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Posts Tagged ‘The Yardbirds’

1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin: Originally hired as a bassist for the popular English band, “The Yardbirds”, Jimmy Page eventually came to share guitar duties with the legendary Jeff Beck. But as the group began to unravel, Page attempted to put together a new lineup, and tour as, “The New Yardbirds”. Allegedly, John Entwistle of “The Who” joked that this new band was going to go down like a lead balloon, so when the original band members forbade Page to use the Yardbirds name, “Led Zeppelin” was born. Despite the bumpy transition, Led Zeppelin’s debut album was an immediate success, and went on to become a rock classic.
2. Achtung Baby – U2: From the band’s debut album, “Boy” (released in 1980) until their classic 1987 release, “The Joshua Tree”, U2 had experienced a steady rise in both artistic and commercial success. It wasn’t until the release of their 1988 documentary, “Rattle and Hum”, that the band received its first notable criticism, with some describing it as, “bombastic” and “overly pretentious”. Disillusioned by the music industry in general, and bored with what had become their signature sound, the group’s 1991 album, “Achtung Baby” was a radical departure in almost every way.
3. Off the Wall – Michael Jackson: The Jackson Five’s departure from Motown records in 1975 seemed to mark the end of an era. Though the group continued to tour and release records, their popularity steadily dwindled. Because Michael was the main songwriter, and focal point of the band, there was no reason to believe that a new solo record would do much to change that trend. But the 1979 release of the album, “Off the Wall” set off a new era of stardom for the singer that eventually eclipsed everything that had come before it. An artistic leap forward, it laid the foundation for the phenomenal “Thriller” album, which was released just a few years later, and went on to become the biggest selling album of all time.
4. 1984 – Van Halen: The years that followed the band’s spectacular 1978 debut release, “Van Halen”, found the group steadily touring and recording. And though it would be difficult to argue their ongoing success, it was hard not to notice the progressively declining quality of their albums. Despite its commercial success, longtime fans couldn’t help but be dismayed by the remake filled album, “Diver Down” from 1982. Given those factors, there was no reason to expect the stunning return to form that “1984” represented. On many levels it was the band’s most successful album.
5. A Momentary Lapse of Reason – Pink Floyd: For long time fans, it didn’t seem possible to make a legitimate Pink Floyd record without founding member Roger Waters. But guitarist David Gilmour and company did just that with this 1987 release. Though not necessarily ranked with their best work, this album was highly successful, and proved to be a credible addition to the bands enduring legacy.
6. Fleetwood Mac (1975) – Fleetwood Mac: By the time that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks arrived, “Fleetwood Mac” had already been a band for almost a decade, and had released nine albums. But the addition of these two distinctive artists radically changed the chemistry within the group, and propelled them to a whole new level of popularity. This album not only topped the chart, it sold over 5 million copies, and produced three big radio hits (i.e. Rhiannon, Over My Head, and Say You Love Me). More importantly, it set the stage for the group’s next album, “Rumours”, which went on to be one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
7. Infinity – Journey: Originally formed in 1973, the band was made up of veteran players from the San Francisco bay area; including Santana alum Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon. But after the groups first three albums failed to consistently connect with a sizeable audience, their record company recommended a change in direction, including the incorporation of another vocalist. This shift from a jazz/rock to pop/rock style, and the addition of Steve Perry’s striking vocals, proved to be a winning combination, as their 1978 release, “Infinity” went on to achieve platinum status, and set off a string of highly successful albums.
8. Back in Black – AC/DC: The death of lead singer, Bon Scott, seemed to signal the end for Australian rock outfit AC/DC. His charisma, and distinctive growl, were at the heart of the band’s sound, and looked to be irreplaceable. At that time, few could have anticipated the emergence of new singer Brian Johnson, and the release of what is arguably the bands most complete album.
9. Third Stage – Boston: Though not considered to be on a par with the band’s first two albums (i.e. 1976’s “Boston” and 1978’s “Don’t Look Back”), this album is notable for the eight year span that preceded it’s 1986 release. Multiple law suits, and techno-wiz/guitarist/producer Tom Scholz’s constant tinkering, led to the delay. Despite the gap, this album did manage to continue the bands string of multi-platinum success.
10. Heaven and Hell – Black Sabbath: Considering that Ozzy Osbourne was the face, the voice, and ultimately the stage persona of the band, it seemed unlikely that the group could be successful without him. But when his rampant drug & alcohol abuse caused the band to “fire” him in 1979, they decided to regroup with former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Surprisingly, this new lineup reinvigorated the band’s music, and was well-received by die hard Sabbath fans. It’s interesting to note that it was the daughter of the band’s manager, Don Arden who recommended Dio as Ozzy’s replacement, and that years later she (Sharon Arden) became Mrs. Ozzy Osbourne.

