Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother (1970)

This is the first really good album of Pink Floyd’s after Syd Barrett’s departure. Understandably, this was new territory for Pink Floyd and the group was still coming to terms with the loss of Syd. Still, it’s a very good listen, despite the fact it is no Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s essential listening if you like Pink Floyd. It was also their first UK #1 album as well.

It’s likely inspired by recent acts of the time, such as King Crimson. Pink Floyd were art school students, and they treated their work as such. This is a perfect snapshot of the era.

We begin with the 23-minute long title track Atom Heart Mother. It begins with some dark electronic sounds and some trumpets, before emerging into a glorious-sounding piece. It sounds classy, and English. The band then enters the scene, with some nice drum work by Nick Mason. A motorbike speeds off as well. Layered keyboard pieces then arrive, which sound sweet. More instrumentation enters the scene, with beautiful slide guitar to paint the picture. Classical type instrumentation arrives next, and this is just the first five minutes. An era evoking trippy organ and gospel vocals match the piece after that. The gospels vocals are emotional here, proto Dark Side Of The Moon style. The drums then re-emerge into the picture, sounding suitably appropriate. The melody suddenly changes, allowing Roger Waters’s bass and David Gilmour’s guitar playing to really shine here. The latter will touch your soul here, it sounds so beautiful and wonderful. That fades out, leaving us with some chanting and well-mixed melodies. It is a rewarding listen here. We then revisit the trumpets and drum led part, before sliding into a discordant section. It sounds rather creepy. A crash like sound makes the instrumentation fall apart. Much of the previous sections of this song are then revisited, like a retrospective LSD trip. The main section is reintroduced. Violins match the main part, and the slide guitar returns. The crescendo emerges, and we finish with the climax of backing vocals. A great trip indeed.

Following is the song named If. It’s a short and melancholy based piece. It’s a devotion to emotion, and there is some gentle singing along with acoustic guitar and electric slide guitar to boot. It’s a nice little change from what has been before, but all the same, just as emotional, artistic and effective.

Summer ’68 is the last Syd Barrett Pink Floyd song. They simply added some instrumentation to this vocal cut and sounds very emotional. “How do you feel?” asks Syd. Pink Floyd obviously missed Syd’s presence, and it is a nice traditional swan song for his vocals. There is piano and acoustic guitar to match here, a nice song regardless. It nearly stops in the middle of the song but starts again. A good twist.

Fat Old Sun follows with wedding bells, to begin with, and end with, and then emerges into a smooth vocal and acoustic guitar with Roger Waters singing. It’s a rather throwaway piece, but all the same fits the album nicely.

The 13 minute long Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast is a bit of sound effect based trip for a guy who makes breakfast. There is a nice musical interlude in between the delay heavy samples here. Piano and organ enter the scene, and Richard Wright excels here with his playing. Guitar parts also occur. It’s nothing special this, but still a good listen of a guy who is making his own breakfast. The musical interlude comes and goes again. Sounds very laidback. Towards the end, the sounds repeat, like a reoccurring LSD trip. It’s a pleasant listen and ends the album nicely. We end the album feeling satisfied, as Alan leaves the scene and goes on to do other things for the rest of the day.

This is a real art based album. There are many different elements and structure in this recording. If you dig psychedelic/progressive rock and want something unusual to listen to, in a good way, Atom Heart Mother is a good place to start.

8/10

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979)

The real dark side of rock and roll begins here. This group of young men with singer Ian Curtis made dark and scary look awesome. They were a favoured cult sort of band until Ian Curtis’s suicide. Their influence is still broad and wide today in the rock world.

The music here is brilliant. It paints a sort of apocalyptic environment and sounds mega dark. Let’s give this a look, track by track.

Disorder begins our dark journey. And it’s very heavy, both musically and lyrically. A great start to one of the greatest recordings of all time. It specifically talks about relationship issues. A good listen. Some nice synth sounds are here as well.

Day Of The Lords arrives. It’s the closest these guys got to heavy metal. It rocks and sounds awesome all the way through. There is a large Black Sabbath style of phrasing in the guitar work. An excellent listen here. Everything fits here perfectly. Ian Curtis’s baritone voice expresses urgency at the end, an interesting twist to the song itself.

