King Crimson- In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969): 30 December 2019

King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)

Welcome back to YDCS! We’ve got a big one this week to close out 2019! Today we’re taking a listen to one of the most influential albums to the development of progressive rock, King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King. King Crimson was one of the first bands to take what rock was in the 1960s, mostly simple popular music that hadn’t quite begun to splinter off into sub-genres, and transformed it into art. King Crimson added instruments that weren’t typically associated with rock music, like flutes and horns, fantastical lyrics, and unusual musical structures to create the first true prog rock album. Their work would be followed up by some of their English contemporaries like Yes and Jethro Tull on albums like Close To The Edge, Aqualung, and Thick as a Brick before gaining mainstream popularity with bands like Rush and Pink Floyd.  

I’ll preface by saying that as big of a fan of prog rock as I am, I’ve never gotten around to listening to this album in particular, but when I did, I was blown away. This album has everything that I love about a good rock album. It’s consistently engaging and interesting to listen to and the musicianship and creativity are second to none. I particularly enjoy the creativity piece as this album pulls influences from jazz rock, the popular-at-the-time psychedelic rock, and more traditional blues rock to create a larger-than-life sound. The more that I listened to this album this week, the more that I wanted to listen back to it and discover something else about it. In The Court Of The Crimson King is one of those albums that you’ll find something new to like about it every time you listen, whether it’s a new horn section, symphonic piece, or shredding guitar solo. This is a quilted mélange of styles that was put together so perfectly that it inspired generations of musicians to think outside the box and push the boundaries of rock. I hope that you find as much to like about this record as I did. Enjoy the album, and welcome to the Court of The Crimson King.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

21st Century Schizoid Man: Wow. That was my first thought listening to this song. Just wow. I have never heard such a cacophonous and messy but intricately perfect piece of music outside of a Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart album. King Crimson was able to do something that Beefheart and Zappa either couldn’t do or didn’t want to do in the name of art; they brought order to chaos. Once you settle down from the introduction and get into the song you realize that every instrument fits together with the others perfectly behind a unified theme of a jazz-fusion-blues-rock song. Sure, you might have never heard something like those distorted lyrics, yelps from the guitar, or such furious drumming, but you can follow it. This is where prog started in earnest. Listening to this then going back and listening to other classics in the genre like Yes’ Close To The Edge or Genesis’ Nursery Cryme, you start to understand where all of this started; the manic panic of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”  Dad’s Rating 10/10

I Talk To The Wind: After the manic energy of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” “I Talk To The Wind” is a great change of pace. I’ve said before that downtempo songs often have trouble holding my attention if they’re not musically interesting, but the moments of jazz fusion and flute overlay break the song up nicely and kept me tuned in. The flute solos are actually really stellar and remind me of a more peaceful version of a Jethro Tull flute solo. I’d also highlight the drumming on this track. It’s really quite complex and you could easily miss it because it’s so well incorporated. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Epitaph: This is a ‘proggy’ kind of sound! “Epitaph” is just a weird song and I love it! It’s almost more of an art piece than it is rock, and it goes to show the lengths that King Crimson were willing to go to push the boundaries of rock. The low horn (maybe bassoon??) portion towards the end is really unique and not something that you’ll find anywhere. “Epitaph” is a beautiful song that makes the most of unique instrumentation, powerful vocals, and pushes what we can call rock music. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Moonchild: “Moonchild” was an underwhelming one for me. I expected a lot more out of a 10-minute long song and I felt the band could have used the song for more. Maybe that’s the point of it, filling 6 minutes of a side of a record with near-silence is certainly ‘progressive,’ but it forgets the music part. Where there is music on the front half of the song it’s good! It’s everything you would expect from a King Crimson record. It’s different and makes you think about the music. “Moonchild” loses major marks for me though because only half of it showed up to the court. Dad’s Rating 4/10

The Court Of The Crimson King: “In The Court Of The Crimson King” is legendary in prog rock, specifically lyrically-focused prog. Prog is usually split into three factions: musically progressive (incorporating unusual instruments, time signatures, structures, etc.), lyrically progressive (incorporating fantastical or science fiction lyrics), or a combination of both. We definitely see elements of both on this track with a rocking flute solo and melloton section and a fantastical story about witches and kings. Musically this is a very complex song that you’ll find yourself listening to multiple times and finding something new each time; whether it’s a new drum flourish, instrument that you didn’t hear the first three times, or interesting combination of instruments. This is a great track that deserves it’s place among the prog rock greats. Dad’s Rating 9/10

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Rush- Caress of Steel (1975): 16 December 2019

Rush – Caress of Steel (1975)

