April Wine- The Nature Of The Beast (1981): 18 May 2020

April Wine – The Nature Of The Beast (1981)

Welcome back to YDCS! We have another deep cut this week, but don’t worry, because after a few weeks of lesser-known albums we’ll be back to a more recognizable act next week. Before we do that though, I’d like to introduce you to April Wine and their ninth album, Number Of The Beast. April Wine were a Canadian rock act that were the slow burners of 1970s rock. They always bubbled under mainstream popularity, and despite releasing their first album in 1971, it would take 10 years for them to have their first internationally certified platinum album and commercial breakthrough.April Wine didn’t do anything genre-bending with this album, but they did add another solid rock album to the catalog of classic rock. That reason itself is why many people haven’t heard of April Wine; they were one group with one popular album in a sea of groups with multiple successful albums.

Not only were April Wine lesser-known, they were behind the sonic curve. Listening to Nature of the Beast, you’ll notice that they didn’t adapt well to the changing times in the 1980s, which is why their music sounds so similar to hits from the 70s. Early 80s music is often defined by increasing use of synths and layered harmonies to build a depth of sound. This album features a predominantly 70s sound with big power chords, simple song structures, and a traditional three-piece instrumental section. The end result of this was a good album for 1976 released in 1981, and a sort of gasping breath for the dying 70s rock sound. A lot of the album tends to run together and is generally middle-of-the-road rock music, but there are a few songs worth listening to. That’s why I decided to highlight this album this week. I knew that I liked a few April Wine songs but was ultimately disappointed with the rest of the album. The same thing happened during the Night Ranger review where there were a few big hits but the rest of the album was filler for the singles. Give the album a listen on your own and let me know what you think!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

All Over Town: We’re starting off the album with a solid track, “All Over Town.” This is one of the most 80s-reminescent songs on the album, only behind “Caught In The Crossfire” for that honor, due mostly to the fact that both tracks were heavier on synths than the rest of the album. As far as “All Over Town” goes; it’s a solid song that won’t change the world but worth putting on a classic rock playlist to fill it out with a different band.  Dad’s Rating 5/10

Tellin’ Me Lies: Put politely, “Tellin’ Me Lies” is boring. This is the second song that doesn’t really hit the right notes. When your album opener is weaker, you need a really strong second and third song to make up for it. The third track delivers, but this is the second of a number of songs on the album that are just okay classic rock. Like I said for “All Over Town,” all of these could be thrown into a classic rock playlist for filler, but that’s all these 5/10 rated songs are, album filler. Stop wasting vinyl and put some good music down on it! Dad’s Rating 5/10

Sign Of The Gypsy Queen: This is the best song on the album and an actual hit on traditional classic rock radio too! “Sign Of The Gypsy Queen” has a lot going for it with beautiful, soft vocals and a shredding solo that would be right at home in any power ballad. For folks who have never listened to April Wine before, “Sign Of The Gypsy Queen” is a track that you don’t want to miss out on. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Just Between You And Me: What’s the best song to follow a pseudo-power ballad? An actual power ballad of course! “Just Between You And Me” is a practically perfect power ballad, reaching for the highest highs with a soulful, pining chorus and not-too-overdone instrumentation. Balance between rocking out and playing to a slower side is key in constructing a power ballad. April Wine struck that balance perfectly with this track. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Wanna Rock: I like “Wanna Rock” because it harkens back to the early days of rock in the 50s with a consistent, single-note guitar line, but it also goes beyond that. April Wine took that familiar sound and put a modern twist on it by incorporating a heavy guitar sound and letting that run wild. This is a unique track, even for an album like this. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Caught In The Crossfire: “Caught In The Crossfire” is another song that listeners familiar with April Wine might have heard before. It’s one of the better songs on the album and also one of the most 80s songs on the album. The heavy synth use and vocal delivery almost make this sound like a Cars song. Check this one out! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Future Tense: We’ve got a solid rocker here, April Wine’s bread and butter. Again, they never pushed the direction of music but they did toe the line. There’s not a whole lot to talk about on “Future Tense” since it’s a middle-of-the-road rock track. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Big City Girls: It’s at this point in the album when I’ve realized that Nature Of The Beast suffers from some of the same critical flaws that albums from other acts like Night Ranger have. They’re a good rock group, but every song starts to sound the same, and not in an exciting way. My comments for “Big City Girls” are a copy/paste of what I said for “Future Tense.” Dad’s Rating 5/10

