This is part VI of Ten Days of Tapestry, a celebration of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the legendary Carole King album released on February 10, 1971. Parts I-V covered the six tracks on the record’s A-side: I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, It’s Too Late, Home Again, Beautiful and Way Over Yonder. On to side B!
The opening track of the B-side is one of Carole’s best known tunes, mainly because of James Taylor’s great cover: You’ve Got a Friend. It’s yet another track with beautifully written lyrics by Carole who also composed the music.
When you’re down and troubled/And you need some love and care/And nothing, nothing is going right/Close your eyes and think of me/And soon I will be there/To brighten up even your darkest night…Such a great pick her upper!
As quoted by Songfacts, Carole said the song “was as close to pure inspiration as I’ve ever experienced. The song wrote itself. It was written by something outside of myself, through me.”
Notably, You’ve Got a Friend never became a hit for Carole. Instead, it was the aforementioned great cover by her friend James Taylor that topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974, giving him his only no. 1 single in the U.S. to this day. Taylor, who played guitar on Tapestry, was working on his third studio album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon in parallel and recorded the tune for that album.
On we go with the next installment of my series celebrating the 50th anniversary of Tapestry, the signature album by the great Carole King. Parts I through IV featured the first five tracks of the record’s A-side: I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, It’s Too Late, Home Again and Beautiful. This brings me to Way Over Yonder, one of my favorite tunes on the album.
Way Over Yonder is the sixth and last track of Tapestry’s A-side. It’s another beautiful ballad solely written by Carole. This tune always puts me at ease with its mellow music and the lyrics. Way over yonder/Is a place that I know/Where I can find shelter/From a hunger and cold/And the sweet tastin’ good life/Is so easily found/A way over yonder, that’s where I’m bound…
One of the musical standouts on this track is the amazing tenor saxophone solo by Curtis Amy. There’s just so much feeling behind it. James Taylor is playing acoustic guitar. Last but least, the backing vocals by Merry Clayton still give me the chills. So good!
This is part IV of my series to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Carole King’sTapestry album, which is coming up on February 10. The three previous parts covered the first four tunes on side A: I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, It’s Too Late and Home Again. Here’s the fifth track aptly titled Beautiful.
Citing Carole’s 2012 auto-biography A Natural Woman, Wikipedia notes she did not consciously attempt to write “Beautiful” but it came to her spontaneously. It stemmed from her realization while riding the New York City subway that the way she perceived others reflected how she herself felt. She has also stated that because it came to her spontaneously, she initially didn’t realize some of the professional details of the song, such as the lack of rhyme in the refrain, which if she was writing the song consciously she would have included.
Beautiful was covered by Barbara Streisand, among other artists. She recorded it for her 1971 studio album Barbra Joan Streisand. Beautiful also became the title track of the musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. It started with a try-out in San Francisco in October 2013 before moving to New York’s Broadway where it was shown from January 2014 until October 2019. There was also an original production in London from February 2015 to August 2017. In addition, there have been various tours of the musical in the U.S., UK and Australia.
Here’s part III of my series celebrating the 50th anniversary of Carole King’sTapestry album. After I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away and It’s Too Late, we’re up to the fourth track of the album’s A-side: Home Again.
Carole wrote both the music and the lyrics for this ballad. While it’s fair to say it’s a deeper cut, I’ve always dug this song. Carole just has a gift for great lyrics. An excerpt: Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever gonna make it home again/It’s so far and out of sight/I really need someone to talk to and nobody else/Knows how to comfort me tonight/Snow is cold, rain is wet/Chills my soul right to the marrow/I won’t be happy ’til I see you alone again/’Til I’m home again and feelin’ right.
This is part II of my 10-day celebration of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Carole King’s Tapestry album. In the previous post I covered Tapestry’s great opener I Feel the Earth Move and So Far Away, the first of many beautiful ballads on this record. Next up is the third track on the A-side, It’s Too Late.
