Classic: Rainbow, Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll, 1978

rainbow - long live rock n rollIt’s about time I pay some respect to some of my favourite guitar players and singers. Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio (may he rest in peace), a winning combination. And let us not forget the rest of the band with immense powerhouse Cozy Powell (r.i.p) on drums, Bob Daisley on bass and David Stone on keyboards.

Back in the day I bought this album on vinyl and could not stop playing it. After the switch to CD’s I bought it again and still listen to it from time to time.

To me it is textbook material. A perfect guide to making a classic rock album if there is any. From the instant opening riff of the title track, setting the mood, especially after Ronnie letting us know it’s “All Right”… You get melodic choruses, awe inspiring guitar solo’s all over the place, hard rocking riffs like Kill The King, the awesome voice of Dio, more progressive tracks like Gates Of Babylon, slow burning work out’s like L.A. Connection, and a honourable mention of one of rock’s most intense ballads in the form of Rainbow Eyes. I still get goosebumbs to this day, and that song is over 30 years old. Quite an achievement.

Of course the band members have pleased the crowds with a lot more desirable material over the years. And with Dio and Powell gone, and Blackmore playing minstrel, it’s a good thing we have this to remember them by!

Classic: Simple Minds, Sparkle In The Rain, 1983

Simple Minds - Sparkle In The RainSo now on for something completely different; one of my favourite eighties albums by the Simple Minds. I can still vividly remember them playing that famous bass line opening of Waterfront. And then after 7 or 8 seconds the drums kick in with the rest of the band.. Play it LOUD! A magnificent way to get a crowd going if you ask me. Paired with Up On The Catwalk, you have two hammer songs at hand that still bring back a lot of fond memories of that time period. I can safely say that this album is responsible for me still buying almost all of their output, even to this very day. Also special is that 3 members are still on board (I think), besides singer Jim Kerr that would be Charles Burchill on guitars and Mel Gaynor on drums.

But don´t let my first paragraph fool you into thinking that there are only two worth while songs on offer. No, a lot of songs have that drive that hooks you to them, like Speed Your Love To Me or Book Of Brilliant Things. But also a track like East At Easter has that spell binding quality because of that mysterious arrangement with the guitar strumming through the keyboards and bass line, and with a drum focussing on the arrangement rather that the beat.
And yes, the production from Steve Lillywhite sounds like the timeframe this was released in. With a lot of keyboards and guitars being a little blurred, making it hard to hear what is which. But do I care when a record brings a smile to my face every time I hear it?
Great stuff!

Classic: It Bites, Eat Me In St. Louis, 1989

it bites - eat me in st louisOut of the 3 disks this band released in the 80’s, it is hard choosing. They all have that special quality that makes me still enjoy them very much.

The first reason I like this band is their singer, and guitarist extra ordinaire Francis Dunnery (whose solo albums afterwards are very different, but still full of class). His soloing is out of this planet and distinctive. Second it´s the way they were able to melt rock and pop into high quality songs, filled to the brim with musicianship, melody and adventure. Never a dull moment!

Just take a look at the songs on display on this third album, their last studio album with the original cast of FD, John Beck on keyboards and vocals, Bob Dalton on drums and vocals and Dick Nolan on bass and vocals. A lot of vocals in the band, which created wonderful harmonies.

The album starts with a rocking Positively Animal, which sets the mood brilliantly for what is to follow. Track Still Too Young To Remember should have been a number 1 hit all over the world if there was any justice. Humour was never far away in the lyrics of this band, with songs like Underneath Your Pillow or People Of America being more testimony to that. But the absolute highlight of the album to me is the stunning drama that is The Ice Melts Into Water. A true heartbreaking lyric about losing a daughter. And music to match.

At the time the band got some criticism about being too loud at times. I think they were light-years ahead. In recent years the band has been revived and is releasing new material with former fan John Mitchel (o.a. Arena) stepping admirably in the shoes of Francis. Their return is welcome, but please check out their career start.

Website

Classic: Blue Oyster Cult, Fire Of Unknown Origin, 1981

Blue Oyster Cult - Fire Of Unknown OriginFirst, this is a great band, with numerous releases that are candidate. I had a real hard time deciding which album I would use for my Classic series. So after giving it some thought I went for this one.

For those unfamiliar with the band (too many?), Blue Oyster Cult are an American band that have been around since the early 70´s.  They are the self proclaimed inventors of Heavy Metal (live with at times 3 guitar players) and have a thing for alien abduction, occult themes, crazy songs with a great sense of humour (I´m on the lamb, but I ain´t no Sheep, or She´s as beautiful as a Foot come to mind), have at least 2 songs burned into our collective memory (Don´t Fear The Reaper and Burning For You, the latter from this album) and have a guitar wizard (Donald ” Buck Dharma” Roeser) among them who also likes to sing lead when he can. With more vocalists on board, that is not always easy ;-).

