REISSUE SERIES:

Pink Floyd - The Final Cut

The Final Cut is Pink Floyd's finest hour, and one of the best rock albums ever recorded by any artist. Ironically, it's also the most overlooked of Pink Floyd's later albums. The Final Cut is a powerful, dramatic, and very personal album dealing with songwriter Roger Waters' pain at losing his father at the Battle of Anzio, his outrage with the then-current Falkland Islands crisis, and the politics that lets this madness happen. Musically, it is unlike most of Pink Floyd's canon: Much of the album is a combination of Waters' voice and producer Michael Kamen's piano with a lush backing from the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The album has been viewed by some as Roger Waters' first "solo album" because of that sound, and for the first time, one member wrote all of the material. Waters left shortly after the album's release, so no supporting tour was done. The reunited Pink Floyd has ignored the album with David Gilmour even claiming that there are only two good songs on The Final Cut. He's wrong. The album is a classic from beginning to end. Waters' vocals have never been more intense, and Gilmour's guitar playing is brilliant: understated where it needed to be, and blazingly powerful where it needed to be. Finally, as part of the band's 30th anniversary, The Final Cut has been remastered and repackaged with the care it deserves.

cover art "The Post War Dream", "Your Possible Pasts", "One Of The Few", "The Hero's Return", "The Gunners Dream", "Paranoid Eyes", "Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert", "The Fletcher Memorial Home", "Southampton Dock", "The Final Cut", "Not Now John", "Two Suns In The Sunset"

The Who -
Face Dances
It's Hard

Face Dances and It's Hard were the two studio albums The Who recorded after original drummer Keith Moon's death in 1978. In his place was ex-Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones. Jones is a very good drummer, but his precise, understated playing was the diametrical opposite of the flamboyant Moon. As a result, a large number of Who fans felt these albums were basically a waste of vinyl and an insult to the band's name. On the other side, Rolling Stone magazine gave It's Hard a 5-star review and proclaimed it The Who's best album since Who's Next. The truth is that both albums are inconsistent. There are wonderful high points, and some deep lows. Neither ranks with any of the Moon-era albums, although both are worth a listen.

Face Dances's highlights include the Meher Baba tribute "Don't Let Go The Coat", the personal "Daily Records" and the catchy hit "You Better You Bet". "Another Tricky Day" came alive in concert, as did John Entwistle's "The Quiet One". Face Dances is by far the better of the two. The bonus tracks contain outtakes and live tracks. "I Like Nightmares" and "It's In You" are unused studio tracks, and "Somebody Saved Me" is a studio track that Pete Townshend remade for his solo album All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (which, by the way, is an absolute gem). The other two are live from the 1979 tour with Kenney, which was the best of the Kenney-Jones-era tours.

cover art "You Better You Bet", "Don't Let Go The Coat", "Cache Cache", "The Quiet One", "Did You Steal My Money", "How Can You Do It Alone", "Daily Records", "You", "Another Tricky Day"

Bonus tracks: "I Like Nightmares", "It's In You", "Somebody Saved Me", "How Can You Do It Alone", "The Quiet One"

It's Hard's first single, the lightweight "Athena", flopped, but the second, "Eminence Front", became an FM staple. "I've Known No War" is the other main highlight. "It's Hard" and "Cooks County" are good, but the demo versions are far better (and available on Pete's Scoop albums). The rest of the songs have moments, but on the whole, this is The Who's weakest album. The bonus tracks are all live from the first "Farewell Tour" in 1982, which was The Who's weakest tour. Yeah, pass on this unless you've got to have everything.

cover art "Athena", "It's Your Turn", "Cooks County", "It's Hard", "Dangerous", "Eminence Front", "I've Known No War", "One Life's Enough", "One At A Time", "Why Did I Fall For That", "A Man Is A Man", "Cry If You Want"

Bonus tracks: "It's Hard", "Eminence Front", "Dangerous", "Cry If You Want"

Keith Moon - Two Sides Of The Moon

Between 1973 and 1975, The Who took a bit of a sabbatical, with Townshend, Daltrey and Entwistle all releasing one or more solo albums. In '74, Keith decided to join in. Can Keith sing? Well, not really, no. Can we write? Well, he wrote a few Who B-sides, but that's about it. Did that stop him from making an album? Nope. Keith and number of friends (including Joe Walsh and Ringo Starr) recorded anyway, picking favorite songs and taking a good-natured go at it. Oddly enough, it works. The album is a lot of fun, and it must have been a blast to record. Highlights include a punchy take on "The Kids Are Alright", a demented "Move Over Ms. L", a sincere (but mildly off-key) "In My Life", and a goofy version of "Together" featuring a comedy rap in the center with Keith and Ringo. The bonus tracks cover first versions of two songs, songs recorded for a second (but never released) album, and an alternate "rap" for "Together". Fun.

cover art "Crazy Like A Fox", "Solid Gold", "Don't Worry Baby", "One Night Stand", "The Kids Are Alright", "Move Over Ms. L", "Teenage Idol", "Back Door Sally", "In My Life", "Together"

Bonus tracks: "US Radio Spot", "I Don't Suppose", "Naked Man", "Do Me Good", "Real Emotion", "Don't Worry Baby", "Teenage Idol", "Together Rap"

John Entwistle -
Rigor Mortis Sets In
Mad Dog
Too Late The Hero

Who bassist John Entwistle's last three original solo albums (the first two were reissued in 1996) are a bit different that his first two.

