B&V’s 12 Favorite Old School, Vinyl, Single- Album Greatest Hits LPs – The Struggle Was Real

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I was never a guy who watched the music charts. As a decidedly rock n roll guy and not a “pop” music fan I didn’t look to see who had the number 1 song in the world, or any place else for that matter. What was popular didn’t matter to me. What rocked absolutely mattered to me (and still does)! There was one true rock n roll station in Kansas City at the time, KY102 and they didn’t play “hits.” The hits were all to be found on the pop station, Q104. My brother was diverse enough he’d listen to both stations, but I was all rock n roll, all the time… once I eventually got into music. My parents would play the Casey Kasem show American Top 40 on Sunday mornings on the way to church in an attempt to mollify my anger at having to get out of bed, bathe and go to Mass. I had gotten into music and I guess they thought playing pop music would soothe the savage (and apparently heathen) beast. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. Listening to pop music on the way to and from church was as close as I got to knowing anything about the pop music charts and what was popular. And yes, for those of you who missed him, Casey Kasem was even cheesier than you might imagine.

That all being said, even as a vinyl guy, I find myself going out to buy music on different platforms. I have a room full of vinyl, CDs and hard drives full of MP3’s. Every now and again I’ll find myself going out to Apple Music to buy a stray song. I recently bought the song “Soulmates to Strangers” by Joan Jett because while I dig her, I just wanted that song. I’m not “that” into her that I considered the entire LP… but I’m getting off topic here. On those occasions I’m out on Apple buying a single song, I find myself glancing at the “TOP SONGS” and “TOP ALBUMS” on the “Rock” home page. I can’t help myself. I’m always curious to see what people are buying. “TOP SONGS” doesn’t really interest me, although occasionally I do find some stray tune on the list I like but my eyes almost always head to “TOP ALBUMS.” The list of top LPs usually includes a few heavy metal titles – like really heavy stuff (keep rawking people!) – but invariably the list is dominated by greatest hits albums. Whether it’s Journey, CCR or the Eagles, it’s always a who’s who of classic rock “best of” compilations. At first I was surprised, but when I think about my own early experience collecting music, I totally get it.

I had my “rock awakening” somewhere around 1977 or 1978. The first LP I ever purchased was the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls and after that there was no turning back, I was hooked. Rock n Roll as an art form was a good twenty to twenty-five years old by that point. Granted the famous rockers from the 50s had all “aged out” by the time I was into music. Listening to 50s rock n roll was like watching old, grainy, black and white footage of baseball in the 1920s… jerky movements and small hats with big gloves. Even Elvis was on his last legs and eventually passed away in awful fashion. I did have a connection to that 50s music. My father had a wire rack full of old singles from Elvis, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles. It was hard to listen to those early Elvis singles (that I loved) and being able to connect that visceral, powerful music that sounded like life itself with the Elvis who died at the end.

If I put aside the 50s and limit the life of rock to 1963, the year “Love Me Do” by the Beatles came out, that’s still a good 15 years of rock n roll I had to catch up on. There was soooo much great rock n roll already extant and it was all I could do to keep up with stuff that was being released currently. How was I ever going to catch up and build a decent record collection? And lets not forget, at the time I was in middle school (or as we called it, Junior High). It’s not like I had a “9 to 5” job down at the bank that paid me a whole bunch. I got a pittance for an allowance from my folks. Most of my spare change went toward buying LPs from the rock groups who were then current. Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door, The Who Face Dances and Springsteen’s The River were all early purchases. That last one, the Springsteen record, was particularly dear as it was a double LP which was always a huge investment. Obviously, each of those groups (and so many others) had a rich history and big back catalogs. What’s a (relatively) poor boy to do to build a record collection of the music he loved?

As a young collector who couldn’t afford to buy all of the Beatles LPs, I did what we all did back then, I turned to greatest hits collections. You must remember that this was long before the 2-CD, wonderfully curated greatest hits packages that I see listed on the Apple Music “TOP ALBUMS” list. There was no Depeche Mode Singles 86 – 98 or Scorpions Deadly Sting. Sure, there were some double LP greatest hits packages out there – the Stones Hot Rocks and Neil Young’s Decade (which was actually 3 LPs) spring to mind – but double LPs were more than my tiny budget could afford. Even after I started working mowing lawns or busing tables I was leery of buying double LPs, greatest hits or otherwise… Pink Floyd’s The Wall was certainly a rare exception. Cassettes helped – I taped my brothers’ Hot Rocks and my parents Beatles’ 1967-1970 aka The Blue Album but I really had limited access to other people’s collections. There was no file sharing unless you count passing cassettes around.

