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

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- 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.

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.