Jun 252021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Eurythmics Greatest Hits

Yes, we are back in Greatest Hits territory again, probably the only way to sufficiently scour out the coverland of this undeniably extremely successful band, largely better known for singles rather than albums. Some may question my choosing to take this challenge, given a prior opinion or two of mine around the fragrant Ms. Lennox. But let me stake my claim: the initial output of Eurythmics sounds just sublime to these ears and was seldom bettered amongst the bevy of synthesizer duos of the day. Sure, ubiquity can conspire against how well critical reception actually was at the time, but, for a while, wow, how ubiquitous were they? With 75 mill records seemingly sold, either you or someone you know must have at least something by them. I know I have.

I remember well my first sight of Eurythmics, on that venerable UK serious rock show, The Old Grey Whistle Test. It aired late at night on a minority channel for nascent music nerds, all pretending to be asleep for their parents downstairs. I was already familiar with the duo of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, from their earlier work in The Tourists. And I confess, I was as much taken that Whistle Test concentrated more on the dual facts that they were at Conny Plank’s German studio, the home of Can, and that Blondie sticksman, Clem Burke was thumping their tubs, as well as Can bassist, Holger Czukay, turning up on French horn. But they failed to set the cash tills ringing; a revision and revamp required and delivered, just in time for the peak of MTV, their videos ideal for the format. I was transfixed.

Eurythmics’ first (OK, second really) record was a masterpiece fit for its times, with a slew of singles all gaining attention and acclaim. Over the next (was it only) six years, they took over the charts, with a run of 21 singles, between two and five each year, most going top twenty if not top ten. After quitting at the top of their game, they made a brief return in 1999 and had a further brace of hits. The sound changed radically over those years, from synthesizer duo to stadium rock extravaganzas, but always with the searing knife through butter vocal of Lennox to the fore. Lennox then reverted to her solo career, Stewart to a lot of plans and promises, if little much of real merit to show for it. Bar a solitary appearance at a Beatles tribute show in 2014, that was it, they were done. (OK, seeing as that was a cover……)

A confession before kick-off: this piece was originally based about Ultimate Collection, the second and slightly larger of Eurythmics’ hit compilations, mainly as I liked so much the two singles that came from Peace, their 1999 reprise. Frustratingly, I had to ditch that idea, due to the shortage of cover versions. Which isn’t saying this set was necessarily easy. But it was a shame, there being more than a couple of covers I liked, songs that had been hits for the band, but had inexplicably failed the cut for that first collection. So, having done the work, may I sneak in an odd bonus track?

So, let’s see who was listening to Eurythmics…
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Jun 042021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams, the album, was the game changer for Lucinda Williams, the artist, even if few knew or realized it at the time. Sneaking out on Rough Trade records, home of the Smiths, it started a slow burn of releases, initially only by drip feed, speeding up over the ensuing decades to a now near insatiable speed.

Williams’ debut, 1979’s Ramblin’ On My Mind, was an overly polite album of blues covers and country staples. Next was Happy Woman Blues, a first stab at her own material, in 1980. Now, with her self-titled third record, she was finally paired with a band, and the combination of the developing rawness of her vocals, allied to some country-folkie-blues, was a hit more with critics than the public, a fate she was to endure for some time yet.
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May 172021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Ram

As album reviews go, Rolling Stone writer Jon Landau’s take on Paul & Linda McCartney’s Ram in 1971 was exceptionally brutal. Its opening barb, “Ram represents the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far,” was a mere taster for what was to follow. Landau asserted that Ram was a “very bad album… unbearably inept… unpleasant.” He ended the review with a direct kick to Paul’s (apparent) hubris; “McCartney (the first solo album) and Ram both prove that Paul benefited immensely from collaboration and that he seems to be dying on the vine as a result of his own self-imposed musical isolation” (translation: you suck without the band that YOU broke up).

Landau was by no means alone in his disdain. Joining the pile on were NME’s Alan Smith, who declared Ram to be “the worst thing Paul McCartney has ever done,” and his own ex-bandmate John Lennon, who stated that it was “awful.” Speaking of the latter, even Ringo, our sweet beloved Ringo, weighed in with a “I don’t think there’s a tune on it.”

Oh boy. These assessments have not aged well, to put it mildly. The 21st century has seen Ram’s  homespun charm endlessly lauded everywhere from Pitchfork to, yes, Rolling Stone. The album’s seeming lack of concern for shiny sonic commerciality has led many folks to refer to it as the one of the first real “indie” albums (debatable, as its self-titled predecessor went even further in that direction, but you get the idea).

