Friday, May 30, 2014

Family Records: A Vinyl History Tour of My Youth (Part 2 of 2)


Carrying on, here's Part 2 of a trip down memory lane as I go through the records my parents had that I grew up listening to and absorbing. I got a fantastic response to Part 1 and it was great to open up conversations with friends and fellow music fans on various message boards and social networks as they shared their own memories. Some of them were the same age as me, some are my parents' age, some are older...many enjoyed the same records, many enjoyed completely different artists and genres, but one thing that seemed to be common amongst all of us was the powerful and joyful impact that music had, captivating us as children and developing into a lifelong passion that never waned, but instead intensified and grew as we all continue to get older. I was struck by how much commonality we all had with the simple question I posed, "which records did you grow up listening to?" For me, as fun as it was to take my own trip into the past, it was just as enjoyable to read everyone else's memories and engage in the discussion (if you'd like to read it, here's the main thread).

So here is Part 2!

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND

One of my favorite bands ever. My dad is a huge fan and that definitely rubbed off on me. Duane Allman and Dickey Betts were and continue to be huge influences on my guitar playing and several of the cuts on these albums were among my favorites to suss out when I was learning to play. Later on, he (and later on, I) would have all of their classic albums on cassette and later on, CD, but when I was growing up it was just these two records. Luckily, they're two of the best.

At Fillmore East (released 1971)

There's not much that can be said about this album that hasn't already been written countless times before. It is one of the greatest live albums and finds the original band at the height of their powers...sadly, they wouldn't make it to the end of the year intact, losing founding brother and spiritual leader Duane Allman in a motorcycle crash late in '71. This is one of those albums that has been played so many times by both my dad and me that it's a wonder the records haven't split from overuse! One of my bibles for learning how to play guitar, and I always loved those smoky pictures of the band onstage in the gatefold, bathed in red light and looking so cool.






Brothers and Sisters (released 1973)

Probably their biggest album, commercially, and the first after Berry Oakley died only a year (almost to the day) after Duane did, in 1972 (although Berry appears on a few songs here). I remember hearing "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica" from this album on the radio a lot as a kid, and one of the bands that used to play at my high school used to jam on "Southbound." I always liked to spend some time as a kid trying to pick out the band members on the inner gatefold, and the insert with the dedication to Berry always struck me as a nice touch.







CREAM

Eric Clapton was, amongst all of my guitar heroes, the one who captivated me with his technique and tone just a little bit more than anyone else when I was a budding guitarist, while the sound Cream got with all three of them masters of their instruments, improvising over the loose framework of their songs just blew me away.  I remember hearing these albums (as well as their Wheels of Fire and Disraeli Gears albums on cassette) in my dad's office when he'd be listening to them and soon enough, I was listening to them on my own as well.

Fresh Cream (released 1966)

The debut album and a great (and underrated) slice of electric British blues. I remember having a hard time reconciling the fact that Eric on the front cover was the same guy I was hearing play all this cheesy radio stuff when I was a kid in the 1980s and 90s. Quite a few of these songs ended up being tried out in the bands I started playing in as a high schooler (ie "I'm So Glad," "Spoonful," etc).




Goodbye (released 1969)

Their final album and one of my favorites. I remember thinking the front and back covers were neat with the band in those silver suits with top hats and canes.  The inner gatefold was simultaneously ominous (and final) with all of those tombstones, yet bright and eye-popping with all of those colors. Musically, I did (and still do) love the juxtaposition of the three high-octane live cuts with the three strange and unique studio cuts.











Best of Cream (released 1969)

The first post-split compilation album. I've never understood what the vegetables had to do with Cream, but it's still an interesting album cover. I always liked the back photo with the band looking menacing at the height of their psychedelic look: long hair, mustaches, and Eric's necklace made out of what look to be tiger's teeth...not to mention that amazing wallpaper! This was a great album because it had some cuts that were on the UK version of Fresh Cream and hadn't been released in the US to that point.








CROSBY, STILLS, NASH, and YOUNG (and their assorted projects)

Even though I tend to favor much of the heavier rock from the 1960s and 70s, I also have a HUGE soft spot for gorgeous melodies, vocal harmonies, and well written and played songs. Since my parents did also, I've always loved CSNY and their pre-CSNY projects. My tastes when it comes to them tend to stop around 1974 but I love everything up to and including that year. As an avid singer, some of my favorite moments, now and then, involve singing along to these songs and trying a different harmony part each time.

The Byrds Greatest Hits (released 1967) and Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield (released 1969)

I'm a huge Byrds fan, loving everything they did up to 1968 before they went full-blown country, which I don't care for. This greatest hits album collected everything up to what I consider to be their best album, 1967's Younger Than Yesterday (although the following album, 1968's The Notorious Byrd Brothers, is excellent as well). I always loved their jangly sound and the way they mixed the folk, rock, and pop elements with nice harmonies into a really unique sound. As for Buffalo Springfield, I was always fascinated by the dichotomy between Young and Stills in the band...both wrote great songs (Young's "Mr Soul" and "Rock and Roll Woman," Stills' "Bluebird" and "For What It's Worth," for example) that sounded like their writers, but still had the overall band sound.





Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (released 1969)

What a great album. Apart from a couple of weak songs, everything on this album is a classic and songs like "Cinnamon Girl" (that riff!), "Down By the River," and "Cowgirl in the Sand" blew me away as a teenager and were three songs we definitely played a lot when I was in bands.




Crosby, Stills, and Nash (released 1969)

Now we get to when they all got together! For years, I always thought that the guy looking out the screen door on the back cover (not pictured) was Neil Young (it's not...it's their drummer Dallas Taylor). This album is just gorgeous and has some of my all-time favorite songs on it, like "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," "Wooden Ships," "Pre-Road Downs"...honestly, I don't think there's a bad track on here. The furry coats they're wearing in the gatefold picture always looked funny to me, but it's cool that it still has the fold-out lyric sheet with those quintessentially 1960s drawings on it.









Deja Vu (released 1970)

With Neil Young brought into the fold now, they release what I think is their best album. It features songs by all four of them and I'm not sure you can have a better opening track than "Carry On." The transition from the chugging acoustic to that grooving electric bit in the second half, all with fantastic vocal harmonies, is spine tingling even to this day. I always liked the photos inside this one, too, and I remember thinking it was pretty cool that Jerry Garcia and John Sebastian not only guested on a couple of tracks, but were pictured in the inner collage.




4-Way Street (released 1971)

A mammoth double live album that showcases both the acoustic singer/songwriter side and the full-band electric side of CSNY. Just great stuff on this one and I spent many hours as a teenager cruising around listening to this one once I got it on CD. Dad's vinyl copy still has the original lyric sheet.






DAVID BOWIE

I love Bowie, always have. I remember hearing loads of his tunes on the radio but, strangely enough, this was the only record of his I remember listening to as a kid!

Aladdin Sane (released 1973)

A bonafide classic and one of my favorite Bowie albums. Here, he's toughened up and dirtied the glam rock from the Ziggy days and released a really cohesive collection of songs. "Panic in Detroit," "The Jean Genie," "Cracked Actor," and "Watch That Man" were favorites as a kid. Later on, I realized that apart from his decent Stones cover ("Let's Spend the Night Together"), the entire album was great. The cover always weirded me out when I was younger, but the inner sleeve with the lightning bolt from his face emblazoned across it is a neat touch.



THE DOORS

The Doors (released 1967)

Again, I'm a big Doors fan, they were a band I remember hearing on the radio all of the time as a kid, but this was the only record of theirs I remember spinning as a kid.  The long organ and guitar solo in "Light My Fire" always mesmerized me and tunes like "Soul Kitchen," "20th Century Fox," "The Crystal Ship," and "The End" were pure psychedelia and really atmospheric pieces for a kid who grew up twenty years too late to have experienced it the first time around.



AEROSMITH

Aerosmith are huge here in New England since they're native sons, hailing from Boston (and in fact, a few of them grew up in my native New Hampshire). I've never held them in as high regard as a lot of people do, but their first three albums are excellent and I've always liked them. When I was growing up, I couldn't believe the same guys who kicked ass on these records were the ones peddling slick, lame AOR hit singles in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Some of the riffs on these records are fantastic ("Walk This Way," anyone?) and I have all of these now on CD.

Aerosmith (released 1973), Get Your Wings (released 1974), Toys in the Attic (released 1975)



SIMON AND GARFUNKEL

I liked some of their songs from the radio but wasn't terribly into them. However, one of my childhood friends REALLY got into them when we hit high school, so I had a look through my folks' collection after he turned me on to them and found these albums. I remember really liking a lot of the lesser-known tracks and I still enjoy many of these songs.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (released 1966), Sounds of Silence (released 1966), Greatest Hits (released 1972)


JANIS JOPLIN

Joplin In Concert (released 1972)

What a voice! Again, always heard the songs on the radio but this was the only album my parents had on vinyl. Luckily, it's a blistering document of Joplin with three different incarnations of her band. The heavy and psychedelic sound of Big Brother and the Holding Company gives way to her jazzier Kozmic Blues Band before finishing up with the funkier Full Tilt Boogie Band she was using when she died.



BILLY JOEL

I consider Billy Joel a guilty pleasure of mine, although I don't really know why since he's got loads of huge songs and albums and is well-regarded in the music world. Maybe it's just because he doesn't jibe with the rest of what I listen to, so I feel like people are surprised when I reveal I'm a huge fan. I remember hearing tons of these songs on the radio as a kid, especially in the car with my mum since she's a big fan. Once I found out we had these records, I listened to them all the time. The Stranger (released 1977) is his greatest album, I think...it's certainly my favorite. 52nd Street (released 1978) is nearly as great. Later on in high school when my best friend revealed he was a huge fan, too, we shared a love for all of Billy's albums on CD, but these two were where I first started. I do have to say, also, that I vastly preferred his 70s sound to what he was putting out during my school years (ie Storm Front and River of Dreams, event though eventually I realized those were pretty good albums, too).



