Released on this day in 1974! Night Life ~ Thin Lizzy

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It’s curious that Night Life — the first album Thin Lizzy recorded for Mercury, the first album to feature guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, the album that in many ways kicked off their classic era — is in many ways a complete anomaly within their catalog. It’s a subdued, soulful record, smooth in ways that Thin Lizzy never were before and rarely were afterwards. To be sure, the title Night Life is accurate but not in the sense of this providing a soundtrack for a night out on the town — quite the opposite actually. This is the soundtrack for an intimate night in, either alone or as a pair, since it has moments ideal for either contemplation or seduction. There are still some moments of tough, primal rock & roll — there’s the funky workout of “It’s Only Money” and the nasty “Sha-La-La,” both excellent showcases for Gorham and Robertson — but they stick out among the jazzy, soulful whole, even if they never quite disrupt the mood. And it’s that mood that’s so appealing about Night Life — it’s a warm, soulful sound that resonates in ways Thin Lizzy’s earlier records didn’t. And it’s not just because of the feel of the music, either, it’s due to Phil Lynott’s increasing growth as a songwriter. Much of this is quite sentimental — especially the closing “Dear Heart” — but it’s never saccharine or sappy, it’s big-hearted and effecting, best-heard on the gently propulsive, utterly addictive opener “She Knows” and the easy-rolling jazzy “Showdown.” These may be the high-water marks on this album, but they’re not the only highlights, they’re just the most immediate, representative signs of the charms of this underrated gem of a record.

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Happy Birthday Dick Clark!

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Richard Wagstaff “Dick” Clark (November 30, 1929 – April 18, 2012) was an American radio and television personality, as well as a cultural icon who remains best known for hosting American television’s longest-running variety show, American Bandstand, from 1957 to 1987. He also hosted the game show Pyramid and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, which transmitted Times Square’s New Year’s Eve celebrations worldwide. Clark was also well known for his trademark sign-off, “For now, Dick Clark. So long!”, accompanied with a military salute.
As host of American Bandstand, Clark introduced rock & roll to many Americans. The show gave many new music artists their first exposure to national audiences, including Ike and Tina Turner, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Talking Heads and Simon & Garfunkel. Episodes he hosted were among the first where blacks and whites performed on the same stage and among the first where the live studio audience sat without racial segregation. Singer Paul Anka claimed that Bandstand was responsible for creating a “youth culture.” Due to his perennial youthful appearance, Clark was often referred to as “America’s oldest teenager”.
In his capacity as a businessman, Clark served as Chief Executive Officer of Dick Clark Productions, part of which he sold off in his later years. He also founded the American Bandstand Diner, a restaurant chain modeled after the Hard Rock Cafe. In 1973, he created and produced the annual American Music Awards show, similar to the Grammy Awards.
Clark suffered a stroke in December 2004. With speech ability still impaired, Clark returned to his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show a year later on December 31, 2005. Subsequently, he appeared at the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2006, and every New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show through the 2011–12 show. Clark died on April 18, 2012 of a heart attack at age 82 following a medical procedure.

Released on this day in 1971! Led Zeppelin IV ~ Led Zeppelin

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Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock. Expanding on the breakthroughs of III, Zeppelin fuse their majestic hard rock with a mystical, rural English folk that gives the record an epic scope. Even at its most basic — the muscular, traditionalist “Rock and Roll” — the album has a grand sense of drama, which is only deepened by Robert Plant’s burgeoning obsession with mythology, religion, and the occult. Plant’s mysticism comes to a head on the eerie folk ballad “The Battle of Evermore,” a mandolin-driven song with haunting vocals from Sandy Denny, and on the epic “Stairway to Heaven.” Of all of Zeppelin’s songs, “Stairway to Heaven” is the most famous, and not unjustly. Building from a simple fingerpicked acoustic guitar to a storming torrent of guitar riffs and solos, it encapsulates the entire album in one song. Which, of course, isn’t discounting the rest of the album. “Going to California” is the group’s best folk song, and the rockers are endlessly inventive, whether it’s the complex, multi-layered “Black Dog,” the pounding hippie satire “Misty Mountain Hop,” or the funky riffs of “Four Sticks.” But the closer, “When the Levee Breaks,” is the one song truly equal to “Stairway,” helping give IV the feeling of an epic. An apocalyptic slice of urban blues, “When the Levee Breaks” is as forceful and frightening as Zeppelin ever got, and its seismic rhythms and layered dynamics illustrate why none of their imitators could ever equal them.

Released on this day in 1983! 90125 ~ Yes

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A stunning self-reinvention by a band that many had given up for dead, 90125 is the album that introduced a whole new generation of listeners to Yes. Begun as Cinema, a new band by Chris Squire and Alan White, the project grew to include the slick production of Trevor Horn, the new blood (and distinctly ’80s guitar sound) of Trevor Rabin, and eventually the trademark vocals of returning founder Jon Anderson. His late entry insured that Rabin and Horn had a heavy influence on the sound. The album also marked the return of prodigal keyboardist Tony Kaye, whose crisp synth work on “Changes” marked the band’s definitive break with its art rock roots. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was a huge crossover hit, and its orchestral break has been relentlessly sampled by rappers ever since. The vocal harmonies of “Leave It” and the beautifully sprawling “Hearts” are additional high points, but there’s nary a duff track on the album.

