Kansas- Leftoverture (1976): 17 February 2020

Kansas – Leftoverture (1976)

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

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

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

Rush- 2112 (1976): 3 February 2020

Rush – 2112 (1976)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo. I’ve been saving this week’s album for a while now, unsure of when the best time to review it would be. With the recent passing of Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to him as a person, his artistic contributions, or the band than to review their seminal work, 2112. Written at a low point for the band after the commercial flop that was Caress of Steel, Rush doubled down on creating the kind of music that they wanted to make, knowing that their fourth album may be their last if sales didn’t pick up. The resulting album ended up featuring a 20-minute long masterpiece of Ayn Rand-inspired, collectivist lyrics known simply as “2112.” 2112 was massive success and enabled the band to release more albums, like their most popular release Moving Pictures, and experimenting with just how far you can push rock through the 80s with the heavy incorporation of synthesizers.

2112 is my favorite album, hand down, no exceptions. This album was released during the peak of what we now define as classic rock and incorporates the best elements of albums leading up to this point. The traditional blues rock-inspired classic rock sound was well-established by 1976 and 2112 was Rush’s first earnest attempt to expand on what we can call rock music by incorporating classical and Asian influences, literary lyrics, and playing around with basic strong construction. Songs like “The Necromancer” from Caress of Steel and “By Tor and the Snow Dog” from Fly By Night were some of the band’s earlier attempts at grandiose stories, but everything came into full view on this album. By this point, the band had established their sound and I really appreciate their confidence to release an album this ambitious after the sales issues with Caress of Steel. I think that speaks multitudes about them as artists, their musical abilities, and knowing their audience. 2112 has gone down as one of the most influential albums in the development of prog rock and could be considered the peak of prog. Please enjoy this masterpiece of rock music.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

2112: Overture/The Temples Of Syrinx/Discovery/Presentation/Oracle/Soliloquy/Grand Finale-Medley: “2112” is probably the best classic rock track ever written. It’s hard to know where to start with a 10-minute song like this so let’s start with influences. Lyrically, the song is inspired by the works of Ayn Rand, particularly Atlas Shrugged and Anthem. Neil Peart was always reading and during this period he was particularly focused on the idea of collectivism. Musically, this song pulls influences from across the musical spectrum, sampling William Tell’s 1812 Overture, art rock, and more traditional blues rock with frequent time signature, tempo, and thematic changes. Lyrically, the song tells the story of a man living a in an oppressive society where all knowledge is held by the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx in their vast libraries. When the main character finds a guitar in a cave (new knowledge), the priests deride him and fear the fact that others may find out that the seemingly all-knowing priests are just that, seemingly all-knowing. The song finishes with a planetary invasion by the Solar Federation. This ending is a poignant way to end a song that focuses largely on who has control in a society, the people or the people that govern them, by twisting that and showing that neither of them were really in control in the first place. There’s so much to love about “2112” and I find something new to like every time I listen to it, and I’ve probably listened to it more than a hundred times now. For me, it doesn’t get better than this. Dad’s Rating 10/10

A Passage To Bangkok: I always thought it was hard to stand up to a song like “2112” and be the song to follow it up, but “A Passage To Bangkok” is about as good as you’re going to be able to do. On any other album this might be one of the best songs on the album too! It’s a great classic rocker. The intro with the stereotypical Asian chord progression has aged a little poorly in my opinion, but after a gigantic song like “2112,” what better to do than to follow it up with a song filled with drug innuendo. This is a substantially lighter-toned song than the one that precedes it, but that helps in my opinion. If every song were as thought-provoking as “2112” then the album would have been really heavy. Dad’s Rating 7/10

The Twilight Zone: The opening to “The Twilight Zone” is one of my favorite openings to a song as Lifeson adds depth by increasing the size of the chords. The guitar work stands out the most on this track. It’s iconic and ever-changing. Initially you think this will be a hard rocker with the intro being as powerful as it is, but then the band surprises you with soft vocals and guitar through the chorus to turn this into a howling power ballad. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Lessons: “Lessons” is just a solid rock song. Of course it has typical cryptic Rush lyrics, but the highlights on this song are Lee’s vocal performance and Lifeson’s guitar performance. I think “Lessons” gets overlooked with everything else going on with this record, but Lee manages to deliver an incredible vocal performance that ranges from restrained to wailing and Lifeson creates a superb shred on the axe. This one’s more of a hidden gem and definitely worth checking out if you normally just listen to 2112 for the title track. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Tears: “Tears” is the only proper ballad on 2112. Oftentimes a band will choose to do a power ballad to keep the energy up but still create a ‘down tempo feeling.’ Rush knew that this was a high-energy album and they needed to actually cool things off, and the decision to include a proper ballad to do that was the right decision in my mind. I’ve often commented on how ballads have a tendency to bore me, but there’s something about Lee’s voice that is so hypnotizing that it keeps you listening and hanging on to each word.  Dad’s Rating 6/10