This tune, one of my favorite Carole King songs, is bringing up the speed to mid tempo. L.A. painter and lyricist Toni Stern provided the lyrics, while Carole wrote the music. “I’m sure there was a California quality in me that appealed to Carole,” Stern stated according to Musicfacts. “She was moving from a familial, middle class lifestyle to Laurel Canyon, where she started to let her hair down, literally and figuratively. We worked off our contrasts.”
It’s Too Late also appeared separately as the B-side to the lead single I Feel the Earth Move. As noted in my previous post, after giving initial preference to the latter tune, DJs discovered It’s Too Late and ended up playing it more than I Feel the Earth Move. While as such It’s Too Late may have been the actual no. 1, Billboard subsequently declared the single a double A-side. This meant the tunes were no longer tracked separately and are now both considered no. 1 songs. Regardless of these convoluted circumstances, there can be no doubt both tracks are outstanding.
On February 10, 2021, Carole King’sTapestry is turning 50. Not only is it one of the most iconic pop albums ever recorded, but Tapestry holds a special place in my heart. Over the next 10 days, I intend to celebrate this timeless gem largely one song at a time. Since Tapestry has 12 tracks, I guess I should have started this series two days earlier to truly make it one track each day. Well, obviously I didn’t, so I need to cheat a little to fit the series within 10 days. I’m going to kick it off and finish up with two songs and highlight one tune on each day two to day nine.
Tapestry is one of the very first music vinyl records I ever heard when I was a seven or eight year-old growing up in Germany. Even though I didn’t understand a word of English at the time, Carole’s music spoke to me right away. And, believe it or not, pretty soon, I found myself singing along, mimicking the English language. I memorized much of the lyrics that way, and later on when I started taking English lessons in fifth grade, I actually began to understand word by word what I had phonetically mimicked years before.
Tapestry was Carole King’s sophomore solo album. It came out nine months after her debut Writer. While Carole was only 29 years old when Tapestry was released, she already had had an impressive 13-year music career under her belt. Most of that time she had spent writing songs together with lyricist Gerry Goffin. Carole met Gerry while they were students in Queens College and married him at age 17 after she had become pregnant with her first daughter Louise.
Goffin-King became one of the most prolific and most successful songwriting partnerships of the ’60s. Some of the hits they wrote include Will You Love Me Tomorrow (The Shirelles), Chains (The Cookies, The Beatles), The Loco-Motion (Little Eva), Take Good Care of My Baby (Bobby Vee), Up on the Roof (The Drifters), I’m into Something Good (Earl-Jean, Herman’s Hermits), One Fine Day (The Chiffons), Pleasant Valley Sunday (The Monkees) and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Aretha Franklin). They even dabbled somewhat in psychedelic rock with Don’t Bring Me Down, which The Animals recorded and released in 1966.
Back to Tapestry. Unless noted otherwise all music and lyrics were written by Carole. Here’s the opener I Feel the Earth Move, a piano-driven rocker with a bluesy touch, fueled by Carole’s honky tonk style piano and guitarist Danny Kootch’s great fill-ins. What a terrific way to kick off the album! I Feel the Earth Move also became the A-side of Tapestry’s lead single, backed by It’s Too Late. Billboard lists I Feel the Earth Move as a no. 1 tune on the Hot 100, though according to Songfacts, there is some debate over this. Apparently, after a few weeks of frequent airplay of I Feel the Earth Move, DJs discovered the B-side and ended up playing it more. Billboard subsequently designated the single a double-A. As the result, the tunes were no longer tracked separately and are now both considered to be no. 1 songs.
After an energetic opener, Carole decided to slow things down with the ballad So Far Away. So far away/Doesn’t anybody stay in one place any more?/It would be so fine to see your face at my door/It doesn’t help to know you’re just time away/Long ago I reached for you and there you stood/Holding you again could only do me good/Oh how I wish I could but you’re so far away…Such beautifully written lyrics.
