Yes- Close to the Edge (1972): 8 June 2020

Yes – Close to the Edge (1972)

Welcome back to YDCS! This week we’re listening to one of the most significant albums in the prog rock genre, Close to the Edge by Yes. Close to the Edge came hot on the heels of 1971’s Fragile, but went with a completely different style than the earlier album. This album would be the band’s first foray into prog rock before firmly cementing themselves in the genre with the follow-up album Tales from Topographic Oceans. Yes remained primarily a prog rock group until changing their sound again with 1982’s commercially successful 90125, but their mark on the genre would remain with this album. Close to the Edge would go on to be one of the most consequential albums in prog rock and mentioned in the same breath as albums like Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, Rush’s 2112, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery. Each of those albums were significant to defining what it meant to be “Prog.” For example, Thick as a Brick solidified the significance of long-form songs, and 2112 introduced the idea of science fiction and fantasy in rock. What Yes did with this album was find a way to combine elements of classical and religious music with classic literature and rock music, some of which would pop up in other prog rock albums throughout the 1970s.

Close to the Edge is one of my favorite albums. I love the fact that the lyrics and message of the title song were based on Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha.” I love how the band didn’t tie themselves to traditional musical structures, instead composing the album more as a single musical movement than as separate songs. I the displays of musicianship, beautiful vocal harmonies, and odd choices for instrumentation. How many times have you heard a church organ solo on a rock album? If you answered ‘Never,’ the this is your chance! Finally, I love the fact that Yes let their music and their art speak for itself and tell its own story. Oftentimes, the lyrics are difficult to discern, either due to the fact that they’re sung in a high voice or layered on top of each other in post-production to make them sound spacey, but you don’t need to know what’s being said all the time. The music tells as much of the story as the lyrics do. You’ll find something different to enjoy about this album each time you listen to it, and I hope you enjoy one of my favorite albums, Close to the Edge.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Close to the Edge (I. The Solid Time of Change, II. Total Mass Retain, III. I Get Up, I Get Down, IV. Seasons of Man): The title track for the album is as epic as a song can possibly be. I’d like to break this song down by section to make it more manageable. The song starts with an extended jam session and the most frenetic, energetic guitar performances I’ve ever heard, both the lead and the backing acoustic guitar. The song lulls you with a calm section before launching into the main theme of the song. The vocals are so ethereal that they’re used more as another instrument than a method to deliver lyrics. That’s not the first time you’ll hear Yes do that on this album either.

The song changes to the second mood at around the seven-minute mark. The main ‘Close to the Edge’ theme continues through the song to help tie the track together, much like an orchestral piece. “Total Mass Retain” is the shortest section, acting as an interlude for “I Get Up, I Get Down” and primarily features a short bass and keyboard solo.

Once you get to “I Get Up, I Get Down,” you feel like you’ve instantly been transported somewhere between a cave and space. The music makes you feel as though you’re in an unidentifiable natural setting. Lyrically, it continues to draw inspiration from “Siddhartha” through the whole section, making references to characters and scenes from the book and slowly building into two peace-breaking, iconic church organ solos; the first thing I think about when I think about this song.

We close the song out with a much faster paced section, “Seasons of Man” that closes out the song both lyrically and thematically, continuing to draw from “Siddhartha” with the often-repeated phrase, ‘Close to the edge, down by the river…now that it’s done, go to the sea,” serving to show that life goes on from one body of water to another body, and emphasizing one of the major tenets of Siddhartha, reincarnation. Musically and lyrically, you’ll hear something different each time you listen to this song, and it’s one of my favorites for its depth, metaphor, and grandiosity. Dad’s Rating 10/10

And You and I (I. Cord of Life, II. Eclipse, III. The Preacher, the Teacher, IV. The Apocalypse): Again, because this is a multi-part song, I’m going to break this one down section by section. “And You and I” is less esoteric than “Close to the Edge” and is overall a softer piece of music than the relative chaos of the former. Section I, “Chord of Life” has a strong classical European influence, and it reminds me of backing music that I might put in a movie set in Ireland or Scotland. Musically, it’s not particularly interesting but it does set the scene for “Eclipse.”

