Pink Floyd- Animals (1977): 11 March 2019

Pink Floyd – Animals (1977)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! This week we’re taking a look at one of Pink Floyd’s concept albums, Animals. The five-track album is a critical commentary on the socio-economic and political environment of late-1970s Britain. In particular, the album criticizes Margaret Thatcher’s government and the concept of capitalism through its use of allegory, comparing the different levels of the society to animals in a manner inspired by George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm. The album broadly splits society into three groups; the blind common people led by the pigs (the sheep), the businessmen (the dogs), and the greedy political leaders of the sheep (the pigs). Throughout the album, we hear descriptions of each group of society and what each group stands for. Starting with the dogs, our villains, they are the capitalistic businessmen that “[have} to be trusted by the people [they] lie to…” The pigs are the “big man, pig man.” The band describes them as charades, cheats, and liars multiple times throughout Pigs (Three Different Ones). The sheep are the most dynamic characters who, despite starting out as followers that are keen to “hopelessly pass [their] time in the grasslands away,” ultimately rise up against the capitalist dogs.

Animals is a complex album that could inspire essays on the dissolution of capitalistic societies in favor of socialist ones through the elimination of private business. Musically, this album is some of the band’s best work in my opinion. Pink Floyd began experimenting with new sounds and techniques that enhance the storytelling ability of the record and better frame their ideas. Amongst music lovers, this album is oft-forgotten and overshadowed when placed next to The Wall (Pink Floyd’s next studio album), Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Meddle. I believe this album should be included in those works, not overshadowed by them. Taken in context, Pink Floyd released fantastic concept albums and this is one of them. This review is also not enough to fully explain the intricacies of the record, but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it and maybe find a meaning to it that I didn’t have time to discuss here.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Pigs on the Wing 1 and 2: I’m going to lump the first and last songs on this record into one for two reasons: Firstly, both songs are used to frame the rest of the album, and secondly, musically and lyrically these are one song split into two. Starkly different from the meat of the album, Pigs on the Wing 1 and 2 are the short prelude and epilogue to this story. They are simple songs with complex messages that attempt to convey Roger Waters’ love for his wife and stand against the bleak portrait painted by the middle three songs. Listening to both of these, the overt message that I get from them is that love can overcome anything and that anyone is capable of loving, even Waters, a self-described “dog” in the second part. The song also notes that love can bridge societal gaps and insulate people from stereotypical societal pressures. Having said that, I believe that there may be more than meets the eye to this song as Pink Floyd was never known for making it easy to decipher the meaning of their songs. If you start with the title Pigs on the Wing, it describes a flying pig, in reference to the saying “when pigs fly,” noting an impossibility or something so farcical as to believe it could never occur. Listening to the song, the message is almost spelled out and it’s a simple instrumental accompaniment, almost as if Waters wanted the listener to hear that message, like “sheep.” I believe that the point the band is actually trying to get across with this song is the opposite of the overt message, that even if you love someone, societal norms will often put a stop to it, and getting the chance to be with someone you love outside of your social class, well, you have a better chance of seeing a flying pig.  Dad’s Rating 7/10

Dogs: Dogs is the first introduction we have to the main characters of the album, the predatory businessmen that will do anything to get ahead. There’s a lot to love about this song and it’s not as deep as Pigs on the Wing 1. Musically, this song will give you a little bit of everything to listen to. Some of the highlights for me are the first guitar solo at around two minutes in (I particularly like how Nick Mason used the drums to give a stronger presence to the solo), the funky downtempo portion of the song about halfway through, and the final build towards the end. The opening acoustic guitar carries throughout the song and is used as a transition between different musical themes to tie the whole piece together. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Pigs (Three Different Ones): This isn’t just my favorite song on the album, this is one of my favorite songs period. Starting with the characters, we’re introduced to the political elite in this song, the pigs. In particular, Waters and Gilmour wrote this song as a critique of pro-nationalist, pro-capitalist policies. Musically, Pigs displays some of Pink Floyd’s most experimental work, most notably the use of a squawk box on the guitar during the solo to mimic the sound of a pig snort and a voice modulator during the bridges. Not only did the band re-create pig sounds, they sampled actual pigs before coming in with the squawk box in what I think is an effort to show how close they were to art mimicking life. I can’t say enough good things about how masterfully this song is played, how well everything works together, how it swells or how different licks carry throughout the song giving it continuity. Every bit of this track deserves the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award,” listen to it for yourself! Dad’s Rating 10/10

