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.


Shocking Blue "At Home"  1969 (Netherlands)
Here's another classic album that has been on my list for a long time -the breakout album by Holland's top rock band of the groovy era, Shocking Blue. At Home was actually their second album, but it was the first with lead singer Mariska Veres who put them on the map with her powerful voice (often compared to Grace Slick) and stunning looks (achieved in part through the use of fabulous wigs!) The other crucial member was Robbie Van Leeuwen, the eclectic songwriter in the group, who dabbled in lots of styles but seemed particularly fond of CCR-style chooglin' Americana rock. He wrote the group's international hit "Venus" - a Creedence boogie with country guitar licks, a cheesy keyboard riff, an intro borrowed from "Pinball Wizard", all topped off with sultry Mariska ensuring you that "she's got it, yeah baby she's got it!" It went to #1 in at least a dozen countries including the USA, where Shocking Blue is considered a "one hit wonder." But there's lots more to discover, like the sitar-driven rocker "Love Buzz" (also on At Home) which worked surprisingly well when Nirvana covered it (literally sounds like a song Kurt could have written). I also especially love their 1968 non-album single "Send Me A Postcard", a tremendous hard rock "nugget" of the era which was the group's first Top 10 hit in their native country. You can also find psychedelia, soul, country, blues, gospel, and more in the pop music stew this group created. Their appetite for diverse Anglo-American styles remind me of another internationally popular chameleon band of the same era: Canada's The Guess Who, another group with a lot of great songs but no signature style to call their own. One more fun fact: all of Shocking Blue's lyrics are in English, yet Mariska could not speak a word of that language so she learned all the lyrics phonetically!
The Rascals "Peaceful World"  1971 (USA)
The Rascals were one of the biggest hit-making groups in America during the mid-sixties, when they were known as "The Young Rascals" - I'm sure you know their #1 smash "Good Lovin'" (good gawd, their drummer was a MONSTER!) By the end of the decade, they dropped "Young" from the group name, got very psychedelic and spiritual, and as they entered the 1970's went one further and ditched "rock and roll" completely to become a guru-inspired soul-jazz fusion project. Only two members of the group remained by this point: singer, songwriter & keyboardist Felix Cavaliere along with that beast drummer Dino Danelli. So the "group" was augmented by a monster lineup of jazz talent including Ron Carter, Alice Coltrane, Hubert Laws, Joe Farrell, and many more. I personally think their final "jazz period" was The Rascals' most interesting, and the double album Peaceful World is their masterpiece (the other two albums they made in this style during 1971-72 were Search And Nearness and their final album The Island Of Real). Though the preceeding "psychedelic pop" albums Once Upon A Dream, Freedom Suite, and See (1968-69) have their share of underappreciated groovy tunes as well (and of course their earliest albums are the ones with all the Top 10 singles). Of all the popular groups of the golden sixties era, I can't think of any others that went in such a singular direction after the sixties ended. The closest thing could be Steely Dan (who debuted the same year Rascals broke up), though they were "more rock than soul" and waaaayy more misanthropic than the "peaceful" Rascals.
Blues Magoos "Psychedelic Lollipop"  1966 (USA)
The psychedelic rock era exploded in 1966, led by landmark albums from The Beatles, The Byrds, and The Mothers of Invention. There were also three records released that year with the buzzword "psychedelic" in the album title: the ones by 13th Floor Elevators and The Deep have already been CAOTWs, so this week we add the best-selling of that trio, the debut by NYC band Blues Magoos. In spite of another buzzword "Blues" in the band's name, they were not particularly bluesy and were really more of a garage band that successfully climbed on the acid rock bandwagon. Magoos are remembered as a one-hit wonder, and their one hit "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet" can be found on this album. Their second and third albums (Electric Comic Book and Basic Blues Magoos) are also full of sixties "nuggets" - on the whole their career was comparable to a group like The Strawberry Alarm Clock: never first-tier, but they made more groovy music than you might have expected.
Meanwhile, the summer of 2023 is turning out to be a renaissance for J-pop Metal: BABYMETAL's new single is their first with new member Momometal (finally replacing Yuimetal who left in 2018), who sings the weird bridge in this song - a collab with Tom Morello which is better than anything on the album they released last spring! Even more exciting, the iconic supergroup Maximum The Hormone released their first new song in about 5 years!