The following song called Candidate is a more typical piece from Joy Division. It has some pseudo-Industrial music sounds and some dark, introspective lyrics. The bassline here is quite prominent, but there is plenty of room for the rest of the song to breathe. Not a bad effort.

After that Insight arrives. It starts off with the sound of the elevator in the recording studio being activated by Ian Curtis, then launching into a rather lyrically disturbing song. Indeed, Ian Curtis had an undiagnosed mental health disorder of some sort, and this is reflected in the music here. The sound effects are interesting here.

New Dawn Fades is a very lonely and miserable sounding piece. It flows very well. It launches into the song with lyrics such as, “A loaded gun won’t set you free.” Disturbing all right, but still very good. If you dig dark melancholy, give this a listen.

She’s Lost Control begins with some awesome electronic drum sounds, and then some delayed and unusual vocals and lyrics from Ian Curtis. It’s about perception, either the narrator or the lady involved has lost control. It’s a freaky concept nonetheless.

The next song Shadowplay begins with a bassline, before launching into a rocky number. The band obviously had a lot of musical ideas on their albums, and this is by no means different. It’s a good listen. The ending especially is great.

After that, Wilderness arrives. The bassline drives this number and sounds very rhythmic and catchy. It’s obvious that Joy Division placed careful attention to each of their individual songs during their career. This one is about travel, a nice little number indeed.

Interzone is an uptempo rock sort of number. It is an interesting piece about going around in the city. It’s enjoyable to listen to and has some great guitar playing here. This is a great album for sure.

I Remember Nothing is a long and extended piece. But it’s never dull. In fact, there are some dark and interesting elements to this song. It features a lot of trippy sort of sounds, including glass being broken. It’s a great way to end this dark and excellent listen.

This album was critically well-received, and since has become a cult classic over time. It’s the definitive album that is a hybrid of punk, and the styles of bands that came afterward, such as The Cure. A great listen, one of the greatest albums of all time.

9/10

Montrose – Montrose (1973)

For a debut album, this is a winner. Sammy Hagar found Ronnie Montrose on his travels on the west coast of the USA and became the singer in his band. Ironically, Sammy Hagar would become the second singer in Van Halen. They, and many others, loved this recording. It’s a definite classic and shines bright, even today.

Rock The Nation starts off the album, and it is truly awesome. It’s a rifftastic and wonderful number. And Sammy Hagar’s unique high octave voice is here. Interstellar Overdrive Part Two? Not quite, but this is very, very good indeed.

Bad Motor Scooter is next, and has some interesting guitar sounds on it. It keeps this song alive, and shows just how underrated this band was at the time. It’s a classic rock tune, listen to it and smile. Sounds much like a distorted Gibson Les Paul with a slide piece added to it. Nice.

The next cut is definitely Interstellar Overdrive Part Two. Space Station #5 is a great piece with some awesome trippy guitar sounds on it. It then bursts into a loud and raw rocker which makes you want to go to the moon and back. Brilliant. It has a great twist at the end.

The follow up is more a song like piece, I Don’t Want It. It has an anthemic chorus to boot. It also shows a great riff off throughout the song. These guys obviously knew how to rock, and very well at that.

Good Rockin’ Tonight arrives next and is an up-tempo piece about dancing, and just having fun in general. Nowadays the lyrics and music style would be canned, but this is just really well done. Was music really better back in those days? We will never know for sure.

Rock Candy – what a tune! It sounds awesome, from the drum lead off, to the riff and to the main part of Sammy Hagar’s singing. Everything about it hits the spot, and is likely the best song from the album. A must hear.

The next song, One Thing On My Mind, is about the music, and the love of a woman who likes to dance away the night. It’s a great anthemic tune, and by this point, we know we have a really great album on our hands.

The last song on the album, Make It Last, is a good piece to close this album. It does sound a little longer than should be, but still, it fades out nicely and we conclude this wonderful album.

