Category Archives: Record of the Month Classic

Album of the Month – Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I’m trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.


There are not too many artists (if any) the likes of Gillian Welch.  In the big scheme of things, she is fairly unique.

Parts folk, bluegrass, hill music and all talent.   She and partner David Rawlings put together their most cohesive disk with Time (the revelator).

‘Spare’ is the best adjective I can think of for the album.   The music is stripped down to its most basic, but that makes it no less appealing.   It brings out and shows off the talent of Welch and Rawlings.

Welch is an incredible songwriter and can translate those from paper to tape….or probably computer these days.  Maybe tape back in 2001.

The title track is without a doubt my favourite on the disk.  It is almost a shame that it leads off the set, as it could make it hard for others to live up to it.  The good new is, the rest of the songs are equally as strong.

“April the 14th, pt 1”, “Elvis Presley Blues”, “Everything is Free” and “I Dream a Highway” are all stand-outs, but the rest ain’t filler.

While not a household name, nor probably ever will be – she has achieved commercial success in the ways of compilations and songwriting – performing on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and writing the title track for Alison Krauss + Union Station’s New Favorite.

Granted this music will not appeal to everyone, but even those who might not buy it I think can appreciate the talent there that the two possess.  I really have found myself liking bluegrass and folk music, so it works for me.

I will say this, months after I bought this and someone stole a number of disks out of my hotel room – it was the first one I went out and replaced.  Yeah, it’s that good.

Record of the Month – Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I’m trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.

I vacillated between this debut disc, Kite, and Kirsty MacColl‘s sophomore album, Electric Landlady, but I went with this one. Duh.

America most know Ms MacColl for writing Tracey Ullman’s “They Don’t Know”, (not that most have ever really known this fact – or the song) but she was so much more than that. She was a witty and poignant songwriter who also did a great job of performing – in that, oh-so British way.

Jon almost had me post this last month when in Mexico, as we were not far from where Kirsty died in a tragic speed boat accident almost a decade ago. But he certainly got me thinking on when (not if) to include her music.

The version of Kite I have no longer exists. The ones currently out there are remixed within an inch of their life with lots of additional, lesser known and less stellar tracks. I think they dilute the experience.

The disk, produced by her then husband, Steve Lillywhite (responsible for U2’s first three disks, Talking Heads and a plethora of other music out there), comes across as poppy and light-hearted. That is, until you really listen to it. Don’t get me wrong, it can just be pop, but more often than not, it can be sociallyconscious, heartbreaking and/or sad.

The original disk consisted of 15 songs, a third of those not even hitting three minutes in length, they were snapshots almost. Most of the songs are originals, but a few covers. MacColl does a decent cover of the Kinks  “Days”, but ironically, two songs later she does her own song, “15 Minutes” which sounds like it could be a Kinks song.

She also does what I consider an incredible cover of the Smiths “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby” (at least the original release).  It ranks up there as one of the best cover songs ever done and she does it without losing any of Morrissey’s tongue-in-cheek behaviour.  The Smiths, Johnny Marr makes appearances as both musician and co-writer on a few tracks.

As the album goes, I have some favourites, as you might guess: “Free World”, “What Do Pretty Girls Do”, “Dancing in Limbo”, “You and Me, Baby” and “LaForet de Memosas”.

I am not sure how easy Kite is to find outside of iTunes, but it is available there.  Go and sample.  I think you’ll like.

Record of the Month – Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I’m trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.

Here’s a disk I can almost assure none of you have listened to – except for Jon.

Pat Benatar’s Innamorata was released about 12 years ago and is one of the better disks I have in my collection.   Honest.

The title is Italian and translates into ‘sweetheart’ or ‘soulmate’, but I can’t say that all of these songs would fit into that category.  Pat can still sing angry when she has to.

I will say that it is some of Benatar’s strongest work.  Yeah, I like(d) the ’80s stuff and it was fun and seemingly it helped define the decade for female artists, but it had a certain shelf-life – not that there aren’t songs I still listen to.

But Innamorata was her first disk not on a major label and she and husband/producer Neil Giraldo had more freedom to write and record what they wanted – and it works.  The songs are strong, the production is too and Benatar’s voice has never been stronger.  I think independence agreed with them.

I’m a huge fan of the songs here, especially “In These Times”, “Only You”, “Strawberry Wine”, “I Don’t Want to be Your Friend” and “At this Time”.  Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the stuff is fine too, but these listed are the ones that got space on the iPod.  Since that device holds a finite number of songs, I had to pick and choose carefully.

Like many of my blog selections, the album underperformed at radio and sales levels.  I always seem to pick and root for the underdog, but I’ve never really been a fan of stuff that is too mainstream.  One issue with being a known name on an independent label is that most people assume it is a last grasp effort and if the product were any good, a major would still have you signed.  Phooey.

Admittedly, her follow-up to this disk Go, wasn’t nearly as good (though I love the title track), but I would suggest you at least sample some of her Innamorata work on iTunes, amazon or the like.  You might be surprised.

Record of the Month – Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I’m trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.

I think this is my first male artist Classic post. Granted, he doesn’t get much gayer. Well, I don’t think Chris Isaak is gay – but one could hope.

Silvertone was his debut disk, and arguably his best. The year was 1985 and I saw his video for “Dancin'” on Friday Night Videos (yes yes, I’m dating myself…….again). I went out and got the disk the next day.  I thought he was tres sexy, but I really liked the music.

It was a bit Elvis, a bit Orbison, a bit rock and bit rockabilly and all good.   …and I can’t say that about all Isaak’s disks.   He has some incredible music, and some incredibly marginal music.  I’m not sure he has any bad music.  For all his albums, if you took the good stuff, you could have 3-4 outstanding disks.  As it turns out, he really only had onebona fide hit.

