Stoner Rock

REVIEW: Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe (2018)

FU MANCHU – Clone of the Universe (2018 New Damage)

First the first time in a long time, “I’ve Been Hexed” by the brand new Fu Manchu album.

Clone of the Universe sounds cut from the same cloth as classic albums such as King of the Road and The Action is Go.  Aside from the mind-bomb that is the 18 minute track “Il Mostro Atomico”, each song is short, riffy and to the point.  “(I’ve Been) Hexed” is an immediate thumbs-up, a reminder of what we liked about Fu Manchu when we first heard them.

You can’t tell if “Don’t Panic” has anything to do with Douglas Adams, but it’s as fast and relentless as the UFO-themed “King of the Road”.  Maybe the Sabbath-crawl of “Slower Than Light” is also about space travel; maybe it’s not.  The fun is in the guessing, but by the end the song is at moving at warp.  Both “Nowhere Left to Hide” and “Intelligent Worship” boast riffs carved from the stones of Mt. Iommi, contained with in the Fu Manchu groove.  The title track “Clone of the Universe” is like a heavy metal hammer, or a stoner rock Mjölnir.

Despite the strong Fu Manchu grooves throughout, it is undoubtedly the side-long “Il Mostro Atomico” that is the centerpiece.  Suddenly from somewhere left of center comes the “Snow Dog”; Alex Lifeson of Rush with his own style of lead guitar.  Lifeson always had a knack for finding cool artists to work with outside his normal sphere.  Hearing him rip and make noise with Fu Manchu is so right.  Not to mention, this jam which keeps going on and on has plenty to offer when you listen all the way through.

Clear winners:  “(I’ve Been) Hexed”, “Il Mostro Atomico”.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Brant Bjork – Keep Your Cool (2003)

Scan_20151226BRANT BJORK – Keep Your Cool (2003 Duna)

Been a while, cats, since I chilled to Keep Your Cool.  That’s what you do to this record.  Loaded with laid-back latino-influenced stoner rock jams, Keep Your Cool is designed with purpose.  In fact it’s all right there in the opening jam, “Hey, Monkey Boy”, loaded down with congas and one steamy groove.

“Hey, Monkey Boy!  Why you unemployed?” asks one character in the song, voiced by Bjork.

“‘Cause I’m jammin’!” answers Bjork, utilizing a different voice.

Mood now set, “Johnny Called” comes right from the garage: simple, laid back, but infectious.  Back in the Record Store, one of our store managers Joe “Big Nose” used to phone me up and sing it to me:  “Johnny called me up on the telephone, just to tell me I’m not alone!” he melodized.  “Huh?” I asked confused.  So “Big Nose” gave me the record — on LP.  Now we’re grooving.  The amusingly-titled “Rock-N-Rol’e” keeps it coming.  These are basic, sparsely adorned grooves with a nostalgic bent.  “Hey there Mr. DJ, won’t you play, some Rock-N-Rol’e!” sings Brant, in an ode to being a kid with a radio and some cheap wine.  In the blazing outro, you can hear Bjork begging for some ZZ Top or some AC/DC, because he wants his “chick” to hear some rock and roll!  The groove then changes to a stomp on “I Miss My Chick”, closing LP side one.  Brant explains what he misses about his “chick”, but this being a family site I won’t list them here!  This is a smoking jam.

Commencing with the instrumental title track “Keep Your Cool”, the second side begins with a laid-back Jalamanta vibe.  Then Brant’s “Gonna Make the Scene”, and he does this with another snakey, sparse but funky groove.  He takes a rare falsetto vocal on the chorus, recalling early Disco.  Dusky, quiet rolling bass dominates “Searchin'”, very different from prior Bjork songs.  This makes it a highlight of the album and perhaps even the Brant Bjork canon.  The relaxed mood maintains on the final song, “My Soul”, which is also the only long bomber on the record.  It descends into another quiet jam, concluding the record on a serene but appropriate note.

