Men At Work

Contraband (1996)

These guys seemed so nice and polite that it’s a shame they weren’t better than this shows.  I don’t have the faintest idea what else to write about them.
(“Down Under”, “It’s A Mistake”)

Grade: C+

9/2/12: A poor man’s Police.  Is that so bad?  Grade: B-

Loreena McKennitt

The Visit (1992)

Lured in by “The Mummer’s Dance”, I was AGAIN disappointed in a critically respected release.  When will I learn?

Grade: D+

The Book Of Secrets (1997)

Now this is one kind of music I HOPE to enjoy.  I’d prefer not to be hooked by jazz or hardcore rap, thanks.  But a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice can up your grade in a heartbeat.  Unfortunately, she(or they) don’t write as well as they play.  At least, not consistently.
(“The Mummer’s Dance”)

Grade: B-

2010: (Did I mention she has a beautiful voice?) Grade: B

Mad Season

Above (1995)

Supergroup, huh?  Well it sure beats the hell out of Audioslave (sorry, Chris).  Also, it gives Layne Staley something productive to do after Alice In Chains.  Too bad he eventually chose drugs over music.  I don’t grieve rock star deaths any more than I grieve the death of any other stranger to me, but I do grieve the loss of talent and music in his case.
(“Long Gone Day”)

Grade: B-

Linkin Park

Hybrid Theory (2000)

Like many perfectly reasonable and intelligent people, I happen to get a fair amount of enjoyment out of this album.  I don’t care how you characterize their sound or their influences, what we have here is some catchy hard rock/pop.  And when I say some, it’s with a bit of disappointment.  I was looking forward to more after the first five tracks, but the quality definitely dips a bit.  Some good songs here, though, and definitely worth a listen.
(“One Step Closer”)

Grade: B-

Live

Throwing Copper (1994)

The problem here is too many flippin’ songs that are marginal filler, as is often the case.  Listen, all you album-stuffers out there- write GOOD songs and ONLY good songs, and release an album when you have enough of them.  I don’t care about your bottom line once you’ve sold a million copies.  Cut out the cr@p, stop milking a used up album for more singles, and get your mediocre noise out of my ears.  The few worthwhile ones here shouldn’t be surrounded by mediocrity.
(“Lightning Crashes”)

Grade: C+

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin (1969)

Their initial release leans heavily on blues influences and shows very little of the mixture of melodicism and hard rock that would develop soon.  The lyrics can be horrible (this applies to most Zeppelin albums, actually) at times, but the music does the talking when it has to. “Dazed And Confused” is the perfect example of this.  Just based on this, there’s no way I’d think this group would go onto anything more than blues remakes and bluesy, stoopid semi-originals.  I’m glad I was wrong.
(“Dazed And Confused”)

Grade: B-

2010: (Really GOOD blues remakes and bluesy, stoopid semi-originals) Grade: B+

2012: Yeah, it’s really good.  But it’s not great.  Not with lyrics that make Black Francis look good. Grade: B+

Led Zeppelin II (1969)

More blooze, stupid lyrics, and blatant sexual references from the boys.  All three of these things are able to be overlooked when the band is rocking the way it can.  Here, that’s limited to just a few songs.  Their second worst studio album, after the posthumous ‘Coda’.
(“Whole Lotta Love”)

Grade: C+

2010: (Testosterone poisoning…I mean, how STUPID can you get?) Grade: C-

2012: Ehhhh…testosterone doesn’t poison the riffs, and there are riffs.  Some.  Grade: C

Led Zeppelin III (1970)

A switch from overkill hard rock/blues, this album contains mostly ballads.  It shows promise in points – the Page and Plant synchronization of guitar and vocal on “That’s The Way”, the “Stairway To Heaven” prequel “Tangerine”, etc… I don’t think anyone had any idea what was to follow after this.
(“That’s The Way”, “Immigrant Song”)

Grade: B

2010: (Upped a notch for radical transformation, and meaning well) Grade: B+

2012: It’s actually very good because it’s very good.  They drop the overkill of I and II and add melody and harmony in believable (and more importantly, listenable) ways.  Grade: B+

Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

Their generally acknowledged masterpiece, and who am I to argue with songs like “Stairway To Heaven”, “When The Levee Breaks”, and others.  Plant manages to write some interesting lyrics for once on this album.  Some of them I don’t fully understand, but at least they’re not obviously and embarassingly stupid.  The whole band contributes to make this a seriously great album/undeniable classic.
(“Stairway To Heaven”, “Black Dog”, “Misty Mountain Hop”)

Grade: A

2010: (Transcendent) Grade: A+

2012: They get by with a little help from their Spirit.  Grade: A+

Houses Of The Holy (1973)

A great follow-up to IV, this album shows no signs of Zep letting up in their current formula (that is, light and shade mixed together for a wonderful end result).  I’ve become a little bit sick of some of these songs after playing them repeatedly, and I wonder (as I always do) if the music is dated and not as good as originally thought, OR if I just got sick of it for a time.  With this album I think it’s mostly the second option.
(“Over The Hills And Far Away”, “No Quarter”)

Grade: A-

2012: Only “The Crunge” makes me cringe.  Grade: A

Physical Graffiti (1975)

A double album that, for a change, doesn’t make me wish they’d chopped it down into a single one.  There’s a little bit of filler here, sure.  And the best songs aren’t exactly what you would call “classic” (“Kashmir” excluded).  But there’s a whole lot of good-to-very-good stuff here.  Disc one I could truly call great.  Disc two gives a slight feeling of Deja Vu (“Sick Again”, try to find its near-twin) and isn’t so great.  But it’s interesting and at least fairly good.  An album worth listening to all the way through.
(“Kashmir”, “The Wanton Song”, “Trampled Under Foot”)

Grade: A-

2010: (Pride before the fall) Grade: A

Presence (1976)

The worst Zeppelin album (yes, including ‘Coda’) of them all if all you’re looking for is the killer track.  If good, solid music is what you’re after (or at least, willing to accept) then it’s not a bad selection.  I listen to it…occasionally.
(“For Your Life”)

Grade: B

2012: It’s only got two good songs on it.  And they’re not all THAT good.  “Achilles Last Stand” is an interesting but failed attempt at “Stairway, part 3” or “Kashmir, part 2”.  And the fact that every song is at least ok shouldn’t be regarded as a monumental achievement.  Grade: B-

In Through The Out Door (1979)

“In The Evening” was quite enough to sell me on this album for a long time.  Jimmy Page’s repeated hooky riff and Robert Plant’s perfectly synchronized vocal response are upstaged only by the mid-song solo, one of Page’s best ever.  One of ANYONE’s best ever.  Unfortunately, after that song the album is a bit of a let-down.  They always did like light and shade, but here the shadiness fades quickly, and what is left behind is a great hard rock band either running out of hard music or switching to synth-pop.  Neither of those options do all that much for their legacy.  “All My Love” is a fine song, but it just somehow doesn’t seem quite right for Led Zep.  Calling it quits here seems now to have been a good idea, John Bonham or no John Bonham.
(“In The Evening”)

Grade: B-

2010: (“In The Evening” is really really really good) Grade: B

10/3/16: Ok, take away one really. Grade B-

Coda (1982)

When I first started listening to this album, I was not surprised that the tracks weren’t particularly good.  After all, they’re admittedly scraping the bottom of the barrel with songs that weren’t good enough for previous release.  I fail to see how John Bonham’s death makes them worthy of release now, excepting the possible tribute to him, “Bonzo’s Montreux”, which fails to produce much excitement.  The only track that kept me wavering on trashing this album was “Wearing and Tearing”:  A nice, fast, riff-heavy, meaningless song.  Then I realized I wasn’t giving a couple of other songs their due, mainly “I Can’t Quit You Baby”.  It’s still the worst studio album
they’ve ever released, but as is always the case with Led Zep, even their failures have bright spots.
(“Wearing And Tearing”)

Grade: C

2012: Update: Still their worst.  Grade: C-

Limp Bizkit

Three Dollar Bill, Y’All (1997)

I expected to dislike this, hearing it as I did after ‘Significant Other’.  To the hardcore fans this is LB’s shining moment, before the great sellout of 1999.  But you know what?  It doesn’t sound all that different.  It’s just not as good.  The problem isn’t street credibility or putting the music before the money.  The problem is that when they tried to write hits this time, they bombed.  So they tried again and somehow pulled hit singles out of their a$$es.  So you could say this is a demonstration of how they sound without any truly powerful song to lean on.

