Sunday, August 2, 2009

Great Overlooked Albums

More overkill? Just realized I've never done this 1 B4. Here's a list of my Fave Overlooked Albums of All Time. If U've read thru the previous lists & the reviews at my other website (, this list probly won't suprise U. But 4 those out there who R Brand New 2 my weirdness, here's some of the music I treasure most....

TAD's 200 Top 10 Best Overlooked Albums of All Time:
1. Providence, EVER SENSE THE DAWN (1972) -- Sorta a lighter Moody Blues album, w/ a spartan production & no mellotron. But this sextet from Boise, Idaho featured a string trio, Xcellent group vocals, & superb songs 4 a group that was so young. Best: "Fantasy Fugue," "If We Were Wise," "Neptune's Door," "The Stream," "Mountain," "Behold: A Solar Sonnet." (The most Moodies-sounding track is "Behold," which also has the biggest production & closes the album on sorta an anti-climax; it works about 8x out of 10.) This album sounds like nothing else, but '72 -- tho the era of the mellow singer-songwriter -- was apparently NOT the time 4 a band that couldn't boogie. The album sold mayB 6 copies & has never bn reissued on CD. I found my brand-new copy in a 2nd-hand record store in Boise 4 $2.19 back in 1977 -- I grabbed mine & then 4 others 4 Xmas gifts. I've never Cn NE other copies. The band apparently reunited long enuf 2 sign copies of their only album in England a coupla yrs back. I read on the 'Net a few mo's ago that Moodies producer Tony Clarke (who also produced this) said Providence had an Ntire 2nd album recorded, but the master tapes were stolen from the vault & were never recovered!
2. Gryphon, RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE (1974) -- The greatest all-instrumental prog-rock album ever. Keyboards, recorders, krumhorns, bassoon & guitar mix 4 a gorgeous medieval/folk sound that can get loud but never 2 heavy -- at times they sound almost like a cute wind-up-toy band. Mosta the compositions R AMAZING -- the 11-min "Lament" is my choice 4 the greatest prog-rock instrumental ever. The other 3 long tracks R pretty great 2, constantly inventive, bouncy, uplifting, very optimistic music. Only the closing "Checkmate" gets NEwhere near heavy, & the melody isn't perhaps quite so strong on that 1, but it still works 8x outta 10. Other greats: "Opening Move," "Second Spasm."
3. Gryphon, TREASON (1977) -- In the year of Punk Rock, Gryphon shuffles band members, adds lotsa vocals, keeps the great keybs, krumhorns, recorders & bassoons, & puts out what sounds like a kinder, gentler Jethro Tull album. & it sells about 4 copies. But it's still amazing. "Spring Song" is 10 mins of pure bliss: gorgeous melody, great lyrics, beautiful musical touches thruout, great catchy choruses -- & an opening fanfare that'll really grab yr attn. Mosta the rest is really good support. "Fall of the Leaf" is haunting; "Major Disaster" is almost a standard love song, saved by drummer Dave Oberle's Xcellent vocals; "Falero Lady" is the most Tull-like track; "Round and Round" has Xcellent choruses. "Flash in the Pantry" is 2 cute, & tellingly the weakest track on the album is a throwaway instrumental....
4. Caravan, FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT (1973) -- Caravan peaked w/ this gorgeous collection of orchestrated pop songs w/ twisted lyrics, not 4getting 2 include some dramatic punch that really sets the songs off. The dramatic 9-min opener "Memory Lain/Hugh/Headloss" shows this, opening w/ a punchy, dramatic gtr riff that leads in2 the searching lyrics. Gtrist/songwriter Pye Hastings' great vocals & stinging gtr really set-off this section, followed by a dreamy middle w/ a flute solo by brother Jimmy Hastings, then a bouncy optimistic closing w/ lotsa sunny vocals. Oh, this is just the 1st track & I've already written 60 wds about this album? Well, that's the kinda high-quality I'm babbling about. U want dreamy? Try "Surprise, Surprise," more great vocals from Pye & a gorgeous group-vocal chorus. & tho there R a coupla mis-steps in the 1st 1/2, the album just gets better as the guys hit their stride: "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again" is the high point of this album, a sweet & gorgeous song about sex w/ hilarious twisted lyrics that probly will never get by NE radio program-director or censor. 2 bad, cos the sweet tune has the MOST GORGEOUS circular-vocal Nding U'll ever hear. 1 of this band's very, very best. But they keep going: "Be All Right" is a brief chugging freight-train comin right at ya, & slows down only 2 fade gently in2 Pye's moody "Chance of a Lifetime." But they're not done yet: The climax is a 12-min multi-part instrumental suite under the umbrella title "A Hunting We Shall Go...." that features some great viola accents from Geoff Richardson, more great gtr, amazing squiggly keybs from Dave Sinclair, an orchestra, & an amazing finish. They never got NE better.
