Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers- Damn The Torpedoes (1979): 15 April 2019

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn The Torpedoes (1979)

Welcome back to YDCS where we’re taking a look into the third album by one the great American rock acts of the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 00s; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and their album Damn The Torpedoes. Over the band’s 40-year career, they released thirteen studio albums and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility. With a virtually unchanged lineup, the band focused on a southern rock and heartland rock sound that was instantly recognizable by the punch of Petty’s raw vocals and the combined, vigorous energy of the Heartbreakers.

Damn The Torpedoes takes its name from a quote by Admiral David Farragut during the American Civil War and the Battle of Mobile Bay where he famously said “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” The album seems to play on that quote by being a “full speed ahead” kind of album full of forceful vocals, fantastic musicianship, and crafting a great rock album with enough variation and interesting techniques to keep it from going stale as you listen. This record is chock full of Tom Petty classics that were included on his greatest hits album and is arguably one of the band’s best works. This is one of my favorite albums I’ve covered this year because of its consistent high-quality musicianship, memorable lyrics, and raw power and energy behind each song. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Refugee: Let’s just open the album with one of Tom Petty’s most popular songs and one of the singles for the album why don’t we?! This is a very strong open for the album. “Refugee”isn’t a fast-paced rock track, but there is so much power in Petty’s vocals that it just drives the song and sounds like he’s pleading with the listener, saying that “[they] don’t have to live like a refugee.” This is an instantly recognizable song and is very characteristic of Petty’s style; incorporating dynamic changes throughout the song for emphasis that show excellent songwriting, powerful vocals, and interspersed vocal harmonies to emphasize specific sections. Top notch song. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Here Comes My Girl: I really like how the opening of this song deceives the listener into thinking that this is going to show Petty’s softer side before he launches into unabashedly powerful lyrics. The piano throughout this song is beautiful and adds a nice contrast to the rough-around-the-edges vocals. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Even The Losers: I would rate this as an above average rock song. It’s characteristically Tom Petty, but guitar solo and unique drum intro are fantastic. I think lots of people can identify with this song and feeling like a loser sometimes before getting lucky and turning it all around. Make of that what you will… Dad’s Rating 7/10

Shadow Of A Doubt (Complex Kid): There’s so much that I like about this song, and I think that most of it revolves around the energy of the song. The band has so much energy throughout the track, the guitar solo shreds, Petty’s vocals punch through, and there’s that cool bongo drum intro. This is a really good track and without a shadow of a doubt, you shouldn’t skip it! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Century City: This is a groovy track that stands out the least amongst the powerhouse tracks on the rest of this album. It’s a technically sound song and the musicianship is awesome, but it feels like a continuation of “Shadow O A Doubt”, and if I hadn’t known they were different songs I’m not sure I would have figured it out. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Don’t Do Me Like That: The third 9/10 on this album and another Tom Petty classic! This is borderline perfect score territory for me for a few reasons: the song is dynamic in the way it treats the bridge and goes into that up-tempo section, the musicianship is top-level, and the keyboard intro was probably three years away from launching this past number 10 on the Hot 100. Of course, we don’t rate song based on how they performed on the Hot 100, but the only thing “Don’t Do Me Like That”lacks is the “something” that you can’t put into words, that last “oomph.” Dad’s Rating 9/10

You Tell Me: I think “You Tell Me”is the most radical track on the album because it’s a departure from the guitar-focused soft rock sound on the other songs and a trial at a keyboard-focused track that morphs into a guitar-forward sound. I really like that interplay and think it gives the record more depth while showing off the whole band’s range of musical ability. Non-critically, it’s just pleasant to listen to a jazzy rock track that breaks up the rest of the album! Dad’s Rating 8/10