I turned, as most of us did, to buying single-LP greatest hits collections. They never really contained every song I wanted or liked from an artist – they were rarely a complete picture of the artist’s catalog – but those greatest hits albums were the foundation of my early record collection. If I liked the greatest hits album I’d slowly delve deeper into the artist’s catalog until the greatest hits package became, well superfluous. Over the years as my collection grew, I divested of many of the greatest hits packages from those early days. But I wish I hadn’t. I loved so many of those albums. If the album was sequenced right, with a healthy dose of great tunes, it was almost like an original… Sometimes there was a bonus track you couldn’t find anywhere else or a single that hadn’t been released on an album up to that point. Those were always great to have. I thought I’d share the 12 “best of” albums that were my favorites. I’m sure some of you out there owned a few of these?

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  • The Doors, Greatest Hits – This LP got my entire generation into the Doors. It’s iconic to folks of a certain age. There were longer (double-LP) and perhaps better greatest hits albums from the Doors but this was the one we all owned. It was short but it had all the highlights. The biography of Jim Morrison No One Here Gets Out Alive also came out around this time and we all wanted to be the poet rebel. If I was ever in trouble I gave my fake name as Ken Morrison as an homage.

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  • David Bowie, Changesonebowie – Bowie was intimidating. He’d gone through so many stylistic (yes) changes I didn’t know where to start. This was the perfect primer for me on Bowie. I actually still have this one on vinyl. From “Space Oddity” to “Changes” I realized I dug Bowie. I had already purchased Let’s Dance and this album made me realize I’d only scratched the surface.

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  • Paul McCartney, Wings Greatest – This had a bunch of non album tracks like “Mull of Kintyre” and “Junior’s Farm” and it came with a cool poster that I hung on my wall. It was only the tip of the iceberg of McCartney’s post Beatles 70s work but man I wore this thing out. At the time I only owned Band On The Run and the then current Tug Of War and I thought this rounded it out nicely… I had so far to go.

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  • The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 – This album had a ton of their best tracks from the pre-Hotel California Eagles. As a youngster Hotel California was really all I cared about from the Eagles, but they had so many great songs, this LP, one of the biggest sellers of all time was a must have.

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  • Aerosmith, Greatest Hits – I actually bought their Live Bootleg LP thinking that it had more of their big songs on it. I love live LPs, but Live Bootleg was pretty raw. I ended up going back for this LP to augment my Aerosmith collection. The songs were edited but this was the perfect cassette for the car. The Rock Chick had this on CD when I met her and I knew we were destined to be together.

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  • The Who, Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy – Sure, I had Face Dances and I even plunked down the cash for Who’s Next but I couldn’t afford to go back and chase all these great early Who tracks down. The critics hoped for more unreleased stuff but I loved this record. It’s a perfect collection of early singles. And “Pinball Wizard” was on this album and I couldn’t afford the double-LP Tommy.

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  • Elton John, Greatest Hits – We were all a little leery of Elton – was he a pop or did he rock? Yes, of course he rocked. This was the perfect introduction to his vast catalog. I don’t know anybody who didn’t own this record. It wasn’t until I was in college, after I’d seen him live that I delved deeper into his catalog.

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  • The Doobie Brothers, Best of the Doobies – I was a huge fan of the Tom Johnston era of the Doobies but I had no idea where to begin… this was the place. While I’m one of the few people I knew who were into the Doobies in the late 70s, I really liked this record. And it was better than Minute By Minute which everyone owned but no one admitted they owned.

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  • Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits – Believe it or not, my first Dylan album was Slow Train Coming, his first in the “Christian Trilogy.” I dug his lyrics (that really was poetry) and wanted more but didn’t know where to start. So I started here. It was the only LP with “Positively 4th Street” on it… a song I love. “Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, You’d know what a drag it is to see you.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that about someone.

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  • ZZ Top, The Best of ZZ Top – ZZ had emerged from a short hiatus with Deguello an album I still just love. This was a perfect sampling of all their stuff prior. It had everything from “La Grange” to “Tush” which was a perfect for me at the time. I finally ended up owning all of their early records (except Tejas) so I sadly parted ways with this one. It was a great introduction to everything that had come before Deguello.

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  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Smash Hits – I had no idea the Hendrix Experience only had 3 LPs… if I’d realized that I probably would have just bitten the bullet and bought them all in high school. But I did love this album. It had “Stone Free” which wasn’t on any of his actual albums. And as mentioned, I always loved a stray single finding a home on an LP.

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  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, So Far – I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know this was a greatest hits LP when I bought it. It was the only album I could find “Ohio” on at the time and therefore I thought it was just a studio LP albeit an amazing one. It was indeed a great sampler of their biggest tracks but again with only 1 or 2 LPs to buy I could have foregone it… but I’m glad I didn’t. It wasn’t until college when my roommate Drew turned me on to CSN (Y) that I started to collect their first few LPs including Deja Vu.