Crash and Burn: Now we actually have something exciting with “Crash and Burn!” You get a really cool howling guitar intro that wouldn’t be out of place on a Rage Against The Machine album and an interesting drum pattern with actual syncopation! This is a good track for folks looking for a heavy metal sleeper hit. You might have never heard it before, but this is a solid one.  Dad’s Rating 6/10

Bad Boys: Somehow, “Bad Boys” is slightly more interesting to listen to than “Future Tense” et al. I think it’s the cool solo that switches between instruments so that everyone in the band gets a turn to show off. The rest of the song can be lumped into a middling pile with “Future Tense,” “Big City Girls,” etc. Dad’s Rating 5.2/10 (But only a 0.2 pt bump for a cool solo)

One More Time: No more time. We finally made it to the last song and it’s a snoozer again. Turn the album off at “Crash and Burn” and save yourself seven minutes of listening time. 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.

UFO- Phenomenon (1974): 11 May 2020

UFO – Phenomenon (1974)

Welcome back to YDCS! This week we’re having a listen to an album from an important, if rarely mentioned group, UFO. Phenomenon is UFO’s third studio album. Previously known for their space rock albums, UFO transitioned to what we would now define as a traditional classic rock sound for this third release. In reality, Phenomenon was a landmark album for classic rock and served as one of the bridges between the blues rock tinted sound of the early 1970s and the development of the heavy metal sound and commercial success of the genre through the late 1970s into the 1980s, first introduced to a wider audience by the likes of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Phenomenon is an interesting album in the way that it combines the two rock sounds. It sounds distinctly different than other rock albums of 1974 (ie. 461 Ocean Boulevard by Clapton, Not Fragile by Bachman Turner Overdrive, etc.), but also didn’t embrace a core fan base, causing the album to suffer commercially. Most frequently, the songs on the album feature a softer verse with a heavy metal tinge to the chorus to combine the two sounds, and it works well to create a very cohesive sound.

I respect what UFO did on this album as I do most trailblazers. It’s the infancy of the rock sound that would become iconic in the 1980s. Most of the tracks are middling rock songs, although there are a few standouts on this record (most notably “Doctor Doctor,” “Rock Bottom,” and “Queen of the Deep”). That’s honestly okay in my book. This was one of the first times we start to see the sound of rock changing in the 1970s, and like most first attempts, it’ll take a few more attempts to make the full transition, in this case to a heavier rock sound. I like looking to see where music came from and seeing how it changes over time, and even if you’ve never heard of UFO or Phenomenon¸ give it a shot. You might find yourself with a new group that you like and it’s cool to see how rock changes over time. With that, Phenomenon!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Too Young to Know: We start Phenomenon with a great rock track that is basically what I think of when I think of a classic rock song. The production is great and fuzzes the vocals a bit, there’s the requisite guitar solo, and it’s a little soft on lyrical content and instrumental prowess. “Too Young to Know” doesn’t do any one thing well in particular, but it’s a great example of transitional classic rock. It combines the softer, early 70s sound in the verses with more of a screaming guitar through the chorus. Great example of what’s to come. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Crystal Light: I liked “Crystal Light” which surprised me because it’s one of those traditional slow ballads that I normally don’t enjoy. To me, “Crystal Light” sounds like the beginnings of what would become the power ballad; the tempo fits perfectly with the power ballads of the 1980s and is designed to show that the band has a softer side (particularly important between two up-tempo songs). This is a pleasant, peaceful song that is enjoyable to listen to. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Doctor Doctor: “Doctor Doctor” was one of UFO’s biggest hits (see also “Rock Bottom”) and it’s one of the best examples of how they combined heavy metal and classic rock on one album. We’ve already heard what happens when you combine a traditional rock sound with heavy metal on “Too Young to Know” and we’ll hear more straight traditional classic rock later, but “Doctor Doctor” goes completely in the other direction and is a straight heavy metal track. It sounds like it could have come off of a Deep Purple album and is one of the most rocking songs on the album. It’s definitely not worth missing this one. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Space Child: “Space Child” is a holdover from the sound of the older UFO sound, featuring spacey lyrics and a sound that doesn’t seem to fit well with the rest of the album. The solo is one of the best on the album and is a sort of swan song for the old UFO. Check it out to see if the old UFO sits well with you and to ear a face-melting guitar solo. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Rock Bottom: This was my favorite song on the album and it reminds me that UFO was here to rock out. “Rock Bottom” could have just easily come from a Blue Oyster Cult or Deep Purple album but it didn’t. This is such a rocker and I dare you to not nod your head along with it. Fantastic guitar, powerful vocals, and incredibly high energy are the hallmarks of this song. The professionalism of the musicians shines through in the extended solo too. Don’t skip out on “Rock Bottom!” Dad’s Rating 8/10

