Yes- The Yes Album (1971): 4 February 2019

Yes – The Yes Album (1971)

We’re going back to 1971 this week on YDCS to take a look at one of the acts most responsible for the creation of progressive rock music, the English rock band Yes. For the thus far uninitiated, progressive rock was a subgenre of rock music that started developing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was characterized by the use of unusual instruments, time signatures, fantastical, philosophical, or science fiction lyrics, and breaking the traditional moulds of song structure. Fortunately for the band, The Yes Album was a commercial breakthrough with songs like Yours is No Disgrace and I’ve Seen All Good People, especially considering that they were at risk of being dropped by their label if this album, their third, didn’t perform to expectation.

The Yes Album was the first Yes album to feature guitarist Steve Howe who would ultimately stay with the band through its most successful period through 1981 before the band broke up and reformed later in the year without him. This was also the last album to feature Tony Kaye on keyboard after he refused to branch out and play the mini-moog or synthesizer on their next album, Fragile. Kaye was quickly replaced by Rick Wakeman on Fragile leading to the band’s most successful lineup. If this is your first Yes album, don’t be off put by the runtimes on the songs. Yours is No Disgrace is the longest track on the album at around 9:40, but there are two other songs that give it a “runtime” for its money. Sit back and just enjoy letting the instruments weave between each other to create a stunning album.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Yours is No Disgrace: This is a rockin’ start to the album! The song transitions between a few themes including some fantastic keyboard playing from Kaye and insanely catchy guitar riffs from Howe in the middle of the track. The guitar solo in the middle of the track is my favorite because of how it uses the wah to add some groove to the track before transitioning back to a more traditional picking technique. Around that midpoint in the song is when we start to see the bass come more into the forefront too and drive the song forward. I think you’ll like the vocal harmony from the band through the entire song and don’t find it to be a disgrace! Dad’s Rating 9/10

The Clap: The Clap is a great little folksy guitar solo written by Howe. This is one of my favorite songs on the album even though it doesn’t really fit with the sound of the album. As he describes it, it was the first solo that he felt comfortable performing. I particularly enjoy the quick changes between picking and strumming that give this song a unique sound. Howe’s technical ability really shines through on this song. I’m not a guitar player but I definitely appreciate the difficulty of the song. This song always brings a smile to my face, and it’s hard to not be happy and smiling with a calm little ditty like this playing. Try not to bop your head along to the song, I dare you! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Starship Trooper (A. Life Seeker; B. Disillusion; C. Wurm): Starship Trooper is the first of two songs on this album that’s split into three parts. This is fairly common amongst progressive rock bands, where songs would be split into multiple parts that would explore a different theme in each section or would try to evoke a different emotion in each section. Yes did this on multiple albums, but most notably on Close to the Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans (stay tuned for album reviews on those later!). The song transitions between the different sections very nicely and it’s very clear where the transition from Life Seeker to Disillusion occurs, the same is true for Disillusion to Wurm. Disillusion is my favorite part of the song and sadly the shortest. It shows more technical guitar ability from Howe Dad’s Rating 7/10

I’ve Seen All Good People: a. Your Move, b. All Good People: This song is the second multi-part song on the album after Starship Trooper, and where Wurm was slightly lacking on the former, there’s not a bad part of this song. This song is classic Yes, classic prog rock, and is one of Yes’ best-known songs. Good People gives you a little bit of everything that makes Yes such a quirky band and so much fun to listen to: vocal harmony, accompaniment on a church organ, and a rocking up-tempo part after Your Move opens into All Good People.  Dad’s Rating 8/10

