Iron Maiden- The Number of the Beast (1982): 30 March 2020

Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982)

Welcome back to YDCS! I don’t cover a lot of metal here but that’s going to change with our album this week, Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast. The Number of the Beast was Iron Maiden’s third studio album and their first to be incredibly commercially successful with singles like “Run to the Hills.” The whole album rocks out loud and features superb musicianship. I think that’s one of the reasons that people are drawn to Iron Maiden, besides playing loud rock music, they’re all excellent instrumentalists (listen to “Invaders” for incredible bass work, “Gangland” for drumming, and “Children of the Damned” for guitar). The other reason I think Iron Maiden draws a large following is because even though it’s metal music, it’s still very accessible. Iron Maiden was one of the leaders of the 80s metal scene, building on the work of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin in the 1970s and setting the stage for glam metal acts in the late 80s like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, and Winger. Their music doesn’t throw you into the deep end as much as later thrash metal acts like Anthrax, Slayer, or Megadeth do.

I had never sat still long enough to listen to The Number of the Beast before this review, and the only songs I was familiar with by name were “Run to the Hills” and “The Number of the Beast.” I was pleasantly surprised with the record though! I expected Iron Maiden, like a lot of groups at this time, to fall in line with the desires of the record companies and make an album the featured a little bit of everything for different audiences. Maybe one or two power ballads, a few heavy metal songs for their core audience, and maybe another, more experimental track. I should have known better. The Number of the Beast is unapologetically metal and rocks out loud from start to finish. I really like a band that sticks to their guns and makes the kind of music that they like, regardless of the sales. It’s one of the reasons that Rush is my favorite bands! That attitude shows through on the album. They knew what kind of record they wanted to make and the final product is much better for that. I hope you enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Invaders: You start the record and the first thing you hear is this amazing bass line and drum fill that launch you into a high-speed song. “Invaders” sets the stage well for what you should expect for the rest of the album, and it was one of my favorite songs on the album too! I really liked the chorus where lead singer Bruce Dickinson hits some crystal-clear high notes in front of a shredding guitar. That highlight was one of the first inklings where you might think that the band has really got some chops. Great track! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Children of the Damned: “Children of the Damned” slows things down a little bit at first and shows a more restrained side of Iron Maiden, but then the remind you that they’re still a metal band and immediately speed things back up when you’re not expecting it. That was really cool and aught me off guard at first. Bonus points awarded on this song for throwing a face-melting, tapped guitar solo in the middle of this song. That was definitely a highlight on a song that I thought was going to be a power ballad! Dad’s Rating 8/10

The Prisoner: The first thing that I heard when I listened to “The Prisoner” was that I can see where more modern genres like speed metal draw their influence because this song follows the same basic structure as a speed metal track (think Dragonforce). It has really fast verses with down-tempo choruses that let you take a breath for a second. This is a rocking song too. Musically, it’s not my favorite on the album because it doesn’t show as much depth or musicality as other songs, but it’s still a really good song. Check it out to listen to one of the early influences on modern metal! Dad’s Rating 6/10

22 Acacia Avenue: “22 Acacia Avenue” was the weakest song on the record for me. It’s buried in the middle of the album at the end of the A-side, right before some mega hits. For me, there was nothing to make it stand out and I’ll probably forget it after this review. It rocks like the album, shows a level of dynamic range by alternating between slow and fast portions, but didn’t do enough to hold me. Dad’s Rating 5/10

The Number of the Beast: We’ve made our way to the title track of the album, “The Number of the Beast!” This song gets a lot of love from publications and “Best Of” lists to this day, much of it deserved. I’ll start by pointing out the things I like about this song. It’s a true rocker. The guitar solo is one of the better ones on the album and the dual guitar portion during the solo interlude is really cool. I also like the way that Davidson effectively spits out the lyrics. There’s so much emotion on this track that you can feel it just listening to it! Beyond those points, I think there’s better songs on the album that show a wider degree of musicianship and are more enjoyable to listen to. It’s a good song, but for me, there’s nothing special enough about it to rise to the level of stardom that some hold it to. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Run to the Hills: We’ve got a big one here! “Run to the Hills” is a practically perfect metal song and does well to represent the genre. Lyrics about the European invasion of Native American lands? Check. Out of this world vocals? Check. Fast-paced guitar and a killer solo? Check. This was the breakthrough hit for the band and is still cited as one of the best metal songs ever written. I think that a lot of that has to do with how clean the song is. Oftentimes, metal music can get muddied and hard to follow, but every instrument is clear as day on this song. I think that lends credit to the song and the skill of the musicians to let the music shine through so well. The other reason that this song is so good is that it deals with a very uncomfortable subject matter for a lot of people. Iron Maiden were brave enough to make a song about the westward expansion of America and forcing Native Americans out of the land. Metal is all about two things; music and message. They hit both on the nose with “Run to the Hills.” Dad’s Rating 10/10

