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~ Established 2011 ~

Last updated: January 4th, 2017

NOTE: This page is under construction, so some older reviews might appear different from the newest ones. Some changes may also affect the layout of artist pages, and some links may not work.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Deep Purple – Deep Purple in Rock

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: CHILD IN TIME

Alongside Led Zeppelin's 1969 debut, this is not only one of the greatest heavy metal debut albums (if you count this as Deep Purple Mark II's "debut", that is), but one of the greatest heavy metal albums, period. Blackmore and Lord's dream to explore a heavier sound comes true with Ian Gillan at the vocal helm and Roger Glover teaming up with Ian Paice in the rhythm section, and after honing their live act for four months, they went into the studio and cut six ferocious rockers that would later define the heavy metal genre and one epic that transcended it. The major difference between Deep Purple-brand metal with Led Zeppelin-brand metal or even Black Sabbath-brand metal is in the intent; Led Zeppelin had the penchant for bringing out the sexual, the mystical, and the occultist tendencies of the blues to the forefront, while Black Sabbath wanted to make a B-movie horror film equivalent of rock full of shock tactics and sounds to frighten the average Joe and average Jane, but Deep Purple's philosophy was play it fast, play it loud, make it raw, dirty and fun. All three are legitimate interpretations of heavy music, but I can't help but be partial to the last one, since it's easily the most accessible.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Beach Boys – Live in London

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: THEIR HEARTS WERE FULL OF SPRING

Since their commercial suicide in 1967, there weren't nearly as many cash-ins... Actually, scratch that, because it's a serious understatement. There was only one such cash-in until their commercial self-whoring that first began in 1976, the misguided Stack-O-Tracks. Yet while this 1970-released, 1968 live document – coincidentally first released in the US six years later in the "self-whoring" period, under the inaccurate title of Beach Boys '69 – could be accused of being a cash-in, it hardly is that way compared to their live debut. After all, aside from a non-release in the US for a notable time period, who would consider this, a live album with a Brian-less line-up at their most commercially infertile, to be a cash-in? I suppose their popularity in England in the second half of the '60s could account for it, but even Capitol knew they weren't likely to fall for this.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Who – Live at Leeds

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 15

Best Song: So many to pick from... I guess SUMMERTIME BLUES is the most "iconic" performance, whatever that might mean

While debates about the best studio albums tend to be much more divisive, such debates on live albums tend to be more civil, as far as I have seen or read: all it takes for a live rock album to be great, as a general rule, is that it presents more energetic performances than the studio versions, that display enough minor twists for them not to be boring straightforward run-throughs, and its sound quality is not on the level of a chewed-up tape recorder playing from inside a washing machine – and as an occasional bonus, great covers of well-known or obscure rock classics, songs written by contemporaries, etc. That's why Live at Leeds can top so many of these lists without too much contention, because in all of its incarnations, it's managed to accomplish everything that a rock live album ought to. So whether you get the 6-song, 38-minute single LP, the 14-song, 73-minute single CD, or the full, double CD show with the Tommy portion on its own disc, you're guaranteed a live album that's among the greatest around. The version I had for the longest time was the double disc, but I also recently got Live at Leeds Complete, supposedly the best quality bootleg around, and indeed, it restores some cut-out jamming, the Tommy portion is significantly better mixed, and it's better to hear it in the proper order. A recent HDTracks release for iTunes follows this version better, but it still has the lengthier jams cut by a minute each for no apparent reason, but it's your best bet on a legitimate full experience of Live at Leeds.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

King Crimson – In the Wake of Poseidon

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: PICTURES OF A CITY

King Crimson had only just started when everything seemingly came to a screeching halt. All but Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield were left by 1970, yet for their second album, having already started writing music for it in the original line-up, they did manage to drag Greg Lake and Michael Giles back in on a paid-by-session basis, and since Lake only sang for these sessions on all but one track (his future replacement, an old friend of Fripp's, sang on the remaining tune), they also managed to dig out Giles' brother Peter to play bass. There was no way of getting McDonald back, though, so the Mellotron work was taken care of by Fripp himself, and the woodwinds were taken care of by another session man, Mel Collins. And just to fill out the sound, Fripp enlisted Keith Tippett to play piano, but they couldn't get him to join the band full-time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Beatles – Let It Be

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: LET IT BE

Of all of the Beatles' albums, this one's conception was probably the most difficult, and probably longest lasting – long gone were the days of cutting 10 tracks in an entire day's worth of sessions. After a band-within-a-band concept album, a televised mystery tour, a psychedelic cartoon and a monolithic double album sprawl, Paul, in his increasingly industrious – or as his bandmates would say, despotic – ways, felt it was time they get back to their roots. It certainly wasn't a unique idea; everyone was doing it at the time, and there were definite signs of it on the White Album already. The difference is that Paul decided they should pursue this path even further, starting with trying to play as an ensemble, perhaps even with an audience, and playing covers of songs they didn't all the way back in their Hamburg days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jethro Tull – Benefit

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: WITH YOU THERE TO HELP ME or one of the three best bonus tracks

