Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Here are ten more examples of one-and-done artists that I’ve enjoyed over the years. As I pointed out in my previous post, I’m highlighting side-projects, solo albums, supergroups and any artist with only one album in their discography. I’ve been having so much fun revisiting these records, some of which I know by heart and others I haven’t played in a long time, that I plan on continuing this series for a few more posts. While a number of them are well-known some of these albums deserved a better fate, but due to record company indifference, inter-band conflicts or simply bad timing, they’ve been forgotten in the mists of time. Hopefully this series will help in some small way to rectify that situation.
Artist: DIFFORD & TILBROOK
Album Title/Year Of Release: DIFFORD & TILBROOK (1984)
Squeeze has been one of my favorite bands ever since I heard “If I Didn’t Love You” in 1980. They continued releasing excellent albums through the ‘90s, but it was the prior decade when “the new Lennon & McCartney” (as many music critics had dubbed them) were at their creative & commercial peak. Shortly after 1982’s Sweets For A Stranger the band split up, and two years later their two main songwriters (Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook) recorded this very good album that could have easily been released as Squeeze. Since it’s credited to Difford & Tilbrook and no other previous band members appeared, I’ve decided it’s worth including it here…even though I would also feature it in a series on the Squeeze discography if/when I get to them. Future Squeeze bassist Keith Wilkinson is one of the musicians, so in some ways this is an introduction to Squeeze Mach 2 (“hope you enjoy our new direction”). There are many excellent songs, which is no surprise considering how consistent this songwriting team had been through their first five albums, but they’re occasionally overshadowed by the ‘80s production techniques. The two biggest highlights for me are album closer “The Apple Tree” and the minor hit single “Love’s Crashing Waves.” It’s not quite a classic but well worth seeking out for anyone diving into the Squeeze catalog.
Artist: THE VAUGHAN BROTHERS
Album Title/Year Of Release: FAMILY STYLE (1990)
I became a devoted Stevie Ray Vaughan fan the minute I heard “Pride And Joy” on the radio in 1983, and I excitedly picked up all of his new releases throughout the rest of the decade. I was also fortunate to see him in concert twice; the first time when he was still “under the influence” around 1985/86 and a few years later after he had cleaned himself up. Both shows were incredible, but the clean-and-sober SRV was truly something to behold, and the possibilities for the future seemed limitless…until the helicopter crash that took his life in 1990. Recorded shortly before his death but released a few months afterward, this collaboration with his older brother Jimmie Vaughan (of The Fabulous Thunderbirds), himself a fantastic guitarist, is bursting with happiness from start to finish. You can literally hear the joy they felt in finally playing together, and producer Nile Rodgers gives the album a modern sheen without taking away from the funky grooves & amazing musicianship. At times there are hints of Ry Cooder, Little Feat and an overall New Orleans vibe, and the brothers trade off some seriously wicked guitar solos. The melancholy “Tick Tock” is a key track, given added poignance with its somber lyrics about how “time’s tickin’ away,” but they kick into overdrive for album closer “Brothers” and the driving “Telephone Song.” I often wonder if fans who discovered Stevie in later years are even aware of this gem of an album. It’s long been a favorite of mine.
Artist: DEREK & THE DOMINOS
Album Title/Year Of Release: LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS (1970)
After his appearance in Part 1 of this series with Blind Faith, Eric Clapton shows up again as a member of Derek & The Dominos, a band that included three former members of Blind Faith touring partners Delaney & Bonnie (keyboardist/vocalist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon) along with guitarist Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band. Clapton may get more recognition for his contributions to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Cream, but since I was a teenager I’ve considered the sole Derek & The Dominos album to be his definitive work. In addition to some of his most passionate vocal performances and emotional lead guitar work, his songwriting (often with Whitlock) was as good as anything he recorded before or since. The album is probably overshadowed by the song “Layla,” which has long been a radio & movie staple, but it’s stacked with other classics like “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?,” “Tell The Truth” and a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” that’s every bit as definitive as the original. This isn’t just the Clapton & Allman show, however, with the other three musicians delivering virtuosic yet sympathetic accompaniment on just about every song. Whitlock’s tasteful keyboards and vocal sparring with Clapton are particularly noteworthy on this genuine all-time classic album.
