Classic Albums

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Billy “Crash” Craddock – Mr. Country Rock (1973, ABC Records)

Posted on by Paul in Albums, Classic Albums | Leave a comment

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One of the things that we’ve lost since downloading and streaming took over as our main sources of music is the effort put into the packaging and presentation of music, specifically the effort put into liner notes. A recent crate digging exposition led to the acquisition of some “new” used records and got me to thinking that they just don’t make liner notes like they used to back in the day. Many of the older records of the ’50s,’60s, and ’70s would feature someone (some sort of notable music industry figure, maybe the artist themselves, or perhaps just some random writer looking to make a quick buck) waxing poetic about the contents of the record. Sure, albums today can still feature pretty extensive notes, but they’re of a different nature and as time moves on, these kinds of glowing testimonials have definitely fallen from favour. Too bad – just imagine what could have been if famous “punk” Ivanka Trump had been given the chance to give us her thoughts in the packaging for Nirvana’s In Utero.

With this in mind, we celebrate the glory of the liner note by having a look at the back cover of Mr. Country Rock by Billy “Crash” Craddock. Yes, it’s true – aside from having the nickname “Crash,” Billy Craddock also has the audacity to refer to himself as “Mr. Country Rock,” which is weird. Ain’t it? Gram Parsons should have kicked this guy’s ass for making such a claim.

Behold, the liner notes. I’m not sure who wrote this and I’m not really sure what they’re on about (“Electric sunglasses?” “Hard throbbing dance rhythms?” Psychedelic bumper stickers?), but go ahead and behold:

Ain’t it weird? I mean the way it happens sometimes.

A guy starts out to be a rock ‘n roll star, and they promote him with ads and bumper stickers and electric sunglasses and what not, and then they sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

But the magazines with yesterday’s news start piling up on the table by the visitor’s couch – their yellowing advertisements constant reminders of mistakes the geniuses would rather forget. And the crumbling bumper stickers giving way to shiny psychedelic messages such as “See Ruby Falls” or “America, Love It Or Leave It.” And another promising star-to-be becomes one more might have been.

Then somebody remembers, and somebody believes – and together they work in new directions toward new goals:

Country music – slashing twin fiddles and wailing steel guitars, mixed with the infectious beat of rock – the hard throbbing dance rhythms that exploded rock almost overnight as the pop music of the young and young at heart.

Country rock. A hybrid compound, a style, a formula for success for a might-have-been who made it to the top – and who intends to stay there:

Mr Country-Rock, Billy “Crash” Craddock.

Ain’t it weird?

Album Review: Prism – Prism (1977, GRT Records)

Posted on by Paul in Albums, Classic Albums | Leave a comment

prism1977

When I found out that Ricky would be doing a full track by track review of Prism, I got a little excited – finally, Panic Manual is writing about some real music and giving 70s/80s Canadian rockers Prism their due.  Way to go, you spaceship superstars!

Then I realized that the Prism album that the internet’s been all aflutter about was in fact the new Katy Perry album.  WTF?  People are still talking about Katy Perry?  I mean, I liked “Hot And Cold” just fine, but let’s move on people.  And of course by move on, I mean take an in depth look at a 36 year old album.  Let’s break it down:

Spaceship Superstar 

The album opens with the synth bleeps and bloops of what would come to be the band’s signature track. It’s a pretty groovin’ little number, a synth enhanced rocker with great lyrical gems such as “Every night is a different flight to a different galaxy/Do a sold-out show, then I hit the road in my starship limousine” and lines about “a solar-powered laser beam guitar.” Come to think of it, those lyrics wouldn’t necesarily be out of place in a Katy Perry song. If you don’t just want to take my word for it about this song though, take the word of those who know: the Youtube commenters. Yes, Youtube comments, where the truest music criticism lives:

“There’s just something that seperates Canadian rock from American rock… IMO old Canadian bands are much more relaxing to listen to, sitting outside on a hot day smoking some herb listening to April Wine, the Guess Who, etc, etc.. is the best” – spidersilva420

“im 13 and i love this song and older artists” – GoBro or GoHome

“Nobody gives a fuck” – Nathan Hines (in reply to GoBro or GoHome)

Open Soul Surgery

This song sounds like Axl Rose fronting Foghat.  Which is awesome, obviously.

It’s Over

A soaring soft rock power ballad. You can never get enough of those. I’m sure this one must have killed at those ’70s high school dances.

Freewill
And Prism’s past life as a jazz rock band rears it’s head as the horns come in here.  Though if I had to choose between songs called “Freewill” written by Canadian bands, I’m sorry, Prism, but Rush takes it.

Take Me To The Kaptin
Every rock band worth it’s salt has to have at least one song with a purposely misspelled word in the title if not an album title or the bands name itself.  Like “Cum On Feel The Noize” or Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Again).”  Or The Beatles.  We will not speak of Korn though.  We will never speak of Korn, no.

Vladivostok
The band gets all deep and poetic and historical with a song about Russia.

Amelia
More lyrical brilliance as they rhyme “Amelia” with “I can feel ya.”  You may think I’m joking here but I’m not.  Well, not entirely anyways.

Julie
You’d think the band might want to separate the songs with girl’s names as titles so they’re not all lumped together, but whatever.

I Ain’t Lookin’ Anymore
The opening riff of this is dangerously close to the opening of BTO’s “Let It Ride.”  More sweet horn parts in this one.  I ain’t writin’ anymore.

Overall, this is a pretty sweet, perhaps underappreciated gem in the Canrock cannon.  Worth a listen if you can find it in a dollar bin somewhere.  Or, y’know, if you have the internet.  Stay tuned for the inevitable reviews of Ian Thomas, Chilliwack, and Michel Pagliaro.