Welcome back to YDCS! This week I have an album from my favorite band on deck, Rush! Caress of Steel was the band’s third studio album. Critically and commercially, this was the band’s least successful album, but I actually think there’s a lot to like about this record. First, there’s actually a few songs like “Bastille Day” and “The Necromancer” that are solid tracks and were staples of the band during their touring days, even on later tours. Second, the juxtaposition between goofy tracks like “I Think I’m Going Bald” and over-pretentious tracks like “The Fountain of Lamneth” shows me that the band were still learning. Third, this is the most progressive album that the band produced to date, so there was a lot of growing into their new progressive sound to be done. The first time we heard inklings of this was on their previous release with the fantasy elements in “By Tor and Snow Dog,” but they started to really push boundaries with longer format tracks like “The Necromancer” and the side-long song “The Fountain of Lamneth” (their first of three full side-long songs, the others being “2112” and “Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres”).

Caress of Steel was almost the final nail in the coffin for the band. Fly By Night initially undersold and Caress of Steel continued that theme. They had one more chance on their next album and Rush doubled down on the prog rock sound creating one of the seminal works of the genre, 2112. After that, the rest was history. I don’t think we would have been able to experience 2112 without the experimentation of Caress of Steel. It’s one of my favorite albums by the band because of its rawness and because you can really see where the band was going to be in the future. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Bastille Day: “Bastille Day” is a rocking way to start an album, and no other band would be able to pull off a rock song about the French Revolution! There’s really not much to say about this song. Do you like great rock songs with stratospheric vocals and expert musicianship? Do you like lyrics about historical events and the use of the guillotine to bring down the bourgeoisie? If so, this is the song for you! Dad’s Rating 8/10

I Think I’m Going Bald: We started on such a high note and now we have what is arguably one of the worst songs in Rush’s collection “I Think I’m Going Bald.” I see what they were trying to go for. They tried making a statement on ageing and how getting old isn’t the end of the world but they were so off the mark with it. It’s really a shame that the lyrics let this one down because the instrumentals are pretty good! Every time this song comes on though, I shake my head a little bit and sigh. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Lakeside Park: We got a recovery from “I Think I’m Going Bald” with “Lakeside Park.” This is a good song and gives the band a chance to show off their softer side. What interests me on this song is that the band had to run multiple tracks and splice them together to get the full sound. Remember, there’s only the three band members attributed to this song, but during the chorus you can hear drums, bass, a lead electric guitar, and a backing acoustic. I know that they’re all multi-instrumentalists, but two guitars at the same seems to be a little too much to handle. This is a good softer rock song to calm you down before launching into some more progressive elements. Dad’s Rating 6/10

The Necromancer: “The Necromancer” is a rocking track that features some of the best of ‘Old Rush’ and ‘New Rush.’ The solos are straight out of their self-titled debut, but they manage to tie it together with the same guitar riff from “Bastille Day” and some prog elements with the over-tracked vocals leading into different sections of the song. This is one of those tracks where you can see the struggle between old and new play out most clearly. It’s a 12-minute long song featuring fantasy lyrics but with a decidedly harder sound than they would come to put with those lyrics in the future. It’s a great mashup of a song. Lifeson’s guitar skills are on display front and center on this track and somebody needs to arrest Lee during the instrumental because he lit up that guitar! Make sure to check out this oddity of a track from Rush’s deeper cuts. Dad’s Rating 9/10

The Fountain of Lamneth: “The Fountain of Lamneth.” Rush fans either love or hate this track, there’s really not a lot of indifference towards it. This stems from the fact that the lyrics are ‘pretentious,’ but the music is what fans think about when they think about classic Rush. Fortunately, I’m more of a music than lyrics kind of guy, so I fall on the favorable side of the fence. I’ll admit, the lyrics are overdone, but the instrumental portion is the Rush that I love. It’s ever-changing, interesting to listen to, shows a high degree of musicianship, and above all else, it’s progressive. Peart has a banging solo at the four-minute mark that may have been the inspiration for his longer solos on tour. Fun fact, during the first few minutes of the song you can actually hear a guitar riff that would be re-used at the end of “2112” to launch the second round of solos after the main character is disgraced for finding the guitar and showing it to the High Priests. “The Fountain of Lamneth” has areas where it comes up short, but it was the band’s first attempt at a 20-minute long song and ended up being a great launching ground for their next one. Top notch stuff. Dad’s Rating 8/10

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Sex Pistols- Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977): 2 December 2019

Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977)

Welcome back to YDCS! I had a bit of a break last week with Thanksgiving and family in town, but we’re back this week with the singularly most influential album in the history of the punk movement, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols (Shorted to Here’s The Sex Pistols from here out) by the Sex Pistols. A controversial group to say the least, the band was barred from performing in parts of Great Britain and were led by hardcore anarcho-anti-establishmentarian Johnny Rotten. After being dropped by their record label and being rejected by almost every other label out there, they were picked up by Virgin Records for their one and only studio album. When you have one album to espouse your feelings against ‘The Man,’ what do you do? You make sure you fit as many of your radical ideas in as possible, and shout for the heavens and ears of the crowds to hear. Here’s The Sex Pistols was a massive hit and the attempted censorship by the British government did more to fuel the flames of interest than it did to quell them. Although the band never had another studio album, the punk legacy that they started in 38 minutes revolutionized music for the next four decades.