The second section continues the main “And You and I” theme that you’re introduced to right off the bat, but gets really abstract, really fast. If “Close to the Edge” was written to put you in a natural setting, “Eclipse” takes that makes you feel like you’re travelling through space; it’s ethereal and artistic, keeping up the idea that you don’t need lyrics to understand the point of the song.

“The Preacher, the Teacher” begins to pick the pace of the song up as we approach the end of the song, and I’d like to highlight the bass work and guitar work in particular. The bass line is really complex, but gets hidden behind the lead guitar and synthesizer. Take a minute to appreciate the supporting section during this section. They could have easily gone with a simpler bass line and the song would have worked perfectly, but the complex structure contrasts nicely with the simple, but well-played guitar line.

Finally, even though the song picks up tempo through “The Preacher, the Teacher,” Yes slow it back down for the last section with a beautiful vocal harmony that puts you right back in that space mindset and a brief acoustic section to tie it all together. The simple, folk style suits this song well as it contrasts with the harder styles of “Close to the Edge” and “Siberian Khatru.” Overall, I rate this lower than “Close to the Edge” because, while it’s still a great prog rock piece, it shows less musical diversity than the former. Everything was played perfectly and well-thought-out in terms of song construction, and the album did need a slower piece, but after listening to the other two songs, I know that there was a way to eek more musical diversity out of the band on this trac. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Siberian Khatru: “Siberian Khatru” is another fantastic example of what Yes was able to do with rock. Half the time you can’t understand what Jon Anderson is saying, and when you can understand what he’s saying, none of the words seem to fit together. Like the rest of the album though, the lyrics don’t matter in relation to the song, they only matter in relation to how they sound with respect to the rest of the instruments. That feeling is the most important thing; to me I feel like I’m flying underwater every time I listen to this song; the airiness of the music just puts me in that headspace.  Instrumentally, this is a superb song. Steve Howe’s solo at around the mid-mark and at the end of the song are some of my favorite moments in recorded music. The keyboard and bass-work during that end solo are also amazing. The way that Yes closes out “Siberian Khatru” is the benchmark by which I judge the endings of all albums. It crescendos into this huge sound with vocal harmonies before fading out, fittingly, without much being said. 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.

The Doobie Brothers- Toulouse Street (1972): 27 January 2020

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street (1972)

Welcome back to YDCS! I’ve been excited to cover another Doobie Brothers album since I covered the one last year. When they announced that their North American tour will stop near me this year, I immediately put on their greatest hits album and decided two things: First, I need to see the Doobie Brothers this summer at all costs, especially now that they’re being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Class of 2020!) and secondly, I need to review another Doobie Brothers album! This week we’re taking a listen to the band’s second studio album, Toulouse Street. Toulouse Street was the album that completed the original Doobies lineup with the addition of their second drummer, Michael Hossack. After this, the band would go on to keep two drummers in the rhythm section and complete their signature sound with two drummers, three guitarists, keyboard, and kicking vocal harmonies!

