Jailbreak – Thin Lizzy (1976)

Posted in Album review on August 7, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Jailbreak is the sixth studio album by Thin Lizzy and the band’s best and most popular work. The band may have had all the ideas for their trademark sound in the previous album but in my opinion it’s here where they solidify it. It paid off because it became their commercial breakthrough in the U.S.

The overall sound on this album is heavy rock. One of the distinctive factors of the band is the pioneering double edge guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. Their idea for twin lead guitar solos was very influential with heavy metals bands like Iron Maiden. Also, don’t forget the light touch crooning of Lynott. Nice to hear it in a hard rock band for a change. His poetic lyrics add the icing on the cake. Great songwriting skills!

The songs on this album are killers and I like the strong rockers best. Still, I like to listen the album all the way through. The hits are The Boys Are Back In Town, Jailbreak and The Cowboy Song. But Warriors, Emerald and Angels From The Coast are equally just as great.

The only song I don’t care much for is Running Back because of its arrangement using keyboards and occasional saxophone. I don’t think it fits the sound of the album. Also, Robertson doesn’t get to play on it because the producer dropped his parts in favor of the extra musicians’ parts.

As far as I know, the only digitally remastered version of this album is from 1996 available only in the U.K.

Overall this is an exceptional album and if you want to buy only one from Thin Lizzy this has to be it.

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Are You Experienced? – Jimi Hendrix (1967)

Posted in Album review on August 7, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced? Wow! Unless you live in another planet, this album needs no introduction. For those that are just landing on Earth, run to the store to get a copy. I won’t tell anyone…

Ok, so where do I start? Let’s start with the man himself. I can safely say that this is the most influential guitar album ever released. Well, when you have Jimi Page, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Eric Clapton and hundreds of others bowing to you as a guitar player, I guess that makes you king, right? Now, guitar skills aside, you also get extreme sound innovation. Not just from an engineering point of view (none other than Eddie Kramer was sitting in the engineering booth). The sounds Hendrix got out of his guitar are nothing short of amazing and revelatory, colors never seen before on the sonic image. I guess you can think of guitar playing as Before Hendrix and After Hendrix.

A couple of years ago this album was selected for permanent preservation by the Library of Congress in the U.S. I guess that says enough on historical importance, huh?!?

Purple Haze, Manic Depression, Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary, Fire, Foxey Lady, Stone Free and I Don’t Live Today are all here in the same album!  Other highlights include Third Stone From The Sun, Highway Chile and Red House. Gosh, I think the whole album gets airplay on the radio.

The newest remastered deluxe cd is the best version to have. Besides the updated sound, it combines the US and UK version with all the singles in one package.

There’s nothing more you could ask from a classic rock album. Importance. Sound. Influence. Musicianship. Innovation. Songwriting. It’s all here! Have you experienced it?!?

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Blizzard Of Ozz – Ozzy Osbourne (1980)

Posted in Album review on August 6, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Blizzard Of Ozz is Ozzy Osbourne first solo effort after leaving Black Sabbath. To much surprise from the critics, Ozzy was able to re-invent himself and become a star. He was also a capable band leader and excellent judge of talent which really helped out putting a great band together.

Much of the credit is, of course, also due to the late Randy Rhoads. The virtuoso guitar player played a big role in the album’s musical direction and arrangements. Besides an amazing guitar technique, he had an uncanny ability to incorporate classical music into the heavy metal compositions. Rhoads also had a huge impact on a new generation of guitar players. I believe I can safely say that Blizzard Of Ozz and Van Halen’s first album set new musicianship standards for 80’s heavy metal guitar.

Crazy Train and Mr. Crowley became instant classics. There are other songs just as strong though. You can’t forget I Don’t Know, Steal Away, Suicide Solution and Revelation (Mother Earth).

I do not recommend the 2002 remastered cd version of this album. Besides the remastering process, the album was also remixed and some tracks re-recorded. Ozzy has some personal issues with the old band members and used his current band to replace the original bass and drums tracks on the album. Sacrilege!!!

The 1995 remaster is just fine or you can wait a little longer and buy the new upcoming 2-disc deluxe edition that is coming out.

Blizzard of Ozz was a revolutionary album and essential to everybody’s collection. All aboard!

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Bad Company – Bad Company (1974)

Posted in Album review on August 3, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Bad Company is the self titled debut album from the supergroup Bad Company. It is also the first release from Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label. It peaked at #1 on the Billboard chart in the US and has sold over five million copies.

So what do you get when members from Free, Mott the Hoople and King Crimson get together to form a band? Perhaps one of the greatest debut rock albums of the seventies. There’s nothing really visionary here, just plain great stripped down rock and roll. Five out of eight songs from the album became classic rock radio staples. The whole album was recorded in less than 10 days at the famous Headley Grange mansion where several other artists also used it for recordings including Led Zeppellin.