Here’s The Sex Pistols is the grandfather of the punk movement that started to form around this time, and I would assert that this album influenced the later development of grunge, alternative, and indie. Countless bands, from Nirvana to Guns ‘N Roses and more, have gone on to credit their success, in part, due to the groundbreaking nature of the Sex Pistols. Here’s The Sex Pistols is a rock album at its core and embodies the essence of rock and roll. You may not agree with the band, their politics, or even like their sound, but what you can’t deny is that they stood up for what they believed in, in the face of government and commercial censorship, and shouted for everyone to hear. Rock and roll is all about standing up for yourself and standing up to ‘The Man.’ The Sex Pistols were the first ones to do it with anger, incorporating obscene language, controversial ideas, and a sound that had never been heard before. I hope you enjoy this slice of musical history! Never mind my commentary, here’s the Sex Pistols!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Holidays in the Sun: Could you imagine putting a record on in 1977 and this is the first song that you hear?! Rolling Stone magazine’s top albums for 1977 were this, two albums by the Ramones, then Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Low by David Bowie, Aja by Steely Dan, and a Jimmy Buffet album. A split clearly occurred in 1977 between mainstream pop rock and emerging subgenres in rock. “Holidays in the Sun” sounds absolutely nothing like anything else on that list, and you know exactly what you’ll be listening to as soon as that wailing guitar opens up and the ‘Johnny Rotten sneer vocals’ start. The lyrics tell the story of a band vacation to the Jersey shore that turned in to a trip to West Berlin, and the song features a shredder of a solo in the middle. This is stereotypical punk and a fantastic track. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Bodies: A song that has maybe never captured the emotion of an abortion quite so clearly, “Bodies” is a shocking song now and was part of the reason for the original censorship of the album. Not only did the band present their reality of abortion (leaving interpretation up to the listener), they managed to use no fewer than five ‘f-words’ to do it. I don’t care for the subject matter, but I do respect that the band was brave enough to speak their mind, and like true artists, let the listener make up their mind. They don’t tell you what to think, just angrily present their experience.  Dad’s Rating 8/10

No Feelings: I liked “No Feelings” quite a bit. Musically this is one of the more engaging songs on the record with a great breakdown in the middle that’s definitely worth checking out. If you’re not keen on Rotten’s voice then this is probably the softest introduction to it. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Liar: “Liar” initially doesn’t sound like anything else on the album with a simple drum beat and single strummed chord introduction. Where the rest of the album features guitars turned up to 11 and almost indistinguishable lyrics, “Liar” goes a step above by showing that even on a ‘soft’ song the band manages to be brash. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Problems: One of the best displays of musicality on the album, there’s a lot of skill shown across every section on “Problems.” Rotten’s vocals are at some of their most dynamic on this track, Steve Jones’ ability on the guitar is on full display, both in the solo and on the rocking bass line, and Paul Cook’s drums are in full fury. I recommend listening to this one a few times to get the full effect of each section, but even if you only listen to it once, it’s a great track. Ending with lyrics that drone “Problem” is a great artistic decision. It’s an awesome example of how when there are too many problems for society to fix and they require personal action, no matter how much you hear droning about the problem, you’re not going to be incentivized to change until it affects you personally. Great track! Dad’s Rating 8/10

