The Doobie Brothers- Takin’ It To The Streets (1976): 29 April 2019

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets (1976)

This week on YDCS we’re covering a California rock act out of San Jose, The Doobie Brothers, and their sixth studio album Takin’ It To The Streets. The band had garnered success and accolades prior to this with their third release The Captain and Me, and arguably with their second album Toulouse Street, but Takin’ It To The Streets may contain some of the band’s best known work. This was the first album to replace the original lead singer, Tom Johnston, with Michael McDonald, formerly of Steely Dan, on the recommendation of his old band-mate, guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. Adding McDonald to the band created a shift in the sound, where the old Doobie sound was characterized by a more folk-rock sound, the band began experimenting more with blues and jazz sounds on this album.

Takin’ It To The Streets has some of my favorite material by the Doobie Brothers on it, notably “Wheels of Fortune” and “8th Avenue Shuffle.” The album hits plenty of high notes but also falls flat in some places, I believe due to an over-reliance on the synthesizer to carry the song, particularly on “It Keeps You Runnin’.” Regardless, I think that there’s a lot to like about this album, and it is interesting to listen to this and compare it to earlier works of theirs, like The Captain and Me, to see how the sound changed with two former Steely Dan members. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Wheels of Fortune: “Wheels of Fortune” is one of my favorite songs across all genres and it’s hard to place a finger on what I like about it, but I think it’s a combination of factors. The band is really tight on this bluesy track, the vocal harmonies add depth to the song, and the whole band, from keyboard to lead guitar, is involved in the funky interlude in the middle of the song. I can’t do the song enough justice trying to describe it, but give it a listen and see if it deserves the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award” for yourself! Dad’s Rating 10/10

Takin’ It To The Streets: The title track of the album and a massive hit for the band, there’s a lot to like about “Takin’ It To The Streets.” The funky/jazzy sound from “Wheels of Fortune” and will be heard on the rest of the album is evident on this track, but perhaps less so until the solo as this song is more up-tempo than the former. Speaking of, I would like to submit that the saxophone solo in the middle may be a nod to Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Michael McDonald’s stints with Steely Dan who featured a horn section on all but a few of their songs. Even if it’s not, it’s an awesome sax solo! “Takin’ It To The Streets” is such an easy song to listen to, and can you really skip the lead single?! I promise, you won’t want to! Dad’s Rating 9/10

8th Avenue Shuffle: The third track on the album starts with a decidedly lighter sound than the heavy, bluesy sound on the first two songs; however, it does retain that same funky feeling. “8th Avenue Shuffle” may surprise you with a solid rock guitar solo before giving way to a jazz solo. Tiran Porter’s performance on bass here might be one of the most appealing and overlooked parts of the album, and it’s a class act! McDonald’s vocals really shine here, and this might be one of his top performances on the record too. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Losin’ End: The Doobies were clearly invested in seeing what they could get out of the Hammond Organ and their synthesizers on “Losin’ End,” and this is by far the most synth-forward song on the track. The string solo over the bridge is absolutely beautiful and definitely a nod to Steely Dan because there weren’t many instances where the Doobies were using string prior to introduction of Baxter and McDonald. As far as Doobie Brothers songs go, this is a good one but it can drone on sometimes with the steady guitar riff in the background. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Rio: First, “Rio” opens with a great little drum beat, and there’s really not enough songs that do that. More bands should consider opening slowly like that then building into the full band like the Doobies do here. This is an awesome bluesy track that 100% fits the genre of “yacht rock” in my mind. Imagine sitting on a boat on the river, you could throw this song on and it wouldn’t be out of place. At times, “Rio” has a great Caribbean feeling to it and at other times it leans more heavily into its jazz/blues roots to create a dynamic song. Dad’s Rating 7/10

For Someone Special: “For Someone Special” is the slowed down and stripped back song for the album, and it really doesn’t impress me that much. It’s got a soft blues rock feeling to it, and it’s certainly not a bad song, but it’s just par for the course. There’s nothing that really makes this song stand out against the other songs on this album or against other soft rock tracks from the 1970s. Dad’s Rating 5/10

It Keeps You Runnin’: This is one of the Doobies’ more popular tracks and I’m going to go against the grain and say that it’s just okay. Look at this next to a song like “Black Water” or even “Wheels of Fortune” from earlier and you’ll see that it’s just missing that oomph that makes a great song. Now having said that, the vocal harmonies are still super tight and choosing to go synth-heavy on this track was a bold decision. I certainly won’t turn this song off if it comes on, but it’s not my favorite song by the Doobies. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Turn It Loose: “Turn It Loose,” on the other hand, is a great track! When I hear the Doobie Brothers, this is the kind of sound that I imagine. Awesome vocal harmonies, catchy hooks, and appropriate punctuation from each instrument as necessary. This is one of the best characterizations of the band’s sound, and while it might not have been their most well-known song, it’s a fun song that’s easy to listen to. Turn it up and turn it loose! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Carry Me Away: At first I thought the final song of the album was going to be a stinker just from the way it started, but I was pleasantly surprised with a great jazz guitar solo in the middle and tight vocal harmonies through the choruses. My expectation was to find a boring, repetitive track, but it’s actually full of some great musicianship that is particularly evident in that guitar solo and the horn solo at the end. Hold on ‘til the end and let the music carry you away. Dad’s Rating 6/10