Great album — short, and to the point like a punk record.  Ultimately, not particular a standout given Bjork’s incredible solo discography.  Keep Your Cool is still not a purchase to regret.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band – Black Flower Power (2014)

 

Bought at Sonic Boom during Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto Again…Again! for $14.99 brand new.

Scan_20151203BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Flower Power (2014 Napalm)

I’m a little pissed off that I didn’t get this album last year.  If I had, it might have dramatically changed my Top 5 of 2014 list.  Ever since I first grew to love Black Sabbath, I mourned that nobody (including Sabbath) were able to really capture the ingredients that made the early band special.  Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band have grabbed onto some of that magic.  Their bassist, Dave Dinsmore, is the most Geezer-ish bassist I have heard outside out Geezer Butler himself.  The songwriting gravitates to those chunky kinds of riffs that Black Sabbath made their home.  That’s not to say that Black Flower Power is a Sabbath clone — not at all — but it does have those elements, among many.  You’ll hear me reference the Sabs more than once in this review.

‘Twas the good sir knight More Wood that introduced me to Brant Bjork, via Fu Manchu and Kyuss.  Yet his solo work has reached and sometimes surpassed the heights of his former bands.  I’ve never been disappointed with any of his projects, although Jalamanta was and remains a favourite.  Black Flower Power has the potential to be that, too.

Over the course of eight tracks plus two bonus, the Low Desert Punk Band law down a variety of grooving rock.  Bjork brings his diverse influences to the table, so you’ll hear latin influences sitting comfortably next to punk rock.  Mostly, you will hear pure 1970’s rockin’ groovalicious smoke, and judging by the artwork, it’s the funky green smoke.  “Feelin’ so high, so alive” sings Brant on “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain”, so we know where his head is at.

Bonus tracks are always interesting, because I say, hey!  Why not just put more songs on the album if they’re good?  “Hustler’s Blues” makes sense as a bonus track because it’s kind of outside the general direction of the album.  It has laid-back aspects that are more Black Flower Power meets Jalamanta.  Brilliant jam, though, especially as it accelerates towards the end.  The second bonus track is “Where You From, Man?”, a title taken from the lyrics to “We Don’t Serve Their Kind”.  The songs are unrelated, though.  “We Don’t Serve Their Kind” is a driving metallic sludge with a chorus that will assassinate your brain;  “Where You From, Man?” is a jammy instrumental that meanders around with, what sounds like, samples quotes from James T. Kirk?!  (Wonder where he got that idea?)  It’s also one of the most Sabbathy, in terms of the early jazzy jamming Sabbath.

No matter your musical persuasion, it’s hard to deny the genius contained herein.  If you’re attracted to playing, there’s that.  Experimentation, yup, just listen to the guitar noise manipulation that passes for a solo in “Where You From, Man?”  Melody is here, in aggressive rock form.  Folks, this is quality shit.

Highly recommended, especially to fans of Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, and the mighty Sabbath.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Fu Manchu – King of the Road (1999)

DOUBLE DOSE OF FU MANCHU
Check out Mr. 1537‘s review of this same album (except on vinyl)! Right HERE!

KING OF THE ROAD_0001FU MANCHU – King of the Road (1999 Mammoth)

Of course it had to be Iron Tom Sharpe, Meaford’s Greatest Athlete, that introduced me to Fu Manchu.  It was at a Record Store staff party, and the song he was obsessed with was “Saturn III” from The Action is Go (as recounted in Tyler and LeBrain episode two).  Since collecting most of the Fu Manchu albums, I’ve managed to boil it down to three favourites.  Of these favourites, King of the Road from ’99 may be their best album.

If you don’t know Fu Manchu, they are certainly not for everybody.  Lumped into the stoner rock scene, their repetitive drone-y songs are not commercial enough for many rock fans.  Lyrics are about cars, skateboards and UFOs are not typical rock fare.  The half-spoken half-sung vocals of Scott Hill are very different.  Yet these are some of the factors that make them Fu Manchu.  On top of the cake, the incredible drummer Brant Bjork played on some of the albums, including King of the Road.  Ready for the ride?

