Wednesday, December 5, 1973

Paul McCartney & Wings released Band on the Run: December 5, 1973

Originally posted December 5, 2011.



“The consensus of critics, as well as cold hard sales figures, says that Band on the Run was Paul McCartney’s most successful solo album.” RG “Neither the dippy, rustic Wild Life nor the slick AOR flourishes of Red Rose Speedway earned Paul McCartney much respect, so he made the self-consciously ambitious Band on the Run to rebuke his critics. On the surface, Band on the Run appears to be constructed as a song cycle in the vein of Abbey Road, but subsequent listens reveal that the only similarities the two albums share are simply superficial.” STE

“McCartney’s talent for songcraft and nuanced arrangements is in ample display throughout the record, which makes many of the songs – including the nonsensical title track – sound more substantial than they actually are. While a handful of the songs are excellent – the surging, inspired surrealism of Jet is by far one of his best solo recordings, Bluebird is sunny acoustic pop, and Helen Wheels captures McCartney rocking with abandon – most of the songs are more style than substance. Yet McCartney’s melodies are more consistent than any of his previous solo records, and there are no throwaways; the songs just happen to be not very good.” STE

“Still, the record is enjoyable, whether it’s the minor-key Mrs. Vandebilt or Let Me Roll It, a silly response to John Lennon’s ‘How Do You Sleep?,’ which does make Band on the Run one of McCartney’s finest solo efforts. However, there’s little of real substance on the record,” STE although it should be noted that the album is “an artistic triumph over very trying conditions – the defection of two-fifths of Wings.” RG Still, “no matter how elaborate the production is, or how cleverly his mini-suites are constructed, Band on the Run is nothing more than a triumph of showmanship.” STE




Awards:
Resources and Related Links:



Friday, November 9, 1973

Billy Joel’s Piano Man released

First posted 5/9/2011; updated 9/21/2020.

Piano Man

Billy Joel


Released: November 9, 1973


Peak: 27 US, 98 UK, 26 CN, 14 AU


Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, -- UK, 5.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop/rock singer-songwriter


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Travelin’ Prayer (8/17/74, 77 US, 36 CL, 31 AC)
  2. Piano Man (2/23/74, 25 US, 1 CL, 4 AC, 10 CN, 20 AU, sales: 3 million)
  3. Ain’t No Crime
  4. You’re My Home (1981 live version: 100 AU)
  5. The Ballad of Billy the Kid (17 CL)
  6. Worse Comes to Worst (6/29/74, 80 US, 42 CL)
  7. Stop in Nevada
  8. If I Only Had the Words to Tell You
  9. Somewhere Along the Line
  10. Captain Jack (11 CL)


Total Running Time: 42:51

Rating:

3.490 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)

About the Album:

After failed albums with the Hassles, Attila, and his solo debut, Billy Joel left the east coast for Los Angeles, where he worked as a lounge singer for six months. Thanks to touring and hustling, he landed a contract with Columbia and recorded his second album. “Never mind Movin’ Out – Twyla Tharp should make a Broadway musical out of Joel’s second album, in which a scrappy Long Islander goes West, meets banjo players and decides he wants to be rock’s equivalent of Aaron Copland.” DB

The resulting Piano Man album showed inspiration from James Taylor and Elton John, specifically the latter’s Tumbleweed Connection, both musically and lyrically. AMG With the exception of You’re My Home, a love letter to his wife, he abandoned the more introspective fare of Cold Spring Harbor “for character sketches and epics.” AMG

This is especially notable in the title cut, which became one of Joel’s signature songs. He he offered a fictionalized version of his job as a lounge singer, but rather than focus on himself, he focused on the patrons who inhabited the bar. The song reversed Joel’s fate, reaching the top 40 in the U.S. and putting him on the map.