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Black Sabbath- Paranoid (1970): 22 April 2019

Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! This week we’re having a listen to the most instrumental act in the formation of heavy metal and precursor to grunge and doom metal, Black Sabbath. Paranoid is the second album by the band and was quickly commissioned and released to capitalize on the success of Sabbath’s debut album four months after its release. Comprised of singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward, the band would go on to be a much more of a house-hold name after the tour for Paranoid and would release six more albums with this lineup before Osbourne was released from the band for his over-indulgence in drugs and alcohol. The band got back together in this lineup a few times in later years, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, and recently completed their final tour in their hometown of Birmingham, England in 2017.

Paranoid may just be the most influential album in the history of heavy metal music. Without Black Sabbath and the success they achieved from this album, the hair metal acts of the 80s like Ratt, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Guns ‘N Roses, Poison, and Dokken may have never gotten off the ground! The heavy metal scene that flourished in the aftermath of Black Sabbath with acts like AC/DC and Iron Maiden, and later Metallica, Megadeth, and Primus, would have been stunted! Black Sabbath were pioneers in a yet-to-be defined genre and paved the way for legendary groups. Because of news reports, we can look back and see that, at first, the band was not viewed favorably, and it’s not hard to see why! Imagine, if you will, a year where Simon and Garfunkel (nothing against S&G, but we need to make a point here) are the top act for the year, you turn the radio on, and “Paranoid” comes on. What kind of shock would that heavy guitar induce?! In fact, the hardest rock acts that broke the year-end Hot 100 were Chicago and The Guess Who. Because Black Sabbath broke down that barrier, that chart would look very different by the mid-1980s. Enjoy this groundbreaking and ground shaking album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

War Pigs/Luke’s Wall: What a way to open an album! Black Sabbath didn’t pull any punches with their opening track, “War Pigs,” which was actually supposed to be the title of the album, not Paranoid. This song (and album for what it’s worth) is hugely critical of the Vietnam War and the politicians who the band paint as the real enemy, the War Pigs if you will. Musically, this song is a hit. The guitar solo about halfway through the song shreds more than any other on the album and using the drums to break the trains of thought in the lyrics is excellent in execution; however, Osbourne’s vocals are the shining point on this track. The verses are purposefully minimalistic from the instruments so that there’s no mistaking his message, instead acting almost act as a punctuation to the lyrics. “War Pigs” might just be the band’s opus and is very deserving of the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award.” Dad’s Rating 10/10

Paranoid: “Paranoid,” according to the band, was thrown together as an afterthought for this album. Sabbath wrote the song in a few hours during the sessions for their first album and only changed the name of the album to Paranoid after record executives thought “War Pigs” would have been too offensive. This was the lead single off of the album, and it definitely helped solidify the band’s branding if nothing else. The single was successful and even today, this is instantly recognizable as a Black Sabbath track. The heavy distortion on the guitar combined with the raw vocals gives the song such a gritty feeling. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Planet Caravan: “Planet Caravan” is a song the album desperately needed to not overwhelm the listener. The congas and flute take the listener to a completely different mental state after the shock of “War Pigs” and “Paranoid.” Iommi’s guitar playing, while not as bombastic as literally every other song on the album, still manages to come through as masterful. This is a really good track that shouldn’t be overlooked exclusively for its slowness.  Dad’s Rating 7/10

Iron Man: The transition from the calmness of “Planet Caravan” into “Iron Man” is nothing short of shocking. There’s that relaxing melody on the former and then the band launches the listener into that ever-recognizable “Iron Man” guitar riff. I found it particularly interesting to learn that Osbourne created the robot effect on the opening “I am Iron Man” by placing a desk fan in front of the microphone and singing into it! The instrumental section on this track is fantastic, but I think it lacks in musicality when put next to “War Pigs” and “Hand of Doom.” Dad’s Rating 8/10

Electric Funeral: I am a big fan of “Electric Funeral,” and I really think this song never got the attention that it deserved. The heavy distortion on the lead guitar creates the perfect haunting sound. I think the best part is how dynamic this track is. It starts with that haunting sound for about two minutes before launching into a powerhouse section that sounds like it could have been ripped from a Frank Zappa album. This is a heavy song that just rocks! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Rock on!