Sheep: Sheep gets is often overlooked because of its proximity to Pigs on the album and it really shouldn’t be! This is another dynamic song that will hold your attention both lyrically and musically. Starting with the former, the song introduces the third main character, the sheep. The sheep here fill the same role here as they do in the source material, George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The sheep are supposed to embody the common folk who are fed lies by the pigs and preyed upon by the dogs. In this version of events, the sheep rise up to overpower the capitalist dogs, much unlike Orwell’s novel. Musically, the song opens with a great keyboard introduction overlaid over the sounds of birds to emphasize the peacefulness and naivety of the sheep. The guitar steadily builds to a climax throughout the song as the sheep begin to rise up and there are two major solos throughout the piece that allow David Gilmour artistic freedom. I rate this higher than Dogs because I think it’s more musically interesting to listen to and tells a better story than the former. 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.

Eric Clapton- Slowhand (1977): 28 January 2019

Eric Clapton – Slowhand (1977)

This week on YDCS we’re covering an album by Slowhand himself, Mr. Eric Clapton and his eponymous album Slowhand. I was initially hesitant to cover an album by the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (He must have done something right to land there three times right?!), but this album is a case study in how to make a rock album with a little bit of country flair. Did you ever wonder why Clapton is called Slowhand? As he tells the story, when he was playing with his band Cream, he would often break his lightest guitar string while playing because he bent it so much to distort the sound. This required him to change the string on stage, and as he did, the audience would frequently clap slowly (colloquially give him the slowhand) until the string was changed.

Slowhand is chock full of classic rock staples including the aptly titled anti-drug song Cocaine, Wonderful Tonight, which is one of Clapton’s biggest hits, and the sleeper Lay Down Sally. The album takes some elements from country rock that Clapton was particularly fond of (See Eagles- One Of These Nights for more examples) and interspaces them with slow ballads with very little in-between. This is often regarded as one of Clapton’s best albums along 461 Ocean Boulevard. I think the album actually starts off too strong, and by the end, the album feels like it’s missing the same punch that front half has.  We’re…all the way done talking about the album in general, so let’s get to listening. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Cocaine:  Slowhand starts off with a rocking track and one of Clapton’s best-known singles. The guitar riff is deep and infectious, driving home the dangers of cocaine. When he launches into the solo in the middle you can’t help but to play along on the air guitar and it gets even better when there’s the additional harmony from the backing guitar. One thing’s for sure, this song “don’t lie,” that it’s a rocker! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Wonderful Tonight: When you hear the haunting guitar that opens this song, there’s no doubt what it is because there’s no other song that sounds like it. Clapton is so smooth and easy to listen to on this track. This soft ballad has been played at virtually every wedding since the album came out for a good reason, it’s just a beautiful song with an on-point message. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Lay Down Sally: The third track, Lay Down Sally gets a little folksy, and we can see Clapton returning to the country rock roots that he loves to play so much. This infectious song will be stuck in your head and despite being released as one of the singles off the album, never really got the attention it deserved. It’s got great vocal harmony and a great picking technique that Clapton doesn’t show off too much on this album.  Dad’s Rating 8/10

Next Time You See Her: I was surprised with how much I liked this song. It started off and I thought it would be a snoozer and that wasn’t the case. It’s certainly slower than Cocaine or Lay Down Sally, two of my favorite tracks on the album, but Clapton’s vocals really shine through best on this song. His rough voice is a nice juxtaposition to the well-polished instrumentation in the background and makes the lyrics shine through more. Dad’s Rating 7/10

