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Christmas Music - Released November 29, 2019 | Rhino

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Pop - Released February 8, 2019 | Rhino

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Rock - Released February 1, 2019 | Rhino

Manhole was the last of the experimental Jefferson Airplane, and Grace Slick's first official solo album. While Bark and Long John Silver, the final stages of the original Airplane, displayed the excessive psychedelic nature of the musicians within the confines of their group format, Blows Against the Empire, Sunfighter, and Baron Von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun allowed for total artistic expression. Manhole concluded this phase with 1974's other release, the Jefferson Starship's Dragonfly. By taking the name from Paul Kantner's Blows Against the Empire solo project, Dragonfly began the renewed focus on commercial FM which would turn into Top 40 airplay. Manhole is the antithesis of that aim, but is itself a striking picture of Grace Slick as the debutante turned hippy being as musically radical as possible. To the kids who think she's the cool singer on the mechanical Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, Manhole is an alien concoction, but it works on many levels as great head music. The title track itself is almost 15-and-a-half minutes of orchestrated underground rock with Craig Chaquico on lead guitar; Jack Casady on bass, along with Ron Carter; voices from David Crosby, David Freiberg, Slick and Paul Kantner; mandolin by Peter Kaukonen; and a 42-piece orchestra (51, if you include the fragments of the Airplane/Starship onboard). It's fun stuff, but looking back one wonders how they maintained a distribution deal for Grunt records with R.C.A., the material being so far from commercial. The title track has a left-hand piano part which "was stolen from an improvisation by Ivan Wing," Slick's father, and the epic is rife with Spanish/English by the singer, translated in the booklet with Slick's "phonetic Spanish spelling." Again, this is total underground excess, but it is actually more than listenable than it looks on paper, and for fans, it has the serious/eccentric nature of this woman who emerged as a big, big star due to her quirky personality having the talent to back it up. Attacks on the government and Clive Davis in the elaborate booklet only prove all involved were not out to make friends, but songs like "Come Again? Toucan" are compelling and intriguing, more so than some of what would constitute 1981's Welcome to the Wrecking Ball, which contained more elements of guitarist Scott Zito than the star. On Manhole, the music is wonderfully dense, macabre, exhilarating, and totally out there. This is a great portion of music from the lead singer of one of America's great music groups. Maybe David Freiberg's "It's Only Music" deserved to be on an Airplane project or solo LP of his own, but it sounds great and works. "Better Lying Down" is Grace Slick and Pete Sears re-writing Janis Joplin's "Turtle Blues," a nice change of pace from the heavy instrumental backing of the other tracks. Slick is in great voice, and reflecting on the album years after it was recorded, the conclusion is that Manhole has much to offer fans. Compare this to Deep Space -- recorded live at the Hollywood House of Blues in the 1990s to see the difference between capturing the time and trying to recapture the magic. Despite the eye toward success and the more serious nature of that later project, it just doesn't have the charm of this artifact from the glory days. It's also a far cry from the 1980s, when Slick returned with three more solo outings: Dreams, Welcome to the Wrecking Ball, and Software, projects which differ vastly from Manhole. The hard rock of Wrecking Ball and the synths and post-Kantner Starship feel of producer Peter Wolf's collaborations on Software show a woman dabbling with other rock formats. Put those three discs in a boxed set with Manhole, and you have true culture shock from a major counterculture figure. Manhole is orchestrated psychedelia at its finest with the voice from "White Rabbit" stretching that concept across two sides. ~ Joe Viglione
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Ambient/New Age - Released November 16, 2018 | Rhino