Hand of Doom: “Hand of Doom” might be the best song on this record. The song is dynamic in the way that it builds and falls, almost like it’s heaving from the simple bass driven verses into the wailing choruses and instrumental section. The simplicity of the instrumentals during the verses enhances the message of the song by allowing Osbourne’s lyrics to be heard crisply over a dark message. Lyrically, this song describes American soldiers with drug problem arriving in England post-Vietnam, only to be consumed by the drugs they were using to forget the war. For a band that openly used drugs, this is a stunning rebuke, but much more than that, is a criticism of the handling of the Vietnam War, much like other tracks like “Paranoid” and “War Pigs.” Dad’s Rating 9/10

Rat Salad: “Rat Salad” was one of the tracks I had never listened to before and was genuinely surprised by! This is an instrumental track that really shreds! Iommi’s guitar work is really masterful here, but the real star is Bill Ward on the drums. The drum solo is nothing short of amazing and keeps your attention despite the length. When this song was performed live during the band’s early days, that drum solo would continue for up to 45 minutes, it just depended on how much time the band needed to fill before the end of their set!  Dad’s Rating 8/10

Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots: “Jack the Stripper” is the instrumental opening to “Fairies Wear Boots” and it sounds like a continuation of “Rat Salad,” which to me, lends credit to the composition of the album. The flow of the record was clearly considered when Sabbath was composing it and I think it shows. The instrumental starts right with a hard rock sound and is very similar to something like a slowed down Deep Purple track. “Fairies Wear Boots” describes an encounter the band had with a group of skinheads. The track has a driving pace and one of the best guitar riffs on the album. As far as rock tracks go this one is above-average, but is just par for the course on this album. That lends much credit to the band’s musicianship, attention to detail, and groundbreaking nature. Top notch! Dad’s Rating 8/10

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers- Damn The Torpedoes (1979): 15 April 2019

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn The Torpedoes (1979)

Welcome back to YDCS where we’re taking a look into the third album by one the great American rock acts of the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 00s; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and their album Damn The Torpedoes. Over the band’s 40-year career, they released thirteen studio albums and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility. With a virtually unchanged lineup, the band focused on a southern rock and heartland rock sound that was instantly recognizable by the punch of Petty’s raw vocals and the combined, vigorous energy of the Heartbreakers.

Damn The Torpedoes takes its name from a quote by Admiral David Farragut during the American Civil War and the Battle of Mobile Bay where he famously said “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” The album seems to play on that quote by being a “full speed ahead” kind of album full of forceful vocals, fantastic musicianship, and crafting a great rock album with enough variation and interesting techniques to keep it from going stale as you listen. This record is chock full of Tom Petty classics that were included on his greatest hits album and is arguably one of the band’s best works. This is one of my favorite albums I’ve covered this year because of its consistent high-quality musicianship, memorable lyrics, and raw power and energy behind each song. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Refugee: Let’s just open the album with one of Tom Petty’s most popular songs and one of the singles for the album why don’t we?! This is a very strong open for the album. “Refugee”isn’t a fast-paced rock track, but there is so much power in Petty’s vocals that it just drives the song and sounds like he’s pleading with the listener, saying that “[they] don’t have to live like a refugee.” This is an instantly recognizable song and is very characteristic of Petty’s style; incorporating dynamic changes throughout the song for emphasis that show excellent songwriting, powerful vocals, and interspersed vocal harmonies to emphasize specific sections. Top notch song. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Here Comes My Girl: I really like how the opening of this song deceives the listener into thinking that this is going to show Petty’s softer side before he launches into unabashedly powerful lyrics. The piano throughout this song is beautiful and adds a nice contrast to the rough-around-the-edges vocals. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Even The Losers: I would rate this as an above average rock song. It’s characteristically Tom Petty, but guitar solo and unique drum intro are fantastic. I think lots of people can identify with this song and feeling like a loser sometimes before getting lucky and turning it all around. Make of that what you will… Dad’s Rating 7/10

Shadow Of A Doubt (Complex Kid): There’s so much that I like about this song, and I think that most of it revolves around the energy of the song. The band has so much energy throughout the track, the guitar solo shreds, Petty’s vocals punch through, and there’s that cool bongo drum intro. This is a really good track and without a shadow of a doubt, you shouldn’t skip it! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Century City: This is a groovy track that stands out the least amongst the powerhouse tracks on the rest of this album. It’s a technically sound song and the musicianship is awesome, but it feels like a continuation of “Shadow O A Doubt”, and if I hadn’t known they were different songs I’m not sure I would have figured it out. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Don’t Do Me Like That: The third 9/10 on this album and another Tom Petty classic! This is borderline perfect score territory for me for a few reasons: the song is dynamic in the way it treats the bridge and goes into that up-tempo section, the musicianship is top-level, and the keyboard intro was probably three years away from launching this past number 10 on the Hot 100. Of course, we don’t rate song based on how they performed on the Hot 100, but the only thing “Don’t Do Me Like That”lacks is the “something” that you can’t put into words, that last “oomph.” Dad’s Rating 9/10

