1986: Slippery When Wet

SlipperyIt’s interesting that mega-glam-rock band, Bon Jovi, would title a major label album after a janitor’s caution sign. Perhaps Jon Bon, ahem,  “lapped a few dirty halls” prior to becoming arguably the biggest rock star in the continental United States.

Jon Bon Jovi has come a long way since his first documented recording, singing lead vocals on R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas on the 1980 Star Wars Christmas album, Christmas in the StarsI’m not joking. Who knew that only six short years later he’d be slipping and sliding his way to the “hearts” of women across the world.

BackSlipper When Wet shows the band’s rapid maturity in the three short years since their 1984 debut.  Producing three Top 10 hits with this album alone, Livin’ on a Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name and Wanted Dead or Alive, Jon Bon Jovi ( John Bongiovi) and crew single handedly became the soundtrack to late ’86 and early ’87. The band would see similar success with their follow up album, New Jersey, but 1986 marked Bon Jovi’s breakthrough into mainstream success.

Somewhere, right now, John Bongiovi is sipping an Old Fashioned and looking back at 1986, quite fondly I might add, and saying to himself (or to one of the several women in his room), “You know, it was all right. You know?” It was all right, Mr. Bongiovi. It was all right indeed.Slippery Cars

1985: Johnny B. Goode

Marty CoverChuck Berry has nothing on Marty McFly, I don’t care what year it is. As seen from the historically accurate documentary, Back to the Future, Marty McFly’s accidental encounter with The Starlighters proved to be something of fate; fate that would usher into the world a brash new sound pioneered by the smash single, Johnny B. Goode.

Marty McFly and The Starlighters conduct an orchestra of loud and fast rock n’ roll not seen or heard at the time of this song’s inaugural performance at the now famous, Enchantment Under the Sea Dance at Hill Valley High (this dance is often misnamed as the Fish Under the Sea Dance). At times, it’s as though The Starlighters are struggling to keep up with the fury from Mr. McFly’s guitar, but any loose playing by the dapper gents gives credence to the uncontrolled, live sound from this electrifying song.

Rumor has it that this song is originally a tale about Marty McFly himself, and that it was originally titled, Marty B. Goode. Some rare demo recordings of Marty B. Goode are reported to exist but I’ve yet to find anything online.

Every stale musical trend has an album, or a song that shuts the door on the style of modern day music, and launches the world into the inevitable next chapter. Marty McFly and The Starlighters turn that page of music history with the song, Johnny B. Goode, and they do it in jaw-dropping style.

1984: This is Spinal Tap

Smell the GloveForget for a moment that This is Spinal Tap set the groundwork for the Mocumentary genre. Forget that the painfully hilarious string of films, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind were helmed by the great guitarist, Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest). What needs to be remembered, or rather, never forgotten, is that Nigel (Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) wrote, composed, and produced this dark, eminent, Hard Rocker. Given this remarkable wisdom, a profound question arises: It’s like, how much more black could this be? The answer: None. None more black.

Talk about bum cakes, my girl’s got ’em!

Other Tap AlbumsThis is Spinal Tap acts as a sort of “Greatest Hits” album, spanning from the band’s early British Rock days, Gimme Some Money, drudging through their brief psychedelic phase (Listen to the) Flower People, and leaning heavily on their more recent, epic-Hard Rock phase Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight, Rock and Roll Creation, Heavy Duty, and of course, the alluring Stonehenge. This genre-bending, zucchini-in-tin-foil-wrapping, cold-sore-getting, drummer-losing, airplane-hanger-playing, kickass-rock-and-roll band bet the (sex) farm on this album, and it paid off. Regardless of the genre, Spinal Tap give a perfect 11 on each and every song they record.

For those times when you’re in the mood to get rocked, Stonehenge-rocked like Stonehenge, Spinal Tap are your rock-and-roll saviors.

BTW, If anybody finds a decently priced LP of Intravenus de Milo, shoot me a line.

1983: Return of the Jedi Read-Along

VaderThis is the story, of Return of the Jedi. You can read along with me in your book. You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear Artoo-Detoo beep like this, “Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!”