Rigor Mortis Sets In is a collection of old-style (50's and 60's) style rock and roll, with Entwistle's odd sense of humor thrown in. "Do The Dangle" (a song about new dances like "The Dangle", "The Strike" and "The Wheezy") and "Roller Skate Kate" show off Entwistle's dark sense of humor, "My Wife" is a grittier version of the song he wrote for The Who, and "Made In Japan" is one of Entwistle's best solo tracks. Recommended.

cover art "Gimme That Rock N' Roll", "Mr. Bass Man", "Do The Dangle", "Hound Dog", "Made In Japan", "My Wife", "Roller Skate Kate", "Lucille", "Big Black Cadillac"

Mad Dog is Entwistle's weakest solo album with one huge bright spot. "Cell Number Seven" (about The Who's 1974 arrest for destroying rooms in a Montreal hotel) is a classic. The rest is pretty forgettable 50's-style rock.

cover art "I Fall To Pieces", "Cell Number Seven", "You Can Be So Mean", "Lady Killer", "Who In The Hell?", "Mad Dog", "Jungle Bunny", "I'm So Scared", "Drowning"

1981's Too Late The Hero had Entwistle team up with Joe Walsh and Joe Vitale to make a killer power trio. The lyrics are weaker than Entwistle's usual standard, but the interplay between Walsh's power guitar and Entwistle's thundering bass is worth hearing. "Dancing Master" is a questionable disco parody, but the bass solo in the middle is an absolute killer. The other highlights include the dramatic title track, the silly "Talk Dirty" and the loud "I'm Comin' Back". Also recommended.

cover art "Try Me", "Talk Dirty", "Lovebird", "Sleepin' Man", "I'm Comin' Back", "Dancing Master", "Fallen Angel", "Love Is A Heart Attack", "Too Late The Hero"


LIVE ALBUMS:

John Entwistle - King Biscuit Flower Hour: John Entwistle

In 1974, John Entwistle did a solo US tour, his first without The Who. This King Biscuit Flower Hour was recorded on that tour but never broadcast. The album shows John Entwistle's Ox tearing through a selection of Who songs and solo tracks, wisely avoiding the current Mad Dog album in favor of his much stronger, older solo tracks. Great stuff.

cover art "Heaven And Hell", "Whiskey Man", "My Size", "Boris The Spider", "Not Fade Away", "Cell Number Seven", "Who Cares?", "Gimme That Rock 'n' Roll", "My Wife"

Fleetwood Mac - The Dance

Who'da thunk it? In 1997, the most successful (and famous) incarnation of Fleetwood Mac (Lyndsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood) do a reunion concert for MTV. Frankly, I assumed it would be similar to the Eagles reunion, which was uninspired and flat. Boy was I wrong. The Dance shows a revitalized Fleetwood Mac. The album is a wonderful return to form. Amazing.

cover art "The Chain", "Dreams", "Everywhere", "Rhiannon", "I'm So Afraid", "Temporary One", "Bleed To Love Her", "Big Love", "Landslide", "Say You Love Me", "My Little Demon", "Silver Springs", "You Make Loving Fun", "Sweet Girl", "Go Your Own Way", "Tusk", "Don't Stop"

King Crimson - Epitaph

Epitaph is a document of the original King Crimson lineup, which only existed for most of 1969. Along with founder Robert Fripp, King Crimson originally featured Greg Lake (later of Emerson, Lake and Palmer) and Ian McDonald (later of Foreigner), both doing better work here than they would in the future. The '69 Crimson laid the foundation for the later bands, coupling precise (and gorgeous) art-rock with daring improvisations. If you liked King Crimson's wonderful debut album, In The Court Of The Crimson King, then you'll probablt really enjoy this album. If you haven't heard that debut, get that first, then come back for Epitaph.

cover art "21st Century Schizoid Man", "The Court Of The Crimson King", "Get Thy Bearings", "Epitaph", "A Man, A City", "Epitaph", "21st Century Schizoid Man", "Mantra", "Travel Weary Capricorn", "Travel Bleary Capricorn", "Mars", "The Court Of The Crimson King", "Drop In", "A Man, A City", "Epitaph", "21st Century Schizoid Man", "Mars"

Graham Parker & The Figgs - The Last Rock 'N' Roll Tour

An amazing live album coupling Graham Parker with his best backing since The Rumour in the 70's. A no-frills, loud rock and roll album, featuring Parker's acerbic, catchy songs and The Figgs' perfect backing.

cover art "Turn It Into Hate", "Don't Let It Break You Down", "Soul On Ice", "Weeping Statues", "Fool's Gold", "Local Girls", "Daddy's A Postman", "Impenetrable", "Sharpening Axes", "Back Door Love", "She Never Let Me Down", "Obsessed With Aretha", "Take Everything", "Stupefaction", "Soul Shoes", "Saturday Nite Is Dead", "Get Over It And Move On", "Cream", "Glass Jaw", "Bubblegum Cancer", "Don't Get Excited", "Around And Around"

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Year Of The Horse

Year Of The Horse is an unusal live album from someone not afraid to break convention. This time around, Neil passes on most of his staples, and focuses on the last Crazy Horse album, Broken Arrow, along with some lesser known older tracks. Not as good as the classic Live Rust; however, two CD's worth of Neil & Crazy Horse in fine form is always worth hearing.

cover art "When You Dance I Can Really Love" "Barstool Blues", "When Your Lonely Heart Breaks", "Mr. Soul", "Big Time", "Pocahontas", "Human Highway", "Slip Away", "Scattered (Let's Think About Livin')", "Danger Bird", "Prisoners Of Rock 'n' Roll", "Sedan Delivery"


COMPILATION ALBUMS:

Cream - Those Were The Days

Cream was the original supergroup, combining Eric Clapton's guitar wizardry, Jack Bruce's powerful singing voice and intricate bass work and and Ginger Baker's dazzling drumming into one stunning, but short-lived, power trio. In the two years of their existence, Cream recorded two studio albums, a two half live/half studio albums. Two posthumous live albums and a slew of compilations were also released. Those Were The Days puts all of the studio tracks (including rare B-sides and outtakes) onto the the first two CDs and most of the official live tracks onto the other two CDs. In the studio, Cream recorded heavily blues-influenced heavy rock and psychedelic power pop, highlighted by songs like "Sunshine Of Your Love", "White Room", "Badge" and their cover of Willie Dixon's "Spoonful". Live, Cream was an powerhouse improvisational band, using the songs as kick-off points for longer instrumental passages showing off the band's virtuosity. Essential.