You Tell Me: I think “You Tell Me”is the most radical track on the album because it’s a departure from the guitar-focused soft rock sound on the other songs and a trial at a keyboard-focused track that morphs into a guitar-forward sound. I really like that interplay and think it gives the record more depth while showing off the whole band’s range of musical ability. Non-critically, it’s just pleasant to listen to a jazzy rock track that breaks up the rest of the album! Dad’s Rating 8/10

What Are You Doin’ In My Life?: I’m going to put this one notch above “Century City”because it’s a more powerful sound from the band and has “You Tell Me” in front of it to buffer it from becoming hidden in the other guitar-forward songs on the record. This is a good southern rock inspired track that doesn’t do anything special for me but, at the same time, doesn’t do anything wrong. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Louisiana Rain: From the picked guitar intro on “Louisiana Rain”and into that supernatural sound on the synthesizer, my attention was held. Oftentimes the last track on the album gets lost in the sound of the rest of the album, and while this is another southern rock inspired rock track (and I think a better one that “What Are You Doin’”), that intro makes sure that you’re paying attention and this melodic, slowed down track captures you to make sure that you stay. This is an excellent way to finish an album. 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.

ZZ Top- Eliminator (1983): 8 April 2019

ZZ Top – Eliminator (1983)

Welcome back to YDCS where we’re going into the 1980s this week for the most commercially successful album by ZZ Top, Eliminator. First though I’d like to apologize for posting 23 hours later than normal. It was bound to happen eventually, but I got caught up this past week and didn’t get finished in time. Your regularly scheduled post will be back next week on time! Comprised of the trio of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard, ZZ Top’s lineup has remained consistent since 1970, so by the time 1983 rolled around, the band knew what their sound was and had established themselves in the pop/rock music scene. In fact, Eliminator was not the band’s first experience with a hit album. The band previously released 1973’s Tres Hombres which featured tracks like Waitin’ for the Bus and the mega-hit La Grange, and 1979’s Deguello which featured I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide and Cheap Sunglasses. The difference between Eliminator and their other two hits was the introduction of MTV in 1981. The band created a trio of music videos for Sharp Dressed Man, Gimme All Your Lovin, Legs that relied heavily on the sex appeal of models, which naturally resulted in heavy airplay on MTV and increased album sales. You can’t forget to mention the custom, fluffy, spinning Dean guitars. I’m sure that had something to do with the album sales too…

Eliminator draws heavily from the blues rock origins of the Texas natives with some emerging elements of synth rock from the New Wave movement, and in particular, drum machines. Listen carefully to songs like I Got The Six or Got Me Under Pressure and you can hear that bit of synth and those drum machines that were rushing onto the scene during the early 1980s. Eliminator is a perfect road trip album for me. Every song on his record can be turned up and rocked to while driving on the highway with the windows down. This album makes me want to go road tripping through the mountains of West Texas, where there’s miles between towns, and just feel free. I this album makes you feel like rocking out too! Enjoy!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Gimme All Your Lovin’: We’re starting off the album with a classic song that still receives heavy airplay on classic rock radio. Freewheelin’ guitars and solos a-plenty, Gimme All Your Lovin’ is quintessential ZZ Top track because it’s timeless! You can never turn away from a song that you can turn up and rock out Dad’s Rating 8/10

Got Me Under Pressure: I had never listened to all of Eliminator before this review, and Got Me Under Pressure was one of the tracks that surprised me the most. I particularly enjoyed the usage of the drum machine and how it gives the song a chugging drive. This is a song I would put on any of my driving playlists for road trips and would listen to again! Definitely a hidden gem here! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Sharp Dressed Man: You know exactly which song this is from the first three notes on the guitar and the introduction of that synthesizer. I can’t think of a better song to epitomize the early 1980’s rock scene other than maybe Jump by Van Halen. Memorable lyrics and a rocking guitar riff characterize this song. The only reason I’m not rating it higher, and the issue I have with most of the songs by ZZ Top, are that they’re not musically or lyrically challenging. While this song does characterize the early 1980s rock scene, it didn’t push the boundary of what that could be. Dad’s Rating 8/10

I Need You Tonight: The guitar play a much less prominent role on this track than on the rest of the album to let the vocals shine through. Dusty Hill wasn’t known for his vocal prowess but he didn’t disappoint here! The guitar sits back and play a more haunting, supporting role but still comes out after the second verse for a solo that elevates the song and doesn’t overshadow it. Dad’s Rating 7/10