Gangland: I had heard references to “Gangland” before this review but never actually listened to it. It actually ended up being one of my favorite songs on the album! I really focused in on drummer Clive Burr on this track and he laid down one of his best performances on the album on “Gangland.” High energy the whole way through the song and he even got to open up the song. When I heard only the drum to open up the song, I knew that it was going to be a special song. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Hallowed Be Thy Name: We close The Number of the Beast with another one of Maiden’s biggest songs and one of the most influential songs in heavy metal, “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” I want to start by addressing the lyrics because the lyrics inform the music in this song. The song tells the story of a man about to be hanged and the thoughts going through his mind as he walks to the gallows. The music pairs perfectly with the song, starting softly as the main character waits in his cell, raising to a frenzy at the end when his time is up. It was a perfect use of dynamic range. Each time I listened to this song I heard something new in the instrumentation, whether it was the bass line, the lead, or a different drum fill. There’s a lot going on but it all melds together to tell an amazing story. 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.

Lynyrd Skynyrd- Second Helping (1974): 23 March 2020

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping (1974)

Welcome back to YDCS! This week we’re listening to an album that almost needs no introduction, the second studio release from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Second Helping. Riding high after their first album, and after gaining exposure touring with The Who, the band went back into the studio to write an album that rivaled their first. The album would spawn two singles, one of which, “Sweet Home Alabama,” would go on to be the song most associated with the band. Notably, this was the last album to feature the band’s original lineup as drummer Bob Burns left prior to the release of their third album, Nuthin’ Fancy.

I’ll be reviewing the album as it appeared on its original tracklist, so there won’t be the additional three songs from the 1990s re-issue. If you liked their first album Pronounced, then you’ll like Second Helping. The sound is very much the same if more refined than their first album. They seem to have come into their own and figured out how to tone down their sound to create more expressive songs, but not quite to the level of the Allman Brothers Band or Marshall Tucker Band. They’re still an unapologetic, three-axe-wielding power southern rock act that believes that more guitar can’t hurt. Despite this, there are moments of strong musicianship and brave writing that make this a standout album in a crowded genre. I hope you enjoy this southern rock staple, and don’t be afraid to ask for more!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Sweet Home Alabama: Who doesn’t love “Sweet Home Alabama?” The response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” “Sweet Home Alabama” would become an immediate hit for the band and he song they’re most closely associated with. Lyrically it’s critical of both the Government of Alabama and the Nixon Administration during Watergate, but it really shines instrumentally. It’s not free-wheeling like “Free Bird,” but there’s a restrained emotion through the verses that breaks through in the iconic chorus. This is a massive song, that couldn’t have been performed any better, and is a perfect way to start their second album. Dad’s Rating 10/10

I Need You: “I Need You” is one of the tracks that tends to fly under the radar but has a really good groove and is a different take for the band. The song is much blues-ier and roots focused than the rest of the album. I wasn’t initially a fan of this song because I thought it would be a boring down-tempo track, but I stuck with it and was surprised by the musicianship on display. This is a dynamic track that shows Lynyrd Skynyrd is more than a one-trick pony. They can do more than play loud, they have real musical skills and a good ear for a roots track. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Don’t Ask Me No Questions: We’re back to a song that plays nicely into the band’s southern rock realm. “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” is a rocker of a track that shows you can do a normal rock song realy well with just a little work. The instrumentals really stand out here The riff is great but there’s a piano and horn accompaniment that adds just a little extra depth to the song and pushes it from ‘average rock song’ to ‘really good rock song.’ Dad’s Rating 8/10

Workin’ For MCA: We have another hidden gem in “Workin’ For MCA!” I had never heard this song before this listen but it’s got a real funk to it that makes it infectious to listen to. It has one of the best solos on the album to boot! Skynyrd kicked it up a gear for “Workin’.” The only thing that I would fault is the lyrics. They’re pretty repetitive and it seems like the band realized that this would be a filler song. It’s really a shame because this is one of the most screaming instrumentals that they put together! Give this song a listen! Dad’s Rating 8/10