I’m sure all of you out there had that LP or cassette of a greatest hits package that you just loved. Nothing that was exhaustive or complete but just a great record you liked to listen to at full volume on the headphones in your bedroom when you got home from school or in your car with the windows down (or if you had money maybe with the T-tops off. What were your favorites from back in the day? Let us know in the comments section.

I hope you all enjoyed this little stroll down memory lane! There is nothing wrong with owning a greatest hits package. It’s a great way to build up your collection. And like me, if you find some gems you weren’t aware of perhaps it’ll lead you to an LP you’d only paged past. To me greatest hits packages serve two great purposes – 1) it builds your collection, especially if you’re not so into the artist you wanna buy all their LPs and 2) it serves and a good introduction or primer into an artist’s catalog. You can’t lose.

Cheers!

Review: Dirty Honey Rocking Out On Their Self-Titled Debut LP ‘Dirty Honey’

My friends, I’m pleased to say, rock n roll is definitely not dead. If you’ve got anybody in your life telling you it is, just say, “Dirty Honey, baby.”

There were two albums that I was really looking forward to for 2021. The first was from Greta Van Fleet, The Battle At the Garden Gate which, I’ll admit was a bit of a disappointment. Although, upon reflection I will admit that perhaps it was merely a case of their reach exceeding their grasp. The second new rock band I was looking forward to seeing an album from was Dirty Honey. Their new, self-titled album dropped just last Friday.

I discovered Dirty Honey in, of all places, an issue of ‘Classic Rock’ magazine last summer. The pandemic and its ensuing lockdown had me bored to tears. And, while I like to think I’m a highly motivated person, fear and boredom are the only things that really motivate me. Boredom drove me to the bookstore, with my mask on, to discover magazines I’d never heard of: ‘Classic Rock,’ ‘Uncut’ and a few others. I bought the ‘Classic Rock’ magazine because the reunited Black Crowes were on the front cover and I was dying to read something other than books on history. I was starting to feel like I was in college again. In ‘Classic Rock’ I saw nothing more than a blurb about Dirty Honey but it was enough to get me intrigued. I couldn’t help but remember all the bands I discovered in my 20s when I was reading ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine… back when they still wrote about rock n roll. Now all I see in that magazine is articles about this Billie Eilish. She seems fun…

Upon discovering Dirty Honey last summer I quickly snapped up their EP, also creatively named Dirty Honey – EPI connected with that EP immediately. The track “Rolling 7s” has remained in high rotation here in the B&V lab and in my head. I hear the lyric “When you need a little lovin’, All night long” in the back of my mind yes, all night long. Dirty Honey is a classic 4-piece rock band. They even have a cool, Stonesy type logo. The band was a riff heavy rock band with a mix of hard rock like GnR, possibly even some AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and I do hear shades of Aerosmith. I’m not suggesting anything derivative here, it’s just that’s the best way to give you a frame of reference. I knew Dirty Honey (Marc Labelle, vocals; John Notto, guitar; Justin Smolian, bass; Corey Cornerstone, drums) were working on their debut LP and thought we’d hear from them in 2020, but I’m sure release plans were affected by the ‘Rona.

I’ll start off by saying Dirty Honey absolutely rocks. This may be my summer go-to rock album this year. The record starts off with the first single, “California Dreaming'” reviewed earlier on B&V. It’s a great crunchy rock opener. Possibly my favorite song on this album is “The Wire.” I played it for the Rock Chick and she looked up and said, “This is really good…” Indeed. “The Wire” has Labelle’s most impassioned vocal and I love Notto’s riff and solo. “Tied Up” gave me a slight G’n’R vibe. I love the chorus, “I love the way you move, so tied up, I love the way you touch me.” I love the riff on “Take My Hand,” its punchy like Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.” “Gypsy” is another great, urgent rocker. It’s filled with all the wanderlust the title implies. “Gypsy” probably has Notto’s best solo. Again, I love the chorus, “I’m on the run, living like a gypsy.” The choruses these guys come up bore into your brain. 

This is just a fun rock n roll album. It kind of reminds me of those early, classic Aerosmith LPs, nine songs long, all rock. They do mix it up on the last track, the bluesy “Another Last Time.” It’s also a competitor for my favorite tune. They add some keyboards for texture on this track. How can you not love a song with the lyric, “used me up like a motel room”? It’s a classic, I know you’re bad for me, but I can’t resist another go-round… which if you knew me before the Rock Chick, you’d know that is a vibe I’m deeply familiar with. 

