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.

   

"Crazy Rhythms" by The Feelies (1980)
The Feelies "Crazy Rhythms"  1980 (USA)
The Feelies have just released their sixth album, the second since the group's 21st century reunion. (How many bands of yesteryear have not reformed? Husker Du remains the holdout!) This, their debut album, came out 37 years ago, back in the days when punk rock had just ceded to "new wave" but MTV hadn't come along yet. "Indie rock" was still a few years away, but one of the quintessential founding records of the golden age of indie was Crazy Rhythms. Their debt to The Velvet Underground was obvious from their first album; by the time of their third album the influence of The Stooges was equally obvious. The third piece of the puzzle was Talking Heads: I don't know of any direct lineage between Heads and Feelies (other than the greater New York area in the late 1970's), but David Byrne and his preppie friends were the ones who made it safe for nerds in sweaters to rock. The utter unflashiness of The Feelies in fact prefigures the alterna-grunge non-style-style of the following decade (Kurt Cobain and that Weezer guy also rocked in sweaters), and their manic guitar explorations on one and two-chord grooves has similarly proven a blueprint for the ages.
"Ambrosia" by Ambrosia (1975)
Ambrosia "Ambrosia"  1975 (USA)
Ambrosia scored a handful of memorable soft rock hits in the early 1980's, but they began as a symphonic prog rock band working with legendary engineer Alan Parsons of The Dark Side of the Moon fame. Legend has it the group was inspired by the west coast pop sound of their native California, but then got freaked out by a King Crimson concert and went prog. Somehow they wound up working with Parsons, who engineered their debut and produced their equally progalicious second LP Somewhere I've Never Traveled (which came in an album cover that folded out into a "crystal pyramid"!) After that the group began to head in a more mainstream soft rock direction and racked up their trifecta of hits: "How Much I Feel", "You're The Only Woman", and "The Biggest Part Of Me", all of which were written by guitarist David Pack. However they actually made the Top 40 five times in total: this debut album includes their first hit, "Holdin' On To Yesterday" (a pleasant ballad that's not as memorable as the later hits), and they also scored with a cover of The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" recorded for the all-star All This And World War II album. Although I wouldn't vouch for their later records (unless you dig the easy soft rock of 1978-1980), their first two records are more killer than filler. Remarkably, Ambrosia is still around today (playing cruise ships and casinos mostly), and there is ongoing talk of a new album that might be released this year! (Though the guy who wrote all their hits is no longer in the band.)
"Rock And Roll Over" by KISS (1976)
KISS "Rock And Roll Over"  1976 (USA)
Ooo baby yeah need sum LOOOVVE for Valentine's Day PLEDGE DRIVE! Nothin says LOOOVVEE like kabuki metal clowns from outer space! KISS is the greatest branding exercise in the history of rock. And much like The Beatles who clearly inspired them, the band KISS' motto can be summed up in one word: "LOVE!" The Beatles began writing songs about love in the usual "hand-holding teeny bopper feelings" kind of way, then in their more mature era evolved to describe a more universal "Kosmik" love. However, when KISS sings of love, what they really mean is SEXXX! I have always enjoyed the supreme irony that KISS is a joke band despised by many who do not seem to get the joke, when it couldn't be more absurdly obvious. When CEO Stan "Paul Stanley" Eisen and CFO Chaim "Gene Simmons" Witz were preparing to incorporate their business originally, they wanted the strongest possible brand name that could not be ignored: their first idea was FUCK, which was of course too brilliant and far ahead of its time - hence, the softer variant "KISS" which was a word you could actually say on 1970's TV and radio. But therein lies the secret KISS KODE: anytime you hear one of their songs about "love" just replace that word with "fuck" (or parenthetically insert it into the title somewhere) and you will know what their songs are all about. Thus this week's classic album contains the following ten tracks: "I Want (to fuck) You", "Take Me (so we can fuck)", "Calling Dr. Fuck", "Meet You In The Ladies Room (so we can fuck)", "Baby Driver (is what I call my body part used for fucking)", "Fuck 'em and Leave 'em", "Mr. Speed (is not as popular with the ladies as Dr. Fuck)", "See You (and fuck you) In Your Dreams Tonight", the hit ballad "Hard Luck Woman (until you get to fuck)", and finally the closing number "Makin' Fuck". If you think that's crass, well now you know why they dress up like clown-creatures and distract the audience with fire and explosions: in order to spread their simple and primal message of love throughout this prudish world! They are like the ninjas of romance! Happy Valentines Day everybody!
"A Tab In The Ocean" by Nektar (1972)
Nektar "A Tab In The Ocean"  1972 (UK/Germany)
