Archive for Frank Zappa

Great Rock Albums of 1983: Joe Jackson- Night and Day

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, television, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2016 by 80smetalman

220px-Night_and_day_JJ

What I liked about the “Night and Day” album by Joe Jackson in 1983 was the fact that it was different. While rock was busy dividing and sub-dividing itself into categories and sub categories, including my beloved heavy metal, Joe went out and made an album that you really can’t put anywhere. Of course, as was the style of the time, so called music officianadoes simply called it new wave. That is very lazy in my humble opinion. I just appreciate it the album because it was so unique although the fine musicianship of Joe and his band had something to do with it as well.

My first experience with Joe Jackson came a year earlier with the song many know him best for, “Is She Really Going Out With Him.” Why I never visited any of his previous albums, I’ll never know but it was the “Night and Day” album that made an impression on me. Funny thing is that this album is a contrast to the mentioned song as that song is more of a hard rock tune and this album has definite hints of jazz and combined with some of the sarcasm with some of the lyrics, reminds me a little of the great Frank Zappa.

Let’s start with what many people know, the two singles “Steppin’ Out” and “Breaking Us in Two.” In 1983, a lot of people played the former song before going on nights out and I don’t blame them. It is a great song to get you in the mood. The latter song is more of a ballad type and I get the impression that it’s about a relationship on the rocks. While slower than the other songs on the album, it’s definitely not soppy and is a decent song.

Singles aside, the rest of the album holds up very well. All songs are definitely played very well here. Many of them are piano dominated with his best efforts heard on the track “Cancer,” one of my favourites on the album. He just goes to town on the ivories for the final two or three minutes of the song. Furthermore, I love the assertion the song makes that every thing will be found to cause cancer. The way scientists are going on these days, that song is a bit of a prophecy fulfilled. He also sarcastically sings about television in with “T.V. Age” and “Real Men” was written in response to the emerging gay community in New York. As you have probably guessed by now, I do take a specific interest in albums’ opening and closing songs. For me, they can make or break an album. Both of the positioned tracks on “Night and Day” pass my mark. “Another World” grabs your attention from the start and “A Slow Song” takes the album out on a sublime note. Overall, this album is proof that music didn’t need to be categorized to be good.

Track Listing:

  1. Another World
  2. Chinatown
  3. TV Age
  4. Target
  5. Steppin’ Out
  6. Breaking Us in Two
  7. Cancer
  8. Real Men
  9. A Slow Song
Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson- vocals, pianos, organ, alto saxophone, harmonica, synthesizer, vibraphone

Sue Hadjopoulos- flute, percussion, congas, xylophone, timbale, bells, bongos, backing vocals

Graham Maby- bass, percussion, backing vocals

Grace Milan- vocals

Ed Roynesdal- keyboards, violin

Larry Tolfree- timbale, percussion, drums

Richard Torre- percussion, clave, bongos, cowbell

Al Weisman- vocals

There’s a very interesting thing about the “Night and Day” album. As you go through the list of musicians on it, there’s not one guitar mentioned. Normally, the metalhead in me would scream, “Wot, no guitars!” That leads to another question: How can an album not have any guitars on it and sound this good? The answer is down to the musical genius that is Joe Jackson.

Next post: Golden Earring- Cut

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Great Rock Albums of 1983: Missing Persons- Spring Session M

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2016 by 80smetalman

Missing_Persons_-_Spring_Session_M

Whenever someone says new wave in the 1980s, the first artist to enter my brain is Missing Persons. For me, they were everything I thought new wave was back then. They weren’t hard or heavy like metal but they didn’t sound like a trendy top forty band or even synth pop. They were completely different in a good way. Furthermore, Missing Persons was a band who could actually play well. Then again, any band that features the likes of Terry Bozzio, Warren Cuccurullo and Patrick O’Hearn has to be good. If those names sound familiar it is because these three played with Frank Zappa throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s and as we know, Zappa always had the best musicians playing for him. So it was quite clear that Missing Persons weren’t going to be a Tinseltown Rebellion band that Frank recorded a good parody about.

