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!
John and Yoko launched classical composer John Tavener's career; his 1970 avant garde opus The Whale and 1971's heavily orchestrated (with children's choir!) Celtic Requiem are each in a two-on-one CD package here. The Modern Jazz Quartet did two oddly orchestrated but wonderfully bebopping albums, 1968's Under the Jasmine Tree and 1969's Space, for Apple, both housed in a one-disc package.
The box also includes an Apple best-of CD and a two-disc set of outtakes and bonuses, otherwise only available as MP3s. One glaring Apple release missing is the long-lost album by the strangely androgynous Lon and Derek Van Eaton, overlooked and forgotten. —Brian Smith
FRIGHT FROM THE BINS
Around the World-Live In Concert (1975)
A 1975 double-live album, just like Kiss, ya say! I'm sure there was some fiery contention in Provo as to who the real hottest band in the land was! It's hard to imagine Ace Frehley and his firework-riddled guitar solo approaching the old fashioned virtuosity of "Merrill's Banjo Medley." No shit, the middle Osmond wins that ax battle — 'cause "doo dah" rhymes with Utah, you must concede!
Having to wait an entire minute for their idols to come onstage, the announcer (who sounds suspiciously like Joe Pesci) taunts the audience and makes them count down from 60! Mercifully, those Osmonds bum rush the show toot sweet to reclaim their glam-metal crown with "Crazy Horses," the song Aerosmith most assuredly ripped off for their equine-whinnyin' "Back In the Saddle" and which Aerosmith stealers Poison duly ripped off for their "Back to the Rocking Horse."
Unlike their imitators, the honest Osmonds are quick to acknowledge their own debts to rock's scream-worthy past. There's a "Donny & Marie Medley," filled with pre-Beatle teen idoltry, a "Jimmy Medley" where the littlest Osmond pays homage to Joe Cocker and the Jacksons, a "'50s Medley," a "Stevie Wonder Medley" — is there no music made by man or beast that these crafty Mormons cannot truncate into a four-minute smogasbord? Donald Osmond proves why he was the heir o' parent to Pat Boone — he even finds offensive words in Loggins and Messina songs to change. "My mama don't dance and my daddy don't rock and roll," he croons, because it's not nice to disparage other people's parents! And, uh, yeah, no mention about "hoppin' into the back seat where you know it's nice and dark," either. Never has one rock group thought less about fornication! —Serene Dominic
The Song that Wants to Come Alive
I am a song that dives in the water with sharks.
I am a song that keeps all its secrets.
I am a song that sings with no words.
I am a song that sees right through you.
I am a song that howls in the moonlight.
I am a song that runs on nothing but the color pink.
—Ja'la McClain, 6th Grade, InsideOut Literary Arts Project, Golightly Education Center
DOWNLOAD OF THE WEEK
Rogue Satellites — "Fashion, Drugs, Sex, Death ... Yes Yes Yes (live at the Belmont, Hamtramck)"
Rogue Satellites blazed through infectious ditty like some sort of robo-electro Pixies. It's all beat heavy under sugary harmonies, and some kind of sign their forthcoming album is gonna kick it. —Brett Callwood