What led to the critical sea change? Well, the simplest answer is that enough time passed that people stopped looking at Ram through the fog of despair over The Beatles’ break-up. It’s no longer characterized as an album by the villainous Beatle destroyer, but is instead regarded as prescient masterpiece by one of the greatest artists of all time. For maybe the truest sign that humanity has come full circle in terms of recognizing the merits of Ram, look no further than arguably the world’s biggest pop star.

In 2019, Harry Styles was asked by writer Rob Sheffield to describe the recording process and inspiration for his soon to be platinum album Fine Line and offered up this little nugget:

We’d do mushrooms, lie down on the grass, and listen to Paul McCartney’s Ram in the sunshine.

There you have it. This muddy Wellington sporting, wet dog scented, Fair Isle sweater wearing album from 1971, the album that everyone hated, helped inspire a #1 retro pop album recorded in sunny southern California in 2021. “Monkberry Moon Delight” begat “Watermelon Sugar.” Yup.
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Apr 232021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Some Girls covers

The later ’70s had seen the Rolling Stones, not for the first time or the last, written off and out of touch, booted out of the limelight by the twin prongs of disco and punk. They were just too old: Jagger and co. were mostly in their mid to late thirties, Bill Wyman soon to be an unbelievable 42. Exile on Main Street, from six years earlier, had seemed their last point of mass credibility, the interim recordings treading water. Continue reading »

Mar 172021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

armed forces covers

Last year we polled our loyal band of Patreon-izers as to which Elvis Costello album they would like to read a Full Albums post about. The winner was This Year’s Model, and we duly dealt with it here. The runner-up, Armed Forces, has recently had its umpteenth revamp and re-release, making it entirely apt for it to addressed in turn.

1979’s Armed Forces was Costello’s third record all told, his second album with the Attractions, and the first actually bearing the Attractions’ name. It sold well, reaching #2 in the UK album charts and #10 in the US charts, notching platinum sales altogether in the former, gold in the latter. And, as stated, there have been a number of re-packages, notably in 1993 and 2002. 1993 added a few extra tracks, whilst 2002 threw in a whole extra disc, the selections on each chosen by Costello. This year’s release, Complete Armed Forces, goes a step further and is a mammoth box set (vinyl, naturally) with nine records.

But finding a decent set of covers proved elusive. Only now, thanks to a link being made available to one long-lost recording and to the commissioning of a totally new rendition of another, are we able to finally complete the circle.
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Jan 222021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Let It Bleed covers

There are so many good reasons for returning yet again to the Rolling Stones discography for another Full Album offering, the foremost being that they have written and performed so many damn good songs and have had so many of these covered so broadly and widely, encompassing all genres. The choice, thus, is immense. I was actually surprised we hadn’t done Let It Bleed before, given it contains so many songs indelibly etched on my consciousness. OK, as a an older white male, that isn’t surprising, but most of these songs will be known to all generations, either through knowledge of the band, or from soundtracks and, even, if briefly, from advertising. I think the album’s one of their best, and an infinite number of online polls show I’m not alone.

Hailing from an astonishing 1969, Let It Bleed saw the Stones at a turning point. They were gradually easing the increasingly addled Brian Jones out of the band, and were continuing down the row Beggar’s Banquet first hoed. They eschewed the sophisticated pop-rock tropes of their mid-to-late 60s run of singles in favor of the simpler and bluesier sound that had originally inspired them. Jones appears, in the backing instrumentation, on a couple of tracks; his replacement Mick Taylor, who joined after the original sessions were complete, showed up on a couple more tracks, thanks to post-production afterdubs.

So it is essentially a four-piece band, the bulk of guitar parts courtesy Keith Richards, augmented by the keyboard playing of regular sidemen Ian Stewart (the true sixth Stone) and, on most of the tracks, Nicky Hopkins. Cameo appearances come from other notables such as Al Kooper, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder, and Byron Berline. Bobby Keys, swiftly to ensconce himself as Richards’ main partner in narcotic hijinks, makes his debut on saxes, and producer Jimmy Miller gets himself well into the percussion.

Released in December, it must have been a delight for the Stones to see Let It Bleed topple the Beatles’ Abbey Road from the top of the UK chart, if only temporarily. Across the pond it peaked at number three. Whilst it didn’t contain many singles, many of the songs have remained concert staples to this day. Of course, if you consider “Country Honk” to be, essentially, the same song as “Honky Tonk Women,” it included their biggest and best-known song ever (save perhaps “Satisfaction”), if in a somewhat different setting. Touted as amongst their best, Let It Bleed has inestimable legs and lasts as the legacy that enabled them to assume the title of the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World. Continue reading »