ALBUM REVIEW: Cher and Gregg Allman, Allman and Woman

I am completely confused about this collaboration between two highly regarded musicians, Greg Allman (a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) and Cher (an everlasting performer who has set more trends than anybody).

In 1975 Allman and Cher were married just days after her and Sonny Bono’s divorce was finalized. This wasn’tCher and Greg 1 a complete shock when looking at the lifestyle that Cher and Bono had been leading. They had both been pursuing different “lovers” for around 3 years, but remained publicly married for their successful namesake. Allman and Cher had been dating for around 6 months when they sporadically married in Las Vegas.

Cher filed for divorce 9 days later, citing Allman’s heroin and liquor abuse…then they reconciled for a few years. Quite conventional.

During their tumultuous tenure, they made one album, Two The Hard Way. There wasn’t a more suitable title and thank goodness that this was Cher’s last duet album.

This album is a divorce party album. It is the most forced vocal and emotional connection between two artists who were clearly infatuated with each other but were completely wrong for each other. Although, even that infatuation was limited. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine Allman stated that he didn’t feel Cher had a good singing voice, but a good talking voice. She responded with an atomic bomb.

Well, it was really just an f-bomb to be precise.

According to some, this is both artists’ worst musical endeavor, but there is some respect. A few songs stick out, and they do cover a range of genres. One can feel disco, pop, r&b, and rock throughout the album. Although there are two things to keep in mind, Allman was a southern rocker teetering on country and Cher was a pop singer who went with any popular musical wave to remain successful. I’m all about experimenting, but some chemicals just don’t work well.

Cher and Gregg 2The opening song “Move Me” is a decent song. There’s not too much to it lyrically, it just confirms they like the way they move each other. Insert your interpretation, but it’s a fun listen. They also do a rather interesting rendition of the Smokey Robinson penned “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me.” I’d stick with the original on this one, but this cover isn’t the worst. Add it to a “Cher Complete” box set and it will sit well in the 70s section.

The two best songs are the songs Allman and Cher decided to perform solo. Although not completely memorable, they could easily be filers on one of their individual recordings. Allman wins with “Shadow Dream Song.” His vocals are natural and pure. The song should be extracted from the album and judged by itself. Cher sings the only song Allman co-wrote on the album “Island.” Since I have a certain appreciation for Cher, I’ll plead a hard 5th on this one.

In the end, Allman’s vocals are completely out of place portraying discomfort and many other different oddities. Cher’s vocals are decent, many times resorting to her belting ability, a safe area for the already seasoned singer.

Cher and Greg album

The cover of the album should act as a warning just as an explicit sticker does. The cover shows Allman and Cher’s hair blowing in the wind while Allman is positioned uncomfortably over the pantyhosed Cher (can’t really tell what she is wearing, but that’s nothing new). The cover should immediately provide hesitation. It’s that feeling you get when looking at awkward family photos. The one with the dreadful flute from middle school band or basically any picture in this post.

If this album is found in a record store look over your shoulder and make sure nobody is looking and sneak it into your stack. If it’s your only album you can find worth buying take Cher’s above approach.

Drop an f-bomb and reconcile…..with their solo recordings.

ALBUM REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

Have you ever found yourself fulfilling what you thought you would never do? Sometimes your life becomes so muddled you fill yourself with myths and falsities. Activities include engaging in a relationship you know isn’t beneficial or maybe ending a friendship that you never thought would end. Maybe you don’t realize you’re playing to your own ridicule.

Living rumours are exactly what the group Fleetwood Mac experienced while recording their album, Rumours. Here is just a brief look at what each member was going through.

Mick Fleetwood was one of the founding members of Fleetwood Mac, even before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the group. At the time of this recording, he had discovered that his wife, mother to his daughter, was having an affair with his best friend.

Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were dealing with their on and off again relationship. Supposedly, Nicks and Fleetwood were having a fling since the Fleetwood’s former relationship was not working out.

John McVie and Christine McVie were married prior to this album but got a divorce at the time of this album’s production. They would only speak music, not personally.

As you can see, it may have been rather difficult to work with your fellow bandmates in such turmoil. Now add all night partying and cocaine addictions and you have the whole team complete.

What do you get from such an embattled band? A brilliant album.

The album tells the full story for each band member individually, while collectively telling the story of the members as a whole.

First, the album starts off with “Second Hand News,” penned by Lindsey Buckingham. This seems to have been a clear message for Nicks and maybe even Fleetwood. The song talks about how there is nothing to say or do about a given relationship. He simply wants to “lay in tall grass and do his stuff,” while realizing he is just second-hand news. Oddly, Nicks is heard prominently in the background vocals.