Dirty Honey gets a strong thumbs up from us here at B&V. Or rather than thumbs up, maybe a strong “devil horns” up. This is one to turn up really loud with a tumbler of a fine sour mash. I like to think of it as music to scare the neighbors with. Give Dirty Honey a listen and I guarantee they’ll get you up out of your chair! 

Cheers! 

Third Time’s The Charm: The Artists Whose Third Album Was The Breakthrough

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*Only 5 LPs photographed because most of your intrepid blogger’s property is still in storage…

I don’t know if this is true or not, but it sure seems like bands have a lot more avenues to get their music out these days especially when compared to how they used to do it in the 70s or 80s… I’ve been sitting in the cheap seats watching my friend Drummer Blake work to establish his latest band the Sunset Sinners and those guys are a marketing machine. I don’t think they’re any different than any new band out there today. There are so many tools at a band’s disposal. Bands now have YouTube where they can release videos of live performances or just old school videos like Dirty Honey‘s latest. There’s so much more a band can do with social media today. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter new bands have a way of communicating directly with fans so when a record company comes calling, the band already has a built in fan base that can literally span the globe. And now with Tik Tok that social media reach may have even gotten broader… at least that’s what my friend James tells me, he loves Tik Tok. I’m only on a few social media platforms and Tik Tok ain’t one of them. Not yet anyway. I only got on Instagram to follow the bands I love…well that and to watch videos of cats and dogs doing adorable things. I’m like everyone else in that regard. 

In the old days a band’s social media consisted of the guys in the band wandering around downtown stapling cheap copies made at Kinkos to telephone poles to announce a gig. I think there was a scene in Motley Crue’s ‘The Dirt’ where they’re doing just that which had to be hot and exhausting in all that spandex. Typically to start a band a few like minded musicians who liked the same music might huddle together in a garage and start playing cover tunes. After a while and usually a few line up changes – often that involved someone answering an ad in the newspaper like Ace Frehley – the band might start doing gigs in front of actual people, not just distressed family members. A school dance here, a keg party there, it all helped the band to start to create a following. The band’s repertoire would expand and eventually they’d start to create their own, original music. Eventually some enterprising bar owner would let the band play on their stage… or perhaps give them a residency. Maybe Gene Simmons would show up and pay for a demo tape like he did for Van Halen…probably not but somehow  demo tapes would get made. If fortune and luck shone on the band, a record company would extend a contract… Oh, and a manager probably showed up somewhere in this process to take 10%.

When the record company would offer the band a contract you’d think all their dreams were answered. It’s the Cinderella story. Record companies today seem to only want bands who can deliver that mega-million dollar selling debut LP. Maybe record companies have always been that way? But for some bands that debut album fails to connect. Not every debut can be Boston or Appetite For Destruction (Pleased To Meet You… The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums). Some really classic debut LPs from the world’s biggest bands have been commercial failures. In meetings, the record company guys all act supportive, but the pressure is really on now. To make matters worse, there’s the sophomore slump that hangs over a lot of bands. Bono, in his Rock Hall of Fame speech was talking about being in a band and described the 2nd album (and he was speaking generally) as “the difficult second album.” The old saying, “You have your whole life to write your first album, and only a few months to write your second,” holds some truth. Even for bands whose debut LP had a hit single or two and sold well, a weak second album only brings more pressure. And there are a lot of weak second albums out there… U2’s October is a prime example. 

For a band whose first two albums hadn’t sold in big numbers, I can only imagine that the third album was a “make or break” situation. Today, I don’t think any current label would keep an act longer than two LPs if neither sold well. We live in an instant gratification world, and if a band’s first or second album doesn’t explode, it’s time to move on. Back in the 70s and even the 80s, record labels seemed to be slightly more patient. They would let a band develop, mostly by playing a shit ton of concerts on the road, but also in the studio and as songwriters. Sometimes all that was needed was a new producer. Maybe the band tweaks the line up. It just felt, without all the social media to help build in that fanbase, that record companies back in the day gave artists’ more time or a little more leash, if you will. 

Some of the world’s most renown artists took an entire three albums to break into that world wide fame and commercial success. If these bands were coming out today I’m not sure any record company would have stuck with them until that third album and that would be a damn shame. Here is my list of phenomenal third records that made the bands who recorded them famous. I consider each of these records essential rock and roll listening. 

Aerosmith, Toys In The Attic

While Aerosmith had the hit “Dream On” on their debut, the album didn’t make a dent. They moved in together so they could rehearse constantly and brought in renown producer Jack Douglas for their second LP Get Your Wings, which sold better. At that point Aerosmith became road warriors. They toured incessantly behind the 2nd LP which helped build their fan base but also improved their songwriting and chops. With the big singles “Walk This Way” (later redone with Run D.M.C. during their “comeback”) and my favorite “Sweet Emotion” Aerosmith became superstars. This, to me, is Aerosmith’s peak album. Even the deep tracks like “Uncle Salty” and “Adam’s Apple” kick ass. I love the first two Aerosmith LPs, but I can understand how this is the one that broke them wide and far. It’s telling that they re-released “Dream On” during this time period to try and boost sales of that debut. 