Styx "The Grand Illusion"  1977 (USA)
Happy Hippy Xmas! All the music on the show this week is sourced from crusty old vinyl elpees, mostly the kinds of little-known things you find in the "dollar bin" at used record stores. Sometimes you find hidden gems there, other times uncool records from artists that were once cool but no longer! Styx is a great example of the latter: in the late 70's and early 80's, they were one of the most popular groups in America (especially here in the upper midwest) - though they had very little success overseas and music critics despised them. Their career imploded with the cringe-tastic concept album Kilroy Was Here (1983) and in retrospect they are seen by most through the cursed lens of "Mr. Roboto". But on the plus side: Styx was a talented band with a keyboard virtuoso and two hotshot lead guitarists, tight harmonies from three lead vocalists, plus two of the members consistently wrote hit songs. Their sound was highly derivative of British classic and progressive rock. In particular I think they often sound like Queen (and concidentally, bassist Chuck Panozzo is kind of like an American Freddie Mercury - except that he survived AIDS and is still alive!) It's also easy to put them in the same bin as other popular "corporate rock" artists of their era such as Boston, Journey, and Foreigner. But honestly, I think they are better than most of those bands and their string of hits are memorable and distinct classic rock gems! Three of the best are on this album and heard on the show this week: The titular track is a masterpiece of proggy pomp-rock (shades of ELP) and has genuinely great lyrics (profound truth sung in regular language anyone can understand.) Dennis DeYoung also wrote the immortal "Come Sail Away", which was designed to be an epic to rival "Stairway To Heaven" and its lyrics incorporate two awesome ideas: UFOs AND YACHT ROCK! The third hit from this album was Tommy Shaw's "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" which nicely blends prog synths and acoustic guitars with another solid lyric. The rest of the album is also pretty good (in particular another proggy number entitled "Castle Walls", and "Miss America" by James Young, the third singer-songwriter in the band who produced no hits). Styx already had a few hits before The Grand Illusion ("Lady", "Lorelei", and "Mademoiselle" were their first three Top 40 singles - can you sense a theme there? They also had a flop single called "Jennifer"!) But this one was the Big Hit Record that made the group into superstars (in America) for about five years. If you want more, Pieces Of Eight (1978) is the most similar to TGI, but I think Paradise Theatre (1981) may be their true masterpiece, though being "a concept album in a very early-80's Top 40 pop-rock style" it is obviously pretty dated (and not the usual territory for Kosmik Radiation!) Earlier albums Equinox (1975) and Crystal Ball (1976) are also solid "American prog" efforts, though the four(!) albums they made in 1972-74 are mostly not that interesting. Cornerstone (1979) is the really sucky album that includes their only #1 hit, the Barry Manilowesque "Babe" which completed their cycle of "hit songs about chicks" (actually "Lady" and "Lorelei" are both pretty awesome!) And about that aforementioned Kilroy Was Here: it was an overambitious wreck, but the albm itself isn't really that terrible - the cringey bits are mostly a good chuckle, and it's only half as long as Pink Floyd's over-rated The Wall from the same era! 
New Riders of the Purple Sage "New Riders of the Purple Sage"  1971 (USA)
Yesterday was Jerry Garcia's birthday, but pretty much all the essential Dead albums are already in the CAOTW hall of fame (I'm not including those two overly-popular "soft rock" studio albums they did in 1970). So this week's classic is arguably the most notable release from the Dead's "extended universe". The roots of NRPS go back to John Dawson, David Nelson, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter jamming together in Palo Alto during the mid-sixties folk boom. A couple years later, Jerry moved to San Francisco and his group took off (with Hunter providing lyrics as a non-performing member). Jerry & Bob got reacquainted with John & Dave around 1969, and soon they were performing country songs as the opening act at Dead concerts under the name "New Riders Of The Purple Sage" (i.e., John & David with members of the Dead). Eventually, a stable band was assembled with Dave Torbert replacing Phil Lesh on bass, and Spencer Dryden (ex-Jefferson Airplane) replacing Mickey Hart on drums. Jerry remained in the band for their first album, but only plays pedal steel and banjo instead of his usual guitar antics (this album marks the high water mark of Jerry's flirtation with country instruments: he also played pedal steel on tracks by The Airplane and CSN around this time.) Unlike any of the other NRPS albums, their 1971 debut features 100% original songs written by John Dawson: the songwriting would become more democratic and they'd play lots of cover songs on subsequent releases. While groups like The Eagles (and Poco and Firefall and a lot more groups you don't remember) had massive success later in the 1970's wiith the "country-rock" style, NRPS remained a cult favorite and none of their singles even made the Top 100. But that hasn't stopped them from touring on to the present day! David Nelson (lead guitar) is the only remaining original member since 2005 (they haven't had more than one original member since 1982, though it was John Dawson from 1982-1997).