He still had weaknesses as a lyricist; as evidenced by “mishaps [such] as the ‘instant pleasuredome’ line in ‘You’re My Home’” AMG and “his narratives are occasionally awkward or incomplete” AMG but he “makes it clear that his skills as a melodicist can dazzle.” AMG

He “may have borrowed his basic blueprint from Tumbleweed Connection, particularly with its Western imagery and bluesy gospel flourishes, but he makes it his own” AMG “thanks to his indelible melodies and savvy stylistic repurposing.” AMG Songs like The Ballad of Billy the Kid, which is about more than just the outlaw, showcase how no one other than Elton John “merged such playful grandiosity with so many hooks.” DB

Resources and Related Links:

Friday, October 5, 1973

Elton John released Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

First posted 3/21/2008; updated 11/23/2020.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Elton John


Released: October 5, 1973


Peak: 18 US, 12 UK, 15 CN, 13 AU


Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 0.3 UK, 30.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop/classic rock


Tracks:

Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding [11:08] (2 CL)
  2. Candle in the Wind [3:50] (3/2/74, 6 US, 2 AC, 2 CL, 5 UK, 5 CN, 5 AU) *
  3. Bennie and the Jets [5:23] (2/16/74, 1 US, 37 UK, 15 RB, 1 CL, 37 UK, 1 CN, 5 AU, 2x platinum)
  4. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [3:14] (9/29/73, 2 US, 7 AC, 1 CL, 6 UK, 1 CN, 4 AU, 2x platinum)
  5. This Song Has No Title [2:23]
  6. Grey Seal [3:58] (13 CL)
  7. Jamaica Jerk Off [3:39]
  8. I’ve Seen That Movie Too [5:59]
  9. Sweet Painted Lady [3:52]
  10. The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34) [4:24]
  11. Dirty Little Girl [5:01]
  12. All the Girls Love Alice [5:08] (9 CL)
  13. Your Sister Can’t Twist But She Can Rock ‘N’ Roll [2:42]
  14. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting [4:54] (7/7/73, 12 US, 2 CL, 7 UK, 12, CN, 31 AU, gold single)
  15. Roy Rogers [4:08]
  16. Social Disease [3:44]
  17. Harmony [2:45] (11 CL)

All songs written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin.

* Note: In the U.S. and Canada, “Candle in the Wind” didn’t chart until a live version was released in 1987.


Total Running Time: 76:12

Rating:

4.477 out of 5.00 (average of 21 ratings)


Quotable: It “plays like a greatest hits album, overflowing with classic songs.” – Clark Speicher, The Review


Awards:

About the Album:

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is Elton John’s “commercial and creative apex.” ZS It “plays like a greatest hits album, overflowing with classic songs” RV which “remain standards more than 30 years later thanks to Bernie Taupin’s sharpest lyrics, John’s propulsive keyboard skills and vocals that leap into falsetto without losing any of their power.” TL This “flamboyant tour de force” ZS is “a recap of all the styles and sounds that made John a star” AMG although this was also where his “personality began to gather more attention than his music.” AMG He “achieved superstardom with this effort and never matched its mastery again.” RV

The was recorded in a mere 12 days in Europe after a failed effort to record in Jamaica. CRS It “demonstrates the ease with which John and Taupin could write not only the hit singles, but the outstanding album tracks.” ZS While it has been called “Elton’s White AlbumZS and a “stunning song cycle with no filler” ZS this double album also can be said to suffer from being “overstuffed.” TL Nonetheless, it “holds claim to a lot of brilliant, very pop-savvy music” AZ and is “considered the high watermark of Elton’s reign of popularity.” CRS “Its individual moments are spectacular and the glitzy, crowd-pleasing showmanship…pretty much defines what made Elton John a superstar in the early ‘70s.” AMG

The opening kick-off of Funeral for a Friend and Love Lies Bleeding has been called both a “prog rock epic” AMG and a “Wagnerian-operalike combo.” RS500 The album quickly announces that it will be “all over the map” AMG by immediately careening into the balladry of Candle in the Wind,” AMG which pays tribute to Marilyn Monroe and, more than 20 years later, was revamped as a memorial to Princess Diana.

