Rocks In The Attic #408: Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes – ‘Live At The Greek’ (2000)

RITA#408I downloaded a digital copy of this in the early 2000s, by accident really, as I was trying to put the Black Crowes’ discography on my iPod. Needless to say, it because a firm favourite, even though I knew nothing about the gig or the reasons why Page was playing a show of Zeppelin songs and blues standards with an American band some time after their early ‘90s heyday.

It doesn’t matter why though –  I don’t want to know. All I know is that I love this album. Of the two, I think it has the edge over Celebration Day, the recording of the 2007 Led Zeppelin reunion show at the O2. Recorded only seven years after Live At The Greek, there are a few moments on Celebration Day where Page seems to suffer from locked-up old-man fingers. I don’t know whether this is from age, or simply a lack of enough rehearsals, but the same problem isn’t audible on Live At The Greek. His playing here is fluid – maybe not to the same level of his mid-‘70s peak, but good enough – and obviously he’s got two guitarists to fall back on (Rich Robinson and Audley Freed), whereas he was flying solo at the O2.

It’s also a more energetic album – probably as a result of Page playing alongside a much younger band – and the choice of material is also much more fun, taking the time to play some deeper cuts and some well chosen blues covers. Zeppelin wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do this at the O2, in front of a crowd essentially wanting to hear the hits. They could have done, but it would have meant playing another night. Or two. Shit, they could have played a 100-night residence at the O2, and every night would have been full.

Hit: Whole Lotta Love

Hidden Gem: Woke Up This Morning

Rocks In The Attic #407: Huey Lewis & The News – ‘Picture This’ (1982)

RITA#407This is album number two for Huey Lewis and his band. It’s nowhere near a ‘great’ record – but you can tell that the band are getting better and better, starting to gel as they search for that elusive hit. This would ultimately arrive on the next record, Sports, in the form of I Want A New Drug.

The most successful single off this album, the extremely ‘80s sounding Do You Believe In Love, was written by Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange – and you can hear it. If there’s a song in Huey Lewis’ back catalogue that sounds like it could have been lifted off a Def Leppard album, it’s this one. For that reason, it’s the least Huey Lewis & The News sounding song on the album.

The band even cover a Phil Lynott song on the album, Giving It All Up For Love – originally titled Tattoo (Giving It All Up For Love), from Lynott’s first solo album, Solo In Soho. It always strikes me as an unlikely friendship – Huey Lewis and Phil Lynott. It’s like Lemmy from Motorhead being friends with John Oates.

Picture This has to be one of the best record covers to do a ‘sleeveface’ with though. Well, if you want to look like a slightly zombiefied version of Huey Lewis.

Hit: Do You Believe In Love

Hidden Gem: Change Of Heart

Rocks In The Attic #406: The Dave Brubeck Quartet – ‘Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits’ (1966)

RITA#406I know jazz purists don’t approve of compilations, but hey, who cares about those squares, I’m choosing the records!

If there’s one thing I don’t like about the vinyl-buying community, it’s the ‘holier than thou’ types who force their interests and priorities on you. The very first time I posted this record in the Facebook group I’m a member of (On The Turntable Right Now), it attracted a comment from a self-righteous jazz fan who posted a photo of Brubeck’s Time Out album and a remark about my ‘lesser’ choice of record.

Take Five and Unsquare Dance are two of favourite jazz tracks, and it doesn’t really matter whether I have them on a compilation or on a studio album. What matters is that I have them.

It always seems to be jazz fans too – although that could just be a coincidence and a vast over-generalisation – but the last time I posted a photo of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and asked, rhetorically, whether there was any better record to play on a Sunday morning, somebody posted a comment along the lines of ‘well, yes, a UK original pressing on Columbia actually.’ Ugh – who cares? It’s like Christians judging each other on how early their bibles were printed. Wait – that’s not a thing… is it?

Hit: Take Five

Hidden Gem: In Your Own Sweet Way

Rocks In The Attic #405: Deep Purple – ‘Deepest Purple’ (1980)

RITA#405One of the good things about Deep Purple is their almost prog-ish approach to heavy metal – six minutes of a track like Highway Star is the norm, rather than the exception. It also works against them, because when Warner Brothers / Harvest decide to release a compilation of the band’s hits, there’s a difficult decision to be made: either release an awesome – loud! – double LP, or take the easy way out, and employ noise reduction techniques to cram all of the songs on one disc.

So it’s a shame that this album runs at sixty four minutes, and sounds quiet as hell – not what you need when listening to Purple. Yes, you can turn it up, but it’s not the same, is it? I’ve fallen out with bands who’ve done this to their fans – Manic Street Preachers’ Know Your Enemy being one horrible, seventy five minute example – so it’s not something I can easily overlook. Cheap bastards!

Every home should own a Deep Purple record – whether it be a studio album (Machine Head is the obvious choice) or a compilation – just as they should own something by Zeppelin and Sabbath. The three together really are the holy trinity of heavy metal. But of the three, Purple are probably the band that gets the least amount of press – possibly because Ritchie Blackmore is just such a raving oddball, and doesn’t exactly do wonders for his band’s legacy. That Mark II line-up of Purple should be as celebrated as similar bands where there’s no weak link among the players in the spotlight, or across the back line. Instead, they come across as a poor cousin of metal’s founding fathers – just plain wrong.

