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.

   

Jaco Pastorius "Holiday For Pans"  rec. 1980-82, rel. 1993 (USA)
Review soon.
Don Ellis "At Fillmore"  1970 (USA)
This week we feature another double-live jazz fusion album. Don Ellis was a jazz trumpeter who got his first notable gig playing in the band of influential composer George Russell in the early 1960's. By the end of that decade, he had assembled "The Don Ellis Orchestra" and recorded some cutting-edge jazz albums with rock overtones. In 1970, Columbia released double live At Fillmore albums for two artists on that label, this week's CAOTW and one by that other notable fusion trumpeter Miles Davis. Don's orchestra on this album is a band of no less than 20 musicians, including future Zappa drummer Ralph Humphrey. Two of Ellis' signature moves are on display here: playing his trumpet through electronic effects (which he started doing before Miles) and writing songs with complex polymeter rhythms (like prog rock dude).
Joni Mitchell "Shadows And Light"  1980 (Canada)
Happy 78th birthday Joni! Roberta Joan Anderson was one of the great songwriters of the sixties, basically Bob Dylan's feminine equal. But her music covered more ground than Bob's and was far more sophisticated. She moved on from folky music in the early 70's, scoring her biggest hit album in 1974 with Court & Spark which features cats like Larry Carlton (lead guitarist on Steely Dan records) and the rhythm section from Zappa's Hot Rats! By the end of the decade she basically became a jazz musician and composer: she made records with heavyweights like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock and wrote tunes with Charles Mingus. This week's classic album was arguably the peak of Joni's "jazz period", a live recording featuring a touring band that included fusion legends Pat Metheny on lead guitar and Jaco Pastorius on bass. (Also released as a classic home video which you can watch online!) But throughout her stylistic twists and turns, her songwriting voice always remained uniquely her own.
Meanwhile in Japan . . . Kyary's 5th album Candy Racer was just released; here's the Halloween-themed music video for the titular track.
Throbbing Gristle "CD1"  rec. 1979, rel. 1986 (UK)
Our creepy Halloween week CAOTW is by "industrial music" pioneers Throbbing Gristle. Industrial is a style of music that was groundbreaking at the time, but seems so obvious in retrospect: grinding, dissonant soundscapes that reflect the grit and decay of life in a big city in the late 20th century. The freaky foursome of Genesis, Cosey, Chris & Sleazy were dropouts who left school to crash at art communes founded by sixties radicals and hippies. When punk rock exploded in England in 1977, these weirdos and their "unlistenable noise" fit right in (or arguably, were far scarier than their punk "peers"!) One of my favorite TG records is their first compact disc release from 1986, which doesn't really have a title but the catalog number "CD1" will do. It consists of a single, untitled, 42-minute long track; just some brilliant noise they jammed out in their studio back in 1979. 
Meanwhile in Japan, as I suspected Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has a new album coming out - and she does, this week! Her fifth album is entitled Candy Racer - here's the video for a new tune I played the other week from the new album.
Motörhead "No Sleep 'til Hammersmith"  1981 (UK)
Motörhead was one of the most iconic and important heavy metal bands, and provide evidence for the dictum that sometimes the most classic ideas are the simplest. Motörhead was the loudest, fastest, ugliest, most overpowering band of all time. "Wall of sound" doesn't begin to capture the intensity they managed to get from just three instruments. But on the other hand, their songbook is like that of The Ramones: they wrote the same song over and over again. They were more about the overall sound and attitude - who needs "artistic growth" when your frontman is a wart-encrusted giant playing the loudest bass in the world like a machine gunner in a war zone? Therefore I nominate the group's first live album as the greatest Motörhead album: it has all the best songs from their most innovative early albums, played even faster with more distortion accompanied by an ecstatic audience of headbangers roaring their approval. It was also Motörhead's most successful album, going to #1 on the British album charts at a time when new romantic synth pop was the hot sound. I would be remiss to not recount a few historical facts about the band: iconic leader Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister was the bassist for Hawkwind during the period when they were making their best albums (and even sang lead on their biggest hit single "Silver Machine"). Also, the original guitarist of Motörhead was Larry Wallis from the final line-up of The Pink Fairies - though he quit before Motörhead recorded their 1977 debut album.