For another writer’s appreciation of this album, and “Bell Bottom Blues” in particular, please check out these posts at Danica Piche’s Living A Beautiful Life blog: http://danicapiche.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/bell-bottom-blues-livestudio/ and http://danicapiche.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/its-all-wrong-but-its-all-right/
Artist: KLARK KENT
Album Title/Year Of Release: MUSIC MADNESS FROM THE KINETIC KID (1980)
Stewart Copeland is rightly regarded as one of the greatest & most influential drummers of the last half-century based solely on his work with The Police. He wrote or co-wrote a number of their album tracks, such as “Contact,” “Miss Gradenko” and the quirky “On Any Other Day” (on which he was the lead vocalist). Instead of releasing a solo album, he opted to go incognito as Klark Kent for a 10-inch album (really an EP) and a couple of singles. All of the material he recorded for this short-lived project was released on CD in 1995 as Kollected Works, which is the easiest way to acquire it now. Copeland plays nearly all instruments and it has always amazed me how close it sounds to the first few Police records. Anyone who likes the more playful side of that band would probably find a lot to enjoy hear, from impressive instrumentals like “Grandelinquent” and “Theme For Kinetic Ritual” to offbeat new wave pop songs like “Too Kool For Kalypso,” “Don’t Care” and “My Old School” (not the Steely Dan song). The ‘80s band Wall Of Voodoo would be a good point of reference as well.
Artist: JOHN LINNELL
Album Title/Year Of Release: STATE SONGS (1999)
I was hooked on They Might Be Giants as soon as I saw the video for their debut single, “Don’t Let’s Start,” in 1987. I’ve faithfully collected all of their albums as well as rarities whenever possible. The duo consists of two Johns, Flansburgh and Linnell, both of whom write some of the most consistently catchy pop songs I’ve ever heard. I think many people don’t take them seriously because of their goofy stage demeanor and witty lyrics, but they should be revered as the great songwriters they are. While I love both of them, I’ve always had a special appreciation for Linnell’s songs & vocals. To date State Songs is the only album released under his name, so I think it fits the criteria for one-and-done status. The songs may all have state names as their titles (other than the overture that is “The Songs Of The 50 States”) but they’re merely launching pads for his brilliantly mad creations like “Iowa” (“she’s a witch”) and “Montana” (“it seemed to me Montana was a leg”). I come back to this album as often as anything in the TMBG catalog, and I hope other fans discover this fantastically quirky little treasure.
Artist: THEM CROOKED VULTURES
Album Title/Year Of Release: THEM CROOKED VULTURES (2009)
The trio consisting of Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist/vocalist Josh Homme, Nirvana/Foo Fighters drummer/vocalist Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin bass/keyboard legend John Paul Jones came seemingly out of nowhere with this powerhouse hard rock album. Combining the hypnotic desert rock of QOTSA with Grohl’s Bonham-inspired skins work and Jones’ thundering bass, this album is at various times moody, dark and angular but always melodic. Currently it’s the only thing they’ve recorded together, but hopefully sometime in the near future they’ll release another album which will render them unqualified as a one-and-done project. Until then, I couldn’t imagine them not being featured here. There are numerous standout tracks, with “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” and “Scumbag Blues” two of the most accessible.
Artist: BUCKINGHAM NICKS
Album Title/Year Of Release: BUCKINGHAM NICKS (1973)
Prior to joining Fleetwood Mac and becoming megastars, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were a couple who recorded one album as a duo that made little commercial impact, but it did catch the ear of Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood. It’s folkier & more Laurel Canyon-smooth than their subsequent work with Fleetwood Mac, but all of the hallmarks of their sound were in place: Lindsey’s one-of-a-kind finger-picking guitar style, Stevie’s sultry vocals and their fiery harmonies. The music was delivered by a collection of studio pros like drummer Jim Keltner and Elvis Presley associates Ronnie Tutt (drums) and Jerry Scheff (bass), and everything was polished to perfection by producer Keith Olsen along with engineer Richard Dashut, who would go on to produce all of Fleetwood Mac’s albums from Rumours through Tango In The Night. I find it interesting that there’s only one song co-written by the duo, with 4 each credited to just one of them and one cover song. Perhaps the seeds of their eventual split are reflected in the less than democratic nature of those credits. Overall the album lacks the punch and sophistication of their later work, but there’s plenty to love here, most notably “Crying In The Night,” “Don’t Let Me Down Again” and the epic album closer, “Frozen Love.” Hopefully one day Lindsey & Stevie will approve a reissue of this record, which has become a much-sought-after rarity. I was fortunate to get a needle-drop vinyl copy on CD from a friend about 10 years ago, and I’ve cherished it ever since.