I Got The Six: I Got The Six is the shortest track on the album and feels like a classic rocker. This track is very guitar forward in exactly the same way that I Need You Tonight was not. I feel like I’ve heard about 300 different songs that all sound like this one. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this song, but it doesn’t stun in the way the next track does. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Legs: There’s an emerging pattern on this album where whenever the band began incorporating synthesizers and drum machines, those songs seemed to push the boundaries of what rock could do. This is the second song that I’ve rated highly that featured this “new technology,” and I believe that it really does add an extra layer of depth to the song that makes ones like I Got The Six slightly boring to listen to. As far as Legs is concerned, this is a rocking solo with a catchy riff and a shredding solo that contrasts the guitars role in the rest of the song nicely. I would add that this song is elevated by the fluffy guitars from the music video. Keep on spinnin’! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Keep on Spinnin’

Thug: This is one of Dusty Hill’s best performances on the bass that I’ve listened to. Thug is so different from the rest of the album, and that makes the whole product much stronger for it. Gibbons took a major back seat here to let Hill rock out on bass and his popping technique fits the song well and shows some skill that I hadn’t really heard from him on other tracks where he was taking a supportive role to Gibbons on lead guitar. Dad’s Rating 8/10

TV Dinners: Thug flows very smoothly into TV Dinners, but this is the most absurd song on the album. I’m not sure why the band felt the need to write a song about the merits and demerits of TV dinners, but they did. This falls squarely in the same musical realm as I Got The Six, where I feel as though I’ve listened to 300 songs exactly like this except the subject matter is so much more bizarre that I KNOW I’ve never listened to another song about TV dinners. Weird… Dad’s Rating 4/10

Dirty Dog: Dirty Dog sounds very similar to Got Me Under Pressure at first and I’m really glad that they didn’t pair one right after the other, otherwise it would have felt like one long song. I prefer the riffs throughout the verses in the latter of those two songs, but think that the solo is much better in this song than it is in Got Me Under Pressure. For that fact, I rate both songs equally! Dad’s Rating 7/10

If I Could Only Flag Her Down: We’ve got a little something different going on with this track! There’s a little bit of a rockabilly/country feel to this song but with a hard rock twist. I think this really benefits the album to break up, what can at times, be almost a drone from songs that sounds too similar. This is a great little hidden gem that’s worth giving a listen!  Dad’s Rating 8/10

Bad Girl: The album closes strongly with another song that has great drive and would be suitable for any road trip. By this point though, because there have only been two instances where the band really showed off different styles, this feels like any other song on the album. 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.

Dire Straits- Dire Straits (1978): 1 April 2019

Dire Straits – Dire Straits (1978)

Welcome back to YDCS where this week we’re taking a look at a blues-rock act out of England that shaped rock throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. Dire Straits was an act formed by Mark and David Knopfler, John Illsley, and Pick Withers who worked hard to get to the top of the rock scene. This group of gents went about promoting their mixtapes the old-fashioned way, by going into record agencies and pitching their music. After being initially turned down, the band struck gold when a radio show in London picked up on what would become their smash hit, Sultans of Swing. From there, the band was offered a full record deal and went into the studio to record their debut album which would spawn two iconic singles, Sultans of Swing and Water of Love.

This self-titled debut album is defined by its blues rock sound that is especially reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s Slowhand that we covered earlier. Musically, Dire Straits follows traditional blues rock with dual guitars and heavy usage of I-IV-V chord progressions (the most common blues chord progression). I would add that Mark Knopfler’s ability on the guitar and picking technique, both on this album and in future releases, is one that can’t be overlooked and arguably puts him on the short list of greatest rock guitarists of all time. In my opinion, this is a defining album for the band, most notably because they found their sound early on and didn’t go through multiple albums to get there. Throughout their career, they were known for producing blues rock inspired tracks and this album certainly leans heavily into that and is a premier example of what the genre has produced. I hope you enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Down to the Waterline: A perfect 10/10 on the first track. The blues rock that the band was known for was present in full force on this first song. What I like most about Down to the Waterline is how tight the band sounds and the funky guitar riff through each of the verses. This upbeat, bluesy track should be mentioned in the same breath as Sultans of Swing, and is arguably better than the other single issued for this album, Water of Love. Down to the Waterline is a better example of the band’s musical capacity and is more musically complex than other tracks on the album in the same way that Sultans stands out for its musicality. Waterline is a track that can best be experienced by putting on a pair of headphones and listening to how every instrument melds together. This track is decidedly worthy of the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award.” Dad’s Rating 10/10