There’s also “the ready-made nostalgia of The Ballad of Danny BaileyAZ which features “Bernie Taupin’s literary pretensions,” AMG, “the downbeat melodicism of Harmony,” AZ “novelties [like] Jamiaica Jerk-Off…and everything in between.” AMG

Elton shows off his rock side with “the fairground jive of Your Sister Can’t TwistTB and “the strutting rock and roll” RS500 of “the Stonesy rocker Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” TB Meanwhile Bennie and the Jets “was a nod in the direction of Bowie’s Ziggy.” TB

Songs like “This Song Has No Title and Grey Seal had gospel-tinged melodies and progressions” TB and “the title track harnesses the fantastic imagery of glam to a Gershwin-sweet melody.” RS500


Notes: A 2003 Deluxe Edition adds “Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady),” “Jack Rabbit,” “Screw You (Young Man Blues),” and an alternate version of “Candle in the Wind.”

Resources and Related Links:

  • Elton John’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
  • AZ Amazon.com review by Rickey Wright
  • CRS Tim Morse (1998). Classic Rock Stories: The Stories Behind the Greatest Rock Songs of All Time. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.
  • RV The Review “100 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Clarke Speicher (October – November 2001; Vol. 128: numbers 12-23).
  • RS500 Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
  • TB Thunder Bay (2005). Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA. Page 162.
  • TL Time Magazine (11/13/06). “All-TIME 100 Albums” by Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 134.

Friday, August 3, 1973

Stevie Wonder released Innervisions

First posted 6/18/2008; updated 11/9/2020.

Innervisions

Stevie Wonder


Released: August 3, 1973


Peak: 4 US, 12 RB, 8 UK, 11 CN, 26 AU


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.1 UK, 6.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: R&B


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Too High [4:36]
  2. Visions [5:23]
  3. Living for the City [7:26] (11/10/73, 8 US, 6 CB, 5 HR, 10 RR, 1 RB, 15 UK, 17 CN)
  4. Golden Lady [4:47]
  5. Higher Ground [3:46] (8/18/73, 4 US, 1 CB, 1 HR, 8 RR, 41 AC, 1 RB, 29 UK, 9 CN)
  6. Jesus Children of America [4:10]
  7. All in Love Is Fair [3:43]
  8. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing [4:45] (3/30/74, 16 US, 10 CB, 11 HR, 15 RR, 9 AC, 2 RB, 13 CN)
  9. He’s Misstra Know-It-All [5:36] (4/13/74, 10 UK)

All songs written by Wonder.


Total Running Time: 44:12

Rating:

4.797 out of 5.00 (average of 25 ratings)


Quotable: “Stevie Wonder’s masterpiece.” – Clarke Speicher, The Review


Awards:

About the Album:

This is when “the boy genius comes of age.” BL As “the preeminent artist of his era” BL with “a career full of towering achievements” RV and a “plethora of deeply funky soul recordings” WR Innervisions stands as Stevie Wonder’s masterpiece.” RV “It’s probably his most cohesive work.” SL-87

The album is “introspective, melancholy, sassy and uplifting, it transcends all notions of soul as schmaltz.” WRInnervisions would display a dark edge, as well as an interest in religious matters that had barely surfaced in his work to that point.” SL-87 If Talking Book is his most personal album, Innervisions is “by far his most political work” RV with “songs addressing drugs, spirituality, political ethics, the unnecessary perils of urban life, and what looked to be the failure of the ‘60s dream – all set within a collection of charts as funky and catchy as any he’d written before.” AMG Wth Innervisions, Wonder “mastered angry, socially conscious, ingenious music that remained danceable.” BL

“Too High”