Grade: C+

Significant Other (1999)

I knew about “Nookie” and “Break Stuff”, of course, the same as anyone else listening to rock radio at this time.  But I never bought the album, so I never listened to the rest.  Turns out they had a coupla other hits that I forgot about.  Worthy hits, at that.  And even a few album tracks that demanded my attention even if they weren’t single material.  They crammed a lot of good stuff on here…which may or may not bode well for their next album.  But I’ll take this, right here right now, for what it is.  Message?  Get it while it’s hot.
(“Break Stuff”, “N 2 Gether Now”)

Grade: B+

2010: (In retrospect, everything after this really sucked, huh?) Grade: A-

Korn

Follow The Leader (1998)

While I had never considered the possibility before, having never seen the disturbing cover art of their albums and the possible insinuated (or obvious, you pick) illegality (or at least immorality) of their name, I think my policy of assuming the best is put to work here.  I’m not just speaking from a personal revelation…I’m speaking based on reactions and opinions given by people whose judgement I admire and find wise.  I’ll ignore the fact that Jonathan Davis and company seem quite interested in children(Davis was abused as a child, yes, I know) and pretend their name doesn’t threaten to signify/promote Kiddie porn.  Rating them just on musical value, I can with relief say that they’re not very good at all, and will hopefully be burning out sometime soon.

Grade: D+

King Crimson

Red (1974)

The instrumental lead-off, “Red”, gave me some hope that perhaps this purchase, guided by glowing album reviews was FINALLY going to be the one that paid off for me.  The rest, however, is alternately boring and annoying.  Never again.  And this time, I MEAN it.

Grade: D

KMFDM

Retro (1998)

Even the best songs here are so poor lyrically that they’re very difficult to listen to, especially with another human being around who wouldn’t hesitate to inquire “What the Hell is this sh1t???”.  If you want good industrial, go pick up some Ministry.

Grade: D

Billy Joel

Greatest Hits Volume 1 & Volume 2 (1985)

I harbor a perhaps-unfair distaste and bordering-on-technicolor-yawning instinctive reaction for/to most of Joel’s catalog.  Let me clarify…the albums themselves don’t bother me so much, from what I’ve heard of his catalog(Yes, I have heard all the songs here.  I would never blindly slam an artist based on incomplete data, no matter how much I KNEW they deserved it).  What bothers me mostly are his earliest hits and semi-hits: the bathetic, pathetic, sickeningly maudlin and/or pompous things that he calls “songs”.  I never liked Harry Chapin, and I don’t like Mini-Harry that much either.  Admittedly, Joel isn’t nearly as bad as Chapin.  Why?  Because he graduated from pathetic and annoying to hooky and annoying.  Nevertheless, even the Joel songs I LIKE still stir up a bit of bile in my system.  While I do not deny the man’s “talent” at what he does, I simply don’t like it.  I know many intelligent people that do (to various degrees).  If you liked “Piano Man” or (Blech!) “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”, you’ll love this hunk of pure pop melodrama.  If you only like “Captain Jack” because it has a killer voice/music hook, join the club.
(“Captain Jack”, “Big Shot”)

Grade: C

2010: (What the Hell was I thinking?) Grade: A

Kid Rock

Devil Without A Cause (1998)

There’s something unshakably annoying about the Bull God.  Even when enclosed in a good song, I wish I could change the vocalist.  Maybe this is just an overreaction to repeated playings of “Cowboy” on the radio.  But it makes me hypersensitive to his failures.  In conclusion, this album is mildly entertaining if you can take the Kid as the joke he is.
(“Bawitdaba”)

Grade: B-

Jewel

Jupiter(Swallow The Moon) (1999)

I bought this for “Emily”, which I found softly mournful and emotional at the time, and still do.  The rest is inconsequential.
(“Emily”)

Grade: C+

Jefferson Airplane

The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane (1997)

There’s nothing worthwhile here except for Grace Slick’s two (VERY) early triumphs.  The rest is garbage or throwaway that makes me seriously wonder how they held onto an audience since the 60’s.  This is a sad overview of another band that simply refuses to lay down and die.
(“White Rabbit”)

Grade: D

Jethro Tull

Original Masters (1985)