The appropriately titled “Hell on Wheels”  opens the proceedings on a decidely adrenalized note.  That repetitive detuned riff enables the band, powered by the inimitable Bjork, to groove their way through your skull.  “So put the keys in my hand! In my hand!” sings Scott Hill, over and over again.  The lyrics are straight and to the point: “El Camaro never dies, look closely and you’ll know why.”  So it’s one of the car songs, then!  I strongly advise you to exercise caution if choosing to play King of the Road in the car.  Traffic tickets are your responsibility, not mine.

“Hell on Wheels” fades into “Over the Edge”, pure groove at a mid-tempo pace.  One doesn’t necessarily have to differentiate between Fu Manchu songs in a review.  They all feature heavy-as-fuck repetitive riffs, Hill’s unmistakable flat vocal stylings, and an unstoppable groove.  It’s just a matter of fast, slow or in-between.  “Over the Edge” is absolutely an album highlight on a CD containing little else.  “Boogie Van” is less a highlight but boasts a vintage-Sabbath style riff and some cool slide courtesy of Bob Balch.  Then the doors are blown off the place on the title track, similar to “Hell on Wheels” in speed but even more intense. It’s one of the UFO songs, but the lyrics are as muddy as the music:

Under forty over is UFO,
Hell bent, stacked in rows,
The galaxy is lined with hundreds more,
Small town, you bet we’re sure,
All through my head,
It’s happenin’ over again,
As the day is long, they keep movin’ on.

As this sucker builds towards its end, I dare you to try and not bang your head.  It’s my favourite song on the album.

King of the Road says you move too slow

After a ride like that, you need to come down, and “No Dice” does the trick with a groove right in the pocket.  “No shoes, no shirt, no dice!” sings Scott, and for a while I really wanted to post a sign that said that on the door of the Record Store.  (They never let me have any fun!)

Kicking back now, “Blue Tile Fever” keeps the grooving movin’.  “It’s all brand new, just like I told you,” is the repetitive vocal hook, and Bjork gives you some tasty cowbell to gnaw on.  Bob Balch’s squirrely lead guitar stylings keeps things interesting.  “Grasschopper” is cool but not as hooky as the previous songs.  That’s alright, because “Weird Beard” (the theme song of Iron Tom Sharpe himself) is hilariously catchy.  My sister started calling Tom “weird beard” a few years earlier because of his sometimes unique facial hair stylings.  When Fu Manchu came out with a song called “Weird Beard”, I couldn’t stop chuckling.  No idea what this one’s about at all, but dig that groove!

Wikipedia tells us that the next song “Drive” was only on the North American version of King of the Road. Other territories got a song called “Breathing Fire” (wishlisted!).  “Drive” kicks ass at maximum rpm.  Brant Bjork and Bob Balch keep it interesting, while bassist Brad Davis keeps the groove going with pedal to the metal.  (Do not play while driving!)   Once again a comedown is necessary and “Hotdoggin'” does the trick as a slow cruiser.  The surprise is the closer, “Freedom of Choice”, a Devo cover.  It’s surprising because of how heavy they make it.

The CD is “enhanced” and contains the music video for “King of the Road”, as well as the single “Evil Eye” from The Action is Go.  (So you can consider “Evil Eye”, an awesome tune with a cool video, as a bonus track.) This outdated technology never really worked well in the first place and now with YouTube, nobody cares anymore.  It’s there if you want to check it out.

There are a few Fu Manchu albums that I would bestow the coveted 5/5 upon.  King of the Road is one.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Leadfoot – Bring It On (1997)

LEADFOOT – Bring It On (1997 TMC)

This band was first brought to my attention courtesy of Tom Morwood.  Leadfoot might be considered a spinoff band from Corrosion of Confirmity.  Bassist Phil Swisher and vocalist Karl Agell were members on the critically acclaimed Blind album by that band.  Leadfoot has a similar kind of appeal.  It has groove, balls, guitars and no bullshit.  Bring It On is their debut.

