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.

   

The Fraternity Of Man "The Fraternity Of Man"  1968 (USA)
We're digging deep for the most obscure psychedelia of the 1960's this week, to entice you with the awesomeness of community radio for WORT-FM's Fall Pledge Drive! The Fraternity Of Man was known for one song in the sixties ("Don't Bogart Me" from the soundtrack to the movie Easy Rider), but they were an interesting California psychedelic blues band whose lineup included guitarist Elliot Ingber (former Mothers Of Invention, future Captain Beefheart band) and drummer Richie Hayward (later to found Little Feat with two more ex-Mothers: Lowell George and Roy Estrada). More review soon.
Wendy & Bonnie "Genesis"  1969 (USA)
We're digging deep for the most obscure psychedelia of the 1960's this week, to entice you with the awesomeness of community radio for WORT-FM's Fall Pledge Drive! Wendy and Bonnie Flower (those are their real names) made one groovy teenage folk rock album at the end of the sixties. More review soon.
The Gil Evans Orchestra "Out Of The Cool"  1961 (Canada/USA)
Creed Taylor passed away this year at the age of 93. Among his many achievements, he founded the Impulse! record label which released some of the best jazz of the 1960's. He was hired by ABC records to run a new label which was to be devoted to "cutting edge modern jazz", and his masterstroke was signing John Coltrane who became the flagship artist not just for the Impulse! label, but for jazz itself in the 60's. But amazingly, Taylor quit that job after barely a year! The three most important albums Creed Taylor personally produced while he was at the label were Coltrane's ambitious Africa album, Oliver Nelson's also ambitious The Blues And The Abstract Truth (both of these albums also featuring young phenom Eric Dolphy), and this week's Classic Album for Gil Evans. Evans was a hot commodity at the time due to his work arranging music for Miles Davis on his classic albums like Sketches Of Spain which came out the previous year. One of the all-time great jazz arrangers, Evans had little formal training (a couple years of community college; I'm not even sure he studied music). Out Of The Cool was an interesting step forward for Evans, being looser and "funkier" than his earlier work, and incorporating more improvisation. His "ochestra" on this album crucially included a stellar rhythm section: Elvin Jones on the drums and the GOAT bassist Ron Carter. 
Freddie Hubbard "Red Clay"  1970 (USA)
Creed Taylor passed away this year at the age of 93. Among his many achievements, he founded the CTI (Creed Taylor Incoporated) record label which released some of the best jazz of the 1970's. CTI records come in slick gatefold packages and are always pressed on top-quality viny, so I have been collecting everything on that label for years. But even better, I've never come across a CTI release that wasn't solid music, and many of them are terrific. The most important element is the incredible lineup of talent who played on their albums: the usual suspects who turn up on large numbers of CTI albums include George Benson, Hubert Laws, Ron Carter (greatest bassist ever), Joe Henderson, Stanley Turrentine, Bob James, and Freddie Hubbard. The other thing that makes CTI great is that these aren't "old fashioned" jazz albums, they were very contemporary for their time, blending modern jazz ideas from the 60's with the pop eclecticism of the 70's. Some albums are more funky, or more pop, or even classical/jazz fusions. CTI was progressive not in the sense of "prog rock" but in the sense of seeking new and innovative sounds to incorporate into jazz. Freddie Hubbard was probably the biggest star on the label, and Red Clay was one of CTI's biggest sellers and most acclaimed releases. I joked that Hubbard was Miles Davis' arch-enemy because those two stood head and shoulders above all other trumpet players of their era in terms of popularity, and their styles are actually pretty similar (comparisons not helped by the fact they used a lot of the same musicians on their albums, including the afforementioned great Ron Carter, as well as Herbie Hancock and sometimes Tony Williams).