Real hard rock starts here. The album has sold steadily over the years, and Sammy Hagar became a star over time. Be sure to check out the reissue with many demos and other goodies that have been previously unreleased.

8/10

Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

The late 1970s seemed a bad time for rock and roll. Indeed, most of the good progressive rock had been done, disco was everywhere and punk was a nasty underground movement of the time. But, along came a California based band called Van Halen to save the day.

The band was a bunch of virtuosos. The four of them each had an ability to rock and showed a great ability to do so. David Lee Roth could howl, Eddie Van Halen could rock out, Michael Anthony could really excel as a backing vocalist and bassist and Alex Van Halen could do loud and powerful drumming like nothing before.

So, what does the album sound like? Let’s have a closer look.

The intro to Runnin’ With The Devil and the entire album is a mesh of the band member’s car horns, slowed down of course. It then kicks off. It’s a loud, in your face, rocker and does so well here. It’s a great song too.

The instrumental called Eruption is a hugely popular Eddie Van Halen piece, all recorded in one take. Producer Ted Templeman overhead Eddie Van Halen play it and suggested that he record it. The result is a wonderful, futuristic sounding shred fest which is short and sweet. A great job from Eddie.

You Really Got Me is indeed, a cover of The Kinks song. But it’s such a great cover that it sounds like an original from the band. With a twist in the guitar solo and David Lee Roth sounding very sexual, it’s a great cover.

Ain’t Talkin ‘Bout Love is a great song. It has a variety of sounds on it and goes very quiet in the middle. It’s likely that David Lee Roth was talking about the importance of non-romantic sexual experiences here, and does pretty well in serving up a solution. A great song by Van Halen.

The next piece is the quick and upbeat I’m The One. It’s a very party-like song but is not dull at all. It breaks down into an interesting midsection where David Lee Roth goes into female soul singer mode. Brilliant.

After that we have Jamie’s Cryin’ which is a fairly weak track, but not out of place on the album. It’s about a girl who is in love with the wrong sort of guy. It’s still listenable, mind you.

Atomic Punk sounds, wow, kind of different. The palm-muted intro by Eddie Van Halen sounds awesome here. It’s a good song too, about a postmodern mythical Atomic Punk. It’s likely these guys were influenced by some Progressive Rock ideals here. Still, it’s great to listen to.

Feel Your Love Tonight is a good piece with a chugging riff to boot. It is representative of these guys in a good way, and even though it does seem a little weaker, it’s still sonically awesome to hear on this album.

The next piece Little Dreamer talks about someone who was bullied at high school, only to surprise everyone by surviving. It’s a strange sort of sentiment, but hey, it sounds very good indeed.

After that, we arrive at Ice Cream Man. This is acoustic blues, and totally underrated too. It’s very brilliantly done, particularly by David Lee Roth, and sounds refreshing. These guys obviously had studied their musical history as well.

On Fire is a great song to finish the album by. It has some awesome yelping by David Lee Roth and some nice guitar licks by Eddie Van Halen. It fades out nicely as the album comes to a close.

This album made Van Halen. It has sold 10 million copies and secured guitarist Eddie Van Halen into the rock history books. But also, the songs are fantastic here. It is absolutely worth listening to this gem of an album, it’s almost perfect in its own way. Van Halen has made many recordings during their lifetime as a band. This, by far, is their best though.

9/10

Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

Although not the first Black Sabbath album, it is widely accepted as their best. Originally desired to be called War Pigs, Paranoid is a great album, and the definitive Black Sabbath album as well. It’s a good one for sure.

From the beginning of the recording, we enter into metal territory with War Pigs. It’s a great piece of doom. Tony Iommi’s Gibson SG sings well, and the sound is very sparse. But hey, it’s really catchy and likely about the Vietnam War in its own way. It is such a great song that never bores in the nearly eight minutes of length. Superb.

The title track Paranoid is an interesting tale of self-loathing and decline. It’s a good one if you are depressed as it’s not hugely depressing, but loud and rocking all the same. The chugging guitar keeps the song going well, and is a short ode to mental health issues and loneliness. Mint.