The Ballad of Curtis Loew: “Curtis Loew” is what southern rock is all about; good storytelling and music that’s easy to listen to. Van Zant weaves a great story on this track and it’s appropriate that they tuned the band down to let the vocals come through more prominently. “Curtis Loew” was always going to be story-driven song and I’m brought in to the lyrics every time it comes on. Don’t listen to this track for crazy guitar solos, listen for the message. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Swamp Music: “Swamp Music” is an interesting song because it combines a boogie sound with CCR-inspired swamp rock. There aren’t many examples of that in classic rock but this is a neat idea and well-executed too. The band created something unique with this track. My only fault is that the vocal performance is one of Van Zant’s weaker ones on this record. Otherwise, this is a cool track worth checking out! Dad’s Rating 6/10

The Needle And The Spoon: “The Needle And The Spoon” is one of my favorite songs on the album, and it doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. I think what I like about it the most is the simplicity of it. There’s no front with this track. You have a killer guitar riff, some drums to back it, and a classic southern rock sound. When simplicity is done right and done well, a song doesn’t need anything else. Lynyrd Skynyrd were masters of that and “The Needle And The Spoon” is a great example of that. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Call Me The Breeze: What a way to close the album! “Call Me The Breeze” is such a fun boogie rack and it’s got an infectious beat that you’ll hum along to all day long. I’m particularly partial to the end of the song where the piano and horns come in, but every solo on this track is fun to listen to for different reasons, whether it’s to add claps or put in a shredding solo. To be fair, most of the song is an instrumental piece and you can hear how much fun the band had recording this one. That love of the music translates through and makes me love this song even more! Dad’s Rating 9/10

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.

Stevie Ray Vaughan- Texas Flood (1983): 16 March 2020

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood (1983)

Welcome back to YDCS! This week we’re taking a listen to the debut album by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Texas Flood. Vaughan, often regarded as one of the best rock guitarists of all time, recorded this album in two days in Jackson Browne’s recording studio. Six songs on the album are original tracks while the other four are a combination of blues standards, classic folk songs, and gospel inspired songs. Two of those songs, “Pride and Joy” and “Love Struck Baby” would go on to be released as successful singles.The album would prove to be a resurgence for the blues rock genre and associated acts like the Stray Cats and ZZ Top who were experiencing a decline with the introduction of New Wave and electronic influences from the Second British Invasion. It wasn’t just the 1980s where Texas Flood’s impact would be heard. The album would prove to be instrumental as one of the earliest signals of the rockabilly resurgence in the 1990s.