Another best-of that isn’t.  It could have been better, but the first-half selections put it over the top and silence me for a while.  The rest is listenable.
(“Aqualung”, “Bungle In The Jungle”)

Grade: B

The Best Of Jethro Tull (1993)

Not ALL the best, but there are plenty of interesting songs here.  I happen to like their sound, so even the not-so-great songs don’t annoy me as much as they otherwise might.
(“Teacher”, “Aqualung”)

Grade: B

INXS

Kick (1987)

Their major breakthrough to (temporary)(super?) stardom has just enough on it to linger on the album charts for a fair amount of time.  If only I could switch track eight and track one, I’d be content with it for a five-song fix.
(“Never Tear Us Apart”, “New Sensation”)

Grade: B-

The Greatest Hits (1994)

Well, it gets all the hits, as least as far as I know(or care).  They don’t sound bad today, either.  But since their quality output was always outnumbered by their quantity output, this is a bit spotty.  This band doesn’t really have much worthwhile filler on their albums that I know of.  If you want to own something by them, buy this and take my word for it- you’re not missing much.
(“What You Need”, “Never Tear Us Apart”)

Grade: B+

Jane’s Addiction

Nothing’s Shocking (1988)

Some critics deplore this band as over-hyped and vastly overrated.  Others think they’re an amazing, influential, “important” band.  Me, I don’t see what the big deal is.  Perry Farrell likes to do many things and puts his unearned fame to good use.  So bravo for using influence for good, and not eeeee-vil.  Now start making music to match your myth.
(“Mountain Song”)

Grade: C

Heart

Dreamboat Annie (1976)

The debut by the Wilson sisters(Ann and Nancy) and their fellow bandmates/boyfriends is not underrated, nor is it overrated.  Robert Christgau, whose opinions I respect a great deal, said basically that it was a moderately interesting piece of work, but nothing special.  I haven’t found a single non-diehard-fan that calls it anything near a classic.  I’m going with Rob on this one…after “Crazy On You” and the full version of “Magic Man”, there isn’t much left.
(“Crazy On You”)

Grade: C

2010: (Atmospheric mysticism…my heart was broken when I read a review referring to “Tugboat Annie”) Grade: B-

8/8/12: “Alright…we’ll call it a draw” Grade: C+

Little Queen (1977)

From the fanciful if slightly laughable costumes the men were forced to wear on the cover, to the striking/alluring poses made by Ann Wilson on said cover, you can tell the sisters put a lot of work into trying to create something mystical and beautiful.  Unfortunately it drags considerably after a great opening salvo that shows you both soft and hard.  Some of the rest is derivative, some of it is pitiful, but “Little Queen” salvages the second side from complete irrelevance.  Barely.
(“Barracuda”, “Love Alive”)

Grade: B-

2010: (Giving Ren Faires a good name) Grade: B

8/8/12: “Dream of the Archer” and “Barracuda” rip “The Battle of Evermore” and “Immigrant Song”, respectively.  But who cares?  Every Zep song was a rip.  The thing is, Zep made their rips BETTER than the originals, and while Barracuda > Immigrant, Dream is redundant.  “Love Alive” and “Little Queen” are the other two songs of any discernible interest whatsoever.  Grade: B-

Dog & Butterfly (1978)

The mammoth hooks AND gracious melodies on “Mistral Wind” blew me away for years, and are deserving of praise.  The rest is mostly filler, served hard AND soft, just the way it always is.
(“Mistral Wind”)

Grade: C+

Magazine (1978)

Before I savage this release, let me explain that this is not a regular Heart album release.  It is in fact Heart’s old label releasing some substandard Heart material to cash in on their success.  So it’s not Heart’s fault if most of it sucks, and it does.  A couple of interesting songs start and finish the album, and in the middle it’s pure tedium.

