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 #345: 171211
Suzanne Vega (1985)
Suzanne Vega’s self-titled debut was released in 1985. It was well-received by music journalists and reached platinum status in the United Kingdom. Produced by Lenny Kaye and Steve Addabbo, the songs feature Vega’s acoustic guitar in straightforward arrangements. A video was released for the album’s song “Marlene on the Wall”,which went into MTV and VH1’s rotations.
In 1989, Rolling Stone magazine listed Suzanne Vega at number 80 on its “100 Best Albums of the Eighties”. It is also mentioned in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
The album has sold close to two million copies worldwide.
The Epic 2017 project #344: 171210
Van Morrison – St Dominic’s Preview (1972)
I purchased my vinyl copy of Saint Dominic’s Preview, Van Morrison’s sixth, a year after it was released in the summer of 1973. I was 14 then and already an erstwhile hippy and I’d heard (and fallen in live with) ‘Jackie Wilson said’ in the basement listening room of the Queens Road, Brighton Virgin Records.
“Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)” and the title track were blends of soul and folk, while lesser known tracks such as “Gypsy” and “Redwood Tree” continued to display a lyrical celebration of nature’s beauty. Also on the album were two lengthy tracks, “Listen to the Lion” and the closing “Almost Independence Day” which were given primal, cathartic and intense vocal performances from Morrison. These tracks were similar to the songs on his 1968 album, Astral Weeks.
The album reached number 15 on the Billboard 200 when it was released. This would remain Morrison’s best ever US success on the Billboard 200 until 2008 when Keep It Simple came in at number 10 on the Billboard chart.
“Jackie Wilson Said…” was released in July 1972 as the first of three singles from the album. It was most successfully covered by Dexys Midnight Runners on their album Too-Rye-Ay and reached number five on the UK Singles Chart when released in 1982. It’s also been covered by several other artists, including David Campbell, Syl Johnson, Tommy McLain and Darby O’Gill.
The Epic 2017 Project #343: 171209
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968)
Astral Weeks was Van Morrison’s second studio album. Recorded at Century Sound Studios in New York City during three sessions in September and October 1968, it was released on the Warner Bros label in November that year. Except for John Payne, Morrison and the assembled jazz musicians had not played together before and the recordings commenced without rehearsals or lead sheets handed out.
The cover art, music and lyrics portray the symbolism equating earthly love and heaven that would often feature in Morrison’s work. When Astral Weeks was released, it received no promotion from the label and was not an immediate success with consumers or critics. Blending folk, blues, jazz, and classical music, the album’s songs signaled a radical departure from the sound of his previous pop hits like “Brown Eyed Girl” (1967).
Astral Weeks’ critical standing eventually improved greatly, however, and it has since been viewed as one of rock music’s greatest and most important records (a reputation Morrison himself has dismissed). It is sometimes referred to as a song cycle or concept album. Critics laud the album’s arrangements and songwriting. Morrison’s lyrics are often described as impressionistic, hypnotic, and modernist. It was placed on numerous widely circulated lists of the best albums of all time and had an enduring effect on both listeners and musicians. Forty years after the album’s release, Morrison performed all eight of its songs live for the first time during two Hollywood Bowl concerts in November 2008; this performance was later released as a live album.
The Epic 2017 Project #330: 171126
Tanita Tikaram – Ancient Heart (1988)
Tanita Tikaram was just 19 when she released her debut studio album ‘Ancient Heart’ on Warner Music in September 1988. The album had huge success and was a hit globally, launching Tanita’s mainstream career. Guest musicians included Rod Argent, Mark Isham, Peter Van Hooke, Paul Brady, and Brendan Croker. Argent and Van Hooke produced the album. The record included four singles – Good Tradition, Cathedral Song, World outside your window and Twist in my sobriety.
The Epic 2017 Project #302: 171029
Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (2012)
Marking his 17th studio album, Wrecking Ball, released in May 2012, features 11 new Springsteen recordings and was produced by Ron Aniello with Bruce Springsteen and executive producer Jon Landau. Said long-time manager Landau says…
Bruce has dug down as deep as he can to come up with this vision of modern life. The lyrics tell a story you can’t hear anywhere else, and the music is his most innovative of recent years. The writing is some of the best of his career, and both veteran fans and those who are new to Bruce will find much to love on Wrecking Ball
The Epic 2017 Project #294: 171021
Carly Simon – No Secrets (1972)
No Secrets is the third studio album by American singer and songwriter Carly Simon, released on November 28, 1972 by Elektra Records.
The album was Carly’s commercial breakthrough. It spent five weeks at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart and quickly went Gold, as did its lead single, “You’re So Vain”, which remained at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks, and topped the Adult Contemporary chart for two weeks. In the UK, both the album and it’s lead single reached No.3.
At the invitation of producer Richard Perry, Simon recorded the album at Trident Studios in London, where Perry was keen for Simon to work with engineer Robin Cable. Trident Studios had previously been the venue for the recording of notable albums including The Beatles’ White Album, David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Elton John’s second album.
The photograph for the cover, taken by Ed Caraeff, was shot in front of the Portobello Hotel, on Stanley Gardens in London’s Notting Hill.