Oh My: We go from a nearly 7-minute long extended guitar demonstration to one of the shortest songs on the album at just short of 2:30. To me, this means one thing: They were trying to fluff the length of the album and hide a song in the middle of the record. It’s the first song of the B-side and it definitely feels like a B-side track. Nothing particularly special going on here. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Time on My Hands: Where “Doctor Doctor” was the most extreme example of heavy metal on the album, “Time on My Hands” is perhaps the most extreme example of the ‘old school’ rock sound. It features a softer guitar and more emphasis on the vocals than “Doctor Doctor,” and it’s a really good song too. The vocals are raw and powerful. Lead singer Phil Mogg didn’t have the best rock voice, but he knew how to use what he had to wring every bit of emotion out of it. “Time on My Hands” is a pleasant find. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Built for Comfort: Here’s a track dripping in blues rock sound. It’s slow and dirty, just the way you want a good southern blues rock track to be. Having said that, the lyrics are pretty terrible; they’re clichéd not particularly exciting, but “Built for Comfort” rides on its musical ability, not lyrical. It’s just another facet of an already multi-faceted album and makes it that much more interesting to listen to from beginning to end. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Lipstick Traces: Wouldn’t you know it, but the shortest song on the album is also one of the most provoking. “Lipstick Traces” is a beautiful instrumental piece that lets the music do the talking. It’s one of the better songs on the album and is a good chance for the band to show their worth as musicians. Good hidden gem here! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Queen of the Deep: We round out Phenomenon with “Queen of the Deep” and one parting shot at combining an old school sound with a new school sound. We get a little bit of everything on this track from a soft introduction to highlight the old school and a heavy middle section with a great funk to it. The instrumental, short of “Rock Bottom’s” is my second favorite on this record. “Lipstick Traces” is great for a calm sound, but I’m a sucker for a funky instrumental section and “Queen of the Deep” delivers a boisterous finale to an eccentric album. Make sure you listen all the way through the end! 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.

Rainbow- Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975): 4 May 2020

Rainbow – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975)

Welcome back to YDCS! We’ve got an interesting album on the table this week, the studio debut from the band Rainbow titled Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Rainbow is a group that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, even if they recognize Richie Blackmore’s name. Blackmore was the lead guitarist for Deep Purple through the mid-70s before breaking off to form his own group with members of Deep Purple’s opening act, Elf (of whom Ronnie James Dio was the lead vocalist). Blackmore would go on to record this album with the members of Elf before firing everyone except for Dio, rehiring the rest of the band, and continuing to tour and record as Rainbow. Blackmore was notoriously difficult to please and went so far as to fire band members who he didn’t feel were contributing meaningfully to the band. As a result, he has been the only consistent fixture of Rainbow since the band’s formation.