The “stunning” Too High is “a cautionary tale about drugs driven by a dizzying chorus of scat vocals and a springing bassline.” AMG That song and ‘Living for the City’ “make an especially deep impression thanks to Stevie’s narrative talents.” AMG As the opener, it quickly establishes the record’s forceful yet vibrant tone. “The listener is on fairly familiar ground: Fender-Rhodes, synth bass, drums and exquisite backing vocals form the habitiaul yet un-formulaic sonic palette.” SL-89

“Visions”

On Visions, Wonder “considers the ideal society, which it seems can only exist as a vision in the mind.” SL-89 It “sounds the way you’d expect ancient Greek music to be: airy and harpy and modal, with a good view of Mount Olympus.” SL-89 “The instrumental setting here is unusual: three guitars – one electric…two acoustic.” SL-89

“Living for the City”

This is “the summit of the wunderkind’s blend of funk-addled synth-pop and socially conscious lyrics.” UT It is a brilliant examination of the myriad social ills so endemic to the ghetto experience and a stirring celebration of African-American resilience. It is “an eight-minute mini-epic” AMG and “Wonder’s finest moment.” RV He “preaches without being preachy about the injustices suffered by the black community, using the microcosm of a Southern boy who visits New York City and gets arrested for drug trafficking. Wonder sings with unbridled emotion and ends the song with the hope that the listeners have learned something.” RV “He also uses his variety of voice impersonations to stunning effect.” AMG

“Golden Lady”

Wonder still finds “time for romance with his Golden Lady.” VB The song serves as a contrast to most of the album’s more socially-minded songs. It is a mid-tempo ballad that Stevie said he wrote about Minnie Riperton. SW Wonder was a producer for her 1974 album, Perfect Angel, which produced the hit “Lovin’ You.”

“Higher Ground”

Higher Ground, a funky follow-up to the previous album’s big hit (‘Superstition’).” AMG It “takes the idea that the writer is on his second life, having lived one life of sin…While he’s aspiring to the ‘higher ground,’ he warns others guilty of warring and lying to do the same.” SL-89 It is “the album’s strongest indicator that something new and rather strange was happening to Stevie’s mood.” SL-89

The song took took on even greater resonance in the wake of the car crash which nearly killed him just months after the album’s release. He was in a coma for five days. When Stevie’s publicist and road manager, Ira Tucker, came to the hospital, everyone was “quiet and reverential around Stevie’s bed.” SL-90 Ira suggested a “louder” strategy. He knew Stevie liked to listen to music at high volume and started singing “Higher Ground” loudly in Stevie’s ear. “Eventually a slight movement of the fingers was noticied, followed by a genuine tapping in response to the song.” SL-90

“Jesus Children of America”

“Higher Ground” and “Jesus Children of America, with its tough-minded realism, both introduced Wonder’s interest in Eastern religion.” AMG This one “tackles the innocence of children, depth of religious understanding and belief, sects, junkies, transference of pain, and transcendental meditation – which is probably enough for one tune. But there’s an open-endedness about the song’s message that is attractive rather than irritating or preachy.” SL-89 It’s a tribute to his genius that he could broach topics like reincarnation and transcendental meditation in a pop context with minimal interference to the rest of the album.” AMG

“All in Love Is Fair”

“If ‘Visions’ is the obligatory slow tune on the first side…All in Love Is Fair is the filling in the double sandwich on the second side.” SL-130 It “provides the personal, intimate, soul-searching, dare-one-say Kleenex-grabbing moment of reflection.” SL-130 The assumption is that this is a lament about Stevie’s failed marriage to first wife Syreeta. SL-130

Instrumentally, this is a piano ballad “softened by some light drums, bass and Rhodes” SL-130 as well as a “fiercely committed vocal, rivalling if not exceeding previous tracks in its level of singing prowess.” SL-130 “It’s the voice of experience, looking back over a failed affair with a degree of resignation, but at the same time not blaming either party for the way things changes within a relationship.” SL-130

“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”

