Classic Album of the Week

Posted every other Tuesday evening BEFORE the show.

Only Classic Albums from the most recent three months are included on this page.

Older Classic Albums can be found on the original playlist pages, listed in alphabetical order here.

Click on LP covers for more info and reviews.

   

"The Faust Tapes" by Faust (1973)
Faust "The Faust Tapes"  1973 (Germany)
To quote the articles and press clippings on the cover of this album, which was sold in the UK for the low-low price of just 49 pence: "The music on this album, drawn from Faust's own library of private tapes, was recorded informally and not originally intended for release. However, since British interest in the group has been unusually great, it has been decided to make some of this unofficial material available to the public in this country. These tapes have been left exactly as they were recorded - frequently live - and no post-production work has been imposed on them. The group wish to make it clear that this is not to be regarded as their third album, but a bonus release - on sale at the current price of a single - to mark their signing with Virgin Records, for whom they will shortly be recording their next official album. The Faust Tapes reveals Faust at their most personal and spontaneous. It's a unique glimpse behind the scenes of a group which European and British critics have hailed as one of the most exciting and exploratory in the world."
"Miles Smiles" by Miles Davis (1967)
Miles Davis "Miles Smiles"  1967 (USA)
Miles would have been 92 years old this week (and Bob Dylan is 77!) This week's Classic Album is a high point of his acoustic jazz period, recorded a year or so before the first electric instruments began to creep into his studio. It's also the second album featuring the "Second Great Quintet" of his career (the first one being his group with Coltrane in the 1950's), with the line up of Miles on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on saxes, Herbie Hancock piano, Ron Carter bass, and teenage phenom Tony Williams on drums. Shorter wrote most of the tunes, including the afro/blues polyrhtyhmic waltz "Footprints" which has become a jazz standard.
"Can't Get Through" by Hairy Chapter (1971)
Hairy Chapter "Can't Get Through"  1971 (Germany)
Heavy progressive West German guitar rock  das ist nicht so kosmische wie Krautrock! Hairy Chapter was led by two guys named Harry (lead vocals & lead guitar, respectively) and they were all about the no-frills heavy guitar rock frenzy. The band does have enough dynamics and progressions to keep things interesting on this record, though their previous effort Eyes (1970) sounded far more generic. Produced by Dieter Dierks, who was producing stuff like Ash Ra TempelGuru Guru, and Cosmic Jokers around the same time.
"Chicago" by Chicago (1970)
Chicago "Chicago"  1970 (USA)
Considering their next 30 or so albums had roman numerals for titles, you might think of this as Chicago II, though it is actually their second attempt at an eponymous album, having previously been forced to change their name from their original (and cooler) handle, The Chicago Transit Authority (because that's already the trademarked name of the train and bus system in Chicago). Although not as progressive and fantastic as their seminal debut album, Chicago is the record that made the band into superstars, producing their first batch of bona fide hit singles in "Make Me Smile", "Color My World" and the monster riff and enigmatic lyrics of "25 or 6 to 4". Twas so successful in fact that singles from the debut returned to the charts and also became hits ("Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" and "Beginnings" had flopped the first time out). At their best, this was a group with a solid rhythm section and keyboardist, an ultra-badass guitarist (the late great Terry Kath), three strong lead singers who also wrote songs (Robert Lamm's were usually the best ones), and the thing that set them apart: a three-piece horn section who "breathed with one set of lungs" and provided orchestral majesty and funky jazz licks as needed. Plus trombonist and horn arranger Jimmy Pankow wrote a bunch more hits for the group, in fact may have been their greatest hitmaker until Peter Cetera's ballads began to take center stage in the late 1970's. Pankow wrote the 13-minute "Ballet for a Girl in Buckhanon" which is certainly their best known long-form piece, two sections of which became the aforementioned hits "Smile" and "Color". Their catchy tunes and nifty arrangements made them something like the heir to The Beatles (at least in America), as the sixties' favorite group was just breaking up as Chicago was taking off. Having collected up the first 10 or so of their LPs (cheap in any used record store, the trick is keeping all those roman numerals straight!) - I would venture to say that the first three, V and especially the unsung VII are the classics in their canon (IV was a mediocre live album, though the packaging is great, and VI was the first to feature craptastic Cetera ballads, which remained the group's main selling point from VIII until Cetera departed for a solo career in the 1980s).
"Peacetika" by Cows (1991)
Cows "Peacetika"  1991 (USA)
Cows were my favorite Minneapolis band following the demises of Husker Du and The Replacements at the end of the 1980's. Too hick for punk, too dumb for indie, too sloppy for grunge, hence they called this group "noise rock." And so politically incorrect in a smartass way! (Peep that cover art, Peacetika, get it? Or as our old pal Michael from Killdozer always likes to say "Fuck you hippie!") Their most famous member could be Kevin Rutmanis, who left this band to join Melvins for a lengthy stint in the ever-changing bass player position with that group; Rutmanis is a unique musician in that he is the only "slide bass" player I know of. But the most notorious member of the group was Shannon Selberg, their mani(a)c weirdo lead singer and bugle player, who did crazy stuff like performing naked while eating lit cigarettes he stole from the audience!
"III" by Led Zeppelin (1970)
Led Zeppelin "III"  1970 (UK)
Spring has sprung, so here's a classic acoustic folky record from the hippy era, but also it's kinda metal. Led Zep is the type of band that defines "iconic": all four members were among the best in the biz in their respective roles, and they bowed out with a set of precisely ten classic albums (including the live one and outtakes compilation, and you must include them because ICONS!) By this point, I think the idea that Zep III is their most underrated gem is a cliche - yeah, they broadened the palette after the first two albums. Although the second side is arguably the crucial part, in that it is mostly folky acoustic music (but Bonham still makes it metal), side one is where I find the biggest buzz. Check out this immortal sequence from the golden age of seamless album sequencing: "Immigrant Song" kicks it off with a literal Viking war cry, then "Friends" is led by slide guitars playing something "Indian" until overtaken by orchestra and synthesizer, immediately into "Celebration Day" which is a truly rousing song that shoulda been one of their "hits", AND THEN "Since I've Been Loving You" is one of their finest heavy blues songs, AND THEN "Out On The Tiles" is a prog-metal riff orgy that points the way to Rush.
     
Click here for classic albums from more than three months ago.
          

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