Texas Flood is going to be one of my favorite albums that I’ve reviewed this year. The whole album is masterfully performed and I can’t fault a single performance except for that fact that some of the songs don’t stand out from each other. What I immediately noticed is that Stevie put so much feeling and energy into this album, and it shines through on tracks like “Tell Me,” “Rude Mood,” and “Dirty Pool.” Much of the record focuses on Stevie’s guitar playing ability and it doesn’t disappoint. His variation of technique and when combined with his growling vocals, Texas Flood begins to feel like a proper blues rock record. I recommend listening to this one and focusing on the variety of different sounds that he can get out of a guitar; it’s really incredible. You’ll hear everything from 12 bar blues to more traditional rock sounds. I’ll be reviewing the original release this week so the tracklist will vary from the re-released Legacy Edition. I hope that you enjoy this one as much as I did! Now presenting Texas Flood!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Love Struck Baby: You couldn’t start this album with a better representation for the rest of the album. “Love Struck Baby” is a fun, classic blues track that leans heavily towards rockabilly, particularly through the solo section. This one was made for the radio, clocking in at just under two-and-a-half minutes in length. Radio friendly and fun to listen to, “Love Struck Baby” hits a lot of notes well but lacks the depth of the songs buried later on the album. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Pride and Joy: “Pride and Joy,” while it may initially sound similar to “Love Struck Baby,” plays much closer to traditional 12-bar blues while including an electric lead than the former. We start to hear more depth of performance on this song, and this is where I feel like Stevie starts to open up the gas. One of SRV’s best-known songs, “Pride and Joy” features some fantastic musicianship and manages to balance rocking out during the solo with a more mellow sound through the verses to let Stevie’s rough-around-the-edges vocals carry the song. Great track and a classic! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Texas Flood: One of the blues standards featured on the album, this is the most famous recording of “Texas Flood,” although it was originally recorded by blues legend Larry Davis. I really like “Texas Flood” for two reasons: the musicianship that is on display and the iconic nature of the song. First, SRV knocked it out of the park on this track. This is the second-best solo on the album for me but easily the most iconic. His playing is hypnotizing and makes me want to sit back and follow the notes. I would highlight the variety of technique employed on this track too. You hear everything from traditional blues chords punctuated with big guitar riffs to fast picking sections interspersed with divebombs. It highlights the second thing that I like about this song: SRV had a unique way of combining traditional blues songs with classic rock sounds. “Texas Flood” is the perfect representation of that combination. Hard electric guitar added over bluesy vocals and a 12-bar blues beat gives this song a significantly different sound than the original, but the two are combined and balanced very well. You can’t miss this Stevie Ray Vaughan classic! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Tell Me: “Tell Me” is one of the weaker songs on the album for me, and I put it in the same vein as “Love Struck Baby.” It’s a solid blues track but it’s sandwiched between two huge songs in “Texas Flood” and “Testify.” There’s not a whole lot else to say about it, it’s an average blues song. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Testify: Wow. I’ve never heard “Testify” mentioned among the great guitar solos of rock and roll (That usually goes to “Pride and Joy”), but I think this is more than deserving of that honor. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard this song before this review! This is a real face melter of a solo and I would imagine is listed in the dictionary as the definition of face melter. “Testify” is truly an outstanding solo piece that demonstrates the full extent of Stevie’s prowess over the guitar. He wrung everything he could out of that guitar with fast picking held together with a few divebombs and the grooviest blues chords out there. “Testify” doesn’t normally get a lot of love, but it’s the best song on this album without a doubt. I recommend checking out the live performance too (linked here). A perfect score for one of the best blues guitar solos put to tape. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Rude Mood: “Rude Mood” leans much closer to the rockabilly side of the album than the traditional blues side. The guitar reminds me a lot of songs by the Stray Cats, well known for their rockabilly sound. This is a really fun instrumental track that plays well with “Testify.” Where the former is more of a normal rock song and you get to hear SRV’s chops in that realm, “Rude Mood” lets you hear the other side of that with a blues solo. It’s a neat comparison and well-performed! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Mary Had a Little Lamb: I wasn’t sure how a blues version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” would go, and I’m not sure why they decided to record it in the first place, but it’s actually neat in a weird way. The vocals on this track are the smoothest on the album and reminiscent of Clapton’s voice. As for the instrumentals, it’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb” played to the blues! It’s a strong instrumental performance if not particularly notable. Bonus points for creativity on this one! Dad’s Rating 6/10

Dirty Pool: “Dirty Pool” is another fantastic hidden gem on this album. THIS is the blues. Slooooow blues. I’m in love with the sparkling guitar that features prominently throughout the song. There’s something about those cried-out lyrics combined with a crystal clear, clean guitar that makes this song stand out. I’ve never heard a solo like this one either; the whole thing is quick, strumming that’s exactly like the backing through the verses. It ties the song together nicely by giving it a running theme throughout. I highly recommend checking this one out.  Dad’s Rating 9/10

I’m Cryin’: “I’m Cryin” is another good song that doesn’t stand out from some of the bigger songs on the record, similarly to “Love Struck Baby” and “Tell Me.” If you’ve listened to one of the other two then you can probably skip this one. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Lenny: We end this chaotic, blues-filled album with a song tribute to Stevie’s wife, Lenora. I can hear a lot of Hendrix influence on this song, particularly songs like “Little Wing” (Which SRV actually covered too). This is a beautiful instrumental that shows a softer side of the musician and is a refreshing way to close a frenetic album. There’s something pure about one man, one beat, and one guitar playing a song dedicated to his wife. Stevie captured that emotion on “Lenny” and made a great song. 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.

Eagles- Hotel California (1976): 9 March 2020

Eagles – Hotel California (1976)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! We’ve got a big album this week and one that I’ve been looking forward to covering for a long time, Hotel California by the Eagles. I’m a big fan of the Eagles and Hotel California is one of their most complete albums. The whole album was designed as a concept album for the American Bicentennial and attempted to show some of the darker underpinnings of America, represented by a state that stood for America on a global scale due to the entertainment industry, California. Hotel California has a few major themes running through it, primarily criticism of excess and loss of innocence, all punctuated by a more traditional rock sound than the country rock sound that defined earlier Eagles albums.

