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.

   

"Hope" by Klaatu (1977)
Klaatu "Hope"  1977 (Canada) 
This year for the Hippie Xmas bargain bin vinyl special I dug really deep for ultra-obscure albums of the classic rock era. The most famous artist being played on the show this week could be our CAOTW (or else it's probably Lalo Schifrin), though Klaatu was never more than a cult curiosity. Three anonymous studio musician/engineers from Toronto recorded five albums between 1976 and 1981 which show their love for Beatles-style psychedelic pop, Pink Floydian space epics and concept albums, and Moody Bluesoid narration and orchestration. There was a brief  "Beatles reunion rumour" attached to the release of their debut album, which made that their best-selling and most well-known album. Hope was their second record, and is much more ambitious - being a full-blown "sci fi rock opera" and including sessions with the London Symphony Orchestra - but it sold a lot less than the first one. Their third album was a return to the more pop-oriented (Beatles-like) debut album, and it's my favorite of all their records - though it sold even more poorly than the second album. You guessed it, albums #4 (tragically awful 80's lamestream Top 40 attempt) and #5 (back to Beatles sounds but on a limited budget and not released outside of Canada) continued the downward slide in record sales.
"Powerslave" by Iron Maiden (1984)
Iron Maiden "Powerslave"  1984 (UK)
Today is Bruce Dickinson's 60th birthday, so we induct our first Classic Album by one of the most popular metal bands of all time. Though personally they are not one of my favorite metal bands, there is no denying their iconic stature as one of "England's Loudest Bands." I do think their peak period was 1982-1985, when they made their first three studio albums and one double live album with Dickinson (there were also two albums before that with a different singer, which are pretty good but more typical of the NWOBHM style). Of that classic run of albums in the 1980's, Powerslave is the most ambitious and progariffic - at times it sounds like they hit the sweet spot in between Rush and Motorhead. There are several more legendary hard rock singers with birthdays this month: Robert Plant, Rob Halford, Ian Gillan, Gene Simmons and James Hetfield.
"Living The Blues" by Canned Heat (1968)
Canned Heat "Living The Blues"  1968 (USA)
The Grateful Dead became an enormous cultural phenomenon in the 1970's to 1990's (even during the grunge rock era they were one of the top-grossing touring bands in the world), so it is easy to forget that back in the 1960's they had many peers and in fact were not particularly popular compared to their competition. Take for example this week's classic band, Canned Heat: they made the American Top 40 three times between 1968 and 1970, and their albums sold much better than the Dead back in the 60's - in fact, this week's CAOTW even made it onto the R&B charts. Living The Blues is actually a pretty weird album, consisting of a half dozen of the trad blues numbers they were mostly known for ("Going Up The Country" was the hit), then a 20-minute psychedelic blues suite "Parthenogenesis", concluding with a jaw-dropping 41-minute concert recording "The Refried Boogie" taking up the last two sides of this double album (at the time and for many years after, the longest rock song released on a record). Although a version of the band still exists and tours today, with drummer Adolfo de la Parra being the only continuous member since way back in 1966(!), the original core trio who started the band all had tragic ends. Al Wilson, their main songwriter and the singer with the weird high-pitched voice died of a drug overdose a few weeks before Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin did the same, and in 1981 their other gruff-voiced lead singer Bob "The Bear" Hite also died of a drug overdose at one of their concerts. The brilliant and underappreciated lead guitarist Henry Vestine died of a heart attack on tour in 1997, though he had been in and out of the band numerous times over the decades - the first time he quit the band was the week before they played at the Woodstock festival! 
"Huevos" by Meat Puppets (1987)
Meat Puppets "Huevos"  1987 (USA)
Meat Puppets released an album this year (Dusty Notes) featuring all three original members for the first time since 1995. The band was founded in January 1980, meaning in a few months the group will have been around for 40 years - a rare feat for an American rock band. Huevos might be the most unsung record in their discography; after laboriously recording the sterile Mirage album earlier in 1987 (my least favorite of their records by far), they banged out a second album in a couple days using mostly first takes and the result is classic Mups. A large part of their appeal has always been a seat-of-the-pants, "this could fall apart at any moment" vibe stemming from their unique roots as a hardcore punk band made up of hippies: if there is any classic rock band they most resemble, believe it or not it's the Grateful Dead! Americana and country music bathed in psychedelic visions and yes they do jam out in concert, complete with their own version of the "Space --> Drums" staple from Dead concerts . . . only Meat Puppets play everything a whole lot faster!! Anyway, back to their new 2019 album: it's their most Americana-type album yet, and man they are really good at it by now. Here's a music video from the new record.
