#219 – Can’t Buy a Thrill – Steely Dan
A couple of Jazz enthusiasts who decide to form a rock band sounds like a recipe for disaster but with Steely Dan’s debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, this is obviously not the case. With two successful singles & complex instrumentals this album got up to #17 on the Billboard charts in 1972. “Reelin’ in the Years” is the 6th track off the album & happens to have Jimmy Page’s favorite guitar solo of all-time. The 2 core members of the group Walter Becker & Donald Fagen were also notorious perfectionists when it came to their studio & live performances & stopped touring in the 70s for a time to become a purely studio act as they had more control there.
Steely Dan – Reelin’ in the Years
Steely Dan – Do it Again
#218 – Hard Day’s night – The Beatles
Hard Day’s Night was a phrase coined by Ringo Starr in a Yogi Berra moment.
“We went to do a job & we’d worked all day & we happened to work all night. I came up still thinking it was day, I suppose & I said, ‘It’s been a hard day…’ & I looked around & saw it was dark so I said,’…night!”
More the rock n’ roll Beatles that got them in the limelight than the psychedelia they later subscribed to. Lennon & McCartney wrote every song on the album & one of the first instances of John Lennon’s jealous guy/misogynistic streak (seems to have becoming a recurring theme here on The De Mello Theory) with “You Can’t Do That” but my favorite song on the album is “I’ll Be Back” which sounds like something off of a Del Shannon album with a twinge of Spanish guitar thrown in for some measure of awesomeness.
The Beatles – You Can’t Do That
The Beatles – I’ll Be Back
#217 – A Man & His Music – Frank Sinatra
Despite being a retrospective of his career, A Man & His Music is not just some greatest hits album. Instead of using the original recordings, which were made for RCA, Columbia & Capitol, therefore making them ineligble for use by his current label Reprise, Sinatra re-recorded the tracks. This proved to be a good decision as it won the 1967 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Enlisting help from some of his old friends (Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Nelson Riddle & Count Basie, among others) Sinatra proved that the “old has-been” many thought he was in the psychedelic era were way off. He reworked classic tracks such as “Luck be a Lady“, “Young at Heart“, “Come Fly with Me” & “Love & Marriage” & made a lasting monument to the legacy of brilliance.
Frank Sinatra – Love & Marriage
Frank Siantra – Luck Be a Lady
#216 – Purple – Stone Temple Pilots
Purple will always hold a special place in my heart. Not merely because it was the first CD I ever purchased, but in ’94 I was 17 & I had a shitty job at Carl’s jr. flipping burgers that I hated. I had limited money, but still I bought this and Dookie by Green Day. It literally changed my life with the De Leo brothers strong hooks and riffs & Weiland’s fantastic lyrics. I went from being a pseudo Alternative music fan to completely immersing myself in rock music. The steel guitar of “Interstate Love Song” & “Big Empty” really personified great musicianship in my mind & led me to break away from the monotony of rap music and fully appreciate great artistry.
Stone Temple Pilots – Big Empty
Stone Temple Pilots – Interstate Love Song
#215 – Outlandos d’Amour – The Police
Who could forget Eddie Murphy singing “Roxanne” in 48 hours with that comedic high pitch? That’s how big Outlandos d’Amour became. A song that was about suicide & prostitution was the song that propelled this album in the U.S. to #23 on the Billboard charts & was initially banned by the BBC.
“…We had a publicity campaign with posters about how the BBC banned “Roxanne”. The reason they had a problem “Can’t Stand Losing You” was because the photo on the cover of the single had Stewart standing on a block of ice with a noose around his neck waiting for the ice to melt.”
This, also, was one of the fore bearers to the New Wave, post punk era & led the Police to be one of the biggest acts before Sting lost his backbone and played bad music throughout the 90s.
The Police – So Lonely
The Police – Roxanne
#214 – Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A.
Before Straight Outta Compton Hip-Hop was primarily an East Coast genre that told about poverty, partying or drug use to a minimal extent. This album redefined the direction of Hip-Hop & spoke of the “gansta liefstyle” in graphic detail. It received no airplay on the radio & had no major tour promotion, yet went double platinum. The group consisted of future Rap heavyweights, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren & the D.O.C. It was produced by Dr. Dre & DJ Yella & relied heavily on samples of James Brown, Funkadelic, Marvin Gaye & Kool & the Gang among others. I’d be remiss if I did not mention the negative press this album received due to the #2 track on the album “Fuck tha Police“. This from N.W.A. biographer Stephen Thomas Erlewine”
Because of the recurring violent & sexual lyrics & profanity, often specifically directed at governmental organizations such as the LAPD, N.W.A. always enjoyed a particular repudiation from U.S. Senators & the FBI. One of the reasons for this was the highly controversial track from the album “Fuck tha Police”, which resulted in the FBI & the Secret Service sending a letter to Ruthless Records informing the label of their displeasure with the song’s message & N.W.A. were banned from performing at several venues.