Let’s begin now:

Throughout the early 80s, Star Wars, with its vast world filled with luscious characters, could be found fighting for galactic power in your cereal bowl, your pencil kit, on the laces your shoes, on your back helping to carry your books, on your waist to help keep your pants up, packaged with bubble gum as little cardboard trading cards, and as a beaming Prudent Groove would like to acknowledge, a 24 page read-along with 33 1/3rpm record containing the story, music and photos from the original motion picture, Return of the Jedi. Me as a 4-year-old, “You mean, I can LISTEN to the story and FOLLOW ALONG with my very own book?!” Mind = blown.

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

Read-Along ColoredStar Wars was such a massive part of my generation’s childhood that, for me, it’s difficult to see the printed year 1983 and NOT think Return of the Jedi. And thanks to this little read-along-reminder-guy, I can relive the great tale of (spoiler alert!) the Rebel Alliance defeating the Galactic Empire in grand, book-turning fashion.

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

The narrator does a good job of keeping the story going with his smooth, yet demonstrative voice. Sound effects are lifted directly from the film, as is the classic John Williams’ score. The movie stills were great to analyze as a kid (this was back when it was difficult to pause a VHS tape at the exact moment you wanted), but the REAL fun of this little 7” lies in the voice actors hired to portray the story’s main characters: Luke, Han & Leia. It became apparent early on in this read-along that the Luke Skywalker standing up to Jabba the Hut (original voice), was NOT the Luke you knew and loved. This was immediately jarring, but, like a child’s mind works, was quickly forgotten when Artoo-Detoo prompted:

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

Read-Along BackI’m ecstatic that I kept this little gem from my wonder years, but then again I keep EVERYTHING (much to the dismay of my GF and my parents). This book and record set is worth seeking out if only to chuckle at the stand-in voice acting cast.

Leia hugged him. “Come join us, my brave Jedi.” She led him back to their circle of friends – heroes together to the end.

1982: Nebraska

NebraskaThis is the Bruce Springsteen you WISH your father had listened to… except, then your father probably would have been too damned depressed and self-indulged to gather enough strength to nurture you as a child so, maybe Born in the U.S.A. WAS better “father” material.

Man turns his back on his family

Well he just ain’t no good

Some urban legends are created to help sell a less than interesting story. I don’t feel this is the case with Bruce Springsteen and his approach to Nebraska. Furthermore, I’ll refuse to feed any notion to this legend’s contrary. Legend has it that Mr. ‘Steen locked himself inside a hotel room and recorded this album to 4-track tape. The story continues with “The Boss” presenting the results to his mates, the E Street Band, which resulting in them all recording the songs, all studio-like. The legend concludes that the versions recorded with the band were too polished, and too produced, so Bruce mixed his demo hotel session and, well, that’s what we’re hearing. Nebraska is, without esteemed hesitation, the best work Bruce Springsteen ever produced… and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise (only to buy them a drink after the inevitable scuffle while listening to, well, this album).

BloodWhen shifted 45 degrees clockwise, the lyric sheet, with its red text cascading down a black canvas, somewhat resembles trickling blood catered by the destitute victims offered by the deviant characters residing throughout Nebraska (Nebraska, Johnny 99, Highway Patrolman). Everything, eventually, returns to the Earth. Blood, epithelial tissue, and sorrow are no exception.

My friend, who introduced me to this album, presented it with a caveat: Don’t listen to this album while drinking alone. Sound advice; that which I would repeat to new listeners as well as to the frequent Springsteen flyer.

Maybe you got a kid

Maybe you got a pretty wife

The only that I got’s

Been botherin’ me my whole life

Nebraska BackNebraska is the answer to the question you’ve yet to realize the need to ask. It exists so that you may see the light of tomorrow, it offers a chance for you to accept your weathered self, and it strengthens the muscles in your neck that help to lift your head from your pillow each morning. It exists, so that you can too. Thanks, Boss.

1981: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

DK Cover OrangeThe Reagan Era produced arguably the best collection of anti-American, pro-working class Hardcore Punk this country has ever seen. Leading the pack of such inspiring bands as, Black Flag, Descendents, Minutemen, Bad Brains, Youth Brigade, Minor Threat, and Misfits, the uncompromising Dead Kennedys allowed for their front man, the eccentrically morbid-genius Jello Biafra, to satirically rave and rant about his dismal outlook on society… but you know, with wizard-like fervor.