Interesting to note that Bad Company was also managed by Led Zeppelin‘s Peter Grant who guided them to a huge success.

Can’t Get Enough, Rock Steady, Ready For Love, Bad Company and Movin’ On are my obvious choices for this album. Sometimes, while listening to the album, I skip the other three slower tracks. They don’t do much for me. For your information, all the material here was remastered in the 90’s.

Bad Company was the band’s first album and everything went kind of slowly downhill from here. So this is the album to get and crucial to a classic rock collection. I can’t get enough of it!

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Tres Hombres – ZZ Top (1973)

Posted in Album review on August 2, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres is perhaps one of the all time best classic rock albums. So, what’s so special about it? Well, there’s nothing really revealing here. It’s just consistent great blues rock tunes from the Texas trio. It best represents the band’s sound with all killers and no fillers. Maybe Eliminator was more popular because of MTV but this the album to start your ZZ Top collection.

If you’re in need of hard rock, bluesy shuffles or driving boogie Tres Hombres got it all. There are seven excellent songs that I never get tired of hearing on the radio. Waiting For The Bus, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers, Master Of Sparks, Precious And Grace, La Grange and Sheik. This album is almost a greatest hits on its own!

I only recommend listening to a very old vinyl copy or the newer remastered cd that contains the original 70’s mix. Forget about the early cd version. That’s has the awful 80’s digital mix of the album with echoes and drum machines that I never understood why it even exists. I think the success of Eliminator may have something to do with that somehow. Now finally, after 20 years, we can listen to the original album in its full glory.

Tres Hombres is the album ZZ Top kept trying to replicate their whole career. In other words, essential to a classic rock collection. I love it!

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

What the heck is progressive rock???

Posted in Concepts on July 24, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Have you listened to rock songs that are thirty minutes long with three drummers and you need to listen to it fifty times before you get it? That’s progressive rock!!!

Jokes aside, progressive rock or “prog” rock is basically just a complex form of rock. That’s it! Getting familiar with the ingredients that make rock more complex or “progressive” is the best way to understand the genre. Here are some of the most important ones:

Timbre – The instrumentation goes beyond the basic guitar, bass and drums. You’ll find flutes, violins, saxophone, synthesizers, etc…

Form – The structure is more complex than the simple verse-chorus format. You may find classical forms and extended instrumental passages. Songs can be pretty lengthy.

Rhythm – Time signatures other than common 4/4 and tempo changes.

Melody/Harmony – Unusual scales and chord progressions.

Lyrics – You’ll be hard pressed to find a common topic like love. You’ll find a lot of fantasy, folklore or social themes.

Concept – The music, lyrics and album art are unified by a common theme or story.

Technology – Production of this kind of music is usually pushes recording technology to its limits with synthesizers, computers and other inventive tools.

The more you find these elements in the music, the more progressive it is.

With prog rock is best to classify the material and not the artist. Some bands were only progressive for a while like Rush in the 70’s. And then there were bands that  released only one or two progressive rock albums like The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers (considered the first prog rock album) or The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia.

The best examples of classic progressive rock of the 70’s are known as The Big Six: Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, King Crimson and ELP.

There are also other notable bands that were progressive without the excesses like Kansas, Supertramp, Marillion, Styx and ELO.

Sheer Heart Attack – Queen (1974)

Posted in Album review on July 21, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Sheer Heart Attack is Queen’s third album and a turning point for the band. It was their first international hit and marks the beginning of the classic Queen sound. The production style for this album became the prototype for all subsequent albums. The band would never look back again.

Overall, Sheer Heart Attack rocks out but with Queen, it’s always more than just plain rock and roll. Multi-layered vocals and orchestrated guitars in a melodic pop diversity setting marks the true unveiling of the band. Because of this variety, it’s always hard to select one song to represent a Queen album. Still, somehow the songs make a statement all together. Maybe this is due to the fact that all four members are songwriters bringing in a mix of ideas for the recordings.

My favorite songs on the album are the hits Now I’m Here, Killer Queen and Stone Cold Crazy but I also like Brighton Rock and especially Flick Of The Wrist.

Brighton Rock showcases a very typical Brian May guitar sound with echoes. It’s a joy for guitar players.

Stone Cold Crazy is one of Queens heaviest songs and was covered by Metallica.

The only song in the album I skip sometimes is the ragtime Bring Back That Leroy Brown.

For the collectors, keep in mind that all the early Queen material has been digitally remastered with bonus tracks.

So in the end, Sheer Heart Attack is an indispensable album even though it is often overlooked in favor of A Night At The Opera.

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto