Friday, October 20, 2017

Gordon Lightfoot: Shadows (1982)

I'd call Shadows a return to form. There were no radio hits, but this was s solid outing. I know nothing about Lightfoot's output after this record. I am aware of a false death reports on Facebook, and I caught part of an interview he did with Peter Mansbridge, but that's it. In truth, I rarely listen to Lightfoot these days. His music is really something that reminds me of my father.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gordon Lightfoot: Endless Wire (1978)

The Who stole the title of this record! Well, it's likely that they were totally unaware of it. Anyway, the Allmusic critic hates this record:
"Endless Wire should have been called "Endless Touring Makes You Tired" for that is what these songs sound like. Lightfoot began going through the motions here, and although there are some good tunes here such as "Daylight Katy" and "Hangdog Hotel Room," others appear to be weary without being arranges as such. He even re-records "The Circle Is Small" without any better results than the original. The downward slide had begun." [source]
I like this record very much. It's far better than the critic from Allmusic believes. Perhaps they should listen to it again.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Gordon LIghtfoot: Summertime Dream (1976)

Summertime Dream, Lightfoot's twelfth record, was clearly his peak, and that largely had to do with the mega hit The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It's interesting to note that this tune hit number 1 in Canada and number 2 in the USA, despite it being 6:32 long, though the single version was edited down to 5:57. It defied the logic that singles must be three minutes. Lightfoot as never again so popular, though I think he held on to his loyal fans.

This is a good record filled with good tunes.

I can't mention The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald without also mentioning the Rheostatics, who recorded an impressive cover version of this song.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Gordon Lightfoot: Gord's Gold (1975)

I'll just quote Wikipedia:
Gord's Gold is a compilation album released by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot in 1975. Originally a vinyl double album, it was reissued on CD in 1987 (with one track, "Affair on Eighth Avenue", omitted to allow the collection to fit onto a single disc).

It was the first Lightfoot compilation to feature music from his 1970s Reprise Records albums, and also includes re-recordings of his 1960s United Artists hits (tracks 1-10). This served to update the earlier recordings to the same style as his later work and gives the album a level of consistency often lacking in similar compilations. Lightfoot's reasons for re-recording the United Artists tracks were explained in the liner notes as being because "he doesn't like listening to his early work".

Despite covering only the first decade of his career (and lacking one of his biggest hit singles, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", which was recorded the following year), Gord's Gold has remained the most commercially popular Lightfoot compilation. In 1988 Lightfoot released a second volume, Gord's Gold, Vol. 2, which also featured re-recordings of earlier hits. [source]
That says it all.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry: Shine A Light, Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad (2016)

This is a hit and miss collection. In other words, some tunes are great and some are not. I love the idea of the project:
In March 2016 Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, guitars in hand, boarded a Los Angeles-bound train at Chicago’s Union Station looking to reconnect with the culture of American railroad travel and the music it inspired. Winding along 2,728 miles of track over four days, the pair recorded classic railroad songs in waiting rooms and at trackside while the train paused to pick up passengers. [source]
But, the results, as mentioned, are mixed.

Gordon Lightfoot: Cold on the Shoulder (1975)

Rainy Day People is the big hit from this, Gordon's 11th record. It's a song that makes me think of my dad. I remember him playing this record from time to time. I have no idea what happened to his old records.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Gordon Lightfoot: Old Dan's Records (1972)

This is the LP on which Gordon added some country sound. I am not a fan of country music, with some exceptions. I think this is still really a solid record, and I like it. Lightfoot has an engaging voice, so I can usually listen to anything that he recorded. There are no huge hits on this record, but it did win a Juno in 1974, for some bizarre reason.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Gordon Lightfoot: Did She Mention My Name? (1968)

For me, the centerpiece of this record is the political song Black Day in July, a song about the Detroit riots in 1967. This song was banned in the USA. Go figure. Some of you might know that the Tragically Hip covered this tune on the album Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot. Lightfoot songs remind me of my father. He had a few Lightfoot records in his collection.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Gordon Lightfoot: Lightfoot! (1966)

Gordon Lightfoot is one of the few artists whose records can sometimes be found at thrift stores. His records are worth picking up, unlike those of Anne Murray and James Last. I have to note that some thrift stores have increased prices to stupid amounts for giant piles of crap. I've seen moldy, scratched-up records that should have been melted down. I've also seen 7" 45 RPM records with price stickers applied directly onto the groves. There are other thrifts shops who have hired a record expert to examine everything (you know, remove the good stuff) before it hits the floor, thereby denying the thrill of finding something cool at a thrift shop. I also suspect that some employees might be holding things for themselves, but who knows if that is true? I rarely even bother to go in anymore.