Rainbow was known for more fantastical lyrics than Deep Purple had been, combining heavy metal and fantasy into a proto-prog metal genre. Rainbow feels like a more grown up version of Deep Purple in a sense, where there’s still plenty of heavy sound but the band got more experimental. Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow is a cool album that has lots of great rock moments. The whole record is a hidden gem in a genre that likes to sing the praises of acts AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Motorhead. If you’ve never listened to Rainbow before but like Deep Purple, Dio, or the early Scorpions then you should definitely check this album out. Enjoy Rainbow’s debut album, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Man On The Silver Mountain: We start of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow with one of the band’s most popular songs, “Man On The Silver Mountain.” This track is one of the most heavily influenced by Blackmore’s time with Deep Purple. It has a distinctly heavy sound that doesn’t carry through the rest of the album. Dio’s vocals on this track are one of his best performances on the record and show why he was such a good rock vocalist. Really good track. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Self Portrait: “Self Portrait” is the start of something new for Blackmore et al. This is a track that would have never made it with his old group and shows an increased focus on lyricism. “Self Portrait” is could be considered an early power ballad too. It’s got elements of strong vocals, introspective lyrics, and heavy guitar between the verses. It’s not the best song on the album, and I think there’s another ballad that captured the band better, but it’s a decent song. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Black Sheep Of The Family: This is the song that started Rainbow. Blackmore initially pitched “Black Sheep Of The Family” to Deep Purple, but the band didn’t want to record it, so he wet and recorded it himself! I like that “Black Sheep Of The Family” shows that Rainbow was more than power chords and flimsy lyrics; they had the ability to be melodic and do something different than your typical heavy metal group. Musically, I’m actually not a fan of this song, but I do like that they tried something new. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Catch The Rainbow: When I first heard “Catch The Rainbow” I thought I might have started a Pink Floyd song on accident, particularly on the opening instrumental. “Catch The Rainbow” is one of the best ballads that I’ve listened to in a long time. The instrumentation is haunting and the vocals are beautifully smooth. I’m not a big lyrics person, but talking about chasing the rainbow and never catching it makes me wonder if Starcastle was recording in the next studio over. This is a song to sit back to and let it envelop you. You feel the pain and the sadness in the realization that you’ll never get where you wanted to be. It’s a downer, but a top track for sure. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Snake Charmer: We come out of “Catch The Rainbow” unscathed into an upbeat rock track. “Snake Charmer” plays very similarly to “Man On The Silver Mountain;” it’s just a rocking song. I’m a big fan of the wah effect used on the lead guitar to give the song a bit of a funky feeling too. For those more into bass work, check out the bass line during the guitar solo. You have to listen closely but you can hear Craig Gruber getting after it! Dad’s Rating 7/10

The Temple Of The King: Honestly, this is not what I would have expected on a heavy metal album. “The Temple Of The King” sounds like it should have been on a Rush album. It’s so different from the rest of the record because of its primarily acoustic sound, but it has moments where you hear a heavier sound (particularly during the choruses and the solo) that help pull it into the rest of the record. This is a beautiful ballad and another fantastic performance from Ronnie James Dio. Dad’s Rating 8/10

If You Don’t Like Rock N Roll: “If You Don’t Like Rock N Roll” is the weakest song on the album for me. It doesn’t fit with the heavy metal theme of the rest of the album and plays heavily into the traditional 1950s rock sound. I’ll give it credit for one thing though: Songs like this are exactly why Blackmore formed Rainbow. He had more freedom to explore different sounds than he would have with Deep Purple and he had more control over the content creation process. Kudos for trying something different, but it didn’t work for this album. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Sixteenth Century Greensleeves: Were you expecting a traditional rendition of “Greensleeves?” If you were then I hope you were as surprised as I was. Lyrics about medieval battles set to heavy metal?! Yes please! “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” also has the distinction of featuring the best guitar solo on the album. This is a rocking track that demonstrated prog metal in its full glory. Great song! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Still I’m Sad: The drum part for this song combined with the divebomb on guitar during the intro is really cool. Everyone talks about divebombing but no one puts it on their records so it was neat to hear it used practically. “Still I’m Sad” is a funky instrumental that is a very satisfying finish to a rocking album. You get a little bit of the experimentation that you’ve heard all throughout the album in terms of combining funk, metal, and even a bit of surf rock at times (in terms of the chord progressions). “Still I’m Sad” shows what Rainbow could do and where they were headed in the future, bound by no rules except ‘Rock on!’ 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.

Starcastle- Starcastle (1976): 27 April 2020

Starcastle – Starcastle (1976)

Welcome back to YDCS! We’re really diving into the depths of classic prog rock this week with the self-titled studio debut from a band called Starcastle. Starcastle was a prog rock group that formed part of the American prog movement, along with acts the likes of Kansas and Frank Zappa. Starcastle is a pure prog album that features a much lighter sound than other acts of the time. While bands like Rush and Jethro Tull were trending towards a heavy rock-influenced sound, Starcastle opted for an airy, ethereal debut album. The album is a very pleasant mix of guitar, synthesizer, and breathy harmonies. Most of it is instrumental to boot, making you feel like you’re travelling through the stars. The album is a delight to listen to and one that you’ll need multiple listens to catch everything happening in each song.

