Van Halen on roller-skates

Van Halen’s Top 10 Under-Appreciated Songs

At this point in life, I don’t begrudge anybody’s appreciation of the Sammy Hagar-era albums. I don’t even care if you happen to love Van Halen III featuring Gary Cherone. Just don’t confuse that music with the true genius of Van Halen and The First Six Albums – which I’ll get to in a minute. In 2015, Rolling Stone ran a piece entitled 20 Insanely … Continue reading Van Halen’s Top 10 Under-Appreciated Songs

20/20: The End of the Power Pop Rainbow

I’ve been meaning to write something/anything about these 20/20 cats for at least two years; for whatever reason, they consistently fall through the cracks. Yet, this may be the most appropriate introduction for a band that went virtually unnoticed during its lifespan. I’m going to let Allmusic fill you in on the details, but 20/20 to me is a band that takes everything good about … Continue reading 20/20: The End of the Power Pop Rainbow

Petrology 101: Stevie Wonder

Music of My Mind (1972)
Music of My Mind (1972)
We’ve reached the end of the 101 course level and over the years it’s become a habit to wrap things up with a couple of inter-related personal anecdotes which speak to the material, in this case, Stevie Wonder’s groundbreaking album, Music of My Mind (1972).

At this point, you should probably stop and ask yourself, “What do I know about Stevie Wonder?” For instance, if you did not know that up until he turned 21 in 1971, he didn’t have artistic control of his music, you should probably go ahead and read this:

[From Wikipedia] (Throughout 1971), Wonder independently recorded two albums, which he used as a bargaining tool while negotiating with Motown. Although Wonder had been producing his own recordings, Motown still retained control over the content. Tensions increased as Wonder approached his twenty-first birthday; his contract had a clause which allowed Wonder to void it upon becoming a legal adult. When [Motown President Berry Gordy] approached Wonder about renegotiating his contract, Wonder refused. Eventually the label agreed to his demands for full creative control and the rights to his own songs. The 120-page contract was a precedent at Motown and gave Wonder a much higher royalty rate. Wonder returned to Motown in March 1972 with Music of My Mind. Unlike most previous albums on Motown, which usually consisted of a collection of singles, B-sides and covers, Music of My Mind was a full-length artistic statement with songs flowing together thematically.
Songs in the Key of Life (1976)
Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

OK, great. Sometime in the winter of 1976-77, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life wound up in my parents’ record collection. At this point, my family had a membership in the Columbia Record Club, and I think Songs happened to be whatever record they sent you each month, and somebody forgot to send it back. This is a theory based only on circumstantial evidence.

The Columbia Record and Tape Club’s terms of membership stipulated that X times per year, the company informed each customer of the “Selection of the Month” album. The customer had to respond within 10 days whether or not he or she wanted to buy the record, which was offered at a discount, provided that the response was received by Columbia House “within the specified time.” Failure to respond resulted in the record being shipped at full list price. So that’s what I’m thinking happened with the Stevie record. It’s either that or my mom heard “Isn’t She Lovely” on the radio and actually ordered the record, which is entirely possible, but not at all in character. She was more of a Barbara Streisand-slash-Neil Diamond type of gal. The old man was into Willie Nelson and Hoyt Axton, so at least we can rule him out of the equation.

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Petrology 101: The Glove + Adam and the Ants

The second to last session of the 101 course level is a double-whammy special, dealing with two of the more obscure recordings in the field of fundamental petrology, Blue Sunshine by The Glove and Dirk Wears White Sox by Adam and the Ants. Let’s begin with the former. Everybody knows Robert Smith as the main dude from The Cure. In terms of household name recognition, … Continue reading Petrology 101: The Glove + Adam and the Ants

Petrology 101: King Crimson

This may be the most difficult yet rewarding lesson of the 101 course level. No matter how familiar we are with a subject, we must always be ready for surprises – the mind, like a door, must be kept slightly ajar. Oh to be young and idealistic! Your intrepid professor does not believe in surprises.

Therefore, raise your hand if I’m not making myself perfectly sparklingly clear – this will be on the final exam. It goes without saying, you must be able to identify album covers; videos are mandatory and must be watched in their entirety; if you get sleepy, put your head down on the desk; no snoring; release dates are obligatory; pay attention to notable personnel; and don’t skimp on pertinent production details.

In the Court of the Crimson King is King Crimson’s debut studio album (1969). The album reached number five on the British charts, and went gold in the United States. The album is generally regarded to be a defining and seminal moment in the progressive rock genre; avoiding blues-based cliches while embracing jazz and classical symphonic influences, In the Court… is universally considered a “classic” and must-have record of any collection. The album is also the only studio recording which features the original King Crimson line-up of Robert Fripp (guitar); Ian McDonald (flute, clarinet, saxophone, vibes, keyboards, mellotron); Greg Lake (bass, vocals); Michael Giles (drums, percussion); Peter Sinfield (lyrics, illumination).

Soon after the recording sessions were completed, it was discovered that a stereo tape recorder used to mix the album had recording heads that were misaligned. A loss of high-frequencies and undesired distortion affected some parts of the album. Kanye West sampled “21st Century Schizoid Man” in 2010 for his song, “Power.” In Lexington, Kentucky there is a street called Crimson King Court.

Initial reception of In the Court of the Crimson Kingran the gauntlet. Noted critic and curmudgeon Robert Christgau called it “ersatz shit.” Allmusic called it “a darker and edgier brand of post-psychedelic rock” as well as “definitive” and “daring” in its current review.

Track listing

Side one

  1. 21st Century Schizoid Man” (including “Mirrors”) – 7:21
  2. “I Talk to the Wind” – 6:05
  3. Epitaph” (including “March for No Reason” and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow”) – 8:47

Side two

  1. “Moonchild” (including “The Dream” and “The Illusion”) – 12:13
  2. The Court of the Crimson King” (including “The Return of the Fire Witch” and “The Dance of the Puppets”) – 9:25

NBC’s Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen covered “In the Court of the Crimson King” on his 1970 album, Doc Severinsen’s Closet. It’s fucking awesome!!!!!!

__________

In the Wake of Poseidon is the second studio album (1970). By the time this album was released, the band had already undergone their first line-up change, however they still maintained much of the style of their first album. In other words, it’s pretty much In the Court of the Crimson King II.

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Petrology 101: Bad Brains

This week’s study of all things rock will require a brief historical review, since Bad Brains appeared (at first) on the Washington D.C. hardcore punk scene in 1977, long before many of you were born. Consisting of H.R. (vocals), Dr. Know (guitar), Daryl Jenifer (bass), and Earl Hudson (drums), Bad Brains quickly gained attention and notoriety for being an African American punk band, and dishing … Continue reading Petrology 101: Bad Brains

Petrology 101: Red Fang

Welcome to Petrology 101, the study of all things rock with Professor Noel Bancredi. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Noel Bancredi is a pseudonym for Christian Adams. Don’t ask.] Today’s session features a band hailing from Portland, OR, which goes by the name of Red Fang. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Or seen one of their genius videos on YouTube? According to Wikipedia, Red Fang is classified as … Continue reading Petrology 101: Red Fang