But, back to Lightfoot, a true Canadian icon. He is probably best described as folk, but there are hints of country music, which interests me far less. Lightfoot is probably in the top five of best Canadian songwriters, after Leonard Cohen, Bruce Cockburn, and Neil Young, of course. Some might add Joni Mitchell. A long list of artists have covered his songs. One of the first covers I recall hearing was Olivia Newton John's rendition of If Your Could Read My Mind, a song I hated with a passion, until I heard Lightfoot's original. My brother had Olivia's record - If Not For You - on 8-track, and he played it over and over. I know she is dealing with cancer, and I hope she overcomes it. I was never a fan.

But, back to Lightfoot. His debut, recorded in 1964, was released in 1966. This record was released in mono and stereo versions. I have the stereo version. It contains two of his biggest hits, Early Mornin' Rain and Ribbon of Darkness. It's not a bad record for certain Sunday mornings.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Liars: Mess (2014)

I've head that Thom Yorke, of Radiohead, is a fan of this LP and maybe of the band. It's a distant memory. First things first: I got this on sale, for about $9. It's a double LP that also has a CD inside. This is not a valuable record, but that was still a good price. Is it electric dance punk?

I'm not going to say much else: just listen:

Friday, October 06, 2017

Jona Lewie: On the Other Hand There's a Fist (1978)

Now, here is a situation where the record company effed with the contents of this record, and it may have paid off. The single, (You'll Always Find Me In The) Kitchen At Parties, was not included on the original UK pressing, but it was added to the Canadian pressing, released two years later, in 1980. There are some other changes to that record too. I guess it took that single to prompt the record company to release it in Canada (and the USA, for that matter).

This song had a lot of caché back in the day, at least in my crowd. Anyone who has ever been to a house party knows that there is lots of truth in this song. The kitchen is often the place to be. I'm not sure if it is the ready access to alcohol or the fact that the kitchen is often quieter. It seems that so many people are always flooding into the kitchen to refill glasses, that they get stuck there. Although this was a thing in high school, there was also a need to find an empty room for you and your friend.

I do still hang out in the kitchen at parties, but sometimes, I just need to sit down on the couch.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Level 42: Heaven In My Hands (1988)

Here we have three version of the titular track, plus Gresham Blues. I am sure that I have never played this 12" single.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Level 42: Staring at the Sun (1988)

I pick this up in a $1 bin or a thrift shop ages ago and never played it. I'm wasn't even sure I have ever heard any of the tracks on the record. But, then I looked for an accompanying video on youtube and realized that I had heard Heaven in My Hands. But, here's a different song.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Level 42: Running in the Family (1987)

Although I purchased this record when it came out, I had already started to lose interest in the band. Allmusic says this:
"By Running in the Family, Level 42 had almost completely thinned out their early jazz-funk and soul roots in favor of a radio-friendly keyboard pop with a light R&B vibe. The sound lies somewhere between Kool and the Gang and early Tears for Fears. But if early fans might have felt betrayed by the new direction, the band's newfound aptitude for attention-grabbing hooks and airtight instrumental polish attracted more than enough new fans to replace them." [source]
Yes, I agree. Lessons in Love and the title track were big hits, if I remember correctly. I don't mind those songs, but it's a step down from World Machine.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Level 42: Something About You (1985)

This is probably Level 42's biggest hit. There is a cool car in this video. This 12" has the US Remix, the Sisa Mix, and Coup D'etat (Version).

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Level 42: World Machine (1985)

World Machine is probably the Level 42 record that I know best. It's the only Level 42 album that I have on CD. I suppose the song that everyone knows is Something About You. That's not a bad track, but I like some of the other tunes better. As I mentioned before, the record company played games with this release, messing around with the tracks. I usually hate that (there are exceptions). I shoudl alos say that I like this album art. I think it's the best cover since the band's debut.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Level 42: A Physcial Presence (1985)

This is a double live record. Hot Water and The Chant has Begun appear on this record, in live form. This is the second time Level 42 fans got to hear these songs, which makes it doubly weird that the record company threw them on Wold Machine. This is a pretty good live set.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Level 42: The Chant Has Begun (1984)

In addition to The Chant Has Begun (Power Mix), this UK 12" single contains Almost There and The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) (Upfront Mix) (Ill Bread But With Jam). The Chant has Begun is my favourite Level 42 track.