I really love Starcastle. They’re such a weird group to have come out of the prog rock movement and they never really gained a lot of attention. They opened for some of the big acts in prog like Jethro Tull, Rush, and Yes to name a few but never really garnered their own fanbase. I feel like I owe it to groups like this to care about them. Starcastle is a delightful prog album. Sure, it sounds a lot like a Yes album, but would you complain about having another Yes album to listen to? I wouldn’t! I like finding music that’s really good but bubbled just under the surface and Starcastle is one of those albums that had it gotten more press, we would be mentioning Starcastle right next to Jethro Tull and Yes. I hope you enjoy this lesser-known album from the history books of progressive rock!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Lady of the Lake: “Lady of the Lake” is a bold opening track. Not many bands can pull off a 10-minute long epic to start their DEBUT album, but I will say two things about it. First, I’ll give credit to Starcastle for knowing immediately what kind of band they wanted to be. It’s immediately apparent that they’re a prog group from the lengthy opening track, unconventional song structure, and heavy use of synthesizer to create a gleaming sound. Second, they nailed this song. “Lady of the Lake” tells a great story and the musicianship is captivating. This track makes you feel like you’re soaring through space looking for an intergalactic ‘Lady of the Lake,’ all capped off with tight vocal harmony (I’ll mention that a lot on this album, the band was known for it). “Lady of the Lake” shows that Starcastle had a lot to offer and they could play with the best of the big prog acts of the mid-1970s. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Elliptical Seasons: “Elliptical Seasons” is one of the first songs where you can really hear the close comparison between Starcastle and Yes. Compare this song to any off of Tales From Topographic Oceans or Close to the Edge and it feels right at home on either album. One of the highlights for “Elliptical Seasons” though that makes it stand out from the rest of the pack is the slight funk influence. There’s an audible jazz bass that makes an appearance towards the end of the song that adds a cool twist and is something fun to wait for. Otherwise, this is a pretty standard prog song. Good effort! Dad’s Rating 6/10

Forces: I liked “Forces” quite a bit. Tuning up the bass on this track made it feel like an early Rush song with more keyboard. It’s still distinctly a different band, but the comparison can be drawn. There are lots of little additions that make this a cool song, from interspersed claps to vocal harmonies that sound like they came out of a “Katamari Damacy” video game. “Forces” has a solid rocking moment in the middle solo, and it’s one of two real rock out moments on the whole album. This is an interesting track with enough to be found throughout that you’ll want to listen to it more than once. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Stargate: This second shortest song on the album is sandwiched between two of substantially longer length, and it doesn’t help it stand out. While “Stargate” hits the theme of ‘flying through space’ well with the twinkling synth, there’s not much to it and it feels like fluff. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Sunfield: While the whole album is a hidden gem, “Sunfield” is the first of two songs that are highlights from the B-side, the second being the following song, “To The Fire Wind.” It’s just as much of an epic adventure as “Lady of the Lake” while barely missing that bar. This track is the most reminiscent of any track off of a Yes album. The vocal harmonies are the highlights of these two tracks, and the song structure is, like most prog, more closely resembles that of a story than an actual song. If you like high vocals and a really cool guitar segment that’s more digestible than most prog, this is a good one for you. Dad’s Rating 8/10

To The Fire Wind: “To The Fire Wind” is one of the more rocking tracks on the album. It’s another great example of the band’s exceptionally tight vocal harmonies but also gives their lead guitarist a little room to breathe in the opening and closing riffs before their synth player opens up the throttle with a blistering solo at the midway point. The vocal harmony is really the highlight for this track though, and it’s cool to hear so much emphasis being put on a part that doesn’t get as much attention. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Nova: We’re finishing Starcastle with a big explosion, a “Nova” if you will! One of the best things about progressive rock is that it’s not afraid to experiment with something different, and on “Nova” we get a big drum solo to open this closing track before launching into an instrumental synth solo. It’s not a spectacular song since it doesn’t really have time to get going (it’s also the shortest song on the album), but it is, perhaps, the most fitting they could have chosen to close a sparkling, prog story. 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.

