Classic Album of the Week

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.

   

Billy Cobham "Spectrum"  1973 (Panama/USA)
Review soon.
Steve Hillage "Fish Rising"  1975 (UK)
Steve Hillage played in a couple lesser known early prog bands at the beginning of the 1970's (such as Space Shanty (1972) by the band Khan, which also included the keyboard player from Egg and Hatfield & The North). After he joined the weird Anglo-Australian-French-elf-hippie band Gong his star began to rise. He left Gong around the time he recorded his debut solo album in 1975, which is our classic album of the week. Many more classic albums followed, over time drifting away from rock and towards ambient soundscape music. Thus his futuristic spacy style made him a natural collaborator for The Orb later on in the 1990's.
Kate Bush "Never For Ever"  1980 (UK)
In 2022, the incredibly improbable happened when quirky artiste Kate Bush scored her first #1 hit single in America: one of her classic tunes from the 80's was featured in a popular TV show. She had already had a number of big hits in Europe (in fact her debut single went to #1 in her home country more than 40 years ago), but her style has always seemed too eclectic and cerebral for an American pop audience. You really can't compare her style to anybody who came before her though she has influenced countless artists in her wake. She had a few connections to the prog rock scene (collaborating with Peter Gabriel and David Gilmour), and her dramatic flair has often been compared to David Bowie, though I think one of the few artists on her plane of existence might be the equally unclassifiable Scott Walker (who still hasn't had a #1 hit in America and probably never will.) All of her albums are notable, but if I were to recommend an entry point to the casual listener I would choose her third album (this week's CAOTW). In addition to her original style of music, Kate was an amazing performer who trained in dance, theater and mime as well as music. Check out some more klassik Kate videos: "Babooshka" and "Army Dreamers" are unforgettable songs from this week's classic album. Her first hit "Wuthering Heights" (1978) and a later tune "The Sensual World" (1989) are also heard on the show this week.
Creedence Clearwater Revival "Green River"  1969 (USA)
This week's classic album features yet another legendary singer / songwriter / guitar player from California: John Fogerty. Because his music has always been associated with Americana and "swamp rock", and his band sounded like they could have come from the South, few people realize that Fogerty and CCR actually originated in Berkeley, California where they were part of the same Bay Area scene as The DeadJeffersons, Country Joe, Quicksilver and Big Brother! Creedence was massively popular for a few years, cranking out new studio albums every few months, with every album containing a handful of Top 10 hit singles that are still among the most "classic of classic rock" to this very day. The songs you've heard a million times on this album are "Bad Moon Rising" (ultimate Americana rock) and "Lodi" (ultimate weary musician on the road ballad). The title track "Green River" (featuring their trademark swamp rock sound) and "Commotion" (souped-up rockabilly social commentary) were also hit singles. Their next classic album Willy & The Poor Boys came out three months later! The CCR train choogled on to ever higher heights from late 1968 through 1970, then the wheels fell off for their final 1972 album Mardi Gras: John provided a final hit for the band ("Sweet Hitch-hiker") but otherwise phoned it in, and he even made Stu Cook and Doug Clifford (never singers on their previous albums!) do MOST of the lead vocals! Fogerty then made The Blue Ridge Rangers solo album in 1973, which oddly features zero original songs and is basically a country covers album. He did make a brief comeback in the 1980's (remember that baseball song?) and I think he has played the "state fairs and casinos oldies circuit" over the years. It's pretty amazing how non-relevant this legendary musician has been for most of his life, considering what a rock icon he was 50 years ago!