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  1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin:  From the opening notes of the first track (Good Times, Bad Times), Zeppelin’s debut album hailed the coming of one of rock-n-rolls greatest bands.  Mixing bruising rock with heavy blues, and sprinkling in a touch of folk, it was an instant hit that set off a string of now classic albums (e.g. Led Zeppelin II, III, IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti).  Cuts like “Dazed and Confused”, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Communication Breakdown” stand amongst the best in Zeppelin’s catalog.
  2. The Cars – The Cars:  On the front of what was aptly called the, “New Wave”, the Cars debut record was a heady blend of synthesizers, crunchy guitars and quirky lyrics.  Though the band went on to score numerous radio hits, no album in their catalog ever approached the consistent quality of this one.
  3. Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses:  Looking back, it’s hard to remember that this record didn’t initially sell very well.  It wasn’t until the radio got a hold of “Sweet Child o Mine”, that sales began to take off.  Along with the popularity of tracks like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City”, the album went on to sell almost 30 million copies worldwide.
  4. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills and Nash:  Despite their notable success with other bands, David Crosby (The Byrds), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and Graham Nash (The Hollies) never sounded better than when they joined their voices together in this super-group.  Their 1969 debut album stands as one of the greatest records of that turbulent era.
  5. Van Halen – Van Halen:  The Van Halen brothers arrived with a bang on their 1978 debut record.  Featuring tight rhythms, David Lee Roth’s distinctive howl, and Eddie’s virtuoso guitar work, it was a gritty counterpoint to the synth-pop sounds that ruled the airwaves.  For die-hard fans, this album still represents the pinnacle of their catalog.
  6. Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston:  Though originally released in 1985, it took almost a year for this landmark debut album to reach a worldwide audience.  But Whitney Houston’s dazzling voice and stunning beauty were impossible to ignore; as the record went on to produce three #1 singles.  It was a remarkable beginning for one of pop music’s most amazing voices.
  7. Boston – Boston:  Though their debut album seemed to explode onto the music scene in 1976, it was actually years in the making.  Techno wiz Tom Scholz essentially began the process of recording with the core of the band in the early 1970’s, repeatedly reworking the demos until he felt they were ready.  The finished product became one of the biggest selling debut albums of all time, and nearly forty years after its release, songs from this record can still be regularly heard on rock radio.
  8. The Pretenders – The Pretenders:  Though formed in England, the creative core of the group was primary songwriter, and singer, Chrissie Hynde; who was originally from Akron Ohio.  More gritty than the typical New Wave band, and more accessible than the average Punk band, their music was a compelling blend of influences.  Even decades removed from the context of the early 1980’s, this record still sounds fresh and relevant.
  9. Ten – Pearl Jam:  Just as band mates Stone Goassard and Jeff Ament’s previous group (Mother Love Bone) was set to release their debut album, lead singer Andrew Wood died of a drug overdose.  Just a year later, they regrouped with a new lead singer (Eddie Vedder), renamed the band (Pearl Jam), and released their ground-breaking debut album “Ten”.  Despite it’s rather dark themes, rock radio gravitated to cuts like, “Alive”, “Evenflow”, “Jeremy”, and “Black”; as the album went on to sell over 13 million copies.
  10. The Doors – The Doors:  1967 proved to be a pivotal year in Rock-n-Roll history, and the release of The Doors self-titled debut record proved to be a significant part of that.  Whether it was the irresistible keyboard hook of “Light My Fire”, the rocking “Break On Through”, or the haunting, “The End”, this record was an instant classic.

