Year 6, Day 27: No Seriously, We’re an American Band.

Year 6, Day 27: Grand Funk Railroad – We’re an American Band

Track List

  1. We’re an American Band
  2. Stop Lookin Back
  3. Creepin
  4. Black Licorice
  5. The Railroad
  6. Ain’t Got Nobody
  7. Walk Like a Man
  8. Loneliest Rider

About the Album

We’re an American Band is the seventh studio album from American rock band, Grand Funk (Grand Funk Railroad). The album was recorded June 12th through 15th 1973 and released one month later on July 15th 1973 through Capitol Records. The album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 and single We’re and American Band peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album is certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Thoughts on the Album

It’s hard to believe that only genre I really ever listened to was classic rock. I guess I have my dad to thank for that; for playing classic rock and oldies radio stations in the car on car rides and during bath time when I was wee lad. I was introduced to a shit-ton of awesome bands and songs. One such band is Grand Funk Railroad and their album We’re an American Band. I’ll let Homer Simpson explain it.

Grand Funk Railroad, better known as Grand Funk, was one of the bigger names in American hard rock throughout the 1970’s. The band hiring Todd Rundgren, who was a rock artist in his own right, to produce the album was the best thing they did. Gone was the muddy predecessors that just plodded along aimlessly, in was a tight, sharp, and concise album that could fill arenas.

The album opens with the titled track, We’re an American Band, an autobiographical song about life on the road as a band. The track is the pinnacle of the album and the fact, is the opener, makes perfect sense. The track was the band’s biggest hit and for good reason. That opening drum fill combined with a killer, instantly recognizable riffs and that thunderous bass just own. Absolute ownage. Don Brewer‘s vocals and drum work on the track are excellent and his songwriting is sharp and strong. Did I mention it has a cowbell on it? Oh yeah.

Now then, Walk Like a Man is an incredibly infectious, shout-along song. Especially with it’s chorus, I found myself shouting along to it, as if I was there in the crowd. The electric piano riff and the heavy drums emphasize the more “machismo” nature of the song. Mark Farner‘s vocals are great and the bride of the track shows off the band’s ability to jam. Farner‘s vocals also works excellently with the soaring guitar licks. The Railroad opens with a strange psychedelic rock organ riff before a quiet guitar melody takes over and provides a great (and pretty interesting) backing for Farner‘s vocals. The hook in the chorus goes heavy on the arena rock infectiousness. The bridge in the middle of this six minute affair highlights Farner‘s skills on guitar, along with Brewer‘s manic and pounding drums. Creepin’ is a perfect name for that track title as it slowly creeps along. The low and smooth bass grooves along and blends together excellently with the subtle organ work of Craig Frost. The killer guitar solos from Farner are another highlight from this track.

Conclusion

Nobody knows the band Grand Funk? The wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? the bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drum work of Don Brewer? Oh, man!

Sadly Homer, not many do. But for those that do, it’s because of We’re an American Bandan album that is a piece of American rock and roll history. It’s an album that paved the way for both hard rock and arena rock in the United States. Grand Funk did what they had to do: instead of writing some pretentious concept album or some artistic ingenuity. No. We’re an American Band is a simple album that appeals to the masses. It’s an album that was carefree and lived up to the attitudes of the 1970’s.

Grand Funk Railroad paved the way for Jefferson Airplane, which cleared the way for Jefferson Starship. The stage was now set for the Alan Parsons Project, which I believe was some sort of hovercraft…

Now then, for more information on Grand Funk, consult your school library!

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Year 6, Day 18: Letting it Ride and Takin’ Care of Business with Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Year 6, Day 18: Bachman-Turner Overdrive – Bachman-Turner Overdrive II

Track List

  1. Blown
  2. Welcome Home
  3. Stonegates
  4. Let It Ride
  5. Give It Time
  6. Tramp
  7. I Don’t Have to Hide
  8. Takin’ Care of Business

About the Album

Bachman-Turner Overdrive II is the second studio album from Canadian rock band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. The album was recorded during 1973 and released in December of 1973 through Mercury Records. The album has two of the band’s most well known singles, Takin’ Care of Business and Let It Ride, both of which landed in the Billboard Hot 100 (12 and 23 respectively).