Buckingham went on to write 2 more songs for the album (excluding “The Chain” which the group wrote together). The next two songs are “Never Going Back Again” and the hit, “Go Your Own Way.” “Never Going Back Again” seems to be slightly remorseful, at one point stating, “come down and see me again,” yet it does end with him clearly stating he’s never going back. “Go Your Own Way” is basically telling a past girlfriend “screw you,” stating that she can go her own way and it will just be another lonely day.

Next, we come to Stevie Nicks. She doesn’t seem quite as bitter as Buckingham. In Fleetwood Mac’s only number one single that was written by Nicks, “Dreams,” she is shrugging her shoulders, telling her lover that she isn’t the one to keep him down. She ponders what he will lose and what he had, but in the end, these are dreams. It’s almost as if she wants to say screw you, yet she doesn’t have the heart too. The next song Nicks wrote was “I Don’t Want to Know.” This song says how she doesn’t want to know the reasoning of actions in the relationship, yet she wants the ex to feel fine. Where Buckingham brought the forget you songs, Nicks brought self-indulgent lover’s optimism.

Nicks also wrote the last song to the album “Gold Dust Woman,” which explains the challenges of the music industry with drugged up metaphors.

Next, you have Christine McVie. Her first song is quite encouraging and is entitled “Don’t Stop.” She is stressing the need to go on and not live in today’s problems, but not to stop “thinking about tomorrow.” Her next two songs seem to center around her new relationship with one of Fleetwood Mac’s lighting technicians. In “Songbird” she ensures there will be no more crying and that she loves him like never before. She also lets the lighting man know that she is so happy with the things he does for her, he makes loving fun (“You Make Loving Fun”). Her last song is directed toward Mick Fleetwood. The song “Oh Daddy” portrays Fleetwood as the glue to this album, and in the end, the band. He always knew what was right for the band. You have to wonder, did Fleetwood see the musical genius that was becoming of such turmoil?

The only song the group worked on lyrically together was “The Chain.” This song is the album’s summary, yet it is the first song on side 2. It acts as a link between the two sides of both the record and the relationships. The only way this song makes sense is looking at the context of which this album was recorded. This tune also provides the best harmonies and most dramatic musical arrangements of the whole album.

This album is now nearly 30 years old. In retrospect, you have to wonder, did they all know they were playing songs about themselves? The irony of this album has provided its sustainability. The music that resulted has been heralded by fans and critics alike. It has sold nearly 40 million copies worldwide and is often at the top of many “best albums” list. It also won the Grammy for album of the year.

This album happens to be my favorite album. I love its versatility, musical arrangements, and harmonies. I love how it visits every realm of love and how every vocal and instrument is played with passion. I love the albums often mysterious metaphors and its confusing cover. The artistry of this album is unparalleled. I would gladly visit the Rumour mill any day.

ALBUM REVIEW: Wanda Jackson – An Unfinished Party

I am going to go a little rogue on this post. Instead of posting about one album, I am going to post about two that were made in the last 3 years. But do not worry, I have both of these exceptional albums on vinyl and that’s where I heard them first.

As one who frequents the record stores in the OKC area, I have seen a lot of hype and advertisement for Wanda Jackson. I am not sure how I had not heard of this legendary songstress before seeing her records in these stores, but I always love finding new favorites. Now that I have embarked on her material, I haven’t been able to stop listening to it.

Jackson’s career is wide and vast. She is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for early influence. She has sung rockabilly, country, rock, and gospel. She is the Queen of Rockabilly and many artists, including Adele, have cited her as an inspiration. Then, to top all the interesting facts I have learned, she is also a fellow Oklahoman.

Now in her mid-70s, Jackson has not slowed down. In 2010 Jackson worked with Jack White for her album The Party Ain’t Over. This album will probably run out of spins. Her vocals encompass wisdom, a vibrant youth, a little party, harshness, and delicateness. I am not sure there is an exact word to describe them.

This is an album of covers. The album opens with “Shakin’ All Over,” a number originally performed by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates in 1965. It’s a perfect beginning to this album, especially with it’s “shaky” sounds during the chorus. The song reminisces 1960s pop and rockabilly.

My next favorite is “Busted.” At first, it was hard for me to listen to a song about an older lady with a child being broke, but that’s when I saw the wisdom. Her voice expresses experience. It is both in the past, the present, and the future. At the end of side one, she goes into the Bob Dylan penned “Thunder on the Mountain.” This song possesses all qualities of a typical Dylan song, genius lyrics, storytelling, and unending interpretations. Jackson’s voice is so well suited for this song that it’s hard to not declare her the queen.

Side two holds all the same promises from side one. One of the best songs on the whole album is “You Know I’m No Good.” At first, I didn’t think it could be the Amy Winehouse version, but it was, and Jackson brought a new dimension to the song. You can see her sitting on a stool crooning this song from years of life experiences. The song, and better yet the whole album, comes from deep within her inner complexion.

These are just a few outlines of some of the songs, but in reality, each song is amazing.