Although it’s technically a folk rock album, Toulouse Street includes influences from southern rock, blues rock, and swamp rock. This would normally create a muddied and non-cohesive sound across the record, but by including multiple songs with pieces of each style, they tie the album together neatly. There are a few instances of songs referencing the styles of earlier songs on the album that help create a consistent theme across the album. Toulouse Street has a little bit of everything; softer rock songs, hard rockers that would be at home on a Led Zeppelin album, Caribbean influences, and the best harmonies in classic rock. I hope you enjoy this entry from these soon-to-be Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Listen to the Music: 10/10. Period. There’s really nothing I love more in a song than a soft rock sound with great vocal harmonies that makes you keep coming back for more. It’s not a complex song, but I would rate it higher amongst my all-time favorites than a lot of the prog rock songs that dare to be bold and make statements on society and music itself. This song just wants you to sit back and listen to the music, and the simplicity and earnestness shines through giving me goosebumps every time it comes on. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Rockin’ Down the Highway: If the harmonies on “Listen to the Music” are good then they’re seemingly better on “Rockin’ Down the Highway.” The Doobies were known for their harmony and it’s really tight and very difficult to get right. This is another one of the band’s big hits and it deserves all of the airplay that it gets. It’s classic California Rock and I love it. Add this one to the road trip playlist and rock on down the highway. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Mamaloi: This was my first time listening to “Mamaloi” and I was surprised that they decided to put a reggae, almost Swamp Rock fusion track on the album. It definitely has roots in the Caribbean but could easily be found in New Orleans and plays into the theme of Toulouse Street well. This is an interesting song that’s worth checking out just to hear a good way to combine to genres that don’t see a lot of crossover. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Toulouse Street: It’s really a shame that the title track is pretty boring. “Toulouse Street” would be forgettable if it weren’t also the name of the album. I think this one’s worth skipping. You won’t miss anything. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Cotton Mouth: “Cotton Mouth” is one of the few hidden gems on Toulouse Street for me. It doesn’t get much attention and I don’t think it ends up in many live sets, but it has a really cool funk groove that is notably absent from other songs on the record. It hints at what musical direction the band might move towards over the next few albums and as will incorporated. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Don’t Start Me to Talkin’: “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’” is a solid southern rocker that holds its own against songs from acts like Marshall Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, despite the fact that the band was more focused on creating a soft rock sound. This is largely due in part to the fact that the Doobie’s brand of rock was still heavily blues-inspired, much like traditional southern rock acts. This is a good song that doesn’t get a whole lot of love. Give it a listen! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Jesus Is Just Alright with Me: In a contemporary context people often mistake the meaning behind the lyrics on “Jesus Is Just Alright,” but if you go back to the early 1970s, this song would have had a completely different meaning. This made use of the phrase “all right” to say that something is cool and was a popular song with counterculture Christians. Musically, this is one of my favorite songs by the Doobies. The contrast between the harder rock start of the song, the calmer bridge, and the hard rock finish is exceptionally well done and the instrumentation across the song is some of the best on the record. I would take the time to point out something that I don’t always highlight, “Jesus Is Just Alright” has great balance, and that’s what makes it such a great song for me. It’s incredibly multi-dimensional and shines in many different ways with every part of the band contributing to make a huge sound.  Dad’s Rating 9/10

White Sun: “White Sun” is a nice, peaceful song sandwiched between two major rockers. The vocal harmonies are beautiful and well-crafted and play nicely off of the soft acoustic guitar. I had never listened to this track before this album review, but I can say with confidence that, despite its softer sound, it will stay in my Doobie Brothers rotation. It’s worth a listen just to hear a different side of the band, especially considering the band normally combines their hallmark harmonies with faster tempo songs. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Disciple: My second hidden gem song from the album, “Disciple.” This straight rock track strays pretty significantly from the softer folk rock sound that dominates the album. “Disciple” features really lyrical guitar solos and the dual drumming style that the band came to be recognized for plays out really well with a standard driving drum kit and conga drums that harken you back to songs like “Mamaloi.” The song doesn’t abandon what the Doobies do best and keeps some vocal harmonies and some softer sections to tie the song back to the rest of the album. A lot of elements come together cleanly on this track, both older and newer. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Snake Man: “Snake Man” is an interesting way to the end the album. It betrays the folk rock sound that defines most of the album for a more southern rock inspired sound like “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’.” It’s also the shortest song on the record, but it packs a lot into a two-minute long song. The acoustic guitar work is hypnotizingly interesting and incorporates a neat, very precise picking technique. This is a nice way to close out the album and show just another example of the Doobie’s ability to blend multiple genres into a cohesive 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.