This song is built on “the Cuban rhythmic style of the mambo,” SL-163 which sounds like salsa music, but “as usual, Stevie is concerned with getting the flavour of a style and then making it his own.” SL-163 The song creates a character trying to hit on a woman in a bar by impressing her with his “citizen-of-the-world experience.” SL-164 “On closer examination, there’s a sensitive man on hand…The song is a re-assurance to a female friend, letting her know that whether she resists the outside world and its tempting offers, or goe out there to ‘check it out,’ he will support her every inch of the way.” SL-164 It is a “well thought-out lyric, socially aware, and undoubtedly intriguing, as is generally the case on Innervisions.” SL-164

“He’s Misstra Know-It-All”

This served as Wonder’s “statement warning about the dangers of associating with persons only out to deceive.” SW “Wonder also made no secret of the fact that He’s Misstra Know-It-All was directed at Tricky Dick, aka Richard Milhouse Nixon, then making headlines (and destroying America’s faith in the highest office) with the biggest political scandal of the century.” AMG

Resources and Related Links:

Thursday, July 26, 1973

July 26, 1973: ZZ Top released Tres Hombres

First posted April 28, 2008. Last updated September 9, 2018.

Tres Hombres

ZZ Top

Released: July 26, 1973


Sales (in millions):
US: 5.0
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 5.0


Peak:
US: 8
UK: --
Canada: --
Australia: --

Quotable: ZZ Top “never got it better than they did here” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide


Genre: classic rock/blues rock


Album Tracks:

  1. Waitin’ for the Bus
  2. Jesus Just Left Chicago
  3. Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers
  4. Master of Sparks
  5. Hot, Blue and Righteous
  6. Move Me on Down the Line
  7. Precious and Grace
  8. La Grange (3/30/74, #41 US)
  9. Sheik
  10. Have You Heard?

Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.

Review:

For their third album, ZZ Top brought in Terry Manning as engineer and were rewarded with their commercial breakthrough when the album landed in the top ten of the Billboard album chart. “It couldn’t have happened to a better record. ZZ Top finally got their low-down, cheerfully sleazy blooze-n-boogie right on this, their third album. As their sound gelled, producer Bill Ham discovered how to record the trio so simply that they sound indestructible, and the group brought the best set of songs they’d ever have to the table.” STE

In his Rolling Stone review of Tres Hombres, Spanish for “three men,” Steve Apple said they were “one of the most inventive of the three-piece rockers” WK with “the dynamic rhythms that only the finest of the three-piece bands can cook up.” WK However, he also said they were “only one of several competent Southern rocking bands” with “an advantage over most white rockers” because they “sound black” WK and he wondered when “audiences will get tired of hearing the same ... ‘Poot yawl hans together' patter.’” WK

All Music Guide’s somewhat agreed with that assessment, saying there’s seemingly “nothing really special about the record, since it’s just a driving blues-rock album from a Texas bar band, but that’s what’s special about it. It has a filthy groove and an infectious feel, thanks to Billy Gibbons’ growling guitars and the steady propulsion of Dusty Hill and Frank Beard’s rhythm section. They get the blend of bluesy shuffles, gut-bucket rocking, and off-beat humor just right.” STE

Pitchfork’s Andy Beta called it “a masterful melding of complementary styles, cramming Southern rock and blues boogie through the band’s own idiosyncratic filter.’” WK In 2013, Andrew Dansby said in the Houston Chronicle that the album was “full of characters and doings so steeped in caricature – yet presented straight-faced – as to invite skepticism. The album is stuffed with color and flavor.” WK

“ZZ Top’s very identity comes from this earthy sound and songs as utterly infectious as Waitin’ for the Bus, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Move Me on Down the Line, and the John Lee Hooker boogie La Grange. In a sense, they kept trying to remake this record from this point on – what is Eliminator if not Tres Hombres with sequencers and synthesizers? – but they never got it better than they did here.” STE


Review Source(s):

Awards:


Related DMDB Link(s):