Posts

Last Albums: Atlanta Rhythm Section - Quinella (1981)

Image
It's probably cheating to say that Quinella is a last album, but since I've always loved Atlanta Rhythm Section I'm making an exception today.  ARS's fortunes declined steadily with each successive album charting lower than the previous one after  Champagne Jam  reached #7 in 1978.  Quinella - their tenth release -   peaked at   only #70 on Billboard's top 200 album chart, but the single, "Alien," did much better, climbing all the way to #29 on the Hot 100. This would be the last time the group would make either of those lists. Singer Ronnie Hammond joined ARS in time to record their second album, and original drummer, Robert Nix, was replaced by Roy Yeager for  The Boys From Doraville,  the album before  Quinella.  The latter was the only change made to their classic lineup during their hitmaking years. After Quinella,  the sextet became a revolving door with new members joining and old ones returning - then leaving again. By 1989, only two original mem

The Steve Howe Trio - New Frontier (2019)

Image
Steve Howe has now been in the spotlight for over fifty years. While the virtuoso will always be remembered as a prominent member of the world's most successful prog-rock band he has also recorded a lot of work outside of Yes - and his later band, Asia - that is worth hearing. Such is the case with  New Frontier  (2019),   the third album - and second studio effort - released under the name of The Steve Howe Trio. New Frontier  is a jazz-fusion set that shares the spotlight with rock just as much as it does jazz. It features Howe on electric and acoustic guitars; Ross Stanley, a quite talented Hammond B3 player; and the leader's son, Dylan Howe , on drums. The boss isn't selfish. Stanley gets lots of space to stretch out and drummer Howe gets to shine when the situation calls for it. The trio doesn't employ a bass player, but there is so much happening on each track that the bottom end isn't missed. This music isn't for everyone, but for fans of Howe or those l

Buried Treasure: Gladstone - A Piece of Paper (1972)

Image
Without expressing my views on the subject here is a re-posting of a song that is quite relevant today considering the surprise leak of the controversial - but not yet officially released - Supreme Court decision. Originally published here on June 27, 2013, it has generated a higher number of comments than one of my posts usually receives. Have you ever heard of Mike Rabon? No? I didn't think so. He was the lead guitar player for The Five Americans, a band that charted five singles a long time ago. They reached the top twenty only once - in 1967 - with "Western Union," a song co-written by Rabon that is still played on oldies radio stations today. Eventually, The Five Americans went their separate ways and in the early 70s Rabon hooked up with another band, Gladstone ("From down home in Tyler, Texas U S A," their debut album cover said). From that LP the unknown group lifted "A Piece of Paper" as a single. It only got as high as number 45 on the

Buried Treasure: Funky Kings - Funky Kings (1976)

Image
Funky Kings were a manufactured band, meaning the guys didn't get together themselves but at the behest of Clive Davis of Arista Records. The Kings were a short-lived sextet who recorded their one and only LP in 1976. Davis was looking for another Eagles, the famous, Southern California, country-rockers who were one of the most popular bands on the planet at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. The album failed to make the charts and it went out of print quickly. When Arista passed on a sophomore attempt the group disbanded. Don't let their horrible moniker - they weren't the least bit funky - and even worse commercial success fool you. The Kings made a very nice album of mid-70s pop-rock and that is because - while they may not have succeeded as a unit - they were a band loaded with individual members who all went on to various degrees of musical success after the group was long forgotten. The band had three very talented songwriters. The best known at the t

Almost Hits: Otis Redding - Try A Little Tenderness (1966)

Image
"Try A Little Tenderness" is one of the oldest songs ever discussed as part of the Almost Hits series and it's one with a very interesting story. First, let's get the statistics out of the way. Otis Redding recorded the track on November 4, 1966 and it was released before the year ended. It peaked at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 - early in the year of his fatal, December 1967, plane crash. More recently, it was ranked at #136 on Rolling Stone's 2021 list of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time . "Try A Little Tenderness" was written by the songwriting team of Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly - who together sometimes went by the name Irving King - and Harry Woods. It was first recorded in 1932 by British big band leader, Ray Noble with Val Rosing providing the vocal. The arrangement was typical of depression era pop, and the opening line "Oh, she may be weary, and young girls they do get weary wearing that same old shabby dress" easily expressed

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice - Jesus Christ Superstar (1970)

Image
This review first appeared here back in September 2011. Because that was a long time ago, and today is Easter Sunday, I'm resurrecting it with both of its original comments. It has been updated slightly. Andrew Lloyd Webber's detractors will throw his later Broadway musicals in your face every chance they get, but in 1970 Webber was a hot commodity in the rock music world. That was the year he and lyricist Tim Rice put together one of the greatest rock albums of all time, Jesus Christ Superstar . For those of you unfamiliar with Superstar the double LP was one of the very early rock operas and it taught many music lovers unschooled in the ancient genre what it was all about. Superstar was a true opera, not a musical. It possessed the characteristics of most classic operas: no spoken dialogue, clearly defined characters whose parts were sung by specific voices, reoccurring musical themes, a cohesive story, and a libretto. However, there were two major differences betwee

We Love You, Ringo! 5 Songs About The Beatles' Drummer

Image
In the early days of The Beatles' career they didn't get a lot of respect. Serious music lovers often considered them a youthful joke, and others looked upon their songs as nothing more than minor variations of "yeah, yeah, yeah." Others fixated on their unique hairstyle and clothes. Some people even thought they were evil and symbolic of the decline of Western civilization. But - at the same time - the Fab Four received a lot of love, and many individuals on both sides of the love/hate meter knew how large the boys loomed as cultural and media phenomena. There were a lot of attempts to cash in on the Liverpool band's fame while the iron was hot because it was widely believed they could be a flash in the pan. There were trading cards, magazines, models, pennants, buttons, and dolls. I once owned a metal Beatles lunchbox. Some people even made records about the band and it seems special attention was paid to the quartet's cuddly drummer, Ringo Starr. This "

Derek Vanderhorst - Wildflower (2022)

Image
Derek Vanderhorst has very interesting professional and personal  backstories. According to Vanderhorst's press release,  he is "obsessed with sound." He's known in Hollywood as a musician, sound designer, and re-recording mixer for TV and the movies.  His specialty is blending dialogue and music to create a film's soundtrack.  He's worked on hundreds of films since 1991 including  No Country For Old Men , Hidden Figures -  and quite recently -  The Eyes of Tammy Faye .  On the personal side, several years ago Vanderhorst was diagnosed with stage 4 head and neck cancer. He was told he might lose both his hearing and his voice, and there was also the distinct possibility he could become another fatal statistic. Fortunately, the singer-songwriter became one of the lucky survivors as he's now been cancer free for five years. His diagnosis and survival helped inspire Wildflower   - his new, debut album. During his recovery Vanderhorst realized that he must p