Monday, February 28, 2011

'SUPER 8 GREAT DEBUT ALBUMS' BLOGFEST

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If the ‘Super 8 Great Debut Albums’ blogfest was about listing the most important or influential debut music albums of all time, we would all be forced to mention stuffs by Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. And that wouldn’t be a lot of fun for those of us who dislike the Jimi Hendrix stuffs, and are just kind of “Eh” when it comes to the Beatles and “The King Of Rock And Roll”.

Fortunately, this blogfest is all about which debut albums each of us personally most enjoys or was most influenced by. It’s all subjective and… it’z all good!

Below are my carefully chosen selections. After each album entry and commentary you will find 3 or 4 song titles taken from the album in question. Each song title is a link. Click on it and you can hear (and in some cases even “see”) the song, or at least a portion of it.

My album choices are listed in chronological order. I did not select my albums with this intent but I noticed after my list had been compiled that I had included at least one album from each of the last 5 decades. I like that.

And away we go . . .
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‘ASTRAL WEEKS’ - 1968
Van Morrison

Moody, mystical, introspective, dream-like and deep. That is ‘Astral Weeks’. This collection of song-stories and swirling, stream-of-consciousness symbolism is also regarded by a majority of professional music critics to be one of the very best Rock music albums ever recorded. The book ‘Rock Critics’ Choice: The Top 200 Albums’ by Paul Gambaccini puts it at #4. Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums Of All-Time list puts it at #19.

‘Astral Weeks’ is a wonderful music album. What it ISN’T, exactly, is a “debut” music album. After leaving THEM, the Irish R&B band he fronted, Van Morrison went into the studio and recorded a variety of songs with the idea of releasing some of them as 45-RPM singles. Without his approval, and against his wishes, Bang Records collected some of those songs, packaged them with his 45 hit single ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’, and released it as Van the man’s first solo album titled ‘Blowin’ Your Mind’. Van the man was mad!

Van had not conceived these songs as individual units of a whole and he despised the album cover artwork, protesting that it did not at all reflect his vision of himself nor his work. In a sense then, ‘Blowin’ Your Mind’ was a kind of “unauthorized” solo debut; a “bootleg” album produced and promoted by Van’s own record label without the artist’s support. Since Van himself does not view ‘Blowin’ Your Mind’ as his authentic solo debut, I feel justified in thinking of it similarly and presenting ‘Astral Weeks’ – a collection of 8 songs, conceived and recorded specifically with unifying themes or moods – as Van Morrison’s “official” or “authorized”, artist-approved debut solo effort.

The music itself is mostly mellow and atmospheric – a mental exploration. Really, it’s something like a musical meditation. The album cover shows you exactly what you can expect to hear. It’s a going back and a going within to the sound of lightly structured Folk/Jazz-styled improvisation.

In the very early 1980s, I would often hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign (“borrowed” from a nearby hotel) on the outside knob of my bedroom door, so my partying roommates would leave me alone, and then I’d listen to ‘Astral Weeks’ in the dark while lying on my white-carpeted floor. I considered those to be “soul-searching sessions”. Listen to ‘Astral Weeks’ someday and see if you too can “find yourself” in there.

If I ventured in the slipstream / Between the viaducts of your dream
Astral Weeks

And all the dogs are barkin' / Way on down the diamond-studded highway where you wander…
Beside You

We strolled through fields all wet with rain / And back along the lane again / There in the sunshine / In the sweet summertime / The way that young lovers do
The Way Young Lovers Do
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‘GOD BLESS TINY TIM’ - 1968
Tiny Tim

No, WAIT! Don’t go away! I’m being SERIOUS here! Have you ever heard the album ‘God Bless Tiny Tim’? If not, you should withhold your judgment until you have.

Just like you, I was going through life with a lot of unfair assumptions about Tiny Tim. I had wrongly allowed his big hit song “Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips With Me” to color my opinion of Tiny in a very negative way. I just figured that if that song represented his music in general, then everyone was probably right in labeling Tiny Tim as amongst the weirdest and the worst when it came to recorded music. And… well… to be honest, he DOES still rate amongst the “weirdest” but, hell, I’m weird too and… a funny thing happened on the way to judging Tiny: I was amazed to discover a little over two years ago that I genuinely like 57% of his music.

Tiny Tim was NOT a One-Trick Pony and forget what you THINK you know about his music based solely on “Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips”.

Did you know that his debut album was produced by Richard Perry?  Did you know that as a producer Mr. Perry has over a dozen gold records to his credit? And other than Tiny Tim, do you know what other artists Mr. Perry has produced, signed or assisted in their music careers? Try Captain Beefheart, Fats Domino, Harry Nilsson, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Art Garfunkel, Diana Ross, the Manhattan Transfer, Leo Sayer, Andy Williams, Percy Faith, Ringo Starr, Billy Thermal, Bates Motel, the Plimsouls, The Cretones, Bill Medley, the Pointer Sisters, Neil Diamond, Randy Travis, Elton John, Rick James, Chaka Khan, and Rod Stewart.