5. Nick Drake, BRYTER LAYTER (1970) -- Beautiful Joe Boyd production on this classic 2nd album from British folkie Drake, who died 4 yrs later. This album Cms 2 show Drake trying 2 deal w/ a crowded urban Nvironment, & not quite succeeding: check out the lyrics on the revealing "At the Chime of a City Clock." Much of this is great mood music, a little down in places, but mostly gorgeous. "Hazey Jane II" is as bouncy & upbeat a folky # as NE1 could want, "City Clock" & "One of These Things First" R jazzy & Nchanting. "Hazey Jane I" probly sounds like most people's perceptions of Drake: sad & downbeat, but even it has great lyrics -- "Do you curse where you come from?/Do you swear in the night?/Would it mean much to you/If I treat you right?" "Fly" & "Northern Sky" R incandescently beautiful, & both feature keybs by 4mer Velvet Undergrounder John Cale. The closing "Sunday" is a gorgeous flute-based instrumental w/ orchestral backing -- Robert Kirby's string arrngmnt & Ray Warleigh's flute make the piece a perfect moody closer. Only 2 tracks fail: The title piece is a wispy nothing instrumental, & "Poor Boy" may B Drake poking fun at himself, but the backing singers & jazzy feel don't work 4 6+ mins. Otherwise: Gorgeous, moving, un4gettable.
6. Al Stewart, MODERN TIMES (1975) -- B4 he found success w/ YEAR OF THE CAT a yr later, Al partially broke-thru w/ this, which I think is his best & most consistent album ever. It's the 1st album 2 match Al up w/ producer Alan Parsons, & shows that mayB a little commercial sheen was the 1 thing Al needed. The 2nd 1/2 is virtually perfect, starting w/ the silly, bouncy "Apple Cider Reconstitution," which means Absolutely Nothing (consult the choruses if U don't Blieve me), but sure sounds good as it rolls happily along. The flip side is the following "The Dark and Rolling Sea," a saga about piracy & fate at sea, w/ beautiful lyrics that paint the picture as clearly as a movie, & a perfect last verse. The title song is the story of 2 friends separated by the yrs, who meet again in a pub -- & the song tells of the way they were & the ways they changed. The Nding is just a touch outta reach 4 me, but it's sent-off w/ Xcellent gtr work from Tim Renwick. The 1st 1/2 of the album is no slouch either, but it's lighter: "Carol" is a good opener w/ some good hooks & nice gtr. "Sirens of Titan" is a nice nod 2 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. "What's Goin On" Cms like a good-natured zing at soma Al's friends. "Not the One" & "Next Time" R soma Al's standard downbeat life-story songs, not 2 long or 2 dark. & every track works.
7. Stories, ABOUT US (1973) -- Recorded while this band was breaking up, the album includes the #1 hit "Brother Louie" (which is buried at the very Nd like an afterthot, produced by a diffrent team than did the resta the album, & I don't miss it), & a gorgeous near-miss follow-up called "Love is in Motion." There's lotsa other great stuff here 2, tho it's all jumbled up, there's no consistent mood or flow. Soma this was probly caused by the 10sions that led 2 the breakup -- biggest loss was composer/keybsman Michael Brown, who started out w/ the '60s band The Left Banke. NEway, singer Ian Lloyd stars in & nails a lotta these songs, from the Xcellent opener "Darling" thru his sweet singing on "Love is in Motion," 2 the sorta downplayed vocal on the mysterious "Words," 2 the dramatic shoulda-bn-closers "Please, Please" (possibly the best thing here, a 4got10 rock classic) & the hushed "What Comes After." Soma the more straight4ward rock songs R merely avg ("Hey France," "Top of the City," "Believe Me"), but they're good enuf, helped by a catchy chorus or Lloyd's singing. Then there's gtrist Steve Love's modest but appealing "Changes Have Begun," & Brown's infectious ragtime-piano instrumental "Circles." & there's a coupla other trax not worth mentioning cos U won't notice 'em &'ll never play em again....
