Creedence Clearwater Revival- Bayou Country (1969): 22 July 2019

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country (1969)

Happy Monday and welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! We’re taking it to the country today with the Southern Rock group from Central California, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Bayou Country was the band’s second studio album after seeing moderate commercial success on their self-titled debut with the single “Susie Q.” This was the first of three releases in 1969, and it was followed up by Green River and Willy And The Poor Boys. Willy and their fifth release, Cosmo’s Factory were arguably their most influential releases, but it was Bayou Country that cemented their place in Southern Rock. Despite the fact that the band was only active for five years, they had an enormous impact on the development of the Southern Rock movement. CCR forged a path ahead and was a precursor to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, and later acts like Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, and The Outlaws. The band’s time came up quickly though, and they broke up in 1972 after infighting and have rarely spoken since.

Bayou Country isn’t as full of the band’s classic hits as you would think, but does contain notable releases like “Born On The Bayou” and “Proud Mary.” What is more important about this album is the impact that it had on future releases, both by CCR and other groups. In 1969, there were few groups making the same kind of music as CCR, but Southern Rock exploded in the 1970s, in large part due to the trailblazing nature of CCR and The Allman Brothers Band. Bayou Country is an interesting album because it builds throughout the whole album. You start with a slowed down swamp rock song in “Born On The Bayou,” consistently building up to “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Penthouse Pauper,” before cooling off on “Proud Mary” and “Keep On Chooglin’.” I’ve never seen that approach to organizing an album before and it pays dividends, keeping you interested enough to want to hear what the next song is going to be. Enjoy this Southern Rock staple!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Born On The Bayou: Bayou Country opens with the title track “Born On The Bayou.” This is a superb example of swamp rock done right and some of CCR’s best early work. “Born On The Bayou” is groovy, cohesive, and unique. Lyrically this isn’t a particularly powerful song, but musically it’s practically flawless. Extra attention goes to John Fogerty for his guitar work and vocals. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Bootleg: “Bootleg” is a really solid track. It’s not a stunner, but musically there’s enough there to set it apart from a lot of filler songs. The call and response on guitar is well-done, but my biggest gripe is with the percussion. The scratching (it almost sounds like they played a comb) is fairly abrasive and not my favorite part of the song. Give it a listen if you haven’t heard it before! At the very least, you have another song from CCR that you’re familiar with. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Graveyard Train: This is almost a straight blues track. If they used acoustic guitars instead of electric, I would be comfortable placing it firmly in the blues genre. This wasn’t what I expected to hear when I threw this record on, I expected more songs like “Fortunate Son,” but every band has their roots in something, and for CCR it’s a blues track like “Graveyard Train.” This is an awesome song. It’s laid back, bluesy, and pulls your mind to the Deep South. The harmonica solo puts me straight in the Mississippi Delta and I love it. Fogerty can really blow that mouth organ too. There aren’t many instances of the harmonica blending well into a rock track (John Popper and Blues Traveler come to mind immediately), but it’s integrated seamlessly between wailing vocals and a twangy guitar. This is a deep cut that you shouldn’t skip. Great track! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Good Golly Miss Molly: “Good Golly Miss Molly” threw me for a loop at first because it’s a stark contrast from “Graveyard Train.” This is much more of a straight rock track than the former, and a great example of the other side of their music, that rock side. CCR wasn’t just a blues group or a rock group; they blended the two genres really smoothly, so it’s neat to see where exactly their influences laid. As a song, this is a great one too. CCR could rock with the best of them. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Penthouse Pauper: “Penthouse Pauper” is the best of the last two songs. You get a little bluesy twang and big riffs from the guitar in the same verse. Blues-inspired lyrics contrast a rock inspired drumline and a guitar solo to rival the biggest in the game in the late 1960s. “Penthouse Pauper” is one of the dep cuts that never got a lot of airplay, but is worth putting in your rotation. Give it a listen! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Proud Mary: Who doesn’t love “Proud Mary?” So many artists have had their crack at “Proud Mary,” but CCR did it first. This is such a clean song that you can’t help but sing along to. Like “Penthouse Pauper” it combines the best of rock and blues. The guitar is beautifully melodic, and this most restrained version of Fogerty’s signature vocals fits the song perfectly. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Keep On Chooglin’: I’m not sure what it means “to choogle” but CCR clearly does and they made a song about it. Lyrically, this song is absurd and I love it. Just listening to it, all I hear is the word “chooglin’.” Musically it’s not a bad track! There’s plenty of instrumentation to keep you entertained between the outbursts of chooglin’. Would I recommend this song to a friend looking for an introduction to CCR? No. Would I listen to it as a good laugh track? Probably. Keep on chooglin’ y’all, whatever that means! 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.