Wire "Pink Flag"  1977 (UK)
This week we have TWO classic albums: for the basic reason that both feature very short songs, which is why they sat on my list of potential CAOTW's for years! Doing both at once means I'll have enough short songs to make up an entire set of music! Also, these two albums are related. The first is the debut by Wire, a long-running UK "punk" band that was sortof post-punk while punk was just beginning - and is still around making new music today with 3/4 of the original members. I think the crucial thing about this album is the way they dispensed with normal song structures - Sex Pistols, The Clash, Stooges, etc. generally maintained the usual verse and chorus structures of pop, repeating things and including guitar solos. Most of the songs on Pink Flag are under 90 seconds, including several that are shorter than 60 seconds. This radical approach to songwriting arguably made them the most (musically) revolutionary of the UK punk bands. The following year, a band from California called Black Flag recorded their debut: a 7-inch "EP" with four incredibly short fast songs totalling just 5 minutes of music (also, it seems obvious the name "Black Flag" was partly inspired by Pink Flag). The American "hardcore" punk movement was on!
Bad Brains "Bad Brains"  1982 (USA)
Our second classic album this week is perhaps the cornerstone album of American hardcore punk. When it came out, Bad Brains were as fast and loud as any superfastloud hardcore band, but also they were better musicians than any other punk band, BUT ALSO they were Black Rastafarians who mixed reggae songs with their punk! That was the crucial thing: the unlikely idea that "anything goes" with hardcore. Very soon, all sorts of weird "hardcore" bands were popping up: the Americana desert punk of Meat Puppets, the dissonant avant garde art punk of Sonic Youth, and the "ear-bleeding country" and classic rock guitar hero vibes of Dinosaur jr. The debut album Bad Brains also gets superduper authenticity points for sounding like it was recorded on cassette in a basement! Ric Ocasek from The Cars would produce their next album, though it did not help them become more popular! (And did you know Ocasek also produced a classic album by Suicide?)
Finally, may I present the "hardcore" pop group HANABIE from Japan with our "OFFICIAL KOSMIK RADIATION SUMMER JAM OF 2023"!
X "Los Angeles"  1980 (USA)
This is one of the greatest American punk rock albums of all time, and pretty unique within that genre. The "punk sound" was well established by 1980, in fact it was already becoming stale which led to the glorious "indie punk" underground of the 1980's when "punk got weird" and much more interesting. X was one of the critical bands that got that movement started. They have the beat and energy of a classic late 70's California punk band, but created a unique take on that sound by adding unusually poetic lyrics, eery harmony vocals (by co-lead singers Exene Cervenka and bassist John Doe), and classic 50's style rockabilly guitar riffs (by Billy Zoom; the fourth member of the classic line-up is drummer D.J. Bonebrake.) And as if that weren't enough to make them stand out, their debut (this week's CAOTW) was produced by Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist of The Doors, who were the kings of the 60's L.A. rock scene (and attitudinally sort of proto-punk). Not only does Ray produce, he also added his trademark swirling electric organ to several songs, which works much better than you'd ever expect The Doors' keyboard player jamming with a punk band to sound! (How many classic punk albums with keyboards can you think of?) X blazed their own trail in the 1980's and never really seemed like part of any particular scene. They broke up for the 1990's but returned to touring in the 2000's and released a new album in 2020 that sounded like they never went away.
Click here for classic albums from more than three months ago.

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