Hot Tuna "America's Choice"  1975 (USA)
Hot Tuna is Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, formerly the bassist and lead guitarist of Jefferson Airplane. They started Hot Tuna as a side project for their "blues" jamming around 1969, and after they quit the Airplane in 1973 it became their main gig and has been ever since (they're still touring in 2022!) When they were with the Jeffersons, Jorma had been essentially the 4th songwriter in a group with too damn many songwriters, so Tuna really allowed him to step out as a singer and composer. His riffs are very groovy, but his laconic singing is kind of unusual - maybe it prefigures the slacker rock of the 1990's! (I feel like there are a lot of interesting parallels between Hot Tuna and 80's indie punk band Meat Puppets, another Americana rock power trio led by a tall guitar hero songwriter with his childhood buddy on bass.) America's Choice is something of a companion piece to Yellow Fever, another top shelf Tuna album released the same year.
Bob Weir "Ace"  1972 (USA)
This week's groovy classic was the first solo album from the Grateful Dead's second-most famous singing/songwriting guitar player, who is out on tour this summer with "Dead & Company", the current version of the successor band (with Billy & Mickey on drums and John Mayer on lead guitar). Although this was technically one of three Dead solo albums released in 1972 (along with the classics Garcia and Rolling Thunder), Ace is really the Grateful Dead's unofficial studio album of 1972. Everybody in the mid-70's lineup of the group plays on every track of this album, including brand new members Keith and Donna Jean, though not including departing members Pigpen (who died that year) and Mickey Hart (who quit the band after releasing his own solo album). Though if you think of it that way, this is also the only "Grateful Dead album" where Jerry Garcia doesn't write or sing any of the songs. Almost every tune on this album became a standard in the Dead's concert repetoire (especially "Playing In The Band" which was one of their most-performed songs ever). It also marked a transitional moment for the group's songwriting, with this album including the last songs Weir wrote with Robert Hunter (who would continue writing lyrics exclusively for Jerry's songs) as well as the first songs Weir wrote with his new songwriting partner John Barlow.
eX-Girl "Endangered Species"  2004 (Japan)
For this year's self-indulgent birthday show, I am once again indulging my passion for weird Japanese girl groups. "eX-Girl" was a band I discovered in 2004 with the release of this album in America on Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label (which was putting out some great underground stuff at the time, like the Zolar X compilation!) Their sound is uniquely their own: kind of metal, but rough around the edges so maybe more like punk rock, plus synthesizers and ultramodern techno sounds and three girl singers doing odd harmonies in a quasi-operatic style. Plus, they're Japanese but sing in English (always good for upping the weirdness factor). Sadly, this turned out to be their final album, but if you dig it their earlier records are just as wonderfully weird. Two more of my favorite contemporary Japanese girl groups appeared on the show this week: the underground trance rock of OOIOO and the otaku idol pop of Dempagumi.inc!
Paul McCartney "McCartney"  1970 (UK)
Paul McCartney turns 80 years old this week! Our second bonus classic album of the week is Mac's first solo album, which was a true solo album in that he played all the instruments by himself in his home studio at his farm in Scotland. At the time I think it was criticized for being unpolished (especially compared to Abbey Road which came out the previous year!) But that's a pretty interesting move considering Paul's reputation as the fussy perfectionist of The Beatles. Sure, some of the "songs" here are half-formed ideas and doodles, but McCartney's leftovers from this period are still gems. Only one song from this album became a staple of McCartney's catalog, the soulful ballad "Maybe I'm Amazed" (sort of a cousin of songs like "Let It Be"). This album's greatest significance may be the "big news" that came along with McCartney's announcement of this album's release: that he had officially quit The Beatles. Lawsuits ensued for several years and the quartet never played together again.
