The Allman Brothers Band – The Allman Brothers Band (1969)

Allman_Allman5 out of 5 Stars!

It’s rare when a band barrels out of the gate with a debut album that not only includes a wealth of stunning material, but also has such a unique sound/style as to create its very own musical genre, but that is exactly what The Allman Brothers Band did back in 1969. This collection of tunes, this magnum opus of Southern Rock, created a standard/mainstream musical genre for decades to come and put this band on the road to deserving stardom. It certainly remains one of my all-time favorites in the genre, and the performances by all involved are nothing short of brilliant and breathtaking.

Side A, from start to finish, is sheer and utter perfection. The upbeat guitar-driven instrumental “Don’t Want You No More” showcased the dual-guitar action of Duane Allman and Richard “Dickey” Betts, then ushered in “It’s Not My Cross to Bear,” a slow bluesy track that introduced to an unsuspecting public the gruff and gritty power of Gregg Allman’s voice atop a Hammond organ backdrop. “Black Hearted Woman” and “Trouble No More” offered more engaging Southern-tinged Hard Rock, and with the formidable rhythm section of bassist Berry Oakley and twin-percussionists Jai Johanny Johanson and Butch Trucks never letting up for a moment, helped to make these two foot-tappin’ tracks instant epitomes of the genre.

Side B is just as stunning, from the riff-laden opener “Every Hungry Woman,” through to Gregg Allman’s signature Hammond-lush semi-ballad “Dreams” with its mesmerizing guitar solo, and finally to the album’s explosive climax, “Whipping Post,” where each band member gives the performance of his life to make this tune (and the aforementioned “Dreams”) one of the band’s concert staples for its entire existence. Talk about a classic track!

As I said earlier, the album is nothing short of a masterpiece. Yet, despite this lofty designation on my part, I do grudgingly admit, I find one minor flaw—the album contains only seven songs, where I would have wished for many more. But I suppose any additional tunes might have screwed up the flawless sequencing of the tracks and destroyed this ne plus ultra in Southern Rock, so I have never grumbled too much about not getting my wish. And thankfully, Idlewild South, the band’s impressive follow-up, arrived about ten months later and came damned close in matching the debut’s unquestionable vigor and long-lasting influence on the music industry and in the minds of the fans, including myself.

Although many of the skillful artists performing on this album are no longer with us, leaving the world way too young, they gifted us with a treasure trove of musical riches by which to remember them for generation after generation. May Duane Allman, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and most recently Gregory LeNoir Allman rest in peace…and thank you, guys, for leaving behind such a timeless musical legacy.

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Rory Gallagher – Tattoo (1973)

RoryGallagher_Tattoo4 out of 5 Stars!

I always had a special place in my heart for the late Rory Gallagher. Although I was never a huge fan of his characteristic “talk/singing” vocals, I could easily tolerate them since I greatly admired his guitar skills. Plus his songwriting talent and the often-superb instrumentation on his songs made for some truly enjoyable albums.

For some reason, when it came to his solo releases such as Tattoo, his bluesy yet occasionally jazzy guitar playing usually reminded me of a cross between Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown) and Tommy Bolin (Deep Purple/James Gang), although with his own special sound, almost a marriage between the styles of the other two guitarists.

And it’s a crying shame that, like the other guitarists, he also never got the recognition he deserved, never became a household name. So when it comes to Rory’s work, it’s good stuff overall, especially this album, with tracks such as “Sleep on a Clothes-Line,” “Tattoo’d Lady,” “Livin’ Like A Trucker,” “20:20 Vision,” “Admit It,” and “Cradle Rock” all showcasing Gallagher’s flavorful guitar in a wide variety of styles, and is perhaps my favorite of his many releases during the ’70s!

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Pat Travers – Putting It Straight (1977)

PatTravers_PuttingStraight3.5 out of 5 Stars!

Why Canadian guitarist Pat Travers never made a bigger impact on the music-buying public is a question I’ve often wondered. I mean, in the mid-’70s when he emerged on the scene, his playing was well above average, comparable to other “axe-slinger heroes” in the same genre and during the same era, he surrounded himself with other top-class musicians (Tommy Aldridge and Pat Thrall immediately spring to mind), and his material (Hard/Blues Rock with a hint of both Jazz and Southern Rock) was certainly as rocking and as well-produced as bands such as the similar Montrose.

To me, it likely boiled down to the fact that Pat didn’t have an outstanding lead vocalist who might have given the sound of his group a more identifiable stamp. Instead, Pat sang his own material, and although his vocals are more than acceptable, they also seemed rather “generic” to me, not very recognizable. Or perhaps the record company just didn’t give a damn enough to promote his band the way it deserved.

Putting It Straight, Travers’s third album, is a prime example of what I’ve mentioned. While tunes such as the rockin’ opener “Life in London” as well as “Speakeasy,” “Gettin’ Betta,” “It Ain’t What It Seems,” and the two-part “Dedication,” are all top-class, energetic boogie tracks with strong guitar riffs and solos, with the occasional keyboard accompaniment and solid rhythmic background, I can’t help thinking that perhaps a stronger vocalist might have really set the tracks on fire.