8. Happy the Man, CRAFTY HANDS (1978) -- Gorgeous mostly-instrumental prog-rock album, tho the best track is the only vocal #, the 7-min "Wind-Up Doll Day Wind." But U might never get there: The brief crashing&bashing opener "Service With a Smile" will likely knock U down 1st; Ron Riddle's slamming drums, Stan Whittaker's slashing gtr, & Kit Watkins' tough keybs will DEFinitely get yr attn. The 3 instrumentals that follow ("Morning Sun," "Ibby it Is," "Steaming Pipes") R all quieter & more lyrical, but they all have moments of supreme beauty that R well worth going back 4. "Wind" is a hypnotic, robotic, mechanical # that takes awhile 2 get started (Whittaker's vocal is also a bit robotic), but 1nce it gets going, the gtr, sax & keys blow the doors off -- Wyatt's squalling sax work is especially good. The band tears this # up -- & there's also a gorgeous, moody mid-section. "Open Book" follows & is probly the most gorgeous instrumental on the album -- simple, beautiful, marvelous. The 2 tracks that close the album, "I Forgot to Push It" & "The Moon, I Sing (Nossuri)" R OK but R outclassed by the rest....
9. Group 87, (1ST) (1980) -- The 2nd-best all-instrumental rock album of all time. U should immediately go 2 the last track, the stunning "One Night Away From Day," a gorgeous, anthemic mix of simple keyboard theme, Xcellent mournful sax work by Mark Isham, & great gtr by writer Peter Maunu. Then work yr way back 2 the opening, "Future of the City," a slow-developing curtain-raiser that gains strength as it goes, & transforms in2 a catchy march that un4tun8ly fades-out just as it's getting REALLY GOOD. "Moving Sidewalks" & "Magnificent Clockworks" carry on the high-tech theme, w/ breaks 4 synthesized washes like "Frontiers: 1856" & "Hall of Glass," nice oddities like "Sublime Feline," & the hypnotic thump of "The Bedouin." Xcellent drumming from Terry Bozzio.
10. The Hollies, ROMANY (1972) -- Recorded after Allan Clarke left the band 4 an aborted solo career, but B4 he returned due 2 the big hit "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," this 1 album w/ Swedish singer Michael Rickfors has occasional problems -- it's a little arty -- but mosta the songs R quite Xcellent. The opener "Magic Woman Touch" is a Hollies classic that shoulda bn a huge hit -- the vocals R really strong, & the wordless vocal fadeout is great. "Slow Down" & "Won't We Feel Good" R almost as great -- strong vocals & great choruses. "Words Don't Come Easy" is a hushed, dramatic # that depicts a crowd waiting 4 something -- U interpret. Other greats: the arty counterparts "Romany" (sounds like something Van Morrison coulda written) & "Touch," David Ackles' "Down River," Judee Sill's "Jesus Was a Crossmaker," "Blue in the Morning." "Courage of Your Convictions" is perhaps a little simple & transparent. Only "Delaware Taggett and the Outlaw Boys" is stupid. Alan Parsons co-engineered the album.
Bangles: ALL OVER THE PLACE (1984). Louder, more aggressive, angrier than their huge breakthru hit album DIFFERENT LIGHT. But the gorgeous breathy stuff is here 2. My fave is "Dover Beach."
Camel: NUDE (1980) & BREATHLESS (1978). NUDE is a gorgeous nearly-all-instrumental concept album. BREATHLESS is a lot more commercial. Both R great stuff by this underrated band.
Caravan: BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTAN'S (1976). Only a couple tracks fail. & then there's the perfect "All the Way (With John Wayne's Single-Handed Liberation of Paris)" -- Dspite the title, it's 1 of the most beautiful wistful love songs U've never heard.