Planet Caravan is a trippy piece likely inspired by Black Sabbath’s heavy drug use at the time. It’s a great sonic palette. You’d never guess that it was Ozzy Osbourne singing on this, but yes, he is. Essential stuff.

Iron Man is next, and it is dark, doomy and rather surreal. It tells a Terminator-like tale of a robot saving people and then assuming revenge on those he saved, due to lack of gratitude from those who he saved. Yes, this was the main song in the film series of the same name starring Robert Downey Jr. But it’s a great highlight of the album, and fantastic at that. The outro is classy.

The slower and rifftastic Electric Funeral is up next. It’s less serious than the previous track but still great. You could likely listen to this piece on repeat if you wish to, as with the other pieces on the album. It’s too good to ignore. It goes super subtle at the end, which is an interesting twist.

Ah yes! Hand Of Doom follows and is a great piece. It goes quiet/loud for extra emphasis. It’s about the dark side of drugs, namely Heroin in its point. Anyone who has done hard drugs of some sort can directly relate to this song, it’s a nasty story that is designed to shock you. Listen carefully.

Rat Salad is a great drum and guitars solo. Mostly drums mind you. But it is so epic and fantastic, you’ll keep coming back to it for sure. Just amazing stuff, well done!

Fairies Wear Boots is the last song on this album, but like all the others, it kicks ass! It’s based on a true-life story, but most people are not aware of this. Ozzy Osbourne does some magnificent screaming here about drugs. It’s a great way to end this wonderful album.

Paranoid has become a cult classic in the realm of proto heavy metal. It’s the best way to start the 1970s. Do yourself a big favour and listen to this wonderful album today. The sonic palette here is just wonderful.

9/10

Public Image Ltd. – Second Edition (1979)

Britain was not a nice place to live in 1979. Successive Labour and Conservative governments had done next to nothing to improve the country’s economic woes. This was due to a committed belief in appeasing trade union interests who clearly were not interested in being reasonable or democratic. During The Winter Of Discontent in 1978-1979, the country was in a chaotic state. The public services went on strike and Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan was refusing to acquiesce to their wage demands, leading to things like rubbish piling in the main streets of London. This led to Margaret Thatcher being elected in 1979, who was very much anti-democratic as well, just in a completely different way.

Out of all these turbulent times, came some great music. John Lydon was carving himself up a great solo career, and he was totally feeling the mood of the times. His mother had passed away and The Sex Pistols were a thing of the past. He took one step ahead of his contemporaries and made Second Edition. It was released in 1979 in various forms (such as the Metal Box LPs) but it’s seen as a totally underrated classic today.

There is no midrange on this record. It’s all bass and treble. To be honest, there never has been such deep bass guitar on an analog made recording before. John Lydon has moved on from the anti-singing on The Sex Pistols and instead adopts a vastly different vocal style. It’s repetitive too, but not overwhelmingly so. It is actually bass on a huge array of musical influences that John Lydon dug.

We begin with the Albatross piece. The bassist Jah Wobble consumes the song with the bass, whilst Lydon screams and bemoans urban life. It’s a thrilling listen from the beginning. It goes over 10 minutes, so be patient with this album.

The follow up has John Lydon screaming again in Memories about having such useless memories. It’s deeper than you’d think, with spacey science fiction keyboards, possibly inspired by dub music. He doesn’t sound very happy throughout the record here, which isn’t always a bad thing.

Swan Lake deals directly with the passing of John Lydon’s mother. We can sense the pain and anguish in this song as he deals with internal emotions from the experience. It’s a great and relatively short song. “Words cannot express…” Indeed.

Poptones is catchy enough to have a repeated bass riff going through it that is cool, and John Lydon talks about having a picnic in the British countryside. It’s a good listen.

The follow-up Careering talks directly about the uselessnesses of modern living. John Lydon really does a good job here and stands out as quite possibly the best and most flexible punk singer ever.

The instrumental Socialist is actually not political, apart from the title. It’s a short and funky track with some interesting bass and keyboard textures throughout. Not bad for a piece of its kind.

Graveyard is yet another instrumental, but eerie in its name and textures. It’s not as good as the previous piece before it but is listenable nonetheless.