Something For Nothing: The transition between “Tears” and “Something For Nothing” is really smooth, and listening to them back-to-back, you wouldn’t even realize that they’re two different songs. It’s also a really strong finish to the album. The sound of “Something For Nothing” is very consistent with that of “2112” and helps to tie the album together. In a way, it feels like ‘2112 Pt. 2,’ and that’s why I like it so much. As a whole, the album has lots of musical influences, but coming finishing with a song that sound like this feels like re-centering. 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.

Steve Miller Band- Fly Like An Eagle (1976): 14 October 2019

Steve Miller Band – Fly Like an Eagle (1976)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! We’re taking a listen to, what is arguably one of the most influential rock albums of the mid-70s, Fly Like an Eagle by the Steve Miller Band. Prior to the mid-70s, the Steve Miller Band primarily focused on making psychedelic rock music. It wasn’t until the release of their previous album, The Joker, that they started shifting to both a blues rock inspired sound that was common for traditional rock at the time. Some of those early influences are still audible on this album, particularly on songs like “Blue Odyssey” and “Wild Mountain Honey,” but it’s a different kind of psychedelic rock than you would normally think of. This is a more restrained psychedelic rock sound that serves to enhance another style instead of overtaking the album.

Fly Like an Eagle would go on to be one of the band’s best-selling albums, with the only equal being the sequel to Fly Like an Eagle, Book of Dreams. This is often cited as one of the best rock albums ever made for a good reason; this is consistently a very good album. There isn’t a lot of filler, the production quality is great, the songs are dynamic, and they show a wide ability in terms of musical ability. Many of the songs from this record continue to receive heavy airplay on classic rock radio and you’ll find that even if you don’t know the song, you’ll be able to immediately identify the “Steve Miller Sound.” This is a great album and I hope you enjoy one of the greats!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Space Intro: “Space Intro” is a really neat way to open an album. Immediately, you know you’re being transported to another world, Steve Miller’s world, where psychedelic rock, folk, blues, and classic rock come together in harmony. The transition into “Fly Like An Eagle” is seamless too and even carries over into the song. Good start, but I wish it was a little longer. It’s hard to judge a one-minute long song like that. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Fly Like An Eagle: The title song for the album is such a fantastic piece of music. Let’s start with the instrumentals. Miller’s vocals are smooth as velvet and lightly processed to add to the spacey feeling of the song, amplified by the backing synthesizer. The syncopated drum beat during the chorus gives the song a little bounce, despite being a softer song on the whole. “Fly Like An Eagle” is dynamic in its approach to rock music and showcases a versatile style while harkening back to the psychedelic roots of the band. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Wild Mountain Honey: When I first listened to “Wild Mountain Honey” I wasn’t sure that the synth-heavy approach was going to work in the song’s favor, but with the infrequency with which it’s used it only helps to continue the spaced out theme from “Fly Like An Eagle.” I adore the vocals on this song and appreciate the fact that the band realized they were the feature on the song and put them forward. I don’t normally rate slower songs as highly as faster tempo songs (selective bias at play), but “Wild Mountain Honey” has a lot going for it. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Serenade: “Serenade” is the first ‘traditional’ rock song on the album and it’s a good one! If the whole album has continued the psychedelic feeling of the first three songs throughout the album it would have been overwhelming so I’m grateful for a break. Although this is a slightly above average rock song (with extra credit going to the vocal performance) it feels like one of the designated album filler songs. Hey, I wish every filler song could be this good so I won’t complain! Dad’s Rating 6/10