Water of Love: Released as one of the singles for the album, I actually don’t find that much special about Water of Love. I like how the band seems to be on the same page and the vocals and instrumentation fit together nicely, which I would argue is not the case on some later tracks. To counterpoint, the instrumentation in particular feels too restrained. There are other slowed down tracks on this album that still allow for superb musicianship to filter through, but I don’t think is one of them. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Setting Me Up: This is just a classic blues rock track with a great guitar solo, and not much else to write home about. The instrumentation is above average and the band feels as tight as they do on some of their best pieces. There’s not much to fault here except that it does get lost in the band’s repertoire because it doesn’t stand out. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Six Blade Knife: We heard how Water of Love left some to be desired in a slowed down song, and Six Blade Knife fulfills everything I wanted in the former but didn’t have. The musicianship in the “call and response” between the lyrics and guitar shows that the band has some chops that they’re trying to display and the hushed vocals really fit with the tone of the song. This song brings to mind images of bands playing in smoky, low-lit bars while the patrons groove along to the band. Six Blade Knife is how you make a slow-tempo blues rock song. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Southbound Again: I really like Southbound Again, and it’s a really fun track to listen to! The song has a bluesy groove to it and the more drive than most of the songs on the album, but my problem with it comes from its lack of musicality. The band doesn’t do anything here to show their instrumental proficiency and it’s honestly a good thing that the song is so short because it would otherwise drone on. Listen to this then listen to any other track on the album and you’ll see that the band just isn’t reaching their fullest potential with this song. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Sultans of Swing: Was Sultans of Swing going to be anything other than a perfect score? No, no it wasn’t. The band is incredibly tight in their delivery on this track, and Knopfler’s picking during the second guitar solo is nothing short of legendary. I would argue that Sultans is a song that starts strong with that ever-recognizable guitar riff and gets stronger the longer the song goes on before finishing at the second guitar solo. Though I will rate this song a 10/10, I believe that Waterline accomplishes the same thing Sultans does in incorporating a highly technical solo, a captivating and groovy guitar riff, and tight playing from the band in a song that’s almost 2 minutes shorter. Regardless of my personal opinion, this song cemented the band’s place in the halls of classic rock’s most well-known artists with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 and deserves the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award.” Dad’s Rating 10/10

In the Gallery: In the Gallery is a great example of a deep-cut that never got much traction but deserves a listen! I’m particularly fond of how the lead guitar seems to wander during the verses, almost providing an exclamation mark or appositive statement to Knopfler’s lyrics. To a negative point, I will criticize the vocals on this track, they were difficult to understand and I actually had to look up the lyrics to understand all of them. This is a good track to listen to from a purely instrumental point of view, but good luck with the lyrics. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Wild West End: The Dire Straits show their smoother, calmer side on Wild West End. Musically, the band is just as strong here as on their more well-known tracks and they don’t feel restrained by slowing things down. There’s the same “call and response” between the lyrics and the guitar here that we heard on Gallery as well. I’m going to criticize Knopfler’s vocals again though, I actually find them grating enough on such a peaceful track that it takes me out of the song. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Lions: I much prefer Lions over West End or Gallery for the fact that the song actually feels like it fits together. Previously I’ve criticized the harshness of the vocals, but they’re more restrained here and I believe that improves the song. The musicianship that we’ve heard from the band on the rest of the album is equally present here as it is through the rest of the album. This is a deep cut that’s worth listening to! 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.

Electric Light Orchestra- A New World Record (1976): 25 March 2019

Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record (1976)

This is the story of a band that was ahead of their time. This is the story of a band that was never cool until their singles topped the Billboard Charts. This is the story of a breakthrough album that took five albums prior to its release to break the U.K. Top 10. This is the story of Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra. Originally formed to be a bridge between pop, rock, and art rock genres, the band, comprised primarily of Jeff Lynne, Bev Bevan, Richard Tandy, and Kelly Groucutt, was known for merging classical music with rock music by combining traditional western string instruments with guitars, drums, and keyboards to create an unmistakable sound that now drips 1970s nostalgia. A New World Record is the band’s fifth studio release and was the first album to break the U.K. Top 10, despite the success of the single Evil Woman on their previous release. This record spawned some of the band’s most recognizable work including Telephone Line, Livin’ Thing, and Do Ya. The band would go on to publish their sixth album, Out Of The Blue, which would be their most commercially successful.