Trust me, ‘God Bless Tiny Tim’ is a very well produced record. That’s all I’m going to say about this here, but if anyone wants to learn more about how - to my own utter amazement - I discovered I loves me some Tiny Tim, they can read my blog bit THE MAKERS OF ‘MOTHER CROAKER’S HEMORRHOID OINTMENT’ PRESENT . . .

Stay down here where you belong / The folks who live above you don't know right from wrong / To please their kings they've all gone out to war / And not a-one of them knows what he's fighting for
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Way up above they say that I'm a Devil and I'm bad / Kings up there are bigger devils than your dad / Stay Down Here Where You Belong
Stay Down Here Where You Belong
[Written by Irving Berlin, this is probably the best anti-war song ever recorded! The crackling sound you hear is not indicative of a poor recording but represents the burning flames of hell as the devil pleads with his son not to venture up here with us.]

If I only owned the Pennsylvania Railroad / And if Tuesday Weld would only be my wife (Tuesday Weld: “Oh, Tiny!”) / If I could only stay sixteen forever / Then I know that I'd be satisfied with life.
Then I’d Be Satisfied With Life

Look and you'll see / Rainbow pools reflect in / Emerald melting sherbet moons / Silver angels drift through timeless / Neverending joy
Strawberry Tea
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‘NILS LOFGREN’ - 1975
Nils Lofgren  

This is the only album on this list that scores at least as many points for style as it does for sounds! As I have written previously here at ‘STUFFS’, this is my all-time favorite album cover. It so ideally captures the spirit of Rock ‘N’ Roll: Nils Lofgren’s wild, colorful T-shirt which is mirrored by the circus advertisement in the background represents the flamboyant theatrics of Rock; the black leather jacket symbolizes Rock music’s punky, ‘street hood’ attitude; and the swilling of 80-proof alcohol straight from the bottle captures the youthful, rebellious, good-time mood of Rock ‘N’ Roll. The fact that it happens to be Grand Marnier that Nils is tilting – Grand Marnier, the liquid god of the booze spirits and the buzzbird of happiness – only adds a little high-class Rock star luxury to the mix.

I kid you not, just for the cover photograph alone I would have this album in my music collection, even if I disliked every song on it! Heck, I’m fairly convinced that it was the cover of ‘Nils Lofgren’ that inspired me, subconsciously, to arrange this photograph of myself during my first trip to New York City in 1983:
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OK, but what about the music? Well, Nils Lofgren’s first solo album after disbanding his group GRIN is a treasure chest of unpretentious, hook-laden, meat ‘n’ potatoes Rock ‘N’ Roll with catchy melodies and tastefully executed guitar licks more than compensating for Nils’ somewhat wiry voice. This is Old School Rock, stripped down to the basics: guitar, bass, a bit of piano, and solid drumming provided by the always-in-demand Aynsley Dunbar. No synthesizer here, just songs you can sing along to. It’s a combination of sweet ‘n’ punky, but without being either syrupy or mean-spirited. It’s tough (“If I Say It, It’s So”) and it’s tender (“Goin’ Back”), and all the tunes go great with Grand Marnier on the rocks!

All in all, a solid solo debut that every Old School Rock fan ought to own if for no other reason than the truly classic cover that looks as “Rock ‘N’ Roll” as the songs sound!

I don’t want to know your boyfriend’s name / I don’t want to know all the men you claim / I don’t want to know where you slept last / I don’t want to know, I just want out fast
I Don’t Want To Know

I dropped out of high school / It bored me to death / They taught me a dress code / And lost my respect
The Sun Hasn’t Set On This Boy Yet

I think I’m going back to the things I learned so well in my youth / I think I’m returning to the days when I was young enough to know the truth
Goin’ Back
[Nils doin’ it on stage.]

If you’re a teacher of love / Then I just dropped out of school / This ain’t no concert for me / I’m still auditioning you
If I Say It, It’s So (30 sec.)
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‘RICKIE LEE JONES’ - 1979
Rickie Lee Jones

Not before or since has a singer burst out of the chute so loose, so sassy, so self-assured. Rickie Lee Jones hit the scene with the aplomb of a seasoned recording star, possessing the “Take It Or Leave It” attitude of Billie Holiday melded with the “Little Girl Lost” undertones of Judy Garland, and stellar songwriting chops likely inspired partially by her relationship with ‘Top-Of-The-A-List Lyricists’ boyfriend Tom Waits. (Rickie’s second album – and last really important one, in my opinion – ‘Pirates’, would include numerous references to the Waits breakup and the broken heart he left her with.) However, when Rickie’s number got called, she was more than ready to step into the spotlight on her own.

On hand to lend their considerable talents to the ‘Rickie Lee Jones’ debut album were veteran, world-class musicians/singers Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Willie Weeks, Dr. John, Randy Newman, Tom Scott, Michael McDonald, and others. Rickie got first-class backing, and she deserved it.