Dance, Dance, Dance: Including a song like “Dance, Dance, Dance” on this record was a brilliant idea. This is a reimagining of a classic folk song, made friendly for rock music. This was re-recorded very well and it fits squarely within the already present blues, psychedelic, and classic rock sounds of the album. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Mercury Blues: I’m a sucker for a blues rock/folk rock inspired rock song, and “Mercury Blues” hits all the notes. Musically it follows a traditional blues structure but tuned a little heavier thanks to the electric guitar. Sonically, it fits really well on this album, stuck between some ballads, some rock classics, and one or two other blues tracks. This is a solid song, but not the best on the album. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Take The Money And Run: This here’s the story ‘bout a guy who writes a blog. “Take The Money And Run” is another one of my favorite tracks that has made it onto my “Tops” Playlist. Maybe I’ll share that one day, but in the meantime, you’ll have to put it together by picking songs out of this blog! I really like the story that the lyrics tell on this song. I can’t often follow the lyrics of songs, but hearing the story about two lovers who go out and murder a gas station owner while robbing him, then taking the money and running is exciting! It’s an easy-to-follow adventure story in song format set to an infectious guitar riff. I almost feel like this song could be turned into a movie, that’s how good the detail in Miller’s storytelling is. “Take The Money And Run” will always be a frontrunner in my favorites. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Rock’n Me: I can’t believe that we go straight from a song as big as “Take The Money And Run” into “Rock’n Me!” These two are legendary rock songs that could have carried their own albums, but we get them on one album together! I’m not as much of a fan of “Rock’n Me” as the preceding song, but I recognize that it’s a solidly composed rock song that shows off the best of the band in a radio-friendly format. Dad’s Rating 7/10

You Send Me: This is one of the most surprising songs that I’ve listened to all year, and I never expected to hear it on a Steve Miller album. Maybe that’s what makes it more surprising. Immediately I get a 1950s doo-wop vibe from the vibrating, layered vocals and soft guitar. This is a peaceful song that manages to stay true to a rock sound by playing the notes and singing just a little more forcefully than normal for a doo-wop song. “You Send Me” is an absolute gem and worth your time. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Blue Odyssey and Sweet Maree: I’ve put these two together because I honestly thought they were the same song at first, and if you listen to them back-to-back, I think you’ll understand why. “Blue Odyssey” is a space-trek in 50 seconds. There’s lots of synth, but the surprising part is the transition into the Delta Blues track, “Sweet Maree.” It feels like you’ve travelled through space to get to a different part of the world and your introduction to this new world is a harmonica solo. I would have never expected that transition to work but it’s fantastic! This is just another example of how the band was able to pull on their early psychedelic influences to make a unique record that flows from one piece to the next. Dad’s Rating 9/10

The Window: I initially expected “The Window” to be a bit of album filler to round out the album, but I suppose I should have known better after having listened to the rest of this record. This is a great soft rock track that balances out every element perfectly. The vocals aren’t too far forward like was done purposefully (and rightfully so) on some of the other tracks, but are instead balanced by little asides on the keyboard and a strong bass line. Now that I’m at the end of the album, I think I can firmly say that this is one of the most enjoyable albums that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year. Stellar album and I’m looking forward to a review of Book of Dreams in the future. 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.

Boston-Boston (1976): 2 September 2019

Boston – Boston (1976)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! This week we’re listening to one of the biggest debut albums ever released, the self-titled album Boston. While not as prolific as their contemporaries, Boston made up for their smaller catalog with incredibly high-quality albums and infectious songs that receive more than their fair share of radio play to this day. Boston was released in the year 1976, and I would posit that this album was one of the two released in 1976 that was responsible for bringing rock music from the outskirts of the music scene to the mainstream, the other being Fly Like An Eagle by Steve Miller Band. Think about rock music prior to 1976 and after 1976. 1976 was acts as a divider between the second generation of rock, led by acts like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix, and the third generation which was characterized by the big arena rock acts like Twisted Sister, Poison, Bon Jovi, KISS, and Van Halen. Although many of the albums from the second generation were chart-toppers, rock started getting more attention thanks to albums like Boston.

Boston is a classic arena rock album and there isn’t a single bad song on the record either. Every song fits together perfectly, one into the next, there’s a demonstrated high level of instrumentation, the songs are dynamic, and they ROCK! The band made extensive use of vocal harmonization, big guitar solos, and backing keyboards that would start to come to the front of rock bands over the next few years as rock started to be influenced by New Wave. Despite this, many of their songs have calm elements that bring the listener through the highs and lows of the song with the band, and this dynamicism is why I think the band is so popular; they illicit an emotional response between the highs and lows from the listener, going from anticipation in the calmer sections to rocking out. Boston managed to put together one of the best-selling debut albums of all time and didn’t drop off afterwards, but this week please enjoy their self-titled debut, Boston.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