Lenny Kravitz, Are You Gonna Go My Way

While Lenny’s debut is now considered a classic, you never heard much of it on the radio. Every woman I met in the 90s, even casually, put his debut on for me to hear. Despite his unending support among 20-something aged women, his second LP, Mama Said was pretty much invisible. Then suddenly, the title track of this album exploded on to radio and MTV with an iconic video of Lenny rocking in a circular room and flinging his dreds everywhere. There are so many classic tunes on this album – “Believe,” “Heaven Help,” “Black Girl,” and “Just Be A Woman” to name a few. Yes, Lenny tends to wear his influences on his sleeve, but he distills all of them into a fantastic album here. I’m not sure he ever did anything as good as this essential third LP. 

No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom

I had no doubt back in the day that I didn’t like this band. Then the Rock Chick took me to see them live on their reunion tour and I was blown away by them. Guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal, and drummer Adrian Young were lean and muscular. I wasn’t prepared for how hard they rocked. Front woman Gwen Stefani who went on to totally disappoint me on her solo career was charismatic and energetic on stage… I was mesmerized by her performance…but I’m getting off topic. After that show, I went out and bought all their albums. Their eponymous debut LP got zero support from their record label and they asked to be dropped from their contract which the label refused to do. Their 2nd album, Beacon Street Collection can be thought of as songs about hating their record company. Finally on the third LP, they pierced the grunge consciousness of the era with Tragic Kingdom. Listening to this LP all these years later, it’s a staggering leap forward from the first two records. “Just A Girl” is a woman’s empowerment anthem for the ages and it actually rocks. From that to the ballad “Sunday Morning” this album is just about perfect. 

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Damn The Torpedos 

Petty’s first two albums had classic songs and hits – “Breakdown,” “American Girl,” “I Need To Know” and “Listen To Her Heart.” Listening to those albums today you could tell this was a band who was on the verge of breaking big. Damn The Torpedoes was that quantum leap forward and coincidentally the first Petty LP I ever purchased. My brother had it before I even did. “Here Comes My Girl,” “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee” were all monster hits but I like some of the deep tracks. “Even the Losers” (a personal anthem) and “You Tell Me” are stellar. I even dig “Louisiana Rain.” One of the greatest albums of all time. 

The Police, Zenyatta Mondatta 

Maybe some day someone will explain the title to me… I was in junior high when the Police’s debut album Outlandos D’Amor came out. We all loved “Roxanne.” I remember singing it like Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours, loudly, high-pitched and out of tune in study hall much to the chagrin of the teacher in charge. Outlandos was a classic despite the French title, but I didn’t know anybody who owned it. The second album, Regatta De Blanc boasted the hits “Walking On the Moon,” and “Message In A Bottle” but it didn’t seem to resonate with as many people. Frankly I thought both those tracks were on the debut. After a world wide tour, much like Aerosmith, that honed their playing and songwriting skills they returned with Zenyatta Mondatta and suddenly everyone was on the Police bandwagon. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” about the nonsensical nature of speeches by politicians, teachers and lawyers was the first single and despite probably not understanding that, we all loved that song. I think my friend Doug saw the Police on this tour. Every song on this album could have been a hit. Between the Police and Aerosmith I think it could be argued every new band should be sent on the road for at least a year to play as many shows as they can. 

Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run

Springsteen’s first album Greetings From Asbury Park is now seen as a classic. Groups from Manfred Mann to Bowie to Greg Kihn have covered tracks from this album. Commercially though, it was largely ignored. His second disc, The Wild, The Innocent And the E Street Shuffle, which gave his backing band its name, is my favorite Springsteen album. Oddly, the great epics on that album like “Incident On 57th St,” “Rosalita,” or “New York City Serenade” were largely ignored. With his back to the wall, Springsteen wrote his greatest batch of songs. He wanted lyrics like Dylan with Phil Spector’s “wall of sound.” I’d say he checked both those boxes! Like Damn The Torpedoes this is one of the greatest albums of all time. I’m just glad Columbia Records let Bruce have a third shot at an album. They would have dropped him if this record failed… 

Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells A Story 

After his brief stint as “vocalist extraordinaire” for the Jeff Beck Group, Stewart recorded his debut, The Rod Stewart Album, or as it was known in the UK, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down. It was part folk, part rock n roll which would set the template for the rest of Rod’s best work. It didn’t take off so he joined the Faces as their lead singer and after that, he’d release an album with the Faces and a solo album every year. It wasn’t until his third LP, Every Picture Tells A Story that he broke it big when a DJ in Cleveland flipped over the first single “Reason To Believe” to play the B-side, a little ditty named “Maggie May.” Rod became a superstar which was great for him, not so great for his mates in the Faces. I still hope Rod, Ronnie Wood and Kenny Jones can get a semi-Faces reunion together and do something. Rod was always better when he was working with a strong guitar player like Wood. 

