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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, June 14, 2016

The Band – Stage Fright

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: THE SHAPE I'M IN or STAGE FRIGHT

As a commentator on the Band’s intro corrected me, the Band’s third LP is every bit a “debut” for the group as their actual debut and their self-titled album. Granted, the gap between this album and their self-titled is far smaller than that of the latter with Music from the Big Pink, but there are enough differences to think of this as a slight reinvention. For starters, the lyrics are toned down significantly in Biblical allusions (there’s but one minor one) a la Big Pink or historical references (there’s a few very subtle ones) a la The Band; that’s not to say the lyrics are lightweight, as Robbie’s new interest, his own or made-up personal problems, can get very dark, but it’s something just about any singer-songwriter can tackle. Fortunately, he and the rest of the Band deliver these simpler topics with the same gusto as they would the Civil War, and while the musical skeletons might even be simpler takes on the various roots genres than before, the instrumental variety is still as great as ever.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Frank Zappa – Weasels Ripped My Flesh

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: MY GUITAR WANTS TO KILL YOUR MAMA

If one were to make the assumption that the purpose of Burnt Weeny Sandwich was to present Frank Zappa and the Mothers' ability of creating beauty on stage (even if a large part of that beauty came from varying forms of dissonance), than the purpose of Weasels Ripped My Flesh must be to show their ability at making the most hideous noises possible (not always on stage, though, as a good chunk of the material here are studio outtakes). Saying that, and given the grade I give this album, you probably think I'm totally off my rocker, but hear my out. This isn't just ordinary ugly noise for the sake of itself; rather, this is very creative noise, obviously drawing from free jazz and other avant-garde genres, yet you also see a return of the group's patented humour back with a vengeance after the semi-serious nature of its predecessor. And for good measure, there are still a few tracks, or moments of some uglier tracks, that recall the complex jazz-fusion beauty of Zappa and the Mothers' first archival release of the year.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed & Delivered

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: Any of the first four tracks

With Stevie's studio debut of the new decade, we're back on track to the greatness that would eventually lead to his early-mid-'70s masterpieces, as he creates a minor masterpiece in its own right. While My Cherie Amour briefly brought him back solidly into covers territory, Signed, Sealed & Delivered is almost as Stevie Wonder original-packed as For Once in My Life; some might see the 7-5 proportions as disheartening compared to the 8-4 of its 1968 predecessor, but rest assured that this album manages to improve on a number of areas lacking on Stevie's last serious album (serious in the artistic sense of pursuing his songwriting, playing and arranging talents, that is). The lone Motown "songwriting guild" collaboration is just as great, if not better, than the last, the selection of covers is more obscure, which allows for different expectations than tackling jazz classics, and fewer of the originals sound like rewrites of each other (only two, rather than three, although I guess that just comes from the one-song shifted proportion of originals to covers), while most of them sound like something Stevie had never done before.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Moody Blues – A Question of Balance

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: QUESTION (honourable mention to MELANCHOLY MAN)

The Moodies were clearly on a roll here, because this is nearly almost as great as To Our Children's Children's Children. Before getting into why it isn't as great, let's discuss how the album came to be. Because of the increasing amount of overdubs used on their recordings, the band were having difficulties playing these songs live, so for their next album, they would try to minimize the amounts of overdubs, or at least have ones that could somehow be replicated live. In that regard, this can be seen as their return-to-roots album: it's still pompous art rock, but the arrangements aren't too complex, with only one main instrument per member, and only piano, Mellotron and even Moog synths (making them unknown pioneers of it in the art-rock world) from Mike Pinder. And, they must have thought, what better way to return to one's roots than to return to the ultimate root, the Earth?

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo's Factory

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: WHO'LL STOP THE RAIN? or I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

I don't know why, after nearly 40 years, Willy and the Poor Boys maintains its reputation as CCR's best album when their actual best album has been sitting in front of critics' noses the entire time. Indeed, their first of two 1970 albums – named Cosmo's Factory after Doug "Cosmo" Clifford's comment that the rehearsal process under John Fogerty's tutelage was like factory work – had to be seen as a success of some kind: after all, it spawned three double-sided singles, with all but one of those six original compositions charting at #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 (and that last one still made it to #4), and all of those originals plus one more as well as one of the four covers from the album are mainstays of classic rock radio to this day and are frequently used for their various greatest hits albums. Of course, it's hard for critics, back then as much as today, to consider an album great for its singles' commercial successes, but in this case I'll have to agree with the general public. John Fogerty penned seven distinct originals, seven of his very best, and chose four covers that showcased his and his band's talents as good or better than on their previous records.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Yes – Time and a Word