According to Songfacts, Tapestry producer Lou Adler said, “So Far Away’ is my favorite song on Tapestry. I use the phrase a lot, ‘Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?’ It’s the road, it’s the people traveling. It just seems to me an anthem of that particular time and so well written and one of the earlier songs she wrote for this album.”
Long before Carole King launched her solo career in 1970, she was part of one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in pop music history with lyricist Gerry Goffin. The two met in New York’s Queens College in 1959 where Carole Klein (her birth name) had begun writing songs as Carole King. They started collaborating soon thereafter, with Carole composing music and Gerry writing lyrics.
The songwriting partnership quickly led to romance, pregnancy and marriage in August 1959. King was 17 years old while Goffin was 20. That same year, she composed Oh Neil for her high school friend Neil Sedaka who recorded the tune as a single. He co-wrote the lyrics with Howard Greenfield and Goffin. The B-side A Very Special Boy was a Goffin-King composition.
The single flopped. But it resulted in professional contracts for King and Goffin with Aldon Music, a Manhattan-based music publishing company founded by Don Kirshner and a significant force in what became known as the Brill Building sound.
Goffin-King’s breakthrough occurred in 1960 with Will You Love Me Tomorrow, which was recorded by The Shirelles and came out in November that year. The tune climbed all the way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first no. 1 in the U.S. by an African American all-girl group. King would later record a version of the song for her iconic Tapestry album.
The next big Goffin-King hit is another ’60s classic: Take Good Care of My Baby, recorded by Bobby Vee and released in July 1961. It became the second no. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for the young songwriting couple.
Another great ’60s tune written by Goffin-King is The Loco-Motion, which was first recorded with Little Eva (born Eva Narcissus Boyd) and came out in June 1962. Boyd was Goffin’s and King’s babysitter. Originally, the song had been written for R&B singer Dee Dee Sharp who turned it down. The tune has been covered by many other artists, including Grand Funk Railroad (1974), who like Little Eva took it to no. 1, as well as King herself on her 1980 album Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King.
And the hits kept coming for Goffin-King. In May 1963, it was One Fine Day by the The Chiffons. The tune peaked at no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. And it’s yet another song King recorded herself many years later, in 1980, giving her a no. 12 on the U.S. mainstream chart.
I’m Into Somethin’ Good is another of my favorite ’60s pop tunes. The best known version is by Herman’s Hermits, who released the song as their debut single I’m Into Something Good in August 1964. It topped the UK Singles Chart and reached no. 13 in the U.S. The tune was first recorded earlier that year by Earl-Jean. Her original climbed to no. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100, not too shabby either.
Let’s do three more Goffin-King compositions. First up: Don’t Bring Me Down released by The Animals in May 1966. While it gave the British band a hit in the UK and the U.S. where it reached no. 6 and no. 16, respectively, they preferred a more straightforward R&B sound and as such were lukewarm about it.
No Goffin-King post would be complete without Pleasant Valley Sunday, which became an international hit for The Monkees in 1967, reaching no. 1, no. 2, no. 3 and no. 10 in Canada, New Zealand, the U.S. and Australia, respectively.
The last tune I’d like to highlight is (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. Aretha Franklin first recorded and released this gem in September 1967. The song was inspired by Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler who received a co-credit. It’s yet another tune King also recorded herself for the Tapestry album.
While the Goffin-King songwriting partnership lasted for 10 years and yielded remarkable success throughout that period, their personal relationship hit the rocks in 1964 when Goffin fathered a daughter with above singer Earl-Jean (full name: Earl-Jean Reavis, née McCrea). King and Goffin remained together until their divorce in 1969.
King went on to launch a successful solo career and released her debut album Writer in May 1970, followed by the career-defining Tapestry in February 1971. Goffin began working with other composers and also had a solo album in 1973, though it did not become successful. In 1987, Goffin and King were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll of Fame in 1990. Goffin passed away in June 2014 in Los Angeles at the age of 75.