U2, War

Boy, U2’s debut boasted the fabulous song “I Will Follow” that they still play in concert but it only made a little dent on the charts. The “difficult second album,” October didn’t do them any favors. Like Springsteen, with their backs against the wall, they retreated to Hawaii and recorded their breakthrough album. Sure, they had bigger and perhaps better albums, but War is the LP that broke them wide open… it’s also the first LP from them I purchased. The anthems “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” moved them in a political direction that I always loved. It’s amazing how many of these third LPs ended up being some of the greatest music ever recorded… Maybe it’s the pressure? 

The White Stripes, White Blood Cells 

Like a majority of people, this was the LP where I first discovered the White Stripes. I ended up going back and buying their previous 2 LPs almost immediately upon buying White Blood Cells. The eponymous debut was all garage-rock, meaning it sounded like it was recorded in a garage. It was raw and ferocious, naturally I loved it. Even I will admit however, I can see why that wasn’t an international sensation. Their second LP, De Stijl was, like Springsteen’s E Street Shuffle, my favorite Stripes album. It’s bluesy and punk… its blues punk. However, it also failed to resonate far and wide. White Blood Cells had the big hits that made them famous “Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground” and “Fell In Love With A Girl” that likely drove a lot of people like me to their first two records. They may have had bigger albums but this one is almost perfect. “We’re Going To Be Friends” is the best acoustic track they ever did. “I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman” has always been a personal fav. The Stripes just released a wonderful Greatest Hits album if you’re not obsessive about owning every LP but White Blood Cells is the perfect place to start with the Stripes. 

 

Most, if not all of these bands went on to storied, long careers. They all had “bigger,” better selling albums but these are such critical pieces of that later success. These are some of the greatest albums ever. I urge everyone who hasn’t heard these “third” records to do so immediately. Because as we’ve just learned, sometimes the third time is the charm. 

Cheers! Be safe out there, we’re getting closer every day to being able to some of this great rock n roll played live! 

 

 

B&V’s Best of 2020: New LPs And Live/Vault/Archival Releases, Bad Year/Good Music

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I can’t believe 2020 is almost over. Most years I blink and the year is gone. I can’t really say that about this year. In a matter of two days I’ll be scribbling a “1” over the “0” in the date column on my checks… “Oh it’s 2021 not 2020, sorry.” Yes, I still use checks… you kids and your “apps.” At least this year, in Christmas cards, I didn’t have to read everybody’s not-so-humble bragging about what they did in 2020. This year we’re all just glad we survived. While 2020 was a long slow slog in most areas, it was actually quite a nice year for music. I find myself, in my prior year end retrospectives quoting Don Henley, “It was a pretty good year for fashion, a lousy year for rock n roll.” I certainly can’t say that this year. I will say there is one glaring exception to my 2020 rosy music view: concerts. I miss live music so much I can’t stand it. I’m hopeful, like I never was at the beginning of 2020 about anything, that in 2021 I will be standing in a darkened room in front of a band with my hands in the air, screaming wildly. If Springsteen and the E Street Band’s SNL performance is any indication… I think these musicians are ready to go and are going to come out firing once “the coast is clear” as they say.

It was, if I may say so, a great year at BourbonAndVinyl. I want to say a big Thank You to all the readers, commenters, and followers out there – both those joined us this year and to all of you have been around a while as well. I started this thing with a dialogue with fellow music (and bourbon) lovers in mind and this year that concept came to fruition. With musicians off the road this year, so many acts chose to put out new music or cull through their archives. I found myself writing a lot more than in previous years… sorry if that was a little overwhelming… I get excited about music and I have to share. If you’ve enjoyed B&V this year – tell a friend. All music lovers are welcome. Hopefully I’ve turned you on to something you might have missed which is our goal here at B&V.

There were huge losses this year in rock n roll, too many to enumerate. I was saddened to see Bill Withers pass away this year. “Ain’t No Sunshine” is still one of my favorite tracks. I’ve been hearing “Lovely Day” a lot on commercials lately. Glad to see Bill get some recognition. I was rocked this year by the loss of two titans of rock n roll in the B&V universe. Losing drummer/lyricist Neil Peart of Rush really rocked me. I can still remember the first time I air-drummed to 2112 in junior high school. Rush was so huge here in the heartland, Peart’s loss reverberated through everybody. Making things worse, this year we lost one of the greatest guitarists to ever strap on the instrument, Eddie Van Halen. That one left a mark. Van Halen’s music is such an integral part of my listening as young man it’s almost a part of who I am. Hard, edgy and yet funny at the same time. I loved that band from Van Halen to Fair Warning to 1984 to For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Eddie’s guitar playing was always the price of admission for me. He redefined the instrument and that doesn’t happen much, perhaps once every generation or so. His presence, warmth and smile will be missed.