A Venture: A Venture is one of the more unique songs on the album, and like The Clap, it doesn’t seem to fit with the sound of the rest of the album. It’s much more restrained, features significantly less vocal harmony, and there’s not unusual instruments. A Venture gets credit for displaying Kaye’s skills on the piano with his solo at the end of this song. The solo feels fresh and, in my opinion, actually provides a breath of fresh air on the album. When every song on an album sounds the same, the album can become stale, but the different tone of this song actually refreshes the sound for the last song, Perpetual Change, which is more of a return to the more familiar “Yes sound” on this album. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Perpetual Change: Yes wanted to close this album out with a bang and a return to their signature sound. This song has philosophical lyrics, masterful instrumentation from the band members, and more time signature changes than you can count. That’s actually my favorite part of this song for two reasons: firstly, they keep you on your toes and make you actively listen to the song as opposed to passively listening to it and letting it wash over you, and secondly it fits the title of the song very appropriately! The song is titled perpetual change for a reason and the song does exactly that! One minute you’ll be listening to a soft ballad, then the song shifts to a ripping guitar solo, then it goes back to ballad, then you’ll be listening to something that sounds like it should be the song to lead in the evening news! (see if you can spot that part of the song) Yes was unapologetically themselves with this last song on their last ditch effort album, and it ended up paying off. 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.

Eric Clapton- Slowhand (1977): 28 January 2019

Eric Clapton – Slowhand (1977)

This week on YDCS we’re covering an album by Slowhand himself, Mr. Eric Clapton and his eponymous album Slowhand. I was initially hesitant to cover an album by the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (He must have done something right to land there three times right?!), but this album is a case study in how to make a rock album with a little bit of country flair. Did you ever wonder why Clapton is called Slowhand? As he tells the story, when he was playing with his band Cream, he would often break his lightest guitar string while playing because he bent it so much to distort the sound. This required him to change the string on stage, and as he did, the audience would frequently clap slowly (colloquially give him the slowhand) until the string was changed.

Slowhand is chock full of classic rock staples including the aptly titled anti-drug song Cocaine, Wonderful Tonight, which is one of Clapton’s biggest hits, and the sleeper Lay Down Sally. The album takes some elements from country rock that Clapton was particularly fond of (See Eagles- One Of These Nights for more examples) and interspaces them with slow ballads with very little in-between. This is often regarded as one of Clapton’s best albums along 461 Ocean Boulevard. I think the album actually starts off too strong, and by the end, the album feels like it’s missing the same punch that front half has.  We’re…all the way done talking about the album in general, so let’s get to listening. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Cocaine:  Slowhand starts off with a rocking track and one of Clapton’s best-known singles. The guitar riff is deep and infectious, driving home the dangers of cocaine. When he launches into the solo in the middle you can’t help but to play along on the air guitar and it gets even better when there’s the additional harmony from the backing guitar. One thing’s for sure, this song “don’t lie,” that it’s a rocker! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Wonderful Tonight: When you hear the haunting guitar that opens this song, there’s no doubt what it is because there’s no other song that sounds like it. Clapton is so smooth and easy to listen to on this track. This soft ballad has been played at virtually every wedding since the album came out for a good reason, it’s just a beautiful song with an on-point message. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Lay Down Sally: The third track, Lay Down Sally gets a little folksy, and we can see Clapton returning to the country rock roots that he loves to play so much. This infectious song will be stuck in your head and despite being released as one of the singles off the album, never really got the attention it deserved. It’s got great vocal harmony and a great picking technique that Clapton doesn’t show off too much on this album.  Dad’s Rating 8/10

Next Time You See Her: I was surprised with how much I liked this song. It started off and I thought it would be a snoozer and that wasn’t the case. It’s certainly slower than Cocaine or Lay Down Sally, two of my favorite tracks on the album, but Clapton’s vocals really shine through best on this song. His rough voice is a nice juxtaposition to the well-polished instrumentation in the background and makes the lyrics shine through more. Dad’s Rating 7/10

We’re All The Way: This is another classic Clapton ballad but never got the attention that Wonderful Tonight received. It’s a weaker track than the former and doesn’t feature the same haunting guitar hook at the beginning that Wonderful Tonight does. I think that because this track doesn’t feature Slowhand’s ability behind the guitar as prominently it gets left behind.  Dad’s Rating 6/10