Boasting top-notch musicianship, well developed but breezy and “In-Your-Face” uptempo songs counterbalanced by emotionally bare ballads, alternating between aggressive and pleading, Rickie Lee Jones’ first album was masterful and yielded a Top Ten Billboard hit in “Chuck E.’s In Love”. The hit song caught my attention and was appealing enough to convince me to buy the album, only to find that the hit was well eclipsed by some of the other better gems on the LP.

For me, the highlight was “The Last Chance Texaco”, a ballad about a lonely, unlucky-in-love woman that was loaded with clever automotive imagery and references that never becomes kitschy because it is anchored by an absolutely intense, plaintive emotional quality. The song is brillantly conceived and masterfully performed. This newcomer – a female, no less – announced her arrival by presenting recorded music with its very best “car song” ever. And this coming from a guy who loves the Beach Boys and early Tom Waits stuffs!

Other stand-out tracks include Rickie’s saucy “Danny’s All-Star Joint”, the moody “Coolsville”, and the incredibly sensitive and touching “Company” and “On Saturday Afternoons In 1963”. Boy, does that latter one take me back to my Orange County, California, boyhood!

‘Rickie Lee Jones’ is simply a parade of one winning song after another – there’s not a poor or even mediocre track on the album. You’ll find heartrendingly sincere, willowy ballads, followed by Rhythm & Blues-influenced, funk-filled swingers; an amazing start to what appeared to be a “can’t-miss” superstar career. Sadly and surprisingly, however, it turned out that Rickie had started at the top and had nowhere to go from there but down. The follow-up, ‘Pirates’, was excellent – only slightly lagging behind her debut, but from that point on, her writing just became so personal, abstract, and opaque that this listener was left feeling he couldn’t really understand – and thus relate and empathize with – the characters and the action of subsequent songs.

Rickie Lee Jones seemed to gradually crawl so far into her own private life that she forgot that music is a shared experience. I tried to follow along for a few more albums and finally just gave up on her. Rickie increasingly drifted into an overly stylized songwriting/performance approach with “ultra-Method-Actor” slurred lyrics of indecipherable meaning, and I concluded that for her, music-making had become nearly synoymous with “do-it-yourself sex”, which really leaves the listener (i.e., her “lover”) feeling left out.

Nevertheless, this artist made a couple of outstanding records and ‘Rickie Lee Jones’ rates as one of the very finest debut albums ever released. Rickie was like a shooting star: they’re brilliant and impressive, but they’re gone in a blink.

There was this block-busted blonde / He loved her free parts and labor / But she broke down and died / And she threw all the rods he gave her
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But this one ain't fuel-injected / Her plug's disconnected / She gets scared and she stalls / She just needs a man, that's all
The Last Chance Texaco

The most as you'll ever go / Is back where you used to know / If grown-ups could laugh this slow
On Saturday Afternoons In 1963

Keep a third eye watching behind you / You never know when you're making a memory / They will wish they were here together again someday

Remember, you might have looked like cool twelve / But your fuse felt just like dynamite
Young Blood
[Performed live, hot and joyfully in 1979!]
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‘EL RAYO-X’ - 1981
David Lindley

‘El Rayo-X’ is easily the quirkiest album on this list. At the time he released his first album in ’81, David Lindley was already well known for being one of this planet’s best slide guitarists, who had guested on countless recordings of other artists. But now Lindley was stepping forward with his own concept of what a music album should be.

‘El Rayo-X’ is a collection of 12 songs, 10 of which are covers that David Lindley makes 101% all his own because of his super-unique style. Surprisingly, what one might expect to be Lindley’s greatest liability – his unusual, high-pitched, nasally vocals (think Willie Nelson drunk on a fifth of Geddy Lee!) – oddly turns out to be one of this record’s strengths – they add yet another component of strange individualtiy to some otherwise familiar songs, such as “Bye-Bye Love”, “Twist And Shout”, and “Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas And The Sinus Blues”. A quirky voice for quirky tunes!

Another ingredient that adds to the “one-of-a-kind” quality of ‘El Rayo-X’ is the instrumentation: aside from the standard Rock instruments found on this recording, one will also hear a Vox organ, Divan saz, timbales, bandurria, fiddle, accordion, whistle, and hammered dulcimer. Wrap much of it in a pronounced Reggae beat, add loads of humor, absolutely A-List percussion, and Spanish and French lyrics on two songs, and you have ‘El Rayo-X’ – one of the most bizarre and fun (and one of the best) debut albums ever!

The first memory I have concerning this record is of me drinking rum and horsing around with ‘The League Of Soul Crusaders’ in the alley behind “The Pigwalk” in the Summer of ’81. Someone had a radio playing in the alley and the DJ decided to spin “Mercury Blues”. Well, any ass-kicking song like THAT is sure to get my attention, and it surely did! And it wasn’t long before ‘El Rayo-X’ was in my “Licorice Pizza” collection.

