Prince: 1999 (LP) 1983

Prince
1999

Warners 23720
Produced, Arranged, Composed and Performed by Prince

Recommended ****
Released February 1983 (US & UK), reached #4 (#30 in U.K.) 

While he’d released four previous sets, this is the one that marked the beginning of his arrival.  He finally got the sound down and started to take over the world.  The Revolution had clearly began.  The four sides could have been cut down to two but even as it sits, it should be listened to as a whole.  While the entire first side has shown up on compilations, lesser-known gems such as “Lady Cab Driver” are also essential.  On that cut especially, several of his many influences can clearly be heard: Sly Stone, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, and Jimi Hendrix.  Prince’s sound certainly didn’t come out of nowhere, but he brought the influences together and made the thing his own.    

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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Johnny Nash

johnny nash

Johnny Nash
Hold Me Tight
JAD 1207
1968
Rating:**** (Recommended)

Nash is mostly known for bringing reggae to the mainland with his 1972 #1 hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” but his career went back to the 50s, and this 1968 offering played a part in bringing reggae to the States years before his #1 hit.  The title track was a transatlantic #5 on the pop charts (#21 on U.S. R&B charts).

Of course, Nash was from Texas and reggae wasn’t a category known by most Americans at this time or even when they listened to his 1972 hit, and most simply saw his records as soul.  But this set as much as any of his clearly came from Jamaica’s music traditions.  In fact, it was recorded on the island after he’d toured there.  While the Jamaica sound runs through the entire set, the songs come from a variety of sources, Sam Cooke (“Cupid”), the Rascals (“Groovin'”), Peter Tosh (“Love” and “You Got to Change Your Ways”), Jimmy Norman (“Don’t Cry”), and others–including Nash himself.  This album isn’t great, but it’s enjoyable and has several highlights.

 

Johnny Nash
Soul Folk
JAD 1006
produced by Johnny Nash and Arthur Jenkins
1969

Rating:**** (Recommended)


Like 1968’s Hold Me Tight, this was recorded in Jamaica, but while the previous album had a reggae sound running through the entire set, this one is best described by the title.  It’s a mix of soul and folk.



While the 1968 set found Nash excited about discovering the island sound, here he seems to be settling into the peaceful vibes of the island while staying completely aware of his own mainland roots.

The two-part “You Got Soul” opens and closes this set, and perhaps none of the other cuts stand up to that Nash original, but if you dig the laidback vibe of any of the other songs, you’ll likely enjoy the entire set.  It features Nash interpreating Elvis’s “Love Me Tender,” Belafonte’s “Island in the Sun,” Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind,” a solid reading of Cooke’s “Chain Gang,” as well as some traditional folk songs.  If you’re in the mood for some soulful laidback magic, put on this set and let Johnny take you to the islands.

— winch

Johnny Nash
I Can See Clearly Now
Epic 31607
arranged and produced by Johnny Nash
1972

Rating:***** (Good Shit)

After taking a break, Nash returned with this set, and with the hit title track, he became a household name.  While others played a part in bringing reggae to the States, nobody played as big of a part as this Texan, and this was the album that delivered the news from Jamaica to the masses on the mainland.

While few likely noticed, this also introduced Marley to America.  While Nash wrote the title track, this features musicians from Marley’s outfit, and includes numbers written by Bob, one co-written by Marley and Nash, and while most listeners simply saw this as soul music and wouldn’t know about reggae until a few years later, the success of this album helped pave the way for Marley’s breakthrough in the years that followed.

Fellow Houston man John “Bunny” Bundrick also contributes, offering keyboards and two songs.  Bundrick, Marley and Nash had became roommates in 1972, and Bundrick would help Marley with Catch a Fire in 1973.

While Nash recorded some ignored but solid sets before and after 1972, he never quite matched this album.  While nothing matches the title track, that number has been overplayed and this album has other stand-out cuts.  It’sa consistent set, and in contrast with many reggae albums this offers many variations of the style.  It’s essential listening for fans.

— winch

Johnny Nash
My Merry-Go-Round
Epic 32158
produced by Johnny Nash
1973

Rating:**** (Recommended)

With the title track to I Can See Clearly Nowriding high on the pop charts, Nash could have offered a copycat album, but instead he opens this follow-up with the ambitious title track, an 8+ minute swirling carnival ride complete with a children’s chorus and over-the-top arrangements, synthesizers and guitars spiraling up to a climax.  If Nash had continued with this for the entire album, it would have been too much, but fortunately, it serves as a long intro to another strong album.

Following the title track, Marley’s “Nice Time” brings the set down to earth, allowing the listener to get her bearings after stepping off the carousel.  After that, Nash gets down to some Memphis style soul with “You Better Stop (Messing Around),” Bundrick’s synthesizer making moments sound dated but not enough to interfere with the message.  After that, the side remains strong, and the flipside continues the quality, at least until the last cut gets a bit over-the-top.  While the album isn’t a copycat of the previous album, it sounds like a progression.  Again, it’s mostly a mix of originals by Nash, Marley, and Bundrick, with “Loving You” credited to M. Stevenson.

This album marked a decline in Nash’s popularity, and like the patches on Nash’s jean jacket, the swatches of synthesizer make parts of this set come across as quite dated, but it’s still another near-classic from Nash and his gang, essential listening for fans.

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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Raxola (LP) 1978

Raxola
Raxola

Phillips

Recommended ****
1978

While this Belgium outfit shows its influences from the previous year, they definitely have their own hardcore power-pop sound, blasting through the first side barely taking a breath, hitting it with “Wait for the War,” sinking into a sludgy sound at the end of the side, the sudden detour foreshadowing the quite interesting diversity of side two.
The flipside jumpstarts with “Anxious” and “Steal It” but slows down for “Who Do You Think You Are,” which is rough around the edges but pure power-pop at the center.  From there, they go from the rip of “Panic in the Sewer” to the heavy-sludge sleepwalk of “I Can Sleep,” a gothic death-rock number that bridges Sabbath and Bauhaus (the latter would form around this time).  They conclude the set with some signature punk, the diversity that preceded not only helping the whole set, but making those punk blasts at the end like fire-hydrant sprays to the face after a summer crawl through a warm sewer.
Elements of power-pop are felt in several cuts, some foreshadowing the Dickies, and the entire set foreshadows various aspects of hardcore, the no-reggae diversity of the album foreshadowing the diversity of bands like Husker Du and the Big Boys.  This might not be a great set, but it’s a good one, definitely a worthwhile listen for fans of 70s punk.
— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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http://www.eight-track.com/kalamazoo.html

Them (1965) LP

Them
Them

Parrot 1005
Released June 1965, reached #54 in U.S.

Good Shit *****
1965


In 1965, the London music scene was swelling, the Beatles at the top with four hit albums released that year; the Stones, the Animals and the DC5 also riding high; but my particular interests bring me to other places: the Who’s classic debut and the three 1965 albums by the Kinks, the improving sounds of the Yardbirds and this classic debut by this Irish outfit.
With all four outfits, the strongest songs were the originals, all borrowing heavily from American R&B but delivering something original.  This is especially true on this album.  Along with the contrasts of “Here Comes the Night” and “Gloria,” the set features lots of lesser known gems.  The album is essential.

 

(Apparently, most of the members didn’t perform on the album, and this was mostly producer Bert Berns with Van Morrison, backed with session musicians–including a young Jimmy Page.) — winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)
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