Staff Picks, Volume 2
This Month's Picks...By Mac D.
Stay tuned for more!
Detroitâ€™s MC5 were at the vanguard of the revolution in the late â€˜60s. What kind of revolution? Musical, cultural, you name itâ€¦ These were golden times when rock n roll was the currency amongst the youth, and if one were to harness this power, the possibilities were endless. The Five took this notion to heart and subscribed to the message â€œtotal assault on the culture by any means necessary, including rock â€˜nâ€™ roll, dope, and fucking in the streets,â€ proffered by John Sinclairâ€™s (a former teacher who was dubbed Detroitâ€™s â€œKing of the Hippies,â€ in addition to becoming the MC5â€™s first manager) radical political faction The White Panthers. When Elektra signed the MC5 in 1968, it was thought that the bandâ€™s brand of full-tilt, soul-infused, psychedelic/jazz-informed rock would take over and provide a key to the new direction. Unfortunately, this didnâ€™t happen. After the live tour de force of their debut, KICK OUT THE JAMS, the MC5 followed it up with the streamlined BACK IN THE U.S.A. While both are excellent albums, neither of them caught on with the public at large. This set the stage for the Fiveâ€™s final record, HIGH TIME. In many ways, this was the fusing of the strengths from their previous works (raw energy and conscientious production, respectively). In the end, we are left with a powerful, challenging, deep and truly rocking postscript to a seminal bandâ€™s career. Though its tenure was relatively brief, the MC5 continue to be a profound influence on rock â€˜nâ€™ rollers, to this day.
Though sometimes thought of as a poor manâ€™s Rolling Stones, The Faces made kings out of anyone fortunate enough to enter into their sweaty milieu. Rod Stewart, Ronnie Lane, Ron Wood, Ian McLagan & Kenny Jones were legendary for their bacchanalian take on rock, as well as life. FIVE GUYS WALK INTO A BAR tells the story of this band that, despite their abundant individual talents, was still more than a sum of their parts. The songs are certainly a good place to start, what with gems like â€œStay With Me,â€ â€œFlying,â€ and â€œBad â€˜n Ruin,â€ dotting the track list. However, the true beauty of this collection comes with its assembly. The box was produced by Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan. He put the running order together based primarily on â€œfeel.â€ Chronology and other notions would take a back seat. Usually, that would be frustrating, but in McLaganâ€™s hands it comes off as an amazing 4-hour Faces concert. He includes live cuts, demos, alternate versions, as well as a few Rod Stewart solo tracks. The live BBC version of McCartneyâ€™s â€œMaybe Iâ€™m Amazedâ€ is worth the price of admission alone. This may very well be the best boxed set ever created.
The super-group that was Crosby, Stills & Nash (and at times, Young) not only had an amazing pedigree amongst its members (Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds & The Hollies), but could almost do no wrong during the period of the bandâ€™s first couple albums. All of the members also utilized this time to release their first solo albums, to universal acclaim. Neil Youngâ€™s solo career even went on to eclipse anything that he did with the group. However, there was one record that has gotten lost in historyâ€™s shuffle. Iâ€™m referring to David Crosbyâ€™s solo debut, IF ONLY I COULD REMEMBER MY NAME (DELUXE EDITION). Crosby is mostly remembered for his gorgeous harmonies and his appetite for life. However, this record was where he took hold of the reigns and created a masterpiece, whose sound & feel truly encapsulated the nascent hippy movement, housed in the hills above Los Angeles. Equal parts beauty, fear & menace, the songs roll out like the rising sun. â€œMusic Is Loveâ€ starts us off with an ode to ideals that, at the time, seemed closer to reality than they ever have before or since. â€œLaughingâ€ is a track that Crosby wrote to George Harrison with advice on the fallibility of gurus. This song also features backing vocals from Joni Mitchell and musical backing from The Grateful Dead (who were the backing band for most of the record). Some songs didnâ€™t even need lyrics to be evocative, as displayed with the vocals on â€œSong With No Words (Tree With No Leaves).â€ It all adds up to an album which truly displayed the power that the union of rock & folk had on the pop landscapeâ€¦ and it still resonates.
Cactus was the American Led Zeppelin that should have been, but wasnâ€™t. This raises the following questions: Did they feature a pounding & psychedelic take on the blues? Check (courtesy of former Vanilla Fudge rhythm section Carmine Appice & Tim Bogert). How â€˜bout an amazing guitarist? Check (that would be Jim McCarty). Lastly, did they have a charismatic front man whose wailings seemed to emanate from someplace far south of heaven? Indeed they did and his name was Rusty Day. So, how come this band isnâ€™t mentioned in the same breath with other rock titans? Well, thatâ€™s anybodyâ€™s guess, but I can guarantee it has nothing to do with the music. The tracks on Cactology span the groupâ€™s career and highlight just what it was that made them so incredibly awesome. Seriously, if you can listen to tracks like â€œParchman Farm,â€ â€œYou Canâ€™t Judge A Book By The Cover,â€ and â€œOne Wayâ€¦Or Another,â€ and not immediately get down in a heavy fashion, youâ€™d better check your pulse, my friend! In the meantime, weâ€™ll keep on groovinâ€™ to one of rockâ€™s greatest unsung bands.
The seminal metal albums HEAVEN AND HELL & MOB RULES were the product of hard rock institution Black Sabbath losing their singer and focal point, Ozzy Osbourne, in 1978. Rather than derailing the group, this turn of events prompted them to reform with new singer Ronnie James Dio (formerly of Rainbow). The resulting two albums put the quartet (now including drummer Vinnie Appice) back on the map amongst current heavy metal practitioners. Though the products of a short-lived partnership, songs like â€œNeon Knights,â€ â€œHeaven and Hell,â€ and â€œFalling Off The Edge Of The World,â€ continue to inspire legions of fans and make up Rhinoâ€™s THE DIO YEARS. This collection also includes tracks from 1992â€™s DEHUMANIZER, Dioâ€™s one-off return to the fold, as well a few heavy new songs like â€œThe Devil Cried.â€ Itâ€™s the time to raise the horns again for one of rockâ€™s most excellent bands.
Mac D. is an un-certified genius. He is also fun at parties.