More Than a Feeling: We’re starting the album off with a big one, “More Than a Feeling.” This song does what every good debut album should do; give the listener an idea about what they’re going to be listening to! “More Than a Feeling” is a perfect example of Boston’s sound; calm, strummed lows, energetic highs played with big riffs, and vocal harmonization. It all adds up to a big track and a classic rock legend. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Peace of Mind: “Peace of Mind” is one of the best songs on the album. Period. Take everything that was good in “More Than a Feeling” and turn it up to 11. “Peace of Mind” feels like the more refined version of “More Than a Feeling,” and I would be willing to bet that it’s because they sped the tempo up a bit for this song. This is an easy listening, feel-good song that is perfect for blasting on your next car trip when your getting away from it all for some ‘peace of mind.’ Dad’s Rating 10/10

Foreplay/Long Time: Do you remember when I said that “Peace of Mind” was one the best songs on the album, I had to say ‘one of’ because it shares an album with a monster of a song in “Foreplay/Long Time.” This is Boston. This is what they stand for and what they sound like. If you ever had to explain this band to your friend from another planet who’s never heard them, this is the song you play. Musically this song is practically perfect. The long intro teases you along until launching into the first of two massive guitar solos on the song. The strummed choruses provide the perfect amount of breathing room between big (and I mean big) verses. The vocals are blisteringly powerful and only slightly tempered by the vocal harmonies. “Foreplay/Long Time” may just be one of the best rock songs ever written. High highs and low lows, this song takes you through them all. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Rock & Roll Band: “Rock & Roll Band” doesn’t get as much love as the first three songs on the album or the song that follows it up, “Smokin’,” but it rocks just as well as the others. I prefer this song over “More Than a Feeling” to be completely honest. I think the energy is better, both in terms of the vocals and instrumentation, and I think the guitar solo is better. Just my personal preference! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Smokin’: Can you believe that you’ve listened to over half the record already?! That’s the magic of Boston, you lose track of time because of how good the songs are! “Smokin’” is another one of those songs where everything comes together perfectly. As an added bonus, there’s a solid keyboard solo too, which is worth point out since we haven’t heard the keyboard take that leading role yet on the album. This is another top-notch song with that classic Boston sound. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Hitch a Ride: “Hitch a Ride” is one of the weakest songs on the album, and I think it’s because we’ve been bombarded with massive arena rock songs up to this point and a song that’s more of a ballad than a rocker is just a bit jarring. It’s certainly not because Boston’s sound doesn’t translate well into a ballad, because they did a great job of it here, and I can’t fault the track ordering for the first five songs because it’s absolutely amazing the way that it is. The song does build throughout, showing fantastic musicianship to make a ballad interesting and engaging, but I wish it showed a little more catchiness and memorability. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Something About You: If you’ve learned anything up to this point, then it’s don’t trust the first 20 seconds of a Boston song. “Something About You” is a return to that fantastic sound that we’ve heard all throughout the album, but transitions nicely from “Hitch a Ride” with that soft opening. Nothing more to say here, this is another great song! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Let Me Take You Home Tonight: At first, I wasn’t sure how “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” fit into the picture with its Western-style opening, but that’s a great cover for a soft ballad. I much prefer this to “Hitch a Ride.” It addresses all of my complaints about looking for something catchier and more memorable. The western sound actually doesn’t feel that out of place either and is incorporated nicely with a beautiful vocal harmony (one of the best on the album). And it wouldn’t feel right if the song didn’t spiral up into a big finale full of freewheelin’ guitars, so they did it. I’m particularly fond of how this is the closing song on the record. “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” is just about as fitting as they come to close out a record. Well played. Dad’s Rating 9/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

AC/DC- High Voltage (1976): 12 August 2019

AC/DC – High Voltage (1976)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo where, this week, we’re taking a listen to a group that really knows how to rock; AC/DC. Originally comprised of Bon Scott, Phil Rudd, Malcolm Young, and Angus Young, the band went through a few changes to their lineup, most notably the addition of Brian Johnson after the death of Bon Scott and the addition of Axl Rose after Johnson’s retirement in 2016. High Voltage was the first international release by the Australian outfit and contained material from their first two in their home country, the domestic version of High Voltage and T.N.T. High Voltage was met with mixed reviews, with some praising the rockers for their boldness while others called it stupid rock music (paraphrasing of course).