God Save the Queen: A song so controversial that it was banned from airplay in England. You know what they say about things that are banned, it just makes people want it more. “God Save the Queen” is a stunning rebuke of the monarchy, likening it to fascism, and statement on the future of England under a monarch, making tongue-in-cheek use of the title of the national anthem. This is possibly one of the most politically charged and significant songs in the history of rock. Songs like this show the fullest extent of freedom of speech. Without challenging the status quo, we become complacent as a society. Challenging the status quo reminds us that there are people who don’t agree with it and reminds us of our basic rights. Most people won’t agree with the band likening the monarchy to fascism, but it’s important to hear their voice. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Seventeen: “Seventeen” is one of my least favorite songs on the album. I interpreted it to be a satirical look at people who are lazy and don’t want to contribute to society, but I think it’s a little too well done to hit that on the nose. It comes off as autobiographical as opposed to satirical. Not their best piece. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Anarchy in the U.K.: I think that the message on this one is pretty clear. This is the most punk rock song to ever punk rock. A call to arms advocating violent anarchy, particularly from the militarized political groups of the 1970s, including the groups involved in the civil wars in Ireland and Angola, “Anarchy in the U.K.” is legendary in punk rock circles. Musically, this is a wall of sound. There’s almost no discerning different track loops, the instruments are all playing on top of each other, and it’s a fantastic song. Again, not agreeing with the message, but its cultural significance can’t be understated. “Anarchy in the U.K.” set the standard for what punk would sound like, and there’s only a few songs that can claim something similar. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Sub-Mission: “Sub-Mission” is a lot like “Liar” in that it doesn’t sound like the rest of the album. That’s particularly refreshing considering that if you’ve listened up to this point then you’ve been assaulted with sound for the past 30 minutes. This is one of the more experimental and comparatively restrained songs on the album. It features what sounds like a synthesizer but may also be tapping on the guitar interspersed throughout the song. I liked this song, it’s a great song that doesn’t get as much attention as the big ones on this record. It’s a very different sound for the band and shows the range of what punk can be. Give this one a listen! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Pretty Vacant:  This is probably the most standard rock track on the album. It kicks off a softer sounding end to the album that focuses more on the message in the lyrics than throwing a deafening sound at your face. “Pretty Vacant” is an unsurprising rock track that condemns mindless public thought. It’s not the best song on the album, it just doesn’t stick out. Dad’s Rating 6/10

New York: I like “New York” more than I do “Pretty Vacant.” It has a harder rock sound than the former, however; it displays the same level of musicianship and more vitriolic songwriting than before. I suppose I expected every song to be about taking down ‘The Man,’ and when these last few songs turned into more personal critiques, I became less interested. Dad’s Rating 6/10

EMI: “EMI” is a good way to finish the album! Is there a better way to finish an album off than giving the proverbial finger to your old record label?! Not only did they call them out on their record with a different label, but it’s a legitimately good song! You won’t find bands doing this anymore, and it goes to show that the Sex Pistols were about more than making money, they were about making a statement.  Dad’s Rating 7/10

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Black Sabbath- Master of Reality (1971): 18 November 2019

Black Sabbath – Master of Reality (1971)

Welcome back to YDCS! Remember that you can check out a playlist of the top songs from the blog HERE on Spotify! This week we’re taking a look at Black Sabbath’s third album, Master of Reality. I actually planned on reviewing a different album this week until “Children of the Grave” came on at work and I said, ‘Now that’s an album I need to cover!’ Master of Reality is a significant album for the band for a few reasons. First, the production cycle on this record was double what they had for their first two releases, and that shows in the both the quality of the recording and the musicianship put forward on every song. Second, Master of Reality is the first example of a full-fledged “Black Sabbath sound.” Yes, Paranoid was probably one of the most influential albums in the early development of heavy metal, black metal, and sludge rock, but Master of Reality is the first Sabbath album to feature their signature down-tuned guitars, giving the album a deeper, darker sound.

As an album, I can’t get enough of this one. I prefer Paranoid as a full body of work, but some of the songs on this album are the stuff of rock gods (looking at you “Children of the Grave”). There were even some tracks that I was surprised I liked as much as I did, notably “Sweet Leaf” and “Orchid.” Some of the album’s main themes are a continuation of the anti-war themes from Paranoid, drug use, and Christianity. It’s an odd combination that works well for an experimental album that features everything from loud, rocking solos to classical guitar pieces. This is an album for everyone, and I think you’ll find something to like about it. Enjoy!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Sweet Leaf: Ahh sweet leaf. La ganga estranja. That sticky icky. A friend named Mary Jane. An ode to marijuana. I’ve never been a drug user so I’m not even going to try and explain the lyrics except as possibly the most striking and overt tribute to marijuana. Now musically, this is a hell of a way to start an album! The multi-track cough taking from Tommy Iommi actually smoking a joint in the studio is an ingenious way to start a song, nevermind an album! On top of that, the first time I heard the solo on “Sweet Leaf” my mind was blown. The energy in Bill Ward’s drumming is infectious and I love how the song picks up to a frenetic tempo. “Sweet Leaf” is one of those hidden gems that unless you’re a Sabbath fan, you probably won’t know, but I strongly recommend giving it a listen. Dad’s Rating 9/10

