Album Reviews

Zapp “Zapp” (1980)

While this artist and LP have a definate P-Funk influence, Roger Troutman is no less a brilliant musician himself. The same way James Brown took the African-American experience (like Hendrix, Sly Stone & others) to a different level, so did Roger & Zapp with “More Bounce To The Ounce.” It was, and is, like nothing ever heard before. Just like Larry Graham’s bass changed the face of R/B and funk, so did “More Bounce.” The whole nine minutes of the song is irresistable. It opened the door for street funk, which gave way to another type of “funk”: Hip-Hop and Rap. This LP is a defining moment in Black music. Not only is Roger a master at the “talk box,” his deep blues committments come shining through. Per groove, Zapp offers the most bounce to the ounce!

Crazy Horse “Crazy Horse” (1971)

An oft-forgotten little gem of the early 70s, this album is in some respects better than you’d expect a Crazy Horse album to be; but in hindsight, a really strong album by Crazy Horse without Neil Young makes sense. They had all the ingredients necessary for a great band, which is why Young’s albums with them rarely relegate them simply to backing status. The songs are solid, the performances predictably lazy without sounding lifeless, and the group shows a surprising amount of variety both in terms of style and in terms of dynamics. You may be surprised by the number of songs on here that you’ve already heard covered with varying levels of success. Highly recommended to those who own the Neil Young albums, and heartily recommended to fans of early 70s rock in general. –Will

Flamin’ Groovies “Flamingo” (1970)

We all know progressive rock. But who among us knows of the superior pleasures of regressive rock? Only those who listen to the likes of the Flamin’ Groovies, a cult band in the truest sense, who sound out of time and place whenever they’re played, because they’re both backward and forward looking, trapped in a netherworld of bandwagon jumping and hipster snobbery. Yet sometimes they seem to nail the world down in just the right place with their no-frills garage rock and oddly innocent decadence. Flamingo is the one that does it for me. More consistent than Teenage Head (their other near-masterpiece), this one is an almost relentless 10-track barnburner. It’s a drunkard’s record. A brawler’s record. The record waiting for that summer’s night cruise in the Dodge Challenger. In a just world, “Second Cousin” and “She’s Falling Apart” would be classics. “Road House” sounds like The Who in ’65 crossed with The Gun Club in ’80. Join the cult. Go on, drink it, it’s good for you. –Will

Cheap Trick “Cheap Trick” (1977)

One of the best albums and greatest debuts of all time! “Cheap Trick” must have sounded light years ahead of its time when it arrived in 1977. Arena rock and power pop meet glam and punk with a trashy, live, unpolished sound. Too pop to be punk and too punk to be considered pop, the record tanked in ’77, but listening to it now it’s hard to imagine how this record wasn’t an instant hit. A few years later Cheap Trick would fill stadiums but musically they never topped this debut. Highlights include the glam “ELO Kiddies,” the dark and delightfully perverted “Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School,” the catchiest song ever written about the IRS, “Taxman Mr Thief,” and the infectious “Oh Candy.” Power pop perfection! –David

Arthur Brown “The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown” (1968)

Occasionally, screaming out of two scant seconds of dead FM radio silence, would be “I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE, and I give you FIRE!” Terrified, before the first phrase of the song’s riff was finished, I’d jump up and turn off the radio. Um, it WAS the mid ’70s and, being a kid easily creeped out, I truly believed Arthur Brown WAS the god of hell fire! He, and his big CREEPY voice… it’s possessing as it IS possessed…, was coming after ME! It haunted me, if ever I thought about evil things (um, clowns mostly) that song, that VOICE, provided the soundtrack. Eventually, I got over being honestly freaked out, it was just theatrics (RIGHT?!). Now “The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown” is one of my favorite ’60s albums. The A side is a wicked psychedelic concerto of swirling Hammond organ, thundering drums and Mr. Browns big BAD voice… which gives me shivers, still. –Nipper

Sly and the Family Stone “There’s a Riot Goin’ On” (1971)

The greatest funk album ever recorded, which puts it way up there for best album, period. It’s done more than any other single pop album to change the way I listen to music, and even two years after first hearing it (yeah, I came to the riot late), I’m in awe of how it works – after all, it really shouldn’t, it’s simply too fucked up. Insular, decadent to the death, angry to exhaustion, with a bass guitar so upfront it’s unlistenable for quite some time, until you realize this is part of the album’s statement of purpose: all the crap that comes out of suburban subwoofers owes a debt to the dank, dirty vibe of the bass on this album. –Will

X “Under The Big Black Sun” (1982)

A record that sums up Americana as well as any other. “Under The Big Black Sun” is proof that X was as good of a country band as they were a punk band. Rockin’, rollicking, dissonant and dizzying, this record is a forty-five minute bender. Bookended by “The Hungry Wolf” (an superblast of syncopated yell along) and “The Have Nots” (possibly the best drinking song ever), this is the soundtrack to an unencumbered night out. –Cameron

T. Rex “T. Rex” (1970)

First Tyrannosaurus Rex release featuring the shortened moniker, T. Rex balances Bolan’s brain-fried, hippie-folk mysticism with a pop sensibility that would explode in T-Rexstacy, once he figured out this stuff might sound better with bass and drums. Of course, Bolan could craft a killer hook in his sleep, and T. Rex is full of them, be it on tender numbers like “Diamond Meadows,” close encounter of “The Visit,” electric freak out “Jewel,” or glam boogie previews like “One Inch Rock,” many numbers benefiting especially well from added string accompaniment. Highly recommended to anyone wanting to dig deeper than “Electric Warrior.” –Ben

Ananda Shankar “Ananda Shankar And His Music” (1975)

A scorching soundclash that mixes western funk and fusion with traditional Indian music to stunning effect. The result is some of the funkiest and out-there music from the 70’s. Mad sitar playing, buzzing electronic effects and heavy use of percussion and a non-stop groove makes for some great listening. This is cross-cutural music of the highest order that pandered to no fashions and managed to avoid sounding contrived. High on energy and catchy riffs as well as a good insight into more traditional Indian sounds. –Jon

Ravi Shankar’s nephew, Ananda, fuses traditional Indian music with heavy psych-funk creating one of the best “Indo-fusion” albums of all time! –David

Hal Blaine & The Young Cougars “Deuces, T’s, Roadsters, & Drums” (1963)

For those who don’t know, Mr. Blaine was a session drummer, and, though you might not recognize his name, many drummers of the early ’60s, considered him their “Chet Atkins!” Well, with his solo LP he gets down on some heavy instrumental, Hot Rod heat. For me, this is one of the better, more inventive, Hot Rod records as DTR&D is royally executed by the top LA session fellas. The list of “Young Cougars” is as long as my right arm, and DTR&D is produced in bright, booming ’60’s “Soundtrack” clarity by Lee Hazelwood. Oh, there’s even a handy “hot rod” lexicon featured in the liner notes, now I know what “E.T.” really stands for! –Nipper