cover art In The Studio: "Wrapping Paper", "I Feel Free", "N.S.U.", "Sleepy Time Time", "Dreaming", "Sweet Wine", "Spoonful", "Cat's Squirrel", "Four Until Late", "Rollin' And Tumblin'", "I'm So Glad", "Toad", "Lawdy Mama" [Version 1], "Strange Brew", "Sunshine Of Your Love", "World Of Pain", "Dance The Night Away", "Blue Condition", "Tales Of Brave Ulysses", "SWLABR", "We're Going Wrong", "Outside Woman Blues", "Take It Back", "Mother's Lament", "White Room", "Sitting On Top Of The World", "Passing The Time" [Extended Version], "As You Said", "Pressed Rat And Warthog", "Politician", "Those Were The Days", "Born Under A Bad Sign", "Deserted Cities Of The Heart", "Anyone For Tennis", "Badge", "Doing That Scrapyard Thing", "What A Bringdown", "The Coffee Song", "Lawdy Mama" [Version 2], "You Make Me Feel" [demo], "We're Going Wrong" [demo], "Hey Now Princess" [demo], "SWLABR" [demo], "Weird Of Hermiston" [demo], "The Clearout" [demo], "Falstaff Beer Commercial"

Live: "N.S.U.", "Sleepy Time Time", "Rollin' And Tumblin'", "Crossroads", "Spoonful", "Tales Of Brave Ulysses", "Sunshine Of Your Love", "Sweet Wine", "White Room", "Politician", "I'm So Glad", "Steppin' Out", "Sitting On Top Of The World", "Traintime" [Extended Version], "Toad", "Deserted Cities Of The Heart", "Sunshine Of Your Love"

The Jam - Direction Reaction Creation

Largely unknown in the US, The Jam in their peak was the most popular band in the UK since the Beatles. The Jam debuted in the punk "Summer Of 76" combining the rawness of punk, Who-style power chords and Paul Weller's brilliant songwriting. As time went on, The Jam became less "punk" and more original as Weller's songwriting talents grew. Direction Reaction Creation combines all of The Jam's studio tracks onto one five-CD set, including all the non-album B-sides and a few outtakes. This box set is a testament to the power one of the best bands ever. It's a shame that they were never really properly appreciated in the US. The box is an import (and expensive), but The Jam's work is a must hear. If you're interested, but scared off by the price, try Setting Sons or Sound Affects. But definitely check out The Jam.

cover art "In The City", "Takin' My Love", "Art School", "I've Changed My Address", "Slow Down", "I Got By In Time", "Away From The Numbers", "Batman", "Sounds From The Street", "Non-Stop Dancing", "Time For Truth", "Bricks And Mortar", "All Around The World", "Carnaby Street", "The Modern World", "London Traffic", "Standards", "Life From A Window", "The Combine", "Don't Tell Them You're Sane", "In The Street, Today", "London Girl", "I Need You (For Someone)", "Here Comes The Weekend", "Tonight At Noon", "In The Midnight Hour", "News Of The World", "Aunties And Uncles (Impulsive Youths)", "Innocent Man", "David Watts", "'A' Bomb In Wardour Street", "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight", "So Sad About Us", "The Night", "All Mod Cons", "To Be Someone (Didn't We Have A Nice Time)", "Mr. Clean", "English Rose", "In The Crowd", "Billy Hunt", "It's Too Bad", "Fly", "The Place I Love", "Strange Town", "The Butterfly Collector", "When You're Young", "Smithers-Jones", "The Eton Rifles", "See-Saw", "Girl On The Phone", "Thick As Thieves", "Private Hell", "Little Boy Soldiers", "Wasteland", "Burning Sky", "Smithers-Jones", "Saturday's Kids", "Heat Wave", "Going Underground", "The Dreams Of Children", "Start!", "Liza Radley", "Pretty Green", "Monday", "But I'm Different Now", "Set The House Ablaze", "That's Entertainment", "Dream Time", "Man In The Corner Shop", "Music For The Last Couple", "Boy About Town", "Scrape Away", "Funeral Pyre", "Disguises", "Absolute Beginners", "Tales From The Riverbank", "Town Called Malice", "Precious" [12-inch version], "Happy Together", "Ghosts", "Just Who Is The 5 O'Clock Hero?", "Trans-Global Express", "Running On The Spot", "Circus", "The Planner's Dream Goes Wrong", "Carnation", "The Gift", "The Great Depression", "The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)", "Pity Poor Alfie / Fever", "Beat Surrender", "Shopping", "Move On Up", "Stoned Out Of My Mind", "War", "In The City", "Time For Truth", "Sounds From The Street", "So Sad About Us", "Worlds Apart", "Billy Hunt" [Alternate Version], "It's Too Bad", "To Be Someone (Didn't We Have A Nice Time)", "David Watts", "Best Of Both Worlds", "That's Entertainment", "Rain", "Dream Time", "Dead End Street", "Stand By Me", "Every Little Bit Hurts", "Tales From The Riverbank", "Walking In Heaven's Sunshine", "Precious", "Pity Poor Alfie" [Swing Version], "The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)" [First Version], "A Solid Bond In Your Heart"

The Move - Movements: 30th Anniversary Anthology

The Move was another popular UK band that never quite broke in the US. Early on, leader Roy Wood wrote catchy, clever pop songs. Within a few years, Wood's songwriting had evolved into a far heavier, unique, bassy sound. After several invitations, Roy Wood convinced former Idle Race leader Jeff Lynne to join The Move, and the band's sound took another turn. After the Move's excellent third album, Looking On, was released Roy and Jeff started dividing their attention between The Move (completing one more Move album, Message From The Country) and a new experimental band that integrated a string section into the band rather than overdubbing. This experimental act, the Electric Light Orchestra ended up with the worldwide success The Move never acheived.