Jackson then followed up with 2012’s, Unfinished Business. From the cover this album is unique. As I was reading the notes on the back of the album, I realized they were written by the famed author Stephen King. She truly touches all across every realm. This album opens up with “Tore Down,” a song about hitting rock bottom, yet her voice gives it hope. It’s one that every age group can relate to.

My favorite tune on this album is “Am I Even a Memory?” a duet with her producer Justin Townes Earle. This song does not have an age. It brings tears as you hear it. Jackson swoons over the lyrics, wondering if she meant anything to a past lover. Then Earle comes in and brings a very naive feel to the song. It’s pure musical genius. The song shows heartache at different times, decades apart. It’s the telling of a 40-year-old relationship, to a fresh one.

On side two there are many highlights, including “Two Hands” and “California Stars.” The first reaches back to her gospel years, declaring praises to the Father. “California Stars” is lyrically short, and professes that she would like to lay her weary bones on the California stars, yet I find that ironic because I just saw her releasing tour dates last week.

These two albums are really touching me in a poignant part of my life. I find comfort in the lyrics and vocals. I feel lifted by a party of unsurpassed emotion. Without getting to musically “ooey-gooey,” these albums are giving me strength at a tough time in my life to remember the world never stops spinning. I’ll survive.

All in all, I really hope to one day run into Miss Jackson at Wal-Mart or a local 7-11. I’d love to just thank her for her music and what it means to me and her contributions to the music world. I am sure she hears this every day, but it’s always nice to get things off your chest. I guess I am going to have to carry a sharpie and my album covers everywhere in my car just in case.

Jackson’s whole career is a party of rockabilly, salvation, and tremendous influence, but most parties don’t last nearly 60 years. I believe Wanda Jackson is going to continue to party for years to come and the invitations keep coming. This is one party you won’t find your self asleep on the couch, hung over the next morning, or begging for a ride home from.

ALBUM REVIEW: Lionel Richie, Self-Titled

Nearly 31 years ago Motown encountered another legendary departure. Lionel Richie released his first album as a single artist in October of 1982. To this day, this self-titled album is still only 1 of 9 that Richie has released. This album was released in the 80s, yet it shows Lionel’s timeless signature style.

This album contains two of Richie’s signature songs, penned by Richie, “Truly” and “You Are.” These are soul and Motown classics. These two songs would easily fit into any wedding service and also serve great on local karaoke nights.

Although, this album contains other great numbers that were not recognized or released as singles. The opening track “Serves You Right” is a reminder of Disco days gone, yet it serves as a prelude to what 1980s music would become. The song details a relationship in which Richie’s significant other left for another man whose love turned out to not be so true.

Another great song follows, entitled “Wandering Stranger.” I have always considered Richie a ballad king and this song does not disappoint. It would easily fit in between “Truly” and “Hello” on any compilation collection. This song talks about feeling lost while in love.

Side 2 continues with some upbeat tracks (“Round and Round,” and “You Are”). The last two songs highlight Richie’s writing, vocal, and instrumental ability and are the gems of this release. Richie’s voice is perfectly suited between him and a piano. “You Mean More to Me” and “Just Put Some Love in Your Heart” prove this. These songs show the foundation where Richie’s later duet with Diana Ross, “Endless Love,” was born.

Given the status of Richie’s love life in the next 4 or so years show where the sentiments and emotions of these songs come from. In 1975 he had married his high school sweetheart, Brenda. In the mid 1980’s Richie began a relationship with a lady named Diane and Brenda discovered this relationship by pretending to be room service to their Beverly Hills hotel room. A physical fight pursued leading to Brenda’s arrest and later her and Richie’s divorce.

This album is nonchalantly mixed with both romantic and breakup songs. Were these the beginning of Lionel’s mixed feelings?

In the end, this album is “Truly” an introduction to Richie’s brilliant career that was and that he is currently pursuing. This isn’t Richie at his best, but he was a vulnerable solo artist coming in off the success of the Commodores. Richie may seem a little shy on this album, but it is worth a listen in every soul lover’s collection. It would be a Motown sin not to give this album a few spins.

ALBUM REVIEW: Glen Campbell, By the Time I Get to Phoenix

Glen Campbell’s album By the Time I get to Phoenix is a classic record never to be forgotten. The title song won Campbell both a Grammy in the pop and country categories. The album as a whole shows Campbell’s vocals at their best. He often channels an Elvis style and expresses his wide vocal range. The liner notes on the back of the sleeve say, “tall he stands and tall he sings.”

This album came out around the time Campbell was 36 and it was only his 7th album of more than 70. Campbell was already on his second marriage. This could be why this album is a heartbreak album. There isn’t a song of love won, it’s all lost. Yet there is a sense of vulnerability.