Thoughts on the Album

Bachman-Turner Overdrive II is a strange album. It boasted of two incredible tracks, but neither of which cracked the top ten on the Billboard Hit 100. The lead guitarist for the band, Randy Bachman, was a mainstay in the band The Guess Who prior to BTO releasing Bachman-Turner Overdrive IIRandy Bachman‘s sense of tone and dynamics is incredible. It lead the Vancouver (British Columbia) based band to become one of the biggest and most underrated bands of the 1970’s. The music on the album is relatively simple, uncomplicated, and straightforward. It’s a very blue collar style of rock and roll. Bachman-Turner Overdrive II has some of the best rock and roll songs of the 1970’s.

Side B led by tracks Tramp and I Don’t Have to Hide are relatively weaker songs. This highlights the weaker songwriting and rushed album production to get the album released quicker. Tramp and I Don’t Have to Hide could have been much better tunes if give proper time to be worked on and fleshed out. But that said, the album is pretty great. The guitar work is absolutely phenomenal. The guitars permeate and dominate this album and absolutely crash through and reverberate throughout the album’s uncomplicated music. Randy Bachman plays with absolute power and imagination. His brother Tim was a solid rhythm guitarist along with third brother Robbie on drums, keeping the rhythm section bouncing. C.F. Turner rounds out the band on bass and with some gruff vocals. When they combine, they sound like a more explosive version of Creedence Clearwater Revival. For which Turner, Randy, and Tim all follow the John Fogarty school of vocals.

Let It Ride features some of Turner’s best vocal performances on the album. Let It Ride peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it became one of BTO‘s greatest hits along with Takin’ Care of Business (also found on this album) and You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet (found on 1974’s Not Fragile). The song has one of the most famous sets of guitar riffs in rock history, with one being strummed and another being an inverted and mutated version of Randy Bachman‘s riff from his The Guess Who track, American WomanTakin’ Care of Business is a song that was solely written by R.Bachman while Let It Ride was co-written by Turner and R.Bachman. Takin’ Care of Business is part of the trio of the most well known BTO songs. Both Let It Ride and Takin’ Care of Business are the definition of rock and roll anthems. These two tracks are filled with massive and memorable hooks, sing/shout-along choruses that absolutely soar, guitar riffs that are both simple and fun to play.

Conclusion

Bachman-Turner Overdrive II comes in an era of rock and roll where bands were going lighter and more radio friendly pop. While Takin’ Care of Business and Let It Ride are two of the most radio friendly hits on the album, the rest of the album pales in relative comparison. Part of the reason is because it was rush and not given enough time to be fleshed out fully. However, Bachman-Turner Overdrive created an incredibly fun, easy to listen to, and gimmick-less album that stands as the album that pushed them fully into the realm of rock and roll superstars. Bachman-Turner Overdrive II gave birth to what we know as hard rock and arena rock.

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Year 5, Day 17: Asking, “What’s Your Favorite Hall and Oates Song?”

Year 5, Day 17: Hall & Oates – Daryl Hall & John Oates

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Track list

  1. Camellia
  2. Sara Smile
  3. Alone Too Long
  4. Out of Me, Out of You
  5. Nothing at All
  6. Gino (The Manager)
  7. (You Know) It Doesn’t Matter Anymore
  8. Ennui on the Mountain
  9. Grounds for Separation
  10. Soldering

About the Album

Daryl Hall & John Oates is the self-titled fourth studio from Philadelphia blue-eye soul rockers, Hall and Oates. It is referred to as The Silver Album. The album was released in 1975 through RCA Records.

Thoughts on the Album

Everyone has a favorite Hall and Oates song, even if you don’t like Hall and Oates. For me, my favorite is would have to be Fall in Philadelphia. It is a perfect transition to talk about today’s album, Daryl Hall and John OatesHall and Oates are a Philadelphia staple in the Philadelphia music scene and have been since the 1970s. What the move to RCA Records in 1975 allowed the duo to experiment with production styles and sound and get the style and sound that worked best for them. The end result is album referred to as The Silver Albumtheir self-titled fourth album.

The production on the album is excellent. It’s crisp and sharp and shimmers with a pop sheen that makes most of the songs shine. While tracks like Ennui on the Mountain and Soldering don’t really appeal to me, the rest of the tracks are lush and catchy. Most of the tracks are ballads and midtempo rockers that are just as appealing as Sara Smile, their breakthrough and number one hit.