Grade: D

Bebe Le Strange (1980)

Here’s where they start to turn from an incredibly inconsistent but occasionally very interesting group into a sad and slightly Spinal Tap-ish joke.  Sure, it’s mostly hard and the music isn’t half bad, but even on the best songs you wish someone would put a muzzle on both Ann and Nancy to prevent the rather embarassing lyrics from ever being sung.  This shows once again how many potentially good songs are ruined once they’re actually given WORDS.
(“Rockin Heaven Down”)

Grade: C

2010: (Riffs Never Sleep) Grade: C+

Greatest Hits (1980)

It’s sad when a great song is left off a supposed best-of.  It’s even more painful when you hear the doo-doo that took it’s rightful place.  Mostly they got it right, though…the “hits” portion is quality.  The live portion, on the other hand, is tedious and frustrating, showcasing some poor-to-wretched covers, which is punishment enough.  Then they somehow take most of the life out of their best song ever.  The sad fact is, this probably only charted well because of a cover of “Tell It Like It Is”.  Bleh.  Yes, I joined the Heart fan club when I was an impressionable (and horny) teen.  But I’m much better now.
(“Crazy On You”)

Grade: B+

Private Audition (1982)

Horrible.  Without their former lead guitarist, Roger Fisher, the sisters have noone who can write quality music, even at an inconsistent rate.  Thus we are left to ponder Annie’s vocals and discover the hidden treasures lying therein.  Right.

Grade: F

Passionworks (1983)

Following the absolute commercial and artistic disaster called ‘Private Audition’, they ditch the artistic integrity idea and start screaming for outside songwriters to bail them out.  Unfortunately, they don’t arrive until after this one flops, big time.  The finished product CAN, I repeat CAN be played without a wince or a hearty belly-laugh.  If you want something so bad it will make you question the existence of a higher power, try ‘Private Audition’.  If you want something good, buy ‘Greatest Hits’.

Grade: D+

Heart (1985)

I don’t see why I’m even bothering to review this as a Heart album.  The four hits(and four best songs, what a surprise) were all either written or co-written with a song doctor.  So sure it charted high, stayed there, and sold millions of copies.  It’s designed to do exactly that.  They even let it be self-titled so young impressionable fans wouldn’t accidentally discover their back catalog and instead would buy the new Heart version 2.0 (a bit Spinal Tap-ish, no?).  The Heart originals get an F, and the Heart fakes get an A.  The A is stronger, I think, and it balances out well for their commercial future, if not their artistic one.
(“Never”, “These Dreams”)

Grade: B+

8/8/12: Blech…only two songs (see above) have aged tolerably.  The rest is bad female Nelson.  Grade: C-

Bad Animals (1987)

One album after being saved by outside songwriting, they start to tank it again, even WITH outside help.  This is becoming very sad.  And very annoying.  The ratio isn’t as good here, and once again all the Wilson-penned songs are pretty much garbage.
(“Alone”, “Who Will You Run To”)

Grade: B-

8/8/12: Two songs, a “rocker” and a “ballad”, that aren’t as good as last time.  Blech!  Grade: D+

Brigade (1990)

Scratching and clawing to survive, this band is plummeting in a free-fall…again.  And that is even WITH a heavy prescription of song doctors.  Dated, sad, not as embarassing as Private Audition, but much too close.  This is a band that doesn’t know when to quit.  Think Monty Python and the Black Knight.  Can the sisters Wilson pull themselves out of the grave again?  I certainly hope not.  To end, a piece of advice for Ann: if you’re going to sing blatantly about sex and use it to sell your albums, you shouldn’t be afraid to actually appear in full view for your audience to see during the music videos.

Grade: D

8/8/12: Well…”Stranded” is almost as good as “Alone”.  Grade: D-

The Essential Heart (2002)

Disc 1 mostly gets it right from when they wrote their own songs.
Disc 2 mostly gets it right from when they didn’t.
Which is better?  Depends on your taste.  Get both, enjoy one(Or both, if you’re a really big fan).

Grade: A-

8/8/12: See Rush: Chronicles review, replace “one” with “two”  Grade: B

Steve Howe

Turbulence (1991)

Howe was the lead guitarist for Yes for their two best albums, ‘The Yes Album’ and ‘Fragile’.  Why were those Yes’s two best albums?  Because of Steve Howe.  For a two year span he was a guitar God, and when I look only at that period of his career I am quite a fan.  But he seemed to lose his spark after that, for whatever reason.  This album is a collection of instrumentals.  He seems to ramble on too long, and his riffs and playing are generic in the extreme compared to good Yes and talented instrumentalists.  There are a few moments where you can nod your head gently in rhythm to an interesting passage or two, but overall this is for rabid Howe fans only.