I mean, who couldn’t relate to a song about copulating to death, or a song about a man less than one and a half feet tall? Who can’t appreciate a song about a ’49 Mercury? – the same car James Dean drove in the movie ‘Rebel Without A Cause’.

In fact, the day a Martian lands its flying saucer on my front lawn, knocks on my front door and says to me, “Take me to your record collection. What is this thing you Earthlings call ‘Rock And Roll’?”, the song I am going to play for him is “Mercury Blues”. And if his next question is, “What does this thing you Earthlings call a ‘Venice Beach bum’ look like?”, I’m going to hand the Martian my copy of ‘El Rayo-X’, point at the cover photo of David Lindley and say, “This! This is what a Venice Beach bum looks like!”

I’m pretty sure the Martian will respond: “Hey! That’s my long lost cousin, Rayo-X81!”

The girl I love, I stole her from a friend / He got lucky stole her back again / ‘Cause she know’d he had a Mercury / She know’d he had a Mercury / I’m gonna buy me a Mercury and cruise it up and down the road
Mercury Blues

I lit up my pipe / We sat by the fire / It was there by the embers / I had no desire / To go back to the bar / And drink some Old Crow / I left on my smoking jacket / She took off my romeos
She Took Off My Romeos

Sittin’ at the laundromat /Tryin’ to keep clean / Twenty-five women arrive on the scene / Ain’t no way, baby / Ain’t no way yer gonna get to me
Ain’t No Way
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‘BOOMTOWN’ - 1986
David & David

‘Boomtown’ must certainly be the best debut album that never saw a follow-up released. And that despite its enjoying a Top 40 hit (“Welcome To The Boomtown”). It seems that David (Baerwald) & David (Ricketts) just couldn’t get along together. And that’s waaaaay too bad because, together, they really had “It”, and this recording was released when I really needed it.

It was 1986 and a good friend of mine had just shot himself in the head – the second one of my friends to commit suicide in ten years. I had let a girl who liked me, and whom I was interested in, get away. I was beginning to see the hand writing on the wall: the acting career I had been aiming for wasn’t going to happen. I was emotionally dead. And I don’t even want to go into detail about the old man I saw struck by a car on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. We’ll let that sleeping dog lie.

And then I found David & David’s ‘Boomtown’, with its raw, guttural guitar licks, imaginative piano riffs, and unique arrangements, all servicing a collection of musical stories about isolation, urban angst, real street life, and the seamy underside of Hollywood glitz. The album was filled with down-and-out, hard-luck characters, any number of which could have been me. My reaction to this album was visceral and immediate; I felt that Boomtown’s 10 tracks spoke for me, they represented my voice. There is no other debut album on this list that I related to equally on such a pesonal level. This was by far my most often played Rock record in 1986.

But it wasn’t all doom-and-gloom; there were little glimmers of hope interspersed throughout ‘Boomtown’ – lines like: “Maybe they'll come alive; maybe they’ll come alive” and “Maybe it ain't over, I can see it's up to me / You’re only out when you stay out / You stay out when you don't believe”.

Yes, despite it all, I still had little embers of hope burning inside me, and although I had been “Swallowed By The Cracks”, I thought I might still be able to claw my way back up… “Hee-Hee-Hee! Foolish me”.

Some of the song settings on ‘Boomtown’ are meant to evoke the Los Angeles landscape – my hometown and the place of my ’86 melancholic mind-set. In a sense, ‘Boomtown’ was like the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California Life-In-The-Fast-Lane’, only much grittier and more guttural and urgent, married to early Springsteenian themes and characters, only less grandiose and more believable, more beaten down by reality.

If this list was reduced by half, and only 4 debut albums were allowed, ‘Boomtown’ would still be standing. And, yes, it still speaks for a somewhat sullen and battered character suppressed somewhere within me. I have friends and family, but sometimes I still feel “All Alone In The Big City”.

The ambulance arrived too late / I guess she didn't want to wait... / So I say, I say, Welcome / Welcome to the Boomtown
Welcome To The Boomtown
[The video was filmed on location in my hometown of Los Angeles. Note that David & David appear in an “empty” house. You get the symbolism? Or ya want I should ‘splain it to ya?]

And the cleanup kid hangs his head / He's the quiet type, came to L.A. to write / But he never made it out of the fringes / He keeps a low profile, you kick him he'll smile / Thinks that blood is his payment for losing
A Rock For The Forgotten

We would talk through the night about what we would do / If we just could get started / I would choreograph; Eileen, she would act; while Steve was a writer / Then Stevie ran away and get bored, Eileen took a job in a store / While me, I became this drunken old whore / ‘Cause you see we'd been swallowed by the cracks / Fallen so far down / Like the rest of those clowns begging bus fare back / Swallowed by the cracks, our pride worn down / Talking times gone by, like everybody else
Swallowed By The Cracks

But when I tell her about my problems, she don’t sympathize / She says, “We’re all alone in the big city.”
All Alone In The Big City
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‘SONGS FOR THE DAILY PLANET’ - 1994
Todd Snider

Todd Snider’s special message to YOU, from the liner notes of his debut album ‘Songs For The Daily Planet’: “May your laughs always be loud, may your nights all be long, may your ideas always seem strange, and above all, may you never fit in.”