Pop - Released September 7, 1998 | Rhino

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Three years after his 1995 solo debut achieved a surprisingly impressive showing in the British pop charts, an apparently emboldened Suggs returned with a far more ambitious sophomore effort. In sharp contrast to the underproduced demo feel of the first record, The Three Pyramids Club is lavishly overproduced, bubbling over with brass-band bluster, hip-hop beats, dizzy turntable scratching, and nutty samples. Whereas The Lone Ranger insert didn't credit a single musician, the follow-up finds the former Madness frontman backed by ten singers and 21 musicians playing 35 instruments ranging from trombone, banjo, and vibes to Theremin, shawm, and dumbek. Multi-talented producer Steve Lironi (Hanson, Black Grape) handles no fewer than 12 of those instruments, and also co-wrote most of the songs with Suggs, taking Madness chum Mike Barson's place as chief collaborator. The result is buoyantly energetic ska-pop. Early One Step Beyond-era Madness is an obvious influence, but there are also echoes of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Third Eye Blind, Robyn Hitchcock, and Oasis. It is, to be sure, a much younger sound, aimed at the largely teenaged Top 40 crowd. Lironi puts his Hanson experience to use by finding a 14-year-old boy in one of the elder statesmen of Brit-pop. On "So Tired," Suggs, seems to acknowledge his advance in years ("When I was younger I didn't need no one/Those days are long gone/But now I'm so tired"), all the while supported by inflated rock & roll power chords that make the song thoroughly marketable to teenybopper radio. The energy of the album helps to compensate for its lack of maturity, but can't quite ameliorate Suggs' regrettable predilection for cheesy female background singers and the eye-rolling stupidity of lyrics like "oh, girl, you got me in a whirl." It is a relentlessly bouncy record, lacking the balance that ballads like "Green Eyes" afforded The Lone Ranger, but it is also more consistent than the debut, and is not without variety; witness the '30s jazz-band oompah of "Our Man," the Egyptian strings of the title track, and the guest appearance by reggae rapper General Levy on "Girl." A must-have for Madness collectors, The Three Pyramids Club should also appeal to the new generation of ska fans. ~ Evan Cater
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Pop - Released April 14, 2017 | Rhino

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Pop - Released May 13, 2016 | Rhino

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Pop - Released April 15, 2016 | Rhino

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Rock - Released September 18, 2015 | Rhino

Arguably the most musical album by Tommy James, a stellar cast of musicians who performed with Elvis Presley, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, and other giants back up Tommy James around the time of his solo hit "Draggin' the Line. Along with co-producer and co-songwriter Bob King, his partner with the successful "Tighter, Tighter" a year earlier for Alive 'N Kickin', James puts together 13 sides that range from the psychedelic pop he is known for to straight-out country. Reinventing John Fogerty's "Born on the Bayou" riff which also served as Lou Reed's foundation for his classic "Sister Ray, the timeless changes emerge as "Dark Is the Night" here. When Buddy Spicher's fiddle comes in, it is far removed from the Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts," where all these gents "borrowed" the chord progression. Perhaps this novel and monumental album would have fared better on Fantasy Records, where TJ would find himself just five years later. It's as fascinating hearing Pete Drake, Linda Hargrove, Pig Robbins, and other legends doing "Kingston Highway," which could be a sequel to Tommy James & the Shondells brilliant "Ball of Fire" as it is to hear James performing in their territory on "Walk a Country Mile," "Fortunada," and "I Used to Love a Woman. James even covers Linda Hargrove's "Rosalee," the genres go back and forth, but there's no denying it flows seamlessly. "Who's Gonna Cry" is pure Shondells, with the singer throwing in little touches of B.J. Thomas via Hank Williams, the backing vocals' total pop and the country twang sneaking in to create an interesting hybrid of successful sounds. "Who's Gonna Cry" is more commercial than "Draggin' the Line," but this package might have been too much for radio programmers, along with the unfair typecasting this artist faced at this point in time. Many fans of Tommy James' Top 40 hits passed this one by in the cut-out bins, never realizing what genius is poured all over these tracks. Joey Dee and Ritchie Cordell co-wrote "Paper Flowers" with Tommy James, and again, it is the sound we grew up with on the radio, effects from the Crimson & Clover album add some spice to the pedal steel. The album is impeccably engineered by Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore who doesn't pick up his axe for this outing -- but boy does everything sound so fine. There are heavy gospel influences throughout, starting with the first track, "Nothing to Hide," and continuing throughout the disc. Now this would have been an adventurous hit record -- that authentic Presley sound merging with the Shondells and a chorus that comes in from heaven itself. As "Hanky Panky" hit years after it was recorded by the teenager who became a pop star, wouldn't it be amazing for people who care about great music to rediscover this important work? Someone ought to put "Nothing to Hide" in a major motion picture and bring this album to life. Bob King and James do a credible job of writing country with their "Tell 'Em Willie Boys a 'Comin'," two-minutes-and-forty-seven seconds of Tommy James having fun in the recording studio, fun that you can feel, making this album a real find. ~ Joe Viglione
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R&B - Released August 23, 2013 | Rhino