Not unlike Frank Zappa’s sarcastic approach to lyric writing, Jello Biafra taunted the press, California Governor Jerry Brown, and the military draft (to name only a few), often to hilarious effect. Biafra could have easily been a strikingly successful stand-up comedian. He’s like that idiosyncratic great uncle that won’t shut up about ANYTHING that’s on his mind (“let’s lynch the landlord,” “drug me with your crossword puzzles,” “the economy is looking bad, let’s start another war,” stuff like that), but who isn’t at all incorrect in his genial ramblings. The music is fast and sometimes ventures into such conflicting genres as Rockabilly, Spaghetti Western and Surf.

BackFresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables was originally released on September 2, 1980 in the UK with the familiar black cover. I.R.S. (the label, not the hording institution) issued an unauthorized orange cover for the album’s US debut. The band was animate in protest over this decision, and the now rare orange cover was withdrawn and re-released with the original black cover. I forgot that this version of the album drops in Police Truck on the first side between Let’s Lynch the Landlord and Drug Me. Police Truck isn’t released on the original UK version, but was instead offered as a b-side to the Holiday in Cambodia single.

Dead Kennedys landed a knockout blow with their debut, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. They would go on to produce only three more albums, but their immortal impact has proved to be timeless and infinitely unforgettable. If you can stomach fast, morbid Hardcore, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables comes deeply recommended.

1980: London Calling

London CoverFive days after the conclusion of a decade filled with orange, brown, swagger and abundance (the 1970s), the United States saw a paramount release that that would transcend every other album released throughout the rest of the decade. On January 5th, 1980, Americans received a message from across the pond. It was a message of conflict, disdain and unforgettable beauty. This message… the uncompromising London Calling.

Five days into the 80s, and the decade saw its best work… crazy. Released a few weeks earlier in its native land (December 14, 1979 in the UK), London Calling became the owner of the #8 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. #8… all time. 8… out of 500! This isn’t news to the majority of you as you probably already own this treasured album, and if you don’t, I’ll pretend not to know you in public next time I see you… seriously… GET this album!

Calling BackBridging the weathered gap between Hard Rock, Punk, Reggae, Lounge Jazz, Rockabilly and Ska (to name a few of the many genres defining this “epic” album… it was actually released on Epic Records in the states, so HA!), The Clash were able to showcase their angst towards authority, their cry for better paying jobs, their thoughts on civil war, love, and the church, and they were able to do it by staying within the confines of the social attention span. The Clash found that the message of insolence, distrust, hope and liberation could reach more ears if the music was more accessible to a broader audience.

Everyone who has ever learned to type has written about this album, so anything I say here won’t be groundbreaking. I will however express my personal affection towards this gem, and try to offer its beauty onto others. I’m a London Calling pusher, essentially… and I’ve got a quota to meet, so shoot up!

Rudie LyricsReally quickly, I’ll get into this then I’ll leave you the hell alone. It was July 1997 and I’d just turned 18. I was sharing a room with my best friend and we were both in our infant stage of record collecting. He with his Jimmy Durante, Glenn Miller and Dean Martin, and I with my Beastie Boys, NOFX and Doobie Brothers. There is a little store in Madison, Wisconsin called Half Price Books. If you’re from the Midwest you’ve undoubtedly been there. It was at the East Side location where I found my calling of the London variety. I’d already owned 1982’s Combat Rock, and was eager for more from the almighty Clash. Anyway, to make a long, drawn-out story short, the first side to the first record (London Calling is a double LP, btw) instantly became the soundtrack to our summer, with Rudie Can’t Fail becoming our favorite, miss-quotable song (substituting “chicken-boo for breakfast” instead of the proper “drinking brew…” something I still do to this day).

Maybe it was because that summer saw us living on our own for the first time, but for us, London Calling equaled liberation. Few albums attach themselves to such monumentally important moments in an individual’s life. The acute notice these moments, and they never forget them. London Calling, for all its global importance, still manages to satisfy my local, nostalgic needs.Offensive Boyo

1979: Cool for Cats

CatsSqueeze snuck up on me. Hold on, let me start over. It’s imperative to mention how apropos that 1979’s post, the post representing the year in which I came into this world, contains the word, “Cats.” If you know me, you saw this one coming. If you don’t know me… I like cats.