Movements is an imported 3 CD box set combining the first three Move albums, their live Something Else By The Move EP, and non-album B-sides and previously unreleased rarities, including the long-lost track "Vote For Me". The first CD (featuring the debut album The Move) is wonderful (but unusual) psychedelic pop and British Invasion rock highlighted by "Night Of Fear", "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" and "Wild Tiger Woman". The second CD (featuring the second LP, Shazam) shows the transition of The Move's sound, highlighted by the beautiful, dense "Blackberry Way", the elegant "Beautiful Daughter" and the heavy "Hello Susie". If you're familiar with ELO's debut album, No Answer, that will give you a rough feel of The Move's later sound captured on the 3rd CD (featuring Lynne's first album with the band, Looking On), highlighted by the frenzied "When Alice Comes Back To The Farm" and long, complex "Looking On" (strangely included in the soundtrack of the film "Boogie Nights"). The third CD ends with a longer version of the Somthing Else EP, a collection of live covers from the Shazam era. Overall, a great collection from another dramatically underappreciated band.

Note for collectors: If you buy Movements, the import BBC Sessions and the US release Great Move, you'll have a complete collection of The Move's officially released work.

cover art "Night Of Fear", "The Disturbance", "I Can Hear The Grass Grow", "Wave Your Flag And Stop The Train", "Yellow Rainbow", "Kilroy Was Here", "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree", "Weekend", "Walk Upon The Water", "Flowers In The Rain", "Useless Information", "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart", "The Girl Outside", "Fire Brigade", "Mist On A Monday Morning", "Cherry Blossom Clinic", "Hey Grandma", "The Disturbance" [Undubbed Alternate Version], "Wild Tiger Woman", "Omnibus", "Blackberry Way", "Something", "Curly", "This Time Tomorrow", "Hello Susie", "Beautiful Daughter", "Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited", "Fields Of People", "Don't Make My Baby Blue", "The Last Thing On My Mind", "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree" [Stereo Single Mix], "Cherry Blossom Clinic" [Stereo Mix], "Fire Brigade" [Early Undubbed Mix], "Second Class" [Backing Track], "Wild Tiger Woman Blues" [Early Undubbed Mix], "Curly Where's Your Girly" [Early Alternate Mix], "Something" [Italian Language Version], "Vote For Me", "Looking On", "Turkish Tram Conductor Blues", "What?", "When Alice Comes Back To The Farm", "Open Up Said The World At The Door", "Brontosaurus", "Feel Too Good", "The Duke Of Edinburgh's Lettuce", "Lightning Never Strikes Twice", "So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star", "Stephanie Knows Who", "Something Else", "It'll Be Me", "(Take Another) Piece Of My Heart", "Too Much In Love", "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher", "Sunshine Help Me" [Unedited Version]

Frank Sidebottom - Frank Sidebottom's A B C & D ... The Best Of ...

How in the hell do you explain Frank Sidebottom to someone that's never heard him? Well, Frank Sidebottom plays guitar, banjo, accordion and cheesy keyboard and sings cover songs whose lyrics are adapted to fit Frank's love of football (soccer), his hometown of Timperley, Queen, and the Beatles (especially Paul McCartney) and original songs on the same topics. Oh yeah, he sings in a silly, nasally voice and wears a large, papier-mâché head, often argues & duets with his puppet friend, Little Frank, is hiding his superstardom from his mum, and ends every song by saying "Thank you!". Actually, it's even weirder that you're thinking, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Who can resist lyrics like:

Wild thing, you're uh ... really wild
And you are also a thing
That's why they call you "wild thing", actually
And your initials are W.T.

... and ...

I sent Little Frank to get me a visa
He came back an hour later with a pepperoni pizza
I said "you stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid puppet"
He said "I'd like to help you Frank, but I'm cardboard."

Frank Sidebottom's A B C & D is a compilation of Frank's best from the numerous (and out of print) albums and EP's he's released over the years. Highlights include the two songs alluded two above ("J'Taime Wild Thing In Timperley" and "Timperley Blues" [based on "Summertime Blues"]), "Everybody Sings Queen" (whose lyrics are made up of Queen song titles), and, oh heck, all of the "Timperley" songs, plus the what must be the only cheery covers of a Sex Pistols song ("Anarchy In Timperley") and a Joy Division song ("Love Will Tear Us Apart") on record. Thank you!

cover art "Anarchy In Timperley", "Timperley Blues", "Timperley Sunset", "Born In Timperley", "Surfin' Timperley", "Next Train To Timperley", "Oh Timperley", "J'Taime Wild Thing In Timperley", "The Robbins Aren't Bobbins", "Guess Who's Been On Match Of The Day", "Mexico '90", "Estudiantes (Striped Shirts / Black Panties)", "Puff 'n' Blow", "Hit The North", "I Should Be So Lucky", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Frank Gordon", "Everybody Sings Queen", "We Will Rock You", "Radio Ga Ga", "I Am The Champion", "Indie Medley (Love Will Tear Us Apart / How I Wrote Elastic Man / Take The Skinheads Bowling / Bigmouth Strikes Again)", "The Monopoly Song", "Zoo Scrapbook", "Xmas Is Really Fantastic", "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday", "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", "Xmas Medley", "What For From Me Mum", "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite", "Flying", "Mull Of Timperley", "It Was Nearly 20 Years Ago Today", "Twist 'n' Shout", "Blackpool Fool", "Mr. Custard", "Hey You Street Artist", "The Wonder Of Me", "Firm Favorite Ads", "Mirror Man, Mirror Puppet / Gimmie That Harp Little Frank", "Another Fantastic Banjo Sting", "Electricity"

Frank Zappa - Have I Offended Someone?