I remember when the bombs started falling on Baghdad on January 16, 1991. The DJ on the radio station I was listening to at the time played this track. It seems appropriate:

Old men with their protocol
Lead us off to war
Sometimes we don't even know
What we're fighting for
Marching to the beat of their drum, yeah yeah

Monday, September 25, 2017

Level 42: Hot Water (1984)

This UK 12" single contains an extended version of Hot Water, which is pretty funky, plus an extended version of Standing in the Light.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Level 42: True Colours (1984)

Two of these tracks appeared later on some pressings of World Machine. Why? Why? Why? I hate it when record companies mess around with releases. My Canadian pressing contains both of these recycled tracks: Hot Water and The Chant Has Begun. I already had them on this LP, so why would the idiots at the record label feel compelled to reissue them? I also have the German-made so-called "US Version" CD of World Machine, which also has these previously-released tracks. Why screw with the records?

In any case, True Colours is a pretty good record, and, for me, it introduced a more pop sound which might have been exactly what this band needed.

It's nice to see colours spelled correctly :)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Level 42: Standing in the Light (1983)

This is the album where Level 42 made a conscious switch to real pop songs. I think the band hits its stride on the subsequent record, but this is OK, though I rarely listen to it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Level 42: The Pursuit of Accidents (1982)

Level 42's second LP, The Pursuit of Accidents, dropped in 1982. I'd say that it is not quite as good as the first, but it's pretty good. I'm not as big of a fan as I used to be, and I prefer the later stuff.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Level 42: Turn It On (1981)

Turn It On appears on the band's eponymous debut, previously mentioned. This Canadian 12" single contains Turn It On b/w Starchild.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Level 42: Level 42 (1981)

"To Everything? To the great Question of Life, the Universe and everything?"

"Forty-two," said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.”

I've heard that Level 42 took its name from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Other explanations have been posited, but I like the Adams idea best.

I have always thought that I was a casual fan of Level 42, but then I realized that I have a fairly large number of Level 42 records. I am not quite sure how that happened, but it might have had to do with an old friend who listened to little else, apart from UB40. Most people who refer to this band as jazz-funk fusion, at least in the early years. To be honest, I like some of the band's later work better.

The bass work of Mark King is quite amazing, you will have to admit.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Less Than Zero: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1987)

I have never seen this film (surprise), but I have read the book and I hated it with a passion. I also hated Imperial Bedrooms. Why so much theft of Elvis Costello? Anyway, this soundtrack contains the good, the bad, and the ugly. Mostly, I have it because of the LL Cool J track, Going Back to Cali. The video for that tune is good too. That tune never showed up on on any LL Cool J records, unless you got the CD version of Walking the Panther.

I also like the Public Enemy tune, the Joan Jett song, of course, and some others. But, the Bangles (covering Simon and Garfunkel), Poison, Aerosmith, Slayer? No so much.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Julina Lennon: Valotte (1984)

I recall that this record made a big splash when it came out. I think that had to do with the fact that Julian's voice was so similar to his dad's. It was kind of spooky. However, most critics disliked the record.
In a contemporary review for Saturday Review magazine, music critic John Swenson gave Valotte two out of five stars and critiqued that Lennon's voice lacks the "tortured cynicism and urgency that characterised his father's and, consequently, Valotte sounds like languid outtakes from Imagine." In a three-star review, Davitt Sigerson of Rolling Stone said that it is both "exciting and irritating". He found the album's similarities to John Lennon's later work strange, observing "a middle-aged sensibility, reinforced by Phil Ramone's elegant but often stodgy production, applied to unashamedly youthful themes." Robert Christgau, writing for The Village Voice, gave Valotte a "C" and panned it as "bland professional pop of little distinction and less necessity—tuneful at times, tastefully produced of course, and with no discernible reason for being". Christgau found Lennon's vocal resemblance to his father "eerie" and viewed him as "more Frank Sinatra Jr. than (even) Hank Williams Jr."