After Forever: “After Forever” is an interesting song that may have been written just to quiet those who believed Sabbath were a bunch of Satanists. The whole song’s lyrics focus overtly on Christian themes but they’re sung over hard rock backing instrumentation. The instrumentation is good but the song feels like it’s missing something. Maybe it was too much of a lyrical push in one direction, and maybe it was that the instrumentation just didn’t stand up to the rest of the album, but it feels a bit hollow. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Embryo/Children of the Grave: I’d like to combine “Embryo” and “Children of the Grave” as the first acts as a great introduction to the other. On “Children of the Grave,” this is one of the baddest, most rocking songs ever written. Hands down. Let’s break it down. Ward drums like a madman on those backing high drums, Iommi’s guitar riff is absolutely iconic, and Osbourne’s vocals howl over everything else. The loud instrumentals are a great contrast to the lyrics advocating civil disobedience and non-violent change. The solos are stellar, the music is amazing, the composition and production are top-notch, and this is a 10/10. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Orchid: After a track like “Children of the Grave” you almost need something to calm down, and Black Sabbath completely went the other direction on Orchid, making an entirely acoustic, soft, classical guitar song. It’s almost as if the civil disobedience advocated for in the earlier song has blossomed. This is a really beautiful piece and completely unexpected on a Sabbath album. I really recommend listening to “Embryo,” “Children of the Grave,” and “Orchid” in order to get the effect of a full story, starting with the beginning of a journey, the adventure itself, and the resulting peace. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Lord of this World: This is the Sabbath that I know and love. “Lord of this World” perfectly captures the final evolution of the dark, down-tuned, heavy metal sound that Sabbath would be known for. This bass driven track has a little bit of groove, one of the better instrumental sections on the record, and I think it’s bassist Geezer Butler’s best work on the album. They really let him shine through here and it paid off. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Solitude: Black Sabbath struck the perfect balance between soft tracks and head bangers on Master of Reality, and “Solitude” is a great example of how to do a peaceful song that stays true to rock roots. There’s no real build to a loud finish, just a peaceful solitude. You really get the sense that the band tried to show more of their colors on this record with songs like this. They were multi-faceted musicians capable of telling a deeper story of peaceful resistance, belief in a higher power, and coming to terms with oneself. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Into the Void: We’re going to finish the record off with a hard rocker! I’d like to take a moment to appreciate that the song is driven by a pounding percussion session from Ward and Geezer. Osbourne’s vocal work on this track is the best on the record. He’s keeping up with some quick, complicated phrases and the final take is a great reflection of his work on that. The band has said this was their hardest song to record, both because of the vocals and because the song has an unnatural, syncopated beat. Ending the way they did with no notice is a great way to “mic drop” on their way out the door. They put together an awesome album and tied it together with a rocker of a final track. Well done! Dad’s Rating 7/10

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Jim Croce- You Don’t Mess Around With Jim (1972): 11 November 2019

Jim Croce – You Don’t Mess Around With Jim (1972)

Welcome back to YDCS! We have a bit of a different album this week with folk rock artist Jim Croce’s third studio album, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. I consider Croce one of the best, if often overlooked, classic American singer/songwriters. The stories that he was able to craft through song still keep people listening to this day because of their clarity and ability to pull at memories and feelings they’ve forgotten. You Don’t Mess Around With Jim was Croce’s first big break in the music industry, and he would go on to release two more successful albums, with the last being a posthumous release after dying in a plane crash on his way to a performance in Texas.

There are two things that really stand out to me in You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. First is his ability to make a folk rock album that feels substantially like an album of soft rock ballads from the same period and not a straight folk album. Second is his ability to write and sing in a way that seems to pull you in to whichever story he’s telling. Throughout the whole album I could visualize his smiling face and the love of music that he felt and wanted to share with everyone listening. I hope you enjoy a bit of a different album, and as always, let me know what your thoughts on it were!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

You Don’t Mess Around With Jim: We’re starting off with the album’s namesake and it’s a big one! This was the lead single for the record and was Croce’s first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” sets the feeling for the rest of the album and is a great example of Croce’s songwriting ability. That’s one of the most exciting parts of listening to a Croce album, listening to the stories that he’s telling through vivid lyrics that, unusually, shine louder than the instrumentation. “Don’t Mess” is a perfect example of this phenomena; Croce’s lyrics and vocals are the feature, and this won’t be the only song that we hear this on. Don’t mess around, this is a great song with some great songwriting and rocking backing instrumentation. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Tomorrow’s Gonna Be A Brighter Day: Normally slower songs bore me, and I find that I have difficulty focusing during them. “Gonna Be A Brighter Day” might just be the exception to that rule. There’s something about Croce’s performance that makes you feel like he’s singing directly to you. You don’t have to have experienced the failure that he’s singing about, but you can feel the passion in his voice. The slow build throughout the song was perfectly executed and was a great representation of the brighter day coming tomorrow. I can’t speak to whether that was intentional or not but it helps the song. Dad’s Rating 9/10

