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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blitzkrieg Pop

Bottom/ Candy-O (Elektra, 1979) is the second studio album by American rock band The Cars. The cover was painted by famed Playboy artist Alberto Vargas based on a dance step called the "rose petal" where the woman's hand was stretched demurely across the forehead and eyes like a petal. The Cars emerged from the early New Wave music scene in the late 1970s. They were at the forefront in merging 1970s guitar-oriented rock with the new synth-oriented pop that was then becoming popular and which would flower in the early 1980s. Major hits include "Just What I Needed", "Good Times Roll", "Shake It Up", "You Might Think" and "Magic". Singer and rhythm guitarist Ric Ocasek was the sole lyricist and main songwriter for the band. Their most successful single, "Drive", gained particular notability when it was used in a video of the Ethiopian famine, introduced by David Bowie at the 1985 Live Aid concert at
Wembley Stadium in London.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Welcome To The Machine

After many successive album covers with Roger Dean, English progressive rock band Yes instead commissioned Hipgnosis (known for designing album covers for Pink Floyd) to create the artwork for Going For The One (Atlantic, 1977). Yes's return at the height of the punk movement was an unexpectedly successful one. Top/ Billed "The English guys with the big fiddles" in the U.S., Electric Light Orchestra, a.k.a ELO, released their first No. 1 album in the UK, Discovery (Jet Records), in 1979. Typically consisting of pop songs with heavily classical overtones, the LP contained five hit songs including "Shine a Little Love" and "The Diary of Horace Wimp", many of which were heavily influenced by disco.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Real To Real Cacophony

Simple Minds's debut album, Life in a Day (Zoom, 1979), took a cue from fellow Post-punk forebears Magazine, and was somewhat self-consciously derivative of the late-70s punk boom, with AOR crossover potential not unlike that of The Cars. While still categorisable as 'rock', Simple Minds' second release, Real to Real Cacophony, had a darker edge. A rock band from Scotland, Simple Minds had its greatest worldwide popularity from the mid-1980s to the early-1990s. Over the years, Simple Minds have secured a string of successful hit singles, the best known being its number one worldwide hit single "Don't You (Forget About Me)"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Loving The Alien

David Bowie's album Heathen (ISO, 2001) includes a cover version of
"I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship" by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Middle/ Crop circles mark the ground of Remasters (Atlantic, 1990), a compilation album of remastered material by the English rock group Led Zeppelin. Top/ The Fountain: Music from the Motion Picture (Nonesuch, 2006) features collaborations between composer Clint Mansell, the San Francisco-based string quartet Kronos Quartet, who had previously performed for the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, and Scottish post-rock band Mogwai. The Fountain is a 2006 American science fiction/fantasy film directed by Darren Aronofsky. The film takes place in three interweaving narratives that encompass the age of the Spanish conquistadors, the near-future period and a journey through deep space in an ecospheric starship.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rock The Casbah

While La Mano Negra ("The Black Hand") was a supposed secret and violent Anarchist organization in Spain in the end of the 19th century, Mano Negra was a French band fronted by Manu Chao. Puta's Fever (Virgin) was released in 1989. Their music mixed a number of styles: punk rock (influenced by The Clash), reggae, ska and Latin music (with a brass section). The band had been among the pioneers of world music fusion and are a direct influence on countless bands in Europe and South America. Top/ Single "King of Bongo" by Mano Negra. The mix of African, Latin and other rhythms is often called mestizo or patchanka (which is the name of one of Mano Negra's albums).