One major issue with Bring It On is one common to so many records.  It features a strong, memorable and overall top drawer first side, leading into a dull and monotonous second side.  Too bad, because side one is really, really good.  The title track for example has all the qualities I like in stoner rock:  groove, howlin’ vocals, enough melody to get me by, and gutsy memorable guitars.  The drums have some swing to them, the guitars have a southern flavour, and the lyrics are cool and defiant.  “Bring It On” indeed.

Other standouts:

  • “Soul Full of Lies”, throwing some snaky guitars down.
  • “High Time”, my favourite.  It starts with a “Radar Love” vibe, but then goes sludgy awesome.
  • “Roll All Over You”, an AC/DC-meets-Danzig prowler.
  • “Right Between the Eyes”, just an assault of bass and groove.  Aptly named.
  • “Ripe”, my other favourite.  This is just melodic singalong rock, though I have no idea what the lyrics are about.
  • “Sooner”, a relentless battering of drums and chords.
  • “Under the Sun”, which has a superficial resemblence to “Supernaut” by Black Sabbath.

And it’s pretty much downhill from there.  There’s nothing overtly wrong with the rest, just nothing overly special or memorable either.  At least in comparison to the far superior first half of the album.

3/5 stars

LEADFOOT_0003

REVIEW: Brant Bjork – Jalamanta (vinyl) New photos!

Hey all, hope you enjoyed our review from earlier today! ;)

The Brant Bjork review below is a rewrite of one that I originally posted July 6 2012.  I didn’t have a decent camera back then, and I’ve been aching to show some better pictures of how beautiful this record is.  I couldn’t resist revising the review itself either.  Enjoy.

 

BRANT BJORK – Jalamanta (1999 / 180 gram vinyl 2009 reissue)

I still remember the circumstances surrounding me originally getting this on CD.  As recounted in an earlier Record Store Tale, Tom and I were at a party.  We were listening to some sHeavy, and Tom mentioned the Brant Bjork solo album as another must-have.  Being a fan of Brant Bjork’s drumming from Fu Manchu, I ordered it without hearing a single track.  Tom attempted to describe it by calling it “a cross between Fu Manchu and surf rock.”  Interesting.

10 years later, when Bjork reissued it on vinyl, he added the UFO-centric Blue Oyster Cult cover bonus track, “Take Me Away”.  Automatic re-buy.  It doesn’t really sound like the rest of the album, but who cares?  It’s Brant Bjork covering Blue Oyster Cult.  But that’s not the only reason to re-buy Jalamanta.

What a beautiful record! The first thing you’ll notice is the new cover.  All black with the Brant Bjork skull embossed.  Beautiful.  Open it up to get at the booklet with all new photos. The booklet truly is a work of art. Remember when you used to buy an LP, and you’d sit down in front of your stereo staring at the pictures, trying to make out every little detail until the record was done? Brant Bjork takes us back to that time.

The cover page is what appears to be an awesomely greasy Mexican meal, and then the final page is the empty plate — a satisfied customer. Just like with this LP.  You can really get stuffed on the grooves and tones contained herein.  There are plenty of low-key, incessantly grooving instruments.  The music is simple, repetitive, but effective.  It’s not heavy, but it feels weighty nonetheless.

The lyrics are included.  Here’s an example, from “Automatic Fantastic”:

The man shakes me down, that’s why I’m broke. Rich man’s got all the green but it ain’t the kind you smoke. So we turn up the rock, and we roll it slow. We’re always flying high, and the ride is always low.

Musically, if you haven’t heard this album before, I don’t really know how to describe the songs.  Bjork plays almost everything himself, and the vibe is laid back.  He sings on every song but “Toot” which is handled by Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson). He’s chosen to mix his vocals way back and emphasize the unadorned guitars and drums.  The mix is spare, quiet at times, loud at others, but always trippy. Imagine driving down a deserted highway on a hot summer night with the windows down. This is the soundtrack to that ride.

This is one of those album that sounds like it was just meant to be heard on 180 gram vinyl. There’s no sound like it in the world. I noticed a heck of a lot more bass, the bassline on “Lets Get Chinese Eyes” being particularly sublime. This album just sounds stunning now.