Coming across like a heavily dosed mix of the hairiest recordings by Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead, and with a lineup officially comprised of four musicians and two lighting technicians (for the groovy light show natch), Nektar is without a doubt a very psychedelic band. In fact they're almost too much, and were definitely a little too late - all of their records sound like they were released about three years past their sell-by date, meaning for example that this 1972 album sounds like a groundbreaking psychedelic rock record . . . from 1969. As Julian Cope noted in his Krautrocksampler tome, a big part of the charm of the German "krautrock" scene of the 1970's was this very "too-lateness", in that the fads and styles of the Anglosphere took a few years to reach the Continent: although the musicians in Nektar are all British, the group was based in Germany. A Tab In The Ocean was their second album and the first one to be released in the USA, where it barely made the charts, but the group' cult following began to snowball (those groovy light shows man!) The following year, they would score an unlikely hit with the concept album Remember The Future, which made it all the way to the Top 20 on the American charts. However, they failed to capitalize on their moment in the sun - by the time they signed a major label contract in 1977, the group's main songwriter Roye Albrighton had quit - only to rejoin in time for their last album in 1980, released on an obscure label and instantly forgotten (if you thought they were behind the times in the 1970's imagine Nektar trying to compete with "new wave" rock!) Most of the original members participated in reunion tours and even a few new albums in the 2000's, but Nektar seems to have come to an end with the 2016 death of Albrighton.
"Nonagon Infinity" by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (2016)
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard "Nonagon Infinity"  2016 (Australia)
Dave 3000's choice for the best album of the year automatically becomes a classic album of the week, and for the first time in the show's history, this year's Kosmik Top 25 is led by an Australian group. KG&LW first came to the attention of this show with their 2014 album I'm In Your Mind Fuzz, which made the KR Top 10 that year. It turns out that was actually the fifth album they had released since 2012! Every Gizzard album since has been a Kosmik Radiation favorite, but this year's high concept album tops them all. The concept is that the nine songs on the album form a continuous suite of music - one long song in nine parts - and the piece ends exactly the same way it begins. Thus if you program the CD version to repeat, it becomes an infinitely long song - hence the title, Nonagon Infinity! It struck me recently that there is a Grateful Deadish component to KG&LW: they have two drummers, a resident "blues guy" on harmonica (kind of like Pigpen with his organ), and of course they like to jam. Though one key point of distinction would be that Gizzard songs are much more high energy! The band made some classy low budget videos to accompany this album: Gamma Knife and check out the special effects in People-Vultures! The next KiGi LizWiz release comes out in February 2017: Flying Microtonal Banana, sure to be another hit from the top psych band of today!
"Birds of Fire" by Mahavishnu Orchestra (1973)
Mahavishnu Orchestra "Birds Of Fire"  1973 (UK/USA/Czech./Ireland/Panama)
By tradition, I always celebrate "Zappa Day" (December 21) in honor of the birthday of the modern day composer Frank Zappa. This year instead of another FZ LP, our classic album is by a rival band that clearly inspired Zappa's own groups. In the spring of 1973, Mahavishnu Orchestra toured with Zappa's Mothers: a seemingly natural pairing of two groups melding jazz and rock, and both led by a charismatic guru of a guitar wizard. However at the time, Zappa's group featured studio pros like Ralph Humphrey, Sal Marquez, and the Fowler brothers playing "chamber music for college kids" (to paraphrase xylophonist Ruth Underwood). Meanwhile, the original lineup of Mahavishnu was a ferocious beast of highly individualistic musicians who still managed to play with the kind of maniacal focus that Zappa demanded from his own musicians. In particular, the insanely powerful drumming of Billy Cobham inspired FZ to add a third percussionist to his group, the hard hitting prog-funk master Chester Thompson (later the touring drummer in Genesis when Phil Collins became their lead singer). Before long, Zappa reconstructed his Mothers into a similarly disciplined yet highly individualistic ensemble: the 1974 band featuring Napoleon Murphy Brock on sax, flute & vocals with the afforementioned Humphrey, Fowler & Underwood, and keyboard wizard George Duke (whom Zappa had been working with on and off since about 1970). So anyway, Birds Of Fire was the second and final Mahavishnu studio album recorded by the original quintet, and was the album they would have been touring in '73. Along with their debut album, these two records stand alone at the pinnacle of "progressive rock played by jazz musicians".
     
Click here for classic albums from more than three months ago.
          

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