Have I Offended Someone? is a compilation of "offensive" Zappa tracks which is a lot of fun, but the original albums are much better. For collectors, there's two new live cuts on this CD ("Dumb All Over" and "Tinsel Town Rebellion"). For neophytes, stick with Strictly Commercial, which gives a much better overview of Zappa's eclectic career.

cover art "Bobby Brown", "Disco Boy", "Goblin Girl", "In France", "He's So Gay", "Sex", "Titties And Beer", "We're Turning Again", "Dumb All Over", "Catholic Girls", "Dinah-Moe Humm", "Tinsel Town Rebellion", "Valley Girl", "Jewish Princess", "Yo Cats"

Frank Zappa - Strictly Genteel

Strictly Genteel is a compilation of Zappa's instrumental rock and orchestral works, which serves as a nice overview of a generally neglected part of Zappa's canon. There are no "dirty words" on here, no silly lyrics (actually, no lyrics at all), just beautiful, challenging, eclectic instrumental music. Definitely worth a listen, even if you dislike Zappa's rock.

cover art "Uncle Meat: Main Theme", "Regyptian Strut", "Pedro's Dowry", "Outrage At Valdez", "Little Umbrellas", "Run Home Slow Theme", "Dwarf Nebula Processional March And Dwarf Nebula", "Dupree's Paradise", "Opus I, No. 3, 2nd Movement: Presto", "The Duke Of Prunes", "Aybe Sea", "Naval Aviation In Art", "G-Spot Tornado", "Bob In Dacron" [First Movement], "Opus I, No. 4, 2nd Movement: Allegro", "The Dog Breath Variations", "Uncle Meat", "Strictly Genteel"


Ummm... "ALTERNATIVE IMPORTS":

The Rutles - Sweet Rutle Tracks

I had to laugh when I heard this came out. A bootleg release of a band that only existed to make a parody film about The Beatles? Well, yes, and it's a great album. It shows The Rutles rehearsing for the original album, and it shows a loose, exciting band hard at work. Highlights include "Plenty Of Time", an older Innes song that wasn't used in either Rutles project, hearing Innes hum the "Liberty Bell March" (more famous as the theme to the Monty Python TV show) as the intro to "Love Life" and Ollie Halsall's stinging solo in "Blue Suede Schubert". The sound could be better, but the material is just stunning.

cover art "We've Arrived! (And To Prove It We're Here)", "Now She's Left You", "Number One", "Love Life", "Goose Step Mama", "It's Looking Good", "I Must Be In Love", "Baby Let Me Be", "Good Times Roll", "Let's Be Natural", "Get Up And Go", "Blue Suede Schubert", "Between Us", "Piggy In The Middle", "Living In Hope", "Doubleback Alley", "Plenty Of Time"

Television -
The Last Time
This Case Is Closed

Two new bootlegs documenting final appearances by the legendary New York band Television. The Last Time, the second in a series of small private releases, documents Television's last appearance at the famed CBGB's in New York. The Last Time is also special for providing the best quality versions of the unreleased songs "Poor Circulation", "Oh Mi Amore", "Adventure" and "Kingdom Come". This Case Is Closed has one of Television's farewell shows at The Bottom Line. At this point, the band was close to breaking up, but they were still stunning on stage. Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd spin hypnotic guitar lines over Fred Smith and Billy Ficca's accomplished rhythm section. Both CDs show a band that died before it's time.

cover art "Fire Engine", "Venus", "Elevation", "Little Johnny Jewel", "Careful", "Friction", "Marquee Moon", "See No Evil", "Prove It", "Poor Circulation", "O Mi Amore", "Adventure", "Knockin' On Heaven's Door", "Kingdom Come", "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", "Fire Engine", "Prove It", "Elevation", "Little Johnny Jewel", "Friction", "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", "Marquee Moon"

cover art "Fire Engine", "Glory", "The Grip Of Love", "Foxhole", "The Dream's Dream", "Ain't That Nothin'", "Friction", "Prove It", "Marquee Moon", "Kingdom Come", "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

Pete Townshend - Live At Fillmore 1996

In 1996, Pete Townshend did a very limited US tour backed only by Jon Carin on keyboards. Live At Fillmore 1996 is taken from a radio broadcast of Pete's appearance at the legendary Fillmore West in San Francisco. The song selection is a wonderful mix of Who and solo tracks, and the simple guitar/keyboard arrangements do the songs great justice. A terrific CD.

cover art "Let My Love Open The Door", "English Boy", "Drowned", "Cut My Hair", "I'm One", "Heart To Hang On To", "Parvardigar", "A Friend Is A Friend", "I Am An Animal", "Slit Skirts", "Eyesight To The Blind", "Now And Then", "Rough Boys", "Magic Bus"

The Who -
Music Must Change
It's Face Demos

Two new bootleg collections of Pete Townshend's legendary demo tapes. When Townshend is working on new material, he generally records complete versions of the songs, overdubbing his vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. The result are basically lo-fi versions of the released songs. In many cases, the demo is as good (or occasionally better than the released version.

Music Must Change presents demos intended for the Who Are You album, including two songs I'd never heard before, "Love Is Wine" (featuring Pete on banjo) and "Broken Nails" (a piano ballad). As with a lot of Townshend demos, it's rather amazing how close the demo is to the released version. Even as a demo, "Who Are You" is powerhouse, full-blast rock. "Love Is Coming Down" is prettier as a demo than the released version. The sound is wonderful. For Who or Townshend fans, this is essential.

cover art "Who Are You", "Love Is Coming Down", "New Song", "Sister Disco", "Never Ask Me", "Like It The Way It Is", "Love Is Wine", "Broken Nails", "Keep On Working", "Guitar And Pen", "Music Must Change", "Empty Glass", "No Road Romance", "Affirmation" (Mike DaCosta), "Baba O'Riley"

It's Face Demos contains six Face Dances demos, two It's Hard demos, and three Who's Next outtakes (which have shown up on the essential From Lifehouse To Leeds boot of a few years ago. These demos makes clear that these songs were not ideal for the Who's powerful attack. The treats here include "What Is Love" (a previously unreleased and unbootlegged track, and a great one) and "Theresa" (the demo for "Athena"), which is a huge improvement over The Who's released version, if for no other reason that omitting the silly "She's a bomb" chorus that marred the released version. Unless you really despise Face Dances and It's Hard, don't pass this one up.