The annual 11-hour marathon on the Jersey shore combines first rate tribute music with a great cause
Today would have been the 7th annual Rock the Farm festival, a great music tribute event conducted each year in the New Jersey shore town of Seaside Heights. But in light of the seemingly never-ending COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers made the responsible decision to cancel, hoping they can bring back the 11-hour music marathon in 2021.
I think the idea behind Rock the Farm is ingenious: Imagine an iconic music festival that could never happen in reality and bring it to life with compelling tribute acts and raise money for a great cause in the process! It’s almost like a mini Live Aid, except of course The Beatles or The Doors could have never have shared a bill with the Eagles, Guns N’ Roses or Tom Petty.
The event is organized by Jersey non-profit community organization CFC Loud N Clear Foundation, which offers post-rehab support programs to individuals and families struggling to overcome addiction to opioids, alcohol and other substances. Rock the Farm serves as their main annual fundraiser.
I realize that unless you are from Jersey and/or have been to the festival, this is a bit of an inside baseball post. But as more frequent visitors of the blog may recall, I dig seeing tribute bands, especially when they are of the high caliber Rock the Farm has attracted over the years. This year would have been my fourth time in a row to attend. Instead, I’m taking a look back at highlights from the past two years.
Let’s kick things off with a Guns N’ Roses tribute band from Dallas called Guns 4 Roses. While I haven’t found any information on when they were formed, their website lists gigs going back to 2009. Here’s their rendition of Sweet Child O’ Mine captured at Rock the Farm 2018.
TUSK are an outstanding tribute to Fleetwood Mac, mirroring the Rumours lineup. This band from New Jersey, which tours nationally, features Kathy Phillips (as Stevie Nicks, vocals), Kim Williams (as Christine McVie, keyboards & vocals), Scott McDonald (as Lindsey Buckingham, guitar & vocals), Tom Nelson (as Mick Fleetwood, drums) and Randy Artiglere (as John McVie, bass). Here’s Dreams and You Make Loving Fun, from Rock the Farm 2018.
Another highlight at Rock the Farm 2018 were Free Fallin’, a Tom Petty tribute from Minneapolis, founded in 2007. Their members are Tom Brademeyer (as Tom Petty, guitar & lead vocals), Karl Swartz (as Mike Campbell, guitar & vocals), Craig Volke (as Scott Thurston, guitar, keyboards, harmonica, percussion & vocals), Dale Peterson (as Benmont Tench, keyboards, percussion & vocals), Russ Lund (as Ron Blair, bass) and Mark Larsen (as Stan Lynch, drums). Here they are with Refugee, one of my favorite Petty tunes.
The headliner at Rock the Farm 2018 were Live/Wire, a kickass AC/DC tribute from New York. Founded in 2000, the band includes Mike Hughes (as Angus Young, lead guitar), Bill Voccia (as Malcolm Young, rhythm guitar), Chris Antos (as Bon Scott and Brian Johnson, lead vocals), Bill ‘Daytona’ Bowden (as Cliff Williams, bass) and Billy Rauff (as Phil Rudd, drums). Based on their current schedule, the band’s touring radius appears to be the eastern half of the U.S. Here’s It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll). Despite some apparent technical issues with the bagpipe, it’s a pretty cool rendition.
One Fine Tapestry are a tribute to Carole King, one of my favorite singer-songwriters. At the core of this act are Gerard Barros and Diane Barros, a New Jersey-based versatile husband and wife duo performing a variety of different shows. At Rock the Farm 2019, they were backed by a full band. Here’s their rendition of King’s Sweet Seasons.
Decade is an act revolving around great Neil Young tribute artist John Hathaway, who is also from New Jersey and performs with different line-ups of talented backing musicians. Frequent members include guitarist Gordon Bunker Strout, pedal steel player Joseph Napolitano, bassists Ken Ramos and John Dickson and keyboarder Steve Cunniff. Sometimes, Hathaway’s band also features a female backing vocalist as was the case at Rock the Farm 2019 with Pam McCoy. Here’s Cinnamon Girl.