5/5 stars

  1. “Lazy Bones” – 1:29
  2. “Automatic Fantastic” – 6:59
  3. “Cobra Jab” – 3:18
  4. “Too Many Chiefs…Not Enough Indians” – 3:44
  5. “Sun Brother” – 4:45
  6. “Lets Get Chinese Eyes” – 4:45

  1. “Toot” – 5:58
  2. “Defender of the Oleander” – 7:53
  3. “The Low Desert Punk” – 5:20
  4. “Waiting for a Coconut to Drop” – 4:17
  5. “Her Brown Blood” – 4:16
  6. “Indio” – 4:15
  7. “Take Me Away” – 5:35 (Blue Öyster Cult cover) vinyl only bonus track

Part 244: Diary of a Mad Record Store Man

JAMIE MIKE

Friend with LeBrain, Phil’s, Waterloo

RECORD STORE TALES Part 244:  Diary of a Mad Record Store Man

I’d like to share with you a selection of entries, verbatim from my journal in 2005.  Here’s a snapshot of Record Store Life, November 2005, one month before quitting the store.

Date: 2005/11/04 10:35

PLAYING IN CAR:
Fu Manchu – King Of The Road

I was just thinking today how much I hate bars. I haven’t been to a bar in a year. Last time I went, a bunch of jocks wanted to kick my ass because they thought I looked “gay”. (With my Motörhead shirt on?)

Also thinking about how rude some customers can be. Like it is MY fault that they have to pawn their shit to buy crack.

Date: 2005/11/04 11:59

Today has been very annoying thus far.

People are idiots sometimes, and people rarely seem to listen. And while I’m working away here among the idiots, the Hives are singing, “Walk Idiot Walk”. Very nice.

Oakville tomorrow…yeah…not hyped for that, either.

Date: 2005/11/15 07:29

I have 3 hours to clean my apartment before my parents arrive.

Date: 2005/11/22 19:51

What goes up must come down.

– I spilled candle wax all over my brand new rug (only 6 days old).
– The trunk of my car has a leak, water has ruined a few items inside.
– I have no money.
– I have a total of three days off in the entire month of December

 Date: 2005/11/24 19:39

With this new beard, people have taken to calling me either “Ewen” or “Señor Speilbergo”. I’m fine with either name.

Date: 2005/11/25 11:05

Just because you are spending hundreds of dollars in my store does NOT make me your bitch.

Date: 2005/11/26 17:56

There’s this dude in my store that looks exactly like a short Sean Astin.

Except I’m not really sure, maybe Sean Astin is short anyways? I mean, he’s a hobbit, right?

REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – “First It Giveth” (single)

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – “First It Giveth” (2002 single)

I’m on record for being a huge fan of Songs For the Deaf.  Uncle Meat and I disagree on this issue, as he considers Songs For the Deaf as being the beginning of a downturn.  I see it as some kind of peak, on an equal plane with Rated R.  “First It Giveth” is undoubtedly one of the highlights from Songs.  It has a brutally heavy groove on the choruses, coupled with haunted, frantic verses.  Dave Grohl’s best work is to be found on Songs For the Deaf.  That is my belief.   I consider “First It Giveth” to be among the evidence to this.

Track 2 is the groovy spy drama rock of “The Most Exalted Potentate of Love”.  This is apparently a Cramps cover.  Wikipedia says The Cramps are “psychobilly”.  Having heard this song, sure, I’ll go with that.  It’s pretty cool, that’s for sure.

I’ve never hidden my dislike for remixes.  9 times out of 10, the album versions are superior.  I do think a remix has some merit when it completely transforms a song into something new.  This remix of “Song For the Deaf” does that.  Unfortunately I don’t think it’s an improvement in any way.  The original song is a relentless beast.  Waves of guitar wash over Grohl’s stumbling drum rolls, while Josh Homme sings hypnotically.  This remix strips away most (if not all?) of the original instrumentation, isolating Homme’s vocal tracks.  Then it adds electronic beats, piano, guitar squeals and effects.  It’s…interesting?  I’m at a loss for words.  I don’t like remixes OK?