New York’s Not My Home: Please copy and paste my comments on “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be A Brighter Day” here. This is another fantastic example of a beautiful ballad where you can hear all the emotion in Croce’s lyrics. The strong backing strings are an interesting addition and help separate the song from others on the album while the harmonica helps the song stay true to its folk rock roots. Great song! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Hard Time Losin’ Man: “Hard Time Losin’ Man” is one of the best songs on the album and is a fantastic hidden gem. It hits every mark in the folk rock genre and harkens back to a classic Americana sound. The instrumentation almost has an infectious, bouncy swamp rock sound and Croce’s vocals slide all over the song just like the backing guitar. This is a top-notch song, and it’s been stuck in my head all week. Definitely give it a listen! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Photographs and Memories: “Photographs and Memories” is another beautiful ballad and the transition between the two musical themes in the song is really interesting and makes this one unique amongst all the others. Personally, I prefer this one less than some of the others on the album, but it’s a good song for sure! Dad’s Rating 6/10

Walking Back To Georgia: Mmm hmmm as Jim would sing! “Walking Back To Georgia” hits all the right notes. Musically, it’s probably the simplest song on the album, but it goes to show that you don’t need a large production and band to make a fantastic song. A beautiful voice, a smooth guitar riff, and lyrics written from the heart. That’s all it takes. Talent is talent, and talent has a way of shining through no matter what the case. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Operator [That’s Not The Way It Feels]: “Operator” is a thinly-veiled, heartbreaking song. The emotion in this song is almost overwhelming, mostly because I think everyone can relate to an experience of trying to get over a relationship. Musically, “Operator” has one of the best guitar lines on the album and lyrically, I almost want to cry listening to it. Give it a listen and see what it brings up for you. Croce hit the nail on the head and crafted a song that plays perfectly to the feeling of loss that so many others have felt. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Time In A Bottle: I had to really think about what I wanted to say about “Time In A Bottle” because there was no immediate impression. Going back and listening to it, that still holds true. It’s a fine song and has a very different, almost fragile sound to it, but it won’t stay with me. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Rapid Roy [The Stock Car Boy]: We’ve got another rocker on our hands! “Rapid Roy” isn’t as good as “Don’t Mess” or “Hard Time Losin’ Man” in my opinion, mostly because of the lyrics. That’s where Croce’s strengths are. They’re the hallmark of a good folk rock song, and unfortunately for “Rapid Roy,” they’re lacking here. The instrumentation is rocking, but the story just isn’t interesting. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Box #10: “Box #10” has a great build to it! That’s really the most defining feature of this song; how it builds throughout from a soft beginning to a really strong ending. Otherwise, it doesn’t have much else going for it and it blends into a lot of other folk rock songs. Dad’s Rating 5/10

A Long Time Ago: “A Long Time Ago” is such a sweet song and is another great example of Croce’s songwriting ability. He perfectly, succinctly, captures a young relationship in song in a way that many others were unable to do. Musically, this one isn’t a stunner, but it’s such a heartfelt song that it’s worth listening to. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Hey Tomorrow: We finish the album with a song that touches on subjects like addiction and recovery that we haven’t heard anywhere else on the album. I wasn’t expecting to hear that to finish out the record, but I think it’s good that he recorded a song like this as a rallying call for people in recovery. An unexpected finish, but well-performed and poignant nevertheless. Dad’s Rating 6/10

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Def Leppard- Hysteria (1987): 4 November 2019

Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987)

Welcome back to YDCS! Don’t forget that you can follow my Spotify playlist featuring all of the 10/10 songs from the blog by using the link on the right. Check it out! This week we’re venturing into new territory by taking on an album from the late 1980s, Hysteria by Def Leppard. This is the most recent album that I’ve covered on the blog, not for any reason in particular except that I really like the old school, sometimes bluesy, sometimes soft rock sound of the late 60s and 70s. This is an exciting one for me though because this is the rock that I grew up on. I recall very few times when my mom didn’t have Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Duran Duran, or Poison playing in the car. While this wasn’t Def Leppard’s first taste of success on the charts (their earlier album Pyromania brought them into the public eye with songs like “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages”), Hysteria arguably has bigger hits on it and was a much-awaited return after a car accident caused drummer Rick Allen to lose his left arm. The nearly four-year production period for the album was plagued with delays, including a change of producers, band members’ bouts of illness, nevermind the fact that Rick Allen re-taught himself to play the drums with one arm! The result of their persistence was an album coated in 1980s hair metal and sex appeal.