Always fun to watch are Rolling Stones tribute The Glimmer Twins from Philly. Named after the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, this band is led by Keith Call (vocals, harp) and Bernie Bollendorf (guitars, vocals), who bring to life the sound and looks of Jagger and Richards in the ’70s. While the band’s remaining musicians don’t resemble the other members of The Rolling Stones, they sound fantastic: Michael Rubino (guitars), Bobby Corea (drums), Rob Ekstedt (Bass), Rocco Notte (keyboards), Valorie Steel (vocals) and Bobby Michaels (saxophone, flute, organ). Check ’em out with Can You Hear Me Knocking.
The final band I’d like to highlight in this look back were the headliner last year: Simply Queen. This Canadian tribute to Queen, which has been around for 15 years, features Rick Rock (as Freddie Mercury), Bob Wegner (as Brian May), Phil Charrette (as Roger Taylor) and Mitch Taylor (as John Deacon). While Simply Queen mostly perform in Canada, they venture out to the U.S. fairly frequently. Here’s a nice rocker called It’s Late.
My recent “desert island” collection of 10 studio albums included Deep Purple’sMachine Head, which after more than 40 years of listening remains the ultimate hard rock album to me. In that post, I also noted that these days heavy rock no longer is my primary music choice. But occasionally, I still enjoy it, which triggered the idea to put together this playlist. I guess just like with many other things, when it comes to music, it’s all about moderation, except of course for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Neil Young, live concerts, music equipment… 🙂
As more frequent visitors of the blog know, I find doing rankings nearly impossible. But since I suppose there needs to be some system to the madness, the following list is in chronological order from oldest to most recent. And, yes, I suppose in some cases you could question whether a pick is really hard, heavy or metal rock, or is it just rock? The boundaries can be pretty fluid. Plus, to some extent, it’s also a bit subjective. At the end of the day, it’s all about music I dig when the occasion is right. With all these caveats out of the way, let’s get to it.
Steppenwolf – Born to be Wild
This classic from Steppenwolf’s eponymous debut album from January 1968 sometimes has been called the first heavy metal song – in part because of the second line of the second verse, “heavy metal thunder.”Born to be Wild was written by Canadian rock musician and songwriter Dennis Edmonton, aka Mars Bonfire. The tune also appeared separately as a single in June 1968 and became Steppenwolf’s biggest hit next to Magic Carpet Ride. It will forever be associated with the 1969 biker cult picture Easy Rider. Every time I hear that opening line Get your motor runnin’, I feel like climbing on my chopper and heading down Route 18 to the Jersey shore. Then reality sets in. I don’t own a bike, not to mention the minor detail I don’t really know how to ride one. But when I get the urge to look for adventure, there’s always my sexy family crossover SUV! 🙂
Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
While Led Zeppelin IV is my favorite Zep album, Whole Lotta Love possibly is my favorite tune among their crunchy rockers. Credited to all four members, the track first appeared on Led Zeppelin’s sophomore album that came out in October 1969, ingeniously titled Led Zeppelin II. The following month, Whole Lotta Love was also released as a single and became their best chart-performing song, reaching no. 1 in Australia and Germany, and peaking at no. 4 in the U.S. Notably, it didn’t chart in their home country. From today’s perspective, the fact that Whole Lotta Love became such a big hit looks unreal. You need cooling/Baby I’m not fooling/I’m gonna send ya/Back to schooling//A-way down inside/A-honey you need it/I’m gonna give you my love/I’m gonna give you my love//Want to whole lotta love/Want to whole lotta love/Want to whole lotta love/Want to whole lotta love…
Deep Purple – Speed King
Obviously, it was only a matter of time until I would feature a Deep Purple tune in this post. But while Machine Head was their Mount Rushmore, there’s more to the British hard rockers than this 1972 gem. One great example is the opener to the band’s fourth studio album Deep Purple in Rock released in June 1970: Speed King. Credited to the entire band, the song’s lyrics are made up of titles of classic rock & roll tunes by Chuck Berry and Little Richard, which I always thought was a cool idea. Good golly, said little Miss Molly/When she was rockin’ in the house of blue light/Tutti Frutti was oh so rooty/Rockin’ to the east and west/Lucille was oh so real/When she didn’t do her daddies will/Come on baby, drive me crazy, do it, do it.. This is one kick-ass rocker!