I have said in the past that I think remixers should come up with better, more original titles for their remixes.  At least whoever mixed this (the credits don’t say) came up with an original title:  “The Blind Can Goes Get Fucked Remix” [sic].

Although the technology is kinda dated, there’s also a music video for your computer.  This is for the main track, “First It Giveth”.  This is a cool performance video made up of tour and backstage footage.

Two out of three good tracks?  Pretty easy to rate this one.

3.333~/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013)

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …Like Clockwork (2013 Matador)

Yeah, I’m one of those jaded pricks who “only liked Queens when Nick was in the band.”  I bought the other albums too, but of those only the live CD really did anything for me.  Until now.  I really …Like Clockwork!  It succeeds completely at taking the Queens down a somewhat quieter and more mature road, while maintaining every ounce of their integrity.  They are still sometimes heavy, experimental and haunting.  But now they are almost always melodic, too.

Opener “Keep Your Eyes Closed” starts off somewhat slowly, but morphs into a bizarre Queens-meet-Alice in Chains concoction.  It’s actually the one song on the album that I didn’t like on first listen.  Imagine my delight in finding that I liked the rest of the album much more!

The most immediate song is second:  “I Sat by the Ocean”.  I put it in a category with songs like “If Only Everything”; it’s memorable on first listen.  “The Vampire of Time and Memory” is a space-age blues, but with some Queen-like moments (Queen, not Queens).  Josh’s understated vocals are classy and the keyboards create atmosphere rather than distract.

Next, the strangely-titled “If I Had a Tail” could have been released in 1981, or 1983, some time during the New Wave movement.  If I heard this on the radio, I’d think it was an 80’s band.  Only the occasional blasts of electric guitar remind me that this is 2013.  Here’s the cool thing — this track reunites the Songs For the Deaf lineup in a way.  Homme is joined by Dave Grohl on drums (who appears on several tracks), as well as Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri on backing vocals.

“My God is the Sun” is one of the tunes that sound the most like vintage QOTSA, and it is also one of the songs featuring Dave Grohl on drums.  It has some serious heaviness to it, as well as that stuttering, stammering Queens vibe.  All topped by the smoove as glass Joshe Homme vocals.

“Kalopsia” is a weird underwater easy jazz slow dance.  Trent Reznor duets, and suddenly its an explosive Bowie number.  Great tune.  “Fairweather Friends” has piano.  O, it has piano alright — by Elton freakin’ John!  There’s also lots of rich guitar.  It even feels Zeppelin-y at times.  Maybe JPJ rubbed off on Josh a bit?  Then things get funky on “Smooth Sailing”, but it’s a heavy funk with Homme in vocal falsetto.  Fucked-up Disco?  Sure, why not.  The guitar solo is pure noisy heaven, but Grohl’s heavy hitting keeps it in the world of rock.

Soft guitars and a whispery Homme introduce a song called “I Appear Missing”.  It’s hauntingly powerful, and dramatic. The guitar work here is incredible and intense.  It’s also perfect as the penultimate track on a strong album such as this. And when your second last song is as intense as “I Appear Missing”, then it’s often wise to end the album with something quiet.  “Like Clockwork” exists as simply piano and Homme for a couple minutes, Josh using his voice is ways I’ve never heard before.  Instruments build, and it’s a beautiful sunset-stained closer.

I don’t know what Josh was thinking in terms of the packaging.  I know he likes the colour red.  I got that part.  But all you get is a slipcase, a jewel case and a little card cover inside with minimal credits.  It says to go to quotsa.com for “extended credits”.  I paid for a physical copy, you’d think they could at least print the credits.

Musically?  5/5 stars.  With this and Sabbath already upon us, I have two contenders for album of the year so far.

IMG_00000324

GUEST SHOT: 30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit) Part 3

Meat is back for the final installment of his essential list:  30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit).

Missed any?

Here’s Part 1.  

Part 2 is here.

