The Epic 2017 Project #352: 171218
Stevie Wonder – Talking Book (1972)
Sandwiched between the release of Music of My Mind and Innervisions, Talking Book (released in October 1972 and Stevie Wonder’s 15th studio album) saw him enjoying more artistic freedom from Motown. Guest appearances include Jeff Beck, Ray Parker, Jr., David Sanborn, and Buzz Feiten.
The sound of the album is sharply defined by Wonder’s keyboard work, especially with the synthesizers he incorporated, giving a funky edge to tracks like “Maybe Your Baby”. His use of the Hohner clavinet model C on “Superstition” is widely regarded as one of the definitive tracks featuring the instrument. His clavinet embellishments on “Big Brother”, though, evoke a six-string acoustic guitar, and his note-bending harmonica work touches on some folk and blues influences.
The Epic 2017 Project #351: 171217
Stevie Wonder – Inner Visions (1973)
Innervisions was Stevie Wonder’s 16th studio album, released on 3rd August, 1973, on the Tamla label for Motown Records, a landmark recording of his “classic period”. The nine tracks of Innervisions encompass a wide range of themes and issues: from drug abuse in “Too High”, through inequality and systemic racism in “Living for the City”, to love in the ballads “All in Love Is Fair” and “Golden Lady”. The album’s closer, “He’s Misstra Know-It-All”, is a scathing attack on then-US President Richard Nixon, similar to Wonder’s song a year later, “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”.
As with many of Stevie Wonder’s albums, the lyrics, composition and production are almost entirely his own work, with the ARP synthesizer used prominently throughout the album. The instrument was a common motif among musicians of the time because of its ability to construct a complete sound environment. Wonder was the first black artist to experiment with this technology on a mass scale, and Innervisions was hugely influential on the subsequent future of commercial black music. He also played all or virtually all instruments on six of the album’s nine tracks, making most of Innervisions a representative one-man band.
The Epic 2017 Project #350: 171216
Wishbone Ash – Just Testing (1979)
Just Testing was the tenth studio album from Wishbone Ash, pre-released in November 1979 to the likes of radio stations etc, and generally released on 18 January 1980 by MCA Records; I (for reasons I can’t immediately fathom – as I brought it when new) have a pre-release copy.
Recorded primarily at Surrey Sound Studios in England, it was the last to feature the original lead vocalist and bass guitarist Martin Turner until the release of Nouveau Calls (1987).
The track I’ve chosen for today is the last on the album – ‘Helpless’. And it’s there primarily for the guitar bridge that kicks in at 2:50. Almost 40 years on, both the spine tingles and the tears come at that moment. Proves to me that music always moves if you let it.
The Epic 2017 Project #349: 171215
Johnny Winter – The Progressive Blues Experiment (1968 & 1969)
The Progressive Blues Experiment was the debut album from Johnny Winter, originally issued on Austin’s Sonobeat Records label in 1968. When Winter signed to Columbia Records, the rights were sold to Imperial Records who reissued the album in 1969.
Winter plays here in a trio with his late-sixties band. Several blues artists are covered including B.B. King (“It’s My Own Fault”), Sonny Boy Williamson (“Help Me”), and Slim Harpo (“I Got Love If You Want It”).
In 2005, Capitol issued a 24-bit remastered edition of this recording on CD. The album has also been released with the title Austin, Texas.
The Epic 2017 Project #348: 171214
Walking Papers (2012)
Walking Papers hail from Seattle, Washington and got together in 2012. Formed by Jeff Angell (vocals, guitar) of The Missionary Position and Barrett Martin (drums, percussion) formerly of the Screaming Trees, they added Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, and The Missionary Position’s Benjamin Anderson (keyboards) to the lineup following their contributions to the debut album.
Their self-titled debut, produced by Angell and Martin and also mixed by Jack Endino, was released on October 2, 2012 and featured contributions by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready.
The Epic 2017 Project #347: 171213
The Vibrators – Pure Mania (1977)
Pure Mania was the debut album by the Vibrators. It was released in 1977 on Epic Records and reached No. 49 in the UK Albums Chart. The song “Baby Baby” was released as a single.
Trouser Press writer Ira Robbins described the album as a “treasure trove of memorable ditties”. Allmusic’s Mark Deming said the album “isn’t purist’s punk, but it’s pure rock & roll, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, critic Robert Christgau described the album as “good new-fashioned rock and roll at its wildest”
And track 5 on side 2 gave the band ‘Stiff Little Fingers’ their name!
The Epic 2017 Project #346: 171212
The Virginmarys – King of Conflict (2013)
The Virginmarys are an English three-piece Macclesfield. They band formed in 2009 and self-released a limited series of sold out EPs, before releasing their debut album King of Conflict on DoubleCross/Cooking Vinyl in the UK and Wind Up Records stateside in February 2013. The album was awarded Editors Choice by iTunes US following their songs “Bang Bang Bang” and “Just A Ride” both being iTunes Singles Of The Week and was then nominated for Album Of The Year at the Classic Rock Awards 2013 where they won the ‘best breakthrough act’ award.
In 2014 we caught them at Brighton’s Concorde II on a triple bill also featuring ‘Reverend & the Makers’ and my daughter’s band ‘Mok’.