Before I launch into the fullness of Missing Persons’ 1983 album, “Spring Session M,” I would start with the singles from the album. The first one I heard on the radio upon my return from serving in the Far East was “Words.” My first impression of it was that the lead singer was trying to sound like a fourteen year old girl. At first, I thought it was amusing but listening behind the vocals, I heard the music and it sounded okay. The guitar wasn’t heavy on a bang your head along to it scale but enough to catch my interest. The synthesizers were used very intelligently without taking over. My conclusion was that it was a good song after all. However, the third single, “Walking in LA” has a guitar hook that definitely works and Dale Bozzio’s voice sounds much better on it. The other single, “Destination Unknown” is a more way out there song with some good keyboard hooks. Those were enough to get me to listen to the rest of the album and I wasn’t disappointed.

Dale Bozzio

Dale Bozzio

The rest of the album is as solid as the three singles. The songs are just hard enough to catch the ear of this metalhead and think, “This is okay” and the keyboards and synthesizers are done just as intelligently. Dale Bozio does not sound like a fourteen year old on the other songs, in fact her vocals are quite decent. Her best effort is on the track, “Tears.” However, the rest of the band plays consistently well throughout the entire album. The two opening tracks seem to stand out the most although “Bad Streets” is probably the closest they come to a rocker. It is the heaviest song on the album and done very well and Cuccurullo does hammer out a pretty cool guitar solo.

Track Listing:

  1. Noticeable One
  2. Windows
  3. It Ain’t None of Your Business
  4. Destination Unknown
  5. Walking in LA
  6. U.S. Drag
  7. Tears
  8. Here and Now
  9. Words
  10. Bad Streets
  11. Rock and Roll Expression
  12. No Way Out
Missing Persons

Missing Persons

Dale Bozzio- vocals

Terry Bozzio- drums, backing vocals, percussion, synthesizer

Warren Cuccurullo- guitar, backing vocals

Chuck Wild- keyboards, synthesizers

Patrick O’Hearn- bass, keyboards, synthesizers

If new wave had continued in this direction, I would have been more into it. Missing Persons were talented musicians all as shown in the album “Spring Session M.” Unfortunately, things went down hill fast after this and my musical tastes went in a harder direction.

Next post: AC/DC- Flick of the Switch

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

Great Rock Albums of 1983: Weird Al Yankovic

Posted in 1980s, Humour, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2015 by 80smetalman

220px-Weird_Al_Yankovic_-_Weird_Al_Yankovic

Madness had finally broken through to America and Frank Zappa put out a fantastic album but if there was any more proof needed to forward the belief that 1983 was a good year for humour in music, it would be the debut album of Weird Al Yankovic. In fact, since this year, many people would forever compare Weird Al with Frank on account of their love of humour. So much so, that twenty years after this album, Weird Al would have a track on an album that if you didn’t know any better, you would think it was Zappa himself. As for me though, it would only be the humour and the fact that both are true musical geniuses being the only things they have in common. They have totally different styles.

Hearing the tracks “Ricky” and “Stop Dragging My Car Around” on the radio in the spring of this year would convert me to Weird Al forever and I don’t care if people think I’m sad for it, (some do.) Those songs had me rolling on the floor in laughter and when I heard it, so did the self titled debut album. Nobody, now or then, does parody better than he does. What’s even more impressive is how he is able to adjust to the musical style of the song he’s parodying even if he sometimes does it with an accordion. That’s another amazing thing about him, no one else has been able to employ an accordion in rock songs the way he does.

On the debut album, the parodies come thick and fast. Not only do many of them take the piss out of classic songs, they are also parody other things. Take the two already mentioned. “Ricky” is obviously a parody of one hit wonder Toni Basil’s “Mickey” but it also parodies the old “I Love Lucy” show. Same with “Stop Dragging My Car Around.” Yes, it’s a humourous version of the classic Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks duet “Stop Dragging My Heart Around,” but it also rips on the the culture of towing cars away. Other great ones are “Another One Rides the Bus,” which is a parody of a Queen classic and if you have ever ridden on a crowded bus, then you would appreciate the sentiments on this song. Others great parodies are “My Bologna” which pokes fun at The Knack’s “My Sharona and “I Love Rocky Road,” a dig at the famous Joan Jett and the Blackhearts song. However, not all of Weird Al’s songs parody other songs. Some are just simple digs about other things. “Buckingham Blues” makes fun of the Royal Family. “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead” is a dig at the hippy culture. Then there’s “Gotta Boogie,” let me just say this song has nothing to do with dancing. In any case, unless you have no sense of humour at all, and there are people out there who do, you can’t stop laughing out loud at the songs from this album. Weird Al proves to the world just how weird he is.

