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.

   

"The Magician's Birthday" by Uriah Heep (1973)
Uriah Heep "The Magician's Birthday"  1973 (UK)
It's Hippie Xmas again in Madison! So this week we play only the most dumpster-worthy cheep old records. This week's classic album is a solid heavy rock release by one of the big names of the early 70's, and nobody should pay more than a dollar or two to get a decent copy of this album. Though not as plentiful as old Moody Blues and Emerson Lake & Palmer records in the bargain bins of used record shops, Uriah Heep is pretty close. This is a mark of an artist that was once immensely popular, but which the sands of time have rendered uncool over the years. Exactly the type of crusty oldies we like on the Kosmik Radiation show! Uriah Heep was basically the missing link between Deep Purple (heavy metal featuring an electric organist dueling a guitar god) and Queen (operatic vocals and campy theatricality), but also one of the many bands that lost the heavy rock competition to the mightier Black Sabbath and commercial kings of hard rock Led Zeppelin. Personally, I like their classic run of 1971-1973 LPs quite a bit, of which Magician's Birthday was the last and perhaps best. The titular track is a hard rock/prog/camp masterpiece (yes, they do sing a few choruses of"Happy Birthday" to the Dear Magician). Aside from a couple dull ballads, the rest of the album is also solid hard rock. 
"Garcia" by Jerry Garcia (1972)
Jerry Garcia "Garcia"  1972 (USA)
This August 1st is Jerry Garcia's 75th birthday! It is a well-known Deadhead trope that the Grateful Dead was always better on the concert stage than in a recording studio, and that is generally true. In fact, I think three of the top five "Grateful Dead studio albums" are the three solo LP's released in 1972. Mickey's album has already been a CAOTW and may be the group's most ambitious recording, though it also features many other bay area acid rock stars (the usual suspects from Jefferson Airplane and Santana). Bobby's solo album Ace is basically a Dead studio album, featuring the entire group except for Mickey (working on his own record, see above) even including soon-to-join new member Donna Jean Godchaux; it introduces a number of staples of the Dead's concert repetoire ("Playing In The Band", "Black-Throated Wind", "Greatest Story Ever Told", "Cassidy", "One More Saturday Night" - pretty much the entire album). The third solo album was of course Garcia, Jerry's debut and his most important solo recording. His LP features a few genuinely trippy moments like "Spidergawd" and "Eep Hour" (as far-our as any Dead studio tracks ever got), and more classic songs that would become part of the Dead concert repetoire, most notably "Bird Song", "Deal", "The Wheel" and "Sugaree".
"est. 1970" by Goose Creek Symphony (1970)
Goose Creek Symphony "est. 1970"  1970 (USA)
Are they the most country "psychedelic band" of all time, or the most psychedelic "country band" of all time? Goose Creek Symphony play extremely downhome backporch pickin' and grinnin' old-timey country style music, but then they periodically launch into heavy Cream-style jams, and freely incorporate studio trickery and backwards tracks to make their records even groovier. The LP est. 1970, as in the band was "established" that year, was the group's debut and the blueprint for their classic run of albums. The main songwriter and foundational member of the group is one Charles Gearheart, who still leads a version of the band today! I am pretty sure GCS is the longest-running "jam band" in America, having outlasted the Grateful Dead by nearly 20 years (and counting).
"Electric Warrior" by T-Rex (1971)
T. Rex "Electric Warrior"  1971 (UK)
Popular consciousness seems to give David Bowie credit for inventing "glam rock" when he adopted his Ziggy Stardust persona, but more than a year before that happened Marc Bolan was already storming the charts with funky three-chord stompers coated in glitter. If you include four albums made under the original name Tyrannasaurus Rex, this was the sixth album featuring the songs of Marc Bolan, the visionary and sole constant member of the band. However those first five records were mostly twee acid folk rock which sound as if they were recorded by elves and fairies, and which were strictly for the hippie underground. Then in 1970 two non-album singles "Ride A White Swan" and "Hot Love" (their first to use the shorter "T. Rex" name) topped the British charts, and a new teenie bopper sensation was born. Electric Warrior was the first album's-worth of new songs by the suddenly hot band, and it is a very well-known and acclaimed classic rock masterpiece (you know, one of those albums that "really rocks"). Bolan remained a very psychedelic songwriter, and turned out to be a surprisingly heavy/funky guitarist (you would NEVER have guessed that based on his early elf-pop albums). T. Rex's follow-up The Slider is nearly as good, and like EW features the immortal backup vocals of "Flo & Eddie" (ex-Turtles/ex-Mothers), AKA Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (you may recall "Mark Volman" did Zappa stage hijinks based on the similarity of his name to "Marc Bolan"). Sadly, Bolan's fortunes soon went into decline after that and he died in a car crash in 1977. Part of the problem with his career was an obsession with "making it big in America" and ensuing drug depression after that never panned out: T. Rex has remained a one-hit wonder in America on the strength of "Get It On (Bang A Gong)" from this album.