But back to Silvertone.  There isn’t really a bad song on the disk, but there are some really outstanding tracks.   “Dancin'” being the lead-off.  Simple. Clean.  And just downright good.  The epitome of cool.

I also love “Talk to Me”, “Back on Your Side”, “VooDoo” and most of all – “Another Idea”.  I really like his version of “Western Stars” – and kd lang does an incredible cover of it.

No – he ain’t just a pretty face.  He’s a talented musician and a good singer/songwriter.   But oh – whatta face!

Record of the Month – Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I’m trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.

Here’s an album I can almost guarantee no one else owns or has possibly ever heard – or heard of. Rachel Sweet’s second disk – Protect the Innocent, released in 1980.

It’s a good album though. But first – a little background:

Sweet was a native of NE Ohio and actually attended the same high school as Chrissie Hynde – granted a few years after Hynde. I think some of the members of Devo went to Firestone too.

Sweet found an audience in the UK in the last ’70s with the rise of Stiff Records. Stiff, was on the cutting edge of music releases back then: Any Trouble, Elvis Costello, IanDury, Lene Lovich and the likes. She was like an early LeAnn Rimes – but in a good way. Not country – just a 15 or 16 year old with a voice of a grown-up, singing grown-up music.

Her first disk made little in-roads in the States, but I got it – and it was good. Singing all covers, she did a respectable job on “B-A-B-Y” and “I Go to Pieces”. But she countrified Costello’s “Stranger in the House” to really great level. Don’t get me wrong, there was some quirky stuff too – but stuff I really liked: “Suspended Animation”, and “Who Does Lisa Like”. Lovich even sings on those last two tracks.

It is safe to say, Protect the Innocent did nothing to further her image in the U.S. Produced by Martin Rushent (Generation X, XTC, Spandau Ballet), it was darker and edgier, especially for someone only 17 years old.

On paper the disk is all over the place – covering Elvis Presley (“Baby, Let’s Place House”), the Damned (“New Rose”), Robert Palmer (“Jealous), Lou Reed (“New Age”) and Graham Parker (“Fool’s Gold”).  She even does one of her own songs.  Yeah – all over the place for sure, yet it kind of works – I think  mostly due to Rushent.

I am a big fan of all the aforementioned songs, but the rest of the disk seems to work too.  Nothing that ever became a critical or commercial success of course, and naturally you cannot find it on CD except for expensive import.

As for Sweet, she did have a little commercial success – her duet of “Everlasting Love” with Rex Smith and writing and singing the title tracks to John Waters’ Hairspray and Cry-Baby.

After that she kind of dropped off after that – or so I thought.  I kind of remember her hosting a segment on an early version of Comedy Central.   A quickinternet search says that she is a fairly successful tv producer.  Who knew?

Musically though, I don’t think she did better than Protect the Innocent.

Record of the Month – Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I’m trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.

Times have been bad these last few weeks. Between the election, the market, Britney Spears threat of having another album release! It should be time for something fun.

So why not the G0-Go’s debut disk?

In 1981, I played the hell out of Beauty and the Beat. And if I never hear “We Got the Beat” or “Our Lips Are Sealed” again, that’s ok. They are not bad, just way way way overplayed.

The rest of the disk though is still great. As easy as it is to love songs like “Lust to Love”, “This Town” and “Fading Fast”, one must go back and revisit “Automatic”, “You Can’t Walk in Your Sleep (if You Can’t Sleep)”, and “Can’t Stop the World”. They are really good in their own right.  So are the remaining tracks.

I think part of what drew me to the disk was that it was produced by Richard Gottehrer, as I so liked his work on Blondie’s first two disks.

Almost nothing clocks in over three and one-half minutes, just making each one a potential for pop perfection. Belinda Carlisle doesn’t exhibit the vibrato that I thought hampered her solo career. The rest of the women are more than adequate musicians and songwriters – not that you’d see that on their follow-up disk.

It’s not a throwaway album, but if you’re looking for deep and meaningful music, this ain’t the disk for you.  Just listen to it for what it is:  good, fun, energetic and light-hearted.

Record of the Month – Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I’m trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.

While not her most commercially successful album, Sarah McLachlan’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is arguably her best.

Released 15 years ago (well, in Canada – 14 years ago in the States), it was one of the two best disks of the year (Crowded House’s Woodface being the second).

I had seen McLachlan a few years earlier perform at this little Columbus bar called Gibby’s, located in the Brewery District, before there was a Brewery District. She did an admirable job, but I wasn’t jumping out of my seat or anything.

Flash forward maybe two years. Denton and I were in Toronto and heard a song I was immediately drawn to, “Possessions”, but it was nowhere to be found. Having just been released only to radio – neither the single or the disk were yet available. It would be months before it was released here.

As good as “Possession” was, it kicks off a disk that works on every level: songwriting, vocally, musically and production. Pierre Merchand’s production work is pristine and he uses McLachlan layer multiple backing vocals over her lead.

As the overriding theme of Fumbling is fear, a song about love being ‘better than chocolate’ seems woefully out of place.  Of the 13 songs (the last being a hidden track), “Ice Cream” is the only one doesn’t work for me.

I’d say there aren’t any other bad songs, but there are some that are better than others: “Ice”, “Everywhere”, “Fear” to name three.  And I still really like “Possession”.

McLachlan’s label just released a Legacy version of the disk for it’s 15th year anniversary. The disk isn’t expanded really – they just tacked on the live and majorly inferior Freedom Sessions onto a second disk. But her label has re-released so much of her stuff in so many formats, it is not surprising.

With her greatest hits album coming out before the holidays, it would be easy to get that – but it is the music and the sequencing on Fumbling that  makes it what it is – a fully formed album and not just a compilation.