Don McLean – American Pie (Epic 2017 #174)

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

John Mayall – The Blues Alone (Epic 2017 #173)

The Epic 2017 Project #173: 170622

John Mayall – The Blues Alone (1967)

The Blues Alone is a 1967 electric blues album recorded by John Mayall on which he recorded all the parts himself, with the exception of percussion which was provided by longtime collaborator Keef Hartley.

The cover art and the original LP sleeve design are by John Mayall. Sleeve notes, including track notes, were written by noted DJ John Peel. And this is what he said about the album’s concept…

I was featuring his LP A Hard Road on the air and was amazed that, in addition to writing 8 of the 12 numbers on the record, playing 5 [sic] and 9 string guitar, organ, piano, harmonica and singing, he had written the sleeve notes and painted the portrait of the group on the front cover. With this new LP he has carried all of this to its logical conclusion and has produced a record featuring no other musician than himself except for the occasional aid of his drummer Keef Hartley.

Massive Attack – Protection (Epic 2017 #172)

The Epic 2017 Project #172: 170621

Massive Attack – Protection (1994)

So, for mid-summer’s day 2017 we have Massive Attack’s second studio album, released in 1994 and the last to feature Tricky as a member after going solo with his album Maxinquaye in 1995.

Protection was featured in the top ten of Rolling Stone magazine’s ‘Coolest Albums of All Time List’, calling it “great music for when you’re driving around a city at 4 am,” due to the ‘chill out’ nature of the album. Like most of Massive Attack’s albums, the music often defies categorisation, ranging from R&B to hip hop/rap (like Karmacoma) to reggae-tinged synthpop to classical-influenced electronica instrumentals like ‘Weatherstorm’.

The album follows Blue Lines structurally, to the point that the font used on the cover of the album is the same, Helvetica Heavy Italic.Now there’s a useless bit of information to weave into conversation!

Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Epic 2017 #171)

The Epic 2017 Project #171: 170620

Massive Attack – Mezzanine (1998)

Massive Attack’s third album, released on 20 April 1998 by Circa and Virgin Records. It was the first album to be produced by Neil Davidge, along with the group. The entire album was provided on their website for legal download many months before the physical release was announced, one of the first major uses of the MP3 format by a commercial organisation.

Mezzanine topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand, becoming the band’s most commercially successful album. It saw the band expanding their trip hop sound to electronica stylings with diverse influences from rock, hip hop and dub genres.

Mary Mary – Thankful (Epic 2017 #169)

The Epic 2017 Project #169: 170618

Mary Mary – Thankful (1999)

Thankful was Mary Mary’s debut studio album, released on May 2, 2000 through Columbia Records. It’s all about contemporary gospel, R&B, hip hop and soul and as a part of that, produced the smash crossover hit “Shackles (Praise You)”, which reached the top-ten in seven countries. This was closely followed by the single “I Sings”, which was also a significant hit—although it did not match the success of its predecessor.

The album established Mary Mary as one of the leading artists in contemporary Christian music, and won the duo a Grammy Award in 2001. It peaked at number one on the US Gospel Albums, number twenty-two on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and number fifty-nine on the US Billboard 200. On release, AllMusic gave it a grade of four and a half out of five stars and Cross Rhythms – the main Christian music publisher – a top 10/10.

John Martyn – Solid Air (Epic 2017 #168)

The Epic 2017 Project #168: 170617

John Martyn – Solid Air (1973)

Solid Air was the fourth studio album from the late folk singer-songwriter John Martyn, released in February 1973 by Island Records.

The album was recorded over eight days and features instrumental contributions by bassist Danny Thompson and members of Fairport Convention.”Solid Air”, the title track, was dedicated to a friend of Martyn’s, Nick Drake, who would die of an antidepressant overdose 18 months after the album was released. Martyn said of the track

“It was done for a friend of mine, and it was done right with very clear motives, and I’m very pleased with it, for varying reasons. It has got a very simple message, but you’ll have to work that one out for yourself.”

The album features an avant-garde cover of Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman,”here retitled “I’d Rather Be the Devil” and performed with heavy use of Martyn’s Echoplex tape delay effect.

“May You Never” became something of a signature song for Martyn, becoming a staple of his live performances. Released in November 1971 as a single in an early form, the song was re-recorded during the Solid Air sessions. Eric Clapton covered “May You Never” on his 1977 album Slowhand. When Martyn was presented with a lifetime achievement award by Phil Collins (a collaborator of Martyn’s) at the 2008 BBC Folk Awards, Clapton sent a message saying that he was “so far ahead of everything else it was inconceivable” and acknowledged the extent of his influence on “everyone who ever heard him.”Martyn and his band, including John Paul Jones on mandolin, played “May You Never” and “Over The Hill” at the Awards Ceremony.

A remastered CD was issued by Universal Records in October 2000. This CD was packaged in a card slipcase, and featured a remastered version of the original album with the addition of a live version of “I’d Rather Be The Devil”. Solid Air was given a further remastering and repackaging when a double CD reissue curated by John Hillarby was released in 2009, and which included several alternate studio and live versions.

The album cover is an example of schlieren photography demonstrating the ‘solid’ nature of air.