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Pop - Released August 6, 2013 | Rhino

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Pop - Released May 14, 2013 | Rhino

Bruce Staple had the honor of engineering both Tommy James and ex-members of the Shondells for their respective Roulette solo projects (except for James' brilliant My Head, My Bed and My Red Guitar, which featured the work of Nashville's Scotty Moore). All of the solo albums by Tommy James show a sparkle and understanding of the magic that makes for great pop recordings; it is absolutely a shame he did not rival Elton John for supremacy of the charts in the '70s. "Bits and Pieces" has a riff taken straight out of Phil Spector's Crystals songbook ("Then He Kissed Me," if you must know), while "I Believe in People" is everything Motown was searching for in the '70s when they signed the Four Seasons and Lesley Gore. There is a smoothness and continuity to all of Tommy James' work, both with the Shondells and on his own. Ritchie Cordell, who almost single-handedly wrote the entire I Think We're Alone Now album, co-writes "Church St. Soul Revival" with Tommy James; it is the only one of the 13 titles not co-written with Bob King and it is absolutely brilliant. So is "Another Hill to Climb," but on another level. On the Cordell co-write, the Stephentown Singers are pure gospel, the definite sequel to "I'm Comin' Home," while the choir gives this Bob King co-write that powerful pop Melanie Safka utilized on her smash "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)." The lyrics are overpowering; much of the sentiment is the antithesis of the psychedelic "Draggin' the Line." "Adrienne" almost seems like an ode to Tommy Roe, his "Sweet Pea" all grown up. The genius of Tommy James is that along with his perfect radio voice and ability to construct and deliver hits, he knows how to nick riffs right and left and reformulate them to suit his compact pop essays. Christian of the World is another top-notch Tommy James album; despite the two final Top 40 hits he received until he switched labels, it has not received the critical acclaim it deserves. It's extraordinary, from the opening track to "Silk Satin, Carriage Waiting." Again, Tommy James should have been battling Elton John throughout the '70s the way the Beatles and the Rolling Stones went back and forth on the charts. The world is a lesser place because these recordings did not get the additional airplay they so richly deserved. Christian of the World is a very strong argument for a four-CD Tommy James boxed set. ~ Joe Viglione
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Pop - Released January 11, 2013 | Rhino

Trumpeted in some circles as a New Order rarities collection, Lost Sirens doesn't really fit the bill as such, but it does offer a wealth of bonus tracks from circa 2005 -- call it the second disc of the deluxe edition that was never released for Waiting for the Sirens' Call. Their eighth album, it eventually appeared to be the band's swan song, given Peter Hook's eventual estrangement from the rest of the original lineup. Compared to that album's half-hearted songwriting and rote sound, Lost Sirens positively shines -- leading to the customary questions of why this material didn't replace several, if not many, songs on the original Sirens' Call. Most of the excitement is due to the lead-off track "I'll Stay with You," a solid rocker that sounds like it should've been their comeback single after 2001's energizing Get Ready. As on much of their work of the 2000s, guitar is forefront and synths are used only for texture, but with excellent results, led by the midtempo storm of "Hellbent" (the only previously unreleased track, which appeared on a 2005 hits collection). ~ John Bush
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Comedy/Other - Released November 15, 2011 | Rhino

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Rock - Released December 22, 2009 | Rhino

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Rock - Released October 27, 2009 | Rhino

