ranked on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list and the song has been used on countless soundtracks. No More No More- One of the great pick-me-up tracks by the band and follows on perfectly from the previous “Sweet Emotion” Round and Round- The heaviest mother on the album and a style that the band would do more on the following rear’s Rocks. You See Me Crying- The classic closing track, which is both powerful and subdued at the same time and has a great husky whine courtesy of Steven Tyler.

Verdict
Aerosmith were a druggy band and most bands featured on here have been druggy as well, but Aerosmith just did the whole druggy thing better than most and were basically out there to have a good time and become famous at the same time, it was almost like they could play like a druggy band whilst being asleep! These characteristics were the beauty of the Aerosmith sound, as it was a sound that just seemed to swagger all over the place whilst being gritty at the same time. The band though, always just kept enough composure to keep the whole thing afloat (well at least until Draw the Line) and this composure was largely down to the guitar team of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford who must’ve been one of the coolest guitar acts around, and the whole thing was then nailed tight by the rhythm section of Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer, along with Steven Tyler’s raunchy voice just keeping the whole thing on an even keel. Toys in the Attic kicks out from the word go, with the opening tracks like “Toys in the Attic” and “Adam’s Apple” which are prime examples of their style of playing. The band also had that amazing knack of combining both humorous and rhyming lyrics to perfection, and again it’s right on the opening tracks of “Uncle Salty” and “Adam’s Apple” that these can be heard. The b-side of the album is not to be outdone though and on “No More No More” we can hear more of the Aerosmith trademark sound. Now Toys in the Attic is very much an album of two different sides. Side-A is an energetic, feel good and humorous effort, but with enough great playing to be taken seriously! The b-side with the exception of “No More No More” presents a more serious side to the band and the compositions lean towards a more mature nature overall. Despite all the delights on offer, the album is best known for the driving and funky “Walk This Way” with its unforgettable Joe Perry riff and the accomplished “Sweet Emotion” where both bass and guitar riffs by Tom Hamilton and Joe Perry really highlight the song. Along with its follow-up album Rocks, Toys in the Attic is possibly one of the most influential hard rock albums ever recorded and its mixture of raunch and humour went on to influence a multitude of hair metal bands in the 1980s, but it’s a shame that none of them could hold a candle to prime-vintage Aerosmith circa mid-1970s! Aerosmith are often regarded as the ‘greatest rock ‘n’ roll band’ out of the US and that moniker surely starts right here.

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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01.Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti 1975 (Atlantic)
Hard Rock

A towering achievement of a double stairway to heaven.

Overview
Not only have Led Zeppelin had more number one spots in these lists than any other band, but this is also the first studio double album to feature on these lists as well. Now double albums back in the 1960s and 1970s were always seen as the crowning achievement by any world acclaimed artist and just looking down the roll call, we can find the Beatles White Album, Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde, Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland, Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street, Who Quadrophenia, Frank Zappa Freak Out! Can Tago Mago, Soft Machine Third and Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway as albums that all lend credence to this point. Not all double albums by acclaimed artists would be at the height of these above albums and there were also some like Yes’ Tales of Topographic Oceans that left a lot to be desired, luckily though Physical Graffiti fell into the first category. For a double album to be deemed a classic, this normally meant that there needed to be two sides worth of classic material, a side of decent material and an interesting experimental or self-indulgent side as well, now and again an inevitable amount of filler often found its way into proceedings as well which often fluctuated the quality of the album. Not all the material for some of these albums would necessarily be new material either and in many cases these albums contained a percentage of previously un-released material and Physical Graffiti is an example of this. The band had only written about 50% of new material for the album and the rest came from previously recorded stuff between 1970 and 1972. The band prior to recording the album, had almost lost John Paul Jones who had threatened to quit, but manager Peter Grant already with his fingers in another pie with Bad Company luckily urged him to stay on. Their previous album Houses of the Holy had been the band’s most eclectic release to date, but also their lesser album for lack of a better adjective and would indicate a stylistic carry over to this album. The band as stated earlier, had used several songs that had been previously recorded and it’s amazing how songs like “The Rover” and “Bron-Yr-Aur” had been left lying around for a number of years! The album cover was always quite striking and is based on a New York tenement block, and it always reminds me of a multitude of films of which Once Upon a Time in America comes straight to mind.