What Are You Doin’ In My Life?: I’m going to put this one notch above “Century City”because it’s a more powerful sound from the band and has “You Tell Me” in front of it to buffer it from becoming hidden in the other guitar-forward songs on the record. This is a good southern rock inspired track that doesn’t do anything special for me but, at the same time, doesn’t do anything wrong. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Louisiana Rain: From the picked guitar intro on “Louisiana Rain”and into that supernatural sound on the synthesizer, my attention was held. Oftentimes the last track on the album gets lost in the sound of the rest of the album, and while this is another southern rock inspired rock track (and I think a better one that “What Are You Doin’”), that intro makes sure that you’re paying attention and this melodic, slowed down track captures you to make sure that you stay. This is an excellent way to finish an album. Dad’s Rating 8/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

ZZ Top- Eliminator (1983): 8 April 2019

ZZ Top – Eliminator (1983)

Welcome back to YDCS where we’re going into the 1980s this week for the most commercially successful album by ZZ Top, Eliminator. First though I’d like to apologize for posting 23 hours later than normal. It was bound to happen eventually, but I got caught up this past week and didn’t get finished in time. Your regularly scheduled post will be back next week on time! Comprised of the trio of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard, ZZ Top’s lineup has remained consistent since 1970, so by the time 1983 rolled around, the band knew what their sound was and had established themselves in the pop/rock music scene. In fact, Eliminator was not the band’s first experience with a hit album. The band previously released 1973’s Tres Hombres which featured tracks like Waitin’ for the Bus and the mega-hit La Grange, and 1979’s Deguello which featured I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide and Cheap Sunglasses. The difference between Eliminator and their other two hits was the introduction of MTV in 1981. The band created a trio of music videos for Sharp Dressed Man, Gimme All Your Lovin, Legs that relied heavily on the sex appeal of models, which naturally resulted in heavy airplay on MTV and increased album sales. You can’t forget to mention the custom, fluffy, spinning Dean guitars. I’m sure that had something to do with the album sales too…

Eliminator draws heavily from the blues rock origins of the Texas natives with some emerging elements of synth rock from the New Wave movement, and in particular, drum machines. Listen carefully to songs like I Got The Six or Got Me Under Pressure and you can hear that bit of synth and those drum machines that were rushing onto the scene during the early 1980s. Eliminator is a perfect road trip album for me. Every song on his record can be turned up and rocked to while driving on the highway with the windows down. This album makes me want to go road tripping through the mountains of West Texas, where there’s miles between towns, and just feel free. I this album makes you feel like rocking out too! Enjoy!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Gimme All Your Lovin’: We’re starting off the album with a classic song that still receives heavy airplay on classic rock radio. Freewheelin’ guitars and solos a-plenty, Gimme All Your Lovin’ is quintessential ZZ Top track because it’s timeless! You can never turn away from a song that you can turn up and rock out Dad’s Rating 8/10

Got Me Under Pressure: I had never listened to all of Eliminator before this review, and Got Me Under Pressure was one of the tracks that surprised me the most. I particularly enjoyed the usage of the drum machine and how it gives the song a chugging drive. This is a song I would put on any of my driving playlists for road trips and would listen to again! Definitely a hidden gem here! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Sharp Dressed Man: You know exactly which song this is from the first three notes on the guitar and the introduction of that synthesizer. I can’t think of a better song to epitomize the early 1980’s rock scene other than maybe Jump by Van Halen. Memorable lyrics and a rocking guitar riff characterize this song. The only reason I’m not rating it higher, and the issue I have with most of the songs by ZZ Top, are that they’re not musically or lyrically challenging. While this song does characterize the early 1980s rock scene, it didn’t push the boundary of what that could be. Dad’s Rating 8/10

I Need You Tonight: The guitar play a much less prominent role on this track than on the rest of the album to let the vocals shine through. Dusty Hill wasn’t known for his vocal prowess but he didn’t disappoint here! The guitar sits back and play a more haunting, supporting role but still comes out after the second verse for a solo that elevates the song and doesn’t overshadow it. Dad’s Rating 7/10