cover art "How Can You Do It Alone", "Daily Records", "You Better You Bet", "Don't Let Go The Coat", "Dance It Away", "What Is Love", "Athena", "It's In You", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Love Ain't For Keeping", "Getting In Tune"


WOULDA-BEEN TOP TENS HAD I HEARD 'EM IN TIME ... aka ... "D'OH!":

E - A Man Called (E)
E - Broken Toy Shop
Eels - Beautiful Freak

E (a person, not a band) released two albums in the early 90's before forming Eels in 1995. The first two albums are wonderful, lush albums of irresistably catchy guitar and piano pop music coupled with E's gritty, occasionally "Peter-Gabriel-ish" voice. Great stuff. A Man Called (E) is full of should've-been-hits, especially "Nowheresville" and "Hello Cruel World". Broken Toy Box is a little different, with the gorgeous "Shine It All On" as the main highlight. Eels are a very different affair, coupling E's pure pop songwriting with a grungier sound and challenging, deeper lyrics. "Novocaine For The Soul" ("...before I sputter out ...") is the early standout on first listening, but "Susan's House" (an odd combination of dialogue, dance beats and hooky pop that works well), "Guest List", "Not Ready Yet" and "Rags To Rags" leap out shortly thereafter. Beautiful Freak would have eaily hit my top ten for '96 had I heard it in time.

cover art "Hello Cruel World", "Fitting In With The Misfits", "Are You & Me Gonna Happen", "Looking Out The Window With A Blue Hat On", "Nowheresville", "Symphony For Toy Piano In G Minor", "Mockingbird Franklin", "I've Been Kicked Around", "Pray", "E's Tune", "You'll Be The Scarecrow"

cover art "Shine It All On", "Standing At The Gate", "The Only Thing I Care About", "Manchester Girl", "L. A. River", "A Most Unpleasant Man", "Mass", "Tomorrow I'll Be Nine", "The Day I Wrote You Off", "Someone To Break The Spell", "She Loves A Puppet", "My Old Raincoat", "Permanent Broken Heart", "Eight Lives Left"

cover art "Novocaine For The Soul", "Susan's House", "Rags To Rags", "Beautiful Freak", "Not Ready Yet", "My Beloved Monster", "Flower", "Guest List", "Mental", "Spunky", "Your Lucky Day In Hell", "Manchild"


OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES:

The Dandy Warhols - ... The Dandy Warhols Come Down

The Dandy Warhols' combine a heavily Velvet Underground-influenced sound with sixties psychedelic touches (complete with cheesy organ) and nineties grunge. The lyrics are snide, but tounge in cheek (you gotta love a line like "I never thought you'd be a junkie because heroin is so passé"). Cool stuff, and a definite improvement over their good debut album.

cover art "Be-In", "Boys Better", "Minnesoter", "Orange", "I Love You", "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth", "Every Day Should Be A Holiday", "Good Morning", "Whipping Tree", "Green", "Cool As Kim Deal", "Hard On For Jesus", "Pete International Airport", "The Creep Out"

Steve Louis - Approximations And Proportions

Steve Louis is a friend of mine, so I'm probably not unbiased here, but I really enjoyed Approximations And Proportions. Steve plays all the instruments (save strings on two songs and bass on a third), and does a fine job all 'round. The music is dense, moody and complex, vaguely reminiscent at points of Atom Heart Mother-era Pink Floyd. Highlights include the hypnotic closer "Critically Acclaimed", the lush "Banana Moon" (with a great string arrangement), and the lovely instrumental "Before The Accident". But the best track on here is the complex, pulsing instrumental "Ekimyngcuopa". A fine debut. If you're interested in a copy, they're only available at Steve's shop (Sour Records) located in downtown Westerville.

cover art "Valley", "Ingrid Frank", "Put Me To Sleep", "Curses", "Ekimyngcuopa", "Cry Of A Crow", "Banana Moon", "Before The Accident", "Under The Sound", "Critically Acclaimed"

Oasis - Be Here Now

Before I heard one note of Be Here Now I'd already heard strong opinions on both sides about this album. Depending on who you listened to, this was either the album of the year or a crashing failure. In my opinion, neither of those descriptions works. Be Here Now doesn't hold a candle to the first two Oasis albums, but it's not a complete failure either. Be Here Now has a BIG sound, seemingly designed for huge stadiums. The best tracks here are "My Big Mouth", "I Hope, I Think, I Know" and the title track. These three are worthy of the hype for the album. The only real failure here is "All Around The World", which was pre-hyped as an Oasis classic. It isn't. It's not a bad song, but it's way, way, way too long. The "Hey Jude"-style fade out is just repetitive instead of epic. "D'You Know What I Mean?" takes some chances by adding in tape loops, but the song itself isn't that special. The rest of the album is ... well ... uneventful. When I first bought (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, I couldn't take it out of my CD player for weeks. Be Here Now sounds like Oasis, but the same spark just isn't there. It sounds like Noel is just going through the motions. Again, it's not a bad album, per se, it's just not up to the standard that Oasis established on their first two albums.

cover art "D'You Know What I Mean?", "My Big Mouth", "Magic Pie", "Stand By Me", "I Hope, I Think, I Know", "The Girl In The Dirty Shirt", "Fade In-Out", "Don't Go Away", "Be Here Now", "All Around The World", "It's Gettin' Better (Man!!)", "All Around The World (Reprise)"

10,000 Maniacs - Love Among The Ruins

10,000 Maniacs suffered what should have been a fatal blow by the departure of lead singer Natalie Merchant to a solo career. To replace her, founder John Lombardo (who wrote many of the earlier songs) returned to the fold along with Lombardo's post-Maniacs partner, singer/violinist Mary Ramsey. The songs on Love Among The Ruins are more in the style of the earlier Maniacs albums like The Wishing Chair, although they do lack Merchant's unusual voice. On the whole, an enjoyable listen and far better than could be expected. I'm looking forward to the next album as well.