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
While I can’t claim to be a Black Sabbath fan, there’s just no way you can leave out these English rockers from any heavy rock collection. It would be like doing a post about the British Invasion and excluding The Beatles. And, to be clear, I’m not just featuring Sabbath because I felt I had to. I’ve always loved Paranoid, the title track of their second studio album that came out in September 1970. Credited to the entire band, Paranoid first appeared as a single in August of the same year. It became their biggest hit, topping the charts in Germany, and reaching no. 2, 3 and 4 in Switzerland, Austria and the UK, respectively. Apparently, audiences were less receptive in America, where the tune stalled at no. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here’s a cool official clip, even though it’s all playback. Check out Tony Iommi’s cool Gibson SG. One day when I grow up I’m gonna get an ax like this – it even plays rhythm and solo at the same time! 🙂
Uriah Heep – Bird of Prey
Yep, Uriah Heep with their crazy high vocals can border a bit on the weird, but these guys were rockin’, especially in their early days. I seem to remember when I bought the album Salisbury as a young teenager, my six-year older sister who accompanied me to the record store was a bit embarrassed about my choice. Come on, sis’, while with Carole King’sTapestry, CSNY’sDéjà Vu and Pink Floyd’sWish You Were Here, to name a few, you undoubtedly introduced me to some of the best recorded music ever, your taste also varied – let’s just leave it at that! 🙂 Credited to the band members Ken Hensley, Mick Box, Paul Newton and Keith Baker, Bird of Prey is the furious opener of Heep’s sophomore album from February 1971. That tune rumbles just like the tank on the album cover – “geil,” as was fashionable to say in Germany back in the day!
Rainbow – Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
I don’t care how you feel about Rainbow, and my thoughts about them are mixed these days, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll just is an epic rocker. Co-written by former Deep Purple guitarist and Rainbow founder Ritchie Blackmore and the band’s powerhouse lead vocalist Ronnie James Dio, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll was the title track of Rainbow’s third studio album released in April 1978. It also became the record’s lead single in March of the same year. To me, this is Rainbow’s best song. Apparently, audiences felt differently, at least the time, and far preferred some of their later songs, on which Blackmore adopted a more commercial sound along the lines of Foreigner.
Gary Moore – Victims of the Future
Before Gary Moore fully embraced electric blues during his solo career, the Irish guitarist released heavy rock album Victims of the Future in December 1983. The big hit off that record was the power ballad Empty Rooms, which was played to death on the radio in Germany. I don’t even recall hearing the title track, which was co-written by Moore, Neil Carter (keyboards), Neil Murray (bass) and Ian Paice (drums) – and, yep, that’s the Ian Paice from Deep Purple. The song wasn’t released as a single; clocking in at more than six minutes, it wouldn’t have been radio-friendly to begin with. Admittedly, this is a pretty aggressive tune I can only tolerate occasionally, but when I’m in the mood for some heavy action, I still enjoy it. According to Wikipedia, Moore later dismissed the record as “just one of my feeble attempts at heavy rock”. It’s certainly quite different from his electric blues music he released starting in the early ’90s all the way until his premature death at age 58 in February 2011.
Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child o’ Mine
My sentiments about Guns N’ Roses in general are similar to the previous pick. Sometimes, their music is simply too aggressive, so again, I need to be in the right mood. When I am, I actually enjoy a good number of their tunes. On these occasions, Sweet Child o’ Mine is one of my favorites. It’s a track off their debut album Appetite for Destruction from July 1987. Credited to the entire band, the tune also became the album’s third single in August of the same year. It was one of the songs that fueled the record’s massive international chart success, turning it into Guns N’ Roses’ biggest album. The guitar work on this song is just killer!