Steely Dan- Can’t Buy A Thrill (1972): 13 January 2020

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill (1972)

Welcome back to YDCS! It’s been a year since I last covered a Steely Dan album; despite wanting to review one for the past few months, I’ve controlled myself. This week is the week though, we’re taking a listen to Steely Dan’s first studio album, Can’t Buy A Thrill. Known for their cryptic lyrics, complex musical arrangements, and disregard for genre, Steely Dan cemented their sound from the first song on this record. They knew that they wanted to reject everyone’s expectations of what rock music was supposed to sound like and make their own music without compromise. Sometimes it came across as pretentious and others it came across as musically genius, but through all of that, Steely Dan has always had their loyal followers who love that rejection of the norm for the sake of good music. Can’t Buy A Thrill would be their starting point too. Albums would grow to be more experimental and cryptic up until the release of Aja.

I really enjoy Steely Dan, but the band has a problem as far as classic rock is concerned that I will coin the “Steely Dan Problem.” Is their music rock or pop/easy-listening? Each song has to be evaluated separately to get to that truth on their albums. Some are easier than others. “Do It Again” is solidly in the rock camp and “Brooklyn” is solidly in the easy-listening camp. Others like “Dirty Work” are a little more difficult. My criteria for deciding whether it’s rock or not is this: Would I be okay with it if I’m listening to a classic rock radio station, they just finished playing “Communication Breakdown” by the Zep and a Steely Dan song comes on. If I’m okay with that song following the Zep then it’s rock. If it makes me want to switch the channel then it’s not rock.

This sparks a larger conversation about what we can really call rock music. Is Steely Dan a rock band? Most of the time I would say yes. I think that the majority of their work could safely be called rock, however; a lot of the songs that are their most popular would not fall into that rock camp. If we call Steely Dan rock then what does that open us up to? Alternatively, we exclude them from the rock genre, who else are we leaving out? Arguably we would start to leave out people and groups like Jackson Brown, Crosby Stills and Nash, The Marshall Tucker Band, and a lot of the acts on the softer side of rock. I don’t think that’s the right answer. All of those acts have something in common and it pulls us back to a central question:” What’s rock about anyway?”. If you ask me, it’s about pushing boundaries and making new sounds. The Dan have clearly done that, and for that alone I’d be willing to call them a rock group.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Do It Again: I was 12 the first time I heard “Do It Again.” I remember exactly where I was and I remember thinking it was a Carlos Santana song. I had never heard anything like it before and I was instantly hooked. “Do It Again” was the perfect way for Steely Dan to open their first album and show the world the kind of music that they wanted to make; complex multi-instrumental rock that wouldn’t be bound to traditional influences. The latin flavor is strong on “Do It Again,” and I find myself still amazed at the high degree of musicianship and multi-tracking. Listening to it this time, I noticed more backing instruments than before and they’re all playing these absurdly difficult runs. No one else would think it’s necessary, but it adds greatly to the song. A classic song and great start to the album. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Dirty Work: “Dirty Work” is such a weird song and I love it. The slightly distorted vocal harmony that is hallmark of a recording from the late 60s-early 70s is one of my favorite sounds in music. The Dan was well-known for their tight harmonies and this is one of the best ones in their catalog. Having said that, it is also a prime example of the “Steely Dan Problem” though; is it rock or is it pop? Tough to say on this one, but I put it solidly in the soft rock camp. Maybe that’s so I can rate it higher than I would an easy listening song, but if I heard this on a classic rock radio station, I wouldn’t feel like it’s out of place.  Dad’s Rating 7/10

