Best Opening Tracks on Debut Albums: My Top 5

I saw an Instagram post recently from ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris (old farts like me will remember his husky tones from the BBC TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test many moons ago) where he had posted a playlist from his recent radio show and the theme was opening songs from debut albums. Well this sounded like a splendid idea, and as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I thought I’d have a go at posting my top 5 opening tracks from debut albums. Easy, right? Wrong! I realised how many great songs that open up debut albums I really, really loved and choosing just 5 would be a tad difficult. With that, I’m posting the first 5 tracks that spring to mind but later on I’ll also post my other favourite opening tracks , and they’ll probably be some kind of theme to the posts (metal/NWOBHM/UK punk/US punk/britpop/postpunk etc). Below is my top 5 opening tracks from debut albums that still have the power to excite when the needle hits the groove.

1. BLACK SABBATH: Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath)

Rainfall? Check. Toiling bell? Check. Iconic riff and song that births heavy metal and a variety of sub-genres? Check. Best self-titled song of all-time? Probably.

2. GUNS N’ ROSES : Welcome To The Jungle (Appetite For Destruction)

I flew into LAX to first meet my now wife, and the first song on the mix cd (awww) she made for the drive to her place, was this. Driving round L.A. with this blasting out was probably a cliché but it felt so damn right! Opening album tracks rarely get better than this.

3. CROSBY, STILLS & NASH: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills & Nash)

Nary a screaming guitar in sight, just three dudes and some of the sweetest vocal harmonies I’ve ever heard. This song takes me to a happy place.

4. THE RUTS: Babylon’s Burning (The Crack)

Starts off with an old school British police siren then ruthlessly slaps you about for a couple of minutes becoming one of the greatest punk songs ever.

5. MEAT LOAF: Bat Out Of Hell (Bat Out Of Hell)

A song that has everything including the kitchen sink and Todd Rundgren’s motorcycle guitar! Bombastic, overblown, indulgent and above all, fucking amazing! Up there in my top 5 greatest title tracks ever!

Upsetting The Status (GDLIYWI) #34

Do you want to hear an Elton John joke?  It’s a little bit funny.

Live! is the first live album by British rock band Status Quo. The double album is an amalgam of performances at Glasgow’s Apollo Theatre between 27 and 29 October 1976. The two guitarists had differing opinions of the album with Francis Rossi (left) calling it; “The worst album we ever made”, whilst his counterpart Rick Parfitt (right) countered; “There are bits of the live album that still give me goosebumps.” After all this time does it still hold up or was it really any good the first time round?

Despite appearances, this band are not Canadian.

Confession time: I loved Status Quo when I was a nipper. They were the first rock band I got into, they were always on Top of the Pops nearly every week (slight exaggeration, but not by much) and above all they were fun. And then I grew up, well not exactly, but I was discovering more harder rock and metal groups as I got older (1980 was a hell of a year to be getting into metal) and whilst their 1980 album Just Supposin was good (despite the fact that a song titled Rock n Roll was weaker than Superman wearing kryptonite underwear) it just felt lacking, especially when I compared them to the albums released by Iron Maiden, Saxon, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest etc. They were done for me as a band around their 14th album, Never Too Late, the following year. The band became very tired sounding, went on to do too many poor cover versions, their songs became a much of a muchness. I still liked their 70’s stuff but from that album on they became a joke band to me. Also, my peers in the art school class looked down their noses at me and my love of Quo at the time; they mocked me in my smock and embroidered in my socks. So after all that preamble, it’s on with the review.

It’s easy to dismiss this album, and the band, as no nonsense heads down (down) mindless boogie (as my friend Alberto would say) but the truth is, Live! is a pretty ok live album. Sure, after a while the songs kinda merge into boogie-rock sameness, the band aren’t exactly going to win any virtuoso competitions and the 14 minute vertsion of Roadhouse Blues could have done with some trimming (or taken out altogether) but it is a lot of fun, in small doses. A couple of tracks every now and then scratch the NNHDMB itch in me but over four sides it does get quite tiresome and repetitive.

I can’t really recommend this album in good faith; it’s neither their worst album nor did it give me goosebumps. It’s not terrible, quite enjoyable in small doses but not exactly essential listening if truth be told. I’ll give it five (a bit of nostalgia for the old folks out there) and move on to the next album, which involves owls for some reason. Until then, TTFN!