In a retrospective review, Allmusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave Valotte three-and-a-half out of five stars and wrote that it is "by any measure the debut of a gifted pop melodicist." He viewed that on the album's highlights, Lennon exhibited a strong sense for "Beatlesque pop songwriting, drawing equally from [John] Lennon and [Paul] McCartney", and at his worst, he drew too often on contemporary conventions such as synthesisers. Paul Evans, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), gave the album two out of five stars and remarked that Lennon "settles for clean but modest stuff—high-end MOR," while finding all of his albums "pervaded with a sort of listlessness, a free-floating pathos." [source]
I suppose each of these reviewers is right in their own way, but I looked past the album's weaknesses, mostly because I thought I was hearing the ghost of John Lennon. I haven't given this one a spin -- I'm guessing -- since the mid-1980s. I have never heard any subsequent music from Julian. These are the only songs I know.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

John Lennon: Live in New York City (1986)

This LP, released in February 1986 was recorded live on August 30th, 1972 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. There are few live Lennon recordings, which makes this a must-have for any fan. It's not a perfect recording by any means, but it's John.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

John Lennon & Yoko One: Milk and Honey (1984)

If you took the Lennon tracks from this album and merged them with the Lennon tracks from Double Fantasy (and leave out the Ono tracks), you would have a truly excellent record. Once again, in this posthumous release, we have a mix of Lennon and Ono, with me preferring the Lennon contributions. Again, I find this to be a really sad record. The album jacket is a bot too similar to the one on Double Fantasy.

Monday, September 11, 2017

John Lennon & Yoko One: Double Fantasy (1980)

It's impossible to listen to this record without waves of sadness passing over me. The record was released on November 17, 1980, and Lennon was murdered just three weeks later, on December 8th, 1980. The older generations remember where they were when JFK was murdered. I will never forget when and how I learned of Lennon's death. It will be forever burned into my brain. I don't think any other celebrity death affected me as much as Lennon's. Even now, after all of these years, I feel the same. It was a senseless tragedy.

The record was a huge success and I'd like to think that his untimely death had nothing to do with it. On the other hand, I have joked, from time to time, that the record should have been an EP. You know, eliminate tracks 2, 4 6 on side A and tracks 2, 4, 6, and 7 on side B. Then, you'd have a killer mini album. That may sound mean. I don't mind Ono's music, but her tracks seem more like filler here. An entire LP or her music could be fine, but I am not sure it works here.

For me, the key track is the lead off track, (Just like) Starting Over, which really seemed to have set the tone for where Lennon was going. It's doubly sad that he could have written such a positive, uplifting song, and then be gunned down for no reason.

Friday, September 08, 2017

[John] Lennon / Plastic Ono Band: Shaved Fish (1975)

This is a really good collection of some seminal Lennon tunes.

Give Peace A Chance
Cold Turkey
Instant Karma!
Power To The People
Woman Is The Nigger Of The World
Whatever Gets You Thru The Night
Mind Games
# 9 Dream
Happy XMas (War Is Over)
Give Peace A Chance (Reprise)

I have a Canadian repressing from 1978.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

John Lennon: Rock ’n’ Roll (1975)

For his sixth outing, John delivered a collection of classic cover tunes. I think these tines all work well. I would have preferred new tunes, but whatever. His cover of Fat's Domino's Ain't that a Shame is no where near as good as the one by Cheap Trick.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

John Lennon: Walls and Bridges (1974)

"Walls and Bridges was recorded during John Lennon's infamous "lost weekend," as he exiled himself in California during a separation from Yoko Ono. Lennon's personal life was scattered, so it isn't surprising that Walls and Bridges is a mess itself, containing equal amounts of brilliance and nonsense." [source]
That makes a certain degree of sense. Lennon teams up with Sir Elton on Whatever Gets You Thru The Night. While this might not be Lennon's best record, I really love it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

John Lennon: Mind Games (1973)

John's fourth album is a good one, but maybe not as good as the first three? Who knows. I especially like the title track. The critics, as usual, were divided. I can't get past the haunting sound of his voice. He was taken away from us way too soon. For some reason, I have a US pressing.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

John & Yoko / Plastic Ono Band with Elephant's Memory And Invisible Strings: Some Time in New York City (1972)

The review of this record on Allmusic highlights that site's schizophrenia. While awarding the record only 2.5 stars, the reviewer argues that the record "is some of the groovin'-est, most tuneful agit-prop ever committed to disc." Say what?

The record starts out with the controversial tune Woman is the Nigger of the World. I genuinely get what Lennon and Ono were trying to say, but not everyone was happy. Wikipedia notes:
The phrase "woman is the nigger of the world" was coined by Yoko Ono in an interview with Nova magazine in 1969 and was quoted on the magazine's cover. Literary analysts note that the phrase owes much to Zora Neale Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, in which the protagonist Janie Crawford says, "De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see." The song describes women's subservience to men and misogyny across all cultures.