Butthole Surfers "Psychic...Powerless...Another Man's Sac"  1984 (USA)
I was looking for "creepy" classic albums for this month of October, and this deeply strange underground band sort-of fits the bill. The Buttholes were founded in the early 1980's in San Antonio, Texas by two weirdo druggy college students (guitarist Paul Leary and singer Gibson J. "Gibby" Haynes) and quickly became the most extreme and outlandish band on the indie rock scene (c'mon man, they called their band BUTTHOLE SURFERS, what did you expect?) Like a lot of their "80's post-punk" peers (Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, Mission of Burma, Hüsker Dü, etc.), Butthole Surfers' music had a lot of references to classic rock and psychedelia. But also, their obscene and scatological in(s)anity fit right in with the nasty "pigfucker" bands of the 80's like Big Black and Killdozer (who were both on the same label as the Buttholes, Touch & Go records). Psychic was their full-length debut album, preceded by a pair of EPs, and is one of da Butt's best records, including about equal parts psychedelia and punk rock, plus some eerie atmospheres and funny jokes.
Alice Cooper "Killer"  1971 (USA)
Here's one more classic album from 1971! To kick of the Halloweeny month of October, for the first time ever we induct the original creepy shock rocker Alice Cooper into the hall of fame. Considering all the "shock rock" that has gone down over the last few decades, from KISS to WASP to NWA, Gwar and Marilyn Manson, it's easy to overlook how original and, well, shocking Alice Cooper was when they came on the scene at the end of the sixties. (Until 1974 Alice Cooper was a five-member band; from 1975 onwards their singer Vince Furnier has performed as a solo artist under the same name.) Frank Zappa backed their first couple records - which are very weird and had "no commercial potential", probably not helped by their gimmick of dressing in women's clothes on stage (haha New York Dolls). Their third album had their breakout hit "I'm Eighteen", which is a remarkably "punk" song for it's time. Killer was the follow-up that solidified them as "the band your parents hate" for their generation, with creepy vibes and lots of songs about death (Johnny Rotten once called it his favorite album). Their legendary stage show became a macabre spectacle including such classic bits as Alice (the singer) being decapitated with a guillotine on stage. Fifty years later, and Alice (the singer) is still on tour, a remarkable feat for an artist who has never quite fit into a movement or genre: not metal, not punk, just Alice.
What's the opposite of creepy? Kawaii, of course! So here's some video stimulation to go along with this week's new music from Japan: my favorite idol group Dempagumi.inc is going through a transitional period with major line-up changes in 2021: their latest single "Impulsive S/K/S/D" is hard rock with metal guitars that projects an "edgy" image (and is the first record they've ever done without their founder Mirin Furukawa, who is out on maternity leave). Their latest 4-track single also includes new tunes by spinoff duo Nemopero (Nagi & Rin) and the debut of brand new side project Chape No Izumi (a trio of Pinky! and two of the newest members): I was excited about the new Pinky! project, though their first record is a bit disappointing (not bad, just sounds like a Dempagumi.inc song that would wind up on a B-side instead of an album). However, I was pleasantly surprised by the tune from Nemopero, a campy collaboration with a moustache man called Ryujin. I also played a third track featuring Nagi Nemoto this week: in addition to Dempagumi and Nemopero, she has also been the center and most popular member of 12-girl idol unit Niji No Conquistador since that group started - most of their songs are fluffy and forgettable, but their latest release "Delicious" is really catchy. Momoiro Clover Z has been the most popular idol group in Japan for the last decade, and I generally don't favor their music, but their recent single "100 Views Of Japan Smiles" is a classic example of the "oriental kitsch" style of Japanese pop. Finally, Haru Nemuri has a new single "Deconstruction" - her style seems to be moving away from punkish anti-pop to something more like "emo pop". I mentioned on the show that she was set to launch her twice-delayed debut North American tour in November, but would you believe it has now been postponed for a third time?