Squeeze are like a sieve, an attention grabbing ear-whore in the best sense of the term. Not unlike The Kinks, Squeeze’s music is so damned good, so damned catchy, and so damned clever, that once you start listening to their music… THAT’S ALL YOU LISTEN TO! When I got into Squeeze, shamefully only a few years ago, I didn’t listen to anything else for nearly 3 months, and I’m not exaggerating. They’re that damned good!

With a hint of Punk’s aggression, and all the electronic qualities that make up good New Wave, Squeeze tickles your fancy in that slightly awkward, slightly dirty way, but leaves you begging for more… and more… you get the point.

The astute penning of Squeeze songs are attributed to Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook. According to Stephen Thomas Erlewine over at allmusic.com, “Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook were hailed as the heirs to Lennon and McCartney’s throne during their heyday in the early ‘80’s.” Are you starting to get an idea of how good this band is?

Cool for BacksCool for Cats houses three of the best tracks in Squeeze’s varied palette: Slap & Tickle, Up the Junction and Goodbye Girl.

Slap & Tickle is a fun little romp referencing the British euphemism for sexy times.

Then while she turned to kiss him
And very nearly missed him
She put her hand on his leg
He felt her tongue in his head

Up the Junction is a very sad tale about the rise and inevitable fall of a doomed relationship. A child is involved and the once adored couple no longer speaks.

Alone here in the kitchen
I feel there’s something missing
I’d beg for some forgiveness
But begging’s not my business

I can’t tell if Goodbye Girl is about a woman drugging our protagonist and robbing him, or if it’s a story about the beginnings of a failed marriage. Either way, Goodbye Girl is a catchy little ditty, and in my opinion, Squeeze’s best.

Sunlight on the lino
Woke me with a shake
I looked around to find her but she’d gone
Goodbye girl

Cool for Cats showcases Squeeze at the height of their innovative career. It’s a crowning representation of the stunning song-writing talents of Difford and Tillbrook. If you’re serious about music, and you don’t already own Cool for Cats, drop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and find this album. You won’t be disappointed.Cool Cat

1978: Dire Straits

Dire Straits CoverA mystical wizard of the electric 6-strings, Mark Knopfler and his merry pub-band, Dire Straits, present a “southern-fried-inspired” British album full of sexy swing and swooning rhythm on their 1978 debut appropriately titled, Dire Straits.

Brit bands performing their versions of Southern Rock can be a phenomenal experience if executed properly. The Kinks did it in 1971 with Muswell Hillbillies, and Dire Straits do it here. I’ve never considered Southern Rock an inspiring genre, but thankfully Dire Straits did. With tracks like Six Blade Knife, Down to the Waterline, Southbound Again and Wild West End, one would think Dire Straits shared a ridgeline with the groovy gents in ZZ Top.

I feel as though I’m doing Dire Straits a disservice by writing about them immediately after writing about the striking social impact of the Sex Pistols. Don’t feel bad for me. It’s my own fault… but you can send letters of encouragement to theprudentgroove@gmail.com to help calm my writing woes.

Straits BackDire Straits is a smooth sailing debut that showcases the unmarked talents of four, part-time musicians (music was the band’s “other” job before and while making this album). Years before free chicks and the lovable MTV, Dire Straits gave us arguably their most treasured gift, Sultans of Swing. With its expansive hook and its crooning delivery, Mark Knopfler and gang create a timeless song perfect for driving down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, aka California State Route 1), enjoying a pint at the pub with a silent stranger, or riding off into the sunset with your loved one resting on your arm.

Without a doubt, Mark Knopfler knew his way around a 6-string, and Dire Straits is a fantastic first step into his lucrative and talented career.Guit

1977: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

BollocksPunk freaks a lot of people out. It should. That’s its job. Well, not its job so much as its point.

When the physical force from the hand-shakers, the whistle-stoppers, the marketing executives and the self-proclaimed pretty faces (telling you what toothpaste “real” men prefer) strong-arms the poor, the isolated, the abhorred, the shunned and the ugly (a term invented by pushers of beauty products as a counter for what constitutes “beauty”), the thin line separating the “ordinary” from the “irregular” breaks. Wars are started over such actions. Lives are lost and serenity is disfigured.

“Anger can be power.” – Joe Strummer of The Clash

From the charred rubble of society rockets a familiar phrase longing to reach the ears of the desperate that question if such a powerful phrase could exist. A phrase silenced and eradicated by the powerful, yet so innate to our most basic of human instincts. The phrase: It doesn’t have to be this way. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols gave a voice to that phrase; a voice that, because of legal battles with the Magistrates’ Court, record label arrests, and outcries from the feeble masses, almost wasn’t heard.