Hotel California might be one of the best albums ever released. It had stiff competition in 1976, barely losing the Grammy for Album of the Year to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (another legendary album!). Despite this, Hotel California is the perfect representation of a classic rock album, and I can’t think of many albums that could give it a run for its money. The lyrics are crafted masterfully and make you tune in more to the songs. I’m not normally a ‘lyrics guy’ but I was hooked from the title track. There are a lot of highlights on this album and even a few songs that don’t get so much attention that deserve more in my mind. Hotel California is one of the greats in the classic rock genre, so take some time and give it another listen. Enjoy!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Hotel California: What a way to start an album. It doesn’t get any better than “Hotel California.” As soon as you hear the iconic guitar picking and the pounding drums, you know exactly what you’re listening to; there’s no mistaking it. Musically, “Hotel California” is practically perfect. The guitar solo that plays the song out is legendary and one of the best executed guitar solos ever put to vinyl. What always strikes me about “Hotel California” is the contrast between the softer picking guitar paired with the vocal harmony compared to the harder electric guitar in the background. You almost don’t notice the electric guitar until it becomes the focal point of the song at the end. That shows great balance and awareness from the musicians not to overload the song and lets the listener focus more on the lyrics of the song. It’s almost impossible to have a better song start an album. Well done. Dad’s Rating 10/10

New Kid in Town: This is a big shift from “Hotel California,” but “New Kid in Town” manages to capture a lot of the magic of “Tequila Sunrise” from 1973’s Desperado. “New Kid in Town” is a good ballad with solid vocal performances and a charming guitar. My only fault with the song is the backing keyboard. It seems like it’s not mixed well in a lot of places and pulls me out of the song. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Life in the Fast Lane: My second perfectly rated song on the album, “Life in the Fast Lane,” receives full marks for how classic it is and how good of an example of a blues-rock inspired song it is. The production value on this track is one of the best parts of the song. Listen to the vocals and notice how they’re a little fuzzy. It plays so well into the sliding guitar and bass heavy sections of the song. That same sliding guitar and heavy bass through the choruses are iconic, and I love it every time I listen to it. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Wasted Time: I combined both the first “Wasted Time” and the reprise that starts the B side into one song since they are parts of a whole. “Wasted Time” was a real hidden gem for me. It’s a slower song, and I’ve already said that I have problems with ballads since they usually put me to sleep, but there’s something special about “Wasted Time” that actually keeps my attention. The piano and crooning vocals are beautifully simple. I know we talk a lot about Don Henley’s voice, but this might be his best performance for the Eagles. The rest of the band stayed back and let him do his thing and it sure paid off! The crescendo through the song, adding strings and a backing chorus gives “Wasted Time” such an epic feeling, on par with a song like “Desperado.” This might be one of my new favorite Eagles songs. If you haven’t listened to this one much before, I highly recommend giving it a second chance. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Victim of Love: “Victim of Love” is one of my favorite songs on this record. The instrumentals have so much power that are able to punctuate the song with ferocious chords and accented nicely by Henley’s comparatively softer vocals. This is a great rock song that features a great ending refrain. The last 20 seconds of the song are some of the best once the vocal harmony amps up and the guitar is unleashed. Truly an example of how to do a rock song the right way. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Pretty Maids All in a Row: What is it about the Eagles and ballads that they manage to keep my attention?! If I had to guess, I would say that it’s a high degree of competent musicianship, interesting song composition, and a soft country rock sound. I’m a sucker for a country rock sound and “Pretty Maids” delivers on that front, particularly on the guitar solos where we get some slide guitar. The soft vocal harmony at the end of the song might be one of my favorite moments on the album. It’s so touching and perfectly executed that you can almost hear the band singing to the ‘Pretty Maids.’ Dad’s Rating 7/10

Try and Love Again: “Try and Love Again” is probably the most forgettable song on the record, buried on the B side after a really good ballad. Having said that, it’s still a good, classic Eagles, soft rock song. The vocal harmony is tight if not as spectacular as other songs. The instrumentation is good if nothing to write home about. “Try and Love Again” is a good song all around, but I won’t remember it after this review. Dad’s Rating 6/10

The Last Resort: We finish off Hotel California with the last ballad of the album. “The Last Resort” (appropriate considering that this is the last song on the album titled Hotel California) is more than it would initially appear to be. This seven-minute long song builds into an orchestral finish that fades out with only instrumentation. There are lots of interesting pieces throughout the song, but the highlight is again Henley’s vocals. Hotel California was where he was in some of his best form and the pureness of his voice shines through on “The Last Resort.” This track feels like a very fitting ending to an epic album. 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.