Personally, I see some good and some bad as far as this album is concerned. A lot of the songs on this album were among the first to introduce me to classic rock, but they’re the band’s big songs. Some of the deeper cuts didn’t quite make my cut, and I typically found them to be repetitive and obnoxious when I didn’t enjoy them. Take a listen and see what you think. Repetitive, or a classic rock trope? The choice is yours, enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock N Roll): We start High Voltage with a hit song and a strong start. The anthemic nature of “It’s a Long Way to the Top” struck me as ironic considering its lyrics warn of the difficulty of being a rock and roll act. On the other hand, I also don’t care that much because the song just rocks that hard. I know of exactly 0 other bands that can incorporate a bagpipe into a rock song, but AC/DC did it seamlessly somehow. That creativity is fantastic and shows that they have more to offer than a regular rock band. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer: “Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer” follows a very similar sound to “Long Way to the Top.” This track feels like a continuation of the former and even follows a similar theme. Where the first is a warning about how difficult it is to make it as a rock star, this song is more of a dream and how the protagonist is going to “get to the top.” Musically, this is another song with a classic sound. This is no-frills rock music and the band plays it loud and guitar forward. Big chords, big sound, big song. Dad’s Rating 8/10

The Jack: “The Jack” was one of my least favorite songs on this album. I don’t feel like it shows off everything that the band is capable of and the vocals remind me of Tim Curry’s rendition of “Sweet Transvestite” from Rocky Horror Picture Show. Unfortunately for this song too, it’s almost six minutes long, making it go on forever. Not the band’s best work. Dad’s Rating 3/10

Live Wire: This is better than “The Jack,” but “Live Wire” fails to impress significantly. I can hear bits of what would become “Thunderstruck” in how the major chords are played, so that’s neat to hear the “origin story” of a great song. Ultimately, this is an average, if forgettable song. Dad’s Rating 5/10

T.N.T.: “T.N.T” is an explosive track, one of my favorite rock tracks of all time, and I credit this as one of the songs that piqued my interest in rock music. I love the big riffs, the callousness of the song, the shredding guitar solo, and how un-pretentious it is. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy art, glam, and progressive rock, but sometimes you just need to rock out, and “T.N.T.” is one of my go-to songs. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Can I Sit Next to You Girl: I have mixed feelings about this track. On one hand, “Can I Sit Next to You Girl” is a rocking track. Everything is really solid, the musicianship is energetic and fun to listen to, and at least part of the way through the song, the vocals are great. I like Scott’s timbre (vocal quality) on this track, but I dislike how often the phrase ‘Can I sit next to you girl?’ is repeated throughout the song. It doesn’t add anything and detracts from the listening experience. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Little Lover: I really liked “Little Lover.” This song has a great slow, deep, rolling feeling that is broken up by a hell of a technical guitar solo. The picking section of the solo is really well done, and the slow tempo of the song gives this track such a big sound. The chords are played hard and slow to really emphasize the music. Great song here and definitely worth listening to. Dad’s Rating 7/10

She’s Got Balls: “She’s Got Balls” is one of the better-known AC/DC songs from their early years and it sounds like a continuation of “Little Lover.” I really like when artists manage to make the album flow seamlessly from one track to another. As luck would have it, “Little Lover” and “She’s Got Balls” were two of the first songs written for the album. This song is supposed to be about lead singer Bon Scott’s ex-wife, giving this track just a little more of a personal message. Musically, it’s an average track. The vocals really stand out here with Scott howling the phrase “She’s got baaaaaaalls,” ad nauseum, and that gives me a chuckle every time I listen to the song. Despite average musicianship, it’s a fun song that’s worth a listen. Dad’s Rating 5.5/10

High Voltage: The record closes with its namesake track, “High Voltage.” The band saved one of the best for last, proverbially. This really is a “high voltage, rock and roll” kind of song. The energy that we love to hear from the band is front and center to close the album with great riffs, a big solo, and wild vocals. Turn it up and 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.

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

KISS – Rock And Roll Over (1976)

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

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

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makin’ Love: We had a soft, touching moment on “Hard Luck Woman,” but if you thought that would last for long, your luck has run out. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll right? KISS was good at making songs about two of those things, and it’s on full display here. To be fair, there is a level of musicality on this song that keeps it interesting. Frehley’s guitar work was top-notch on this track, and Criss’ drum work is really different here. I’ve never heard anything like the little rolls he does on each hit before and that’s pretty neat. It’s not the strongest finish to an album I’ve ever seen, but the little things each musician did were enough to push it above average. Dad’s Rating 6/10

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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

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.