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: NO OPPORTUNITY NECESSARY, NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED

Since their record debut was a commercial flop, and since rock and pop were becoming more artistic, progressive and symphonic (all at one point synonyms for the same genre, since acquiring a variety of different meanings), Yes probably thought it was feasible to eschew the accessible route and further develop their artistic tendencies. The challenge is, when only two of the members of your band could potentially be considered virtuosos (the rhythm section) but have yet to hone their talents in that way, another is an excellent player in his own right, and the other is a solid contributor but not much more, you'll need outside help to pursue ambitious goals. That's where John Anderson's clever idea of bringing in an orchestra to help fill out there sound had come in; the upside to this decision was that would allow the band to come up with more diverse and complex arrangements, but the downside is that it caused great friction, especially with Peter Banks, who felt like he was being pushed to the side with this decision, ultimately leading in his departure and replacement by Steve Howe (who would even replace him on the US cover of their second album, in sad irony and the US label's dislike of the semi-nude black and white artwork).

Monday, June 06, 2016

The Doors – Absolutely Live

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: No clue... it's pretty consistent

The Doors' live reputation was one of many strong ones in the '60s and early '70s, so it's only logical that they would release a live album in their prime, which many prime live bands at the time tried to do. A full Doors show wouldn't see release until well into the posthumous part of their career, but this double LP, mostly consisting of a New York show in 1970 but filling in the gaps with Philly and Detroit performances from the same year and an Aquarius Theatre performance the previous year, gives a pretty good idea of what makes the Doors a great band on the stage: take some blues, some vaudeville, some cabaret, some heavy psychedelic rock, add the instrumental talents of Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, and cap it off with the incredible showmanship of Jim Morrison as the ideal late '60s rock frontman.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Grateful Dead – Workingman's Dead

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: DIRE WOLF or CASEY JONES

Having finally satisfyingly accomplished their goal of presenting their talents as premier acid rock group, the Dead essentially splintered into two groups as of the 1970s: one was the live Dead, whose main purpose was to uphold their reputation in the '60s for the decades to come, and the other was the studio Dead, where they could focus more on songwriting rather than jamming, since their live side focused on that (oddly, one can easily describe the Who's approach in a similar manner, albeit the line between the live side and studio side is much thinner). I'm not sure what exactly initiated the shift, though I know plenty of the reasons that might have justified their decisions: as of 1968, many rock bands were hopping off the psychedelic bandwagon and onto the return-to-roots one, and as the Dead finally took psychedelia to one of its final original peaks, it was time they too returned to their roots, especially as the band members all had origins in the blues, folk, country, bluegrass, etc. The band's most claimed influence was their good friend David Crosby finally getting back to work after leaving the Byrds by forming Crosby, Stills & Nash, which continued the hippie movement through a more down-to-earth musical prism and sang some of the best harmonies around, enough to show the Dead the genius behind the human voice.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Bob Dylan – Self Portrait

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: THE MIGHTY QUINN (QUINN THE ESKIMO)

If Bob Dylan's goal was to alienate his fanbase, then he did an excellent job with this ol' piece of plastic. I pity Bob circa 1969/1970, actually. Two/three years had passed since his motorcycle accident, and still he couldn't shake off that dirty tag of messiah so many of his fans seemed to bestow upon him: if going from a folk hero to an eclectic rocker to a proto-psychedelic genre-crossing mystique to an 19th century country/folk recluse couldn't do the trick, he was positive something like Nashville Skyline, a more concurrent style of country, would do the trick, and even that failed, so he needed to take drastic measures. Instead of taking another path, he doubled down on the softer voice and more "generic" arrangements as on NS and came out with a double album of the stuff; the trick, this time, is that not only would he do this style, it would be mostly made up of covers.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Procol Harum – Home

Year: 1970
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: WHISKEY TRAIN

When your main instrumentalist leaves your band, it's the perfect opportunity for the secondary one to take over, and that's just what happened with Procol Harum when Matthew Fisher packed up his Bach-esque organ flourishes and hit the road (although he briefly worked with the band in the producer's chair). With his and the subsequent departure of bassist David Knights, they needed someone who could supply both instruments, and the cheapest method would be a two-for-one, with ex-Paramounts band member Chris Copping joining in, usually overdubbing one instrument or the other in the studio. With the band being as close to their early '60s Beatles and Stones ripping off incarnation in all but name, it was a perfect opportunity for Robin Trower to steer the helm in the direction of the R&B and guitar rock his powerful guitar playing was intended for.