Tag Archives: Lost Classics

Lost Classic: Opal – Happy Nightmare Baby

Opal - Happy Nightmare BabyOpalHappy Nightmare Baby (SST)

In the annals of rock history, there are moments when record labels—particularly independent ones—had incredible runs of creative peaks and consistency in the output of their roster.

SST Records‘ run ended around 1988, right at the moment they began clogging up their release schedule with Zoogz Rift albums and other records of dubious relevance. But prior to the company’s stoned disregard of consumer appeal and accurate bookkeeping, the label had a far-reaching roster that touched on many different subgenres and musical styles.

Formed out of the ashes of the Dream Syndicate and the Rain Parade, guitarist David Roback and vocalist Kendra Smith brought the Paisley Underground to the SST catalogue, and they managed to provide the label with one of the best examples of SoCal dark psychedelic since the Doors walked on down the hall.

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Lost Classic: Ron Wood – I’ve Got My Own Album to Do

Ron Wood - I've Got My Own Album to DoRon WoodI’ve Got My Own Album to Do (Warner Bros.)

God damn the early 70s must have been fun. We’ve all seen Almost Famous and the life of a somewhat known (fictional) band looked great, so imagine what it was like to be in the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band! Well, in 1974 Woody had the best of all worlds when he started out as a member of The Faces with Rod Stewart and then jumped over to be a Rolling Stone when guitarist Mick Taylor left. In between he recorded a star studded solo affair that stands up as a case study what you can do when your best friends are rock stars.

Just look at the personnel listing according to Wikipedia:

* Ron Wood: vocals, guitar, percussion

* Keith Richards: guitar, vocals, percussion

* Mick Jagger: vocals, guitar

* Willie Weeks: bass

* Andy Newmark: drums

* Ian McLagan: organ, piano, synthesizer

* Sterling: steel drums

* Ross Henderson: steel drums

* Mick Taylor: bass, guitar, organ, synthesizer

* George Harrison: guitar, backing vocals; unconfirmed

* Jean Roussell: organ, piano

* Pete Sears: bass, celeste

* Micky Waller: drums

* Martin Quittenton: guitar

* Rod Stewart: backing vocals

* Ruby Turner: backing vocals

* Ireen & Doreen Chanter: backing vocals

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Lost Classic: Bobbie Gentry – Ode to Billie Joe

Bobbie Gentry - Ode to Billie JoeBobbie GentryOde to Billie Joe (Capitol Nashville)

From the first strums on what sounds like a dime store student guitar and the odd orchestral backing, Bobbie Gentry‘s Ode to Billie Joe is clearly in a different sort of universe. Best known for the title track, which tells the story of young lovers and suicide from the Tallahatchie Bridge, Ode to Billy Joe is as complex as the subject matter suggests.

Video: Bobbie Gentry – “Ode To Billy Joe”

Country Soul is full of sultry songstresses with smoky voices. Dusty Springfield is probably best known, and her “Son of a Preacher Man” is probably the finest example of a genre all but forgotten today. Where the Mandrel Sisters, Dolly Parton and others opted for the lure of pop audiences that eventually brought us to the sorry reality of Rascal Flatts, Springfield and Gentry (along with Jeannie C. Riley of “Harper Valley PTA” fame) skipped the white bread for the grits. The late 60s and very early 70s produced a fantastic crop of Country Soul that sounds as unusual and compelling as ever. That it did not become the dominate cross-over sub-genre is too bad for all of us.

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Lost Classics: Badfinger – Straight Up

Badfinger - Straight UpBadfingerStraight Up (Apple/Capitol)

For all the talk about the Beatles remasters, there’s a hefty amount of Apple material that could also use a quick tidying up from their original cd releases of two decades ago. Topping the list wouldn’t be a release by a former Beatle, but instead the band that seemed to be handpicked ambassadors to the Fab Four’s power pop division.

Badfinger was indeed a band that could sound remarkably similar to the Beatles, but it was 1972’s Straight Up that demonstrated how the band could actually compose material that lived up to the Beatles in terms of quality.

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Lost Classics: D.R.I. – Dealing With It

D.R.I. - Dealing With ItD.R.I.Dealing With It (Rotten)

In many ways, D.R.I.‘s second long-player Dealing With It is the greatest concept album about teen angst ever recorded. There are some obvious holes to this theory: the band name (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles), cover art, and simpleton themes running throughout the album don’t exactly point to an archetypical concept record. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty certain that none of the members of D.R.I. have ever gone on record to state that Dealing With It is a concept album at all, let alone try to explain a story line.