I Got The Six: I Got The Six is the shortest track on the album and feels like a classic rocker. This track is very guitar forward in exactly the same way that I Need You Tonight was not. I feel like I’ve heard about 300 different songs that all sound like this one. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this song, but it doesn’t stun in the way the next track does. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Legs: There’s an emerging pattern on this album where whenever the band began incorporating synthesizers and drum machines, those songs seemed to push the boundaries of what rock could do. This is the second song that I’ve rated highly that featured this “new technology,” and I believe that it really does add an extra layer of depth to the song that makes ones like I Got The Six slightly boring to listen to. As far as Legs is concerned, this is a rocking solo with a catchy riff and a shredding solo that contrasts the guitars role in the rest of the song nicely. I would add that this song is elevated by the fluffy guitars from the music video. Keep on spinnin’! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Keep on Spinnin’

Thug: This is one of Dusty Hill’s best performances on the bass that I’ve listened to. Thug is so different from the rest of the album, and that makes the whole product much stronger for it. Gibbons took a major back seat here to let Hill rock out on bass and his popping technique fits the song well and shows some skill that I hadn’t really heard from him on other tracks where he was taking a supportive role to Gibbons on lead guitar. Dad’s Rating 8/10

TV Dinners: Thug flows very smoothly into TV Dinners, but this is the most absurd song on the album. I’m not sure why the band felt the need to write a song about the merits and demerits of TV dinners, but they did. This falls squarely in the same musical realm as I Got The Six, where I feel as though I’ve listened to 300 songs exactly like this except the subject matter is so much more bizarre that I KNOW I’ve never listened to another song about TV dinners. Weird… Dad’s Rating 4/10

Dirty Dog: Dirty Dog sounds very similar to Got Me Under Pressure at first and I’m really glad that they didn’t pair one right after the other, otherwise it would have felt like one long song. I prefer the riffs throughout the verses in the latter of those two songs, but think that the solo is much better in this song than it is in Got Me Under Pressure. For that fact, I rate both songs equally! Dad’s Rating 7/10

If I Could Only Flag Her Down: We’ve got a little something different going on with this track! There’s a little bit of a rockabilly/country feel to this song but with a hard rock twist. I think this really benefits the album to break up, what can at times, be almost a drone from songs that sounds too similar. This is a great little hidden gem that’s worth giving a listen!  Dad’s Rating 8/10

Bad Girl: The album closes strongly with another song that has great drive and would be suitable for any road trip. By this point though, because there have only been two instances where the band really showed off different styles, this feels like any other song on the album. Dad’s Rating 6/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

Dire Straits- Dire Straits (1978): 1 April 2019

Dire Straits – Dire Straits (1978)

Welcome back to YDCS where this week we’re taking a look at a blues-rock act out of England that shaped rock throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. Dire Straits was an act formed by Mark and David Knopfler, John Illsley, and Pick Withers who worked hard to get to the top of the rock scene. This group of gents went about promoting their mixtapes the old-fashioned way, by going into record agencies and pitching their music. After being initially turned down, the band struck gold when a radio show in London picked up on what would become their smash hit, Sultans of Swing. From there, the band was offered a full record deal and went into the studio to record their debut album which would spawn two iconic singles, Sultans of Swing and Water of Love.

This self-titled debut album is defined by its blues rock sound that is especially reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s Slowhand that we covered earlier. Musically, Dire Straits follows traditional blues rock with dual guitars and heavy usage of I-IV-V chord progressions (the most common blues chord progression). I would add that Mark Knopfler’s ability on the guitar and picking technique, both on this album and in future releases, is one that can’t be overlooked and arguably puts him on the short list of greatest rock guitarists of all time. In my opinion, this is a defining album for the band, most notably because they found their sound early on and didn’t go through multiple albums to get there. Throughout their career, they were known for producing blues rock inspired tracks and this album certainly leans heavily into that and is a premier example of what the genre has produced. I hope you enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Down to the Waterline: A perfect 10/10 on the first track. The blues rock that the band was known for was present in full force on this first song. What I like most about Down to the Waterline is how tight the band sounds and the funky guitar riff through each of the verses. This upbeat, bluesy track should be mentioned in the same breath as Sultans of Swing, and is arguably better than the other single issued for this album, Water of Love. Down to the Waterline is a better example of the band’s musical capacity and is more musically complex than other tracks on the album in the same way that Sultans stands out for its musicality. Waterline is a track that can best be experienced by putting on a pair of headphones and listening to how every instrument melds together. This track is decidedly worthy of the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award.” Dad’s Rating 10/10

