My favorite songs in the world Part VIIICMIV...
My always late to the party brother, myself, and our friend Dr. Palmer have been enjoying an off-line discussion regarding the relative merits of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My brother had offered up a few acts for nominations that we’ve sort of batted around and inevitably the subject of UFO comes up. This is a topic that has been pretty well covered here and at Savage Distortion and there is really nothing I can add that I haven’t already stated, but in our discussion we did revisit the idea of the hall doing something along the lines of legacy preservation of works by influential musicians and bands that, while not commercially successful, left indelible marks on future players and the art form itself. I still think this a worthwhile endeavor that the gate keepers of the RRHOF ought to give serious consideration to.
On the way home last night I got to thinking about other charters the hall might be able to take on that might raise some much needed legitimacy to the institution and thought that a great sub-set/display/category might be featuring albums and acts that were/are considered ahead of their time. I can think of many as I’m sure anyone can, but since I’ve been listening to a lot of hard rock lately, two come to mind right away: Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” originally released in 1975, and Ronnie Montrose's self titled debut originally released in 1972.
We listened to these records non-stop in the late seventies and early eighties without really knowing that they were already more than six years old at the time (at least I didn’t know). Since they sounded so different from the other hard rock records we were listening to then most of which were recorded in the 60’s, I assumed they were contemporary. Listening to them today they both sound like solidly mid eighties recordings at the earliest.
"Hair of the Dog" is almost as perfectly recorded an album as you can get even by today’s standards; meaty, clear, tone filled guitars that contemporary engineers and producers STILL struggle to capture. Drums that sit in the mix loud and proud, without the use of heavy reverb plates muddying up the bottom end washing out the bass guitar. But the real feature that pulls it all together is producer/guitar player Manny Charlton’s treatment of Dan McCafferty’s vocals. The result is indescribably great. You just have to listen to it to understand it’s brilliance. Jackson delivers a great retrospect on Nazareth here which includes some great detail on "Hair of the Dog" and beyond.
"Montrose" is another one that if you weren’t familiar with it, you’d think it had been recorded in 1982 vs. 1972. Gun slinger Ronnie Montrose was cutting a swath through the hard rock world of the fading 60's with his aggressive style when he put his band together with a young and previously unknown former boxer and singer Sammy Hagar (that’s right, the same one who played a role in ruining Van Halen in the 80’s). Ted Templemen produced this record and it shows that it was only a matter of time before his sound would become the bar which all rock records would be measured, especially when heavy metal broke out of its niche in the early 80’s. Some proclaim that Ted never did anything more than unlock the studio door when working with his acts, but if you listen to this Montrose album and any of the Van Halen records he produced a decade later, or any of his other efforts for that matter, it’s pretty clear that the guy played a major role at the console shaping the sound. While the songs aren’t as strong as Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog”, sonically this Montrose record is simply amazing. Again, the guitars are thick and juicy and have their own space, but don’t dominate the mix so much as to detract from the rest of the performance. Templemen also introduces the world to “Big Drums” which would become par for the course during the hair metal heydays that followed a decade later. Back then, they were new and very cool as they blasted beats out of boomboxes planted at skateboard half pipes across the country.
I’ve loaded up three tracks off of each for your listening pleasure. From the Nazareth record I give you “Miss Misery” which features those guitars as I describe them. Also, listen to the vocal in the last verse and just try to convince yourself that it isn’t one of the high water marks of hard rock…
Can't think how I got myself
Caught up in this nightmare
Evil schemes, midnight screams
Come on somebody listen to my prayer
I'd give all I've got to give
Just to find my way out
Got it going but I can't let go
I'm trapped on this crazy 'round about
Tryin' to break the spell you hold on me
(ed note: K-Fed was heard singing this verse repetitively as he picked up a 20 pack of Pampers at the 7-11 last week)
Man, I’d sell my soul to replicate that vocal.
Jackson’s fav “Begger’s Day” is there, as is “Changin’ Times”. If you can’t dig these three gems, you simply hate rock.
From ‘Montrose” I’ve got “Make it Last” (a set list number from my high school band days), Bad Motor Scooter” and “Rock the Nation” all very tasty tracks indeed. Hit the Bandongo player, let’er rip, and as always, tell me what you think.