We’re All The Way: This is another classic Clapton ballad but never got the attention that Wonderful Tonight received. It’s a weaker track than the former and doesn’t feature the same haunting guitar hook at the beginning that Wonderful Tonight does. I think that because this track doesn’t feature Slowhand’s ability behind the guitar as prominently it gets left behind.  Dad’s Rating 6/10

The Core: I had never heard this song before starting this album review, and it had me from the first hook. This is the only song on this album where Clapton made heavy use of distortion techniques (listen to the opening guitar riff then listen to the rhythm guitar in the bridges). The Core is also the only song on the album to feature a saxophone solo and it doesn’t feel out of place because Clapton uses it to launch into a blistering guitar solo that really isn’t heard anywhere else other than on Cocaine! I take the rating down 1 point for Marcy Levy’s accompanying vocals on this song. I would have preferred if this was exclusively a Clapton track and I think it would have made it stronger overall. Dad’s Rating 7/10

May You Never: This is just an average song. The lyrics were actually what first caught my attention and it’s more of a wish than anything, praying “may you never” have any number of dreadful things happen to you like “losing your woman” or “get hit in a barroom fight.” If you’ve never heard this song before it’s worth a listen at barely over three minutes long. I think this song is where the album starts to lose its steam because up to this point, Clapton has displayed great guitar playing ability and a wide range of vocal skills that we don’t see from this song onwards. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Mean Old Frisco: Maybe I’m a “Mean Old Reviewer,” but this song is a few notches above May You Never in my eyes but not spectacular. The song has a distinct, bluesy drive to it that is evident in the other songs on the album, but the song doesn’t really start to pick up steam until the solo before the final verse when Clapton can show off. His voice is well-suited for the song and reminds you of listening to classic delta blues music. I only give this a 7 because the song took longer to get going than a fanboat on the bayou that’s missing half of its propeller. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Peaches and Diesel: The lead guitar on this song is a great listen. It’s not overly complex and showcases Clapton’s softer side. The song is very repetitive though and doesn’t swell like I would hope it does. It’s a lackluster way to finish the album in my opinion. 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.

Meat Loaf- Bat Out Of Hell (1977): 21 January 2019

Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (1977)

This week takes us back to 1977 when a man by the name of Michael Lee Aday (professionally known as Meat Loaf) released his first album. Bat Out Of Hell was a unique album upon initial release, and many people had never heard anything like it before. It was initially criticized for failing to conform to easily recognizable musical standards at the time, particularly in the way the songs are structured. Typical rock/pop music of the period followed (and still follows) a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure. Listening to the album, you’ll notice that only the ballads follow that pattern while all the other songs are more structured around the story that they’re trying to tell. Since its initial release, Bat Out Of Hell has become one of the best selling albums of all time and is a quintessential album to blast in the car while driving along the highway and singing along as loudly as possible!

Bat Out Of Hell can best be described as a rock opera and each song on the album can stand alone as its own story. Like last week with One Of These Nights, Bat Out Of Hell is an album about relationships; specifically young relationships and experiencing a relationship and all of the different emotions and stages that come with it. Listen to Hot Summer Night and Paradise By the Dashboard Light for the most clear examples. In the former, the main character gushes about their new partner (read below for why I also might not be!), and with the latter, it explicitly states that the two characters are young. All Revved Up with No Place to Go follows the theme, describing the main characters as a young boy and young girl, in this case referring to teenagers. Give the album a listen for yourself, and I hope you enjoy one of my personal favorite albums!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Bat Out of Hell: Meat Loaf really opened the album like a bat out of hell, didn’t he?! The long instrumental at the beginning gives you a taste of what you can expect for the rest of the album; driving guitars, an amazing intertwining of instruments, passion, and a great story. The only reason I didn’t give this song a 10 was because I think there’s another song on the album that’s more dynamic in its story that maintains the same instrumental quality.  Dad’s Rating 9/10