With the new decade and the rise of progressive music, Jethro Tull decided to try their hand at it, and given the talents displayed in 1969 in handling an artsy synthesis of folk, blues and hard rock, and the addition of a soon-to-be full-time keyboardist in John Evan, it shouldn't have been too difficult. And in many ways, this album is a successful development of the Jethro Tull sound on Stand Up into the sound of subsequent albums, but to me, there's clearly something missing. Sometimes, it's the melodies, with the band being more focused on being experimental or atmospheric than to care about the melodies, which shouldn't have needed to be highly focused on given the ease Ian seemed to come up with hooks on the last album (which future albums would prove was no fluke). Not that there's anything wrong with experiments or atmospheres, but they have to be effective, and it's not always the case. Another key absence is that of diversity: most of the album is moody, mid-tempo, with more or less the same instrumentation and production, which makes some potentially good songs get lost in the mix, makes for a rather dreary listen and negates the fact that they're trying to push the boundaries of music forward. If you can't create boundaries from song to song, how can you create new ones for entire genres?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Paul McCartney – McCartney

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: MAYBE I'M AMAZED

I think it was pretty inevitable that, of all of the Beatles' releases to come out in 1970, Paul McCartney's would face the most scrutiny, mostly due to a media frenzy surrounding what they saw as vehement anti-Beatles sentiment in its preliminary press releases (even if it was nothing more than pointing out McCartney's uncertainty of the Beatles' future and his assumption of at least a hiatus in 1970). The reviews weren't particularly friendly either: when the critics got McCartney, their expectations were set for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band level, and instead what they got was Village Green Preservation Society level, but even less ambitious, so the lambasting was more than expected. Worse, rather than being able to give credit to the album for its surprising humility, it only further enraged them for trying to create an image of a humble, friendly family man the press no longer attributed to Paul.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Elton John – Elton John

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: BORDER SONG, but there's plenty of competition

Whenever an artist names one of his albums after him/herself (or whenever a band names one of their albums after themselves), and it's not a debut album, usually it's supposed to indicate something specific. It can be a stylistic reinvention (the Band's sophomore effort), a creative move to indicate a new era for the band that has "matured" (the Beatles' White Album, I guess Metallica's Black Album), and sometimes, it's simply to disown their previous record/earlier part of their career. Since I affirmed that Empty Sky had plenty of elements that would find their way into classic Elton John material, and it's too early in his career for him to declare his maturation, Elton's self-titled record seems to imply a disownment of his '60s material – unless it's the rare fourth reasoning, an artist's first trans-continental release, which is often grounds for considering something to be a debut, but is rarely grounds to name it after oneself.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Stevie Wonder – Live at the Talk of the Town

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER

On to live album number two of 1970, and it's a clear improvement over the first. Maybe the record execs just like the British record buyers better. This time, there are only 11 tracks (12 if you include the band intro, or 10 if you squeeze the two tracks that follow it into one like some editions do), and while more than half of them are repeats, all four of the new tracks are highlights, and there are plenty of reasons why a number of the repeated tracks are improved, even if these improvements are minor. The only complaints I have about this one in regards to its predecessor is that, at times, Stevie's voice cracks in a way that sounds tired and possibly jet-lagged (flights to Europe from North America are always a bitch), but the band are in particularly fine form, making up for whatever minor issues Stevie might have, and the shorter length on a single disc makes for a more prominent sound.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: MACHINE GUN

In between the recording/release of this album and the recording/release of Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix was pretty busy: firing bandmates, writing songs, playing shows, and getting high. As it usually so happens when a year goes by and one of a record label's star artists hasn't released anything in a while, they put pressure on said artist to release something, anything, and usually, a live album does just the trick. So, with his new band – consisting of Billy Cox, who had already replaced Noel Redding before his Woodstock performance, and Buddy Miles, drummer/soul singer/aspiring songwriter – and with the name Band of Gypsys (partially based on a comment Jimi made after announcers mistakenly referred to the line-up at Woodstock as the Experience), they put on a couple of shows New Year's Eve 1969 that finished New Year's Day 1970, to then select an LP's worth for release.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Stevie Wonder – Stevie Wonder Live

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 6
Overall Rating = 10

Best Song: BLOWIN' IN THE WIND

You know, I find it quite strange that it took Motown seven years to think it was high time for another live Stevie Wonder album. After all, his debut live release came out at a time where he was still going under the name Little Stevie Wonder, and he sure wasn't little anymore. And while I fret the inexistence of an official live document of Stevie's from his 1972-1976 prime, I can say that 1970 was otherwise a mighty fine choice for Motown, every bit as much in retrospect as in the label's then-financial goals with most of their stars. He had a big number of hits by now, with early 1970 seeing the release of two more big hits, and he was no longer just popular in the States, but in Europe as well.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Van der Graaf Generator – The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: DARKNESS (11/11) or REFUGEES

To the members of Van der Graaf Generator, The Aerosol Grey Machine wasn't a legitimate debut album, but their first of two albums released in 1970 was. Their reasoning is easy enough to follow: their technical debut began life as a Peter Hammill solo record and it only acquired the group's name due to the end of a contractual dispute, and, retrospectively, this album having been recorded by the core of their classic line-up (Hammill, Banton and Evans joined by woodwind player David Jackson) plus bassist/guitarist Nic Potter (in some ways as much of an integral part of the classic line-up, since he would play on most of the next album, would rejoin at the end of the '70s and played on a handful of Hammill solo albums) adds to the legitimacy of it. It also set their core ideology for future albums far more concretely than Aerosol did: there are but six tracks averaging seven minutes each, and the structures are far more diverse, containing multi-part compositions with loose, sometimes dissonant, jamming in the same track with relative ease.