And make no mistake, Meat wrote every word.  No messing around from me.  Enjoy!

PET SOUNDS   –  THE BEACH BOYS (1966)

When The Beatles released Rubber Soul in 1965, Brian Wilson heard something that inspired him to try and make his own masterpiece.  The result was Pet Sounds, which saw The Beach Boys discard their typical surf-inspired ditties and create an album that will always be a classic.  I remember when I first heard this album I was completely blown away that it was a 1966 album.  The overall sound of it is so full and rich, and it’s funny how everyone thinks The Beatles main influence for Sgt. Peppers was drug-related, and I am sure it was, but that classic would never have been without this classic album first.  Do yourself a favour and re-discover The Beach Boys by checking this out.

 

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE  –  QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (1998)

There are a lot of people that think that the QOTSA album Rated R, is the band’s first release.  In all reality it is their third release if you count the Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age EP. However, it is a shame that this album has been somewhat overlooked.  I think it is by far their best album.  To gauge just how much I got into this album could never be measured.  For years, I stated that this album was my favorite album ever with distortion.  Now trust me I realize the exaggeration in that statement (I have since relented) but it doesn’t take away how brilliant I believe this album truly is.   This is a true collection of groovy rock songs, so much so that QOTSA could have titled this album exactly that.  I have not been a fan of the last few QOTSA albums, and frankly I wish they could harness this approach once again.  Check out the included track “Avon”.  An absolute air-drumming seminar at its finest!!

 

ROXY & ELSEWHERE  –  FRANK ZAPPA & THE MOTHERS (1974)

One of the albums previously on this list, Joe Jackson’s Big World, was a live album containing new material.  Considering the content of this particular album, that format was never more impressive or more challenging than Zappa’s album Roxy & Elsewhere.   From beginning to end, it’s hard to believe the complexity of what was happening onstage during these recordings.  From the colourful vocals of Napoleon Murphy Brock, to the guitar-fueled madness of Zappa himself, this is my personal favorite of all of Zappa’s recordings.  Songs like “Pygmy Twilite” and “Village of the Sun” are absolute genius.  The concert film of these recordings is STILL in limbo for whatever reason.  Included is a clip of the song “Montana”, recorded during these sessions but not included on the album itself.

 

 

SCENES FROM A MEMORY-METROPOLIS 2  –  DREAM THEATER (1999)

I simply couldn’t do a list like this without including Dream Theater.   I like heavy music and I like progressive music.  This band combines those two qualities perhaps better than any band ever has, and on this album its done to perfection.  This is your classic “concept album” and tells an interesting story that needs to be experienced.  But the true experience of this album is that it is a piece of song-writing and musical brilliance.  If you have seen Rush’s biopic Beyond The Lighted Stage,   you might recognize the now-familiar voice of long-time Rush producer Terry Brown (who also produced the vocals on this album).   The album sees John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy at their monster best and requires many listens to truly appreciate.  I am not a “Rolling Stone” magazine guy myself, but it does say something that in 2012 they named this album as the Number One all-time progressive album, beating out Rush’s 2112 and Yes’s  Close to The Edge.

THE ACTION IS GO  –  FU MANCHU (1997)

This album starts off with a bang, it also ends with a bang and actually this album is just one big resounding rhythmic bang.  After a few good, but not great albums (in my opinion), new drummer Brant Bjork was brought into Fu Manchu.  This would result in one of the greatest “Stoner-Rock” albums of all time.  This is literally the perfect driving album.  Sometimes you find yourself emulating driving just sitting and listening to it.   You can hear a huge Sabbath influence on this album, at least in the sound of the instruments and the driving low end.  Sometimes the vocals can leave a bit to be desired, but it is not really singing in the first place.  Almost sounds like a dude talkin’ to himself, which adds to the coolness of this album.  One of my favorite albums of the 1990’s indeed.