Audio of Liverpool Blitz

I was made aware of this today I thought I’d share it with you all. The BBC radio show Broadcasting House, played a recently unearthed radio broadcast of a bomb blitz on Liverpool (August 1940 – January 1942) that occurred during the Second World War.

The May Blitz on Liverpool, 1-7 May 1941, (from which this audio is from) was the most concentrated series of air attacks on any British city area outside London during the Second World War. 

During the Blitz in May 1941, 681 planes dropped 870 tonnes of high explosives and more than 112,000 firebombs on Liverpool.

What amazed me most was the calmness of the reporter whilst the bombs fell. Audio starts around the 25 minute mark.

It’s available online for a year, though it may not play in certain areas of the world so you may have to use a VPN.

Happy International Workers’ Day

Today (May 1st) is International Workers’ Day and it is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement and occurs every year.

In the town where we are, all the stores are closed today and as they are usually closed on a Sunday, it seems like a lot of festivities will be taking place this weekend (weather permitting); so what better way to celebrate International Workers’ Day than with a near five hour music extravaganza of The Internationale in 95 languages! Enjoy, and remember to always punch upwards!

Bonus Jamaican version of The Internationale

Wiki article about International Workers’ Day:

Gathering Moss (GDLIYWI) #33

Aaron Lewis of Staind is releasing some new music. It’s good to have him back, it’s been a while.

A double live album featuring songs from 2 tours and a secret nightclub performance, Love You Live is probably one of the best live albums the Rolling Stones have released. I remember having this on cassette, bought at a second hand record store (I only bought it because of the song Star Star included swearing in it. Yes, I was at that rebellious stage of being a teenager when songs with swear words were super cool to me- hello Bodies and Too Drunk To Fuck) and despite the muddy-ish production the songs shone through and it is probably a pretty good representation of their live shows at that time.

It was a release that had quite a few issues: Andy Warhol was dismayed at the hand-drawn titles, added by Mick Jagger, scrawled over Warhol’s artwork; Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards sharply disagreed over which songs to feature, as Richards wrote in his autobiography: “It’s a two-disc album, and the result is that one disc is Mick’s and the other was mine.”; of the 4 R’n’B songs featured on side 3 (recorded at the El Mocambo club in Toronto) only Around And Around is free from overdubs. Despite all this though, Love You Live sparkles with energy, passion and reminds you, when you listen to it today, of how good a live act The Stones were.

Side note: At the El Mocambo gig, April Wine opened for the Stones, who appeared on the bill under the name “The Cockroaches,” so the majority in attendance thought they were attending an April Wine concert. April Wine also recorded their live album Live at the El Mocambo at these same concerts.

Some people seem to be unimpressed by The Cockroaches.

I really like this album, I love the energy from the band, the song selection (Sympathy for the Devil, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Happy), my rediscovery of how amazing a drummer Charlie Watts is (I knew he was good but because he’s not as flashy as Keith Moon or John Bonham, Charlie gets lost in my mind as a great drummer), also the guitar playing of Keith Richards- a great riff machine but I never saw him as a great soloist however the solos he produces on the aforementioned Sympathy and You Can’t Always Get are fantastic.

Of course it’s not all fun and games; Hot Stuff and Fingerprint File drag the album down a bit and during Jumpin Jack Flash, Jagger sounds a little gassed, gassed, gassed but these are little personal nitpicks. Even though the tracks are taken from different tours, the sound of the album (with the exception of side 3) is pretty cohesive. Speaking of side 3, the band going back to their r’n’b roots is pretty damn good, they sound like their having fun and it makes me want to hear that entire show *goes off to check YouTube*

Love You Live gets a 9/10, a big thumbs up from me and is highly recommended; it’s a lot of fun and showcases how great the Stones were as a live act.

On deck next: some good old-fashioned heads-down no-nonsense mindless boogie, so until then TTFN!

Cover Me #13 Phoenix City All Stars

Whilst searching for Eric Burdon’s Paint It Black cover (as featured on Cover Me #7, go check it out) I was greeted with today’s band, the Phoenix City All Stars, and their Jamaican ska version of this Rolling Stone classics. Once I heard it, I knew I had to hear more from them which led me to the album Skatifaction.