This is the one album on my list of eight that I did not find on my own; my buddy DiscConnected  turned me onto it in early 2009. I was at Doctor DiscDude’s house here in Phoenix, Airheadzona, when he put on ‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ and played me that album’s “hidden track” - ‘TALKIN’ SEATTLE GRUNGE ROCK BLUES’ - which wasn’t as great as finding a couple of naked, post-bust-enhancement women hiding in my shower, but it was probably the next best thing.

Doctor DiscDude followed that up by playing ‘You Think You Know Somebody’ and ‘Alright Guy’. I was immediately interested and asked to borrow his compact disc. Just one trip through the album’s 12 songs (counting the hidden track) and Todd Snider vaulted into my upper echelon of lyricists; I put him in the Super-Major League of all-time songwriters – a league that included only two other writers: Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. Yes, just one listen to ‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ and I added Todd Snider to THAT league – that’s how talented this guy is!

In fact, it makes one wonder about a God who would lavish so much talent on one character like Todd Snider while a loser such as myself was at the back of the line and pleading tremblingly with my Lord: “Please, Sir, I want some more”.

Yeah, Snider got my portion of talent. But don’t laugh at me, because he got YOUR portion too! The sonofabitch. Let’s get him! Let’s get Snider!

Here was a more-than-Alright Guy who could write hysterically funny songs, but could also write songs of such sensitivity that he could bring tears to a listener’s eyes. Apparently Snider’s first album got him categorized as “Alternative Country” but, in my opinion, that’s plain silly because musically he is all over the map, and this debut includes songs that I would classify as Country, and Rock, and Hard Rock, and Folk, Gospel, and Bluesy Jazz. And let’s not forget Comedy!

Snider is an A-List wordsmith; he’s clever, witty, sincere, and as funny as Ol’ Waylon Jennings was.

Todd has released plenty of really good material since his debut. For instance, I love “Betty Was Black And Willie Was White” (“Yup!”) “Doublewide Blues” should be officially declared by Congress as the anthem for trailer trash everywhere across this great nation (“Take me home, boys, I think I’m… drunk”). And the story he tells during the performance of “Ballad Of The Devil’s Backbone Tavern” on his live album ‘Near Truths And Hotel Rooms’ is perhaps the funniest thing ever recorded.

Nevertheless, as good as some of Todd’s later material is, his first album remains, to my mind, his best work. If it’s not the best debut album ever released, it’s damn close to it! And although I couldn’t call Snider a “Christian” according to the Biblical standard, that doesn’t change the fact that his song “Somebody’s Coming” is one of my all-time favorite songs ever composed about Jesus. (The last verse can literally make my eyes well up.)

My friend Dr. Disc turned me onto Todd Snider, and now I’m passing the word on to YOU! Todd Snider: the Guy’s Alright and then some!

We were raised up in the hallowed halls / Of half a million shopping malls / And there ain't any price that we're too proud to pay / We'll buy anything from Diet Sprite / To one thousand points of light / Hey, I admit we're not that bright / But I'm proud anyway
My Generation (Part 2)

I let my woman move in last Fall / Now she don't ever let me touch her at all / She's been picking at me all day / I came here to get out of her way
Turn It Up

Well I may be alone but there's someone at home / I just know I'm making a mistake / A woman like you walks in a place like this / And you can almost hear the promises break.
Trouble

Tell all these people makin' all these decisions / Somebody's coming / Tell all these people with their hateful opinions / Somebody's coming / Tell everybody in the KKK, in the FBI, in the CIA / That there's Somebody coming / That's gonna change everything
Somebody’s Coming
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‘GOOD HANDS’ - 2003
Danny Caron

Danny Caron’s album ‘Good Hands’ could just as appropriately have been titled ‘Bone-Deep Blues’.

Driving home from work one night in February of 2005, I put on the local pseudo-Jazz station. Late, when they figure nobody's listening anyway, KYOT sometimes shelves the Kenny G and Dave Koz and spins “stuffs” a little more adventurous. About halfway home they started playing some hot guitarist whose style I did not recognize. Damn! This guy was GOOD! I pulled into my garage, shut off the engine and just sat there listening, unable to go into the house until the track concluded. (And I'm thinking to myself: You KYOT Airheadzona DJ better tell me who this is!)

"That was DANNY CARON with THE PROMISE," the DJ announced. Now, I know from past experiences that whenever a musical piece commands my attention to that degree upon first listen, I've found a winner.

I ordered the album 'Good Hands' and when it arrived I found myself staring at a middle-aged, balding guy who looked like the archetype late night television talk show host. My first impression: Well, yeah, it's good, but maybe I didn't really need to own it. That opinion was radically reversed by my 4th or 5th trip through the nearly hour-long disc. By then, my ears had picked up on what he was doing with that guitar, and now I’m thinking: Hokey-Smoke, man!