JEFFERSON AIRPLANE

The Worst of Jefferson Airplane (released 1970)

Another band that I really like, but mainly their singles I'd heard on the radio. Still a great collection of their best tunes on this album, and as a kid I always got a kick out of how they called their greatest hits album the "worst."



PAUL McCARTNEY

Obviously, as a huge Beatles fan, I also like their solo work, none more so than Paul's. This was the only record of his we had, Pipes of Peace (released 1983). It's not one of his best albums but there are a few decent tracks on it. I do remember wondering why it wasn't as good as his Beatles stuff and the Wings stuff I always heard on the radio!




GENESIS

A Trick of the Tail (released 1976)

I didn't become a fan of old school Genesis until later in life (in my 20s) because all I knew of them from a kid were the slick AOR songs they played on the radio in the 1980s. My mum was a huge fan of them and Phil Collins' stuff then as well, so I never got into this record until my dad played me the title track and I realized this was very different from what they later became. It's now one of my favorite albums of theirs. The artwork looks great, much better on a full-sized album than on the CD I now have.



PETER FRAMPTON

I always liked Frampton and I remember my dad had a copy of Frampton Comes Alive! that I used to hear him playing a lot (I couldn't find it when I was putting this piece together...I'll have to ask him where it is). This was one of Peter's albums that came before it, Wind of Change (released in 1972). I liked this record, especially "All I Want to Be (Is By Your Side)," but I didn't really appreciate it (or the rest of his solo stuff) until I got older and realized how great a guitarist and writer he was.



That wraps up my journey back in time to when I was a kid learning all about music and soaking it all in, figuring out what I liked and, later on, how I could incorporate it into my own musical style. I hope you've all enjoyed it and that it's inspired take some time to look back on where you came from in terms of music and it's importance in your life. At the very least, I hope it inspires you to dig through your records and see what gems you may have forgotten about!

As always, please feel free to comment or share your own memories in the comments section below!

3 comments:

  1. If you thought the Who's Tommy was perplexing, Genesis' album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is just a big enigma wrapped in a question. I guess it's some sort of surreal, existential story about growing up? I have no idea, but I love the album. All of their early albums are solid gold for me. Their talent is amazing.

    Cream's Disraeli Gears, was one of the best psych album covers from that era, Wheels on Fire too, and Wheels seems sprawling with the live sides.

    Anything by Zappa or the Mothers--starting with the weirdness of Freak Out, you just knew the music inside had to be some weirdness beyond, and it was/is. Same for many, many of his other albums, this led me into seeking out a few other avant guard acts, classical, jazz--opened my mind to many other things.

    Little Feat's, Sailin Shoes--great album and album art, as were some of their follow ups.

    Janus Joplin & The Holding Company--Cheap Thrills--recorded live and cover by R. Crumb, very much a token of the 60's era.

    Door's LA Woman was initially released with a diecut clear cell type thing, and you slid in the sleeve with a picture of the Doors. Gentle Giant's In A Glass House had a similar type diecut cover, good band too.

    The Small Faces, Ogden's Nut Gone Flakes, originallly came in a strangely cut round album cover that folded out into four pages, with pics of the band, etc. Great album too.

    Grand Funk Railroad, E Pluribus Funk, came originally in a diecut silver edition resembling a silver coin. You can see a pic of this on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/E-Pluribus-Funk-Grand-Railroad/dp/B000SX6KQ2/ref=sr_1_17?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1426704302&sr=1-17&keywords=grand+funk+railroad+vinyl

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    1. Agree on all of those. The Lamb is a FANTASTIC album, the story is Peter Gabriel's surreal story of finding split aspects of your personality. Bizarre but jaw-dropping music! My dad used to have Cream's Wheels of Fire on vinyl when I was a kid (he and I are not sure where it is now) and I remember the foil on the cover was shiny.

      There are lots of CDs with great packaging but some of the vinyl from back in the day was in a league of its own.

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  2. Steve Hillage's Fish Rising--made a strange rather jammin' album of various odd guitar techinques. The album cover is cool though.

    Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues, was designed by fame artist Robert Rauschenberg, with a clear album cover, and colored vinyl.

    Todd Rundgren's, A Wizard, A True Star, came diecut in an unusual shape, and was one of the first longest playing records due to Todd's knowledge of production. It's a psych journey without the LSD, but contains a lot of different styles from soul, to Broadway tunes, to rock & ROll, etc.

    It's A Beautiful Day's 1st self titled album by Global Propaganda like a lot of 60's era album covers was beautiful and a work of art. That whole era spanned some great artwork.

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