So plentiful was music in 2020 it’s hard to think of an artist who didn’t put out something new or something from the archives. I barely scratched the surface this year. Elton John put out a box set entitled Jewel Box that was a 10 hour journey through demo’s, deep album tracks and rarities. It was great, albeit mellow, but I felt it was for fans only so I didn’t write about it. The King, Elvis Presley put out a 4-disc box Elvis In Nashville (clearly a play on the title his big LP Elvis In Memphis) that collected all of the country/country rock tracks that Elvis recorded over the course of 3 days in Nashville in 1970. Those songs made up the bulk of three albums including the wonderful Elvis Country. The first two discs had all the actual songs, without any studio sweetening but with the second two discs being demo’s – I love the studio chatter of Elvis hanging with musicians – it felt like a fans only kinda thing. It’s a rare year where I can pick/choose the stuff I write about… skipping Elton and Elvis, wow what a year.

There were some fun singles too. The Black Crowes re-released their Christmas classic “Back Door Santa.” I can only hope the brothers Robinson will record a new album in 2021. B&V favs Starcrawler released their cover of Petty’s “I Need To Know” with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell joining in. Greta Van Fleet released their first single “My Way, Now” from their upcoming album… All this is points toward a good 2021!

Here are my favorites from 2020. The first list is new music, stuff that musicians newly recorded. Below, I’ll furnish my list of vault/archive/live albums – where artists either went back and dug out previously recorded material or compilations and also any live albums that caught my attention. I wrote about a lot more than I’m listing here, these are just my favorites. They aren’t in any particular ranked order, it’s pretty random. Enjoy!

B&V’s Favorite New Albums of 2020

  1. Ozzy Osbourne, Ordinary Man – Ozzy returned after a decade’s absence with a great new record. With producer/guitar whizz Andrew Watt helming the project and RHCP’s Chad Smith on drums, GnR bassist Duff McKagan on bass as the backing band, you knew this would be great. Cameos by Slash and Elton John were icing on the cake, Review: Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Ordinary Man’ – A Simply Extraordinary Album!.
  2. Pearl Jam, Gigaton – Like Ozzy, it had been a long time since these guys had released anything (7 years). I was a touch lukewarm on this record when it came out. It is definitely a “grower.” The more I listen to it the more I like it. The second half of the record gets a little mellow but those are some of my favorite songs. I’d love to see these guys live again, it’s been years, Review: Pearl Jam’s First LP In 7 Years, ‘Gigaton’ – My Conflicted Thoughts.
  3. Fiona Apple, Fetch The Bolt Cutters – It had been 8 years since genius Fiona Apple had released an album – I’m seeing a trend here in 2020 – but Fetch The Bolt Cutters was worth the wait. I think it may be the perfect “lockdown” album, thematically at least, Review: Fiona Apple, ‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters’ – Genius Unleashed.
  4. Bob Dylan, Rough And Rowdy Ways – Another artist with a huge gap since his last studio record – 8 years. Dylan had been releasing Sinatra cover LPs for much of that time so it was nice to hear self-penned stuff again. It was preceded by the mesmerizing 18 minute long “Murder Most Foul.” Great, late-period Dylan, Review: The White Stripes ‘Greatest Hits’ – A Lovingly Curated Romp Through Their Career.
  5. Pretenders, Hate For Sale – Original drummer Martin Chambers returns and he and Chrissie Hynde deliver the goods on this punchy, rocking album, LP Review: Pretenders ‘Hate For Sale’ – A Late Career Classic With Attitude!.
  6. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Letter To You – Bruce contemplates his own mortality, inspired by the death of the last surviving member of his first band, the Castiles. I loved Western Stars, his 70s southern California noir but it’s great to hear him back with the E Street Band, Review: Springsteen’s ‘Letter To You’ – Contemplating Mortality On E Street.
  7. AC/DC, Power Up – I would have never thought Angus would be able to pull Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, and Cliff Williams back into the fold and record another spectacular album. Power Up may be my pick for album of the year – if I still picked albums of the year… Review: AC/DC’s Spectacular Return, ‘Power Up’.
  8. The Dirty Knobs, Wreckless Abandon – Former Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ guitarist and “co-captain” and current member of Fleetwood Mac, Mike Campbell’s side project finally releases their debut album. There are a lot of echos of Petty here but make no mistake, this is a guitar album. It’s a lot of fun, Review: Mike Campbell’s New Band The Dirty Knobs, ‘Wreckless Abandon”.
  9. Chris Cornell, Nobody Sings Like You Anymore, Vol 1 – I was tempted to put this in the “vault” list but this is all unreleased stuff that was recorded and sequenced by Cornell. He obviously planned to release it but alas didn’t live to do so. All well chosen covers, this LP underscores what a tragedy it was when his voice was silenced, Review: Chris Cornell Posthumous Release, ‘No One Sings Like You Anymore, Vol. 1’ – A Nice Surprise From An Old Friend.
  10. Paul McCartney, McCartney III – A homespun gem more in the manner of McCartney than McCartney II. This felt like a really welcome Christmas gift, Review: ‘McCartney III,’ A Homespun Gem.