Clannad: MACALLA (1986). Not enuf contrast Btween tunes, but great moody stuff. "Journey's End" shoulda bn a huge hit, & mosta the rest is dark, ghostly, downbeat -- especially the stuff sung in Gaelic....
Dire Straits: MAKIN' MOVIES (1980). Their best, most consistent album. If only "Telegraph Road" were on here 2. Fades just a bit at the Nd.
Charlie Dore: LISTEN! (1980). A touch mushy in places, but Dore's lite voice benefits from Stewart Levine's precise production & a backing band that's basically Toto. "Don't Say No" & "Wise to the Lines" especially R classics.
Electric Light Orchestra: TIME (1980). Great science-fiction concept album, which doesn't neglect the cheezier aspects. "Twilight" is a classic, & "The Way Life's Meant to Be" is almost a textbook-perfect pop song. MayB that's why it made no known chart.... U'll even love the filler, of which there is quite a bit.
Genesis: A TRICK OF THE TALE (1976). After Peter Gabriel left but B4 they Bcame superstars. Gorgeous story-songs w/ great keybs & gtr. My faves R "Ripples" & "Madman Moon," but "Robbery, Assault and Battery" is a hoot & mosta the others R pretty great. Fades a bit at the Nd.
Glass Moon: (1ST) (1980). Florida band does a great Genesis impersonation, & a killer version of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill." But "Sundays and Mondays" is the 4got10 classic.
Go-Go's: TALK SHOW (1984). 1 of the best pop albums ever.
Hawkwind: HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL (1974). Heavy space-rock. "You'd Better Believe It" is GREAT, & Mick Farren & Lemmy's dark & driving "Lost Johnny" kicks ass!
Justin Hayward & John Lodge: BLUE JAYS (1975). Recorded during the Moody Blues' vacation in the mid-'70s, a bit heavy on the strings in places, but "When You Wake Up" is GREAT & mosta the rest woulda improved NE other Moodies album.
Illusion: OUT OF THE MIST (1977). The best Renaissance-style album ever. Gorgeous songs, great vocals by Jane Relf, great keybs & gtr -- if U like Renaissance's style of art-rock, U'll love this.
The Jam: SETTING SONS (1979). New Wave concept album, mostly brilliant. Best is the scorching "Private Hell," but "Little Boy Soldiers," "Thick as Thieves" & mosta the others R simple smash&bash greatness. Also features the worst cover version of the old '60s Motown hit "Heat Wave" that U'll never wanna hear again.
Moody Blues: THE PRESENT (1983). Their best, most consistent album ever.
Sally Oldfield: WATER BEARER (1978). Gorgeous "Lord of the Rings" music.
Outlaws: GHOST RIDERS (1981). Not perfect, but heavily under-rated southern-flavored country-rock. The screaming "Devil's Road" & the classic country weeper "I Can't Stop Loving You" R especially good. Fades quite a bit at the Nd....
Shoes: PRESENT TENSE (1980). Gorgeous breathy new-wave love songs.
Sky: SKY 2 (1980). Often gorgeous instrumental art-rock, sometimes w/ heavy drama ("Vivaldi," "Toccata"), & occasional incandescent liteness ("Scipio," "Watching the Aeroplanes").
Grace Slick: DREAMS (1980). Talk about drama....
Split Enz: WAIATA (1980). Goofy but great!
Tubes: REMOTE CONTROL (1979). TV-obsession concept album w/ great shoulda-bn hits like the brilliant "I Want it All Now," the smooth "Prime Time," & the big almost-normal ballad "Love's a Mystery (I Don't Understand)." Todd Rundgren produced.
U.K.: (1ST) (1978). Almost every track works. King Crimson fans should love it.
U2: BOY (1980). Great singing, gorgeous gtrs. & the lyrics mean...?
Suzanne Vega: (1ST) (1984). Pristine '80s folk.
Wigwam: NUCLEAR NIGHTCLUB (1974). Folky, heavy, silly. The rumbling & ominous "Bless Your Lucky Stars" is GREAT & I can't understand a word of it....

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