The Core: I had never heard this song before starting this album review, and it had me from the first hook. This is the only song on this album where Clapton made heavy use of distortion techniques (listen to the opening guitar riff then listen to the rhythm guitar in the bridges). The Core is also the only song on the album to feature a saxophone solo and it doesn’t feel out of place because Clapton uses it to launch into a blistering guitar solo that really isn’t heard anywhere else other than on Cocaine! I take the rating down 1 point for Marcy Levy’s accompanying vocals on this song. I would have preferred if this was exclusively a Clapton track and I think it would have made it stronger overall. Dad’s Rating 7/10

May You Never: This is just an average song. The lyrics were actually what first caught my attention and it’s more of a wish than anything, praying “may you never” have any number of dreadful things happen to you like “losing your woman” or “get hit in a barroom fight.” If you’ve never heard this song before it’s worth a listen at barely over three minutes long. I think this song is where the album starts to lose its steam because up to this point, Clapton has displayed great guitar playing ability and a wide range of vocal skills that we don’t see from this song onwards. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Mean Old Frisco: Maybe I’m a “Mean Old Reviewer,” but this song is a few notches above May You Never in my eyes but not spectacular. The song has a distinct, bluesy drive to it that is evident in the other songs on the album, but the song doesn’t really start to pick up steam until the solo before the final verse when Clapton can show off. His voice is well-suited for the song and reminds you of listening to classic delta blues music. I only give this a 7 because the song took longer to get going than a fanboat on the bayou that’s missing half of its propeller. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Peaches and Diesel: The lead guitar on this song is a great listen. It’s not overly complex and showcases Clapton’s softer side. The song is very repetitive though and doesn’t swell like I would hope it does. It’s a lackluster way to finish the album in my opinion. 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.

Meat Loaf- Bat Out Of Hell (1977): 21 January 2019

Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (1977)

This week takes us back to 1977 when a man by the name of Michael Lee Aday (professionally known as Meat Loaf) released his first album. Bat Out Of Hell was a unique album upon initial release, and many people had never heard anything like it before. It was initially criticized for failing to conform to easily recognizable musical standards at the time, particularly in the way the songs are structured. Typical rock/pop music of the period followed (and still follows) a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure. Listening to the album, you’ll notice that only the ballads follow that pattern while all the other songs are more structured around the story that they’re trying to tell. Since its initial release, Bat Out Of Hell has become one of the best selling albums of all time and is a quintessential album to blast in the car while driving along the highway and singing along as loudly as possible!

Bat Out Of Hell can best be described as a rock opera and each song on the album can stand alone as its own story. Like last week with One Of These Nights, Bat Out Of Hell is an album about relationships; specifically young relationships and experiencing a relationship and all of the different emotions and stages that come with it. Listen to Hot Summer Night and Paradise By the Dashboard Light for the most clear examples. In the former, the main character gushes about their new partner (read below for why I also might not be!), and with the latter, it explicitly states that the two characters are young. All Revved Up with No Place to Go follows the theme, describing the main characters as a young boy and young girl, in this case referring to teenagers. Give the album a listen for yourself, and I hope you enjoy one of my personal favorite albums!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Bat Out of Hell: Meat Loaf really opened the album like a bat out of hell, didn’t he?! The long instrumental at the beginning gives you a taste of what you can expect for the rest of the album; driving guitars, an amazing intertwining of instruments, passion, and a great story. The only reason I didn’t give this song a 10 was because I think there’s another song on the album that’s more dynamic in its story that maintains the same instrumental quality.  Dad’s Rating 9/10