The album itself is a remarkably consistent one. While I felt like Ennui on the Mountain and Soldering faltered a bit, they really aren’t duds per se. Sara Smile turned out to be the duo’s breakthrough hit. Though Camellia and Alone Too Long deserved to be hits as well.

Conclusion

Short and sweet today. Before you make judgments, listen. Yes, Sara Smile is on the record and say what you want about the album cover, but what about the content? Daryl Hall & John Oates marks a return to that Philly blue-eye soul, but mixed some more rock and pop. A great album but far from the duo’s best.

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Year 5, Day 14: AC/DC brings the “High Voltage”

Year 5, Day 14: AC/DC – High Voltage

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Track Listing

  1. It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)
  2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer
  3. The Jack
  4. Live Wire
  5. T.N.T.
  6. Can I Sit Next to You Girl
  7. Little Lover
  8. She’s Got Balls
  9. High Voltage

About the Album

High Voltage is the first internationally released studio album from Australian hard rock band AC/DC. The album was recorded from 1974 to 1975 and released on April 30th 1976 through ATCO Records (Atlantic Records). The album peaked at 146 on the Billboard 200, however, it sold over three million copies in the United States alone and thus has been certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Thoughts on the Album

There is an age-old adage about life: it’s a long way top, if you wanna rock and roll. Oh wait, while it’s not so much of an “age-old adage” as much as it is warning to those who want to play rock and roll for living. Today album brings the High Voltage (both literally and figuratively) from Australian hard rock band, AC/DC.

For as much as Rolling Stone lambasted and decried this album (and band) time once again always makes fools of us all. The album has stood the test of time, seeing as it has sold over three million copies (in the United States alone). But don’t get me wrong, one of the many complaints against AC/DC is that they never changed. However, if that were to be true, then High Voltage is the blueprint that the band has followed for their entire career.

High Voltage takes the best of their two Australian only releases (T.N.T and High Voltage) and fuses them into one convenient body of music.The album opens with one of most iconic AC/DC songs of the Bon Scott era, It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll). Complete with a bagpipe solo at the end of the song, it really is one of staples of the album. Opening with just a loud and simple riff from Malcolm Young, it builds when his brother Angus kicks in. A song about the trials of life as a rock and roller, musically could be better. The bagpipes softens the notion that all songs by AC/DC sound the same.

T.NT. is one of my all time personal songs. One of the more iconic rock and roll songs, with it’s “oi!” gang vocals and simple chugging guitar riffs. From the “oi!” gang vocals, to the lowdown dirty lyrics, to the chorus, and it the magnificent solo. Everything about this song is excellent. AC/DC are masters at taking a simple formula making it absolutely perfect. The album closes out with the titular track, High Voltage. While somewhat shorter than some of the tracks on the album, it gets the job excellently. It is one of the most energetic songs on the album, and it is fitting that is the closer.

Conclusion

This music feels almost primal… like it was here before and will be here long after AC/DC has come and gone. With High Voltage, you get an excellent view of the simple formula that started it all for AC/DC. And even if they did master that formula and expand upon it on future releases, the original is still quite full of potency, still thrilling, still exciting, still full of high voltage. There are songs about rock and roll, slow, low, down and dirty sleazy blues songs, some many double entendres that are so obvious they just qualify as single entendres. Powered by the monster, and yes they are, monster riffs from Angus Young that could bruise the listener they are so big and bold. Everyone has a beginning, and this one put the band on the international stage.

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Year 4, Day 29: Journey – Escape

A massive and timeless album, Journey’s “Escape” redefines the rock genre for the 1980s.

Year 4, Day 29: Journey – Escape

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Track List

  1. Don’t Stop Believin’
  2. Stone in Love
  3. Who’s Crying Now
  4. Keep on Runnin’
  5. Still They Ride
  6. Escape
  7. Lay it Down
  8. Dead or Alive
  9. Mother, Father
  10. Open Arms

About the Album

Escape is the seventh studio album from American rock band Journey. Recorded from April to June of 1989, the album was released on July 31st 1981 through Columbia Records. The album peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 in 1981 and featured three top ten Billboard Hot 100 singles. The album was certified 9x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Thoughts on the Album

We all have that one album that we can’t explain as to why we own it. Journey‘s Escape is one of them for me. I don’t know why I own it, I just do. The album is one of those LPs that highlights the sound of the 1980s. It has grand production, huge power ballads, multiple top ten hits, and other great work on it. The album itself was a groundbreaking album for Journey as it had three singles chart in the top ten and the album itself peaked at number one.