I’m a believer in giving credit where credit is due. The Ramones are often credited as the first “official” Punk band, so, yay Ramones, but they don’t come close to matching the social impact unleashed by the Sex Pistols… and the Sex Pistols only released one studio album! Surprisingly tame by today’s standards, the music on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is secondary to its message. The tracks are catchy, the lyrics are in-your-face and often intentionally hilarious. Well produced and professionally executed, this album isn’t near as abrasive as one would think given all the trouble surrounding its release.

Sub MissionPunk is present to force the masses to question their decisions. The hoi polloi hate Punk because it makes them look at themselves and recognize their abundant shortcomings and their sheepish declarations. They know they’re feeding a corrupt and biased system but they don’t want to be bothered to remember. I know. I’m one of them. But the idea behind Punk, albeit a nightmare for some, is the saving grace for those whose voices are subdued.

Greed is a learned trait. The desire for power and wealth by means of silencing those who oppose you is the backbone of a Capitalist society. The Sex Pistols recognized this. They stood atop a mountain of vehement listeners and shouted, “It doesn’t have to be this way!”

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is Shakespeare to authors, columnists and poets alike. It stands as one of the most monumental moments in music, and was a turning point in 20th Century history. It is, by all means, a necessity.

1976: Open Sesame

Open SesameCuts so deep, they hit the bone! Robert “Kool” Bell and his groove-Gang deliver brass-happy, (b)ass-slappin’, tummy-rubbin’, good-time-Saturday-night, Funk & Blues (F&B) music. There must have been a sizable influx of babies born 9-months after the release of this album.

Kool and the Gang effortlessly transition from dance floor front-runners to dusty, sun-filled, carefree, early evening comfort music. Because, you know, you need to get-down-on-it just as often as you need that lazy stroll through the park with your hands in your pockets. Kool was hip to this, and it’s apparent throughout Open Sesame.

A very, very upbeat album, Open Sesame’s main focus is, without a doubt, the single most popular theme throughout all pop music: Love. With titles like, Gift of Love, L-O-V-E, and the 3-minute lyrical chant of “Whisper you love me” on the Side 2 opener, Whisper Softly, Kool and the Gang make no effort to hide the untimely power that drives their feel-good approach to making excellent groove music.

Fan Club InfoThe highlight to this album would have to be Super Band. With lyrics like, “Super-cali-FUNK-a-listic-expi-ali-docious, the Super Band,” how could you not fall in love with this band? I mean, they’re super! They say so themselves!

1976 must have been a 365-day party. It’s no wonder the masses were hung-over for 1977 and the early beginnings of arguably the most important genre in the history of music: Punk.

1975: Pictures at an Exhibition

TomitaCapitalizing on the early 70’s popularity of reinvented “Electronic” adaptations of Classical classics, Isao Tomita focuses on the 1874 suite by Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky, titled, Pictures at an Exhibition. Isao Tamita creates a very dark and dreary wall of impending, electronic-doom-music… AND IT’S AWESOME!

70’s Electro was made famous in large part by Walter/Wendy Carlos’ invigorating take on the works of Ludwig van Beethoven in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Although the back sleeve accurately indicates that (up to that time) electronic instruments had only been around for nearly 50 years (with the ethereal launch of Leon Theremin’s well, Theremin in 1927), there were only a small handful of “Electronic” albums obtainable by the social conscious. Four that I can think of are 1) the groundbreaking Soundtrack to Forbidden Planet in 1956, 2) George Harrison’s first studio album (yes, THAT George Harrison), 1969’s Electronic Sound, 3) Walter Carlos’ 1968 debut, Switched-On Bach, and 4) the 1966 release of The In Sound from Way Out! by Perrey and Kingsley.

Tomita BackCreating electrified modernizations of decades-old classics must have been difficult for some to digest in the mid 1970’s… boy were those narrow-minded purists in for a treat when Disco hit just a few short years later.