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

Production- Jimmy Page

Album
Custard Pie
- A mid-tempo opener and a tight heavy rocker which has a steady rhythm throughout. The Rover- With a strong and heavy drumming intro, Jimmy Page picks up the beat with a great riff to give us one of the latter classics in the Led Zeppelin discography. The song’s brilliance is further highlighted by Robert Plant’s subtle vocal style which melds itself into the song. In My Time of Dying- A heavy blues number that flies through its allocated 11 minutes of listening time and is highlighted by the sweaty drumming of John Bonham. Houses of the Holy- Previously recorded for the title track of their previous album but it didn’t make the cut. The song is built around a simple and repetitive riff. Trampled Under Foot- One of the most hooky songs ever put out by the band, with its galloping keyboard and some raunchy sounding vocals by Robert Plant. Kashmir- A steady 8 minute classic and its eastern influenced sound make it one of the best known songs that the band ever put out and has often been described by band members as possibly the band’s best song. In the Light- An accomplished and diverse sounding 8 minute track and it takes several listens to appreciate the quality on offer here. Bron-Yr-Aur- A buzzing acoustic number which has some hand-clapping for good measure and a real gem of a track. Down By the Seaside- Originally meant to be another acoustic piece and its similarities to Neil Young are quite obvious. Ten Years Gone- An accomplished album track that is an oddity on side 3 on the album, as it’s not really experimental in any way and just a nice heartfelt effort. Night Flight- One of the few Led Zeppelin songs never to have a guitar solo and one of the few songs that the band never did live. The Wanton Song- Sounds similar in make-up to the “Immigrant Song” but not as tight as that song. Boogie With Stu- This song came out of an old jamming session around the 1971 period. Black Country Woman- An acoustic song originally intended for the Houses of the Holy album and was recorded in Mick Jagger’s garden! Sick Again- The best and heaviest song on the final side of the album and it’s about teenage groupies.

Verdict
Physical Graffiti has an instant feel, which is evident from the first note on the album opener “Custard Pie” and the song feels like Led Zeppelin of always, which in many ways was a sound that had been missing on Houses of the Holy, also side 1 of the album contains most of the album’s heavy numbers. Early on the album’s cream quickly comes to the top and this can be heard on the searing vitality of “The Rover” which is top drawer Led Zeppelin. I’ve often gone on about just how special this band were, but I’ve often been critical of the strength of Robert Plant’s vocals at times, but on “The Rover” his often weak vocal delivery seems to be made to fit this song and for this reason alone one of the great aspects of Physical Graffiti, seems to be that the album has been made to suit Robert Plant rather than Robert Plant suiting the album! The eleven minute “In My Time of Dying” harks back to the earlier Led Zeppelin albums and is a bluesy beast of a song, and still showed that the blues was still alive and well. Side 2 of the album contains the more eclectic material and all three of these songs are quite different in concept and complexity. “Houses of the Holy” sounds like an outtake and is rather simplistic and easily the odd song out here. “Trampled Under Foot” is a galloping keyboard based song with a funky grind and is built out of the motivation for the Houses of the Holy sessions. “Kashmir” as the name suggests is eastern influenced and one of the band’s most famous songs, if the truth be told though it doesn’t have the strong complexities that it’s famous for, but what is does have is the band’s trademark mystique by the bucketload. Side 3 is the experimental side and starts off with the superb “In My Light” a song very much from the creative juices of John Paul Jones. “Bron-Yr-Aur” is buoyant acoustic number which easily could’ve been on Led Zeppelin III. “Down by the Seaside” sounds like an interesting homage to Neil Young and “Ten Years Gone” is a heartbreaking effort that seems to have a number of earlier Led Zeppelin tracks all wrapped up inside the song. The final side is the least impressive of the album and contains what I’d call average material that sounds like they’ve just come out of jamming sessions, the album closer “Sick Again” easily the best of the bunch here. Physical Graffiti is not just about how accommodating the album was for Robert Plant, but it’s also an album of some stunning work from the band’s rhythm section, as John Bonham puts down some thunderous and sweaty sounding drumming on the album’s heavier tracks and John Paul Jones makes great use with his keyboards more so now than before. Physical Graffiti also serves to show how one of the greatest bands in the history of rock, could still crank up the volume, quality and creativity not just over one album but over four sides of vinyl without resorting to too much filler. So how does Physical Graffiti compare to the other previously mentioned classic double albums? Personally I’d rate it as good as any of those listed above, but I’d still rate Electric Ladyland as the best double album of all time, but Physical Graffitti like the others mentioned do run it hard! In the Led Zeppelin discography Physical Graffiti sits right up there with the debut, the sophomore and their fourth as their crowning achievement. But it would certainly takes top spot if you combined both quality and creativity together, as Physical Graffiti in this capacity fires on all cyclinders whilst the prior Houses of the Holy sadly didn’t.