You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night): The spoken word at the beginning actually ties in to the song quite well and almost makes the song have multiple points of view. Give it a listen and listen to what the main character is saying. The first point of view is from the speaker’s view where the other person in the song is described like a wolf, as evidenced by the lines “you were licking your lips…” and the setting of the song being underneath the moon. This is the same view as the man in the spoken word intro. He’s distrustful of the woman, the cunning wolf. If we flip the viewpoint so that the woman is the main character of the song then the other person in the lyrics is literally the self-described wolf with the red roses from the intro. Besides the interesting play in the lyrics, this is an insanely sing-able song and definitely not one to skip. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Heaven Can Wait: In my opinion, this is the weakest song on the album. One of the positive parts of this song though is the delightful piano accompaniment. This is definitely not a bad song, it just doesn’t hold up next to some of the other ballads on the album like Two Out of Three or For Crying Out Loud. No need to wait for this song. If this is your first time listening to this album, don’t skip it. Listen to it and compare it to the other two ballads and see which one you like most. Dad’s Rating 6/10

All Revved Up with No Place to Go: I think this song will surprise you if this is your first time listening to it. I’m not going to ruin the ending, but this song revs up, and right into Two Out of Three! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad: This is Meat Loaf’s best-known ballad, and this song still receives regular play on the radio. I believe the reason this song still resonates is because everyone can recall a time when they had unrequited feelings towards someone else. This song isn’t lyrically or musically complex, it’s just a great heartbreak song. “I want you, I need you…ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you…”. That’s your two out of three and I give this a…Dad’s Rating 7/10 (a little higher than 2/3)

Paradise By the Dashboard Light: Paradise By the Dashboard Light will throw you for an emotional journey for the entirety of the song. You feel all of the emotion of the main characters, two high schoolers out by the lake trying to find eh-hem “paradise by the dashboard light…”. The instrumentation in this song is fantastic, everything from how the piano starts by driving the song forward to playing a “call and response” in the back and forth between the two main characters. There’s creative use of baseball commentary and such a compelling story that make this song our second “They don’t make music like this anymore Award” Dad’s Rating 10/10

For Crying Out Loud: I’ve always skipped over this song when I listened to this album in the past and ended with Paradise, but for crying out loud, I wish I hadn’t! This really is a great ballad that’s really easy to listen to. The buildup through the song is great and the piano accompaniment is beautiful. I’ve never heard an album be self-aware before, but Meatloaf makes reference to all of the other songs on this album in this song as a closing remark of sorts. See if you can catch them all! 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.

Eagles- One Of These Nights (1975): 14 January 2019

Eagles – One Of These Nights (1975)

This week on Your Dad’s Car Stereo, we’re covering the album the brought Eagles into the forefront of the 1970s rock scene and solidified their place on Classic Rock stations for decades. Formed in California in 1971, the quintet of Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner, were known as Eagles until Leadon was replaced by Joe Walsh. Despite releasing albums that churned out popular singles like Take It Easy, Witchy Woman, Peaceful Easy Feeling, and Desperado, it was this album, spawning three singles that launched them into the spotlight. You could say that it was this album where the Eagles really “took flight!”

One Of These Nights is, on the whole, an album about relationships. It features Hollywood Waltz, a song about loving and respecting your partner, but on the obverse side of the coin is Lyin’ Eyes, a song about cheating in relationships. The lead single, One Of These Nights, is about the darker aspects of humanity and expresses that there’s no need to hide that in a relationship and that there’s always someone out there like you. The album features a uniquely Eagles sound that is dominated by a country rock sound and borrows heavily from traditional cowboy/western ballads, particularly on songs like Too Many Hands and Visions.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

One Of These Nights: This is one of the best songs put to vinyl. Period. Ever. The smooth rock track opens with haunting guitar before diving into a well-polished, grooving verse and features classic Eagles vocal harmonies in the chorus. Seriously, listen to this song if you’ve never heard it before, this is one of my all-time favorites, and for that it receives the first “They don’t make music like this anymore Award” for this series. Dad’s Rating: 10/10

Too Many Hands: Eagles followed one of the strongest singles they ever released with a slightly above average track. Certainly not a bad song but it just doesn’t hold a candle to the song that came before. I actually get a feeling that there was a cowboy/western United States influence on the music in this song that you can hear in the guitar riff at the end of each sentence in the chorus. Yee-haw! Dad’s Rating: 7/10

