The genius of Zuma can really be be summed up by looking at the cover for a few seconds. A peice of shit? Politically incorrect? Wasted? Definetly. All that and more, but in a great way that’s truely representative of American attidude in art and the human spirit itself, which is “fuck it”. Throw finesse out the window, close your eyes, and floor it. Let your gut and your soul make every decision and only keep your brain around to hold the massive amounts of cocaine you’re giving it. This is the world ZUMA was birthed in. Neil was finally free from a sprawling divorce and the unwanted fame following him since Harvest. He was not going to approach any love songs like a well spoken folkie. Too pussy, too dishonest. To really say what he felt he had to do while giving the finger, even when the songs are overwhelmingly beautiful. Unreserved 70’s guitar rock at it’s classic best, but capturing a vibe in the open feeling and wasted irony that still sounds fresh next to The Replacements’ Let it Be or Guided by Voices’ Propeller. –Alex
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Most people today remember Twisted Sister as the spearhead of the Hair Metal movement with their poppy bubble gum anthems all over rock radio. In truth the band dates back to the 70s and began as a hard rock glam act before vocalist Dee Snider arrived and introduced the music of Judas Priest, AC/DC, Sabbath, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. This debut is far removed from what will follow two albums later with 1983′s breakthrough album, “Stay Hungry”, containing a sound that is raw and mean, stripped down and primal.
Each track is a classic of it’s kind: “What you Don’t Know, Sure Can Hurt You” is an awesome Alice Cooper inspired anthem (echoes of his “Hello Hooray!”) that welcomes us into their metal world. Rebellious and insidious, this is a perfect way to set up the heavy album. “Run For Your Life” features a great melodic spoken intro by Snider that recalls Zeppelin before the song gets heavy and speeds up to the level of Priest brutality. “Sin After Sin” is clearly titled as a tribute to the Priest masterpiece of 1977 of the same name. And the song very much recalls the same sound from those 70s records, clearly showing the band was capable of such. “Shoot Em Down” rocks like heavy Kiss but features a more UFO inspired chorus. “Under The Blade” is Twisted Sister’s best song and my personal favorite, this is the one all Manowar loving metalheads reach for first. Guitarist Jay Jay French’s riff is one of his best and the lyrics are among the best the band ever wrote. “Tear It Loose” is a speed metaller that is inspired by Motorhead. Motorhead’s ace guitarist, Fast Eddie Clark, even contributed a solo to the classic. Another album standout.
Under the Blade ranks as one of the great debuts of Heavy Metal and one of the best albums of 1982. It’s one of my personal favorites, and one that is a must for fans of the NWOBHM and Traditional Metal. An absolute Metal essential that will have the committed headbanger going back for many more trips “under the blade”. —James
The no-frills cover shot of the heads-down Status Quo frontline on Piledriver tells the story via the show-of-force image and the big, bold group logo in bright red. With no-holds-barred aggression, the major label debut from the boys in blue is a steamrollin’ onslaught of early seventies three chord boogie, blooze and rawk. Recorded live in the studio, the aptly titled Piledriver rolls into action behind the chuggin’ combo platter of “Don’t Waste My Time” and “Oh Baby”, while adding the five-minute slow ridin’ “Unspoken Words”, the chucky drive of “Big Fat Mama”, the short “Paper Plane”, and the lengthy closing cover jam of “Roadhouse Blues”. Pile on! —Jon
In the spring of 1968, Laura Nyro’s Columbia Records debut Eli and the Thirteenth Confession unleashed something very unique and beautiful onto the scene. Unfortunately, the album fell on mostly deaf ears, peaking at #189 on the Billboard 200. Nearly thirty years later, Laura Nyro is still woefully unknown to the public, although the potency of her music remains.