A New World Record might be one of my favorite albums that I’ve reviewed this year. The whole record is lively, bright, uses experimental sounds and production techniques, and masterful instrumentation that meshes together so well. During a time when disco was so prevalent on the radio, ELO is a breath of fresh air that reinvented the genre in a more rock-focused direction. The disco influence is evident on this album, perhaps most strongly on So Fine, but the overall influence doesn’t detract from the album at all. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Tightrope: What I enjoy the most about Tightrope is that from the beginning of the track you know that you’re not going to be listening to a normal classic rock album. Opening on that full string orchestra is unique and sets the mood for the album. Musically, this song has everything that ELO is known for on more of a “deep cut” track. In this example, the strings are well-integrated in the accompaniment giving the song a bright sound that wouldn’t otherwise be achievable. The brightness is what scores this one so highly for me. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Telephone Line: The second track on the record is Telephone Line, released as one of the singles for the album. This is still one of those songs that is a stalwart in the band’s live sets, drawing heavily on vocal harmonies and interesting song arrangement to create depth in the song. The soft, relaxing sound of the song does the album justice considering that the majority of the songs on the record are up-tempo. Too boot, the use of an actual phone sound to separate the verses after each chorus is something that I’ve never heard done on any other song and plays spectacularly into the idea of the Telephone Line. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Rockaria!: Now this is a TRUE rock opera, or Rock Aria if you will. ELO wasn’t the only band to dabble in combining rock and opera music (Meat Loaf comes to mind immediately), but with the track coming in at just over three minutes in length I’m less inclined to call this a strict rock opera, but more so a song influenced by opera. Most of the traditional rock operas come closer to double-digit length tracks to tell their story. Having said that, the combination of rock and opera was done quite well on this song. The rock portion sounds to be influenced by classic rock and roll artists like Bill Haley (the guitar is reminiscent of early rock songs like Rock Around The Clock) and the arias interspersed throughout the song lend to an interesting song composition that keeps the rating up for me. Three 8’s in a row, the album is on a roll! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Mission (A World Record): Mission is the deep breath before we roll into four hard-charging songs. I wanted to rate this song one point lower originally because it didn’t initially strike me as particularly impressive, but on second and third listens, the spaced-out sound to the song intrigued me. The band’s decision to use a vocoder on the backing vocals to modulate them and make them sound more robotic contributes to the overall “out-of-this world” sound of the song. Dad’s Rating 7/10

So Fine: This song has been stuck in my head for 67 hours and counting and I haven’t been able to play it enough to successfully get it out. Everything just works well for me on this track; the interplay between the strings and how they almost act as the low-range for the song instead of the role a bass guitar would normally play, the heavy disco influence, and even the African drum solo in the middle! So Fine was also one of ELO’s first forays into using the new minimoog synthesizer, showcasing another instance of the progressive nature of the band. Despite the catchiness of the tune, I can’t give it full marks in good conscience because it does strike me as more pop-centric than rock-centric.  Dad’s Rating 9/10

Livin’ Thing: Jeff Lynne has spoken out about the transition from So Fine into one of the band’s most well-known tracks, Livin’ Thing. To create the smooth transition, the band waited for So Fine to play into the first note of the key that Livin’ Thing is played in and then unplugged the tape machine and spliced the tape together. Livin’ Thing has audible middle-eastern influences at the end of each chorus and during the prelude that give the song a more interesting sound and juxtapose the African percussion section in So Fine. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Above The Clouds: There’s another strong transition from Livin Thing into Above The Clouds. I can’t confirm that the same technique was used on both transitions but it does sound the same. Lynne’s vocals on this track receive top marks on this, the shortest track on the album. He starts out sounding like a 1930’s bar crooner before ending the song sounding like he’s in a barbershop quartet. The spacey, ethereal synthesizer from Mission makes a return voyage on this song to make the listener really feel like they’re above the clouds. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Do Ya: With Do Ya, the band moved away from the experimental sound found elsewhere for a more traditional rock track. From the second the song opens on power chords, you know that we’re dealing with something different from the rest of the album. The string orchestra that is so forward in most of the album is relegated to a backing role in this song and I think that helps that album as a whole piece. To me, that move shows the band is capable of versatility and sharing the spotlight. There’s no abandoning of the “ELO Sound” with this track; there’s still vocal harmonies interspersed throughout the track and an odd drum break towards the end, but Do Ya acts as a great bookend on the last three songs that are the most experimental on the album.  Dad’s Rating 8/10

Shangri-La: I really like Shangri-La as an example of everything I like about the band. The solos allow Tandy and Lynne to show off their musicianship on the guitar and the vocal harmonies allow Bevan to shine. No one instrument is particularly forward in a lead role on the front half of the track with the guitar and strings harmonizing well until about halfway through when the song becomes very experimental and operatic. The strings are placed as far forward as possible at this point in what may be the band’s truest “rockaria.” I can’t think of a better way to close out an album that put so much effort into combining sounds and production techniques than with a song that leads you in before surprising you right at 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.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nérd) (1973): 18 March 2019

Lynyrd Skynyrd – (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nérd) (1973)

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album cover

This week on YDCS we’re going to take a look at the debut album by a southern rock band that has come to be strongly associated with arena rock anthems and has nearly single-handedly defined a genre, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band, led by frontman Ronnie Van Zant, would go on to be a mega-act that spawned some of the most recognizable songs on classic rock radio with this self-titled debut that included tracks like Tuesday’s Gone, Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man, and Free Bird. Lynyrd Skynyrd would go on to craft four more legendary rock albums before taking a fourteen-year recording hiatus after a tragic plane crash that killed multiple band members, including Van Zant, guitarist and singer Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines.