Hollywood Waltz: This song puts me to sleep. I had to listen to it a few times before I get a message out of the lyrics, and I actually found that I enjoy the message of learning to love someone. The cowboy ballad influence is strong in this one. Despite this, it still puts me to…ZzzzzzzzzzZZZZZzzzzzZZzzzz Dad’s Rating: 6/10

Journey Of The Sorcerer: A song for a full orchestra and a BANJO!! This was the soundtrack for Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to boot! I’m not sure who thought that a banjo would amplify an epic song appropriate for travelling across the universe, but thank goodness they did. Give this song a shot, it’s a little odd if you’re not familiar with Douglas Adams’ original radio show or the remade movie in the early aughts, but it’s a “journey” worth taking. Dad’s Rating: 8/10

Lyin’ Eyes: This was one of the lead singles off of One Of These Nights, and the soft rock/cowboy ballad is felt as much here as it is on Hollywood Waltz. This song is more palletable than the former for two reasons: 1. Classic Eagles vocal harmony is present that was sorely lacking on the earlier track and 2. The tempo doesn’t put you to sleep. I’d be lyin’ if I told you any different! Dad’s Rating: 7/10

Take It To The Limit: So this is a staple of classic rock radio to this day, and that makes sense considering it was the third single off of the album. This song deserves a sing-a-long every time it comes on, and it’s just a fantastic ballad that’s easy to listen to. The multiple building refrains at the end are one of my favorite parts. If you’ve never sat and listened to this then I can only recommend doing so. This song doesn’t just take the album to the limit of excellence, it pushes it over that limit and helped cement it in rock history.  Dad’s Rating: 8/10

Visions: This song actually surprised me because I had never listened to it before. Going in having never listened to it, it has come out as one of my favorites off the album. Visions is a classic 1970s southern rock song done right. It’s got a very Lynyrd Skynyrd feel to it. If you have even a passing interest in Skynyrd or CCR, this song will tickle the auricular orifices. Dad’s Rating: 8/10

After The Thrill Is Gone: Snooze. I know this is one of Eagles’ more popular songs, but skip it, particularly if you sat through Hollywood Waltz. Dad’s Rating: 5/10

I Wish You Peace: This is an interesting track to close off the album. I Wish You Peace is easily my least favorite song on the album and it sparked controversy within the band when it was recorded. Don Henley has spoken out against it, stating that it was only on the album at the request of Bernie Leadon and his girlfriend Patti Davis. It’s definitely an outlier on this album, and an outlier worth skipping. I hope this song can find peace with itself, considering no one listens to it. Dad’s Rating 4/10 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.

Steely Dan- Aja (1977): 7 January 2019

Because this is the first blog post for this series, I wanted to take a few lines of code and explain what the effort is all about. Classic Rock. Most people can listen to it, enjoy it, and really have no gripes if someone puts it on. With many modern genres that’s simply not the case. Have you ever been in a car with someone and asked what to put on? One person will say, “I like country,” and the next will say, “I only listen to rap and hip/hop,” before the driver (who should really be focused on the road and not the conversation in the back seat anyway) says they like Top 40. Nothing is wrong with any of these genres! Every single one has their merits, but it puts the person riding shotgun in the awkward position of putting something on that will please one person but not the rest. Fortunately, classic rock is here to save the day and most people can shrug and say, “yeah, this is alright.” Little do they know, that not all classic rock is made equally. For every Led Zeppelin, there’s a Warren Zevon that excludes Werewolves of London. For every Creedence Clearwater Revival, there’s a Mudcrutch. Your Dad knew this, and he knew the best albums to listen to. This blog will highlight his favorite albums and break them down track-by-track so you know which ones are hot to trot and which ones should stay on the B-side.

