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Posts Tagged ‘Kiss’

  1. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen:  Lead singer, Freddie Mercury was an unprecedented showman, and his unique persona made its mark on all of the band’s music; but this epic recording stands alone in its innovation and originality.  Even decades later, with all of the advances in music technology, there is nothing like it.
  2. December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) – The Four Seasons:  Also known as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, their string of 1960s hits made them one of the most successful vocal groups of all-time, eventually propelling them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  And while the signature falsetto of lead singer Frankie Valli was at the forefront of almost every big hit, it was drummer Gerry Polci who sang lead on this 1975 hit, which went on to become the group’s biggest selling single.
  3. Owner of a Lonely Heart – Yes:  Through ten albums, and more than a decade, art rock band “Yes” habitually produced 8 -10 minute opuses that didn’t fit well into the pop radio format.  But all of that changed with the 1983 release of the album “90125”.  This pop music gem went on to become the band’s one and only #1 single.
  4. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana:  In the early nineties there was nothing on pop radio that sounded remotely like Nirvana’s brand of rock, which was ultimately dubbed, “grunge”.  Even their record company was caught completely off guard by the meteoric rise of the band, their single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and its corresponding album, “Nevermind”.
  5. Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) – Us3:  This Jazz/Hip-Hop fusion from 1993 was revolutionary for it’s day, and it’s mass appeal helped drive the Rap/Hip-Hop genre from the fringe of popular music to the heart of popular culture.
  6. Beth – Kiss:  By the mid-seventies, the band, “Kiss” had risen to stardom on the strength of their spectacular stage shows, and their hard rock sound.  In keeping with what had brought them success, the band released the single, “Detroit Rock City” in 1976.  But to the surprise of everyone associated with the band, it was the B-side of that record, the ballad, “Beth”, that went on to become one of the groups most successful songs.
  7. Jane – Jefferson Starship:  Founding member, Paul Kantner, and his band, had a string of soft rock hits (e.g. Miracles, With Your Love, Count on Me) following their transition from the original “Jefferson Airplane” lineup.  But with the 1978 departure of lead singers, Grace Slick, and Marty Balin, they found themselves at yet another crossroad.  Then, the addition of “Fooled Around & Fell in Love” singer, Mickey Thomas, and a new harder rock sound, propelled their surprising 1979 single, “Jane” up the charts; beginning a new chapter in the bands long and diverse history.
  8. Tusk – Fleetwood Mac:  Following up on the phenomenal success of the classic album “Rumours”, with its four top ten singles, was a daunting task.  But the 1979 album, “Tusk” provided twenty new songs to choose from.  Of those, the unusual title track seemed to be the least likely candidate for release as a single.  Nonetheless, this pop music oddity reached the top ten later that year.
  9. Because the Night – The Patti Smith Group:  Nothing in Patti Smith’s eclectic artistic history would have indicated that a Top 40 record was anywhere in her future, but her reworking of this Bruce Springsteen composition ruled the airwaves upon its 1978 release.
  10. Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby & David Bowie:  In what had to be one of the most unlikely pairings in pop music history, 1940’s crooner Bing Crosby, and 1970’s glam rocker David Bowie teamed for this Christmas medley, which was included as a part of Crosby’s 1977 television Christmas special.
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After spending the first thirty years of my life being glued to the radio, collecting record albums, and reading Rolling Stone magazine, I took about a twelve year hiatus from that whole scene. In recent years, as I’ve revisited some of that old music, I’ve been surprised by how different some of it sounds to me now.  A few of the bands I used to love don’t sound that good anymore, and others seem even better than I remember them.  Here are a few examples:

 

Under-rated:

 

  • Steely Dan – I always enjoyed this bands completely unique approach to their craft. The complex jazz influenced arrangements, the exquisite musicianship, the cryptic lyrics and the sparkling production made them standout against the rock/pop music landscape. These attributes also give their best work a timeless quality that has allowed it to become classic.
  • Chicago – In its heyday, this band was one of the brightest and most innovative groups in rock music. Through their first ten albums they produced a library of compelling music, much of which remains vibrant today. Though the exploitation of the band’s name in later years diminished their stature in the rock community, a listen to their earlier work is a great reminder of what a special group this was.
  • Bad Company – Formed from the ashes of the bands, “Free”, “Mott the Hoople” and “King Crimson”, Bad Company was something of a super-group and it showed immediately on their classic (self-titled) debut album. Though their run (with the original lineup) was relatively brief, it produced five solid albums filled with a lot of great music.
  • The Guess Who – This legendary Canadian band has taken on many forms over the years, but it was the combination of Burton Cummings remarkable vocals and guitarist Randy Bachman’s copious musical skills that created their most memorable music. Between 1969 and 1970 they released classics like, “These Eyes”, “Laughing”, “Undun”, “No Time”, “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature”, “Share the Land”, and “American Woman”. Those songs alone give them a Hall of Fame worthy resume.

 

 

 

Over-rated:

 

  • Kiss – No one is likely to dispute their credentials as world class entertainers, and I would list a Kiss concert (with makeup) as a must-see event for any avid rock music fan. But as I revisited the old studio recordings it’s been hard to miss the mediocre songwriting, singing and, in many cases, playing. Other than Kiss Alive I & II, I’d be hard pressed to get through a whole album anymore.
  • Eric Clapton (Solo) – There’s no doubt that Clapton is a guitar virtuoso, and that he has played on numerous classic recordings. But as I’ve listened with fresh ears it’s difficult not to notice the huge disparity between the work he did in bands such as the Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Domino’s, and his solo recordings. His limitations as a songwriter and vocalist become far more apparent when he was not surrounded by great musicians/vocalists like Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Duane Allman, Steve Winwood… His best solo recordings have generally been songs written by others (e.g. JJ Cale).
  • Jimi Hendrix – I know that I’ll likely be lynched for including his hallowed name on this list, and it is in no way meant to disparage his amazing talent. In truth, it is more a lament over the circumstances that surrounded his brief recording career. Though every fan cherishes anything they can get their hands on, most of the Hendrix catalog is made up of poorly recorded, poorly produced snippets of songs and ideas. All of them point to the limitless potential that Hendrix possessed, but sadly, few of them represent the realization of that potential.

 

Lives Up to the Hype:

 

  • The Beatles – These guys are the gold standard by which just about everyone else is judged and after years of not hearing them, their music still sounds fresh and innovative. With all due respect to their notable individual accomplishments, none of them consistently approached this artistic level as a solo artist.
  • The Doors – Like everyone else, I was a big Jim Morrison fan, and was often mesmerized by his persona. But in revisiting the Doors catalog I was struck by the incredible talent and contributions of the rest of the band (keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger).   They were by no means simply Morrison’s backing band.
  • Led Zeppelin – English bands that loved to play the blues were a dime a dozen back in the 1960’s, but none of them quite reached the heights that Zeppelin did. Their eclectic mix of blues, folk and hard rock could be at times tender, haunting, or even bludgeoning. Going back and listening to this music only enhanced my respect for this one of a kind band.

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