Friday, 19 August 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #15: Suzi Quatro - "Can The Can"

Suzi Quatro - Can the Can

There was a time, during my formative years, where current music of the time was getting quite stale and I needed something more to reflect my teen angst, which I often did through music with fired up distorted guitars. Indeed, as a young guitar player, I consumed a lot of music, eating up as much guitar technique from records as I possibly could.

Come 1990, at the height of the Hair Metal period, with bands like Poison and Motley Crue ruling the music world, I grew quite bored after a while. I still needed to hear something thumping, and I didn't find a lot of it in my parents collection. When my mates and I started looking around our parents' collections, we found a few hidden gems within, largely from the 1970s. Slade, The Sweet, Neil Young, Ziggy-era David Bowie, Deep Purple, Kiss, Alice Cooper and, of course, Suzi Quatro.

The thing that inevitably made these old records interesting to us 1990's teenagers was the fact that they were not mainstream anymore - they weren't on the radio, they weren't showing their videos on the music channels, no hype in the press to taint our view of the music - it was just what was in the grooves of the black scratchy platter that was important.

Suzi Q's first LP is a mind-blowing record, on a number of levels. Firstly, it's a vicious record, brimming with tension and passion. Secondly, the energy is unbridled - the guitars are fired up and the drums don't back down from their fury for the album's entire length. Thirdly, considering this record was sponsored by the bubblegum-pop-hit machine of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn (also behind the careers of The Sweet, Mud and Smokie), it's a wonder a record this wild and unhinged ever escaped from the studio under their watch.

Oddly enough, this album is largely untouched by the influence of the Chinnichap pop factory. The presence of her two big hit singles ("48 Crash" and "Can The Can") aside, the record is full of Suzi-Q originals and a handful of covers given a tough sound. The result is a surprisingly uniformly strong record. It's also unusual in that it's far longer than your average pop album, clocking in at over well 45 minutes (the standard then was around 38).

From start to finish this record is just one hell of a good time. Suzi's bass work is great is right up front in the mix - she even gets a solo on "Get Back Momma", which is one of many highlights here. There's something very sinister buried deep within the rhythmic tribalism of "Primitive Love"; "Glycerine Queen" stomps with the best of the glam tunes of the time; while her version of "I Wanna Be Your Man", incongruous as it may appear, actually rocks with stop-start abandon. It's not the best version of the song ever recorded, but the solo mid-section, in itself, is pure musical madness. Her versions of "Shakin' All Over" (complete with double speed guitar solo) and "All Shook Up" are quite good as well.

For it's age, this album holds up remarkably well. To get it's full value, however, you need to listen it to it LOUD!!!

Note: The Spotify version below is the recent remaster with all the non-LP single B-sides on it.


Friday, 5 August 2011

Albums for any occasion

In today's online version of the Sydney Morning Herald, there was a story about albums for any occasion.

As per usual, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to something like this. I would like to know what your favourite albums are for the categories they have listed, which were (along with their author's ideal choices):

Party - Off the Wall, Michael Jackson
Sex - Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Underworld
The morning after sex - Dusty in Memphis, Dusty Springfield
Cleaning the house - Zombie, Fela Kuti
Driving - Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
When you've got the blues - High Violet, the National
Working out - Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem
Post breakup - In the Wee Small Hours, Frank Sinatra
Dinner parties - The Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions, Dexter Gordon
For dancing with the kids - See!, Holly Throsby

They came up with some very interesting choices here. Not all of them I would choose, and neither would you. So what would your choices be?

After a lot of thinking, I'm not sure I have settled on a definitive list. But here's some ideas:


I've never been a big Michael Jackson fan so I'd resist playing much of his music. My mates and I would probably get rowdy to a record with some big grooves like "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Sex: I'll pass on making a call on this, but I haven't liked any Underworld record since "Underneath The Radar", an album which the band have all but disowned in the years since.
Underworld - Underneath the Radar

Cleaning the house: The choice of a Fela Kuti album was an inspired one. The title track "Zombie" has such a wicked groove and it lasts around 15 minutes at a stretch - perfect for vaccuuming the house. My cleaning house records are more likely "Greatest Hits" by Sly and the Family Stone or "Funk Power 1970" by James Brown.
Sly and the Family Stone - Greatest Hits

Driving: Bruce Springsteen records are cliche driving records. They're a great listen don't get me wrong, but...