Did you know? George Harrison died on this day in 2001..

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George Harrison,[nb 1] MBE (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English musician, singer and songwriter who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles. Although John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the band’s primary songwriters, most of their albums included at least one Harrison composition, including “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”, which became the Beatles’ second most-covered song.
Harrison’s earliest musical influences included Big Bill Broonzy, George Formby and Django Reinhardt; Chet Atkins, Chuck Berry and Ry Cooder were significant later influences. By 1965 he had begun to lead the Beatles into folk rock through his interest in the Byrds and Bob Dylan, and towards Indian classical music through his use of the sitar on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”. He developed an interest in the Hare Krishna movement and became an admirer of Indian culture and mysticism, introducing them to the other members of the Beatles and their Western audience by incorporating Indian instrumentation in their music. After the band’s break-up in 1970, Harrison released the triple album All Things Must Pass, from which two hit singles originated. He also organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh with Ravi Shankar, a precursor for later benefit concerts such as Live Aid. Harrison was a music and film producer as well as a musician; he founded Dark Horse Records in 1974 and co-founded HandMade Films in 1978.
Harrison released several best-selling singles and albums as a solo performer, and in 1988 co-founded the platinum-selling supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. A prolific recording artist, he was featured as a guest guitarist on tracks by Badfinger, Ronnie Wood and Billy Preston, and collaborated on songs and music with Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Tom Petty, among others. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 11 in their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
Harrison’s first marriage, to Pattie Boyd, ended in divorce in 1977. The following year he married Olivia Trinidad Arias, with whom he had one son, Dhani. Harrison died in 2001, aged 58, from lung cancer. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in India, in a private ceremony according to Hindu tradition. He left almost £100 million in his will.

Released on this day in 1981! Diary of a Madman ~ Ozzy Osbourne

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The follow-up to the masterful Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman was rushed into existence by a band desperate to finish its next album before an upcoming tour. As a result, it doesn’t feel quite as fully realized — a couple of the ballads are overly long and slow the momentum, and Randy Rhoads’ guide solo on “Little Dolls” was never replaced with a version intended for the public. Yet despite the fact that some songs could have used a longer gestation period, there are numerous moments of brilliance on Diary of a Madman — at least half of it stands up to anything on Blizzard, and the title track is a jaw-droppingly intricate epic that represents the most classically influenced work of Rhoads’ all-too-brief career. But even if parts of the album don’t quite live up to the band’s previous (and incredibly high) standards, they’re by no means bad; moreover, the production is fuller, and the instruments better recorded this time around. It’s not uncommon to find fans who prefer Diary to Blizzard, since it sets an even more mystical, eerie mood, and since Rhoads’ playing is progressing to an even higher level. One can only wonder what the Osbourne/Rhoads collaboration might have produced in the future, had Rhoads not been killed in a bizarre and sadly avoidable plane crash.

New Release! Antiphon ~ Midlake

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Midlake already had the bulk of their fourth long-player in the can when lead vocalist and songwriter Tim Smith announced that he was leaving the mercurial Lone Star State indie rockers to start a new project. Smith’s shape-shifting songwriting style and idiosyncratic voice guided the band through three very different-sounding records, so it should come as no surprise that 2013’s aptly named Antiphon (a short sentence sung or recited before or after a psalm or canticle), which finds guitarist Eric Pulido at the helm, is both an invocation of past digressions and a stylistic leap of faith. Less heady than 2010’s English folk-imbued Courage of Others, yet retaining its overcast, Fleet Foxes-meets Meddle-era Pink Floyd ambience, Antiphon sounds more like the work of a band and less like the fleshed-out audio installations of a bandleader. Pulido’s even-keeled voice and enigmatic lyrics are close enough to Smith’s to alleviate any scarring (casual Midlake fans will probably be none the wiser), but his version of the group, while still steeped in the harmony-laden, smoky patina of ’70s AOR pop, is less brooding than Smith’s. There’s a breezy melancholy and a winning, natural compression to cuts like “The Old and the Young,” the serpentine title track, and the lush “Aurora Gone,” the latter of which sounds the most like something off of their 2006 breakthrough Trials of Van Occupanther, that sets the nervous system at ease, imbuing meatier cuts like “It’s Going Down” and the snaky, Calexico-informed instrumental “Vale” with a rich sunset glow that belies their sonic amplitude. To be fair, the band still sounds like they could break into “Breathe” at any moment, but there’s a sense of adventure and a vulnerability to Antiphon that suggests that this latest incarnation of the group is more interested in what’s beyond the Dark Side of the Moon than it is standing in its shadow.