While I have no doubt that Caron could trade blazing licks with virtually any "guitar god" out there, that's not what 'Good Hands' is all about. These are mostly slow to mid-tempo, deeply smoldering Blues, but played with awesome Jazz chops. The first thing you'll notice is the impeccable cleanness of his sound: sharp, single-note runs possessing an extraordinary finesse and rhythmic sense! And after your ears become "educated" you begin to notice the brilliantly executed shadings he employs to wring out the genuine emotional content of each piece. Hey, I love my Blues guitarists, but even “The Three Kings" (B.B., Albert, and Freddie) could learn a thing from Caron about Blues nuance. Dang! This is just an exquisite Blues/Jazz guitar album of uncommon sensitivity; as soulful a recording as I have ever heard! If you're a young guitarist and you want to learn a thing or two about imbuing your music with an authentic feeling, a deep passion, 'Good Hands' has a lot to teach you.

Danny Caron has played on numerous recordings with artists such as Van Morrison, Charles Brown, Clifton Chenier, Bonnie Raitt, Donald Fagen, Dr. John, Little Milton and John Hammond Jr., and he has toured with Robben Ford and Maria Muldaur. Caron is also the featured guitarist on the Van Morrison-produced John Lee Hooker album ‘Don't Look Back’ which won two Grammy Awards.

Nine of these eleven tracks are instrumentals. And if you like the classic Jazz guitarists such as Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, and early George Benson, then you'll surely want to add Danny Caron to your collection.

What a travesty of justice that so much acclaim is lavished on each new long-haired, Hard Rock speed freak guitarist who comes along, but a player like THIS remains unknown. He's never going to get the recognition that he deserves but, hey, you can forget all about Allstate, man, because you're in REALLY 'GOOD HANDS' with Danny Caron!

Shine On

Hey Jimmy

A Rainy Night In Georgia

The Guitar Speaks

Soul Street

HONORABLE MENTION:
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‘VAN HALEN’ - 1978
Van Halen

This is the only recording mentioned in this blog bit that I no longer own. When this was released in ’78, I was a teenager and a Hard Rock junkie. By 1985 I was listening almost exclusively to Blues – and I mean the REAL Blues, not Blues-based Rock. I’m talkin’ Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, and, of course, Muddy H2Os. By 1988 I was listening mostly to Jazz, and when I traded in my old LPs (“Licorice Pizzas”) and began converting my music collection to the compact disc format, I did not reacquire a lot of the old Rock that I felt I had musically outgrown. ‘Van Halen’ didn’t make the transition with me.

Nevertheless, I HAD to include it somewhere on this list because of the effect it once had on me. I can still vividly recall where I was when I first heard it. (You’d think I was writing about where I was when I learned that President Kennedy had been killed, huh?) I was carpooling to work with Big Al (a friend of mine and another teenaged Hard Rock junkie) and I was in Al’s Cougar with the loud sound system.

Big Al says, “Check this out” and he pops in the newly released ‘Van Halen’ cassette. I hear this loud siren which gradually subsides and then this thumping bass takes over and leads into “Runnin’ With The Devil” . As soon as my head stopped spinning and I had collected my jaw from the floorboard of Big Al’s Cougar, I thought: Wow! Who the hell are these guys?!

Next up was “Eruption”. That instrumental comes blaring through Al’s speakers and my brain explodes! We were only half of the way through “Eruption” and there was one thing I knew with absolute certainty: the VERY FIRST thing I was going to do when I got off work that day was damn sure buy me my own copy of ‘Van Halen’!!

“Eruption” would probably sound commonplace to a teenager today, but that’s only because the two-handed “tapping” technique that Eddie Van Halen had mastered has been copied ad nauseam since 1978. But at that time, none of us had ever heard anything like that before; Eddie Van Halen had literally revolutionized electric Rock guitar playing.

When I got my own copy of ‘Van Halen’ home and heard “Eruption” again, I scoured the album liner notes; I read them and reread them and re-reread them. I was looking for the “S”-word: synthesizer. Because nobody – NOBODY! – could really play guitar that fast and fluidly, right? It was nearly impossible to imagine! But there was no “S”-word; he was really doing it with a 6-string electric guitar.

Alright, back to Al’s Cougar and track #3: It was a cover version of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” all Van Halenized. This was the first time an electric guitar LAUGHED like a human being! It’s an overused expression, but I was simply “blown away”.

[A few weeks later I read a review of Van Halen’s debut album, probably in either Circus or Creem magazine, in which the writer made the dumbest, most absurdly inaccurate statement I’d ever encountered in print. He wrote that Van Halen’s version of “You Really Got Me” was – and I quote precisely, even after 33 years have passed – “spunkless” . Yes, he stated it was “spunkless”. I was 18 years old and that may have been the very day that I first realized that you can’t believe everything you read simply because it has been professionally published. Love it or hate it, say what you will about Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me”, but “spunkless” you cannot call it and remain honest! If Van Halen’s cover version of “You Really Got Me” was “spunkless”, then the Kinks’ original was “stillborn”.]