I really liked Hysteria quite a bit! I’m often critical of albums that bleed together and are of a similar sound, and yes, Hysteria does suffer from that a bit, but I found that there was enough variation in the songs to keep me interested. The production on this album is really some of the best that we’ve covered so far. Everything sounds very polished and incredibly well-balanced, not unlike a Bon Jovi album or going back as far as Kiss’ Destroyer. This is as classic of a 1980s rock album as you’ll ever find, and I think you’ll recognize a number of songs off this record. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Women: “Women” is one of the most underrated songs on this album. It’s quintessentially 1980s with its synthesizer intro but it knows how to rock! Stay on board until the chorus and you’ll see what I mean. This is a great song to open Hysteria because it lets you know exactly what you’ll be settling in for; pounding synths, guitars cranked up to 11, and lots of hair. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Rocket: “Rocket” is such a stadium jam and I love it! Imagine standing in the crowd shouting ‘ROCKET!’ back at the band during a concert. Musically, this isn’t the most exciting song on the record, but the lyrics are neat in that they reference some big songs that had come out of rock and roll up to this point like “Major Tom” and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Solid effort! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Animal: We’re moving in to the strongest part of the album. I’m not sure why they decided to sandwich their best material in the middle of the record but it makes for a great couple songs in a row. “Animal” is an absolute classic 80s rock track and was the perfect song to be the lead single for the record. Everything seems to complement the lead vocals and be centered around that idea, really letting them shine through while leaving plenty of space through the song for a big guitar sound. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Love Bites: Were you a teenager in the 1980s? Did you ever have a high school sweetheart break your heart? Did no one understand you? If you can answer ‘yes’ to those questions then you probably listened to “Love Bites” at one point or another. This is an iconic breakup power ballad. The contrast between the soft verses and the rocking chorus would have had ME cry-shouting along with the song. This is such a good song that you could still do that today and no one would bat an eye. Sometimes, love bites…Dad’s Rating 8/10

Pour Some Sugar On Me: After “Love Bites” we get to see a different side of love…nah I’m just kidding. This track is all about sex, sex, sex, and it’s never pretended to be anything different. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” may be one of the most glam rock songs to come out of the late 80s, and it still holds up fabulously to this day. An instantly recognizable guitar intro, a rocking guitar riff and hyper-sexualized lyrics make this an anthem for the Era of Excess. I never get tired of hearing “Sugar,” in particular the opening riff. It makes me want to rock out every time I take a listen. Top-notch song! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Armageddon It: I actually didn’t recognize this song from the title alone, but once the song started I knew exactly which track it was! I’m a little ashamed of that too because this was one of my favorite songs from the album! This song doesn’t sound like anything else on the record and shows a great degree of musicianship, listening to each part in isolation. I really like the swooping lead-in to the chorus; I could listen to that over and over again. Great stuff here! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Gods of War: We have a rocker here! Listening to just the heaviness of the guitar you can really hear the latest influences on burgeoning genres like thrash and speed metal, most notably Megadeth. They would probably never admit that Def Leppard was an influence on their music, but specifically the heaviness of the guitar in the intro and the lyrics remind me a lot of some of their earlier work like Rust In Peace. “Gods of War” has everything you want in a hair metal song with great vocal harmony throughout the song, excellent musicianship, great lyrics telling the story of their fight with the Gods of War interspersed with news coverage and recordings of actual war sounds, and some moments of real shredding, both on the guitar and with some vocal screeches. Don’t skip this one! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Don’t Shoot Shot Gun: “Don’t Shoot” is one of the weaker songs on the album. It’s a rocker for sure, but like so many songs that I’ve seen before, it suffers from being placed after a series of great songs, starting with “Animal” and ending at “Gods of War.” There’s nothing particularly bad about the song, and I don’t think it’s the most forgettable of the album, but it’s just ordinary after a song featuring Presidential overdubbing and recordings of dropping bombs. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Run Riot: I really like the guitar on this track! Every piece is doing something completely different but complementary to the others at the same time. Outside of that, the song doesn’t do much to impress me, but it’s an easy-to-listen-to rock song so I can only complain so much. Give it a listen if it’s your first time listening to Hysteria, especially to hear the triple guitars, but otherwise I leave the decision in your hands. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Hysteria: At this point, I’m pretty sure that “Hysteria” has been used in every coming-of-age movie since its release, but that’s just something more to love about it. If it can be used in the late 2010s and elicit the same emotions and reaction that it did on its initial release, that’s just an example of its enduring quality. “Hysteria” is an awesome power ballad that hits all the right notes. It’s engaging and powerful, certainly enough to hold my attention (that’s MY major marker for a power ballad!), and really just an all-round emotionally charged, great song. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Excitable: What an intro! Starting off with a snarling voice asking if you’re excitable is a great way to grab attention! Unfortunately, this is probably the weakest song on the album so the snarl does little to help the song overall. It doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the record and feels almost more like a Huey Lewis song than a Def Leppard song; it’s just too poppy. Go ahead and skip it, I’m not too excited for it. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Love And Affection: Time to wrap the album up and we have a straight shooting, average kind of song here. There’s nothing to make “Love And Affection” stand out against its peers on the album; it’s very forgettable. We really could have ended this album with a runtime of a little over an hour at “Hysteria.” Not a bad song here, just forgettable. Dad’s Rating 5/10