In a 1972 interview on The Dick Cavett Show, John Lennon stated that Irish revolutionary James Connolly was an inspiration for the song. Lennon cited Connolly's statement "the female worker is the slave of the slave" in explaining the pro-feminist inspiration behind the song. [source]
Anyway, when the song comes on, it's difficult to know if I -- as a white person -- can sing along. I suppose that goes for a ton of rap tunes too. It also applies to Oliver's Army, that snappy Elvis Costello tune, when he sings:

"Only takes one itchy trigger
One more widow, one less white nigger"

So, I leave this argument to the academics. There are some great tunes on this record, and I do like the cover very much.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

John Lennon: Imagine (1971)

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today... Aha-ah...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace... You...

Lennon's second solo record contains his biggest hit, Imagine. Imagine is such a great song. At least that's my opinion. When I hear it, I am often reminded about of that famous scene in that WKRP in Cincinnati episode. If you haven't see it - or even if you have - definitely watch it. It's applicable today with regressive leftist fascists trying to impose restrictions of free speech.

The other thing that occurs to me when I reflect on that song is George Harrison, who underwent a religious conversion that has always mystified me. Lennon always seemed far more grounded in reality.

I think it's fair to say that Lennon never equalled the quality his first two records, though about half of the songs on Double Fantasy are truly excellent.

I have a Canadian pressing from 1978 on Capital Records.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)


God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain
I'll say it again
God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain

I don't believe in magic
I don't believe in I-Ching
I don't believe in Bible
I don't believe in tarot
I don't believe in Hitler
I don't believe in Jesus
I don't believe in Kennedy
I don't believe in Buddha
I don't believe in mantra
I don't believe in Gita
I don't believe in yoga
I don't believe in kings
I don't believe in Elvis
I don't believe in Zimmerman
I don't believe in Beatles
I just believe in me

It's hard to know how to credit this record. The label says "John Lennon" with "Plastic Ono Band" below. Whatever the case, this is the debut studio record from the former Beatle. Yoko Ono's record, released on same day, features a nearly identical album design, and is known as Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. I think it's common knowledge that Lennon's debut record is considered to be his finest. I think it's also fair to say that Lennon's solo work, with a couple of notable exceptions, is not as well known as the Beatles' records. Perhaps the most recognizable track from this LP is Working Class Hero, but I could be wrong about that. It could be Mother or God. This is, in part, what Allmusic says in its five star review:
"Inspired by his primal scream therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov, Lennon created a harrowing set of unflinchingly personal songs, laying out all of his fears and angers for everyone to hear. It was a revolutionary record -- never before had a record been so explicitly introspective, and very few records made absolutely no concession to the audience's expectations, daring the listeners to meet all the artist's demands ... It's an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon's catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band." [source]
I have a copy of the first US pressing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

James Leg: Solitary Pleasure (2011)

Some might, justifiably, compare James Leg's voice to that of Tom Waits'. That's fair enough. Popmatters says this about the sound:

"I try to shy away from “this album sounds like the result of Band X taking Band Y out for tacos then going to see Band Z perform aboard a submarine” write-ups, but with James Leg (aka John Wesley Myers of the Black Diamond Heavies and the Immortal Lee County Killers), the description is just too tantalizing to pass up." [source]

His debut solo record--Solitary Pleasure--was issued in a limited edition of pink vinyl. The colour of that vinyl strikes me as odd, given the overly masculine sound of his voice. It should have been pressed on black vinyl. The only other release was on CD.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Led Zeppelin: Coda (1982)

Coda compiles eight unused tracks and fulfills a contractual obligation with the record company. It's not a bad collection, but I do not view this as a Led Zeppelin album. It's just a haphazard collection of tunes. Perhaps the expanded edition is a much better collection, but I have never heard it, for some reason. I remember buying this one. I'm not fond of the album cover.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Led Zeppelin: In Through the Our Door (1979)

After a three year break, the mighty Led Zeppelin returned with In Through the Out Door, a record that really divided fans. To be sure, there was a definite change in direction in sound, most notably prominent keyboards and diminished guitars. I have always had mixed feelings about this LP. If I am in the right mood, I really like it, but it's not the first Zeppelin record I would reach for.

Sadly, this was the band's final studio recording. Coda came later, but that was a collection of odds and sods, two or three of which would have improved ITTOD immensely. Even more sadly, John Bonham died about a year after the record was released, and that killed my plans to somehow get to Toronto and finally see the band in concert. He was only 32 years old.