You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night): The spoken word at the beginning actually ties in to the song quite well and almost makes the song have multiple points of view. Give it a listen and listen to what the main character is saying. The first point of view is from the speaker’s view where the other person in the song is described like a wolf, as evidenced by the lines “you were licking your lips…” and the setting of the song being underneath the moon. This is the same view as the man in the spoken word intro. He’s distrustful of the woman, the cunning wolf. If we flip the viewpoint so that the woman is the main character of the song then the other person in the lyrics is literally the self-described wolf with the red roses from the intro. Besides the interesting play in the lyrics, this is an insanely sing-able song and definitely not one to skip. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Heaven Can Wait: In my opinion, this is the weakest song on the album. One of the positive parts of this song though is the delightful piano accompaniment. This is definitely not a bad song, it just doesn’t hold up next to some of the other ballads on the album like Two Out of Three or For Crying Out Loud. No need to wait for this song. If this is your first time listening to this album, don’t skip it. Listen to it and compare it to the other two ballads and see which one you like most. Dad’s Rating 6/10

All Revved Up with No Place to Go: I think this song will surprise you if this is your first time listening to it. I’m not going to ruin the ending, but this song revs up, and right into Two Out of Three! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad: This is Meat Loaf’s best-known ballad, and this song still receives regular play on the radio. I believe the reason this song still resonates is because everyone can recall a time when they had unrequited feelings towards someone else. This song isn’t lyrically or musically complex, it’s just a great heartbreak song. “I want you, I need you…ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you…”. That’s your two out of three and I give this a…Dad’s Rating 7/10 (a little higher than 2/3)

Paradise By the Dashboard Light: Paradise By the Dashboard Light will throw you for an emotional journey for the entirety of the song. You feel all of the emotion of the main characters, two high schoolers out by the lake trying to find eh-hem “paradise by the dashboard light…”. The instrumentation in this song is fantastic, everything from how the piano starts by driving the song forward to playing a “call and response” in the back and forth between the two main characters. There’s creative use of baseball commentary and such a compelling story that make this song our second “They don’t make music like this anymore Award” Dad’s Rating 10/10

For Crying Out Loud: I’ve always skipped over this song when I listened to this album in the past and ended with Paradise, but for crying out loud, I wish I hadn’t! This really is a great ballad that’s really easy to listen to. The buildup through the song is great and the piano accompaniment is beautiful. I’ve never heard an album be self-aware before, but Meatloaf makes reference to all of the other songs on this album in this song as a closing remark of sorts. See if you can catch them all! 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.

Steely Dan- Aja (1977): 7 January 2019

Because this is the first blog post for this series, I wanted to take a few lines of code and explain what the effort is all about. Classic Rock. Most people can listen to it, enjoy it, and really have no gripes if someone puts it on. With many modern genres that’s simply not the case. Have you ever been in a car with someone and asked what to put on? One person will say, “I like country,” and the next will say, “I only listen to rap and hip/hop,” before the driver (who should really be focused on the road and not the conversation in the back seat anyway) says they like Top 40. Nothing is wrong with any of these genres! Every single one has their merits, but it puts the person riding shotgun in the awkward position of putting something on that will please one person but not the rest. Fortunately, classic rock is here to save the day and most people can shrug and say, “yeah, this is alright.” Little do they know, that not all classic rock is made equally. For every Led Zeppelin, there’s a Warren Zevon that excludes Werewolves of London. For every Creedence Clearwater Revival, there’s a Mudcrutch. Your Dad knew this, and he knew the best albums to listen to. This blog will highlight his favorite albums and break them down track-by-track so you know which ones are hot to trot and which ones should stay on the B-side.