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Old 05-19-2013, 01:30 PM   #288 (permalink)
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Although I have never really been a Led Zepelin fan, Physical Graffiti has some good (or even great) ideas, but the tracks are just too long. Nevertheless, as a collection of new material, outtakes and re-workings, it turned out to be very influential. You can hear Kashmir in just about everything, including Whitesnake's Love Hunter, Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers and Black Sabbath's Tyr. I always like the Led Zeppelin things that no-one else does, so Boogie with Stu is one of my favourite tracks on the album.

John Paul Jones's bass playing always stood out for me. Have you heard his Zooma album? Some of the ideas are not fully developed, but the bass playing is great.


John Paul Jones - Zooma - YouTube
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Old 05-20-2013, 04:02 PM   #289 (permalink)
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I think Physical Graffiti is everything a classic double album should be and John Paul Jones' best work with the band. "Boogie with Stu" was never a song I liked that much and sure "Kashmir" is such an influential song and is probably in the all time top 10 best Zeppelin songs for most people, but it was never one of my big favourites though.

I think you reminded me some time ago that I should re-listen to Hot Wire by Trapeze with Mel Galley on vocals, I have and now think it's one of their best album, great album that slipped under my radar and have included it in my "Albums that missed the cut" for 1974 section.

That video you posted is impressive
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Old 05-23-2013, 01:17 PM   #290 (permalink)
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Also Check This Out........
This is an extra album from the same year that I've chosen, that either just missed the final cut, I think could be of interest, or even from a different genre that could be of interest or influence on the hard rock/heavy metal genre.

Angel Angel 1975 (Casablanca)
Heavy Metal

Angel were an east coast American band that were quickly branded as a kind of divine and angelic answer to Kiss, in fact they were actually discovered by Gene Simmons of Kiss of all people! Kiss of course dressed mostly in black, so Angel would therefore dress in white as a contrast to their more daring east coast neighbours. But that was where the similarities between the two bands ended, as Angel went well beyond the basic confines of the good time rock & roll of the Kiss sound and their theatrics, and in turn gave us an interesting and sometimes deep-feeling amalgamation of AOR, progressive rock and melodic metal all with dominant keyboards. Their debut album was literally head and shoulders above the rest of their discography and serves to show just how close metal and AOR could actually be, along with how the two styles were made for each other! They were fronted by vocalist Frank DiMino and the talented Geoff Giuffria on keyboards and mellotron, along with the Queen-ish guitar of Punky Meadows. The album is littered with some great early melodic metal with songs like “Tower” “Long Time” and “Broken Dreams” all with their proggy twists and heavy keyboards and these are really standout tracks. The epic sounding “Mariner” smacks of being an classic sounding track and the Kiss comparison is most likely heard on “Rock & Rollers” which is really one of the odd tracks out on the album. It’s a great collection of songs for anybody that likes re-visiting or discovering melodic gems from the 1970s. After their debut album and undoubtedly from considerable record label pressure, the band embarked down a far more commercial road, but with the exception of their third album White Hot, Angel failed to scale any great heights and along with a diminishing quality in their output they finally called it quits around the 1980 period.


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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

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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