Be it Skatalites inspired horn driven instrumentals (Play With Fire, Paint It Black, Time Is On My Side, Love In Vain & Sweet Virginia), Jackie Mittoo organ homage (Under My Thumb), the soul-fired vocal cuts of Freddie Notes (Satisfaction & Little Red Rooster) or Rocksteady lament of Nathan Thomas from Sidewalk Doctors (Wild Horses & Honky Tonk Woman) rarely has such authenticity been produced outside of Jamaica.

Phoenix City All-stars is an ever-growing all-star collective that includes members from Pama International, The Specials, The Sidewalk Doctors, The Loafers, Big Boss Man, Kasabian, Dub Vendor All-stars, The Bongolian, Forest Hillbillies, Intensified, The Delegators plus guest appearances by classic Jamaican singers; Dave Barker (Dave & Ansel Collins), AJ Franklin (The Chosen Few/The Federals) and Trojan Records legend Freddie Notes, famed for his global hit Montego Bay.

In 2012 they launched their debut album ‘Two Tone Gone Ska’ to critical acclaim. It delivered a truly unique celebration of Britain’s iconic 2 Tone label by replanting the hits of The Specials, Madness, Elvis Costello, The Beat & The Selecter in 1960’s Jamaica. The resulting tracks are wonderfully inspired, authentic 60’s ska, rocksteady & early reggae. They also taken on Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Searching For The Young Soul Rebels and have recorded dub versions of 9 Clash songs. Perfect music to get your body moving and put a smile on your face.

Ranking The Frank Zappa Albums #44 Thing Fish

I was recently stopped in the street and asked who my favourite vampire was. I said the muppet from Sesame Street. “He doesn’t count,” came the reply. “Oh I assure you, he does.”

Thing-Fish is an album by Frank Zappa, originally released as a triple album box set on Barking Pumpkin Records in 1984. It was billed as a cast recording for a proposed musical of the same name, which was ultimately not produced by Zappa, but later performed partially in 2003, ten years after his death.

Another concept album by Frank in a similar vein to Joe’s Garage, but this one falls short on execution and it could do with some trimming. It’s not an album to casually have on in the background whilst you do chores, or drive to work or try to relax after a long day of adulting; it demands your complete attention and that can be quite draining and a little disappointing.

I’ve left a Wikipedia link at the bottom of the post, as that explains the story of the making of this album better than I could, but to paraphrase it’s a story about an evil, racist prince/theater critic who creates a disease intended to eradicate African Americans and homosexuals with some feminism and conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure. Most of the album’s tracks are reworkings of songs from Zappa’s recent releases (which was criticised at the time by contemporary reviewers) with singer Ike Willis (the titular Thing-Fish) using a King-fish voice (from old TV show Amos’n’Andy) mixed with a Paul Laurence Dunbar-esque vernacular, singing over the top of them.

There is some good stuff on here (The Evil Prince and Brown Moses are cracking songs) and the first two sides of the album are strong but overall it gets kinda lost halfway through the middle and continues getting lost all the way up to the end. Hardcore Zappaphiles only. 2/5

Ike Willis — Thing-Fish
Terry Bozzio — Harry
Dale Bozzio — Rhonda
Napoleon Murphy Brock — The Evil Prince
Bob Harris — Harry-As-A-Boy
Johnny “Guitar” Watson — Brown Moses
Ray White — Owl-Gonkwin-Jane Cowhoon
Frank Zappa – Book & lyrics, music, arrangements, direction of characterizations and album production
Mark Pinske & Bob Stone – Recording engineers
Mark Pinske – Engineering mixer
Ladi Von Jansky – Cover Photo
Jene Omens – Prosthetics of “THING-FISH” & “SISTER OB’DEWLLA ‘X”
Robert Fletcher – Costumes
The Musicians
Frank Zappa – guitar, synclavier,vocals
Steve Vai – guitar
Ray White – guitar
Tommy Mars – keyboards
Chuck Wild – broadway piano
Arthur Barrow – bass
Scott Thunes – bass
Jay Anderson – string bass
Ed Mann – percussion
Chad Wackerman – drums
Steve De Furia – synclavier programming
David Ocker – synclavier programming

Every Second Counts (GDLIYWI) #32

I’ll be going to Autopsy Club later on. It’s open Mike night.

