Album Cover of the Week: Alice Cooper, School’s Out

I’d say this album cover is quite appropriate for this time of year. It’s the 1972 rock classic School’s Out (Warner Bros. Records ‎– BS 2623), and boy does this one have a lot.

The original album cover (designed by Craig Braun) was designed to look like a wooden school desk complete with etchings by members of the band. The desk opened to reveal the vinyl. Underneath, an image is provided of the other contents of the ‘desk’ including gum, marbles, and crayons. The finishing touch was the legs on the base which could be opened up to turn it into an actual desk of sorts. The vinyl record inside was wrapped in a pair of panties (not included in the European versions), though this was later discontinued as they were found to be flammable.

Track Listing:

A1 School’s Out
A2 Luney Tune
A3 Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets
A4 Street Fight
A5 Blue Turk
B1 My Stars
B2 Public Animal #9
B3 Alma Mater
B4 Grande Finale

Van Halen

Greatest Misses: Van Halen

Even the most popular and successful bands have songs that speak only to a (relatively) devoted few. In Greatest Misses, I’ll count off the least popular song on band’s albums, not including brief interludes, joke songs, or generally any abnormally short song. I’m using the super scientific method of counting streams from a band’s Spotify catalog, so you know it’ll be accurate.

First up: Van Halen.

Van Halen

One interesting note about this first entry, that I would like to do some further research on. Of the 12 songs listed, 7 of them are the last song on the album. Do people just get to the end of a record and decide, “Nah I’m good, I’ll listen to something else now”? Strange.

Anyway, here’s the list and then the Spotify playlist:

  1. “On Fire” – Van Halen
  2. “Outta Love Again” – Van Halen II
  3. “Loss of Control” – Women and Children First
  4. “One Foot Out the Door” – Fair Warning
  5. “The Full Bug” – Diver Down
  6. “House of Pain” – 1984
  7. “Inside” – 5150
  8. “A Apolitical Blues” – OU812
  9. “In ‘N’ Out” – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
  10. “Baluchitherium” – Balance
  11. “How Many Say I” – Van Halen III
  12. “Beats Workin'” – A Different Kind of Truth

Here’s the Spotify playlist, which will be added to with future entries in the series.

Kiss (1974) band photo

Greatest Misses: Kiss (Spotify Playlist)

I’m starting a new music series on this site that I call Greatest Misses, with a debt owed to the Devo collection of the same name. The premise is simple — I ID the least listened-to song for every (or most) of a band’s studio records available on Spotify.

A few caveats: Short, interlude-type songs don’t count for me, and I also don’t count live albums, compilations, or records of the like.

Up first is Kiss, for whom every studio albums is currently available as of this posting except for 2009’s Sonic Boom.

Not surprisingly, this 20-song playlist is composed almost entirely of deep cuts that only the diehards would know (think “Two Timer” from Dressed to Kill or “Murder in High Heels” from Animalize.)

But there are a few ones I was shocked to see heard so little. “Escape from the Island” is a great instrumental and one of the few truly excellent rock tracks from Music from “The Elder.” Ditto for “Got Love for Sale” from Love Gun, which lost out to the album-ending clunker “Then She Kissed Me” of all tracks.

One thing I couldn’t help noticing was how Gene Simmons-heavy this playlist is. 12 of the 20 songs are Gene’s, six are Paul Stanley’s, with one group vocal and the aforementioned instrumental.

Anyway, give it a listen and see if you agree with the masses. Because to be honest, some of my favorite Kiss songs are on this thing.

Listening Booth — The Who, “Had Enough”

One of my resolutions for 2016 is to start publishing more Listening Booth posts, but why not get a head start before 2015 finishes? Here’s a gem from the last studio album by The Who to feature the legendary Keith Moon. It’s “Had Enough” from 1978’s Who Are You LP.

Roger Daltrey reportedly hated the string arrangement on this song, but I love it. It lends an extra element of emotion to a very world-weary track from John Entwistle. I especially love the chord progression on the chorus, which is nothing short of brilliant.

Don’t forget you can hear most of the songs from in my Listening Booth series on Spotify.

Kiss (1974) band photo

Listening Booth — Kiss New York City Loft Rehearsal, 1973

Kiss (1974) band photo

Well, today’s the big day. After years of waiting, and a whole lot of politics and gossip in the meantime, Kiss is finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And so I felt it only appropriate to publish the first edition of the Listening Booth in more than a year. And this one should be a real treat for devoted members of the Kiss Army.