Grade: D

Guns N Roses

Appetite For Destruction (1987)

Bridging the gap almost single-handedly between mid 80’s synth/pop and late 80’s hair bands, this album is quite an achievement.  Not that it’s all so great…it has weak tracks.  But this was recorded at a time when UK pop bands were dying here and hair-band “metal” was being concocted in some evil underground lair to punish human beings for allowing Duran Duran to stick around for as long as they did.  They couldn’t very well separate Guns N Roses from the hair bands (after all, they did use quite a bit of makeup at first), but they could yell and scream about how GNR was the best.  All the pop “metal” bands paid homage, and rightly so.  This blows their sh1t right out of the water, Def Leppard excluded.  So here we have it, an important and influential album that proved to be their one stab at greatness.  It’s aged well…no wincing necessary.  I still enjoy it.  It’s worth a try, at least, don’t you think?
(“My Michelle”, “Rocket Queen”, “Welcome To The Jungle”)

Grade: A-

2010: (Upped a notch for hating Winger) Grade: A

Green River

Dry As A Bone/Rehab Doll (1990)

Well now.  Here’s some proof that not all grunge came with vocal hooks, musical hooks, good vocals, etc.  Bought in excitement to hear how Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament helped create the sound that brought us Pearl Jam, among others, I’ve played the thing several times.  I’m always looking for the even minor good riffs I know HAVE to be in here somewhere amidst the muck.  Unfortunately, it’s just muck.

Grade: D-

2012: This is a failure.  Nothing else to say, really, as there’s nothing of interest.  Grade: F

Great White

The Best Of Great White 1986-1992 (1993)

Before looking at the song list I was sure this would be at least another mildly entertaining best-of from a rather minor group.  Two out of ten is not entertaining enough though, especially when you claim to cover seven years of music.  Some hair bands produced interesting material before bowing to Nirvana/grunge and exiting stage right.  This album shows why Nirvana was so badly needed.  
(“House of Broken Love”)

Grade: C

Green Day

Dookie (1994)

The music here is solid, carrying them over the hump on several songs that combine interesting/fun lyrics and rocking music.  Elsewhere the attitude is still there but the material stretches a bit thin.
(“Longview”, “When I Come Around”)

Grade: B

Insomniac (1995)

A bit of a letdown after ‘Dookie’, this album boasts my favorite Green Day song in terms of both music and lyrics in “Walking Contradiction”.  Downright tedious in some places, at least the bad songs aren’t any longer than the keepers.  I just wish the keepers were more worth keeping.
(“Walking Contradiction”)

Grade: B-

2010: (More consistent than I thought.  Like oatmeal.) Grade: B

4/13/16: Hey, that was pretty good.  And you can rid your worries with it.

Nimrod (1997)

Continuing the falloff after ‘Dookie’, it makes one almost think that ‘Dookie’ was a fluke- that these guys really ARE just a mediocre punk/pop ripoff.  None of the songs here could stand next to their best so far.  “Good Riddance (time of your life)” may be a reaching out to the pure pop world, and it worked, but where do they go from here? Their forte is power pop/punk, and here’s hoping they return to it in style before it’s too late and “Good Riddance” becomes more than a bit ironic.

Grade: C

International Superhits! (2001)

I didn’t have much of an urge to get their last studio album, ‘Warning’, after the decline from ‘Dookie’ to ‘Nimrod’.  But I was presented with a chance to listen to this, their (and I quote) “International Superhits!”, and I couldn’t say no.  I was mildly surprised that until the very end, there wasn’t a SINGLE bad or even mediocre song on the darn thing. 1-17 out of 21 were all listenable and, at least to an extent, enjoyable…some more than others of course, but who am I to quibble with 17 decent songs on one album??  Number 19 isn’t bad, either.  Yikes…I don’t know how they did it, but this looks like a great album.  Talk about making the most out of your talent and your past successes.  ‘Dookie’, their best album IMHO, is a B.  This, culled from ‘Dookie’ and each of their other albums (and a soundtrack), is A- range.  Finally, a Greatest Hits album that really IS all the hits, and all the music by the group that you’ll probably ever need.
(“Longview”, “Brain Stew/Jaded”, “Walking Contradiction”)

Grade: A

Ruff!