B&V’s Favorite Vault/Archive/Live Albums of 2020 

  1. Neil Young, Homegrown – Another brilliant 70s era “forgotten” album from Neil. This guy has more unreleased classic albums than most artists have actual albums. This is included in the upcoming (for general release, it’s already been released to collectors) box set Archives II. If you can’t spring for the whole box set, this is worth picking up on its own, Review: Neil Young’s ‘Homegrown’ – The Lost Masterpiece, In The Vaults 45 Years.
  2. Liam Gallagher, Unplugged – The former lead singer of one of the Rock Chick’s all time favorite bands Oasis, Liam Gallagher finally redeems himself in the Unplugged genre with a great little live album, Review: Liam Gallagher, ‘MTV Unplugged (Live At Hull City Hall)’ – Unplugged Redemption?.
  3. The Rolling Stones, Goats Head Soup Deluxe – The Stones revisit one of their sleazy-rock 70s classics. Light on bonus studio stuff it contains the great live concert recording Brussels Affair, a must for Stones fans, especially you Mick Taylor-era nuts out there, Review: The Rolling Stones, ‘Goats Head Soup Deluxe’ Box Set.
  4. Tom Petty, Wildflowers…and All The Rest – Petty’s vision of Wildflowers as a double LP finally realized. Some lovely stuff was left in the can, Tom Petty: ‘Wildflowers & All The Rest – Deluxe Edition (4 CDs)’ – A Petty Masterpiece Lovingly Revisited.
  5. Prince, Sign O The Times Deluxe – Prince’s creative peak? Maybe… There are so many great tunes that never saw the light of day in this box, it’s perhaps his last masterpiece, Review: Prince, ‘Sign O’ The Times – Deluxe Edition’ – An Embarrassment of Riches.
  6. Ozzy Osbourne, Blizzard of Ozz, 40th Anniversary – In my review I quibbled about the lack of unreleased studio tracks (really just one new track) and disjointed live stuff, but this is such a landmark album, everyone should check this out. Leave it to Ozzy to appear on both these lists in 2020, Review: Ozzy’s ‘Blizzard of Ozz, 40th Anniversary Expanded’ – Is It Worth It?.
  7. Lou Reed, New York – One of Lou Reed’s true masterworks. If you don’t have the album, you need this. If you do, you need this for the live tracks – the entire album played live, Review: Lou Reed ‘New York: Deluxe Edition’.
  8. U2, All You Can’t Leave Behind 20th Anniversary Box – An album with special meaning for the Rock Chick and I… I already had the bonus tracks but if you don’t they’re definitely worth a listen. The concert included from the tour, in Boston is incendiary, Review: U2, ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind (20th Anniversary Edition)’.
  9. Pearl Jam, MTV Unplugged – Only 7 songs long but soooo worth it. I’ve waited and hoped for years that Pearl Jam would finally release this spectacular performance, recorded shortly after their debut album. This is such a legendary performance…Review: Pearl Jam Release ‘MTV Unplugged’ (Finally!).
  10. Keith Richards, Live At the Hollywood Palladium – Keef takes his wonderful backing band, The X-Pensive Winos out on the road. This expanded edition gives us three additional tracks recorded that night. It’s just a great, live album, Review: Keith Richards + The X-Pensive Winos, ‘Live At the Hollywood Palladium’ Box Set.

If there is an album I missed on these list in your opinion, please share in the comments. I’m always open to new music and I do hate to think I missed something…

I hope everybody held it together during this rough and tumble 2020. Hopefully our little B&V corner of the rock n roll universe helped keep you moving down the road this year. I wish everyone a happy, safe New Year. I don’t think we’re out of the dark yet, but I think there is light at the end of the tunnel… and with any luck, it’s not an oncoming train.

It’s a dark ride, take care of each other out there. I’m certainly looking forward to a better 2021.