The true gem on this album is “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” penned by the famed Jimmy Webb. Jimmy Webb, who happens to be from Elk City, Oklahoma (hence, “By the time I get to Oklahoma…”), has written songs for The Supremes, Elvis Presley, R.E.M., and Barbra Streisand. It’s safe to say that he is quite a versatile writer.

“By The Time I  Get to Phoenix” is one of Campbell’s signature tunes, yet it is often overshadowed by “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Gentle on My Mind.” Phoenix is a true musical gem. Where is he going? Where is he coming from? What are his plans? These are often the questions anybody falling out of love ask themselves. He’s confused and has taken to the road, what many of us have wished to do many times in our lives.

When the album is listened to in its entirety it listens like a continuous story. The songs tell a story of an off and on again relationship. It starts with the drive off, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” but he then immediately goes into Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound.” It’s almost a concept album.

Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now he’s speeding back home, yet “Tomorrow Never Comes.” Considering the listeners don’t know where he ended up, this could have been quite a long drive. He must have returned home in the winter, or at least his girl was giving him the cold shoulder. This is explained in “Cold December.” Then she leaves during “My Baby’s Gone.” Although, he bounced back quickly considering he states he is “Back in the Race.” It’s the instant rebound confidence.

Side two shows regret, a slight feeling of low self-confidence, and an eventful depressing end. Campbell’s vocals sore on “Hey Little One,” showing an impressive chest range and suburb stylization. He eventually ends with “Love is a Lonesome River.” There wasn’t a happy ever after, there was a sad reality wrapped in a musical masterpiece.

Each song on this album can stand alone and is memorable. There isn’t a single song that seemed like a “filler.” Campbell’s vocals are in their best shape and they only get better with his continued albums. This record deserves a listen from pop and country listeners alike.

ALBUM REVIEW: Diana Ross, Self-Titled

In the year of 1970, the musical world was going through major adjustments. Civil Rights had finally made its way through and black artists were being recognized in the mainstream music scene. Labels, such as Motown, made this push possible.

Diana Ross
The Supremes in 1965. Left to right: Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Diana Ross. (Photo credit: Black Enterprise)

The Supremes had emerged as one of the top African American mainstream acts. They had tremendous success with unforgettable, chart toping tunes including “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “Baby Love.” As one of their last albums was titled, they were the cream of the crop.

By 1970 it was time for a change and that included The Supremes lineup. Diana Ross had emerged a star and Motown owner and founder, Berry Gordy, saw this. Many accredit this to their once love affair, but her continued and proven success over the last forty years proves that Miss Ross had superstar chops. It was time for Diana to be placed outside of her comfort zone and become a solo act.

How liberating. How frightening.

Diana Ross proceeded to record an album with some familiar tracks on her own. She worked with famed producers and artists, Ashford and Simpson, and she confidently recorded her first solo album.

This album produced two of Ross’ signature hits, “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” but there is much more to this album. I listened to this album years ago while cleaning my house thinking nothing of the other songs. They only served as background noise. Once I actually sat down and listened to this album I realized I was extremely wrong.

Diana Ross
Ross’s first solo LP, Diana Ross, featured her first solo number-one hit, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This album is jam packed with amazing songs. First, there is “Keep An Eye.” Ross had recorded this song before with The Supremes on the “Love Child” album, but there is a different feeling in her solo rendition. She hauntingly sings of how you should “keep an eye on your close friends” for a “friend is an enemy you can see.” The song goes on to explain how her friend stole her man, just because she loved him as much as she did. This proves fault on two sides and declares one victim. By the end of the song Ross explains how there used to be three of them, but now there’s only two. She urges listeners to guess who’s missing. Could this have been a situation that she perceived during her Supremes tenure?

Another song that really sticks out is “I Wouldn’t Change the Man He Is.” The song starts out jazzy and continues into a big band frenzy. One can just imagine Ross upon a piano in one of her signature gowns singing this song. She explains how she’s got a “funny kind of man.” She goes on to explain how he says he can get a long without her, and that she might as well forget candy and roses. She then exclaims how she wouldn’t change the man he is, for he is responsible for her “sunny days” and “although he brings her tears, she still loves the man he is.”

Ross has often spoke and written about her relationship with Barry Gordy. She claims he was very controlling, yet she often knew he had her best interests in mind. Could this have been a song for Mr. Gordy?

These are just two tracks that typify the depth of this album. Some of Ross’ best vocals can be found on this record. One can feel the freedom in her singing style. She no longer had weights to hold her down, she now gained full responsibility for all her actions. This was Diana Ross, the beginning of a legend.

Today, Ross still tours with her plethora of hits that she acquired through her solo recordings. I have been privileged to have seen her 3 times in concert and she is still a force to be reckoned with. Her first album is the prelude to everything Ross would become, both emotionally and musically. She proved there ain’t no valley high or low to keep us from hearing her tunes.