I've read that the change in sound had a lot to do with the greater influence of John Paul Jones and Plant, while Bonham was struggling with alcoholism and Page was in full heroin mode. It made for an odd record in some ways, yet it was very popular. I really do love this record, but I prefer the heavier Zeppelin. Also, I kind of hate the song Hot Dog.
"The original album featured an unusual gimmick: the album had an outer sleeve which was made to look like a plain brown paper bag (reminiscent of similarly packaged bootleg album sleeves with the title rubber-stamped on it), and the inner sleeve featured black and white line artwork which, if washed with water, would become permanently fully coloured. There were also six different sleeves featuring a different pair of photos (one on each side), and the external brown paper sleeve meant that it was impossible for record buyers to tell which sleeve they were getting (there is actually a code on the spine of the album jacket which indicated which sleeve it was—this could sometimes be seen while the record was still sealed). The pictures all depicted the same scene in a bar (in which a man burns a Dear John letter), and each photo was taken from the separate point of view of someone who appeared in the other photos. The walls are covered with thousands of yellowed business cards and dollar bills. The photo session in a London studio was meant to look like a re-creation of the Old Absinthe House, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The album artwork was designed by Hipgnosis. Storm Thorgerson recalls the design in his book Eye of the Storm:
The sepia quality was meant to evoke a non-specific past and to allow the brushstroke across the middle to be better rendered in colour and so make a contrast. This self same brushstroke was like the swish of a wiper across a wet windscreen, like a lick of fresh paint across a faded surface, a new look to an old scene, which was what Led Zeppelin told us about their album. A lick of fresh paint, as per Led Zeppelin, and the music on this album... It somehow grew in proportion and became six viewpoints of the same man in the bar, seen by the six other characters. Six different versions of the same image and six different covers.
Did you ever notice you could affect the dust jacket by putting water on it? If you applied spittle to it or a bit of water, it would change colour, like a children's colouring book we based it on. But we didn't tell anybody. I don't think Zeppelin told anybody, either.
In 1980, Hipgnosis were nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Album Package for In Through the Out Door." [source]
I have a 'C' album cover, by the way. Everything Zeppelin did was awesome, but this is a little less awesome that what cam before it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Led Zeppelin: Presence (1976)

I suppose there are two Led Zeppelin records (not including Coda) that some fans are not so enamoured with. These records are In Through the Out Door and Presence. I used to rank Presence as my least favourite Zep record, but I think my opinion changed over the years. I will say that the record has grown on me.

I really love the opening track, Achilles Last Stand, which clearly needs an apostrophe. Other highlights are For Your Love, which was resurrected for that famous O2 concert, Royal Orleans, Nobody's Fault But Mine,

It's weird to think that of all of the Zeppelin records, I have two copies of this one, both Canadian pressings. I have no idea why. I've been curious about the remastered vinyl that came out a while back. I'm sure they must sound better, but the prices have kept me away.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti (1975)

In terms of LZ records, this one lands somewhere in the middle of favourites. I was never blown away by it, though there are some great songs, most notably, Kashmir, which would fit in my top five Zeppelin tunes. Clearly, I am on the minority position here:
"Physical Graffiti was the first album to go platinum on advance orders alone. Shortly after its release, all previous Led Zeppelin albums simultaneously re-entered the top-200 album chart.

"In March 1975, Billboard magazine's reviewer wrote: "[Physical Graffiti] is a tour de force through a number of musical styles, from straight rock to blues to folky acoustic to orchestral sounds." Similarly, Jim Miller stated in Rolling Stone that the double album was "the band's Tommy, Beggar's Banquet and Sgt. Pepper rolled into one: Physical Graffiti is Led Zeppelin's bid for artistic respectability." Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was less impressed, writing that except for side two, the material often wanders into "wide tracks, misconceived opi, and so forth", and "after a while Robert Plant begins to grate". Reviewing the album for BBC Music in 2007, Chris Jones described it as "a towering monument to the glory of Zeppelin in their high-flying heyday".

"In 1998 Q readers voted Physical Graffiti the 28th-greatest album of all time; in 2000 Q placed it at number 32 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever; and in 2001 the same magazine named it as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums of All Time. In 2003, the TV network VH1 named it the 71st-greatest album ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 70 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". The album is also listed in Robert Dimery and Stevie Chick's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005)." [source
Oddly, this record contains a tune called Houses of the Holy, which does not appear on the eponymous record.

