March 31, 1992: Human Touch and Lucky Town
No multi-release project reflects the Sandinista! effect like these two Bruce Springsteen stinkers that meekly launched his first foray without the E Street Band. What? You’ve never heard of the Sandinista! effect? I understand, since it’s a just an idea I’ve been working exploring. It refers to the Clash’s triple-LP Sandinista!, which might well be regarded as one of the greatest records of all time if it had been thinned down to a single slab. Perhaps one day I’ll sequence and propose a playlist that would have made it work.
Bruce Springsteen was no stranger to the Sandinista! effect, having already expanded an unissued album (The Ties that Bind) into a sometimes goofy double-LP (The River). Still, the problem with Human Touch and Lucky Town – albums not actually recorded at the same time – is that they don’t produce a dozen (or even ten) songs as good as any previous Springsteen record. In fact, once you get past “Human Touch” they kind of stink.
It was all so disappointing. Especially after Springsteen rocked through an episode of Saturday Night Live. Here’s a guy so awesome they let him perform three songs instead of the standard two. It was the last – “Living Proof” – that blew my 12 year old mind:
I didn’t really care for “57 Channels and Nothing On” (Or appreciate the irony of his performing it on network – Lord, I just wanted my parents to get cable TV) but I liked the way he belted this song out like Wilson Pickett. It was so cooool on TV but after a trip to Musicland I found out on record (cassette, actually) it was tepid at best.
May 4, 2002: Alice and Blood Money
These two Tom Waits albums collect songs that were written for plays – Alice was the name of the play Alice was adapted for but Blood Money was written for one called Woyzeck. I guess Blood Money was just more commercially viable. That’s what it’s all about.
Each has it’s moments, but I think for people outside of Waits’ solid fan base they’re too few and too far between. “Everything You Can Think of is True” his a Rain Dogs-esque romp that stands out on Alice but it gets lost in what is otherwise a really gloomy disc. Blood Money opens with two roarin’ numbers – “Misery is the River of the World” and “Everything Goes to Hell” – but kind of falls apart in the middle. My favorite track on the two discs is “The Part You Throw Away” from Blood Money, which I would like to include here but it appears I didn’t keep these discs. I suppose you could say that’s not a real ringing endorsement of either.
September 17, 1991: Use Your Illusion I and II
Yeah, it was a magical.
February 17, 2004: Aw, Cmon and No, You Cmon
I remember the wintery afternoon I was browsing at Treehouse Records and listening to the new album by my favorite band without knowing it – That’s because each of Lambchop’s two new discs opened with an instrumental far more lush than anything they had yet recorded, even on their masterful pop tableau Nixon. For a moment I thought, “This sounds like Lambchop…but it’s too good to be them.”
Having never been the sort of person who follows upcoming releases and such, I was shocked when I heard Kurt Wagner’s thin, wispy voice. Yes, it is Lambchop. And yes, I’ll take one of each please.
September 18, 1978: Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, and Paul Stanley
Four KISS albums in one day. Pretty much the answer to every question you’ve ever had can be found in them. In fact, we’ve already answered a few of them here.
1971: Mary, Paul and and Peter
Yes, you read that right. Mary was the first solo release to follow the dissolution of the 60s most successful folk act. With Mary Travers presumed to be the most commercially viable member of the trio, her album’s early release suggests Warner Brothers was exploring the potential in capitalizing on the breakup: one chart-topping act might well become three, if marketed properly. After all, this had proven very successful for Apple Records only a year earlier.
Unfortunately, Mary Travers had never been a songwriter on the scale of Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey and ironically the most memorable thing about her solo debut proved to be the contributions of another songwriter, John Denver. His “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was an early hit for the trio (and a great record), but Mary Travers’ solo recordings of the beautiful song “Follow Me” and of “Rhymes and Reasons” proved disappointing, even with Denver himself playing guitar.
Three simple letters on the subsequent release Paul and implored listeners to approach the three albums as a cohesive piece, even as each of the three strove to create individual identities. I have myself always been least interested in Paul Stookey’s album, although from it came “The Wedding Song (There is Love)”, which became a favorite at hippie weddings for a while. It also opened with a okay cover of “Gabriel’s Mother’s Highway Ballad #16 Blues” by Arlo Guthrie:
Peter Yarrow is my favorite of the three. He was the trio’s firebrand, a fine songwriter (“Puff the Magic Dragon”) and married Eugene McCarthy’s neice Mary Beth in Wilmar, Minnesota. S’enough for me. Throw in Garth Hudson on organ and this is my fast favorite – In fact, nothing on the other two albums matches any of the several spooky appearances of Hudson.
But “River of Jordan” is my favorite song on the record. My favorite of the three. Why? Because it makes for one of the funniest scenes in Airplane! Sorry, sometimes that’s all it takes.
You may be wondering why my interest in multiple-releases like these. They’re never great records although they usually look kind of neat together on your shelves. I turn to those four KISS albums for guidance from time to time but I rarely listen to most of the music in today’s post. It’s a shame, though, because the grandeur of their larger-than-life releases overshadows some pretty great songs.
There was a pretty unique same-day release of three LPs here in town earlier this year and we’re going to feature those records in our next post. What am I talking about? I suppose if you haven’t heard them you’ll have to tune in tomorrow…
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