 

Best of 2011: Top Classic Albums I Listened To (and will continue to listen to in 2012)

Posted on by Allison in Article Series, Classic Albums, Year End Reviews | Leave a comment

Everything old is new again

It’s pointless to pretend that I listened to 10 albums that were released in 2011, so I’m going to write about 10 classic albums that got a lot of airtime in my waxy ears this past year.

10. Peter Murphy – DEEP (1989)

Deep

The reunion cash-grab tour seems to be here to stay and let’s face it… it’s hard for me to fight my curiosity. Last month, I saw Peter Murphy for the first time in 13 years–it wasn’t a reunion or comeback tour by any sense of it, but was one of many 2011 examples of acts that had not toured extensively for 8-10 years.  The show was a good reminder of how important rebellion against siloes is for an artist’s growth. Deep was Peter Murphy’s biggest breakout album in terms of massive recognition. Written and released in 1989, the album has a slower overall feel and spawned two of Murphy’s highest performing songs to date: Cuts You Up and its B-Side, A Strange Kind of Love. It’s a great album though, with or without the chart-topping single.

9. R.E.M. – Document (1987)

R.E.M.

When R.E.M. hit it big with Out of Time, I was sort of confused. Those of you who watched the original Beverly Hills 90210 series will recall that that was the first season they were being aired in the summer as opposed to the fall. It was the “beach club” season where Brandon was making ends meet as a cabana boy. You may also recall that “Losing My Religion” had suddenly become the anthem of the series, with brooding Dylan choosing to listen to little else while throwing back the whiskey shots, and my generation was suddenly crazy about R.E.M. For me, Document is the best R.E.M. album, both in terms of listenability and composition. There aren’t a lot of sissy love songs on here, and the pessimism of “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” seals it as the harbinger of things to come in terms of the band’s activism (and increasing preachiness).

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Classic Album Review: The Queen Is Dead – Smiths [1986, Rough Trade Records]

Posted on by Allison in Classic Albums, Music | Leave a comment

After a long self-imposed hiatus that no one appears to have noticed, the Classic Album Review is back, and this week’s is a doozy.

Firstly, I have somewhat conflicted feelings about including this album at all. As a collective album, I am not sure if it has necessarily stood the test of time given my gargantuan initial appraisal (masterpiece, numero uno, and thrillingly deep all came to mind). As a series of fragmented songs, many of them continue to hold up very nicely.

But then, there is the element of “that was then, this is now,” that plagues much of the music and books I enjoyed in my early teens. When you are a teenager, even discounting the fact that being depressed is very much considered en vogue, there is a definitive end all and be all element to everything you experience in art and hold dear to your heart. The Queen Is Dead is pretty much the epitome of such gnawing emotional tsunami, and for better or for worse represents some embarrassing times for me. No wonder I hardly listen to it anymore. It’s like when you remember sobbing uncontrollably to The Joy Luck Club and thinking that was a pinnacle.

That said, there are some gems on here that will always represent the magic of powerhouse songwriting. The album achieves several coveted things in music:

  1. Distinct atmosphere and era - No doubt due to Morrissey’s album cover choices, love of sophisticated 60’s actors, and the general hollow feel. Listening to this again I realize how underrated Mike Joyce’s drumming is.
  2. Powerful storytelling – So many of the songs from this album derive their impact with the skilled simplicity with which the lyrics construct everything. Frankly, Mr. Shankly is still the ultimate letter of resignation. I’ll get onto the others in a moment.
  3. Intrigue and directness – The best songs on the album create a brilliant dual counterintuitive effect: being direct while creating intrigue. When I use words like “simple” and “plain” stories and ideas, this is the ultimate form of praise. (Almost) everyone is striving for clarity; not everyone manages to achieve it. The uncomplicated potency of these songs just makes us want to know more. And yes, I think Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others means exactly what its title implies.
  4. Humanity – I’m hard pressed to think of an album that might parallel The Queen Is Dead in terms of staunch, raw feelings. Even the sunnier-composed songs (Cemetry Gates, The Boy with the Thorn in His Side) carry an anchor-weight to them and considering the number of times I played it in completion from start to finish, uninterrupted, I wonder how much of the joy in the listening experience is distilled from the wonder of feelings, nothing more than feelings. One of the reasons I think The Queen Is Dead resonates so strongly with teenagers is because everything is heightened…after all, hormones make for technicolor emotions.

BEST

  1. I Know It’s Over – An exploration in self-hatred, human fear and loathing. This song really swims in everyone’s greatest fear: loneliness. But at the core of its being is inspirational optimism for how everyone should be striving to live a better life. This song is a shining example of why the Smiths are a wonderful role model for the young and ought not be thought of as a suicide-making machine. Can you really think of a better general message than, “it’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate…it takes guts to be gentle and kind”? With messages like this, it’s amazing to think Morrissey has never been a guest star on Sesame Street.
  2. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side – Probably tied for my favorite song of the album and the strongest demonstration of what Marr, Joyce, and Rourke contributed to the livelihood of the Smiths and live energy. I still find it difficult to listen to this without scream-singing at the absolute top of my lungs because it’s just so damned easy to listen to. One day children, this song will be considered “adult contemporary” and “easy listening.” Mark my words.
  3. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out – Maybe the most memorable in terms of maudlin thoughts and feelings. After all, it’s all about undying, everlasting, over-the-top love. This song could very well have a subtitle of “a million and one painful ways to die while running away,” yet in spite of all its pyrotechnic dramatism, it  somehow works. Probably the most treasured song of my adolescence, bar none.

Also, does anyone else think that that last song is all about a teenage boy coming out of the closet, running away from his gay bashing parents, and meeting his lover on the way? Just sayin’.