KISS- Rock And Roll Over (1976): 15 July 2019

KISS – Rock And Roll Over (1976)

Welcome back to YDCS! This week we’re taking a look at a band that has split rock and rolls fans for decades, KISS. Originally comprised of Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Paul Stanley, and Gene Simmons, the band is well-known for their elaborate stage shows involving pyrotechnics, complex lighting schemes, blood-spitting, fire breathing, smoking guitars, and rockets, just to name a few. Rock and roll fans are often torn between loving and hating KISS. Detractors criticize their lyrics as uninspired by anything other than “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” their shows as tacky and unnecessary, and call them commercial sellouts for the wide range of products that the band has licensed; to include everything from comic book and action figures to KISS caskets (stylized KISS Kasket). Fans praise the unabashed, unapologetic take on rock and roll, dedication to showmanship and the fanbase. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, KISS has been around for over 40 years and they have made an indelible mark on rock and roll with hits like “Detroit Rock City,” “Heaven’s On Fire,” and “Lick It Up.”

Rock and Roll Over is the band’s fifth studio album, released only eight months after their commercial breakthrough Destroyer. The production quality on Destroyer was high, and for Rock and Roll Over, the band decided to strip back the production. The result was an album that sounds starkly different from their previous release. I encourage you to listen to snippets of songs from the original release of Destroyer and compare them to the tracks on this album. You’ll be able to hear the change in production. Personally, I like the stripped back sound that the band got on this album. Rock and Roll Over had two singles that really shone through, “Calling Dr. Love” and “Hard Luck Woman,” and this album continued the band’s commercial success in the 1970s through to their next two albums, Love Gun and Dynasty. You wanted the best? You GOT the best! Enjoy Rock And Roll Over!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

I Want You: Holy crap! This is how you start an album! I’d like to say that I’m fairly familiar with KISS’ recording history, but I had never listened to “I Want You” before this album review, and I should have. This might be my new favorite KISS song because it summarizes everything the band was built on. It’s explosively loud, technically interesting (which many power rock songs aren’t, so that’s an accomplishment on its own), musically complex (check out that transition from the acoustic guitar to the electric), and is some of the best that the 1970s offered in rock music, all on the first song on the album. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Take Me: So any song that had to follow up “I Want You” was going to look weaker in comparison, and “Take Me” definitely suffers from that. This isn’t a bad track, but it was never going to be a big hit for the group and is ‘album filler’ if you will. It’s a cookie cutter rock KISS track where nothing stands out in particular. I won’t remember this one in a week. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Calling Dr. Love: Is there a doctor in the house? “Calling Dr. Love” went on to be one of the band’s biggest hits and was the only song that received consistent radio airplay from this album besides “Hard Luck Woman.” Musically, this is a fantastic song and one of my favorite KISS songs to boot. I love how heavy and forward the lead guitar is with those big riffs, and the song feels so gritty with Simmons’ vocals. There’s an awesome guitar solo that bridges the song between the relatively softer start before moving into a bombastic final chorus. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Ladies Room: “Ladies Room” isn’t a particularly fantastic song. It’s both underwhelming as a rock track and musically un-interesting. If I’m looking for something good to say about it, Simmons’ bass work that twangs through to the front is different from the rest of the album up to this point and gives you something different to listen to than freewheeling guitars. Dad’s Rating 3/10

Baby Driver: There seems to be a pattern on this album where we’re alternating between better songs and weaker songs. “Baby Driver” is nowhere near the quality of “Calling Dr. Love” or “I Want You,” but it’s 100% better than “Ladies Room.” There’s more sense of musicality on this track, particularly from Frehley on guitar with the wailing call and response during the chorus. The guitar almost acts like another vocalist in the way that it adds depth to the singers, and that’s something you don’t hear a lot of. This is a solid track. It’s not my favorite KISS track, but it’s good! Dad’s Rating 6/10

Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em: It’s a return to cookie cutter rock tracks with “Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em.” This song drones through the verses, and not in a pleasant way. Simmons’ rough vocals with that steady drum beat just didn’t work well here. The guitar solo on this song saves it from being rated the same as “Ladies Room” because it shows that there was an attempt at musicality on this track and not a need for album filler. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Mr. Speed: Thank goodness we got Stanley back on lead vocals on this track. He’s my favorite vocalist for the band, and I think they worked best when the other members had a supporting role. Stanley had a better range than the others, and his higher voice sounds better when you have deeper backing vocals. Lyrically, “Mr. Speed” is about as deep as any other KISS track, but it’s performed well! The riff is fun to listen to and there’s really good band cohesion here. Dad’s Rating 7/10