Apple Pie (1969) pulled double duty for the Boston-based Apple Pie Motherhood Band. It was both the follow-up to their 1968 self-titled debut as well as their swan song. By decades' end the combo consisted of founders Richard Barnaby (bass) -- now known as Dick Barnaby and also credited on bamboo flute, Jackie Bruno (drums), Ted Demos (guitar,) and Jeff Labes (organ/piano). Joe Castagno (guitar) was replaced by Michael Sorafine (guitar) and not one, but two frontmen were added by way of Bruce Paine (vocals) and Adam Meyers (harmonica/vocals). Unlike their former outing, nearly half of Apple Pie consists of reworkings of R&B classics, including a honky-tonkin' take of Chuck Berry's "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man," a wailing remake of the mod Motown entry "Get Ready," as well as an outstanding rave on Willie Dixon's "I Just Want to Make Love to You." The latter is in the unstoppable boogie mode of Canned Heat or the Canadian-based late-'60s blues outfit Crowbar, especially when they were joined by the harp blowin' King Biscuit Boy -- who is reminiscent of Meyers' contributions here. New recruit Sorafine brought along some of the best original tunes on the project. His expansive opener "Orangutang" is perfectly suited to this unit's heavier direction. Remaining as a focal point are Apple Pie Motherhood Band's crystalline vocal harmonies and lengthy electric lead guitar solos, which take on a collective intensity similar to that of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Sorafine serves the straight-ahead rocker "Grandmother Hooker" with sinuous double-lead intertwining guitars that evoke early Spirit sides such as "Mechanical World" or the jazzy "Elijah." Labes has laid low -- considering he wrote most of the tunes on the last LP -- but supplies the mid-tempo and well jammed out "Super Music Man." The strong melody is made all the more conspicuous thanks again to the inspired fretwork of Sorafine and Demos, not to mention Labes' soulful organ fills. Speaking of Demos, his ballad "Gypsy" is a lovely contrast to the edgier sound that permeates the better part of the platter with a Marty Balin-esque quality comparable to the Jefferson Airplane's "Things Are Better in the East." The eerie and foreboding "He Turned You On" is the final slice of Apple Pie. It is certifiably dosed with a blistering guitar courtesy of the author, while marking the conclusion to both this disc and the band as well. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Pop - Released October 27, 2009 | Rhino

Musical siblings George Chambers (bass/vocals), Willie Chambers (guitar/vocals), Lester Chambers (harmonica/vocals), and Joe Chambers (guitar/vocals) were raised on rural gospel in their native Mississippi before switching over to folk and then soulful blues and R&B-fueled rock. The Chambers Brothers' recordings issued by the Los Angeles-based Vault label were nearly four years old when Feelin' the Blues hit the streets in 1970. The band's style had changed quite drastically from old-school blues, soul, and pop to the longer psychedelic jams heard on their international hit "Time Has Come Today." Although the mixture of live and studio selections gives the collection an odds-and-sods vibe, several of the performances are among the best of the Vault Records-era material. Somewhat contrasting with the album's title, the Chambers actually cover a wide spectrum of music on Feelin' the Blues. Their roots can be heard throughout the flawless interpretation of the sacred standards "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and the excellent "Travel on My Way." Similarly, the midtempo reading of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" offers the Chambers an opportunity to subtly return to their gospel origins with call-and-response backing harmonies. The proceedings are far from being pious, however, as the quartet harmonizes the chorus of "Too Fat Polka" during one of the instrumental breaks. Perhaps wishing to remove some of the sting from the real storyline, the reworking of "House of the Rising Sun" -- according to the spoken introduction -- is told from the point of view of the receptionist (huh?) at the infamous bordello. Had the Chambers Brothers decided on a more straightforward translation, the song could easily have been one of the album's best. Other tunes worth spinning include a version of Bobby Parker's "Blues Get Off My Shoulder" -- in a longer form than on 1968's The Chambers Brothers Shout! -- and the comparatively brief but effective update of the jazzy "Undecided." In 2007, Collectors' Choice Music licensed all four of the Chambers Brothers' Vault Records releases, marking the first time they have been available in over three decades. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released June 11, 2009 | Rhino

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Rock - Released January 17, 2006 | Rhino

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Contemporary Jazz - Released January 1, 1971 | Rhino

Flutist Herbie Mann opened up his music on this date for Push Push (and during the era) toward R&B, rock and funk music. The results were generally appealing, melodic and danceable. On such songs as "What's Going On," "Never Can Say Goodbye," "What'd I Say" and the title cut, Mann utilizes an impressive crew of musicians, which include guitarist Duane Allman and keyboardist Richard Tee. ~ Scott Yanow