Nevertheless, this album broke huge barriers for today’s hip-hop artists for better or worse.
N.W.A. – Gangsta, Gangsta
N.W.A. – Express Yourself
#213 – Tea For the Tillerman – Cat Stevens
Cat Steven’s second album, Tea For the Tillerman, brought him a kind of acclaim that the first album had not. It is a memorable album in that it does adhere to the conventional norms of the singer/songwriter genre. It has intricate melodies & well thought out lyrics that speak to protest & a thought of better ways to accomplish things. “Where Do the Children Play” is the perfect example. This from William Ruhlman:
The song reflects Steven’s growing awareness of the turmoil of the 1960s and the issues involved; war, urban sprawl, poverty, ecological disaster, and the future of humankind. The same themes and concerns are repeated later in many of his songs. This song was originally played in concert only by Stevens and Alun Davies most often with only acoustic instruments, but later, after Stevens began to embrace more of an electric guitar sound, it was adapted to accommodate it.
Within the year of writing the song, Stevens provided songs, including this one, for the soundtrack of the 1971 movie, Harold and Maude. The film, directed by Hal Ashby and written by Colin Higgins, shows a scene during the song, where one of the lead characters, Harold, is driving, and then, the camera, from above, shows him driving past first one little white grave stone, and then pans out to a large area of the same identical war-time gravestones, until, panning even further, the number of little tiny white graves is nearly overwhelming, and underscores the point of the song.
It is one of the simpler songs on the album as far as instrumentation, but spoke the most to the disenchantment of the Nixon era, the Vietnam War & the end of the “Free love” 60’s.
Cat Stevens – Where Do the Children Play
Cat Stevens – Wild World
#212 – Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. – Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen’s debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., did not sell well, because of it’s difference to anything released at that point. While the influence of Bob Dylan is felt heavily with the quick pace of the lyrics a la “Subterranean Homesick Blues” the instrumentation is mixes of Jazz & Rock with Clarence Clemons playing the Saxophone. The album has one recurrent theme of becoming an adult. In one way or another most of the characters are putting aside their childish ways or reminiscing of their childhoods. “Lost in the Flood” is the first of many Springsteen songs that deal with both Vietnam vets disillusionment & the car themes. it speaks to the despair & chaos that ensued during the Vietnam/Nixon Era that we have spoken of time & time again here on the De Mello Theory.
Bruce Springsteen – Lost in the Flood
Bruce Springsteen – Spirit in the Night
#211 – Combat Rock -The Clash
Combat Rock was the last album featuring lead guitarist Mick Jones. It is less experimental than Sandanista, but less Punk & more reggae than previous offerings. According to author Marcus Gray, the song “Red Angel Dragnet” was inspired by the January 1982 shooting death of Frank Melvin, a New York member of the Guardian Angels. The song contains extensive quotes from the 1976 movie Taxi Driver’s main character Travis Bickle, delivered by Kosmo Vinyl. Bickle sports a mohawk in the later part of the film and that hairstyle was adopted by Joe Strummer during the album promotion. The song, “Ghetto Defendant”, features beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who performed the song on stage with the band during the New York shows on their tour in support of the album. A song that at once condemns the heroin addict & the police at the same time.
The Clash – Red Angel Dragnet
The Clash – Ghetto Defendant
#210 – New Morning – Bob Dylan
New Morning was a return to form, of sorts, from what many fans consider Bob Dylan’s worst album Self Portrait. Since 1967 Dylan had experimented with a more country music style & changing his voice to adapt to it more. This album saw the return of his more recognized style of singing. Held in Studio B, the first session was accompanied by George Harrison, bassist Charlie Daniels, and drummer Russ Kunkel. The master take for “Went to See the Gypsy” was recorded at this session and eventually included on New Morning, but most of the results were rejected.
The best song on the album is without a doubt “If Not For You” it has that undeniable sweet snare drum & a country guitar hook. it was the only single released from the album & was later covered by George Harrison. Also, who could forget in “The Big Lebowski” where “The Man in Me” in the first dream sequence fades out after The Dude wakes up, but we still hear it, tinny and distant on his Walkman.
Bob Dylan – If Not For You
Bob Dylan – The Man in Me