"The Notorious Byrd Brothers" by The Byrds (1968)
The Byrds "The Notorious Byrd Brothers"  1968 (USA)
Albums like this are frustrating for a radio DJ: a dozen two-and-a-half minute songs which all flow together without pauses between. All the tracks are pretty great, and they sound even greater one-into-another like that. But no pauses makes the vinyl difficult to cue, and just playing a whole side of the record seems lazy (it's not one long suite it's six different songs). The Byrds would have been recording this album immediately in the wake of Sgt. Pepper (last week's classic album), and a lot of artists were suddenly arranging their material into progressive-style suites beginning that summer. But The Byrds were a top psychedelic rock band of the day, and at the top of their game when making this record. Their first post-Pepper baroque moment was a wonderful single written by David Crosby, the third (and weirdest) songwriter in the band, who was always itching to get more of his songs recorded: it was the first time The Byrds had put a Crosby tune out as a single, and it flopped. The Croz's next obsession was getting them to record his menage a trois love ballad "Triad", so before 1967 was up they kicked him out of the band and completed this album as a trio (they had also lost another member, Gene Clark "songwriter #2", before their previous album). But Jefferson Airplane picked up Crosby's "Triad" song, and he also co-wrote "Wooden Ships" with Airplane's Paul Kantner and another temporarily unemployed musician buddy, Stephen Stills. Soon after that, Crosby and Stills met a gentle Mancunian hippie named Nash at an LA party (was it Cass Elliot's or Joni Mitchell's pad?) and "the rest is history." Meanwhile, The Byrds recruited legendary space cowboy Gram Parsons and they turned into a full-blown country group before the end of 1968 (no doubt taking a cue from Dylan, who inspired most of The Byrds best moves.)
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by The Beatles (1967)
The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"  1967 (UK)
We're featuring exclusively the music of 1967 on the show this week for pledge drive. OK, I finally had to do this one! Released 50 years ago this month, The Beatle's seventh studio album is where "greasy teenage rock 'n' roll" grew up into "Rock Music for adults, which can be ART!" There certainly was no album released that year that was more important than this one. Lauded at the time for the fact that all the songs flow together into connected musical suites (the dawn of Prog Rock!), in fact there was another album released across the ocean the same week that similarly stitched all the material together into two sidelong suites - and arguably did it in a much more sophisticated and thematically coherent way. That album was the second by The Mothers of Invention, Absolutely Free. But The Mothers were really ugly and could not write catchy melodies and heartfelt lyrics that captured the zeitgeist like the great Lennon-McCartney, which is the irreplaceable element that makes Sgt. Pepper more than just an innovative way to arrange songs on vinyl.
"Hard Rain" by Bob Dylan (1976)
Bob Dylan "Hard Rain"  1976 (USA)
Bob Dylan has a birthday this week, so our classic album is one of his lesser known live albums. In 1975 Bob hit the road with his Rolling Thunder Revue tour and superband, releasing one of his most popular 70's albums Desire right in the middle. Featuring four guitarists and two drummers, Rolling Thunder Revue was considered one of Bob's greatest tours, and was documented as such. But perversely, the concert footage only came out in Dylan's four-hour art film Renaldo & Clara, which was apparently mostly improvised vignettes featuring the band and famous hangers on (it has never been released in any home media format). There was also a TV special filmed at the very end of the tour, on a rainy day (hence the title) when the band was not at their best, or so said the critics. The 1976 TV special was panned almost as badly as the four-hour movie would be when it finally came out in 1978.  But I never saw the TV special or knew the backstory behind this album when I first heard it, and it sounds like a pretty rockin' Bob Dylan album to me. "Maggies Farm" is particuarly blistering, with Bowie's guitarist Mick Ronson on lead. "Shelter From The Storm" had been a gentle folk song in the studio, but in concert it's a rousing rockandroll party. In a way this album almost prefigures the coming punk and new wave trends: the band might be a bit sloppy, but it's loud music to jump around to - a rare "fun" Dylan album that "rocks"!
     
Click here for classic albums from more than three months ago.
          

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