Herbie Mann "Memphis Underground"  1969 (USA)
Released in 1969, this was one of the earliest jazz fusion albums (along with Miles' In A Silent Way), and a big seller thus important in paving the way for future fusionistas. It's also pretty unique, in that most fusion was based on slick funk or prog rock but Memphis Underground is, as the title implies, gritty Memphis-style soul music along the lines of Booker T & the MGs, Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, and Isaac Hayes (when he was a producer and songwriter at Stax, before he went for baroque as a solo artist). The rhythm section on this album are not jazz musicians, they are soul musicians from Memphis, where the album was recorded. The out-of-town soloists who play jazz over the top are leader Herbie Mann on flute, Roy Ayers on vibraphones, and two then-unknown hotshot electric guitarists: Larry Coryell (who deserves his own CAOTW) and Sonny Sharrock. Coryell plays groovy Hendrixian stuff which is pretty great, but Sharrock hauls pure free jazz skronk sounds from his axe - no wonder he was later a big inspiration for Sonic Youth!
Billy Cobham "Spectrum"  1973 (Panama/USA)
Panama-born Billy Cobham is perhaps the greatest drummer of "jazz fusion". Cobham debuted on wax with Horace Silver at the end of the 1960's, and was quickly snapped up by Miles Davis who utilized his precision and heaviness to great effect on his classic albums Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson (probably my two favorite jazz fusions ever by anyone!) After he left Miles he founded the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin: a group that was legendary for the incredible chops of all the musicians in the group, and the heaviest of all the classic fusion groups. After doing that for a couple years, Billy launched his career as a bandleader with this week's classic album, Spectrum. Aside from being the first of many classic Cobham albums in the 70's, this album is also of interest to classic rock afficianados due to most of the album featuring the interesting lineup of Cobham on drums, Jan Hammer (also ex-Mahavishnu) on keys, Tommy Bolin (ex-Zephyr, James Gang, and later Deep Purple) on guitar and Lee Sklar on bass (a studio legend whose credits include countless hits by James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, Warren Zevon, CSN, Hall & Oates, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and also most of the popular TV show themes of the 1970's). Man, that Sklar has a lot of credits! But that's not the point, it's the unlikely presence of upcoming hard rock guitarist Tommy Bolin in a jazz setting. Bolin also brought his Echoplex along, a device that makes freaky outer space sounds and makes this album even more progariffic. Bolin died when he was only 25 years old, so his discography isn't that big, and this was one of only two appearances he made on a jazz album (the other is Mind Transplant by Alphonse Mouzon (1975), which I haven't heard yet.)
Steve Hillage "Fish Rising"  1975 (UK)
Steve Hillage played in a couple lesser known early prog bands at the beginning of the 1970's (such as Arzachel (1969) by the band formerly known as Uriel and Space Shanty (1972) by the short-lived band Khan, groups which also included Dave Stewart of Egg and Hatfield & The North). After he joined the weird Anglo-Australian-French-elf-hippie band Gong his star began to rise. He left Gong around the time he recorded his debut solo album in 1975, which is our classic album of the week. Many more classic albums followed, over time drifting away from rock and towards ambient soundscape music. Thus his futuristic spacy style made him a natural collaborator for The Orb later on in the 1990's.
Kate Bush "Never For Ever"  1980 (UK)
In 2022, the incredibly improbable happened when quirky artiste Kate Bush scored her first #1 hit single in America: one of her classic tunes from the 80's was featured in a popular TV show. She had already had a number of big hits in Europe (in fact her debut single went to #1 in her home country more than 40 years ago), but her style has always seemed too eclectic and cerebral for an American pop audience. You really can't compare her style to anybody who came before her though she has influenced countless artists in her wake. She had a few connections to the prog rock scene (collaborating with Peter Gabriel and David Gilmour), and her dramatic flair has often been compared to David Bowie, though I think one of the few artists on her plane of existence might be the equally unclassifiable Scott Walker (who still hasn't had a #1 hit in America and probably never will.) All of her albums are notable, but if I were to recommend an entry point to the casual listener I would choose her third album (this week's CAOTW). In addition to her original style of music, Kate was an amazing performer who trained in dance, theater and mime as well as music. Check out some more klassik Kate videos: "Babooshka" and "Army Dreamers" are unforgettable songs from this week's classic album. Her first hit "Wuthering Heights" (1978) and a later tune "The Sensual World" (1989) are also heard on the show this week.