Before we discuss Don’t Stop Believin’, lets talk about the rest of the album first. The force behind this album/ what gives the album it’s lifeblood has to be the vocals of Steve Perry. Compared to their previous work, this album is more rock flavored packed with hooks. The track Who’s Crying Now highlights the passionate vocals of Perry who croons with a sweeping fervor. The guitar work on Who’s Crying Now propels the track from “standard love song” to the next level with it’s over-the-top guitar solo at the end of the song. The guitar work shines it’s brightest on the track Mother, Father.

But let us talk about the big track in the room, Don’t Stop Believin’. A track that now gets regular play at sporting arenas and karaoke bars worldwide. It’s one of the few tracks that EVERYONE (and their mother) knows today. It’s a track that you will be singing and air-banding along to. Right from the start of the track, the electric bass guitar compliments the piano, seemingly playing off each other. Then nearly a minute in a rapid guitar tapping sequence kicks in that builds in both intensity and volume. The track was an instant classic for which who can still hear it get airplay over the radio nowadays.

Conclusion

While it was a hard album to pigeon hole into a genre, there was no denying that it was a massive hit both commercially and musically. With some heartfelt songwriting and study musicianship, Escape is an album that is considered to be a timeless classic that many have tried to imitate, but never successfully.

Year 3, Day 40: The Who -Who’s Next

Year 3, Day 40: The Who – Who’s Next

Track List

  1. Baba O’Riley
  2. Bargain
  3. Love Ain’t for Keeping
  4. My Wife
  5. The Song is Over
  6. Getting in Tune
  7. Going Mobile
  8. Behind Blue Eyes
  9. Won’t Get Fool Again

About the Album

Who’s Next is the fifth studio album from English rock band, The Who. Recorded from April 1971 through June of the same year, the album was released mid-August of the same year through Track Records in the United Kingdom and Decca Records in the United States. The album was a massive critical and commercial success, peaking at the top of various charts worldwide including number four on the Billboard 200 in the United States and number one on the UK Top Albums chart. In the United States alone, the album is certified three times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of American (or RIAA).

Thoughts on the Album

So here we are, the last day of the project, day 40. I figured I needed something epic to end the project with. So why not end it with some Who. No, no, no, not “who?”, The Who. Today’s album is the 1971 release, Who’s Next. As stated above in the “about the album” section, the album was a massive critical and commercial success. Not to mention it spawned probably two of the greatest rock songs ever recorded: the anthemic Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley

Who’s Next opens and shifts into first gear with the iconic and anthemic, Baba O’Riley. If you have listened to albums from The Who before this one, then Baba O’Riley was unlike any track from the band you’ve heard before. It’s opening synth riff is immediately recognizable. It’s the three note bass riff, the pounding drums from Keith Moon, the power chords from Pete Townsend’s guitar, and Roger Daltry’s powerful voice give the song it’s feeling. It’s a song that receives regular airplay on FM Classic Rock (and in some cases general rock) radio stations today.

From the beginning of Baba O’Riley to the end of Won’t Get Fool Again, the album doesn’t let up. The songs on this album are loud and in-your-face… even the ballads share this feeling. Where there is anger and sorrow, humor and regret, passion and tumult, are all mixed together and combined then wrapped up into one package where the seething rage is just as potent and reaching as the heartbreak is. Most music critics also seem to agree that Who’s Next, despite not having any real discernable theme to the songs, is a much stronger release than Tommy.