A record like "Ramones Mania" by the Ramones, which is a 73+ minute compendium of the finest moments from their first decade as a group will get you from one end of the F3 to the other without changing CDs, but you'll need to stop for a caffiene hit at the end because you'll be exhuasted (trust me, I've tried it!).
Ramones - Ramones Mania

Years ago when tapes were de rigeur in the car, the one-two punch of classic albums like "East"/"Circus Animals" by Cold Chisel worked a treat, as did "#1 Record"/"Radio City" by Big Star.
Cold Chisel - East Cold Chisel - Circus Animals
Big Star - #1 Record Big Star - Radio City

I tend to drum on the steering wheel while I drive, and "Superunknown" by Soundgarden is a great record to do that to.
Soundgarden - Superunknown

When you've got the blues: Frank Sinatra adds a bit of class to a sad moment, but it just won't feel right without having a scotch on the rocks along with it. For me, I don't want to stay down too long, so I try and pick myself up quickly, and "All Things Must Pass" by George Harrison works a treat - it always takes me to a better place. "Grace" by Jeff Buckley is achingly beautiful, but it makes me feel worse in times like this.
George Harrison - All Things Must Pass Jeff Buckley - Grace

Working Out: When I work out or do exercise of any form, I'm just happy to be listening to ANY music of any form, but it has to be intense. For a while a few years ago, the album of choice was "St Anger" by Metallica.
Metallica - St. Anger

Post breakup: Again, "Grace" will get the tears moving, but after that, I go into "He-Man Woman Hater" mode and I get angry. For that, there's nothing better than "F.O.A.D." by Broken Bones. Hardcore agressive metal.
Broken Bones - F.O.A.D.

Dinner parties: I reckon you can't go past "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis. Or even a bit of "Jazz Impressions of New York" by Dave Brubeck, if you want an extra bit of class. For candlelit suppers with your loved one, you can't go past "The Koln Concert" by Keith Jarrett.
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue Dave Brubeck Quartet - Jazz Impressions of New York Keith Jarrett - The Köln Concert

For dancing with the kids: I'd let them choose. Best dance session ever with my kids was to Fela Kuti and Africa '70 "Live".
Fela Kuti - Fela With Ginger Baker Live!

Now, I have a few other categories that I'd like to acknowledge:

Washing the Car: For a long time, the album of choice (or rather, tape, as it was then) was "5150" by Van Halen. Lately it's been "Death By Sexy..." by Eagles of Death Metal.
Van Halen - 5150 Eagles of Death Metal - Death by Sexy...

Driving to the beach for a surf: something fierce, like "Radios Appear" by Radio Birdman or "Among The Living" by Anthrax.
Radio Birdman - Radios Appear Anthrax - Among the Living

Rainy day music: I love listening to "Veedon Fleece" by Van Morrison on a rainy afternoon.
Van Morrison - Veedon Fleece

Music to remove unwanted guests: anything by Captain Beefheart!
Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica

Until next time...

Monday, 1 August 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #14: Roxette - "Look Sharp!"

Roxette - Look Sharp!

Ok. Guilty pleasure time, folks.

All right, I cannot tell a lie. I've had a soft spot for these guys since I was in high school. And you know what? Their music STILL holds up as some of the best Europop ever created. You've seen Eurovision, right? Roxette put anything in that competitions cheesy, tacky, questionable music history to shame.

ABBA may have been the Swedes of choice for the baby boomers, but the GenX-ers dug Roxette. Per Gessle could really write a tune, and Marie could really sing. They may have been marketed as a pop band, but they could really ROCK. They wrote some of the best power pop songs ever, especially into the 1990s.

"Look Sharp!" was released internationally in 1988. It was their second LP. Their first, "Pearls of Passion" was a hit only in Sweden, it bombed everywhere else. Not that it matters - "Look Sharp!" was streets ahead of it in terms of songwriting. If there's one problem with this, it's the thin, synth-washed production that was so endemic on records in the 1980s. Underneath the gloss, remains some excellent songs that had more substance than your average pop band could muster.

They had tried 3 singles off the LP, and they were all flops. Single number 4, "The Look", hit big - #1 in over one dozen countries. Not bad for a track whose lyrics were just something to fill in a gap for a guide vocal before the real words were written. Different words were never invented, these ones were so good.

Soon after, the previous flops were re-issued: "Dressed For Success" was first, and it found its way into the top 10. Next, a ballad - "Listen to your Heart" was up there too. Single #2 "Dangerous" was reissued and it followed suit. Soon they were one of the biggest bands in the world.

Between 1988 and 1995, the band had 14 top 10 hits in America, which isn't bad for a band whose native tongue reminds one of the Chef on the Muppet Show. English isn't their first language, but they managed to make memorable songs better than most who grow up with a good command of the language!

What is below is the original album, as it was on the CD. The vinyl and Cassette didn't contain track 11 "I Could Never Give You Up" which was issued as the b-side of "Listen To Your Heart", and for my money, it didn't need to be there. the 12 track LP was spot on as it was. But I digress.

If there's any flat spot at all on this record, it's the somewhat bland "Cry" which concludes the original side 1 of the album. What's left is a series of songs that can be neatly divided into one of two categories - upbeat pop/rock tunes laden with melody, and ballads laden with melody. Such is the dichotomy of the group that their best work can be neatly split into those two categories (so much so that they released two best of records in the early 2000's "The Pop Hits" and "The Ballad Hits", thus illustrating my point).

Anyway, enjoy!