Kings: “Kings” is one of the best hidden gems in Steely Dan’s discography and is gold mine of depth in lyrics and music. There aren’t many groups that would have the courage to do a song comparing medieval kings of England to drug bosses, but the Dan did it! If the comparison flies by, don’t worry because the song still stands up well on its own. It’s got a great, funky feeling to it and some of the best musical performances on the album. It’s one of my favorite Steely Dan songs and one of my favorite classic rock songs. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Midnite Cruiser: “Midnite Cruiser” is one of the least rocking songs on Can’t Buy A Thrill and about the limit for what I can call rockbefore I have to start classifying songs as easy listening. The song is average but it doesn’t make you want to rock out or push the boundary of the weird jazz fusion-rock that the band was known for. It feels more like an average pop song from the early 1970s than anything else but doesn’t quite cross into the realm of easy listening like some of the songs on this record do. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Only A Fool Would Say That: Now this is some elevator/yacht rock! Just imagine it; standing in an elevator in an office building with an instrumental version of this song playing. It fits so perfectly! Besides that, “Only A Fool” is a tight, latin/jazz-fusion inspired soft rock track. This just feels like a very polished piece with some great moments of jazz inspired guitar solos working to accent the lyrics. “Only A Fool” is on the softer side of rock, but it’s a high point for the album. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Reelin’ In The Years: If you’ve never heard of Steely Dan before, please allow me to introduce you to one of their songs that you might know without knowing it. “Reelin’ In The Years” was one of the most popular songs off this record and still receives heavy airplay. It’s a great rocker of a song, but I actually don’t think it’s one of their best. The Dan was known for complex musical arrangements and cryptic, poetic lyrics. “Reelin’ In The Years” feels like it was written to generate singles sales and I feel like it strays from their principles. It won’t stop me from listening to it, but there’s other songs on this record that are better representations of the band. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Fire In The Hole: As a song, I like “Fire In The Hole.” It has an interesting, free-flowing jazz structure in the solos that makes it great to listen to. The question we need to answer here though is, ‘Does it rock?’ Decidedly not. This is one of the problems with Steely Dan; because they weren’t limited by genre, you get some tracks that are great rockers and others that are more suited for easy listening radio. “Fire In The Hole” is in the latter camp. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me): See my comments on “Fire In The Hole.” I actually think this is worse than “Fire In The Hole” because it’s less interesting to listen to. There was some musical complexity to the former that has been replaced with a standard soft folk riff. Skip! Dad’s Rating 3/10

Change Of The Guard: “Change Of The Guard” improves on the last two songs significantly. We have a real rocker here, but it took me a minute to get there. I had to really think about whether this was rock or something else with the forward tambourine, keyboard driven riff and guitar that seems to be more backing vocals than actual guitar, but sure enough it’s rock! This is a track worth listening to in order to better understand Becker and Fagen’s genius and what they wanted the band to be; a laboratory for music. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Turn That Heartbeat Over Again: Skip. This is easy listening and it’s actually dull. It’s not what I expect from Steely Dan and doesn’t fit with the album. This is a real missed opportunity and an unfortunate closer to an otherwise great album. Dad’s Rating 2/10

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.

David Bowie- The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972): 6 January 2020

David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

Happy New Year and welcome to the first YDCS of 2020! We’re one year and going strong here and looking forward to another year full of great music. To start off 2020 we’re kicking it back to 1972 with David Bowie’s loose concept rock opera, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Ziggy Stardust wasn’t David Bowie’s first big hit, that honor goes to Hunky Dory, but Ziggy Stardust make him a legend. Widely considered one of the best albums ever written, Ziggy Stardust tells the story of a bisexual, androgynous alien from space come to save the Earth. The story of the main character of the record, Ziggy Stardust, was written after the album was recorded, explaining why some of the songs don’t always appear to continue the story of the hero.

Ziggy Stardust is a tough album to unpack as it is prototypical glam rock. David Bowie was the leader of a movement with this genre-breaker of an album, and bands like KISS, Mott the Hoople, and Roxy Music can all trace their origins to Ziggy Stardust. Looking back at it, I think the album is generally more culturally significant for making David Bowie a relevant entertainer and pioneering a genre than it was for its own music. The album stands up on its own, particularly on its big hits, but the question we have to ask is ‘Do we like the album because it’s a David Bowie album or do we like the album on its own merit?’ Ziggy Stardust crams a lot of passion and a lot of different elements of rock and roll into a fairly short album that features some great singles. I hope you enjoy the adventure of Ziggy Stardust!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Five Years: I’ll give credit where credit is due, David Bowie knew how to start a record. “Five Years” is a hauntingly beautiful song that immediately capitalizes on the space theme with an ethereal echo that carries through the song. It really sets the stage for a space adventure! My favorite part of this song is the raw emotion in Bowie’s voice though. It’s somewhere between a pleading cry and shout that amplifies through the song. Really a good start! Dad’s Rating 6/10