Pronounced is one of the titans of the classic rock genre that few albums, past or present, can stand up to. This album re-defined southern rock for the decade, moving from a Creedence Clearwater Revival-esque sound to music that sounds like this and putting the band in line with other popular acts like the Allman Brothers Band and the Marshall Tucker Band. The “Lynyrd Skynyrd Sound” was on full display starting with this, their debut album. They knew exactly how they wanted to sound, executed it flawlessly here, and left it virtually untouched on their next few major releases. This is quality work from a class act. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

I Ain’t The One: This is a strong opening track on an album full of strong songs. This wasn’t one of the songs that the band was well-known for but it rocks as much as, for example, Gimme Three Steps later on the record. The musicianship on the instrumentation is really strong on this track and the drums to start the song off are unique and memorable. What I particularly like about this song is that you know exactly what kind of album you’re going to be listening to within the first minute of this song; you’re going to get big, free-wheelin’ guitar solos and southern rock. If you were looking for a song to skip, this “ain’t the one!” Dad’s Rating 8/10

Tuesday’s Gone: Tuesday’s Gone is the slowest track on the record. If there was an album that ever desperately needed a slower-paced track to break it up, then this album was it. There’s no big guitar solos here that you’ll peppered throughout other tracks, and this song doesn’t need it. I’m aware that this is one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s more popular songs, but I can’t rate it higher in good conscience because it doesn’t show me anything amazing. This song doesn’t wow me or make me feel any particular way. I will say that the piano solo is fantastic and you shouldn’t skip over this song if only to listen to that. Tuesday’s Gone fulfills a purpose on this record and does it well. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Gimme Three Steps: Welcome back to classic Lynyrd Skynyrd after taking a break at Tuesday’s Gone. Your regularly scheduled loud guitar solos will now re-commence. Gimme Three Steps is a classic rock staple for a few good reasons: it’s easily recognizable, fun to listen to, and it rocks out! This isn’t a complex song, the instrumentation, vocals, and messaging are all clear. Try shredding out during the guitar solo on your way home from work, it’ll make the commute a little sweeter. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Simple Man: I really enjoy the easiness of Simple Man, and I think it’s one of the highlights of the album. Opening the song with the soft acoustic guitar that lets Van Zant’s vocals through does the song great justice. The vocals throughout the song are strong, even during the softer instrumental portions, and the swells throughout the song, particularly during the chorus, help keep it from going stale. Rossington’s guitar solo is so hot that the term “face-melting guitar solo” might have even originated here! Simple Man is a wholly deserving winner of the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award.”  Dad’s Rating 10/10

Things Goin’ On: Things Goin On, and the following track, Mississippi Kid are the two overlooked songs on this album, sandwiched between Simple Man and Free Bird. I like this song quite a bit actually and regret having previously passed it over. This track has more dynamic musicianship than some of the other deep cuts on Pronounced. Between the piano in the chorus and “oom-pah” feel of the song, I could almost imagine listening to this in a saloon. This is a prime example of the southern rock genre that Lynyrd Skynyrd worked in so well. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Mississippi Kid: The flow between Things Goin’ On and Mississippi Kid is fantastic. The former song rolls right into the latter. This is a great show of the band’s country roots coming through and is a nice break from loudness of the electric guitars found throughout almost every other song on the album. There are still electrics on this track but they are reduced to a supporting role for the acoustics. The harmonica solo is quite excellent and really ties feel of the song together nicely. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Poison Whiskey Poison Whiskey suffers for being buried in this album with mega-tracks like Free Bird and Simple Man rising above this one. This isn’t a bad song by any means, it’s just not particularly special. It doesn’t make you feel like the Big 3 do, and that’s actually okay because not every song has to. If every song made you think about grand ideas and messages, then you would be mentally exhausted after listening to an album. The instrumentation is solid here and the piano solo is funky and rocks out! All said, this is a fun song. It’s not musically or lyrically complex, but worth a listen if only for the fact that it’s not hard to listen to. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Free Bird: FREEEEEEEE BIRRRRRRRD!! (That’s the only time I’ll shout Free Bird in this review and I’ve been restraining myself up til now…) There’s really not much more you can say about Free Bird that hasn’t been said in the past 46 years since this record released. Free Bird is a classic because it displays some of the best musicianship, lyricism, and instrumentalism of 1970s classic rock. It incorporates orchestras, dynamic instrumentation, runs for over eleven minutes on the uncut version, and has what might be the most epic guitar solo ever laid down on a vinyl record. Words will never begin to give this song enough justice for how important it was in shaping classic rock for decades to come. This song alone could define the Southern Rock genre, and for that it earns the second “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award” on this album, making Pronounced the first album I have awarded multiple tracks 10/10 ratings. Well-deserved and literally well-played, this one’s for the band. Dad’s Rating 10/10

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.