Hit: Smoke On The Water

Hidden Gem: Burn

Rocks In The Attic #404: Aerosmith – ‘Big Ones’ (1994)

RITA#404If not the worst record cover in my collection, this is definitely a candidate for worst compilation cover. It’s absolutely gross and looks like they paid an intern to design it in a really early copy of Microsoft Paint. It’s unforgiveable too – this is a band that had brought in millions and millions of album sales for Geffen Records over the prior seven years. The very least Geffen could do was to commission a proper artist. In fact, simple black font on a white background would have looked better. That font they used in the end is just a little too close to comic sans for my liking.

But what of the music? This was the first compilation of the Geffen-era Aerosmith. As such, it’s essentially hit single after hit single from their time in the glossy MTV era; all power-ballads and country-tinged rock. There are a couple of unreleased tracks – Walk On Water and Blind Man – along with Deuces Are Wild, a song from the soundtrack to The Beavis And Butt-Head Experience. Other than that though, the compilation is just a collection of their singles from Permanent Vacation right up to Get A Grip, their last studio album for Geffen. The singles from Done With Mirrors, the band’s first studio album for Geffen in 1985, are noticeably absent – probably due to space limitations and the fact that they hardly set the world on fire at the time.

Of the albums it does cover, the only singles it ignores are Hangman Jury ­– the first single from Permanent Vacation – and Shut Up And Dance, the sixth (sixth out of seven!) single from Get A Grip. Neither of these releases were supported by promotional videos, so therein lies the rub – this is just a collection of the songs from their hit MTV videos, a cynical way to sequence a compilation, if I’ve ever heard one. And unless I’m wrong, the video to Eat The Rich – included on this album – didn’t appear commercially until they released the video compilation of Big Ones.

On a side note, I recently saw the set list from the first time I saw Aerosmith, in 1993. Now either I’ve remembered things completely wrong, but the set list up on that website is incorrect. There’s no way on earth that they played so much ‘70s material at that show. Toys In The Attic, Back In The Saddle, Draw The Line, Last Child and Rats In The Cellar were NOT played that night.

One of my biggest gripes with the band – and believe me, there are many – was their seemingly steadfast refusal to play anything from the ‘70s (other than the ‘big three’ of Walk This Way, Dream On and Sweet Emotion) on the Get A Grip and Nine Lives tours, at least in Europe. It wasn’t until I saw them in the mid-2000s that I saw them play a decent amount of ‘70s material.

I was lucky enough to see the band play Mama Kin in Birmingham in 1997, but even that seemed like an afterthought because they had some time to spare at the end of their set (as they were preparing to leave the stage, I remember Joe Perry launching into the main riff, causing the rest of the band to run back to their instruments).

Hit: Love In An Elevator

Hidden Gem: Walk On Water

Rocks In The Attic #403: The Walter Murphy Band – ‘A Fifth Of Beethoven’ (1976)

RITA#403Fuck the Bee Gees, I’d be happy if the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack just featured songs by Walter Murphy.

Famous for his version of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, you either love or hate Walter Murphy. This entirely depends on what you think about classical music. For me, it injects a much needed groove into an art form that can be dull and stuffy. Murphy’s A Fifth Of Beethoven seems to be the perfect song to play at a funeral, if only to raise a much needed smile among the mourners. This is probably why he now composes the music for the Family Guy television show.

The instrumental songs on this album are awesome, and the record’s only weak points are the couple of tracks which feature vocals. These come off sounding very dated, as though a network television show like Quincy commissioned them for a scene set in a discotheque: “I’ve seen a man die from exhaustion, Sam, but there’s something about this that doesn’t quite fit. Let’s do another test on the leather from those roller skates…”

Hit: A Fifth Of Beethoven

Hidden Gem: Flight ‘76

Rocks In The Attic #402: The Rolling Stones – ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll’ (1974)

RITA#402For me, this is the first real duffer by the Stones. I like Goats Head Soup before this, and I like Black And Blue which followed this, but It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll has never really done it for me. It’s a weird transition record – the first one without Jimmy Miller in the producer’s chair, and the last to be recorded with Mick Taylor. Taylor’s playing had really energised the band a couple of years prior, taking them to another level entirely; but here it sounds like his heart’s just not it – bullied out of the band just as Brian Jones was before him.

One of the big problems I have with this album is the title track. Viewed as one of the Stones’ most well known singles – a song that seems to define them as a band – it’s probably one of the laziest singles they released. Essentially, it’s a catchy chorus with no real substance behind it. There’s little in the way of melody in the verses, and when I hear things like that godawful charity single put together a few years ago, it really makes me wonder who thinks of these things.

Not long before this, the UK was similarly blighted by a similar charity single with various artists “interpreting” Lou Reed’s Perfect Day – a love letter to his own heroin addiction. Alongside All Saints’ cover of Under The Bridge – also an ode to heroin addiction – this really is something that you just have to stare in wonder at the BBC for, an institution that once banned I Am The Walrus simply because it mentioned the word ‘knickers’ in the lyrics.

Hit: It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It)

Hidden Gem: Time Waits For No One