Friday, February 15, 2008

Don't Dream It, Be It

Bottom/ The Captain and Me (Warner Bros., 1973) is the third studio album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers, and features the killer tracks "Long Train Runnin'" and "China Grove". Top/ Atlantic Crossing is Rod Stewart's sixth album, released in 1975, and peaking at #9 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. The title indicated Stewart's new commercial and artistic direction, a double pun on both his crossing over to Warner Brothers and on his departure to escape the tax structure of the United Kingdom for the sunnier pastures of the jet-set life in Los Angeles. Stewart jettisoned his association with Ronnie Wood and the stable of musicians who had been his core collaborators on his classic run of albums fusing soul and folk on Mercury Records, including Every Picture Tells A Story (1971) and Never A Dull Moment (1972). Atlantic Crossing inaugurated the next phase of Stewart's career, that of a glamorous front-rank rock personality. Stewart would confirm this new direction by the end of year with the announcement of his exit from The Faces, a band of mates rather than hired hands, and as the decade progressed by embracing popular trends in hard rock and disco more fitfully.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Burning Of The Midnight Lamp

The cover art of Axis: Bold as Love (Reprise, 1967), the second album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, depicts Hendrix and his Experience bandmates as the various forms of Vishnu, incorporating a painting of them by Roger Law. Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970) is considered one of the greatest and most influential guitarists in rock music history. Carlos Santana has suggested that Hendrix's music may have been influenced by his American-Indian heritage. Top/ Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop (Epic, 1989, with Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas) shows Beck largely trading in his jazz fusion sound for an instrumental album rock feel. Ranked the 14th on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time", Jeff Beck is one of three noted guitarists — the others being Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page — to have recorded with The Yardbirds. Hendrix considered guitarist Jeff Beck a close friend.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rock 'n' Roll Damnation

Bottom/ Powerage is the fifth studio album by Australian hard rock band AC/DC, released in May 1978 on Atlantic Records. It is also AC/DC's fourth international studio album. All songs were written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young, and Bon Scott. Powerage marked the studio debut of bassist Cliff Williams. It was the band's last Bon Scott-era studio release to feature production work by Harry Vanda and George Young. AC/DC have sold more than 200 million albums worldwide. Back in Black has sold an estimated 42 million units worldwide and 22 million in the US alone, making it the fifth highest-selling album ever in the US. Top/ Flash and the Pan was an Australian New Wave group (essentially an ongoing studio project) formed in the late 1970s by Harry Vanda and George Young, both formerly members of the Easybeats. George Young is also an older brother to Angus Young and Malcolm Young of rock'n'roll overlords AC/DC. Until the release of "Waiting for a Train" in 1983 they had been a one-hit wonder in the UK, which was a coincidence as the expression 'a flash in the pan' denotes something that is only briefly popular. The duo gained further exposure through the track from their debut album, "Walking in the Rain", which was covered by Grace Jones. That debut album was called Flash and the Pan (Ensign) and released in 1978. On the cover of its UK release (shown above), a mushroom cloud is seen in the background.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

No Problem Orchestra

Bottom/ Street is the 1991 album from Nina Hagen, released on Mercury. The singles from the album, produced by Zeus B. Held, included "Blumen Fur Die Damen" and "Berlin (Is Dufte!)". Nina Hagen (born Catharina Hagen on March 11, 1955) is a singer from Berlin, Germany. At age four, she began to study ballet, and was considered an opera prodigy by the time she was nine. Top/ Back in Germany by mid-1977, Hagen formed the Nina Hagen Band in West Berlin's Kreuzberg district. In 1978 they released their self-titled debut album on CBS, which included the single "TV-Glotzer" (a cover of "White Punks on Dope" by The Tubes, though with entirely different German lyrics), and "Auf'm Bahnhof Zoo", about West Berlin's then-notorious Zoologischer Garten station. The album gained significant attention throughout Germany and abroad, both for its hard rock sound and for Hagen's theatrical vocals, far different from the straightforward singing of her East German recordings. Meanwhile, Hagen's public persona was steadily creating media uproar and she became infamous for an appearance on an Austrian talk show called Club 2, in which she described masturbation techniques. In 1982, Hagen released her first English-language album: NunSexMonkRock, a dissonant mix of punk, funk, reggae, and opera. She then went on a world tour with the No Problem Orchestra. Middle/ In 1983, Nina Hagen released the album Angstlos. By this time, Hagen's public appearances were becoming stranger and frequently included discussions of God, UFOs, her social and political beliefs, animal rights and vivisection, and claims of alien sightings. The English version of Angstlos, Fearless, generated two major club hits in America, "Zarah" (a cover of the Zarah Leander song "Ich weiss, es wird einmal ein Wunder geschehen") and the disco / punk / opera song, "New York New York". Her 1985 album Nina Hagen In Ekstasy fared less well, but did generate club hits including a cover of the 1969 hit single "Spirit In The Sky". It also featured a 1979 recording of her hardcore punk take on Frank Sinatra's My Way, which had been one of her signature live tunes in previous years. In 1999, she played the role of Celia Peachum in The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weil and Berthold Brecht, alongside Max Raabe. Her most recent album, Journey to The Snow Queen, is more of an audio book- she reads the Snow Queen fairy tale with Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker in the background. In 2005 Nina Hagen headlined the Drop Dead Festival in New York City. Musical styles typically featured at Drop Dead include post-punk, deathrock, synthpunk, psychobilly, punk, experimental, gothic rock, horror
punk, dark cabaret and more.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Rock 'n' Roll With Me