See You In Your Dreams: “See You In Your Dreams” was one of the songs that got more attention on this album. The big two were “Calling Dr. Love” and “Hard Luck Woman,” but if there were a third it would have been this. This is some of Simmons’ better vocal work. I tend to dislike many of the songs where he had lead vocals (“Calling Dr. Love” excluded), but this is a fun song. It’s not complex, but it’s a good rocker! I love the shredding solo and everything feels very balanced throughout. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Hard Luck Woman: “Hard Luck Woman” was supposed to be a repeat on the success of “Beth,” and while it never reached that level of success, it’s still a great ballad. This was still a Top 20 hit for the band and was a contributing factor in heir continued success after Destroyer. What’s interesting is that, for a ballad, it’s a fairly fast tempo. Most power ballads are going to be much slower (think “Beth”), and I’m glad they didn’t slow this one down like that. Slowing “Hard Luck Woman” down would have created a painfully droning song. This is a great track. Criss did an amazing job on the vocals, and he was arguably as a good as he was on “Beth.” The softer acoustic sound is a nice reprieve from the explosive sound found on much of the album. The softer sound gives listeners a chance to really explore the talent of the band and see it in the forefront too. This is a good one. Definitely don’t skip it! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Makin’ Love: We had a soft, touching moment on “Hard Luck Woman,” but if you thought that would last for long, your luck has run out. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll right? KISS was good at making songs about two of those things, and it’s on full display here. To be fair, there is a level of musicality on this song that keeps it interesting. Frehley’s guitar work was top-notch on this track, and Criss’ drum work is really different here. I’ve never heard anything like the little rolls he does on each hit before and that’s pretty neat. It’s not the strongest finish to an album I’ve ever seen, but the little things each musician did were enough to push it above average. 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.

Jefferson Airplane- Surrealistic Pillow (1967): 8 July 2019

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (1967)

Welcome back to YDCS! I hope you enjoyed Led Zeppelin Month last month, but this week we are back to our regularly scheduled, eclectic mix of rock and roll music. There was no post last week because work got in the way, and I didn’t want to rush a post that was going to be subpar. The result is that this one had to wait a week. Apologies for that, but we’re back at it! After listening to the hard rock of Led Zeppelin for the past month, I felt like I needed a break. This week I decided to throw on one of the most influential acts in the psychedelic rock subgenre, Jefferson Airplane, and their second release Surrealistic Pillow. Jefferson Airplane was a group that was born in San Francisco and came to light during the height of the counterculture movement of the late 1960s. The band performed at the “Big 3” festivals of the late 60s; Altamont, Woodstock, and Monterey and didn’t see much success outside of their most popular releases; Surrealistic Pillow in 1967and Volunteers in 1969. Jefferson Airplane went on to produce a handful of albums in the early 70s to little acclaim before dissolving in 1974. At that point, some members of Jefferson Airplane broke away to form the band Jefferson Starship, which saw more commercial success through the 1970s until 1984 with hits like “Jane” and “Count On Me.” In 1984, the band changed their name one last time to Starship, released what is often considered the worst song of all time, “We Built This City,” and went on to perform as Starship into the 2000s. We can just pass over that last fact…

Surrealistic Pillow was one of the biggest hits of the psychedelic rock genre and some of the songs on it became an integral part of the soundtrack to the Summer of Love. I’m particularly fond of Jefferson Airplane, and this release in particular, because of how it differentiates itself from the other heavyweight of the genre like the Grateful Dead. While other groups focused on the folk roots of the genre, Jefferson Airplane was more balanced between the folk and psychedelic sounds, tending to lean more towards psychedelia than folk. This album has got a little bit of everything for everyone; amazing vocal harmonies that take you to another planet (no drugs needed), beautiful ballads, and hard rocking tracks! I hope you enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

She Has Funny Cars: For many people, Jefferson Airplane might be a name that they’re not familiar with. They were certainly influential in the 1960s, but never had the same mass appeal or staying power of the Who or the Grateful Dead. “She Has Funny Cars” is one of the band’s more popular entries and is stereotypical of the band’s catalog at this time, if slightly toned back on the psychedelia. Never a group to shy away from making a statement, the song is highly critical of consumerist culture, but the instrumentation actually carries stronger than the lyrics. In most cases, songs meld perfectly together, blending guitar, bass, and drums, but I find that on “She Has Funny Cars,” all of the instruments are very forward and easily discernable, and making it interesting to listen to in a different way than normal. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Somebody To Love: I love “Somebody To Love!” Grace Slick’s vocals are some of the best of her time, rivaled maybe only by Janis Joplin and Carole King. This is one rocking track! The vocals aren’t the only thing to love either; the guitar riffs are so stereotypically 1960s that the song transports you to a different time. They really don’t make rock tracks like this anymore!  Dad’s Rating 9/10