The music is not as heavy as one might think. To modern standards this will be considered melodic rock among many. Top songs for me are the already mentioned Burning for You, with that instant guitar riff and catchy chorus, the hypnotizing melodies of Don´t Turn Your Back, the drama of Veteran Of The Psychic Wars or the haunting song that is Joan Crawford. All in all an album that still rotates in my play-list and that never bores me.

For those interested, the other releases I considered were Secret Treaties, Agents Of Fortune and The Revolution By Night. Check all those out and make up your own mind. But frankly, every album they released over the years has a worthwhile quality, even when at times containing a song or 2 that is slightly below par.

Classic: King Crimson, Beat, 1982

KING CRIMSON - BEATMost people will have expected the first King Crimson album In The Court Of The Crimson King. And I fully understand everybody in that respect. That is an absolute cracker, with songs like for instance 21st Century Schizoid Man and the title track being timeless.

But to me, Beat is the one to discuss here. Besides it being the record that got me into King Crimson in the first place, I feel this album sounds as fresh today as it did back then.

The four piece consisting of Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Bill Bruford were creating some very powerful and imaginative music at the time, which has stood the test of time remarkably well.
Whether it´s the groove of Sartori in Tangier (where Tony Levin is beating his stick to everyone´s joy), or the instant addictiveness of Neal And Jack And Me or Heartbeat, or the absolute melting drama of Two Hands (just listen to the voice of Belew and his clean guitar, counter-parted by Fripp´s frippertronics), this album still grabs me by the throat every time I hear it. Needless to say that if music does that to you, it has got to be a classic.

For people unknown to the Crimson King, this album is a good way to start educating yourself. I am sure it will whet your appetite, leaving you wanting more.

Classic: Jellyfish, Bellybutton, 1990

jellyfish - bellybuttonToday´s Classic is this wonderful pop rock album by Jellyfish. Alas a band that lasted for 2 albums only I believe. Ah, where have they gone?

It is rare that you hear an album on which every track has the potency to become a huge hit. That this didn´t happen for this band still puzzles me to this day. Is it the over dramatized flower power imagery?
I mean, whether it is the pop genius of That Is Why or I Wanna Stay Home, the humour of The King Is Half Undressed, or whatever other track you play, this is beautifully crafted music that to this day sounds fresh and mouth watering (…”oh, if only they would still make this kind a music today” …).

Okay, I may be biased because of my love for Beatlesque melodies and vocal arrangements, but it sounds easier than it actually is.

Definitely worth buying (second hand probably) if you don´t already have it!

Classic: Harem Scarem, Voice Of Reason, 1995

harem scarem - voice of reasonWoho, I am on a roll here! Yes another classic album and yes, I can imagine a lot of people thinking I got it all wrong. Those would probably vote for the 1993 Moodswings album.

Well, let me try to explain. I am fully aware that Moodswings is a fantastic album, with a lot of classic songs, that are always played live and are very popular among the aficionados, and count me in. All right, but to me the right choice still is this record. Why?

* it shows the band in top form (not unique, they always are)
* it is another testament of the great songwriters Pete and Harry are (not unique, etc.)
* whereas Moodswings is more mainstream melodic rock, this album displays a more distinct sound
* it serves as the perfect closure for the first two albums
* it serves as a perfect indication of what was to come
* thus it is pivotal!

And that´s it really. I actually like to think the band agrees, as this album got the most songs played on the final concert at Firefest (if I am not mistaking) as was recorded on the Raw and Rare DVD.

So my Voice Of Reason lights a Candle so the Paint Thins and hopes to never be Breathing Sand…. (okay, that was a bit much)

Classic: Gentle Giant, Civilian, 1980

gentle giant - civilianI am guessing this first Classic Album will raise a few eyebrows already 😉

This is actually the first Gentle Giant album I ever heard and I immediately fell in love with it. And I said it before, albums you grow up on, tend to stick with ya and get that aura of being fantastic due to all the memories attached.

Even for the time it was rather short, but I just kept playing the LP at the time. For it´s wonderful choruses, the great use of Hammond by Kerry Minnear, the inventive guitar licks by Gary Green, and the somewhat hoarse voice of singer Derek Shulman. (and to complete the list of musicians involved: Ray Shulman played the bass, and John Weathers drummed). And a lot of singing of course.

And yes, this has little to do with their previous output. So imagine my surprise checking out albums like Octopus, Free Hand or Missing Piece. From where I was coming from (hard rock) that was not an easy task. But I grew into it and have since also developed a taste for quality symphonic music.

But this was close to perfection according to me. On it´s own I regard it a classic melodic rock album with some symphonic influences. In hindsight I understand some of the older fans as well. they thought it was a sell out and hated the band for it.

For me, I still enjoy playing this (meanwhile upgraded to CD) All Through The Night