Jimmy Cliff / various artists "The Harder They Come" (Original Soundtrack)  1972 (Jamaica)
This week is our annual "vintage vinyl from 50 years ago" special featuring the year 1972. It was kind of a weird year, and seems like kind of a downer maan. Nixon got re-elected, the Vietnam war dragged on, bummed-out hippies started to turn metal (or glam), and slick soul music turned into grittier funk. Also, that was the year reggae broke out of Jamaica and began to become popular around the world. The two big reggae albums released that year were the international debut by Bob Marley & The Wailers (whose previous records only came out in Jamaica) and this week's classic album, which interestingly enough is our first ever classic album which is a various artists compilation. Jimmy Cliff songs make up nearly half the album, on account of he starred in the movie The Harder They Come for which this was the soundtrack. The movie was a success and also helped propel reggae into the mainstream (it is a lot like a Jamaican version of  the popular flix Superfly and Shaft that came out around the same time - which also had classic soundtrack albums.) The other tunes featured on this album include classic Jamaican hits from the late 60's by Toots & The Maytals, Desmond Dekker, and others.
Miles Davis "On The Corner"  1972 (USA)
Miles Davis would have been 96 years old this week. Our classic album is another one from 50 years ago: 1972. Miles had been releasing electric rock/funk oriented albums for a couple years when On The Corner came out, but the jazz world seemed totally unprepared for this. Miles doesn't play much trumpet, the band doesn't bother with chord changes, and only one track even has much of a melody! Instead what you get are relentless, cascading polyrhythms and blasts of funky, dirty electronic noise. It's almost like Miles invented "industrial" music! Love it or hate it, it is one of the most singular recordings of Davis' career and of the entire 1970's decade.
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band "Clear Spot"  1972 (USA)
I've got a stack of vinyl albums from 50 years ago lined up for our "50th anniversary of 1972" special coming up next month, so we'll be having a bunch of classic albums from that great year for music. Captain Beefheart released two classic albums that year, which were probably as close as this terminally weird artist ever got to something like mainstream "classic rock" music. All the previous Beefheart albums (except for parts of the bluesy garage rock debut album) were very far-out, psychedelic, surrealistic, and artsy. The Spotlight Kid (1972) had a lot of relatively funky stuff on it, and Clear Spot even includes a Motown-style ballad. And for fans of the deep weirdness that only the Magic Band could bring, this album also has one of the group's all-time anthems of strangeness, "Big Eyed Beans From Venus". But success was not to be, as the subsequent couple CB albums were the ones fans refer to as the "Tragic Band" albums (hack studio musicians playing boring music because the rest of the orignial group refused to work with the Captain anymore). He made a comeback at the end of the 70's and his last three albums were solid weird indie rock-type albums (maybe even a little punk).
The Monkees "Head"  1968 (USA/UK)
This album was the soundtrack to one of my three favorite psychedelic films of the sixties (the other two are Midnight Cowboy and Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls). The movie Head starred The Monkees and was released to no acclaim about a year after their groundbreaking TV show had been cancelled. It was probably intended to be their high point, but it wound up being the beginning of the end: they only made one more appearance as a quartet after the movie flopped, an amazing, mind-blowing disaster of a primetime TV special called 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee (1969). Believe it or don't, their movie soundtrack album was edited together by Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson, who was a little-known B-actor at the time, but he happened to be pals with Bob Rafelson (co-creator of the Monkees TV show and the director of Head) and of course the prefab four Micky, Davy, Mike & Peter. (Jack and Micky in particular were notorious drinking buddies in the 1970's And when you watch the Head movie, keep an eye out for Nicholson and Dennis Hopper who make a cameo during the diner scene: immediately after Head, they started work on Nicholson's breakout film Easy Rider which was produced by Rafelson and directed by Hopper.) Anyway, this album is really only six Monkees songs, and the rest of its under-30-minute runtime is padded out with groovy random dialogue and soundtrack stuff in a very psychedelic style. But the six Monkees songs are really among their best ever: both sides of the flop single "Porpoise Song / As We Go Along" are ultra-classic flower power pop, Mike contributes the jangly rocker "Circle Sky", Peter chips in two very sixites question-songs called "Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?" and "Can You Dig It?" The weakest number is Davy's novelty showtune "Daddy's Song", which is still campy fun and was written by legendary songwriter Harry Nilsson (who got his first national exposure writing songs for the Monkees, as did Neil Diamond!)
     
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