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.

   

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 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" Hayes) 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 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 like Big Black and Killdozer. 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 psychedelic 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 can't stand" 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 still 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?)
Judas Priest "Stained Class"  1978 (UK)
Happy 70th birthday Rob Halford! A singer so legendary his nickname is "The Metal God", Halford has always been the most exceptional member of Judas Priest. Founded in Birmingham, England in the early 1970's, Priest arguably did more to define "heavy metal" than any other band, including even the mighty Black Sabbath (who are also from Birmingham). Sabbath may have invented the metal, but Priest added speed, precision, black leather, and outrageous operatic vocals courtesy of this week's birthday boy. Stained Class was their fourth album but the first where they finally shed the last vestiges of the early 70's prog and psych sounds you can find on their earlier records. From this album onward, Priest is all shredding and wailing and black leather, all the time. Also having a birthday today: Gene Simmons is 72!
ZZ Top "Tres Hombres"  1973 (USA)
Joe "Dusty" Hill, the bassist and second vocalist from America's longest running band, has passed away. ZZ Top released their debut album 50 years ago, and over all these years have not had a single change in membership: they were the longest lasting group since the dawn of pop music. The "tres hombres" (three men) were always Dusty, Frank (drums) & Billy (guitar and the main singer and songwriter). Although this isn't the end of the road - per Dusty's wishes, the band will continue with longtime roadie Elwood Francis taking over on bass (I hope he has a long beard). Probably inspired by The Jimi Hendrix Experience (but with a laser focus on The Blues), ZZ Top's breakout album was their third, this week's CAOTW, which includes ultra-classic rock tracks like "Waiting For The Bus", "Jesus Just Left Chicago", and their first big radio hit "La Grange".
Also on the show this week: "Flux", the title track from the forthcoming new album by Poppy.
Gal Costa "Gal"  1969 (Brazil)
Gal Costa (born Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos) is one of the top singers from the groovy Brazilian music scene of the late 1960's. She still has an active career, in fact she released a new album in 2021 at age 76! Costa debuted in the mid-sixties and appeared on a landmark 1968 compilation album called Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis which featured a who's-who of the leading Brazilian psychedelic (or "Tropicalia") artists, namely Tom Ze, Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso and Os Mutantes. Her second full-length solo album Gal is one of the most out-there experimental pop albums of the entire 1960's decade, sounding like a bossa nova mash-up of Barbra Streisand (soaring vocals) and Jimi Hendrix (everything swimming in a sea of fuzz guitar).
Also on the show this week, new underground rock from Japan: psych-punk power trio 88-Kasyo Junrei has a new album coming out later this month and art-punk poetry-rapper Haru Nemuri keeps releasing singles (and music videos).
The Strawberry Alarm Clock "Incense And Peppermints"  1967 (USA)
Strawberry Alarm Clock is the grooviest, baby! They are best remembered for their #1 smash hit "Incense And Peppermints", though they are technically not a "one hit wonder" (their other Top 40 hit was a song called "Tomorrow" from their second album). The SAC was formed through the merger of two obscure LA groups, Thee Sixpence and "Waterfyrd Traene" (what a terrible name!) Thee Sixpence had already written the tune "Incense And Peppermints" but didn't like the original recording they had made, so somehow in the re-recording process they became "The Strawberry Alarm Clock" and the song also wound up being sung by a 16-year kid who wasn't even in the band (Greg Munford's only appearance with the group). After the song became a huge hit, the personnel solidified and they rushed out a debut album (this week's CAOTW) and then released three more albums before breaking up at the end of the decade. Their albums get weaker as they go, but there is plenty of classic California psychedelic rock on the first three in particular. Two other notable things about SAC: 1) they appeared in a pair of classic psychedelic movies in the 1960's: Psych-Out (1968) starring a very young Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell and Bruce Dern, and Russ Meyer's camp masterpiece Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970); and 2) believe it or not, their lead guitarist Ed King went on to be a founding member of Southern Rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd!
Funkadelic "Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On"  1974 (USA)
George Clinton, the founder and leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, turns 80 years old this week. This time we're inducting one of Funkadelic's classic guitar shredding funk albums into the hall of fame. All of the musicians in the original Funkadelic band were legendary, but lead guitarist Eddie Hazel has always gotten particular notice for being "the second-best Hendrix-style guitar player after Jimi Hendrix". However, Hazel quit the band around 1972 after feuding with Clinton over money. But then he returned in 1974 to record this week's CAOTW, which therefore naturally features heavy guitar more prominently than most of their albums (it's also the only Funkadelic album where Hazel co-wrote almost every song). In addition to the classic title track, this album also features a 12-minute guitar showcase called "Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts" which is a worthy successor to Hazel's earlier guitar epics like "Maggot Brain" and "Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow".
     
Click here for classic albums from more than three months ago.
          

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