The last track on the album, is probably not only the band’s most iconic, but one of rock and roll’s most iconic tracks. It’s the hard hitting and powerful, Won’t Get Fooled Again. It’s approximately eight plus minutes of eargasms. The song opens with a power chord and synth riff. This is all before the bass and guitar come back together in pulling off a grandiose and epic riff that soars. Over top of the instruments, is Roger Daltry’s roaring voice, wailing away. (Side note: if you ever get to just hear the bass in this song by itself, do it, listen to it. It’s so powerful, it may blow your mind.) The beautiful thing about this song is that there is an “ambient” section were rest of the band except the synth mellow out. Don’t let it fool you though, it’s only luring you in more. It lures you in, and then explodes. Just explodes. The ambient synth gives way to a pounding drum solo. All before Roger Daltry bellows out the most iconic scream “YEAH!!!!” in rock history. The album ends on a powerful note, a hell of a way to end.

Conclusion

It’s not that other songs on this album are slouches, they are not. But It’s obvious which ones were the most famous ones. This is a hell of an album. The production, the instrumentation, the composition, everything is next to perfect. It is an iconic rock album that has and will continue to, hold up to the test of time.

And that is how you end this project, go out on a epic and powerful note.

Year 3, Day 39: Europe – The Final Countdown

Year 3, Dav 39: Europe – The Final Countdown

Track List

  1. The Final Countdown
  2. Rock the Night
  3. Carrie
  4. Danger on the Track
  5. Ninja
  6. Cherokee
  7. Time Has Come
  8. Heart of Stone
  9. On the Loose
  10. Love Chaser

About the Album

The Final Countdown, is the third studio album from Swedish glam rock/hair metal band, Europe. The album, recorded from September 1985 to March 1986, was released in late May 1986 through Epic Records. The album was a massive commercial success, going triple platinum in the United States alone. The album peaked at number eight on the United States Billboard 200.

Thoughts on the Album

Welcome to the second-to-last day of the third year of the project; otherwise known as Day 39. We have went on a musical journey across the world, so why not continue that journey? We all have that one album in other music collection that some don’t like admitting they own. Yes, even me. For me, that album is none other than Swedish glam rock band, Europe‘s The Final Countdown. The album is your quintessential, prototypical, and archetypical 1980’s glam rock/hair metal band album: full of cheesy lyrics, big guitar riffs, even bigger synth riffs, and soaring choruses. Essentially, it is the epitome of 1980’s hair metal albums (looking at you Jon Bon Jovi).

Let’s face it, this album wouldn’t be as well received today as it was back then. I’ll admit it, this album is pretty bland and blah rock that it makes the garage band down the street have full Slayer-status. But while we’re at it, also admit that, we’ve probably rocked out to this album at least once or twice.

If you haven’t heard the titular opening track, then I have no words for you. If you’ve gone to a sporting event, or seen a cheesy comedy movie, or played Guitar Hero or Rock Band, then you have heard the title track, The Final CountdownThe Final Countdown opens the album with such bombastic brilliance, such majestic and glorious garbage, that it is the epitome of the 1980s. However vapid and vacuous the song’s lyrics are, the instrumentation is pretty good. The majestic and booming bass synthesizer, brass-like synth riffs, pounding drums, and heavy hitting guitar riffs (and the solo) helped make this song an anthem that everyone knows and sings along to. Of course, The Final Countdown, is probably one of the weaker tracks on the album too.

One of the problems with this album is it’s genre. It’s definitely not hard rock. It’s rock, but not hard rock. This album is more of a stereotypical (radio) pop/rock album of the time period. Of course, while you do get heavy riffs and technical solos on tracks like Rock the Night and On the Loose; and Carrie is your quintessential 1980s hair metal ballad. But everything else is more closer to the synthpop that was predominantly featured on the airwaves during that time. That includes the title track.

Listen to: The Final Countdown for it’s cheesiness; Rock the Night for it’s pounding drums and heavy riffs; Carrie if you are looking for a 1980s hair metal ballad that backs some heat; On the Loose for the heavy guitar riffs and technical guitar work.

Conclusion

Keeping it relatively short and sweet. If there was a “King of 1980s Cheese” music list/crown, then The Final Countdown, both album and title track would rank close to number one on it. But, the album is a product of it’s musical time period were cheese and commercialism ran rampant. It’s definitely not and would not be considered a form of “high art” by any means. If The Final Countdown had less of the cheese and brought more of fire, then I’m pretty sure more would love this album.

I swear, this probably has been the most negative about an album I’ve posted about on this project before.

But all that said, it’s still an enjoyable listen. So give it a listen!