Two classic cover paintings by cult artist Guy Peellaert of Rock Dreams fame
Top/ Album Diamond Dogs (RCA, 1974) by David Bowie merges the novel 1984 by George Orwell and Bowie's own vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Back of the gatefold LP cover discloses Bowie's body as a lying dog's. Bottom/ The Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (Atlantic, 1974) would mark Jagger and Richards' first effort as producers under their pseudonym "The Glimmer Twins".

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Nest That Sailed The Sky

The giant, helium-filled pig seen on the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals (Harvest, 1977) was actually flown over Battersea Power Station in London for the photo shoot (under the direction of Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis). Top/ The cover photo for OVO by Peter Gabriel (Real World, 2000), a soundtrack for the Millenium Dome Show in London, mirrors the track "The Nest That Sailed the Sky" found inside. Other fairytale-like songtitles on OVO include "The Tower That Ate People" and "The Hand That Sold Shadows".

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Let It Shine

Borboletta (CBS, 1974) is one of Santana's jazz-funk-oriented albums, along with Caravanserai, Welcome, with Alice Coltrane, Love Devotion Surrender, with John McLaughlin, and Illuminations, with Alice Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette and Jules Broussard. The record was released in a shiny blue sleeve displaying a butterfly, and suiting the general mood perfectly. Top/ Album Amigos (Columbia, 1976) also by Santana contains the tracks "Let It Shine" and "Europa (Earth's Cry Heaven's Smile)".

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hello Earth

Kate Bush herself has called The Dreaming (EMI, 1982)
her "I've gone mad album".
The iconic album cover depicts a scene described in the lyrics to the song "Houdini". In the picture shown, Bush is acting as Houdini's wife, holding a key in her mouth which she is about to pass on to Houdini. Many were baffled by the dense soundscapes Bush had created, and some critics accused the album of being over-produced. Bush was in her early twenties when making the album and tended to look outside herself for sources of inspiration. She drew on old crime films ("There Goes A Tenner"), a documentary about the war in Vietnam ("Pull Out The Pin"), the plight of Indigenous Australians ("The Dreaming"), the life of Houdini ("Houdini") and Stanley Kubrick's film of Stephen King's novel The Shining ("Get Out Of My House"). "Leave It Open" speaks of the need to acknowledge and express the darker sides of one's personality within the greater context of maintaining an open mind.
Top/ "Cloudbusting" is taken from the album Hounds Of Love (1985) by Kate Bush, considered by many to be her masterpiece.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Produced by Rick Rubin, the album Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Warner Bros., 1991) by L.A. alternative rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers has sold over seven million copies in the United States alone. The album's subject matter incorporated sexual innuendos and references to drugs and death as well as themes of lust and exuberance. Blood Sugar Sex Magik produced many hits for the band, including "Give It Away", "Under the Bridge", "Suck My Kiss", and "Breaking the Girl". All photography, paintings and art direction for Blood Sugar Sex Magik were credited to filmmaker Gus Van Sant
Top/ "Something Changed" (Island, 1996) is the fourth and final single taken from the album Different Class by British pop band
Pulp, released with two different sleeves (a "boy" and "girl"
version). This is the Girl CD.