Track Listing:

  1. Ricky
  2. Gotta Boogie
  3. I Love Rocky Road
  4. Buckingham Blues
  5. Happy Birthday
  6. Stop Dragging My Car Around
  7. My Bolgna
  8. The Check’s in the Mail
  9. Another One Rides the Bus
  10. I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead
  11. Such a Groovy Guy
  12. Mr Frump in the Iron Lung
Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al Yankovic- accordion, vocals

Rick Derringer- guitar

Steve Jay- bass

John ‘Bermuda’ Schwartz- drums, percussion

Rich Bennett- ukulele, banjo, guitar

William K Anderson- saxophone, harmonica

Joel Miller- bongos

Mike Kieffer- percussion

Dorothy Ramsen- harp

Tress MacNeille- voice of Lucy Ricardo on “Ricky”

Dawn Smythey, Zaidee  Cole, Joan Manners- backing vocals

Weird Al Yankovic, along with Frank Zappa of course, proved to the world in 1983 that humour and music could go together. The debut album from Weird Al continues to have me in stitches each time listen to it.

Next post: DNA- Party Tested

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

Great Rock Albums of 1983: Frank Zappa- The Man From Utopia

Posted in 1980s, films, Humour, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2015 by 80smetalman

220px-The_Man_From_Utopia

If there was any more evidence to further my belief that 1983 was the year for humour in music, then it would have to be the album “The Man From Utopia” by Frank Zappa. For over a decade and a half before the release of this album, Frank had been successfully carrying out a two pronged assault of making some fantastic music while at the same time, making us laugh our asses off with his humourous lyrics. In the late 1970s, listening to Zappa was practically a requirement at my high school. 1983 would be the year that one of his songs would actually get airplay on commercial radio. Before that, his only access to radio play was via the Dr Demento Show. Yes, I know that “Valley Girl” broke into the top forty charts in 1982 but that song will always be associated with his daughter Moon.

Doctor Demento

Doctor Demento

That all changed when one day, while listening to the one decent rock station in Jacksonville, North Carolina, I heard the track “Cocaine Decisions.” Okay, the song never broke the top forty singles chart, but who really cares about that? I just thought it was great to hear Frank on the radio. True, “Cocaine Decisions” is an anti drug song. However, it is not aimed at the common man. Instead it pokes fun at all the high class executives who used to snort. There was a saying back in the 80s that went, “Cocaine was God’s way of telling you that you make too much money.” Frank’s song parodies that.

The rest of the album consists of everything that Frank Zappa has been doing to entertain us for all those years. There are a load of great parody songs on the album. At first, I thought “The Radio is Broken” was going to be about a broken radio. Instead, Frank is being a kind of prophet here. It would only be less than two years later when, in my view, commercial radio started to suck. This song is about that.

Then there’s “The Dangerous Kitchen.” This one takes the piss out of the rising health and safety culture and look where it is now these days. The track “The Jazz Discharge Party Hats” rips on musicians trying to get laid after every gig. However, my favourite track on “The Man From Utopia” is “The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou.” While the song is done with the usual Zappa sense of humour, there is a serious side to it. It’s about a down trodden housewife who gets away but then gets revenge by fleecing men. It is on this track that Ray White’s underrated vocals come out. Oh yes, “Sex” is a pretty funny track too.

If I were to nit pick anything about the album, it would be the absence of Frank Zappa’s guitar playing ability. He doesn’t go into any great solos and it could be said that there is a lack of guitar great Steve Vai’s skills. Honestly, I’m not really bothered. There are three instrumentals, “Tink Walks Amok,” “We’re Not Alone” and “Moggio,” on the album and they all boast the great musicianship from the people Frank gets to play on his albums. I think that “The Man From Utopia” might be his best album since “Joe’s Garage Act 1.”

Track Listing (CD)

  1. Cocaine Decisions
  2. Sex
  3. Tink Walks Amok
  4. The Radio is Broken
  5. We’re Not Alone
  6. The Dangerous Kitchen
  7. The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou
  8. Stick Together
  9. The Jazz Discharge Party Hats
  10. Luigi and the Wise Guys
  11. Moggio
Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa- vocals, guitar, drum machine

Steve Vai- guitars

Ray White- guitar, vocals

Roy Estrada- vocals

Bob Harris- boy soprano

Ike Willis- vocals

Bobby Martin- keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Tommy Mars- keyboards

Arthur Barrow- bass, rhythm guitar, keyboards

Ed Mann- percussion

Scott Thunes- bass

Chris Wackerman- drums

Vinnie Colaiuta- drums

Craig Twister Stewart- harmonica

Dick Fegy- mandolin

Marty Krystall- saxophone

Frank Zappa was still going strong in 1983 as “The Man From Utopia” shows. After all, if 1983 was a year for humour in music to step forward, it wouldn’t have been able to do so without Frank.