I have a vivid memory of buying this record. My sister had a few Led Zeppelin records (Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin IV, The Song Remains the Same, In through the Out Door), but she never owned a copy of this one. I wanted to hear it, so I decided to pick it up one day. I carried it with me back to residence.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Led Zeppelin: Houses of the Holy (1973)

"They used to think it was so cute when she said dyer maker.
All the boys knew it was a joke about Jamaica"

"Dancing days. Houses of the holy. Hot child in the city in the middle of the prairie."

- Joke About Jamaica, The Hold Steady

Sometimes, I am convinced that this is my favourite Led Zeppelin record. Is there any song that sounds better than The Song Remains the Same, especially when turned up very loudly? The answer is no. Back in the day, I would really crank up that song when no one was home.

Although the cover seems harmless to me, the album artwork caused some controversy:
Like Led Zeppelin's fourth album, neither the band's name nor the album title was printed on the sleeve. However, manager Peter Grant did allow Atlantic Records to add a wrap-around paper title band to US and UK copies of the sleeve that had to be broken or slid off to access the record. This hid the children's buttocks from general display, but still the album was either banned or unavailable in some parts of the Southern United States for several years. [source]
I think many would argue that the first four records are the band's best, but I would say that this one is at least equal. It's fabulous.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin [AKA Led Zeppelin IV or the Four Symbols logo, Four Symbols, The Fourth Album, Untitled, Runes, The Hermit, ZoSo] (1971)

"Tired eyes. Trampled under foot. Dazed and confused. C-c-c-c-Cocaine blues.
She hasn't gotten any eye contact tonight"
- Joke About Jamaica, The Hold Steady

Oh, well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow,
Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow.
 - The Battle of Evermore, Led Zeppelin

I'll just say it now to get it out of the way. Stairway to Heaven, although a fine song, is not my favourite Led Zeppelin song. In fact, it wouldn't even make my list of top 25 Led Zeppelin songs. It used to be my favourite song, but I think that was when I knew very little about the band's catalogue. There are way too many great songs to allow this one to take a preeminent places.

Back in high school, Stairway to Heaven was often the last song at school dances (it was either that or Babe, that awful piece of shot from Styx). Those songs served as a signal that the dance would soon be over, and it was your last chance to get close to a female. But, let's face it, this is a difficult song to have a slow dace to. The beginning works, but once the track speeds up, most kids were at a loss as to how to deal with the tempo change. Most just clung to their dancing partner until the song ended.

The album jacket for this record omits the band's name. It's a curious thing to do, but I imagine a hype sticker would have alerted people to the contents. My copy is a Canadian pressing from 1979, and it's in great shape. I think there were close to twenty Canadian pressings of this record.

This record is packed from start to finish with awesomeness. It contains some of my favourite Zeppelin tunes, like Black Dog, Four Sticks, and When the Levee Breaks, all of which are in my top 20 Zep tunes.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin III (1970)

The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying,
Valhalla, I am coming!

Although it stands against prevailing opinion, my favourite Led Zeppelin record is the third. It wasn't always that way. In fact, in the early days, I felt that the record fell apart after the lead-off tack, Immigrant Song. Later, my thinking shifted 180 degrees. I think that Immigrant Song is the weakest track on the record, though I still love it. After all, the track is only 2.5 minutes, and Page somehow manages to play that riff over 100 times.

My copy is a later (probably 1980s) repress in absolutely mint condition.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin II

I learned the following after reading Wikipedia. "The advertising campaign was built around the slogans 'Led Zeppelin – The Only Way to Fly' and 'Led Zeppelin II Now Flying'." [source]

This is a heavy album from start to finish, filled with heavy guitar riffs, tireless vocals, thundering drums, and some delicious bass sounds. As usual, the critics were confused:
Critical reaction to Led Zeppelin II was not positive originally. John Mendelsohn wrote a negative review of the record for Rolling Stone, in which he mocked the group's heavy sound and white blues, while writing that "until you've listened to the album eight hundred times, as I have, it seems as if it's just one especially heavy song extended over the space of two whole sides". Robert Christgau jokingly referred to the band as "the best of the wah-wah mannerist groups, so dirty they drool on demand", while complaining that "all the songs sound alike". He nonetheless conceded that "Led Zeppelin simply out-heavied everyone" in 1969, "pitting Jimmy Page's repeated low-register fuzz riffs against the untiring freak intensity of Robert Plant's vocal. This trademark has only emerged clearly on the second album, and more and more I am coming to understand it as an artistic triumph." [source]
I have a Canadian pressing (not the original) that I think came out sometime after 1978. The jacket of my copy looks mint, and the record is in fabulous shape too. I think there are more than 20 Canadian pressings of this LP, plus numerous 8-track, cassette, and CD issues.