Today’s offering is a bootleg from the earliest days of the band, before they even had an album out. Hell, when this was recorded no one outside the immediate New York City area even knew who Kiss was.

This recording, my friends, was reportedly made by Gene Simmons while the band played for an audience of no one in their New York City rehearsal loft (located at 10 East 23rd Street). What you will hear on this is a band still gelling, still trying to find their sound and nail down their repertoire. It’s a short recording — just six total songs over 35 minutes — but one that any Kiss fan will want to hear.

The vocals on this are distant and somewhat muffled, but otherwise you can hear the raw power of the early Kiss sound in its (almost) full glory. After a brief soundcheck the band launches into two of their signature songs, “Strutter” and “Firehouse.” The arrangement on “Strutter” sounds more like what’s on the famous Bell Sound Studios demo than what was laid down on the Kiss LP. Likewise with “Firehouse,” which is not nearly as tight as it would become by 1974.

Up next is “Watchin’ You,” which is pretty much fully formed by the point but didn’t appear until the second Kiss album, 1974’s Hotter Than Hell. Things return to the first album then, as we get a run-through of “Let Me Know.” It’s one of my favorite Kiss songs but, sadly, it was dropped from the setlist after the Kiss tour.

Finally, a pair of songs for the faithful. First is the ultra-rare “Life in the Woods,” a bizarre tune that disappeared after the band’s club days. To my ears it sounds more like Wicked Lester material, or maybe Kiss’s best Doobie Brothers impression, but it’s still worth hearing. And hey, Peter Criss gets in some vocals so that’s a bonus.

Finally there’s “Acrobat,” a song a lot of fans heard for the first time in live form on the 2001 Kiss Box Set compilation. This song was cut down considerably when it was included on the first album, but you probably know it better as “Love Theme from Kiss.”

But enough preamble. Here’s the entire recording, uploaded to YouTube by yours truly. Enjoy it before the Google Police take it down and ban my account.

Rush at the Prudential Center (Newark, NJ), 10/20/12

In Concert: Rush at the Prudential Center, 10/20/12

I’ll admit that at this point in my life as a Rush fan, I’m rather spoiled. I’ve been going to Rush concerts since they came to Madison Square Garden in December 1991 on the Roll the Bones tour, and I’ve seen them on every album tour since (as well as the 30th anniversary tour). And the thing is, even a mediocre Rush show is better than most bands on their best night. So for me, the sheer visceral thrill of seeing Geddy, Alex, and Neil live isn’t what it used to be.

But after sitting out the last few tours, I decided to see the band for the first time since the Snakes & Arrows tour in July 2007. I did so for two reasons — I caught a peek at some of their set lists from the tour, and I was impressed with the first several tracks I heard from the Clockwork Angels album. But before I touch on those things let me first say that as far as the band’s performance is concerned it was as tight, professional, and enjoyable as I’ve come to expect. A Rush concert is still one of the great spectacles in music today, and nothing about what I saw last night changed that for me.

Rush at the Prudential Center (Newark, NJ), 10/20/12

Trust me, this was taken at the Rush concert.

OK, so let’s talk about Clockwork Angels. What I wrote about the record for Popdose is pretty much how I still feel about it. I’ve tried to get into it several times and it still hasn’t really connected with me. And I stand by my assertion that the production hampers it the most.

But when I heard the album played live last night — and they played nine of the album’s twelve tracks — I saw it in a whole new light. The songs breathed in a way they don’t on the record, and there were actual dynamics. It also helped that the guys omitted a few of the weaker songs from the album and focused on the strong material. In any case, while many longtime fans of legacy acts view new songs as bathroom breaks, I really appreciated the chance to hear most of Clockwork Angels the way it was meant to be heard.

Now on to the set list. Let me just say that while Rush’s ’80s material lacks the punch and raw excitement of their ’70s output, it’s still mostly great music and I love that they’re showcasing it once again. I swear that toward the end of the first set I thought it was 1988 all over again, and it was glorious. I think the band has spent enough time appeasing fans of “Working Man” and “La Villa Strangiato” that relatively younger fans like me deserve some love.

So ’80s Rush fans, take heart. Power Windows lives again!

