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.


"Music" by Buzzy Linhart (1970)
Buzzy Linhart "Music"  1970 (USA)
An obscure classic for sure, hipped to me by a listener request. More review soon.
"Blues For Allah" by Grateful Dead (1975)
Grateful Dead "Blues For Allah"  1975 (USA)
Today is Jerry Garcia's 76th birthday, so I figured it's time for another classic album by The Dead. They were one of the great live bands of all time, but their success at making studio albums was very hit or miss. In particular, they rarely achieved the psychedelic majesty they were famous when they weren't on stage. So I think their most classic albums are their first three live albums, and their second "studio" album which was largely edited together from concert recordings (though the Official History of Rock says it would be their two best-selling albums from 1970, which I have not made classic albums because Workingman's and Beauty represent the lighter side of the Dead; basically sounds like CSN). In particular, I think their studio LPs from 1973-1980 are particularly dull, with one interesting exception: this week's Classic Blues for Allah. The title track is their most out-there progadelic epic (much more interesting than the orchestrated sidelong suite about turtles on their next studio LP), and this record also added a couple of classics to their concert repetoire: the jazz raga "Help On The Way/Slipnot!" and endless groover "Franklin's Tower".
"Spaced Out" by Enoch Light & The Light Brigade (1969)
Enoch Light & The Light Brigade "Spaced Out"  1969 (USA)
I'm a bit surprised this record wasn't a classic album sooner, since it is arguably the greatest "space age bachelor pad" or "turned-on easy listening" album of all time. Enoch Light was a primarily a producer known for super hi-fidelity recordings (including extreme stereo effects), and his band The Light Brigade was basically studio musicians featuring guest appearances from other artists (usually instrumentalists) affiliated with Enoch's Project 3 record label. On this particular LP, the Brigade includes Dick Hyman on moog synthesizer (I'm also surprised I haven't given him a classic album yet), The Free Design on vocals, and Tony Motolla on guitar: in other words an all-star easy listening orchestra! Plus in the style of the times it is kind of a concept album: all the songs are by Burt Bacharach, The Beatles or Johann Sebastian Bach (the 3 B's). Back in 1969, youth counterculture types (hippies) probably thought this was the most horrible commercialization imaginable, but today it sounds more sixties than the sixties probably really were (if Austin Powers didn't shag to this soundtrack in the movies, he could have).
Also on the show this week: further down the rabbit-holes of J-pop and "weird girl" pop with Scottish futurist SophieWednesday Campanella (Japanese oral folklore styles mixed with rapping and house-y dance music), Haru Namuri (the J-pop anti-idol: brooding art punk with dissonant guitars), and another "wake up kawaii" session with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (this video from 5 years ago celebrates her reaching the legal drinking age in Japan, which is 20).
"Caress Of Steel" by Rush (1975)
Rush "Caress Of Steel"  1975 (Canada)
Rush is an iconic supergroup, very much progressive and heavy, though their only record which might qualify as "psychedelic" is this week's classic album. I think Rush's first two albums are pretty cool hard rock, definitely under the influence of Led Zeppelin, but then what hard rock band of the early 1970's wasn't? For their third album Caress Of Steel, they got more ambitious, and the result nearly ended their careers as the album sold poorly and the accompanying tour was sparsely attended. Fortunately for them, their next LP 2112 was the hit record that established them in the pantheon of classic rock. So why didn't Caress succeed? Listening to it 40 years later, it's pretty ridiculous and probably sounded kinda cheesy and dated at the time: corny swords and sorcery epics (Neil Peart's worst lyrics?) rendered by Geddy Lee's notoriously shrieky voice, and most of the album consists of two epics "The Fountain Of Lamneth" (20 minutes) and "The Necromancer" (12 minutes). Or as Lee explained in a a documentary of the band "we were really high when we did that one" (huh, I always figured they were more the sporty clean-living types). But as I have often said, goofy dated records of the classic rock era are a big part of what the Kosmik Radiation show is all about! Besides, this might be guitarist Alex Lifeson's best work: he solos his butt off and often achieves Hendrixian majesty. Following a 2015 farewell tour and 2016 documentary film, Rush officially confirmed their retirement in early 2018, fifty years after Lee and Lifeson started the band as teenagers.
And now for something completely different! Lately I have become interested in "J-pop" (Japanese pop music), or more specifically two particular contemporary Japanese artists of note: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has been called "Japan's Lady Gaga", except her sense of aesthetics is much more unified (her songs sound like her videos and costumes), her songs are better (catchiest global pop artist since ABBA?), and she's kind of psychedelic! KPP has articulated an interesting theory of "traumatic cuteness" which explans her bizarre mix of fluffly pink sweetness with disembodied organs, weapons, death, and other references you don't expect from girly bubblegum. Then there's BABYMETAL who are pioneering a new genre called "kawaii metal" (kawaii=cute, which is like an ideology in Japan): three adorable teenage pop idol girls doing choreographed headbanging in front of a real live heavy metal band. There's also something psychedelic about their odd mix of teeny bopper melodies, death metal, EDM, rap, and reggae(!) and they are arguably one of the top heavy bands gloabally right now, selling out massive stadiums in Japan and headlining festivals around the world. Unfortuneately, it seems these two fascinating artists are more the exception than the rule of J-pop, but they are both a lot more interesting than the boring dreck that tops the charts in the West these days.
"Double Bummer" by Bongwater (1988)
Bongwater "Double Bummer"  1988 (USA)
The 1980's are "officially" remembered as a conservative era of cold, soulless corporate rock, but in fact the Reagan era in America had one of the most vibrant musical and cultural underground scenes. Punk rock reached its zenith, heavy metal was reborn, while rap/hiphop was developing from a disco-spinoff into the next great form of American popular music. In 1988, a band would only call itself "Bongwater", referencing decades-old hippies and classic rock, if they wanted to signal how uncool they were (which therefore makes them ironically cool, following the punk/indie/underground inversion principle). They do sixties covers of unlikely tunes by iconic artists like the Beatles and Monkees, but pisstake them into oblivion - are they making fun of hippie rock or harkening back to those halcyon days? I would say literally the former, but spiritually the latter (hippies were the original pisstakers on previous cultural traditions). Their approach and attitude is more art-punk than hippie, and on the whole it makes for some decidedly weird listening (definitely psychedelic, whatever their intention!) The main brains of Bongwater were Ann Magnuson, an actress/writer/performance artist type (she appeared in a few Hollywood films around that time, including the classic Cabin Boy), and Kramer, the record producer who goes by one name and ran the Shimmy Disc record label. The label found its greatest success with the more "refined" silliness of King Missile (a band featuring mostly the same musicians), who had college rock hits with radio-friendly classics like "Jesus Was Way Cool" and "Detachable Penis".
"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.
Click here for classic albums from more than three months ago.

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