cover art "Rainy Day", "Love Among The Ruins", "Even With My Eyes Closed", "Girl On A Train", "Green Children", "A Room For Everything", "More Than This", "Big Star", "You Won't Find Me There", "All That Never Happens", "Shining Light", "Across The Fields"

Richard Thompson & Danny Thompson - Industry

Industry is a loose concept album about the Industrial Age by Richard Thompson and his long-time touring partner, bassist Danny Thompson. Richard wrote the six vocal songs, and Danny wrote the five instrumentals. Richard's in fine form, with stinging electric guitar and gorgeous acoustic guitar. The highlights are "Sweetheart On The Barricade" and the wistful "Drifting Through The Days". "Big Chimney" would have been another big favorite if it wasn't for some really odd sax work that mars the song. Where a big, blazing Richard Thompson guitar solo should hit, there's a squawky sax solo in it's place. Danny's instrumentals are pretty hybrids of jazz and folk, with the majestic opener "Chorale" as the highlight.

cover art "Chorale", "Sweetheart On The Barricade", "Children Of The Dark", "Big Chimney", "Kitty 'Tommy, Quick! Get Up. I Can Hear Clogs Goin' Up The Street.' Tommy 'Well Stick Mine Out And See If They'll Go With 'Em!'", "Drifting Through The Days", "Lotteryland", "Pitfalls", "Saboteur", "New Rhythms", "Last Shift"


THE TOP TEN FOR 1997

(in my frequently less-than-humble opinion)

10) Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks - The 2000 Year Old Man In The Year 2000: The Album

Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks create a new "2000 Year Old Man" routine for the first time since 1973, and the old man's in fine form, covering everthing from the first children's book ("See Moses Run"), the creation of the yarmulke and the Spanish Inquisition, up through modern celebrities, the Internet, and the old man's first dirty word on record. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

For those not familiar: Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks used to do improvised interviews at parties. Carl would interview a character played by Mel and they'd just let their imaginations fly. In the early 60's, they made three records of improvised interviews, each including one long chat with "The 2000 Year Old Man". In 1973, they made their first comeback album (2000 And Thirteen), this time only talking to The 2000 Year Old Man. The original three albums and 2000 And Thirteen are available in a box set on Rhino called The Complete Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks. (Hey, it was complete at the time!). These albums are some of the funniest (and cleanest) comedy records ever made. A must hear.

cover art "A Re-Pleasure To See You", "See Moses Run", "Diseases And The Plagues", "Pain", "Wives And Famous Women", "Parents", "First Place You Ever Lived", "Yarmulkes Galore And The Inquisition", "Computer Sex And Self Help", "Exercise And Infomercial", "Music", "Height And Plastic Surgery", "Seven Wonders Of The World", "Famous People", "Pet Peeves And Words Of Wisdom"

9) Cast - Mother Nature Calls

Cast's second album is a strong followup to their great debut album. Mother Nature Calls is a blend of Britpop and slashing Who-style power chords and John Power's distinctive voice. "Free Me" is a rousing opener, "I'm So Lonely" a great lush, string-laden ballad, but the best track on here is the irresistably catchy "Guiding Star".

cover art "Free Me", "On The Run", "Live The Dream", "Soul Tied", "She Sun Shines", "I'm So Lonely", "The Mad Hatter", "Mirror Me", "Guiding Star", "Never Gonna Tell You What To Do (Revolution)", "Dance Of The Stars"

8) Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins - Sluggo!

Sluggo! is Mike Keneally's best work since his killer '93 debut album, hat. Sluggo! is a varied mix of knotty instrumentals, twisty tempo changes, catchy, hooky pop and white-hot (and very unconventional) lead guitar work. Highlights include the wonderfully silly "Potato", the frenzied "Why Am I Your Guy?", and "Chatfield Manor", a tribute to the friends who worked with Keneally on the album. Looking for something different? Something a little challenging? Try Sluggo!.

cover art "Potato", "I, Drum-Running, Am Clapboard Bound", "Why Am I Your Guy?", "Looking For Nina", "Frozen Beef (Come With Me)", "Tranquillado", "What Happened Next", "Chatfield Manor", "Beautiful", "I Guess I'll Peanut", "Voyage To Manhood", "Egg Zooming", "Own", "I'm Afraid", "Cardboard Dog", "Sluggo"

7) Stereophonics - Word Gets Around

Word Gets Around, the debut album from the Welsh power trio Stereophonics, is a blast of back-to-basics, no frills rock & roll, overlaid with insightful lyrics, and impassioned playing. The stunning highlight is "Local Boy In The Photograph", a catchy rocker about friends remembering a lost friend. A great debut.

cover art "A Thousand Trees", "Looks Like Chaplin", "More Life In A Tramps Vest", "Local Boy In The Photograph", "Traffic", "Not Up To You", "Check My Eyelids For Holes", "Same Size Feet", "Last Of The Big Time Drinkers", "Goldfish Bowl", "Too Many Sandwiches", "Billy Daveys Daughter"

6) Supergrass - In It For The Money

In It For The Money is a great collection of spunky, catchy punk/pop songs with a few ballads thrown in for good measure. Supergrass plays with far more polish than your average punk band, but not a drop of energy is lost. Supergrass is a very young band (the band members are all under 25), and it sounds like they're hitting their stride very, very early.

cover art "In It For The Money", "Richard III", "Tonight", "Late In The Day", "G-Song", "Sun Hits The Sky", "Going Out", "It's Not Me", "Cheapskate", "You Can See Me", "Hollow Little Reign", "Sometimes I Make You Sad"