WELCOME TO SKY VALLEY  –  KYUSS (1994)

Somewhere around early 1995, I walked into a Sunrise Records where Tom (Tom has been mentioned many times in Mike’s blogs) was working.  At this point Tom and I only really knew each other from local concerts we would run into each other at.  The second I walked in he begged me to check out this Kyuss album on the listening station.  I remember the look on his face when I didn’t instantly “get it”.  Years later I had to bow to him and thank him for trying to open my eyes earlier.  No one knows how to set a mood quite like Kyuss.  The last album listed was Brant Bjork’s first album with Fu Manchu.  This album is the last Kyuss album featuring Brant Bjork on drums.  No coincidence here.  This man knows how to wash songs with a subtle intensity.  Check out the song “Demon Cleaner” sometime, with Josh Homme singing and see how Queens of the Stone Age were born.  This album has been listed as a major influence for many of the heavy metal greats of the day.

 

WHALE MUSIC  –  THE RHEOSTATICS (1994)

The Rheostatics are definitely one of my favorite bands of all time, and the artist I have seen live the most in my life.  Any band that calls their first album Greatest Hits obviously has a good sense of humour.  There really is no album that quite captures “Canadiana” quite like Whale Music.  Not to be confused with the later-released official soundtrack of the same name, this album ranges from the sweet to the insane.  Take the song “Queer” for example.  “Well the screen door is still broken, since you kicked your Kodiaks through it” and “I scored a hat trick on the team that called you a fuckin’ queer”, are lyrics that paint a Canadian portrait of everyday life.  I love this album and frequently re-visit it only to find it gets better with age.  Notable appearances on this album are Neil Peart on a song called “Guns” and The Barenaked Ladies (credited as The Scarborough Naked Youth Choir).   Included here is the amazing opening track.  Check it out eh ….

WHITE PEPPER  –  WEEN (2000)

Simply put, this is my favorite “Pop” album of all time.  I am not a Ween fan per se. I cannot say I have actually connected strongly with any of their other albums.  But when this album was introduced to me, it grabbed a hold of me and it will never let go.  First of all, the sound on this album is absolutely wonderful.  Second of all, the melodies on this album (with sprinkles of Ween weirdness of course) are something very reminiscent of The Beatles.  I have always tagged this album as their “Beatles tribute”, and it was pointed out to me by a friend that “The White Album? Sgt. Peppers?  White Pepper?”. Now I have not read that in fact that is what the name truly means, but I think that is a very good guess.  I have played this album for a few musician friends of mine and the result is pretty much the same across the board.  White Pepper  simply “hooks” you in, it is that simple. Check out the Trey Parker and Matt Stone directed video for “Even If You Don’t” included here.

 

UNCHAINED  –  JOHNNY CASH (1996)

I was working at the “Record Store Chain” Ladano blogs about when I was first introduced to this album.  It was instantly a revelation of what I do actually like about Country Music, and was the reason I became a fan of the older-style albums of the genre.   Not enough can be said about the genius of Rick Rubin.  The man who changed the careers of Slayer, The Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers got a hold of Johnny Cash and re-introduced him as the icon he always was.  Hiring Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as the backing band for the second American Recordings Johnny Cash release was a stroke of brilliance.  The opening track “Rowboat” sees Cash cover a Beck song and make it his own.  “Sea of Heartbreak” is a melodic ass-kicker.  Everyone by now knows of the genius cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage”,  so good in fact that for a long period of time Chris Cornell refused to play it live stating “It’s not our song anymore.  It’s Johnny’s now”.  No album of this genre has ever sounded bigger, if not any genre.  A must have album.

VS.  –  PEARL JAM (1993)

This album had to be included on this list.  I understand that everyone looks at Pearl Jam’s  first album as this massive crowning achievement, but frankly I didn’t get it then and I really still don’t.  Their second album I think is the best album of their career and probably my favorite “Grunge” album ever.  Every song on this album is a classic to me and it does seem weird to call an album that was a Number One album on Billboard for five weeks straight “underrated”.  But I truly do feel this album gets overlooked and that’s a shame.  I find Ten to be kind of boring and redundant to be honest.  This album is still fresh to me.   I hope when it’s all said and done that this album is what truly defines them.