The Cars- The Cars (1978): 2 March 2020

The Cars – The Cars (1978)

Welcome back to YDCS! We’re back to regular programming this week after the special last week, and we have a classic album on tap this week too, the self-titled debut from The Cars! The Cars were on the edge of the New Wave movement that was beginning to form and would dominate the rock scene through the 1980s. The Cars was an indulgent album that strayed from a typical blues rock sound, incorporating newer instruments like synthesizers and more pop elements to create a radio-friendly rock sound. This approach ended up paying off for the band as The Cars would go on to chart for over 130 weeks.

The Cars would have a few smaller hits through the early 80s until the release of their third album Heartbreak City in 1984, featuring a distinctly pop-ier sound. The Cars was a strong debut album that produced three singles, two of which would go on to be legacy hits for the band, “Good Times Roll” and “Just What I Needed.”  After listening to this album a few times, I ended up liking it quite a lot. It has a very unique sound with strong reliance on synthesizers and very tight songs, a stark contrast to more freewheeling albums by acts like Ted Nugent or Black Sabbath. New Wave just has a very ‘buttoned-up’ feeling to it for me. It’s polished up nicely and packaged so that anyone can enjoy it in a radio-friendly format. In some respects, that’s exactly what you want, accessibility to a wider audience. I just wish that that accessibility didn’t come at the cost of straying from rock roots. The Cars did about the best that anyone could to create an album that appeals to a large audience and used up and coming instruments and pop music techniques but set it to a harder sound than I think most people were prepared for. This set the stage for the takeover of rock music in the 1980s. True trailblazers. I hope you enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Good Times Roll: We start off with a huge rock song. “Good Times Roll” is such an easily recognizable song and it’s classic Cars to boot. I think that the song gets most of its appeal from the huge chorus featuring multipart harmony. It contrasts nicely from the rest of the song, which, while it’s classic rock is a relatively softer sound. Dad’s Rating 8/10

My Best Friend’s Girl: “My Best Friend’s Girl” was released as one of the singles for the album but doesn’t get as much attention as the other two, “Good Times Roll” and “Just What I Needed.” For me, this is just a fun rock song. It’s identifiable as the Cars and pushes the New Wave sound just a bit with the tightness of the song. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Just What I Needed: “Just What I Needed” is such a cool song and probably The Cars’ biggest hit. I’ve always loved the guitar on this track, particularly though the chorus where it transitions to power chords. It’s a great contrast to the rest of the song where it’s mostly a picking part. The synthesizer is classic New Wave and helps set this song as a hallmark for the genre. Dad’s Rating 9/10

I’m in Touch with Your World: “I’m in Touch” is a unique song in that it doesn’t sound like anything else on the album. The stair stepping guitar part combined with the weird instrumentation is really cool. I’m pretty sure that most of the unusual sounds were created by a synthesizer for this track. There’s everything from scratches to whistles and breaking glass. This is a really cool track and definitely worth checking out just for the novelty. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Don’t Cha Stop: This is a proper rock song. The Cars did away with the synthesizers (for the most part) and made a classic rock song in “Don’t Cha Stop.” This is a song that should be on every driving playlist and mixtape. I can imagine myself driving on the interstate across Texas with this song turned up. As far as rock songs go it’s not particularly impressive, but it has a great feeling, and that feeling carries it far.  Dad’s Rating 6/10

You’re All I’ve Got Tonight: I liked this track well enough. By this point in the album, I’ve started to realize that a lot of songs by The Cars don’t show a high degree of diversity, at least not on this album. “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” sounds an awful lot like some of the later songs on the album that push into forgettable territory. “You’re All I’ve Got” has a bit more of a hard rock sound than others on this record, and that helps save it from obscurity. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Bye Bye Love: There’s a lot to like about “Bye Bye Love” from a musicality standpoint. Looking at each instrument alone, the band shows a high degree of musicianship on this track. The bass is interesting and was the first thing to catch my ear, the synthesizer is different than on other tracks. A lot of times it’s used more for baking, but here it gets a neat riff and solo all to its own. The vocal harmony is well executed, exactly as one would expect from a Cars track. Good song! Dad’s Rating 6 /10

Moving in Stereo: “Moving in Stereo” is an odd song for me in that after listening to the album a few times, it’s one of the songs that didn’t make a strong enough impression to stick in my head, but it’s also got a really unique, synth-driven sound that isn’t matched by any other song on the album. It’s not quite rock and it’s not quite pop. It’s a solidly strange New Wave song, and it comes across as odd on an album where the genre is so well incorporated into traditional rock sounds. Dad’s Rating 4/10

All Mixed Up: “All Mixed Up” is a solid rock song but easily forgettable. I can’t complain with it, but it doesn’t stand apart from other songs. Dad’s Rating 5/10

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Reflections on “Ohio”: 24 February 2020

On Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Ohio”

Welcome back to YDCS. Today I’m doing an article that I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It’s sobering but musically and culturally significant. This week we’re looking at only one song. One song that was a hallmark for the anti-Vietnam war response in the United States and defining songs of early 1970s rock; “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The Vietnam War remains a politically charged subject to this day and I won’t pass judgement on anyone’s actions or opinions. I only care about the music.