The late 60’s/early 70’s electronic movement is definitely something to explore. To say it is little more than a Classical suite or symphony with an electronic filter would completely sell this infant-like genre depressingly short. The guitar, invented in the 13th Century, didn’t get electrified until the 1930’s. Electronic music has yet to hit its centennial mark… imagine its overwhelming future. Isao Tomita did, and it’s evident by his work on Pictures at an Exhibition.

1974: Who’s on First?

Who's on the Cover? Naturally.Today we take a look at the record; a 12” spherical disc, not only as a vehicle for music, but also as an interactive time capsule for important, historical milestones. Although it need not be stated that the contents of today’s post preceded 1974 by over three decades, the release of this record is significant because it offered, arguably, the most famous comedy routine ever to be recorded, to a legion of new listeners. I am, of course, referring to Bud Abbott & Lou Costello’s classic, Who’s on First?

The classic baseball routine is as renowned as Baseball itself. Abbott & Costello’s Who’s on First? is Baseball’s unofficial psalm. It was so perennial, that Time magazine deemed it the Best Comedy Sketch of the 20th Century. Who knew this sketch would be so loved by so many people? He did. Who did? Naturally…

BackstopWho’s on first? is as synonymous with Baseball as Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Rickey Henderson. And since the baseball season is underway (seems as though nobody informed the Milwaukee Brewers), I felt it appropriate to focus on this release from 1974 above all others.

This timeless compilation also offers a Moby Dick sketch, a Hertz U-Drive sketch and a complete broadcast of The Abbott & Costello Show, “exactly as heard on November 9, 1944.” A must for comedy and Baseball fans alike, Abbott & Costello’s Who’s on First? will forever live on wherever Baseball is played. Enjoy!

1973: Tres Hombres

Tres HombresI’d mistakenly written-off ZZ Top by the time I saw them at Alpine Valley in 2003. It took less than a minute into their first song for me to realize how strikingly wrong I had been about this Texas Blues-Rock band.

I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t already know about these guys. Yes, they formed in 1969. Yes, they’ve been around for over 40 years, yes they are still touring and yes, the three members have ALWAYS been Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard (listed on the back of this album as Rube Beard). What I will impart on you is the desperate suggestion of not doing what I did. Don’t write-off this band without giving them a proper listen. This is 1973, and this is American Blues-Rock at its finest.

Tres Hombres (translates to “Three Men,” courtesy of The Prudent Groove) is ZZ Top’s first Top Ten record, and the band’s third release overall. Although ZZ Top’s First Album (1971) and Rio Grande Mud (1972) offered a glimpse of the unquestionable talents of these “Three Men,” it wasn’t until Tres Hombres and its soul-crushing hit, La Grange, that the music world saw just how incredible this Texas band was.

TracksLa Grange is a nonstop, blood-boiling staple of Blues inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s chock-full of hard-rocking fire with a groove so catchy, you’ll swear you’re hearing it blasting from a dead-silent room. If you ask me, ZZ Top never reached the creative watermark set by La Grange, but looking back at their extensive catalog throughout their 44-year existence, they’ve come pretty damn close a number of times.

Do yourself a favor and pay attention to those rumors spreading around about that brothel outside La Grange, Texas. Word has it they have a lot of nice girls-ah! Oh, and don’t forget a ten-spot for the door.

1972: You Don’t Mess Around with Jim

Croce CoverAs far as solo songwriters go, there are three that loom atop all others. Presented in no particular order, because honestly, how could you logically rank these three? First is Van Morrison, who is probably the most obvious of the three. Second is Paul Simon, who is perhaps the most critically acclaimed of the bunch due to his hugely successful duo before branching out and going solo, and last but certainly not least, is Jim Croce.

Croce kind of flies under the radar when grouped with the great Morrison and Simon. His gentle, free-spirited storytelling, his whimsical acoustic guitar work, his clever, heartfelt and often hilarious lyrics, and the fact that he accomplished his timeless arsenal of music by the time of his untimely death at the age of 30 sets him apart from the aforementioned pair. The fact that the bulk of his success happened, unfortunately, after he passed, doesn’t take away from the emotional weight of his music.

LyricsYou Don’t Mess Around with Jim was Croce’s third and most successful album, spending 93 weeks on the charts. Due to the extraordinary single, Time in a Bottle, which peaked a year after his unfortunate plane crash, You Don’t Mess Around with Jim was the best selling album for five weeks in 1974. It’s sad ol’ Jim wasn’t around to see how many people admired his great work.