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Ted Nugent- Ted Nugent (1975): 28 October 2019

Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent (1975)

Welcome back to YDCS! We have another rocking album this week so strap in for the debut album by the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent! After the dissolution of his first band, The Amboy Dukes, Nugent decided to go solo and release his first solo studio album that would become a driving force in the heavy metal and hard rock genres. The ‘Nuge was on the forefront of the genre during its heyday, but was definitely more second wave heavy metal/hard rock, the first generation being acts like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple. Nugent’s contemporaries were later acts in a more established genre like Dio, Judas Priest, and AC/DC. Ted Nugent showed what could really be done when you put the guitar in the front, keep the band small, and let natural skills shine through.

Ted Nugent is an interesting album. On one hand, it features some of its namesake’s biggest songs and displays a great deal of skill and versatility on the guitar. On the other hand, there’s a good amount of filler material that doesn’t help the album as a whole. This is one of those albums where the highs are really high and the lows feel lower than they really are because of how stratospherically good a few songs are. Give it a listen and let me know what you think!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Stranglehold: Just go ahead and open up the album with a heavy, eight-minute long guitar solo. It certainly sets the mood for the rest of the record! Nugent didn’t pull any punches on “Stranglehold.” This track became one of Nugent’s best-known songs and is regularly featured in concerts and on the radio today. When I was a teenager, “Stranglehold” was one of the first songs to open my ears to the sound of classic rock, particularly dark and bluesy sounds. Because of that, this song holds a special place to me. The guitar work is nothing short of amazing; it manages to be both melodic and feature big, loud power chords. That’s a true testament to Nugent’s talent on the guitar. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Stormtroopin’: “Stormtroopin’” is the less-impressive version of “Stranglehold” in my opinion. It’s less melodic and doesn’t show quite the range of ability. It’s still a fun song and the drum fill in the middle before the solo is a cool piece, but it isn’t special. Give this track a listen if you’ve never listened to Nugent before since this is one of his more popular songs, but don’t expect another “Stranglehold.” Dad’s Rating 6/10

Hey Baby: Now this is a solid blues-inspired rock track if I’ve ever heard one! This song rocks. Period. You have everything that makes a great blues-rock track; screaming guitars, blues scale, half-sung, half-spoken lyrics. It’s dirty, pure, and unabashedly rock and roll. Right on! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Just What the Doctor Ordered: If “Stranglehold” was the album’s opus, “Just What the Doctor Ordered” would be the runner up. The guitar riff on this track is so catchy that it’s hard not to sing along to this ‘infectious’ song! Musically it’s not the most impressive; the guitar solo is good but the rest of the song is an average rock song. “Doctor” is a fun song because of the stellar, bouncy delivery that makes you groove. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Snakeskin Cowboys: “Snakeskin Cowboys” is one of the more forgettable songs on the record. It’s got some good musical moments, but they don’t overshadow the fact that the song is little more than album filler. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Motor City Madhouse: I like this song from a music history perspective. You can hear the beginnings of a new generation of rockers being born out of “Motor City Madhouse.” Think about groups like Jane’s Addiction and Primus that got their starts in the late 80s during the alternative rock, pre-grunge movement. I believe that a lot of their sound can be traced back to songs like this that would have been popular during their formative music years. Musically, this is a neat song and the drum solo at the end was, in fact, a madhouse. The Motor City Madman delivered on this song. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Where Have You Been All My Life: This track suffers from “Snakeskin Cowboy Syndrome.” It’s not a bad blues rock song, but it’s mostly filler and doesn’t do anything to improve the album. The album wouldn’t suffer by its exclusion. Dad’s Rating 5/10

You Make Me Feel Right At Home: This was a new track for me, and I was actually surprised to hear almost a soft rock song on a Ted Nugent album, but it works really well! This is one of the only chances we get to hear more from his backing band, and they did a great job. The keyboard work, soft vocals, and great percussion work (check out that xylophone!) add different layers to the album and shows that the band wasn’t just a one-trick pony with hard rock. Great hidden gem here, don’t skip this one! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Queen of the Forest: We finish the album with a solid rocker. I would place this song one step above the songs that suffer from “Snakeskin Cowboy Syndrome” for two reasons: First, this is musically a more progressive song (evident during the solos) and the short period where we hear a choir in the backing vocals breaks this song apart from others on the record. This is the only song where we’ve heard anything like that. Not a terrible way to wrap up the record. Keep rocking! 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.