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1. Art Garfunkel (Simon & Garfunkel):  Undoubtedly Art Garfunkel possessed one of the most distinctive voices in popular music; but despite his moderate success as a solo artist, it was really his collaboration with Paul Simon that allowed his gifts to be fully realized. Simon’s amazing songwriting and his deft vocal interplay were the perfect vehicle for Garfunkel to shine. While Simon’s career continued to soar as a solo artist, Garfunkel never again scaled the heights he visited in this partnership.

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2. David Crosby (The Bryds, Crosby Stills Nash & Young):  Like Art Garfunkel, David Crosby possessed a truly unique and beautiful voice. Though he was also an able songwriter and musician, it was his collaborations with people like Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), Gene Clark (The Bryds), Graham Nash (The Hollies), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and Neil Young that created a lasting impact.

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3. Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen):  Eddie Van Halen is not only a tremendous guitar player, but a multifaceted musician and the creative force behind the band “Van Halen”. Yet despite his ample talent, it is unlikely that he would have ever achieved the same level of success without finding someone to be the face and voice of his band. Needless to say, he found two of rock’s most memorable showmen in David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar.

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4. Freddie Mercury (Queen):  Almost the polar opposite of Eddie Van Halen, Freddie Mercury was a quintessential showman, in need of collaborators to create the proper setting to showcase his talent. He found that in Brian May and the other members of the band Queen. This highly underrated group of musicians provided an accessible context and added valuable substance to Mercury’s eccentric persona.

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5. Ric Ocasek (The Cars):  Undoubtedly the quirky pop genius of Ric Ocasek was the driving creative force behind the music of “The Cars”. And while it seems unlikely that they would have had been noticed without him, the band’s best work occurred when Elliot Easton’s edgy guitar and Benjamin Orr’s emotive vocals were allowed to balance out his off beat lyrics and synth-pop sensibilities.

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6. Dennis DeYoung (Styx):  Like Ric Ocasek of the Cars, Dennis DeYoung of the band “Styx” was the pop visionary behind their most successful music. His creative flourishes fueled the concept albums and stage productions that distinguished the band from its peers. But at its core, Styx worked best as a rock band and in those moments, Tommy Shaw and James Young were essential in balancing DeYoung’s more theatrical sensibilities. Neither DeYoung nor the remaining members of Styx (who perform without him), have been as compelling since they parted company.

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7. Elton John:  Without question, Elton John is a tremendously gifted musician, singer and performer in his own right; but it is through his 40+ year songwriting collaboration with Bernie Taupin that his most memorable work has been produced. It is difficult to know what his career would have been without Mr. Taupin’s contributions.

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8. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd):  Certainly Roger Water’s dark cynicism and disdain for standard musical conventions were at the heart of Pink Floyd’s most memorable recordings, but without the balancing contributions of his band mates (most especially David Gilmour), his solo work has been erratic and far less compelling. Considering his sizable contributions to the band’s collective identity, the remaining members have made some surprisingly worthwhile music without him.

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9. Eric Clapton:  Though Eric Clapton has enjoyed a long and successful career as a solo artist, his most notable moments have almost always come through his collaboration with other artists. His contributions to bands like “The Yardbirds”, “John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers”, “Cream”, “Blind Faith” and “Derek & the Domino’s” were legendary and even much of his most memorable solo work showcased other songwriters like J.J. Cale (After Midnight), Robert Johnson (Crossroads) and Bob Marley (I Shot the Sheriff).

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10. Lennon & McCartney (The Beatles):  While inferring that either one of these musical legends wasn’t talented enough to stand alone would amount to sacrilege in the minds of most people, I would submit that both benefited greatly from their collaboration. Though they each created some classic music on their own, neither consistently produced anything that rivaled their work together.

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