Eddie Van Halen created these distinctive, meaty rhythm riffs and tossed off these extraordinary liquid solos as if they were nothing, and consequently, he left the former guitar gods – the Pages, the Claptons, the Santanas, and the Blackmores – sounding old and tired and floundering in his wake.

The world of Rock music had a new god, and for awhile he was utterly unchallengeable.

Well, over time, my love of Hard Rock music vanished, just like the pimples on my face, but I would have been remiss had I not mentioned this mind-blowing debut album on this list. For me, in 1978, the Rock And Roll status quo got turned upside down and then it “Erupted”, and it was Eddie Van Halen who brought the fireworks and lit the fuse.

Below is the 1-2-3 combination that introduced Van Halen to the world:

I found the simple life ain't so simple / When I jumped out on that road / I got no love, no love you'd call real / Ain't got nobody waitin' at home
Runnin’ With The Devil

Eruption

Girl, you really got me now / You got me so I don't know what I'm doin' / Girl, you really got me now / You got me so I can't sleep at night
You Really Got Me
["Spunkless"?]

WHERE’S WARREN?
.













I know what you’re thinking: How could a Warren Zevon fan like Stephen T. McCarthy have overlooked Zevon’s self-titled debut album? Well, in fact, I did not overlook it. Although ‘Warren Zevon’ contains some of Z-man’s best songs, such as “Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded”, “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me”, “Carmelita”, and (my all-time favorite Zevon zong) “Desperados Under The Eaves”, what a lot of people don’t realize is that ‘Warren Zevon’ was not Warren’s first album. In 1970 he released an album titled ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’. While I have never heard ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, by nearly all accounts it “ain’t that pretty at all!” And unlike Van Morrison’s ‘Blowin’ Your Mind’, Zevon’s first album was released with his full approval and so I was unable to include his self-titled 1976 album on this list.

Let it be known, however, that but for Z-man’s great early misstep, ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, his album ‘Warren Zevon’ would surely have made my “Super 8 Great Debut Albums” list. Too bad. Dumb Warren – he screwed up accidentally like a martyr.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
.

14 comments:

Arlee Bird said...

A commendable list. Most all of these have appeared on some of your previous lists so I guess there's not too much here that surprises me other than maybe Van Halen.

I consider the Grin album to be Nils' debut since the group and it's output was essentially him.

I was a big fan of Lindley's work with Kaleideoscope and Jackson Browne, but I never heard any of his solo efforts. I have no doubt that he was excellent on his own since he is a tremendously talented musician.

As usual the background stories were interesting and entertaining.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Kelly said...

Okay, I don't know a lot of bands on this list. But I do know Van Halen and they rock! I've seen them live twice (once with DLR and once with Sammy)

DiscConnected said...

McDogg-

I should have seen David & David coming-Lindley was a bit of a surprise (do you own that one?) as I did not know you liked it that much.

I'm still laughing at Tiny Tim! Actually, that did surprise me-I knew you liked it, but similar to El Rayo X, not that much!

What-no rap?

LC

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BOID ~
>>.....I consider the Grin album to be Nils' debut since the group and it's output was essentially him.

DiscConnected and I discussed this and both agreed that a "solo" effort, apart from a former "group" release, constituted a NEW incarnation for an artist.

We even SPECIFICALLY addressed the Grin/Lofgren situation, and we were in agreement.

Otherwise (as I offered as an example), PAUL SIMON's debut solo album would be ineligible since he had formerly recorded with ART GARFUNKEL and, like Nils in Grin, was the principal creative force.

So, if 'Nils Lofgren' is not valid, neither would be 'Paul Simon', and I'm sure you will agree that doesn't "feel" right.


McL.C. ~
>>.....I should have seen David & David coming

Yep. All things considered, 'BOOMTOWN' would have a serious shot at reaching #1 if I were forced to rate all of these debut albums according to preference. I'm not sayin' it WOULD get #1, but I'm just sayin'...

>>.....Lindley was a bit of a surprise (do you own that one?)

Sho' I do! Kiddin' me? "Mercury Blues" ALONE would have gotten 'El Rayo-X' on this list!

>>.....I'm still laughing at Tiny Tim! Actually, that did surprise me-I knew you liked it, but similar to El Rayo X, not that much!

Unbelievable, I know, but... BELIEVE IT!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

James Garcia Jr said...

I really like Van Morrison, but only have about 6-7 songs. I am always on the hunt for tunes on iTunes that I need to fill my iPod with, so I'm going to have to take another look and see what else I can find.
Another Rickie Lee Jones mention! I fail here. I really am unfamiliar with her. I'm going to have to check her out.
Thanks for posting, Stephen. I also love how detailed you get with your lists! Very cool.
Take care,

-James

mousiemarc said...

Interesting. I wouldn't think Van halen would make your list. But there it was. And a fine recording it was. Have to say I haven't heard of most of the other stuff. Given I was born in the mid 70's that shouldn't surprise anyone.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

JAMES ~
>>.....I also love how detailed you get with your lists!