Here's a couple more new 2019 tracks played on the show this week: the latest from Japanese weird girl idol band Dempagumi.inc is uncharacteristically jazzy and cool! (Usually their songs and videos are hyper and wacky!) Also, here's a cute animated video for one of the best cuts on the new posthumous album from Prince (actually a songwriting demo recorded in 1985).
"Electric Bath" by The Don Ellis Orchestra
The Don Ellis Orchestra "Electric Bath"  1967 (USA)
Don Ellis was at the forefront of "progressive jazz" and fusion in the late 1960's and early 1970's, but he died in 1978 when he was just 44 years old and seems to be largely forgotten today. Ellis was a pioneer in several ways: he wrote lots of songs in bizarre time signatures, played a "microtonal trumpet", utilized psychedlic electronic effects on his instrument (years before Miles did), and put together a unique "big band prog" orchestra which at various times included three drum kits (one drummer was Ralph Humphrey, later of a classic Zappa band) and a string quartet. Electric Bath won the Downbeat magazine reader's poll for album of the year and was nominated for a Grammy, though his commercial peak was scoring the hit film The French Connection in the early 1970's.
Meanwhile over in Japan, my latest fascinations are the crazy "denpa" style of the wacky pop idol band Dempagumi.inc and a charming rap duo of . . . office ladies, called . But the big news lately is BABYMETAL has announced that their next album Metal Galaxy is coming in October, and have been on tour in Europe playing some cool new songs.
"Blind Dog At St. Dunstans" by Caravan (1976)
Caravan "Blind Dog At St. Dunstans"  1976 (UK)
This week's CAOTW is an underappreciated gem of "Canterbury prog" by one of the cornerstone bands of the Canterbury scene (the other being The Soft Machine). None of the Canterbury groups broke through in America, and they were very much "underground popular" in their native Britain as well. Whereas Soft Machine was definitely "art rock" with all sorts of avant-garde, jazz and classical influences, Caravan was really the only "populist" of the Canterbury bands that could have potentially produced a pop hit. They were more melodic and groovin' than the rest, in fact by the time of this 1976 album they were pretty much a jamband - only more whimsical and Very British. Perhaps it was because two key members of the original band had left by this point to go play in artsier bands: Richard Sinclair (bass & vocals) left around 1972 to become a key member of Hatfield & The North, followed by his cousin Dave Sinclair (keyboards) who played with Matching Mole as well as Hatfield (he then returned to Caravan but left again before this album, then came back again in 1980! But before that happened Richard & Dave also played together for a couple years in another cult-favorite prog band of the day, Camel.)
"Abbey Road" by The Beatles (1969)
The Beatles "Abbey Road"  1969 (UK)
Sir James Paul McCartney is 77 years old this week, and he just played a huge concert at Lambeau Field in Green Bay WI this month. I'll take the somewhat controversial position that Paul was the coolest and most talented Beatle, but I may be biased due to the Kosmik link I share with him since we are both Gemini born on the same date. Although Sir Paul was arguably the main brain behind the Beatles' most significant album, and was definitely driving the bus for my favorite Beatle album (soundtrack to the terrible movie Paul was also mostly responsible for), his best work could be "The Medley" on side 2 of this week's CAOTW, which includes relatively unsung Beatles gems such a "You Never Give Me Your Money" and "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window." Abbey Road was also a super-important album because it achieved a new peak in high fidelity studio recording for the Fab Four and their producer Sir George Martin: believe it or not, all of their previous albums were recorded on 4-track tape! For this album they had a whopping 8 tracks to work with! This is also their only album with synthesizers: George bought him one of the first Moogs in 1968. Finally, this was the final album The Beatles recorded - there was just one track on their swansong Let It Be album that was recorded in early 1970 following the Abbey Road sessions (George's "I Me Mine", which Paul doesn't even play on). The rest of LIB had been recorded prior to AR as part of another "failed" movie project spearheaded by - you guessed it, Paul McCartney.
"Who's Next" by The Who (1971)
The Who "Who's Next"  1971 (UK)
When I do a "self indulgent birthday special" I like to treat myself and the listeners to a second bonus classic album. If you asked me what my 5 favorite albums were when I was in high school, I would have probably picked Abbey Road, Are You Experienced?, Dark Side Of The Moon, Never Mind The Bollocks and Who's Next. And if I had to narrow that list to just one bestest albums ever, it would have been The Who. If you like rock music, it's hard to deny the greatness of the musicianship in this band: their blueprint of everybody-plays-lead power trio lineup with powerhouse lion-maned, bare-chested lead singer was followed by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and so many other classic rock bands. Compared to a lot of their peers, The Who were not especially prolific in the studio, and their forays into orchestration and synthesizers and concept albums diluted their signature sound, always best experienced when the band played live. So among all of their studio albums, I think Who's Next is their most singluar achievement, featuring Pete Townshend's best song writing (also John Entwistle's most quintessentially dark "joke" song "My Wife"), and an amazingly well balanced blend of sounds that cover all bases: rocking out/ballads, heavy electric/ lovely acoustic, organic/sythesized futuristic. Plus, one of the funniest album covers in classic rock!