I’ll get this out the way right now: I quite like the Collins-led version of Genesis, for the most part. Oh sure, it’s not going to hold a candle to the Peter Gabriel-era, but the first Genesis song I heard was Turn It On Again in 1980 and I absolutely loved it. It wasn’t until after 1981’s ABACAB album that I started to delve into the Gabriel years and I was hooked by the intricacies of the music, lyrics and theatricality of the band after watching a half-hour TV performance from 1972 whilst channel paddling one night (we only had 3 channels, it could hardly be called surfing!). I still enjoyed the later Genesis years but soon realised that they were two different groups, and I could quite happily separate the two eras.

Seconds Out, their second live album (but first double) was released on 14 October 1977 on Charisma Records. This was their last to feature guitarist Steve Hackett prior to his departure. Hackett left during the mixing of this album, and after hearing it I can see the reason why. It’s very muddy, quite keyboard and bass heavy, which relegates Hackett’s guitar behind a swathe of Banks’ keyboards. This does a great disservice to Hackett’s playing and the great choices of songs here: Carpet Crawlers, The Lamb Lies Down, The Cinema Show, all let down by a dull and lifeless production and stage presence. Hackett shines through on Firth of Fifth and Supper’s Ready, but the muddy production doesn’t do any of the band any favours.

I was looking forward to this album as I enjoy Genesis in general, but coming after an upbeat and exciting Gentle Giant live album this was somewhat of a letdown. Poor production (have I mentioned that?), dull performances and a drum solo make for a sleepy listening. I know they can do better than this because I’ve heard bootlegs from this tour and they sound like a different band, the songs seem to have more energy. I probably won’t listen to it again, it’s not that much different from the studio albums which have better production, nor would I recommend it.

Overall, it’s a 6/10 for me. There are bootlegs out there that are a better listening experience, check out YouTube. Next on deck it’s the Charlie Watt’s Band featuring the Glimmer Twins. TTFN.

I Want You (TSTRTS) #2B

Following on from the previous installment, this post features 3 more versions of I Want You, this time all by solo artists.

First up, is the glorious Bob Dylan with an upbeat, jaunty little number.

Next, something a little different as soul legend Marvin Gaye let’s you know what he wants.

And finally, probably the most downbeat song to be featured in these posts and it’s by Elvis Costello.

As much as I wanted to pick the Elvis song because there are so many high points in it: the off-kilter guitar solo, the pain in his voice, the organ build up is reminiscent of the Beatles I Want You (She’s So Heavy), and Marvin made me want to slip into a smoking jacket and break out the good scotch and two glasses, in the end though Mr. Zimmerman takes the crown with a damn, catchy choon and happy Bob always seems to be a rarity, so it’s good to embrace that.

Let me know in the comments below which song is your favourite. Be seeing you 👌

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I Want You (TSTRTS) #2A

My nickname at school was scarface.
I was brilliant at knitting.

For the second song in this installment of The Song Title Remains The Same, I’m going to split it into 2 sections because there are 6 (six) versions of I Want You that I want (hehehe!) to feature. The first 3 artists up are Kiss, Hanoi Rocks and the Inspiral Carpets; so let’s go!

Kicking things off is Kiss with the first I Want You song I heard. It’s a pretty good mid-paced 70’s Kiss number with a nice Ace Frehley solo.

The bastard offspring of the Rolling Stones and the New York Dolls, and one of the originators of hair metal are next. Finland’s Hanoi Rocks give us a bluesy, sleazy, swaggering slice of rock’n’roll.

Finally, from the UK it’s the Inspiral Carpets with a very upbeat slice of their psychedelic-tinged, organ heavy indie rock.

A tough choice as all 3 songs have their merits however for sheer energy and the opening line of “No-one every said this was going to be easy”, I have to choose the Inspiral Carpets for having my favourite I Want You song by a band. Let me know on the comments which one of three is your preferred choice. Next time round, it’s 3 solo artists and their IWY songs. Be seeing you. 👌

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