What else? Well, there was a neat twist to the proceedings this time around, in the form of the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble, a group of about 9 or 10 players who took the stage behind Neil Peart’s drum kit and played for most of the show’s second half. Their presence on the Clockwork Angels songs added a great extra element to the songs, and I also enjoyed hearing what they added to numbers like “Dreamline” and “YYZ.” I loved watching one of the performers, an older guy with white hair standing stage right, go absolutely apeshit with air drumming and headbanging. Very fun and a good move for Rush to add these guys. I just hope they didn’t pull an Amanda Palmer and try to pay them in beer and hugs.

Lastly I’ll touch on the venue. This was my first trip to the Prudential Center (aka The Rock), and it’s a pretty cool building. The acoustics are definitely a cut above the mammoth concrete echo chamber that is the Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/IZOD Center. I was disappointed in the lack of any video monitors for those of us sitting to the side of the stage. There are a bunch of large-screen TVs hanging all around the arena; they could’ve at least turned those on. As it was, I had to do with the main video screen at the back of the stage, which was partially obscured by the lighting and sound rigs.

I reflected a bit last night that while I would love the experience of introducing my son to Rush at a concert, he’s not yet three years old and Rush will most likely be done as a touring act by the time he’d be old enough to bring. It’s a shame, because they proved once again last night that they’re one of the great live bands ever, and worth every bit of dedication their generations of fans have given them.

Set list

Set 1

Video intro (Gearing Up)
The Big Money
Force Ten
Grand Designs
Middletown Dreams
The Analog Kid
The Pass
Where’s My Thing? (with Neil Peart drum solo)
Far Cry

Set 2

Video intro (The Appointment)
Clockwork Angels
The Anarchist
The Wreckers
Headlong Flight (with Neil Peart drum solo)
Halo Effect (with Alex Lifeson guitar solo intro)
Wish Them Well
The Garden
The Percussor (Neil Peart drum solo)
Red Sector A
The Spirit of Radio


Tom Sawyer
2112: Overture/The Temples of Syrinx/Grand Finale
Video outro (Office Of The Watchmaker)


“Headlong Flight” — NEW RUSH SONG!


Let’s just get down to it, people. “Headlong Flight” is the first official track released from the upcoming Rush album Clockwork Angels. And yea, verily, it rocketh quite hard.

Behold! “Headlong Flight” via Rolling Stone.

Love the fact that Rush brought back Nick Raskulinecz to co-produce, as he did a bang up job on Snakes & Arrows. Geddy, Neil, and Alex all sound as energetic as they have in at least 20 years. Looks like I need to set aside some money to see this tour.

People found this post by searching for:

    "rush headlong flight review", "headlong flight review", "new rush song"
Warner Brothers Presents... Montrose!

Album cover of the week: Warner Brothers Presents… Montrose!

The pantheon of rock greats who have left us has had another join its ranks, as guitarist and bandleader Ronnie Montrose passed away on Saturday after a long battle with cancer. So in his memory, let’s look at one of the great album covers in rock. It’s from Montrose’s 1975 LP, Warner Brothers Presents… Montrose!. It was the band’s third full-length release and first without lead singer Sammy Hagar.

Warner Brothers Presents... Montrose!

Artwork on this lovely tribute to 1950s monster movies is credited to Harry Rossit.

People found this post by searching for:

    "montrose album covers", "Montrose"

Graphicity: What Makes Van Halen Great?

I’ve been listening to A Different Kind of Truth regularly since it came out. Despite being an excellent album, I still read a lot of griping from Van Halen fans about how it’s not really Van Halen because Michael Anthony’s not there. I can see where they’re coming from, but I think that’s stretching things a bit.

But really, people have been arguing about Van Halen for years. If it’s not Michael Anthony, it’s the vocalists. So I decided to go through the Van Halen catalog and perform a scientific analysis of their sound. I wanted to know — what really makes Van Halen tick? What, more than anything else, really makes a Van Halen record sound like Van Halen?

Is it Mikey’s signature background vocals? Eddie’s guitar pyrotechnics? Alex Van Halen’s thunderous drumming? David Lee Roth’s showmanship and antics? Sammy Hagar’s singing and lyrics? Gary Cherone’s… well, let’s just forget about Gary. Nice guy, though.

So here it is, the definitive answer to the question — What makes Van Halen great?

Infographic - What Makes Van Halen Great?

Granted, I may be off by one or two percentage points.