Ha! :o) That's the thing that most readers HATE about my blog bits, and the reason hardly anyone reads them.

Thanks for stopping by!


BR'ER ~
Yeah, well, 'Van Halen' made it as an "Honorable Mention", and not so much because of how I feel about their music TODAY, but because of how I felt about their music "ONCE UPON A YOUTH".

I mean, I don't even own 'Van Halen' now, but in 1978, it was a "revelation"! Most of the Heavy Metal bands of the '80s and '90s wouldn't have even existed had there been no Eddie Van Halen. They made careers out of ripping that guy off!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Ella said...

A Van Halen fan, here. I love the time you took to lure us in and remind us to remain open...Tiny Tim.
He made weird, good, gave us something to talk about~ ;-D

El Vox said...

The Tiny Tim I wasn't expecting on ANYONES list, ha. Nice curve ball there. I'm familiar with most of the ones you've listed. The David & David is a surprise too, one I wouldn't have thought of. Good list.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

ELLA ~
This is a bit funny... I stated that I was listing all of my album choices in chronological order. Both the Van Morrison and Tiny Tim records were released in 1968, but I happen to know that 'Astral Weeks' came out late in the year and so 'God Bless Tiny Tim' was likely released earlier.

But I listed 'Astral Weeks' first because I knew that if the first album the readers found on my list was 'God Bless Tiny Tim', I would INSTANTLY lose ALL credibility.
:o)


EL VOX ~
Yeah, I threw ya a curveball by including a "foulball".

I'm glad to learn that you are familiar with David & David. Few people are, but their one and only album was a real winner!

Thanks for reading and commenting, my friend!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Pooh Lynth said...

Mr McCarharthy,

Good stuff here...having listened to some of those albums with ya, I am impressed by the details and now havea better understanding regarding why you been had liked em. Having been a surface skimmer (or too drunk to listen) I did not see the parallels of our lives in the music. As usual impressed!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

"God Bless Tiny Tim" . . .
. . . AND POOH!

Thanks for stoppin' by, you old bastard!

Yep, "back in the day", AND YOU WERE THERE!... when I'd sometimes go to my room, hang that sign on my door and disappear to listen to 'Astral Weeks' all alone in the dark.

And, hey, you were there when we all went to see Rickie Lee Jones play at the Universal Amphitheatre, weren't ya?

I remember we all piled into Tiburon and Torch drove. And on the 405, as we were descending into "The Valley", it suddenly dawned on me that I had forgotten to bring my glasses.

After the show, you all were talking about how Rickie Lee Jones was wearing this see-through blouse and no bra, and to this day, I don't know if y'all were just "giving me the business" for forgetting my glasses or if that was "a true fact". But Rickie was just a moving blur on the stage to me.

You will ALWAYS be in possession of major points for turning me on to Tom Waits. Remember how you and I would sit up there in your room at "Pooh Corner" and get all liquored-up while listening to your records? - namely, Tom's "Small Change" and "Trouble In Paradise" by Randy Newboy.

Ahhh... those were the DAZE! (But they "weren't that pretty at all"!)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Sheboyganboy VI said...

Well, Brother D -

I finally got time to spend the evening going through the listening list. So bloody late that all your followers will not read my pithy comments. Its a pity, even though they ain't pithy.

I really enjoyed this list, and as usual I learned a lot. I already knew Lindley and liked him from other folks' albums but was not familiar with the solo work. Good stuff(s).

I always liked RIckie Lee a lot. Good choice there.

I knew you were a big fan of D&D (the band, not the game, like me) and I liked listening to their tunes, especially "Swallowed by the Cracks."

Van Morrison? What can I say? GREAT! Love Astral Weeks.

Tiny Tim? I do hope he has another hit, though I am not sure I'd participate more than a single coin.

I have not heard Caron of Todd Snider before, and they were both cool. Snider does have a very varied sound and I like him. I will buy that CD.

Van Halen would have been a Super choice and I think it might actually make a debut list of mine.

But, as for my own Super 8, I don't have time to consider it now, so I'll have to take your word for it that these were the best.

Again, you write really well, and I still contend you should get paid for it. As for HOW to get paid for it, I have no clue, but you sure as hell are a better writer than most and you have a flair with music stuff, particularly. Well... no more really than other stuff. Maybe just more accessible to the masses.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

MR. SHEBOYGANBOY SIX ~

Hey, welcome home, Bro! I hope it was a successful trip - whatever it was related to.

>>.....But, as for my own Super 8, I don't have time to consider it now, so I'll have to take your word for it that these were the best.

Oh yeah, they were. I wouldn't lie about something like that. I find it a little odd that out of 15 or so participants, I was the only one who got all 8 correct.

Well, I always did suspect that I was smarter than the average bear, and now that's been confirmed.

>>.....Again, you write really well, and I still contend you should get paid for it.

Thanks, my man! (And by the way, I think I should too. :o)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'