"Crossings" by Herbie Hancock (1972)
Herbie Hancock "Crossings"  1972 (USA)
Herbie Hancock was one of the most popular and important figures in 20th century jazz music, and has done alright in the 21st century too (7 Grammy Awards since the year 2000, including "album of the year" in 2007 for a record of all Joni Mitchell tunes). His career took off in the 1960's when he played piano for Miles Davis' "second great qunitet", and he continued to be at the forefront of jazz when he moved over to electric keyboards as Miles went in a fusion direction at the turn of the 1970's. Though Herbie had been making albums on his own as a bandleader throughout his time with Miles, he departed the master's group around 1971 to concentrate on his own group called the Mwandishi band, whom I would argue was the second greatest fusion band after Miles. Mwandisihi recorded three albums 1971-1973, of which this was the second. The final entry in the trilogy is my favorite Herbie album, but his popularity only continued to increase with his next album, Head Hunters, one of the best selling jazz albums of all time. By the 1980's he had taken the electronic thing all the way into electrofunk hiphop territory, when he won his first Grammy Award for "Rockit" in 1983.
"Led Zeppelin" by Led Zeppelin (1969)
Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin"  1969 (UK)
For this week's pledge drive special, we are featuring scratchy vintage vinyl albums from 1969 for the 50th anniversary of that epochal year in music. Of the many legendary albums released that year, this was among the most important, for it marked the debut of arguably the most important and popular classic rock band of all time. The Beatles and Rolling Stones were the two most popular groups of the groovy 1960's, and Cream and The Who blazed the trail for ultraloud guitar-bass-drum power trio instrumental lineups, but Zep took things to the next level as the burning blimp of time crashed into the 1970's. Four iconic virtuouso musicians who were among the best of all time at their respective instruments (I would definitely include Robert Plant's voice as an instrument). Cutting-edge yet organic and "funky" recording and production techniques from main brain Jimmy Page. Still massively popular 50 years later as every young generation of kids interested in rock music gravitate to their obvious greatness - is there any band that is "more classic rock" than the mighty Led Zep?
"Blonde On Blonde" by Bob Dylan (1966)
Bob Dylan "Blonde On Blonde"  1966 (USA)
Bob's most famous and acclaimed album is our CAOTW for his 78th(!) birthday special. (This week is also the 93rd anniversary of Miles Davis' birth.) Blonde on Blonde is only about my 5th or 6th favorite Dylan album at best, and I generally try not to CAOTW-ize the most obvious and famous albums such as this. But  this is the 7th time I've added one of Bob's albums to this hall of classics so I guess I gotta do it (I might have to do his notorious Self Portrait for the next one!) Anyway, if you know anything about Dylan you already know about this album. If not, this is Bob's second fully electric rock / post-folk album with notably surreal (psychedelic?) lyrics and well-written unforgettable catchy tunes that rival what The Beatles were up to at the time. Then Bob crashed his motorcycle, "got back to the land" to recover, and in 1967 started doing simpler (but perhaps even more brialliant and timeless) Americana rock with the backing "Band" he had first hired for Blonde.
"Tudo Foi Feito Pelo Sol" by Os Mutantes (1974)
Os Mutantes "Tudo Foi Feito Pelo Sol"  1974 (Brazil)
The most legendary psychedelic Brazilian band of the sixties had a brief "proggy synthesizer" period in the mid-1970's. At this point the only original member of the group remaining was lead guitarist Sergio Dias, who was also the last member participating in their 2000's era reunion. The mid-70's prog version of the band also released an EP in 1976 (Cavalieros Negros) which is appended to the CD reissue of the album. Though arguably not as groundbreaking as their 1960's albums which were the ultimate blend of Tropicalia and psychedelia, this classic album stands up when compared to a lot of the Anglo-American synth-driven prog rock of the era.
Meanwhile, over in Japan: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has a brand new song and video on the theme of isolation and social media (featuring her in drag as a sad bearded hipster and also as a "Sim"). We also featured a hot Perfume track on the show this week - they have been one of the most popular groups in Japan for more than a decade, and just brought their high-tech electro pop tour to North American ending with a stop at Coachella - here's "Edge" live in the USA in 2019. And I've also got a cool new Japanese band to introduce you to (featuring another classic "weird girl" named Margaret Hiroi) - expect to hear the punky psych/prog band 88Kasyo Junrei ("88-point Pilgrimage") on the show in the future!
     
Click here for classic albums from more than three months ago.
          

back to more show info * back to main listen* playlists * upcoming shows * contact the host