Pharoah Sanders "Thembi"  1971 (USA)
More pledge drive special, more jazz for CAOTW! Pharoah Sanders is a jazz saxophonist who has been making records since the mid-sixties, beginning as a member of Sun Ra and John Coltrane's bands before making many classic albums as a leader. Every now and then I come across an artist that I can't believe hasn't had a CAOTW before and this is one of those times. Thembi was an unusual album for Pharoah, being as far as I know the only album he made with electric keyboards. Though it does include a few intense free jazz workouts, there are also some classic funky soul-jazz grooves such as the tunes we heard on the show this week. Some of Sanders' other Classic Albums (in future weeks) will include Tauhid (1967) which is also one of Sonny Sharrock's best records, and the extremely groovy Karma (1969) which features the 30-minute epic "The Creator Has A Master Plan" which is arguably Pharoah's masterpiece. He still makes music today, in fact he has a new album out this year in collaboration with UK electronic project Floating Points and the London Sympony Orchestra!
Miles Davis "Live-Evil"  1971 (USA)
For this week's pledge drive special, we are revisiting the 50th Anniversary of 1971 - one of the greatest years for music! A new thing exploding that year was "jazz fusion": jazz musicians playing loudly on amplified rock instruments. By my count, this was the fifth time in Miles Davis' legendary career that he was at the center of a major new innovation in jazz music - the previous instances were: 1) BeBop with Charlie Parker's band, followed by 2) "Cool" jazz in the late 1940's, 3) modal jazz in the 1950's (the template for psychedelic rock jamming), and 4) that quintet of his from the 1960's, a group so singular there isn't a name for their style because they were the only ones who could play it. Live-Evil has a lot of the epic, mystical qualities of his previous double elpee Bitches Brew, but a smaller funkier band (yet also "more space") and I think a lot of it was recorded live. Then masterfully edited into "progressive rock suites" by producer Teo Macero, the secret weapon behind Miles' many classic albums.
Budgie "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend"  1973 (UK-Wales)
The Welsh power trio Budgie's first four albums should be considered landmarks of early heavy metal; the other three have been classic albums already. Their first two were produced by Rodger Bain, in between his stints producing the earliest works of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest! Budgie also has a weird doppelganger relationship with Rush (both heavy power trios with dorky singing bassists who sounds cool in spite of having weird high-pitched voices). Budgie owes a lot of their semi-popularity in recent decades to the fact that Metallica covered two of their most classic songs back in the 1980's, including the leadoff track of this week's CAOTW.
Stereolab "Mars Audiac Quintet"  1994 (UK/France)
Stereolab's music is so hip it hurts: retro-futuristic indie rock art pop that seems to reference the entire history of 20th century underground sounds: influences they wear on their sleeves would include NEU!, Serge Gainsbourg, The Free Design, Silver Apples, Perrey & Kingsley, Enoch Light, Rhys Chatham, Suicide, Faust, Spectrum, The Velvet Underground and Sun Ra. Yet despite that unbearably "hip" list of influences, their music has always been very catchy! Back in the 1990's, they had a string of classic albums from 1993 to 1999 where every album was a clear advance in sound and concept from the previous one. Looking back from the 21st century, Mars Audiac stands out as their most live-sounding and "rockin" record. Though they aimed for studio-perfect space age sounds on record, in concert they were always a loud, heavy rock band, driven by two ancient analog keyboards (Farfisa and Moog) and a throbbing guitar-bass-drum rhythm section.
Speaking of French-influenced retro/electronic pop, Yasutaka Nakata has recently dropped new singles for the two most popular artists he works with: Perfume's new song "Polygon Wave" (tre chic, mon ami!) is the new theme song for Japan's version of The Masked Singer which the trio will also appear on as judges. Meanwhile Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's latest is "Genten Kaihi" which means "Avoid Your Roots" (a pun on "Genten KaiKi" which means "get back to your roots") - the symbolism of the music video where she is being chased by a giant bow references her trying to escape her early 2010's "Harajuku Idol" image (oversized bow in her hair, false eyelashes and platform sneakers). I am hoping this means she has a new album on the way (and sounds like she may be planning to reinvent her image?)
     
Click here for classic albums from more than three months ago.
          

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