5) The Seahorses - Do It Yourself

The Seahorses are the new band from John Squire, guitarist and songwriter for the late, lamented Stone Roses. When I started to re-listen to this album to write this review, I was surprised and a little disappointed. The album starts out with two songs written by lead singer Chris Helme that are nowhere near as good as I was remembering. When the powerful opening of the first of Squire's songs, "Suicide Drive", comes on, the album took off like a shot, and I remembered exactly why this needed to be in my top ten. "Love Is The Law" starts off with a huge, classic riff and ends with a long instrumental workout that shows off the band's powerful sound. "Happiness Is Eggshaped" (despite the goofy title) and "Round The Universe" are two of those catchy rockers that should be a huge hit. "Love Me And Leave Me" has lyrics written by Oasis' lead singer Liam Gallagher, and Liam doesn't do a half-bad job. Clever, and as good as anything on Oasis' album. Do It Yourself is a showplace for Squire's powerful guitar work and a must hear. Here's hoping they take less time that the Roses did in coming out with a followup!

cover art "I Want You To Know", "Blinded By The Sun", "Suicide Drive", "The Boy In The Picture", "Love Is The Law", "Happiness Is Eggshaped", "Love Me And Leave Me", "Round The Universe", "1999", "Standing On Your Head", "Hello"

4) Patti Smith - Peace And Noise

In last year's review, I said Patti Smith's 1996 comeback album, Gone Again brought Patti Smith back to form. I haven't changed my mind about Gone Again, but Peace And Noise simply blows it away. Patti's poetic lyrics get the perfect backing from her band (basically the same group that recorded Gone Again), and a terrific crop of new songs results in Patti's best album since her Patti Smith Group heyday in the seventies. The album gets off to a fast start with the dramatic opener, "Waiting Underground", highlighted by Oliver Ray's powerful guitar, Tony Shanahan's stark piano, and Patti's voice. The dazzler on this album is "Spell", in which Patti gives an impassioned reading of the footnote to Allen Ginsberg's Howl over powerful, dramatic backing from the band. Peace And Noise shows exactly why Patti Smith is deservedly considered a legend. If you've never heard Patti's work, pick up this album (or her debut, Horses) and you'll see what all the fuss is about.

cover art "Waiting Underground", "Whirl Away", "1959", "Spell", "Don't Say Nothing", "Dead City", "Blue Poles", "Death Singing", "Memento Mori", "Last Call"

Here's where things got tricky. I nailed down spots 4-10 pretty quickly, and had my top three in mind. After that, it got whole lot harder to sort out. In fact, I've had draft copies of this page with each of these top three as the #1 album. I'll elaborate a bit more after you read the top three...

3) Radiohead - OK Computer

In the TV special "The Rutles", there's a joke about a group called "The Punk Floyd". In an odd way, Radiohead's OK Computer fits that description. OK Computer is an unusual combination of beautiful, atmospheric interludes and all-out blasts of raw punk power that holds up as a unified singular piece rather than a collection of individual songs. There is a vague unifying concept running through the album (seemingly involving aliens viewing our society from a distance); however, there isn't a clear narrative like The Wall or Tommy. The album's lyrics are abstract, but Thom Yorke's powerful singing places an emotional power in all of them. What really caught me is the way the album shifts from gentle to ferocious and back again without sounding disjoint. A stunning album.

cover art "Airbag", "Paranoid Android", "Subterranean Homesick Alien", "Exit Music (For A Film)", "Let Down", "Karma Police", "Fitter Happier", "Electioneering", "Climbing Up The Walls", "No Surprises", "Lucky", "The Tourist"

2) Teenage Fanclub - Songs From Northern Britain

Teenage Fanclub had intended Songs From Northern Britain to be a quickly-released followup to 1995's Grand Prix. However, due to a number of crises, it took well over a year to complete. Songs From Northern Britain has much the same sound as Grand Prix, but boy what a sound it is. Melodic Big Star and Byrds influenced rock with grungy guitar and picture-perfect harmonies, Songs From Northern Britain seems tailor-made for a summer afternoon. From the folky "Ain't That Enough" to the epic rock of "Mount Everest", from the gentle "Planets" to the bouncy pop with crunching power chords on "Speed Of Light", there is just not a weak track on this album. Songs From Nothern Britain may have been originally planned as a quickie release, but the result is Teenage Fanclub's best album to date.

cover art "Start Again", "Ain't That Enough", "Can't Feel My Soul", "I Don't Want Control Of You", "Planets", "It's A Bad World", "Take The Long Way Round", "Winter", "I Don't Care", "Mount Everest", "Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From", "Speed Of Light"

1) Paul Weller - Heavy Soul

On Heavy Soul, Paul Weller goes for a loose, almost live feel, which gives tremendous energy to the whole album. The album starts off with the appropriately titled "Heavy Soul" which blends Weller's soul and R & B influcenes into a heavy rocker and "Peacock Suit", which combines a strutting lyric with a tough backing. It's not all heavy rock though. "I Should Have Been There To Inspire You" is a wistful ballad about Weller's ex-wife, and "Friday Street" is catchy Britpop, which wouldn't have been out of place on a Jam album. Weller's last three albums, Wild Wood, Stanley Road, and now Heavy Soul show him to be one of the most talented songwriters in the world. Folks, this is fantastic stuff. You really need to hear this.

cover art "Heavy Soul (Pt 1)", "Peacock Suit", "Up In Suzes' Room", "Brushed", "Driving Nowhere", "I Should Have Been There To Inspire You", "Heavy Soul (Pt 2)", "Friday Street", "Science", "Golden Sands", "As You Lean Into The Light", "Mermaids"

Here's why I had so tough a time sorting out the albums. To me, all three are brilliant, but in very different ways. OK Computer is dense, thoughtful, complex, unified work. Songs From Northern Britain is a catchy, hummable album where every song sounds like a hit to me. However, Heavy Soul got the final nod for its combination of power, soul and great lyrics. It was close though. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see this again in a week or two and be convinced I messed up the order.


PAST YEAR'S BESTS

Just click on the album cover to see that year's reviews.

1996 best of1995 best of1994 best of1993 best of1992 best of1991 best of1990 best of1989 best of1988 best of1987 best of
Owen Gwilliam

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