I have also made a rather disappointing discovery. As a teen forty years ago, I thought that by now, 2015, wars would no longer exist but there would be ROLLERBALL!

Rollerball

Rollerball

Next post: Weird Al Yankovick

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

 

Great Rock Albums of 1982: Frank Zappa- Ship Arriving Too Late To Save a Drowning Witch

Posted in 1980s, Humour, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2015 by 80smetalman

Frank_Zappa_-_Ship_Arriving_Too_Late_to_Save_a_Drowning_Witch

It was true that Men At Work brought a fresh sense of humour to music in 1982, however, Frank Zappa had been bringing humour to music for nearly a decade and a half before that. In 1982, Frank gave us the album “Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch.” What’s more, this album gave him his only top forty single with the help of his daughter Moon Unit. “Valley Girl” made it to number 32 in the pop singles charts and to number 12 in the mainstream rock charts. It also had many girls and quite a few guys using the lingo from the song. Terms like “barf me out,” “gag me with a spoon” and “groady to the max” were all used quite liberally in 1982 and for the next few years after.

Moon Zappa

Moon Zappa

“Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch” only has six songs on it but they are all memorable ones, usually the case with Zappa. Except for the track “Envelopes,” which is an instrumental, the songs all have that trademark warped sense of humour that he possessed. They also have, the instrumental track included, the precise musicianship that a Zappa album always had. In the case of this particular album, a then little known guitar named Steve Vai makes an appearance, playing what is credited on the album as ‘credited guitar parts.’ What some people sometimes forget and I will keep shouting from the rooftops, is that Frank was a damn good guitarist himself. He really smokes the fingerboard on the title track of the album and does a similar job on “I Come From Nowhere.” In fact, after refamiliarising myself with this album, I am lead to draw the conclusion that with the possible exception of “Joe’s Garage Act 1,” “Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch” has the perfect balance of humour and musicianship for a Zappa album.

Steve Vai

Steve Vai

Track Listing:

1. No Not Now

2. Valley Girl

3. I Came From Nowhere

4. Drowning Witch

5. Envelopes

6. Teenage Prostitute

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa- vocals, lead guitar

Steve Vai- guitar (impossible guitar parts)

Ray White- rhythm guitar, vocals

Tommy Mars- keyboards

Bobby Martin- keyboards, saxophone

Ed Mann- percussion

Scott Thunes- bass (tracks 2,4,5,6)

Arthur Barrow- bass (tracks 1 and 3)

Patrick O’Hearn- bass on the guitar solo on track 3

Chris Wackerman- drums

Ike Willis- vocals

Roy Estrada- vocals

Bob Harris- vocals

Lisa Popeil- vocals on “Teenage Prostitute”

Moon Unit Zappa- vocals on “Valley Girl”

If you want humour and good musicianship, then a Frank Zappa album is the best way to get it. It just so happens that this album hits the right combination of both.

Next post: Utopia- Swing To the Right

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Great Rock Albums of 1981: Frank Zappa- You Are What You Is

Posted in 1980s, Humour, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2014 by 80smetalman

220px-Zappa_You_Are_What_You_Is

It was little secret that Frank Zappa was capable of putting out several albums in a year. Earlier in 1981, he had put out “Tinseltown Rebellion” and then a series of albums called “Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar.” Then later in the year he put out this album “You Are What You Is,” which is probably his best known album for this year. Like with many of Zappa’s albums, the songs are all bound together but not in the way like “Joe’s Garage” as there is no visible story line in the songs.

As expected with any great Zappa album, there is that perfect blend of humour and fantastic musicianship. The album begins with “Teenage Wind” which is a parody about teenage hang ups and right on the heels of that is “Harder Than Your Husband.” This song, with it’s country music sound is definitely a good hoot. The first song that real portrays the quality musicianship of Frank and his band is “Doreen.” While stalwart Ray White proves his underrated vocal ability Zappa backs him up with some great guitar work. I’ve always thought that his guitar talents have gone unnoticed. But it’s not just Frank smoking the fingerboard on this album. Accompanying him is some guitar player known as Steve Vai. You might have heard of him.