Scorpions – Raised on Rock
I suppose writing a post about heavy rock without acknowledging German veterans Scorpions would border on treason. The band from the city of Hannover first entered my radar screen with Love at First Sting, their hugely successful ninth studio album they released in March 1984, 12 years into their recording career. I seem to recall reading somewhere there were times before then when Scorpions were more famous elsewhere than in their home country. With hits, such as Rock You Like a Hurricane, Big City Nights and Still Loving You, Love at First Sting definitely changed that. Scorpions continue to rock and roll to this day. In April, they released a new tune, Sign of Hope, a classic Scorpions-style ballad, inspired by COVID-19. According to a statement on their website, they have been working on songs for a new album. The tune I decided to feature here appeared 26 years after Love at First Sting. Raised on Rock is the opener to the band’s 17th studio album Sting in the Tail from March 2010, which together with the supporting tour was positioned as their farewell. Then, they decided they simply couldn’t stop.
AC/DC – Play Ball
Let’s wrap up things with a great late-career rocker by AC/DC. Play Ball is from their 16th studio album Rock or Bust, which is the band’s most recent to date from November 2014. There have been reports about a new album for some time, largely fueled by Twisted Sister’sDee Snider, who apparently is close to AC/DC. According to this NMEstory from late July, the album is already in the can, but it’s release has been delayed due to COVID-19. It sounds like thanks to some technology wizardry, it will feature the classic lineup including Malcolm Young and be the band’s final album. For now, let’s focus on actually released AC/DC music. Co-written by Malcolm Young prior to his forced retirement due to dementia and his younger brother Angus Young, Play Ball was the lead single from Rock or Bust, which appeared in October 2014, preceding the album by one month – a classic AC/DC rocker!
Jeez, after listening to ten heavy rock tunes, my ears are exhausted. Yesterday, the long-awaited reissue of The Rolling Stones’Goat Heads Soup came out. I think I’m just about ready for Angie. A-Angie, A-Angie/When will this hard rock disappear/Angie, Angie/where will it lead from here…
Inspired by Hans Postcard’s fun 2020 album draft, where 10 participants pick albums in 10 rounds for a total of 100, I decided to put together my list of 10 albums I would take on a desert island. Essentially, I already came up with such a collection in May 2018, but some things have changed in the meantime and this list features five new picks, including three different artists.
While each of the albums are longtime favorites, I still can’t exclude the possibility that my picks might be different in a month or two. Since I couldn’t figure out how to rank my selections, I ingeniously decided to put them in chronological order. Conveniently, this means kicking things off with my favorite band of all time.
The Beatles/Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (May 1967)
While I dig all albums by the Fab Four, on most days, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is my favorite. The innovative use of recording technology, the cover art and the combination of different music styles like vaudeville, circus, music hall, avant-garde and traditional Indian music with pop and rock make Sgt. Pepper a true masterpiece. The first album after The Beatles had stopped touring was influenced by The Beach Boys’Pet Sounds, which Brian Wilson had created in response to Revolver, as well as Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention. Had it not been because of silly pressure from EMI to issue Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane as a single, Sgt. Pepper hands-down would have been the strongest Beatles album. Still, with tunes like the title track, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, Within You Without You and the magnificent A Day in the Life, there’s lots of great music.
Carole King/Tapestry (February 1971)
Carole King’sTapestry perhaps is the ultimate singer-songwriter album. Her sophomore release from 1971 featured 10 new tunes and two reinterpretations of songs King had written together with her former husband and lyricist Jerry Goffin in the ’60s. Like many of their other songs, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman became hits, in these cases by The Shirelles and Aretha Franklin, respectively. There’s really no weak tune on Tapestry and I could have selected any. It’s Too Late has always been one of my favorites.