R.I.P. Mr. Croce. 1972 belongs to you.

1971: Bet I’ll Six!!

Rich - After HoursI didn’t get into “Craps” – After Hours until 1998, some 27-years after its initial release. This mundane fact, however, doesn’t detract from the laugh-out-loud hilarity offered by the “Crowned Prince of Comedy… His Royal Highness, Richard Pryor.”

I’ll humbly admit, that it was the Beastie Boys who inadvertently introduced me to the Great Comic Wizard. It was the sampling of Mr. Pryor’s, “I ain’t goin’ no place. MOVE me!” that starts Flute Loop, from the 1994 issued, Ill Communication that hooked me. If the Beasties sampled it, in my mind, it must be good. A philosophy still practiced to this day.

Craps is a vulgar, adolescent-minded, orgy-inducing nightmare of laughs. Keep in mind I’m focusing on this album instead of The Kinks’ 1971 country-influenced album, Muswell Hillbillies. For those who know me, they know that’s a BIG deal. For those who don’t know me, that’s a BIG deal. It doesn’t get any better than The Kinks… unless, of course, you’re talking about Richard Pryor.

Track ListThe astounding number of quotable one-liners from this album is enough to force any up-and-coming comedian to return to their pizza delivery job. Rich’s cocaine-induced flow is unmatched in terms of laughs per minute (LPM’s). Pulling absolutely NO punches, Richard Pryor suggests the scenario of a white president (at that time Tricky Dick Nixon) having a black baby, the genitalia-arousing boxing skills of Sugar Ray Robinson, a marriage proposal perfectly coupled with a male’s sexual release (I’m trying REALLY hard to keep these descriptions PG), spousal orgy advice, and an adolescent Rich’s response to the inquiry of a concerned father over what his daughter is doing behind a locked door… here’s a spoiler, Rich doesn’t have any pants on.

These are just a few of the MANY examples of comedic genius delivered on this essential album. If you’re in the mood for funny, it doesn’t get any better than Richard Pryor.

1970: Long As I Can See the Light/Lookin’ Out My Back Door

Light LabelFor the next 30 posts, or until I get bored, the post number will correspond with the year in which the post’s subject was released. It could be an album review, a song highlight, or an insert advert. The choices are by no means the best of any given year, nor are they my favorite. They are instead a representation of the digable grooves in my collection, broken down by year. With me? Ok, cool.

For 1970 (post #70), I’ve chosen CCR’s (Creedence Clearwater Revival) Long As I Can See the Light/Lookin’ Out My Back Door 45. CCR had some driving, Southern Rock-inspired jams in their heyday, and Long As I Can See the Light is NOT one of them. This is not to say it is inferior in any way. On the contrary. With its simple lyrics and low-key, slow-rollin’ drawl, Long As I Can See the Light reminds us that we can always go back to where we came from, so long as the offer is still extended. We all, at one point or another, feel the need to move on… to explore the vast unknown of uncertainty. But we’d like not to dismiss the comfort of returning home, when it becomes undeniably necessary.

Back Door LabelI can’t hear Lookin’ Out My Back Door and not picture the Dude smokin’ a jay and banging the roof of his car to Doug Clifford’s beat. It was used perfectly in The Big Lebowski, but given the song’s brilliance, I’d imagine this song would fit perfectly in any film that featured it.

My favorite line is, without question, “A dinosaur Victrola listening to Buck Owens.” In a song bursting with visual abnormalities (“A statue wearing high heals” or “Tambourines and elephants are playing in the band” for example), the image of an old Victrola shouting Buck Owens ditties always makes me chuckle. It’s easy to picture John Fogerty mentally returning to a happy place during the drug-induced hallucination he sings about in this song, and it’s generous of him to take us along on that ride.