Artist: DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS
Album Title/Year Of Release: PLEASE DESCRIBE YOURSELF (2004)
This poorly-named Scottish band came & went rather quickly. I discovered them after reading a review of this album in a British music magazine (which is often how I check out new artists) and, although I don’t recall what specifically drew me in, it was likely a comparison to XTC that piqued my interest. They certainly have a similar mix of angular new wave and chiming melodic pop, but the XTC connection is more “influence” rather than a flat-out copy. They’re in a similar vein to recent artists like Field Music and Young Knives. The album was produced by the team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, who are best known for their work with Madness, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Elvis Costello, China Crisis and numerous others. I like every song here, with “Godhopping” and “I Love You ‘Cause I Have To” being perfect entry points. If you enjoy those, you will likely love the whole album.
Artist: EMERSON, LAKE & POWELL
Album Title/Year Of Release: EMERSON, LAKE & POWELL (1986)
Emerson, Lake & Palmer is an essential part of any progressive rock fan’s collection, one of the earliest supergroups that featured Keith Emerson (of The Nice), Greg Lake (of King Crimson) and Carl Palmer (of Atomic Rooster). Two of their previous bands may no longer be household names (although they’re all excellent), but their collaboration was as celebrated as another much-lauded trio of that era, Crosby, Stills & Nash. ELP petered out by the end of the ‘70s, and by the time a reunion was suggested in the mid-‘80s Carl Palmer was otherwise occupied with his latest supergroup, Asia. So Emerson & Lake turned to another great British drummer, Cozy Powell, who was best known for pounding the skins with The Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow and Whitesnake. Whether or not he was chosen solely for his “P” surname is still up for debate, but he was an inspired choice for this record. He may not have had the swing and rat-a-tat chops of Palmer, but he was a technically great drummer who had a massive sound that was a perfect match for this material, which was more consistently bombastic than anything else in their catalog. They immediately drew me in with the symphonic fanfare that is 9-minute album opener “The Score.” There are moodier moments as well, such as “Lay Down Your Guns” & “Love Blind,” and the light, bouncy jazz of “Step Aside” is a personal favorite, but the Mainstream Rock hit single “Touch And Go” remains the ideal calling card for this album. Some people might be turned off by the “Final Countdown”-esque keyboards, but with musicianship this great and Lake still in fine vocal form, I had reason to be excited when this was released…and it still sounds wonderful all these years later. I also saw them on the tour in support of this album and they were unsurprisingly amazing.
Album Title/Year Of Release: AROUND THE NEXT DREAM (1994)
I briefly mentioned Cream in my notes about Derek & The Dominos above. They were among a handful of my favorite bands when I was in high school, so much so that I had the album cover of Disraeli Gears painted on the back of my denim jacket. Many years after they disbanded, their rhythm section of drummer Ginger Baker and bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce partnered with guitar whiz Gary Moore (previously of Thin Lizzy and a solo career that moved from hard rock, Celtic & heavy metal before he struck gold via the blues) for a record that sounds very much like an updated Cream but with a drastically different guitar sound. On the songs that Moore sings, it sounds more like one of his solo records, while the Bruce songs immediately take you back to his work with Cream (his voice held up extremely well). Baker’s distinct fluid drumming style is what ties everything together and gives even the most modern-sounding tracks a late-‘60s feel. I played this record again for the first time in years a couple of weeks ago, shortly before Jack Bruce passed away. Moore predeceased him by a few years and considering how frail Baker has looked for quite a while, it’s surprising & a bit ironic that he’s the sole survivor of this short-lived group. There are plenty of highlights, such as “Glory Days” (where Bruce trades off lead vocals with Moore like he did so often with Clapton decades earlier), “Why Does Love (Have To Go Wrong)” and “Waiting In The Wings.”
This was a fun collection of albums to revisit, and I continue to be amazed at how well all of these one-and-done records have held up. I’ve already begun playing another batch that is equally as strong, and I look forward to discussing them with you soon. Please let me know your thoughts on anything in this post, whether they’re old favorites or new discoveries. Thanks.