The only track I am not crazy about is Moby Dick, partly because I think extended drum solos are kind of stupid. The guitar part of that song is great, though.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin [aka Led Zeppelin I] (1969)

"Tired eyes. Trampled under foot. Dazed and confused. C-c-c-c-Cocaine blues.
She hasn't gotten any eye contact tonight"

- Joke About Jamaica, The Hold Steady

In answer to the question -- often asked in musical circles -- the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?, I always answer Led Zeppelin. As much as I like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, it's the New Yardbirds for the win. When I was in public school and junior high, I was often teased for liking Led Zeppelin. I attribute my early interest to a couple of my older siblings. One year, I forgot it was photo day, and I wore a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. Oops.

This is a massive record. It begins pleasantly enough, with the brief Good Times Bad Times, but it's the second track that really lays claim to a new sound. It's hard to pick a favourite, but for me, it's Dazed and Confused, a song that would be in my top five Zep tunes. Ages ago, when I was living in a certain place, I would often play Dazed and Confused as loudly as possible when no one else was home. Every song on this record is amazing.

For me, this record is the defining statement about why critics are often wrong. Many critics dissed this record, and that is something I have always had a hard time wrapping my head around. Perhaps the music was so out-of-step with the music of the day, that it left them mystified. Who knows? In hindsight, I think some critics have corrected their opinions.

Figuring out which vinyl version I have is quite difficult. For the vast majority of artists, there was generally only one, and sometimes two, Canadian pressings. For this one, there are something like fifteen, or close to that. I wish I had a red Atlantic pressing or a Canadian red Atlantic pressing, rather than my mundane, later Canadian green Atlantic pressing from 1976. Oh well, it still sounds fine and my copy is mint, or very close to it. Needless to say I also have a copy on CD.

I have pretty much everything officially released from LZ on CD as well as some DVDs. By the way, check out Lez Zeppelin and Zepparella.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Keith LeBlanc: Einstein (Extended Remix) (1989)

Keith LeBlanc is known partly for being a member of Tackhead, an industrial hip hop act. Most of my Tackhead, Gary Clail's Tackhead Sound System, and Keith LeBlanc music is on CD. This 12" single has two mixes of Einstein and a tune called Here's Looking at You, featuring Gary Clail.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Daniel Lanois: Acadie (1989)

My body is bent and broken
By long and dangerous sleep
I can't work the fields of Abraham
And turn my head away
I'm not a stranger
In the hands of the maker

Though I identify as an atheist, I can't help but admire the passion and emotion, and even devotion, of the above stanza.  The Maker is one of the best songs ever recorded, in my ever so humble opinion.

Lanois may be better known as a producer. You might know him from his production work with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, U2, Peter Gabriel, Jon Hassell, and from his collaborations with Brian Eno. He has also released a number of solo records, beginning with Acadie, which I consider to be a musical masterpiece. Why Allmusic awarded this record only four stars is a mystery. Te review is glowing, appropriate for a five star record.
This stunning debut album by an artist that had hitherto been known only as a producer is priceless, and stands up well to repeated listening. It is a blend of New Orleans rhythm, rock, new age mysticism, and folk. It is not mushy but it is as caressing to the ear as to the mind. It has the very distinctive ethereal sound of the albums he produced for among others the Neville Brothers and Robbie Robertson. All the songs were written or co-written by Lanois, with the exception of the traditional "Amazing Grace" (done in an untraditional manner and sung by Aaron Neville). The songs affect a rural and uncomplicated yet very complete and full sound that brings the listener into their mood, swing into the full lilting joy of "Under a Stormy Sky," to the haunting and ominous "Where the Hawkwind Kills." His sound is a distinctive signature, that holds well with each different song and with each artist for whom he has fashioned albums. [source]
Acadie is another record on my long list of top ten records.In addition to the LP, I own the CD Goldtop Edition, which contains six bonus tracks.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs: Live Fall 2010 (2011)

Honestly, that's the best title they could come up with? This brief five-track EP was released for record store day 2011. I'm not really a fan, though I do appreciate his voice. People often tell me that I should like him, but I have never invested the time. Someday, someday.

Some of this record is far too countryish for me, but other tracks I quite like, such as this killer tune: