The Epic 2017 Project #178: 170627
Steve Miller – The Joker (1973)
The Joker is the eighth album by Steve Miller Band, released in 1973. It marked a period of significant change for the group as the band abandoned their psychedelic oriented music for a more melodic, smooth rock/blues sound. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was also their first solid commercial success due to the strong radio-play of the title track. The title track took 19 days to record.
The album’s artwork is also considered amongst the greatest; Rolling Stone magazine would later rank it as one of the “Top 100 Album Covers Of All Time”
The Epic 2017 Project #174: 170623
Don McLean – American Pie (1971)
A protégé of Pete Seeger, ‘American Pie’ was Don McLean’s second album. It was intended as a unified work, as McLean had said that he was influenced by the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album and envisioned American Pie to be a similar piece of work. Believing that an artist’s work should stand by itself, McLean generally did not offer explanations for his song’s themes or meaning,though he did describe the title song as involving “a sense of loss”. The album was dedicated to Buddy Holly, a childhood icon of McLean’s, and was released in 1971 on the heels of the ’60s, the defining decade of McLean’s generation. It has a melancholy feel and rather sparse arrangements. At the time of the writing McLean’s first marriage was failing and the optimism and hopefulness of the 1960s was giving way to the nihilism and hedonism of the 1970s.
The album’s title song though, made McLean a household name. The single was a number-one US hit for four weeks in 1972. In the UK, it reached No. 2 on its original 1972 release and No.12 on a reissue in 1991. It was listed as the No. 5 song on the RIAA project Songs of the Century and a truncated version was covered by Madonna in 2000 and reached No. 1 in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
The repeatedly mentioned “day the music died” lyric refers to the 1959 plane crash which killed early rock and roll performers Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. The meaning of the other lyrics has long been debated, and for decades, McLean declined to explain the symbolism behind the many characters and events mentioned. However, the overall theme of the song is the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation as symbolized by the plane crash which claimed the lives of three of its heroes
The Epic 2017 Project #131: 170511
Elton John – Madman across the water (1971)
This was Elton’s last album to feature his regular touring band (Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson) on only a single song. Later band member, percussionist Ray Cooper, makes his first though. As with allsongs during this period, the lyrics were penned by Elton’s writing partner, Bernie Taupin. This was the last album to be recorded at London’s Trident Studios, although subsequent albums would be remixed or overdubbed there. Caleb Quaye and Roger Pope wouldn’t play with John again until Rock of the Westies in 1975, following Murray and Olsson’s departure from the band.
Madman Across the Water only reached No.41 on the UK Albums Chart, spending just two weeks there, and has been the lowest-charting album of his career to date. The album fared better in North America, peaking at No.8 on the US Billboard Top Pop Albums and placing at No.10 on the year-end list of 1972. It received Gold by the RIAA in February 1972, achieving $1 million in sales at wholesale value just in the United States.
The title song was set to be released on John’s previous album Tumbleweed Connection. However, it was set aside and was re-recorded for this album. The earlier version (with Mick Ronson on guitar) was included on the remastered Tumbleweed Connection CD.
When it was released in ‘The Classic Years’ collection, it was the first album not to feature any bonus tracks. One known track recorded at the time, “Rock Me When He’s Gone”, was released on the 1992 compilation Rare Masters. The song was written for and recorded by one of John’s long-time friends, Long John Baldry. This was John’s first album in which he plays his piano and no other keyboards and the first album on which Davey Johnstone played, a role that would continue for decades, and he contributed acoustic guitar, mandolin and sitar; he would join John’s band full-time for Honky Château.
Madman across the water was Elton’s fourth studio album
The Epic 2017 Project #084: 170325
Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things (1973)
These Foolish Things is the debut solo studio album by Bryan Ferry, who at the time was still Roxy Music’s lead vocalist. Released in October 1973 on Island Records in the UK, and Atlantic Records in the United States, it was a commercial and critical success, peaking at number 5 on the albums chart in the United Kingdom.
The album consists entirely of cover versions, most of the tracks being personal favorites of Ferry’s and spanning several decades from 1930s standards such as the title track through to the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s with Elvis Presley,Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.
A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” (for example) was written by Bob Dylan in the summer of 1962 and was first recorded for his second album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
The Epic 2017 Project #036: 170205
Cheap Trick – Dream Police (1979)
I’ve had this album since it first came out 37 years ago. In fact, I can even remember the day! Sal and I had married that July and, in the first week of the new term – late September 1979 – I’d received a little bonus for some extra work done that week. Back in the late 70’s I earned just over £40 a week. And ‘Castle Records’ in the arcade in the town centre was where I regularly parted with some of that cash.
Life was cheaper in the Midlands back at the end of the 70s. Rent was £11 a week and food – about a tenner between us. So around half of what I earned was ours for the spending. £3 tops secured a ticket for that week’s gig at the Union Building, a quid for a TDK D-90 blank cassette and around a fiver for an album. I’d heard ‘Need your love’ on the juke box in a campus cafe called ‘The Purple Onion’, so I knew in advance which I’d buy that week. And, listening to it now, almost 37 years later, it’s still as fresh as it was back then. Good music never dies.
The Epic 2017 Project #028: 170128
Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978)
In late 1978, at the tender age of 18, I left home. Following my soulmate northwards, I found a job as a kitchen porter on the campus where the art college she was taking her Ceramics degree was based. For the first year she was (technically) in halls of residence and I was (technically) in staff accommodation on the other side of the campus. But, truth be told, I spent more time in the room she shared with one, Deb Gee. And ‘Parallel Lines’ was, for quite a while, the only record on Debs’ Dansette record player. So we got to know those 12 tracks really well.
Later in the year following release though, we got to see Blondie live as a part of the ‘Parallel Lines’ tour when they played the Loughborough Student Union. Paid £1.75 for my ticket I think! But then my weekly wages in those days were just £30 – so it was still relative!
Tough choice on which track to feature but ‘One way or another’ wins…
The Epic 2017 Project #015: 170115
Bachman Turner Overdrive – Not Fragile (1974)
This is one of my wife’s albums purchased when it was first released on vinyl back in 1974. It’s a cracker of a record with not one duff track. Just one rule – you absolutely have to crank the volume up whenever you give it a spin!