My Best Friend: The psychedelic rock may not have been overly apparent on the first two tracks, but it certainly starts to come out on this song if you haven’t noticed it yet! “My Best Friend” is a much more mellowed out song than “She Has Funny Cars” or “Somebody to Love,” and pulls heavier on the folk genre than most of the album, making it a bit of an outlier in the band’s catalog. There was a lot of crossover between Folk Rock and Psychedelic Rock (read early Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead albums), so the lines often blur between the two during the late 1960s. Airplane was more firmly embedded on the psychedelic side of that line, while I consider Grateful Dead to be closer to the folk side of the line, generally speaking. “My Best Friend” is interesting because it blends those two genres really well, leaning more on the folk during the verses and the harder rock during the chorus. This is an interesting song that is worth listening to to better see how those two genres play out together. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Today: “Today” is one of my favorite songs on the album and is such a great deep dive song. That’s what this blog is about, listening to music in complete album form and finding the hidden gems. I really like how stripped back and peaceful this song is. The guitar line, combined with the tambourine actually gives me a bit of a “Wild West” sensation. Where most of the band’s work combines complex vocal harmonies, I think this song would have actually been hurt by that and they made the right decision keeping it simple and crooning. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Comin’ Back to Me: “Comin’ Back to Me” is beautifully simple, but in the same vein, painfully boring. I’m convinced that this was one of the songs that the band wrote while they were high, listened back to while they were high, and said “This is great, put it on the record!” I’ll try to find something to like in every song though, and the soft flute in the background is very pleasant. You can skip this one, you’re not missing anything. Dad’s Rating 4/10

3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds: This is more the 1960’s rock sound that I’m looking for! The song is lyrically pretty weak, comprised mostly of marijuana references and proposing ridding oneself of excess. I would add that 3/5 of a mile in 10 seconds works out to be 216 mph. I’m not sure what it has to do with the song, but the story goes that the band saw the number in a newspaper and decided to write a song about it. That sounds about right… Musically, it’s not a complex song nor was it ever going to be a big hit, but it’s a fun little hidden gem, particularly for those who enjoy the harder rock psychedelic pieces or the late 1960s rock sound. Dad’s Rating 6/10

D.C.B.A.-25: There’s a neat little fact about the title of this song; the “D.C.B.A” refers to the chord progression of the song and the “-25” refers to LSD 25. Of course, by that, I mean the drug LSD. Did you expect anything else?! This song is an acid trip. I can’t make out the lyrics so if you can, then please let me know what it’s about. Because of that I’m judging it completely on the music which is pretty solid! The instrumentation is right up there with what you expect from some of the best psychedelic rock acts of the 1960s. It has a nice strumming feeling that keeps you grounded to something while the lyrics float around and into outer space. Dad’s Rating 6/10

How Do You Feel: “How Do You Feel” is a slight return to the folk rock influence of the band’s early years. The psychedelia is still lacquered on in the vocal harmonies, but the folksy guitar contrasts nicely from them. This song is a nice change of pace from some of the heavier songs on the album. Good placement on the album, but not a spectacular song. This track isn’t bad, just forgettable. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Embryonic Journey: “Embryonic Journey” is one of the highlights of the album and the band’s career. This is a beautiful acoustic piece that shows how skilled the band were as musicians. Oftentimes I think that people forget that Jefferson Airplane WERE amazing musicians. They were certainly good enough to stay around in some form for 20 years, and this shows it. There’s more to this group than acid trips and free love. Take a listen to “Embryonic Journey” and see for yourself. Dad’s Rating 8/10

White Rabbit: “White Rabbit” is one of the band’s best-known songs, and I don’t even think it’s their best work. It’s good alright, but it doesn’t show the same level of musical talent that “Embryonic Journey” or “Somebody to Love” does. I think that what draws people to this song is how stereotypical it is of psychedelic rock in general. Yes, it’s a drug song. Yes, Slick’s vocals wail and warble for the whole song. Yes, it’s steady enough that even someone who is stoned out of their mind can follow along. And yes, it references Alice in Wonderland (Which was its own drug journey), but we’ve shown that Jefferson Airplane was so much more than this song. They were musicians, they were lyricists, and they were artists. “White Rabbit” is a good song, and I love the Alice reference. That’s fantastic songwriting for me. Make sure you don’t skip this one because it is such an important part of the band’s discography, but please don’t form an opinion on them based exclusively on this song.  Dad’s Rating 7/10

Plastic Fantastic Lover: Can you say “double entendre?” Jefferson Airplane was one of the best at using double entendre to make their songs stand out, and they ended up with some humorous results. This song, for example, isn’t about what you think it is. It’s about Marty Balin’s new sound system! Musically, it’s not particularly interesting, but it’s a funny song to listen to and see how the dual meaning plays out. 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.