Creedence Clearwater Revival "Green River"  1969 (USA)
This week's classic album features yet another legendary singer / songwriter / guitar player from California: John Fogerty. Because his music has always been associated with Americana and "swamp rock", and his band sounded like they could have come from the South, few people realize that Fogerty and CCR actually originated in Berkeley, California where they were part of the same Bay Area scene as The DeadJeffersons, Country Joe, Quicksilver and Big Brother! Creedence was massively popular for a few years, cranking out new studio albums every few months, with every album containing a handful of Top 10 hit singles that are still among the most "classic of classic rock" to this very day. The songs you've heard a million times on this album are "Bad Moon Rising" (ultimate Americana rock) and "Lodi" (ultimate weary musician on the road ballad). The title track "Green River" (featuring their trademark swamp rock sound) and "Commotion" (souped-up rockabilly social commentary) were also hit singles. Their next classic album Willy & The Poor Boys came out three months later! The CCR train choogled on to ever higher heights from late 1968 through 1970, then the wheels fell off for their final 1972 album Mardi Gras: John provided a final hit for the band ("Sweet Hitch-hiker") but otherwise phoned it in, and he even made Stu Cook and Doug Clifford (never singers on their previous albums!) do MOST of the lead vocals! Fogerty then made The Blue Ridge Rangers solo album in 1973, which oddly features zero original songs and is basically a country covers album. He did make a brief comeback in the 1980's (remember that baseball song?) and I think he has played the "state fairs and casinos oldies circuit" over the years. It's pretty amazing how non-relevant this legendary musician has been for most of his life, considering what a rock icon he was 50 years ago!
Hot Tuna "America's Choice"  1975 (USA)
Hot Tuna is Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, formerly the bassist and lead guitarist of Jefferson Airplane. They started Hot Tuna as a side project for their "blues" jamming around 1969, and after they quit the Airplane in 1973 it became their main gig and has been ever since (they're still touring in 2022!) When they were with the Jeffersons, Jorma had been essentially the 4th songwriter in a group with too damn many songwriters, so Tuna really allowed him to step out as a singer and composer. His riffs are very groovy, but his laconic singing is kind of unusual - maybe it prefigures the slacker rock of the 1990's! (I feel like there are a lot of interesting parallels between Hot Tuna and 80's indie punk band Meat Puppets, another Americana rock power trio led by a tall guitar hero songwriter with his childhood buddy on bass.) America's Choice is something of a companion piece to Yellow Fever, another top shelf Tuna album released the same year.
Bob Weir "Ace"  1972 (USA)
This week's groovy classic was the first solo album from the Grateful Dead's second-most famous singing/songwriting guitar player, who is out on tour this summer with "Dead & Company", the current version of the successor band (with Billy & Mickey on drums and John Mayer on lead guitar). Although this was technically one of three Dead solo albums released in 1972 (along with the classics Garcia and Rolling Thunder), Ace is really the Grateful Dead's unofficial studio album of 1972. Everybody in the mid-70's lineup of the group plays on every track of this album, including brand new members Keith and Donna Jean, though not including departing members Pigpen (who died that year) and Mickey Hart (who quit the band after releasing his own solo album). Though if you think of it that way, this is also the only "Grateful Dead album" where Jerry Garcia doesn't write or sing any of the songs. Almost every tune on this album became a standard in the Dead's concert repetoire (especially "Playing In The Band" which was one of their most-performed songs ever). It also marked a transitional moment for the group's songwriting, with this album including the last songs Weir wrote with Robert Hunter (who would continue writing lyrics exclusively for Jerry's songs) as well as the first songs Weir wrote with his new songwriting partner John Barlow.
     
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