Apple days, Greenhornes, Solace and more
Published: December 1, 2010
Remember that Cinci band the Greenhornes, how they were the biggest Detroit band not from Detroit who made the type of wide-eyed, retro-leaning garage rock that Jack White grew out of ever since he became a rock god a few years ago? Their fourth album is their best, an occasionally dippy and often trippy excursion to the nether regions of '60s psych-rock with a few stops along the way for some pop excavation. Frontman Craig Fox slips into the dozen songs with unassuming stealth. You never know whether he's paying direct tribute to his idols or if this is just the way he sounds. Traces of the Who, Kinks, and other guitar-rock legends run through "Saying Goodbye," "Better Off Without It" and "Song 13," so there's not a whole lot that's original about Four Stars. Two of these guys are also the least famous of the Raconteurs, but this is more fun than the last Raconteurs album. —Michael Gallucci
Jersey Shore band Solace formed out of the ashes of Godspeed in '96, and has recorded six unusually dynamic stoner albums for a plethora of different labels. In 2007 they signed with mighty Small Stone and A.D. is their label debut.
Those familiar with Solace's back catalogue won't be stunned and surprised
by this. The songs that don't ape Sabbath could be early Monster Magnet, which, let's face it, sounded quite a lot like Sabbath. But, wait. This is a good thing. The riffing is huge and monolithic, and those kids worshipping at the Kyuss altar will be in, um, heaven, or hell.
The band obviously has fun playing with religious imagery in the words, but also on the frankly hilarious sleeve art — you gotta see this. Great stuff. —Brett Callwood
Apple Records Box Set
The Beatles' own Apple Records was by design an artist-first record label, and between 1968 and '73 they'd signed a disparate group of artists who together tell a story essential to the Fab Four's own. The Apple label celebrated diversity, signed those who showed potential greatness independent of sales potential — it was an impressive business model that, of course, didn't last.
And this set of 14 well-mastered, separately available albums (and three bonus discs) work well in context; these are artists in whom the Beatles believed, some tellingly wound up overlooked and forgotten, others as chart-topping cautionary tales.
Beatle pop protégés Badfinger tell of the latter, a story as sad as the suicides of two band members. Their quartet of melancholic power-pop Apple albums have long been undervalued (particularly 1973's ASS, the label's last release), even with the hits "Day After Day," "Without You," (Harry Nilsson's version hit No. 1), "No Matter What" (as the Iveys), "Baby Blue" and the Paul McCartney-penned "Come and Get It." Bonus tracks, some previously unissued, round out each, plus there's a second disc of vault-fresh outtakes.
Two soul-sharp albums by Afro-headed Beatle collaborator Billy Preston sidestepped showbiz kitsch, a fact that goes lengths to show how important music was to the Beatles and Apple. Harrison produced 1969's That's the Way God Planned It (with Ray Charles) and 1970's Encouraging Words, and cameoed in Preston's crack band alongside Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. Harrison songs and co-writes abound, including the first "My Sweet Lord," which is wholly gospel-charged in Preston's grip. That these albums weren't massive is testament to how shabbily run Apple Records was once shyster Allen Klein took hold in 1970.
A&R man Peter Asher and Paul McCartney found heroin-tainted songwriter James Taylor in 1968, and his eponymous debut album — his best ever — was recorded next to the White Album at Trident Studios and includes the beautiful "Something in the Way She Moves," a title Harrison used to write the even-more-beautiful "Something."
Bony-kneed Beatle-pal Jackie Lomax debuted with Is This What You Want?, a blue-eyed soul stunner highlighted by Harrison's lifting "Sour Milk Sea" on which Lomax's resonant baritone heads a band of not one, but three Beatles (Ringo, George, Paul), a Rolling Stone (Richards) and Clapton.
Intended as more of a Krishna devotional experience with Westernized Indian modals than any kind of pop record, 1970's Harrison-helmed The Radha Krsna Temple helped establish Krishna to hip pop consciousness — "Hare Krishna Mantra" was a Euro hit single — and laid ground for the Quiet Beatle's All Things Must Pass and his vastly underrated Living in the Material World.
Apple-cheeked folk singer Mary Hopkin topped worldwide charts with her first single "Those Were the Days," and more hits followed. Her 1969 Macca-produced unveiling, Postcard, covered Donovan and Nilsson and went Top 40 but was slightly marred by McCartney's unfortunate penchant for showtune culture. Future husband and T. Rex-Bowie producer Tony Visconti helmed her deftly arranged second and final Apple album, Earth Song Ocean Song.
Harrison co-produced and played (with Ringo, Preston, Clapton, Peter Frampton, Stephen Stills, Klaus Voormann and others) on Doris Troy's 1970 self-titled debut, a thickly shaped R&B-rock-gospel affair that stiffed upon release. Listening now you can hear its direction lost to the overpopulation of superstar musicians; it's unfortunate because its high moments are many, including "Ain't That Cute" and Joe South's "Games People Play." The album sees four Doris-Harrison songs, two of which include collaborators Stephan Stills and Ringo!
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