Water of Love: Released as one of the singles for the album, I actually don’t find that much special about Water of Love. I like how the band seems to be on the same page and the vocals and instrumentation fit together nicely, which I would argue is not the case on some later tracks. To counterpoint, the instrumentation in particular feels too restrained. There are other slowed down tracks on this album that still allow for superb musicianship to filter through, but I don’t think is one of them. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Setting Me Up: This is just a classic blues rock track with a great guitar solo, and not much else to write home about. The instrumentation is above average and the band feels as tight as they do on some of their best pieces. There’s not much to fault here except that it does get lost in the band’s repertoire because it doesn’t stand out. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Six Blade Knife: We heard how Water of Love left some to be desired in a slowed down song, and Six Blade Knife fulfills everything I wanted in the former but didn’t have. The musicianship in the “call and response” between the lyrics and guitar shows that the band has some chops that they’re trying to display and the hushed vocals really fit with the tone of the song. This song brings to mind images of bands playing in smoky, low-lit bars while the patrons groove along to the band. Six Blade Knife is how you make a slow-tempo blues rock song. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Southbound Again: I really like Southbound Again, and it’s a really fun track to listen to! The song has a bluesy groove to it and the more drive than most of the songs on the album, but my problem with it comes from its lack of musicality. The band doesn’t do anything here to show their instrumental proficiency and it’s honestly a good thing that the song is so short because it would otherwise drone on. Listen to this then listen to any other track on the album and you’ll see that the band just isn’t reaching their fullest potential with this song. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Sultans of Swing: Was Sultans of Swing going to be anything other than a perfect score? No, no it wasn’t. The band is incredibly tight in their delivery on this track, and Knopfler’s picking during the second guitar solo is nothing short of legendary. I would argue that Sultans is a song that starts strong with that ever-recognizable guitar riff and gets stronger the longer the song goes on before finishing at the second guitar solo. Though I will rate this song a 10/10, I believe that Waterline accomplishes the same thing Sultans does in incorporating a highly technical solo, a captivating and groovy guitar riff, and tight playing from the band in a song that’s almost 2 minutes shorter. Regardless of my personal opinion, this song cemented the band’s place in the halls of classic rock’s most well-known artists with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 and deserves the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award.” Dad’s Rating 10/10

In the Gallery: In the Gallery is a great example of a deep-cut that never got much traction but deserves a listen! I’m particularly fond of how the lead guitar seems to wander during the verses, almost providing an exclamation mark or appositive statement to Knopfler’s lyrics. To a negative point, I will criticize the vocals on this track, they were difficult to understand and I actually had to look up the lyrics to understand all of them. This is a good track to listen to from a purely instrumental point of view, but good luck with the lyrics. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Wild West End: The Dire Straits show their smoother, calmer side on Wild West End. Musically, the band is just as strong here as on their more well-known tracks and they don’t feel restrained by slowing things down. There’s the same “call and response” between the lyrics and the guitar here that we heard on Gallery as well. I’m going to criticize Knopfler’s vocals again though, I actually find them grating enough on such a peaceful track that it takes me out of the song. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Lions: I much prefer Lions over West End or Gallery for the fact that the song actually feels like it fits together. Previously I’ve criticized the harshness of the vocals, but they’re more restrained here and I believe that improves the song. The musicianship that we’ve heard from the band on the rest of the album is equally present here as it is through the rest of the album. This is a deep cut that’s worth listening to! Dad’s Rating 7/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.