By May 1970, the United States Army had conducted ground operations in Vietnam for five years, men had been drafted to join the war effort starting in December 1969, and anti-war sentiments started rising to the surface in the form of organized protests. Youth culture was changed, and much of the frustration, fear, and pain felt by the normal person on the streets was encapsulated in the popular music of the time. The result of these feelings came to a point in May 1970 on the campus of Kent State University and inspired a scathing response from the public.

In May 1970, students of Kent State University, frustrated with the Nixon Administration’s decision in late April of that year to expand combat operations into Cambodia, began organized and unorganized protests across the campus. While the majority of protests remained peaceful on May 1, the first day of protests, students began targeting police, military, and ROTC facilities and vehicles through May 3rd. Late in the day on May 2nd with protests becoming more threatening, including targeting pro-war businesses across the city of Kent, the Governor of Ohio activated the Ohio National Guard and sent them to help the local police maintain order in the city.

Action came to a head on Monday, May 4th on the Commons of Kent State University. A large group of 2000 students assembled to continue protesting the Nixon Administration’s pro-Vietnam War policy. University officials banned the protest but students refused to disperse, forcing the hand of the University who called the National Guard in to disperse the crowd. Initial attempts to end the protest with tear gas proved ineffective. Soldiers then fixed bayonets to their rifles and began to march towards the protesters, proving to be largely successful in dispersing the crowd. A smaller number of protesters remained on the Commons grounds, some throwing rocks towards the soldiers, when tensions boiled over. For 13 seconds, the National Guard opened fire on the protesters, killing four; Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer. Faculty were able to convince remaining protesters that further action would result in more death. The protest had ended.

On reading about the shooting, Neil Young penned the lyrics to the song that would become “Ohio.” He felt the student’s pain and that reflected in the lyrics: “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio.” “Ohio” represents more than a reaction to the events that occurred on Kent State University and became a rallying cry for the anti-war effort and protests at universities that would last through the summer of 1970. If there were ever a song that symbolized domestic opposition to the Vietnam War, it was “Ohio.”

Musically, “Ohio” gives me chills ever time I listen to it. Starting with a simple, haunting guitar riff and a quiet voice that sings those famous words, almost whispering. The song builds into a cry for the dead in Ohio, adding additional vocal harmony throughout that begs the listener to hear their argument. It’s not just sadness and pleading in the last verse that you hear, it’s rage for those that died and disbelief that a government that was supposed to protect its people could commit such an act. The simplicity of the song makes its message more apparent: “The National Guard are pawns used by the Government and they killed innocent protestors. How could you do something like that?”

“Ohio” was the song that anti-war protestors needed to make themselves heard. There were plenty of other songs that spoke out against the war in Vietnam; “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix and “Fortunate Son” by CCR just to name two, but “Ohio” was personal. It put names to faces and the blame squarely on the government. Protests would begin to wane in number after 1970 as the United States began to seek exit strategies from Vietnam, leading to peace in 1973. Whether you agree with the pro-war or anti-war sentiment, it’s impossible to deny the cultural impact that Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young had on America during a time fraught with tension.

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.

Kansas- Leftoverture (1976): 17 February 2020

Kansas – Leftoverture (1976)

Welcome to another week on Your Dad’s Car Stereo! We’re going to 1976 this week with an album that many consider the opus of the American prog rock movement, Leftoverture by Kansas. Generally only known for a handful of songs, most notably “Carry On Wayward Son,” Kansas wholly embraced prog rock for Leftoverture, incorporating sweeping epic fantasy tracks, unconventional instrumentation with a stadium rock appeal. The sound of Leftoverture is interesting in that it incorporates the operatic, synthesizer driven sound of Styx with the guitar sound of Yes. The whole album is driven heavily by synthesizers with some great moments of backing instrumentation from stringed instruments. Kansas would go on to record more albums through the 2000s, but 1976’s Leftoverture would be their best-selling album during the peak of the prog rock movement. They left their own mark on the movement, particularly the American prog rock movement, combining traditional folk and rock sounds with new technology.