While the instrumentation and influences evident in Eli and the Thirteenth Confession are mostly familiar, new perspectives and directions make the album into the radical experience that it is. Reviewers commonly refer to the music as an amalgamation of Soul, Pop, Jazz, Broadway, and whatever else, but these styles are so expertly fused into something wonderfully new, that naming the possible components just isn’t worthwhile. “Sweet Blindness” may sound age-old, but there’s never been another drinking song remotely like it. “Poverty Train” goes to more places, and back again, than any of Bob Dylan and company’s “protest” songs. Sexual revolutions and all, a woman ending her album by screaming “love my lovething” had to have been something original. Throughout the record, Laura’s voice, piano, and guitars careen and writhe all over, tempos and chord structures being swept to and fro at her pleasing. But originality is only half of the story. The energy and sincerity of Laura’s songs is at once confounding and life-affirming. If we’d like to use the term, Laura Nyro had a hell of a lot of soul. Her voice alone creates much of the appeal of the record, at times sorrowful, grumbling, at times joyful and chirping, but at all times infinitely human.
This is a definition of a master in one space in time, and a model for the kind of innovations that can be borne of Popular music. Maybe in another thirty years Laura will have the audience she always deserved. —Matthew
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It is hard to believe that upon its release in 1971, Bark was poorly reviewed. In retrospect, its musical closeness to Jefferson Airplane’s earlier work, especially 1969′s Volunteers, is striking. “When the Earth Moves Again” is a collective, anthemic song in the same mould and of the same quality as “We Can Be Together,” and “Crazy Miranda” is clearly by the author of “rejoyce.” What makes Bark special is the move of Slick and the astonishingly under-valued Jorma Kaukonen to the foreground and the new casual, almost frayed approach to performing and recording. Also new is a shift away from the already-qualified counter-culture sentiments of Volunteers towards a more resigned, knowing worldview: “Third Week in the Chelsea” is painful in its directness, but gorgeous in its craftsmanship and execution; Slick’s “Law Man” projects a tired, slightly annoyed, spirit that Slick could tap into so well. New to the band was the funky and sensual punch of tunes like “Feel So Good” and “Pretty As You Feel,” which project a randy-to-sultry adult sexuality absent from their more whimsical “love” songs of the ’60s. Confirms that the early ’70s were the high water mark for the extended Airplane family. —Toolshed4
Based on the title, I was expecting some blistering, fast-paced jazz, probably dominated by squalling saxophone and so on. For those of you who have listened to Destination Out! already, you will know that I found this not to be the case. Perhaps I should have taken more heed of the exclaimation mark, because in many ways I can draw similarities between what Jackie does here and what Eric Dolphy was doing on Out To Lunch! Admittedly, this tends not to have the skronkier qualities of that album, but firstly, the replacement of piano with vibes is obvious, and then there’s the combination of weird, staggering music that’s somehow also really accessible and exuberantly fun to listen to. This is often cited as a pretty essential jazz album, especially in the context of post/hard bop, and honestly, I can really say it is. There are few albums which really nail experimentation and accessibility at the same time, but the sophisticated and restrained, often atmospheric playing on Destination Out! means that even with the odd rhythms and wonderfully wonky playing this is still a pleasure to listen to over and over again. A classic. —Timmay
Houses of the Holy finds Led Zeppelin happily accepting their status as king of the mountain rock gods, operating on a level far above and beyond the bluesy cock-rock of their contemporaries. A grander Zeppelin is on display from the get go, with Page’s swooping battalion of guitars and Plant’s sped up elfin vocals sending “The Song Remains the Same” on a whirlwind tour of the stars, while epic entries like the lush, mellotron orchestrated “The Rain Song” and eerie creeper “No Quarter” prowl similarly heady terrain. The acoustic ditty turned bruiser “Over the Hills and Far Away,” Bonham stomp of “The Ocean,” and summer nights hippie haze of “Dancing Days” provide more folds to the Zeppelin mystique, while tongue in cheek offerings like the reggae meets 50′s doo-wop of “D’yer Mak’er” and funky filler “The Crunge” find the band working well outside the box. Factor in the album’s beefy, yet crystalline production job, and their most bizarre album graphics yet, and Houses of the Holy solidifies Zeppelin’s lofty stature. —Ben