I could have easily focused on Zeppelin III, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround – Part One, Dylan’s Self Portrait, McCartney’s solo debut, Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon, or even Bitches Brew, but for me, 1970 screams Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Post 69: The Way to Groove and the Way to Suck Eggs

ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ

Officially titled ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, Ministry’s 1992 release is often referred to by its alternate banner: Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs. Industrial Metal’s junky grandfathers, Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker (Hypo Luxa and Hermes Pan, their respected aliases as music producers), close out their undeniable stint of groundbreaking Industrial Metal with this, the third major release by the Jourgensen/Barker brigade. Ministry had been releasing New Wave BS since 1983, but it’s unlistenable. They REALLY didn’t start until Barker joined in 1988. “We call it, the departure point.” – Bruce McCulloch

Starting with 1988’s The Land of Rape and Honey, and continuing with 1989’s The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, 1990’s In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (their live, and best in my opinion), and finally with 1992’s ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, Ministry single handedly created the iconic Industrial Metal sound. Pretty boy Trent Reznor and his vastly inferior NIИ be damned! About the only ups Mr. Reznor had was that he could control his heroin habit, thus granting him more commercial success. (I still can’t take Nine Inch Nails seriously, but I will admit their viral campaign for Year Zero was pretty amazing.)

ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ starts with the Grammy nominated N.W.O. (losing out to pretty boy’s Wish), followed by Just One Fix (the 12” cover to this single features the William S. Burroughs painting, Last Chance Junction and Curse on Drug Hysterics, btw).

photo(1)Track 3 is the second in the TV series. A collection of various samples from obscure television shows set to a bed of Industrial thorns. TV III, the non-album track on 1995’s The Fall single is arguably my favorite Ministry song, but that’s a post for another time.

Track 4 features samples from the hit 80’s cartoon, G.I. Joe, and is titled, Hero. Jesus Built My Hotrod follows, then comes arguably the only skippable track on the album, track 6’s Scarecrow. This unfortunate cloud is quickly lifted and all but forgotten by the title track, Psalm 69… clearly the climax of the album.

Corrosion and Grace round out the album, offering well deserved breathers after an intense, Industrial workout.

ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, or Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs is by far not Ministry’s best, but it does neatly sum up an unparalleled 5-year adventure, unimagined by anyone before, and untouched by anyone since.

April Come She Will

Sounds CoverApril has come (as if you didn’t know), and she brought with her an excuse to write about one of my all-time favorite songs: Simon & Garfunkel’s April Come She Will.

You wouldn’t know by listening to it, but it’s actually a pretty short song. Clocking in at only 1:49, April Come She Will is the shortest track on the 1966 masterpiece, Sounds of Silence. Although written by Paul, April’s sweet melodic melon collie was sung by Art. It must have been difficult for Mr. Garfunkel to go to work each day. I mean, sure, Art Garfunkel is great in his own right… great singer, great range, but his partner is Paul freakin’ Simon! One wonders how powerful Simon & Garfunkel would have been without Art. Maybe he was the man behind the successful curtain. Who knows?

April LyricsApril Come She Will is the prefect soundtrack for those moments when you just wished you were somewhere else. Alone, walking between silent, somber trees, or alone, walking amongst a sea of warm strangers, this dreary song reminds us that new eventually becomes old, and judging by the song’s length, how quickly that can happen. A kind of hopeless notion if you think about it.

May April offer you blossoming new beginnings, and may September not rob you of the aging beauty of those beginnings. Old doesn’t need to lose its alluring frenzy. We just need to be reminded of how new it once was. Here’s hoping September doesn’t forget to remind us.

A Not So Sweet Easter Treat

P. CTailMy “Jesus Rose from the Dead” records must be on loan, so I’m reluctant to write about rabbits. My only Bugs Bunny record is a Christmas album, so I’m forced to inundate myself with Peter Cottontail Plus Other Funny Bunnies and Their Friends.

That Pete Cottontail was a sly one, wouldn’t you say? I mean, just look at that face… deep in profound thought.  Released in 1963 by the racist, homophobic granddaddy of greed and deceit, Walt Disney Productions, Peter Cottontail Plus Other Funny Bunnies and Their Friends is a heavily produced, fantasy-inducing, rabbit nightmare that’s sure to linger inside your head long after the point of discomfort.

Weaving between catchy kid tunes and one-woman interpretations of classic rabbit stories, Peter Cottontail Plus Other Funny Bunnies and Their Friends does NOT come recommended by The Prudent Groove.

LPsOn the plus side, the back sleeve offers an eye-catching display of previously released Disney “Musical Highlights” (I shudder to think) in the shape of the letters, “LPs.” For only $1.89 in 1963, which would be $13.99 today, you could pollute your ears with everything from Little Toot to Savage Sam. Save your money, and your sanity, and skip any and everything Disney related.  Your soul will thank you.

Happy Easter, everyone!