I’ve never been a big Kansas fan, and like many I suspect, haven’t really listened to them much outside of their big hits, but Leftoverture is a prog rock album that can keep up with the best of them. It’s just the right amount of rock out loud combined with weird music writing and instrumentation. Kansas stands apart from the rest of the prog rock scene in the 1970s though by straying further from the mainstream, particularly with the incorporation of odd musical phrasing and song structure. Where other prog rock acts were more inclined to use non-traditional instruments, Kansas seems to have gone the other way, using non-traditional song structures, particularly on songs like “Cheyenne Anthem” and “Magnum Opus.” That’s not to say they didn’t use unusual instruments as much of Leftoverture is keyboard driven and uses strings as backing instruments, but there was no inclusion of flutes (think Jethro Tull), bagpipes, vuvuzela, didgeridoo, or other odd instruments that prog rock acts have tried. I was pleasantly surprised with how proggy and innovative this album was while having some real rock moments. It wasn’t all an artistic experiment in how far rock music can go, there are some genuinely good rock songs to be found here. I hope you enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Carry on Wayward Son: We start Leftoverture with a HUGE classic rock hit, “Carry on Wayward Son.” This song remains a staple of classic rock music because of its inventiveness and the way that it disregards typical song structure, giving Kansas’ prog rock influence a chance to discreetly show through on a more typical rock track. There’s no disputing that this is a masterful song, the vocals are top notch, the instrumentation is shrieking, and the tempo changes are really fun. Dad’s Rating 8/10

The Wall: “The Wall” takes a different turn after “Carry on Wayward Son,” launching into operatic rock ballad territory a la Styx. Going for a more melodic, primarily keyboard driven piece, was a bold decision and using the guitar as a sweeping backing instrument is a different way to do a song, but it works very well! This is a solid song. Dad’s Rating 6/10

What’s on My Mind: Leftoverture has got some awesome tracks, but “What’s on My Mind” might be one of the best hidden gem tracks that I’ve listened to and is my favorite song from the record. It has tough competition against “Carry on,” but this is a more traditional rock song and I think the vocal harmonies and guitar riffs are particularly memorable. The fact that this song doesn’t get much attention makes me like it even more. Definitely worth the listen and hopefully you’ll have a new song to add to your classic rock playlists! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Miracles Out of Nowhere: “Miracles Out of Nowhere” is a notch higher than “The Wall” in my book because it’s slightly more musically interesting. I love the introduction that begins with the synthesizer and string solo that will end up carrying through the song. That’s exactly the kind of progressive rock that I love to hear; it makes for a more complex song and more enjoyable listening experience for me. The whole song has a slightly folkish, almost Irish folk music sound with the way the strings were incorporated. This is a unique track that you shouldn’t skip over if you like to hear the prog rock that’s at the limits of what was being done. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Opus Insert: You would have to convince me that this isn’t a Styx song because the reliance on synthesizers makes for an uncanny sound. Having said that, this is a good track! You get elements of the song that combine the operatic, storytelling vocals with keyboards and xylophones, almost as if to show that they can, in fact, be used in a rock song. For fans of Styx, check this one out! Dad’s Rating 6/10

Questions of My Childhood: If you expected the keyboards to stop on “Opus Insert” then you would be mistaken. There can be too much of a good thing, and by this point on the album, the lack of variation in the sound starts to strain attention spans. This is a forgettable song, particularly with the splendid “Cheyenne Anthem” to follow it up. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Cheyenne Anthem: Wow. “Cheyenne Anthem” is an epic song that would be right at home in a space epic move and deserves as much attention as “Carry on Wayward Son.” It’s creative in its use of call and response between the synthesizers, guitar, and strings. There are a lot of moments where it feels like a cross between a Yes track, particularly because of how the guitar is played through the instrumental and a Styx track from the heavy synth sound. The song builds to a faster pace through the instrumental and you want to keep listening to see where it’s going to go and how the music will change next. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Magnus Opus: Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat/ Howling at the Moon/ Man Overboard/ Industry on Parade/ Release the Beavers/ Gnat Attack: It wouldn’t be a prog rock album without an extended, multi-section song, and “Magnus Opus” fills that role on Leftoverture. In many ways it feels like a traditional rock song that has been expanded and much less progressive. The whole song is very cohesive and doesn’t feature much in the way of segmentation the way that a lot of epics in the prog genre tend to. Highlights are the wailing guitar and xylophone section on “Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat,” the guitar solo on “Howling at the Moon”, and use of the synthesizer as the gnat sound throughout the song. Dad’s Rating 5/10

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.