Anyway, regardless of why this talented gent never made a bigger impact, Pat Travers is still a rather obscure name to many record-buyers in the world, and it’s a crying shame.

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Whitesnake – Lovehunter (1979)

Whitesnake_Lovehunter4 out of 5 Stars!

Aside from the eye-catching and wickedly naughty (and, yes, probably considered sexist) cover art (which I still find amusingly delightful, so sue me!), this is Whitesnake in the midst of its glorious (and original) heyday, before the hairspray and stylized clothing and video imagery got too much in the way of the actual music.

Although the occasional duff track popped up on several early Whitesnake albums, the fantastic David Coverdale and company nevertheless went about the business of producing some catchy blues-based Hard Rock, especially once the mighty Jon Lord (RIP) had joined up for keyboard duties and Ian Paice’s recruitment was in the works (3/5 of Deep Purple…how cool is that?).

Anyway, Lovehunter, the third “official” Whitesnake album, is just another fine example of why I loved the band so much in its infancy. Coverdale, and each of his fellow musicians (the guitar team of Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody, bassist Neil Murray, and drummer Dave Dowle, along with the aforementioned Jon Lord), performs his heart out on tracks such as “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues,” “Medicine Man,” “Love Hunter,” and “Long Way From Home,” displaying seasoned professionalism at every turn without surrendering his sense of humor, despite the blatant sexism of the lyrics.

Hey, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, right?

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Savoy Brown – Rock ‘n’ Roll Warriors (1981)

SavoyBrown_RNRWarriors4 out of 5 Stars!

The U.K.’s legendary Blues-Rock band Savoy Brown entered the ’80s with a new vocalist by the name of Ralph Mormon (fresh from recording with The Joe Perry Project) and seemed to have gained some much-needed rejuvenation in the process, delivering one of its hardest-rocking collections of tracks (albeit, less Blues-Rock oriented than previous albums).

As always, band leader (and only original member) Kim Simmonds shines on lead guitar, and this line-up of musicians did a commendable job with the high-octane material. Tunes such as the rocking opener “Cold Hearted Woman” and the bouncing subsequent track “Georgie” immediately showed that Savoy Brown had shifted into slightly different territory, had actually progressed as a group, and it left me wanting more.

That came in the form of additional rockin’ and stompin’ tracks such as “Bad Girls (Make Me Feel Good),” “Dont Tell Me I Told You,” “Bad Breaks,” “Shot Down by Love,” “Nobody’s Perfect,” and “This Could Be The Night.” While many of these tunes, and even the mid-tempo songs “Got Love if You Want It” and “Lay Back in the Arms of Someone,” still often included that “older/classic” Savoy Brown style, the harder-edged delivery (very Aerosmith/Humble Pie in its sound and attitude) truly suited this particular quintet.

Therefore, it’s a shame this line-up recorded only one studio album, since Mormon’s gruff ‘n’ gritty vocals were a perfect fit for the band, and I would have loved to hear more material, despite Savoy Brown’s slight change in direction. Instead, the band fell apart shortly after this release and a live album, and it took many years before Kim returned with yet another revamped line-up of the group.

Meanwhile, Rock ‘n’ Roll Warriors remains a unique collection within the vast Savoy Brown catalogue.

(RIP Ralph Mormon, who never got the recognition he so richly deserved.)

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Alannah Myles – Rockinghorse (1992)

AlannahMyles_RockingHorse4.5 out of 5 Stars!

I love this woman! Alannah’s first four albums were all top-notch regarding her vocal performances and the production quality, and her material was generally a nice mixture of Hard Rock and AOR with hints of Blues Rock and Country Rock influences.

Rockinghorse, Alannah’s second album, is one of her most diverse, showcasing her pure melodic vocal prowess along with raspier “kick-butt-rocker” belting. Although this platter did not contain any huge hit along the lines of “Black Velvet,” the break-out single that appeared on Alannah’s debut album, there are indeed plenty of songs on Rockinghorse that could have been just as massively popular had Atlantic Records done better promotion.

“Livin’ on a Memory,” “Love in the Big Town,” “Lies and Rumours,” “Tumbleweed,” “Our World Our Times,” and “Make Me Happy” are all examples of Alannah at her rockin’ best, while “Song Instead of a Kiss,” “The Last Time I Saw William,” and “Sonny Say You Will” showcase Alannah’s mastery of the ballad, with each song (including the acoustic guitar-driven title track itself that closes out the album) making it clear that Alannah had something truly special to offer in the Hard Rock/AOR genre.

The fact that she could have broken into the big time in the same high fashion as Melissa Etheridge is without question. Indeed, Alannah—along with fellow Canadian vocalist Sass Jordan, who also hit the apex of her popularity during the same period—is among the best yet sorely underrated female Hard Rock singers of all time and seriously deserved higher, longer-lasting recognition.