My Desert 10 Albums: 20 April 2020

Welcome back to YDCS! I’ve been working on a project for a couple of months now and I’m finally ready to unveil it. I’ve spent months putting albums in and out of this list, adjusting the order, taking them all out to try again, and finally settling on my Desert 10. “What is a Desert 10” you might ask? Your Desert 10 is the ten albums that you would take with you to a deserted island to listen to forever. Basically, if you could only listen to ten albums for the rest of your life, what would they be? The rules are simple: No compilations, “Best Of” Albums, and no box sets. Each album must be the original release. With that, we’re going to hop right in! I hope you enjoy my Desert 10 and encourage you to put together your own as well!

Honorable Mentions

In the Wee Small Hours– Frank Sinatra

It’s not a rock album, but In the Wee Small Hours was Frank Sinatra at his finest. His silky voice is irresistible on this album and still has an ability to enchant people to this day.

Trout Mask Replica– Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band

An album that pushed what we could call music. Many portions feature spoken word and the whole album was written by plucking out melodies on a piano and a horn, by a man who had no idea how to play the piano or the horn, nor had an idea what a time signature was.

Takin’ It To The Streets– The Doobie Brothers

I love the Doobie Brothers and it hurt me to not include them in the Desert 10. Unfortunately for the Doobies, most of their best songs are spread across multiple albums, making it difficult to pick just one to include without breaking the rule excluding ‘Best Ofs.’ If there were one that would make the cut, it would be Takin’ It To The Streets for having three of my favorite songs by the Doobies, the eponymous song, “Wheels of Fortune,” and “It Keeps You Runnin’.”

Hemispheres– Rush

This is my second favorite Rush album, and it almost bumped the Number 10 album off the list. Hemispheres is a musical masterpiece and one of the best displays of musicianship that Rush ever put to record. They were quoted as saying that it was the most technically challenging album that the wrote, and listening to it you’ll believe it.

One Of These Nights– Eagles

One Of These Nights holds a special place for me as the first album to really get me interested in the Eagles and folk rock in general. For that, it almost made my list. Ultimately, I think there is one other album that is a better representation of what the Eagles were as a band.

From The Mars Hotel– Grateful Dead

From The Mars Hotel was the album that I played with including the most because every song on the album is really good. “Scarlet Begonias” is one of my favorites of all time and “Loose Lucy,” “US Blues,” “Ship of Fools,” and “Pride of Cucamonga” are right there next to it. Ultimately, it came down to would I want to listen to the Grateful Dead for the rest of my life. Answering that honestly my answer was no. I love the Dead, but there are other albums that would be easier listening.

Dad’s Desert 10

10. Animals– Pink Floyd

We open the list with my favorite Pink Floyd album and one of their best concept albums, Animals. The idea to write an album portraying British society as different animals based on their class was the perfect way for the band to describe their problems with the class system. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” is one of the best songs on the album and the instrumentation was so innovative (particularly using the guitar and a squawk box to imitate pig squeals) that it still doesn’t get old to listen to.

9. Aqualung– Jethro Tull

At Number 9 we get Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album, Aqualung. They had been bubbling under the surface of mainstream prog rock for a few years before this album came out, and all of the work that they put into their first three albums came to fruition on this one. There’s really not a bad song on the album, and listening to a band headed by a flautist is truly a unique experience. The highlights are the song of the same name, “Aqualung,” but also include “Cross Eyed Mary,” “Hymn 43,” and “Locomotive Breath.”