Steely Dan – Aja (1977)

For the first installment of Your Dad’s Car Stereo, why not start with an album that Dad hasn’t taken out of the car since he was a teenager. This album is arguably one of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s biggest hits and one that has captured easy listening radio since it was released with the singles Deacon Blues and Peg. This album is so smooth that it will make you pine to be in your mid-50s, spending your savings on a family boat to take out on the river on the weekends, and flipping on the easy listening station that will inevitably play one of those two songs. Steely Dan expertly interwove a brass section into almost every song that they produced and you can hear it on every track on this album. The saxophone and trumpet solo halfway through Home at Last is one of the best on the album and the whole song has an up-tempo jazzy feel that could give Kenny G a run for his money for re-playability.

I actually split this album into 2 distinct portions when thinking about the theme, “Mid-life Melancholy” and “We’re actually in our 20s so let’s party.” The album isn’t even when it comes to separating these themes either. They don’t alternate, they don’t front-load the album with one while back-loading with the other. The songs are just there. They exist, not to tell a story, or criticize, or to make a theme important, just for someone to listen to and notice that the albums weaves between the two, therefore interweaving the themes. It shows that age is just a number and whether you fall into the first camp or second camp by birth order, what really matters is how you take what you’ve been handed right now and what you do with it.  

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Black Cow: The song builds throughout, starting with a steady drive, leading to a decidedly gospel feeling to emphasize the ends of sentences and throughout the chorus. The saxophone solo at the end is worth waiting for. Keep waiting for it! I think the album really gets warmed up at this point. Black Cow isn’t a bad song by any means, it just doesn’t stand out from the others. Dad’s Rating: 6/10

Aja: Cryptic lyrics with music that reminds me of something that would play in a cocktail lounge. You don’t find vibraphone solos in many songs, but this one does it right! The drum solo at the 5-minute marker sounds like that Tarzan guy playing there sport! Dad’s Rating: 7/10

Deacon Blues: I don’t want to be called the Crimson Tide after hearing this! I’m sure Nick Saban listens to this song when he gets ready to beat Auburn for the n-th time since he was hired (We don’t strongly support either team here on YDCS, just stating a fact). Man, that guy can coach some football, and man does this song play! Check out the saxophone solo halfway through the song. It makes me want to slowly slide on some sunglasses real cool-like. Dad’s Rating: 8/10

Peg: This is the most radio friendly song on this album and was one of the singles for a reason, it’s got classic Steely Dan drive, a great guitar solo, a unique horn riff to break up the verses, and vocal harmony to give the chorus depth. I think I’ve heard this song in every waiting room I’ve ever been in it’s featured so heavily on the radio. Dad’s Rating: 8/10 (I almost took a point off for making me remember that one waiting room where the doctor was going to…you know what, never mind.)

Home At Last: JAZZ. AT LAST. FUNKY JAZZ. ‘nuff said, but I’ll say more anyway. The solos on this track go all over the place for a classic rock album and, musically, there’s nothing to fault. Listen to this on my hi-fi system kiddo and take in the mastery of the Becker and the Fagen. Dad’s Rating: 9/10, only because I was too busy listening to the sweet, sweet jazz to rate the lyrics.

I Got the News: Solid song. It’s really bluesy and funky. The vocal harmony about halfway through the song sounds similar to the Doobie Brothers in the 70s. The first part that I don’t like is that the story is difficult to follow. There are also too many solos to effectively bop your head to in the car to go pick up more mulch at the outdoor homestore on a Saturday afternoon. Dad’s Rating: 7/10, 8/10 for the vocals and funk, 6/10 for the story and solos that wander away more than you instead of helping me carry these bags of mulch.

Josie: I’m not a fan of breaking the law like Steely Dan wants to do “when Josie comes home”, but the level of funk in this song should be illegal. This is the closing track on the album and closes it out with the same jazz-rock fusion that carries the rest of the album without skipping a beat. The opening guitar riff sounds like the start of one of those action movies you like to watch. You should do something more productive than watch those movies all day, like carry these bags of mulch to the garden for me. 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.