Steely Dan – Aja (1977)

For the first installment of Your Dad’s Car Stereo, why not start with an album that Dad hasn’t taken out of the car since he was a teenager. This album is arguably one of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s biggest hits and one that has captured easy listening radio since it was released with the singles Deacon Blues and Peg. This album is so smooth that it will make you pine to be in your mid-50s, spending your savings on a family boat to take out on the river on the weekends, and flipping on the easy listening station that will inevitably play one of those two songs. Steely Dan expertly interwove a brass section into almost every song that they produced and you can hear it on every track on this album. The saxophone and trumpet solo halfway through Home at Last is one of the best on the album and the whole song has an up-tempo jazzy feel that could give Kenny G a run for his money for re-playability.

I actually split this album into 2 distinct portions when thinking about the theme, “Mid-life Melancholy” and “We’re actually in our 20s so let’s party.” The album isn’t even when it comes to separating these themes either. They don’t alternate, they don’t front-load the album with one while back-loading with the other. The songs are just there. They exist, not to tell a story, or criticize, or to make a theme important, just for someone to listen to and notice that the albums weaves between the two, therefore interweaving the themes. It shows that age is just a number and whether you fall into the first camp or second camp by birth order, what really matters is how you take what you’ve been handed right now and what you do with it.  

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Black Cow: The song builds throughout, starting with a steady drive, leading to a decidedly gospel feeling to emphasize the ends of sentences and throughout the chorus. The saxophone solo at the end is worth waiting for. Keep waiting for it! I think the album really gets warmed up at this point. Black Cow isn’t a bad song by any means, it just doesn’t stand out from the others. Dad’s Rating: 6/10

Aja: Cryptic lyrics with music that reminds me of something that would play in a cocktail lounge. You don’t find vibraphone solos in many songs, but this one does it right! The drum solo at the 5-minute marker sounds like that Tarzan guy playing there sport! Dad’s Rating: 7/10

Deacon Blues: I don’t want to be called the Crimson Tide after hearing this! I’m sure Nick Saban listens to this song when he gets ready to beat Auburn for the n-th time since he was hired (We don’t strongly support either team here on YDCS, just stating a fact). Man, that guy can coach some football, and man does this song play! Check out the saxophone solo halfway through the song. It makes me want to slowly slide on some sunglasses real cool-like. Dad’s Rating: 8/10

Peg: This is the most radio friendly song on this album and was one of the singles for a reason, it’s got classic Steely Dan drive, a great guitar solo, a unique horn riff to break up the verses, and vocal harmony to give the chorus depth. I think I’ve heard this song in every waiting room I’ve ever been in it’s featured so heavily on the radio. Dad’s Rating: 8/10 (I almost took a point off for making me remember that one waiting room where the doctor was going to…you know what, never mind.)

Home At Last: JAZZ. AT LAST. FUNKY JAZZ. ‘nuff said, but I’ll say more anyway. The solos on this track go all over the place for a classic rock album and, musically, there’s nothing to fault. Listen to this on my hi-fi system kiddo and take in the mastery of the Becker and the Fagen. Dad’s Rating: 9/10, only because I was too busy listening to the sweet, sweet jazz to rate the lyrics.

I Got the News: Solid song. It’s really bluesy and funky. The vocal harmony about halfway through the song sounds similar to the Doobie Brothers in the 70s. The first part that I don’t like is that the story is difficult to follow. There are also too many solos to effectively bop your head to in the car to go pick up more mulch at the outdoor homestore on a Saturday afternoon. Dad’s Rating: 7/10, 8/10 for the vocals and funk, 6/10 for the story and solos that wander away more than you instead of helping me carry these bags of mulch.

Josie: I’m not a fan of breaking the law like Steely Dan wants to do “when Josie comes home”, but the level of funk in this song should be illegal. This is the closing track on the album and closes it out with the same jazz-rock fusion that carries the rest of the album without skipping a beat. The opening guitar riff sounds like the start of one of those action movies you like to watch. You should do something more productive than watch those movies all day, like carry these bags of mulch to the garden for me. 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.