The title track was also the first video he ever made and like sometimes with his music, it landed him in some trouble. I guess the portrayal of then president Ronald Regan as the president from hell might have had something to do with it. I just wonder why some people are so devoid of a sense of humour. Following the track “Mudd Club” are two tracks that I really like. “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing” and “Dumb All Over” are both mega swipes at religion and both songs are done with that tongue in cheek Zappa sense of humour. The remainder of the album continues with funny songs until the closer “Drafted Again” which is remake of a song from the early days “I Don’t Want to Get Drafted.”

Track Listing:

1. Teenage Wind

2. Harder Than Your Husband

3. Doreen

4. Goblin Girl

5. Theme From the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear

6. Society Pages

7. I’m a Beautiful Guy

8. Beauty Knows No Pair

9. Charlie’s Enormous Mouth

10. Any Downers

11. Conehead

12. You Are What You Is

13. Mudd Club

14. The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing

15. Dumb All Over

16. Heavenly Bank Account

17. Suicide Chump

18. Jumbo Go Away

19. If Only She Woulda

20. Drafted Again

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa- vocals, guitar, composer

Arthur Barrow- bass

Jimmy Carl Black- vocals

Bobby Harris- trumpet

David Longeman- drums

Ed Mann- -percussion

Tommy Mars- keyboards, vocals

David Ocker- clarinet

Mark Pinske- vocals

Motorhead Sherwood- tenor sax, vocals

Craig Twister Stewart- harmonica

Steve Vai- guitars

Ray White- rhythm guitar, vocals

Ike Willis- rhythm guitar, vocals

Ahmet Zappa- vocals

Dweezil Zappa- vocals

Moon Zappa- vocals

With so many albums under his belt, it was very hard to keep track of everything Frank Zappa produced. Fortunately, for me, “You Are What You Is” wasn’t one of them. This is a very good Zappa album in the tradition of Frank Zappa. Definitely his best in 1981.

Next post: Rolling Stones- Tattoo You

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Rock Albums of 1981: Frank Zappa- Tinseltown Rebellion

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Humour, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 5, 2014 by 80smetalman

 

220px-Zappa_Tinseltown_Rebellion

At this point in time, while we were being treated to all sorts of rock music and the emergence of heavy metal, Frank Zappa was quietly churning out several albums a year. In 1981, he put out three albums and I intend to visit at least one of the other ones as well. However, for me in this year, “Tinseltown Rebellion was the standout album.

Like with the vast majority of his albums, Frank always brings that unique blend of humorous lyrics along with master craftsmen like musicianship. There is plenty of it in this album and the best example is the title track. The song takes the proverbial out of the music scene at the time, (though I still think it’s the case today.) How record companies look more for image rather than substance of music. While the message has a hint of seriousness to it, Frank does it in his usual f*ck you style, which has the listener laughing their asses off throughout the entire song. Many other songs have the same effect, “Love Of My Life” springs to mind as it rips on 50s style teenage love songs. He also reworks some of his older songs like “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” from his time with the Mothers of Invention. As usual, he gets some of the best well known and little known musicians to play with him and he always seems to bring out the best in them. On “Tinseltown Rebellion, guitar legend Steve Vai plays along with some of his regulars like Ray White, Peter Wolf and Ike Willis. So there’s little wonder why the music quality on the album is so high.

Track Listing:

1. Fine Girl

2. Easy Meat

3. For the Young Sophisticate

4. Love of My Life

5. I Ain’t Got No Heart

6. Panty Rap

7. Tell Me You Love Me

8. Now You See It Now You Don’t

9. Dance Contest

10. The Blue Light

11. Tinseltown Rebellion

12. Pick Me I’m Clean

13. Bamboozled By Love

14. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It

15. Peaches III

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa- lead guitar, vocals

Arthur Barrow- bass, vocals

Vinny Coliauto- drums

Warren Cuccurullo- rhythm guitar, vocals

Bob Harris- trumpet, keyboards, high vocals

Ed Mann- percussion

Tommy Mars- keyboards, vocals

Steve Vai- rhythm guitar, vocals

Denny Whalley- slide guitar, vocals

Ike Willis- rhythm guitar, vocals

Ray White- rhythm guitar, vocals

Peter Wolf- keyboards

I have always been a Zappa fan, in fact, I drove some of my marine buddies a little crazy over my passion for his music, although I converted quite a few as well. Frank Zappa has many great albums to his credit; “Tinseltown Rebellion just happens to be among them.

Next post: Rossington/Collins- Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London