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Paice Ashton Lord – Malice in Wonderland (1977)

PaiceAshtonLord_Malice4 out of 5 Stars!

Not long after the Mark III version of Deep Purple fell apart back in the mid-’70s, drummer Ian Paice and keyboardist Jon Lord teamed with vocalist/keyboardist Tony Ashton (Family), guitarist/vocalist Bernie Marsden (Babe Ruth), and bassist Paul Martinez (Stretch) for a one-off album.

I recall hearing the tracks “Remember the Good Times” and “Arabella (Oh Tell Me)” being played on an “underground” Chicago radio station and picked up the album shortly thereafter, only to find myself obsessed with it, and for weeks the platter rarely left my turntable.

Although sounding nothing like Deep Purple, the music on Malice in Wonderland is an intriguing union of styles, from Blues to Jazz to Funk to R&B blended with Hard Rock, with added horns, woodwinds, and female background harmonies. Additionally, Ashton’s gruff and lower-register voice is generally unique and may take some listeners by surprise, with him occasionally employing a “talk/singing” style that can be both bizarre and humorous at times, while periodically also taking on an almost demented aspect.

On fun and diverse tunes such as “I’m Gonna Stop Drinking,” “Silas & Jerome,” “On the Road Again, Again,” “Ghost Story,” and “Sneaky Private Lee,” plus those aforementioned tracks that “hooked me” on the group in the first place, it was almost as if Paice and Lord were itching to experiment with other styles after so many years creating slamming music with Deep Purple, and teaming up with the versatile Ashton (and the other main musical contributors to this collection) proved a way for them to do so, at least for a short while.

Although I recall my disappointment when learning the band broke up during the midst of recording tracks for its second album—these tracks can be found on the “Collector’s Edition” of this album—I was at least thankful that Marsden resurfaced months later as part of the original twin-guitar team in David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, with both Lord and Paice also joining up shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, PAL’s Malice in Wonderland remains a laudable effort and (when it comes to most rock fans) an undiscovered gem, one I continue to regularly enjoy all these many decades since its release.

(RIP Jon Lord and Tony Ashton.)

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Krokodil – Getting Up for the Morning (1972)

Krokodil_GettingUp3.5 out of 5 Stars!

Although formed in Switzerland, the obscure band Krokodil often got lumped into the Krautrock category of music, and on several of the band’s releases, it’s easy to see why. Sure, Krokodil focused mainly on Heavy Psych and Blues Rock, but it also tossed hints of Progressive Rock and Folk Rock with some fun experimentation into many of its tracks, using everything from harmonica and flute to Mellotron and synths, and therefore ended up being a nice cross between U.K. and German bands of the same era.

Despite the truly lame album cover—”pretty boys” is hardly a term that springs to mind for these guys, huh?—Getting Up for the Morning (the band’s fourth studio release) is quite enjoyable overall, especially for lovers of tasty, bluesy, trippy guitar from one of the most exciting periods in rock ‘n’ roll history.

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The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – The Penthouse Tapes (1976)

SAHB_Penthouse4 out of 5 Stars!

On The Penthouse Tapes, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band included only three of its own tracks, and for the rest of the album, it recorded renditions of cover songs, including “Crazy Horses” (The Osmonds), “Love Story” (Jethro Tull), and “School’s Out” (Alice Cooper).

Of course, as only SAHB could do, the band also chose some wildly unlikely songs to record, namely Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene,” and Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek.”

As always, despite the band members not writing these various tracks, SAHB still put its own trademarked “twists and craziness” on each song.

Another fun experience from a fun band.

To check out my overview of this “sensational” band’s entire career, view this page: https://zapniles.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/the-sensational-alex-harvey-band-an-overview/

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SAHB_Penthouse

Trapeze – You Are the Music…We’re Just the Band (1972)

Trapeze_YouAreTheMusic4.5 out of 5 Stars!

After the excellent, hard-hitting Medusa release, Trapeze expanded its overall sound/style a bit. On this follow-up studio album—its third and the last to feature bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes before he joined up with Deep Purple for 1974’s Burn—the band added a great deal of “slamming funk,” a “hint of jazz,” and a “whisper of country” to several tracks.

Nevertheless, enough songs harkened back to Medusa‘s sheer Hard Rock power, such as “Loser,” “Way Back to the Bone,” and “Feelin’ So Much Better Now,” so the trio’s slight change in direction wasn’t too startling for most fans. And for this album, Trapeze also recorded perhaps one of the most breathtaking ballads in rock ‘n’ roll history, the magnificent “Coast To Coast,” which basically became Glenn Hughes’s “signature song” throughout his continuing four-plus-decades career.

In my opinion, You Are the Music…We’re Just the Band is probably the most enjoyable Hard Rock/Heavy Funk albums of all time, which I still play on a regular basis, with one of the most outstanding, jaw-dropping vocalists in rock history at the helm.

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