The Rolling Stones/Sticky Fingers (April 1971)
I know many fans of The Rolling Stones consider Exile on Main St. or Some Girls as their best albums. While I can’t claim to know all of their records in detail, my favorite is Sticky Fingers. This was the second full-length record with Mick Taylor who had replaced Brian Jones in June 1969. Between Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Bitch, Sister Morphine and Dead Flowers, there are so many classics on this album. I just think the Stones never sounded better. And interestingly, it’s the country-influenced Dead Flowers that has become one of my favorite Stones tunes. I just love the guitar work!
Marvin Gaye/What’s Going On (May 1971)
I think Marvin Gaye had one of the most beautiful soulful voices I know. This artist was a smooth operator, even when he sang about serious issues like on this album. …(Oh, crime is increasin’) Oh, woo/Trigger happy policin’/panic is spreadin’/God knows where we’re headin’/Oh baby/Make me wanna holler/They don’t understand/Make me wanna holler/They don’t understand…It’s remarkable these lyrics were written almost 50 years, yet they sound frighteningly relevant in America in the year 2020.
Neil Young/Harvest (February 1972)
I dig a good number of Neil Young songs and feel his first compilation Decade is one of the best greatest hits collections I can think of. When it comes to his albums, my favorites are Harvest from 1972 and Harvest Moon from 1992. While I think the title track of the latter is among Young’s best tunes, I have a slight preference for Harvest from an overall album perspective. Featuring David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt as guests, it became Young’s most successful record and the best-selling album in the U.S. in 1972 – in part thanks to Heart of Gold, which remains Young’s only no. 1 song on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 to this day. There are many other gems on the record, including The Needle and the Damage Done.
Deep Purple/Machine Head (March 1972)
I don’t listen to hard rock a lot these days, but when I do, Deep Purple remain my favorite choice, especially their sixth studio album Machine Head from March 1972. I’ve always thought one of the cool things about this band are the equal roles the guitar and the keyboards play as solo instruments. Jon Lord was a true master of the Hammond organ who skillfully blended blues, hard rock and jazz with elements of classical music. Lazy is one of the tracks on which Lord shines in particular.
Pink Floyd/The Dark Side of the Moon (March 1973)
First, I was going to pick Meddle, Pink Floyd’s sixth studio album from October 1971. With the great Echoes, it foreshadowed the band’s classic mid-’70s sound on The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. All three albums are among my favorite Floyd records. Eventually, I settled on The Dark Side of the Moon. It’s a perfect album for headphones, and I’ve listened to it countless times at night in bed. The sound is just phenomenal. One of the standout tracks is The Great Gig In the Sky and the amazing vocal performance by British singer Clare Torry.
Bruce Springsteen/Born to Run (August 1975)
Bruce Springsteen entered my radar screen in 1984 with the Born in the U.S.A. album. While I’m still fond of that record, I subsequently explored and came to appreciate his earlier work. To me, Born to Run turned out to be Springsteen’s Mount Rushmore. After two albums that were critically acclaimed but not successful from a commercial perspective, he really needed a hit. Born to Run would turn out to be exactly that and catapult Springsteen to fame beyond the U.S. Apart from the title song, my favorite tracks on the album include Thunder Road, Backstreets, Jungleland and the beautiful soul-oriented Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.
Stevie Wonder/Songs in the Key of Life (September 1976)
Stevie Wonder has been one of my favorite artists for 40 years. I dig many of his songs starting from when he was known as Little Stevie Wonder. But it’s his classic period in the ’70s I like the most, especially the albums Talking Book (October 1972), Innervisions (August 1973) and Songs in the Key of Life (September 1976). The latter became the best-selling and most critically acclaimed album of Wonder’s long career. Here’s his beautiful tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington who had passed away in May 1974.
Steely Dan/Aja (September 1977)
I’m wrapping up this list with Steely Dan. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen made many great records, but it’s this gem from September 1977 that’s my favorite: Aja. As usual, Becker and Fagen assembled top-notch session musicians to record the album. There were also prominent guests, including Michael McDonald and Timothy B. Schmit. All of the tracks on this album are great. Deacon Blues is my favorite Steely Dan song, but since I previously featured it more than once, I’m going with the closer Josie.