The Suit is perhaps directly political. It talks about office politics and climbing the company ladder. It’s rather humourous in retrospect and has a brilliant bass riff throughout. Excellent.

The piece afterward Bad Bady has little meaning but is still good listening. By this point, we sense this is a great leftfield and artistic album, for it is enjoyable on that level.

The songy No Birds is a really touching piece vocally. John Lydon sings from an emotional place. You’d think otherwise, especially during The Sex Pistols. The fact is that John Lydon is an underrated and intelligent vocalist. This song is proof of that.

Chant mocks all the street protests and strikes of the time. It should come as no surprise, given the backdrop of the times in the UK. John Lydon humourously rants about the things that people do in street protests. It’s a great social observation. It segues into the next and last piece of the album.

Radio 4 is a keyboard instrumental with a few other textures. It’s nicely done, although not 100% necessary for this recording. By this point, we have finished our rather artistic journey with John Lydon.

Sadly, this album never sold well and contemporaries such as Joy Division were in the spotlight more than these guys. It was too arty for the mainstream. But hold it right there, it’s not rubbish at all. In fact, John Lydon came as an artistic power with this recording. It has inspired many musicians who dug the deep bass guitar lines, trebly electric guitar, precise drum rolls, and haunting vocal imagery. John Lydon is still making music with PiL. But this is his finest effort with the group. It’s worth checking out if you are craving something just a little bit different.

8/10

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

Led Zeppelin really shines on this recording. Prior to this recording, Led Zeppelin had given us the Led Zeppelin I, II and III albums with each one being a step ahead of it in a logical progression. This is their best effort ever and sounds so awesome, even nearly 50 years later. The artwork and Zoso symbols have their own mystical meaning behind them as well. In short, it’s just brilliant.

We begin with Black Dog, which is a layered and interesting piece. “Hey-hey mama, gonna make you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove!” sings Robert Plant. It’s a cool song with distorted guitar riffs and sexual wordplay. Just awesome.

The next song Rock And Roll is a straight ahead rock and roll piece that has stop/start motions and a 50s piano to boot. By this time, we sense that something very special musically is here, and this album is just a super listen.

The Battle Of Evermore follows with Mandolin (a Chinese instrument) by guitarist Jimmy Page and Sandy Denny doing backing vocals. It tells a tale directly inspired by The Lord Of The Rings book series. It may sound weird written here, but it is actually not a weird listen. It’s a beautiful and soulful piece.

Stairway To Heaven is quite possibly the most overrated rock song in history and has often been abused in its popularity. Still, there is no denying that this song is great. It starts off with fingerpicked acoustic guitar, before having various layers and elements segue into it, and finishes with a soul touching guitar solo and Robert Plant’s lone voice ending. It’s such a wonderful song to fit into the album. Led Zeppelin fans love this one. Interestingly enough, many people namely Christians think if you play this song backward, it has satanic quotes on it, though that’s not the purpose of the song whatsoever.

We go back to The Lord Of The Rings (again) with Misty Mountain Hop. It’s a keyboard driven song that sounds quite relaxing indeed. It’s a slightly weaker track but it’s still essential listening on the album. Sounds majestic.

We have the pounding Four Sticks next. It’s a good one, with Robert Plant singing some eastern music influenced harmonies. It’s brilliant, in many respects, of course.

Going To California is a delightful semi-country ballad. It’s so simple and beautiful that fans of Led Zeppelin III will love this one. But as the harmonies at the end of the song tell you, it’s much better a recording than many of the pieces on that particular album. Inspired and great listening.

When The Levee Breaks was originally recorded by another blues artist way back in the 1920s, so this is a cover. However, it is mind-blowingly awesome and sounds really trippy. It takes you into another world of music and is super special. It ends the album well.

This album not only defined the hard rock of the time, it deeply transcended it. It was such a special album in terms of overall quality that it has featured in many history books as one of the greatest albums of all time. It’s definitely in the top ten of the listings for the greatest albums ever. If you like hard rock with great performances and attitude, start here. You won’t be disappointed.

9/10