8. Bat Out Of Hell– Meat Loaf

Bat Out Of Hell is an album that means so much to me. Every time one of the songs on this album comes on the radio, I instantly think about my Dad and singing the whole album with him in the car. We love Meat Loaf and Bat Out Of Hell, and the album is absolutely spectacular. It’s hard to believe that Meat Loaf could barely get a record deal for this one, considering that it would go on to be one of the best-selling albums of all time and a landmark for rock opera. If I were on a desert island, Bat Out Of Hell would let me rock out, and I’d be thinking of my Dad every time I played it. That’s good company. Check out “Bat Out Of Hell,” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth,” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”

7. Led Zeppelin IV– Led Zeppelin

Three words: Stairway. To. Heaven. Led Zeppelin IV is so much more than “Stairway to Heaven,” but that’s a real high point. Led Zeppelin IV was a landmark album for rock music and proved that people wanted to hear long-form rock music. It was one of the first true mainstream progressive rock albums too, and I don’t think that the genre would have seen as much popularity without the benefit of some of the longer songs on this record like “When the Levee Breaks” or the more artistic songs like “The Battle of Evermore.” Prog rock acts were playing and performing, but Led Zeppelin IV gave them a leg to stand on.

6. Hotel California– Eagles

I wanted to include multiple Eagles albums in my Desert 10 but made myself settle on one, so I went with Hotel California for two reasons. First, I think it’s the best representation of the Eagles sound after having taken a few albums to come in to their own. This could arguably be extended to One Of These Nights as well, but there’s just enough experimental tracks on that album that it didn’t quite feel complete (See “The Sorcerer”). Second, I think that Hotel California had better singles than One Of These Nights. I love “Witchy Woman” and the song “One Of These Nights,” but “Hotel California” is literally the baseline for the modern guitar solo and “Victim of Love” and “Life in the Fast Lane” scratch the same itch for tight vocal harmony that I want from the former tracks. Great album and deservedly regarded as one of the best.  

5. Are You Experienced?– Jimi Hendrix

Halfway through the Desert 10 and it’s time to talk about the first album from Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced?. I like this album because it’s chock full of rock classics and lots of hidden gems that never make it on to ‘Best Of’ lists of Jimi’s work like “Fire,” “51st Anniversary,” and “Third Stone From The Sun.” It also features some of Hendrix’s most iconic songs like “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “Manic Depression,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Foxey Lady.” All in all, this album just has too many big hits to exclude. The only song I wish it had on it is “Little Wing,” but I could live with “The Wind Cries Mary” in its place.

4. At Fillmore East– Allman Brothers Band

The only live album on this list, At Fillmore East is one of those albums that everyone talks about because it was a legendary, two-night performance from the Allman Brothers, but listening to the album you realize how good those shows really were. The whole band was firing on all cylinders those nights and laid down one of the best southern rock albums ever. Even at 78 minutes long, the album never feels long and will keep you entertained the whole way through. High points on this record are the immoral 23-minute long rendition of “Whipping Post,” “Hot Lanta,” and my favorite, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”

3. Paranoid– Black Sabbath

Coming in at Number 3 is Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. While all of the albums on this list are my tops, Paranoid was one of the first albums that I listened to as part of Your Dad’s Car Stereo that made me think “This album couldn’t be any better, even if they tried.” The album has moments where you know it’s a rocker, moments that slow down to give you a break, and it’s one of the best displays of musicianship on this list. Let’s not forget its historical significance either as one of the precursors to heavy metal! When you put it all together, Paranoid is one of the most complete rock albums ever recorded. High points include “War Pigs/Luke’s Wall,” “Electric Funeral,” and “Hand of Doom.”

2. Close To The Edge– Yes

It may only be three songs long, but progressive rock would have never reached its true potential without those three songs that make up Close To The Edge. Nearly every major prog rock act has acknowledged that Close To The Edge influenced them in some way to follow the way of prog. It’s truly a beautiful album that features shining vocals from Jon Anderson, masterful, emotional guitar from Steve Howe, and some cool keyboard parts on everything from claviers to church organs from Rick Wakeman. I love the whole album, but if you don’t have time to listen to the whole album then “Siberian Khatru” is a must-listen-to song and will give you an idea how the whole album sounds.

1. 2112– Rush

My favorite album. I may have mentioned it on the blog during my review of 2112, but I think this is the perfect album that all others will hope to rival. The song of the same name is perfectly constructed and features so many ‘moments’ that you’ll hear something new each time you put it on. “The Twilight Zone” and “Lessons” are complete rockers, “Tears” is a beautiful, emotional ballad, and “Something for Nothing” rounds out the album with a barn burner! For me, 2112 is classic rock and what I think of when I think of prog rock or classic rock in general.

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