Soul Love: “Soul Love” takes the album in a funkier, horn-driven direction that wouldn’t work on a lot of albums after a passionate ballad but somehow feels right at home on a space odyssey. It works so well because the soul is present on both songs, just in different ways. Sure, the vocals are powerful on both (more so on “Five Years” than on “Soul Love”) but the soul comes out in the instrumentation here where it comes out in the vocals on the former. Definitely an interesting way to tie two songs together but it works well. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Moonage Daydream: Let’s try to listen to this song outside of the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a minute… Yup. This holds up as a great song even when you do that! It’s the first real rocker that we get to hear on the album and it’s objectively a weird one too. There’s a lot of horn incorporation, a full string orchestra, and big guitar riffs and vocals. It all ties together into a glamorous, shiny song that doesn’t quite feel like it came from Earth. Bowie nailed it. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Starman: If we look at the big hits off Ziggy Stardust they can really be split into “Moonage Daydream,” “Suffragette City,” and this one, “Starman.” “Starman” is my favorite because it shows a more constrained side of Bowie that we don’t get to hear a lot on his record. The instrumentals are really crisp with a very prominent acoustic section and the vocals are insanely difficult but expertly performed. This is a classic rock track that is hard to beat. Dad’s Rating 9/10

It Ain’t Easy: I didn’t initially recognize “It Ain’t Easy” until I got to the chorus, but then it was immediate recognition. I rate this higher than the first two tracks on this album for one reason: Where Bowie only pulled on one source of soul on each of the first two songs, this one relies both on strong, soulful lyrics and a blues inspired guitar riff that elevates it. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Lady Stardust: Holy vocals. Bowie was always known for his singing ability and “Lady Stardust” might be the best example of that on this record. The amount of control and practice that goes into delivering a performance like this are almost immeasurable. Not only is this one of the more popular songs on the record, it’s musically very challenging.  Dad’s Rating 7/10

Star: “Star” is one of the more forgettable songs on the album. It’s one of those that I won’t remember after this review unless I was the world’s biggest David Bowie fan and blends in to a lot of other songs of the early 70s. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t stand out. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Hang On to Yourself: Here’s one of the hidden gems on the record. “Hang On to Yourself” never gets a lot of attention sandwiched between some huge singles, but it’s a great example of the role that glam rock played in uniting old-school rock and roll and the emerging rock sound of the 1970s. This is fun song that’s worth listening to and not glossing over for the big tracks at the end of the record. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Ziggy Stardust: “Ziggy Stardust” is just about everything that I like in a good rock song. It’s progressive and conceptual in the fact that it has science fiction inspired lyrics and gives you the clearest description of the Ziggy Stardust character/David Bowie alter-ego. There are fantastic transitions between lyrical verses and harsh choruses that serve to remind you that this isn’t a song about a normal person, it’s a song about an alien. Fantastic song. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Suffragette City: ‘Hey man.’ “Suffragette City” is such a rocker. I’m not sure how much I can add to a song like this. It’s legendary in its own right and one of Bowie’s most recognizable songs. If you don’t know it then you need to listen to it. If you do know it, then you know what I mean. If this comes on in the car then you’re turning it up. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide: Lyrically, there may be no better way to end an album than with a song about a washed-up rock star. Musically, this is a solid song that is a mix of classic rock and roll and the showman, almost Broadway-like, musical style that Bowie was able to deliver so many songs in, including most of the ones on this record.  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.

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

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

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

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

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.