Allow me. Dealing With It is the story of four teenage boys coming of age in the ’80s, dealing with issues of social alienation and feelings of worthlessness. They notice the crass consumerism of those more fortunate than them and begin to notice the hypocrisy of Ronald Reagan‘s voodoo economics. While they’re not able to completely understand or eloquently address the ills of society, they’re able to determine what’s right and wrong, and they struggle with why those who are presumably more intelligent can’t see the same things.

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Lost Classics: James Gang – Rides Again

James Gang - Rides AgainJames GangRides Again (MCA)

When you think about it, the James Gang was pretty much doomed from the beginning. They came of age when a pair of other power trios—the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream—had already run their course and who’d featured a pair of undeniable guitar legends. So what was the James Gang thinking releasing Yer Album, a debut record of unfocused jams, not-quite-ready originals, and a bunch of covers heavy on noodling and light on inspiration?

Keep in mind, this was an era when anything was possible. For crying out loud, a band as creatively limited as Iron Butterfly came across a nifty riff, repeated the damn thing for over a quarter of an hour, and suddenly became the biggest selling thing on Atlantic Records. So I’m sure that a few label execs at ABC records green-lighted Yer Album because they didn’t have a clue as to what may stick and what would fall.

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Lost Classics: XTC – Black Sea

XTC - Black SeaXTCBlack Sea (Virgin)

Let’s say you’re like me—an XTC fan—and you meet someone who’s never heard of the band. Where to begin? With so many stellar albums to choose from, it’s tough to recommend the one where novices should start with.

It’s at this point where I’m resigned to recommend starting with the very same record that turned me into an XTC fan, Black Sea, an album so near-perfect that you’re most assuredly going to delve deeper into the band’s catalog after listening to it.

Black Sea marks the end of their “drums and wires” period, the culmination of the quirky guitar pop of their first three albums. With each album, they got better and Black Sea shows the perfection that all of their rehearsing and touring provided.

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Lost Classics: The Magnolias – For Rent

The Magnolias - For RentThe MagnoliasFor Rent (Twin/Tone)

In my lifetime, I called the offices of Twin/Tone records three times. Once to confirm if the stories I’d heard that the Replacements made off with the master tapes of their Twin/Tone records and thrown them into the Mississippi River (they had—kind of—it was only the copies of the master recordings and not the real thing that they nicked). The other two times was to see if the second Magnolias album, For Rent, would ever be released on compact disc. On both of those discussions—about three years between each one—I was informed “yes” but never provided with a definitive date.

Here it is, over twenty-years later, and still no hint of this Minneapolis landmark and virtually no recorded evidence that the band was on the verge of taking the Replacements’ crown of teenage ambivalence right off the top of their still-working head.

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Lost Classics: Kate Bush – The Dreaming

Kate Bush - The Dreaming Kate BushThe Dreaming (EMI)

For those too young to remember, Saturday Night Live was hugely influential in breaking new artists before MTV. I remember learning about Devo, the B-52’s, Fear, and many others from the show. And on one episode that featured Monty Python member Eric Idle as the guest host, a young Kate Bush was the musical guest. She writhed on top of a piano if I recall, sang “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” and I immediately fell in love with her.

There was something precious about her first two albums and a hint of some remarkable talent on album number three, Never Forever. But it wasn’t until the fourth album, The Dreaming, that Kate Bush’s capacities began to be fully realized.

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Lost Classics: Delaney and Bonnie and Friends – On Tour With Eric Clapton

Delaney and Bonnie and Friends - On Tour With Eric ClaptonDelaney & Bonnie & FriendsOn Tour With Eric Clapton (Atco)

One of the saddest things about the recent passing of Delaney Bramlett last month was how overlooked it was. It’s not just that Delaney’s stock plummeted shortly after his early ’70s heyday with wife Bonnie Bramlett, it’s also because one of the duo’s most notable releases—one that features the greatest line-up of blue-eyed soul musicians ever assembled mixing it up with one of the best guitarists ever—has been quietly forgotten by all but the most devoted of fans.

The uninitiated only need to hear Delaney & Bonnie‘s On Tour with Eric Clapton to discover how unfortunate this slight is. The eight-song release captured the band at what may be the highpoint of its career, complete with a once-in-a-lifetime sit-in by none other than “God” himself laying out some wonderfully exciting fretwork.

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