Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rock Bottom

With a music collection as large as mine is, there’s bound to be a few clunkers in it, so here’s a little countdown of the 20 or so worst albums in my collection…

20) Purpendicular—DEEP PURPLE (1996)  Here’s a supreme example of when a once-mighty band really needs to hang it up.  The momentum generated by the successful ‘80s reunion of DP’s classic lineup of Gillan/Blackmore/Glover/Lord/Paice had long since dissipated by the time they put out this dull record.  Ritchie Blackmore was long gone too, having been replaced by former Dixie Dregs/Kansas guitarist Steve Morse, and DP was merely going through the motions.  Why even bother?
19) Live Evil—BLACK SABBATH (1982)  This album was a major flop, and rightly so—there was just something blasphemous to me about Ronnie James Dio singing the old Black Sabbath songs, especially "Iron Man" and "Paranoid".  Dio sounded dandy on his own Sabbath songs here, but his interpretations of Ozzy’s songs were downright silly.  This album didn’t sound very "live" to me, either, almost as if they recorded it in the studio with crowd noise overdubbed.  Cheap Trick, Kiss and W.A.S.P. are also guilty of this (to varying degrees) on their "live" records.
18) Bloodrock 2—BLOODROCK (1971)  This is one of the rare times I agree with a Rolling Stone critic, who called this band "bottom of the barrel".  Apart from their creepy hit single "D.O.A." (not to be confused with the Van Halen tune of the same name) about the aftermath of a horrific plane crash, this album was just pitiful.  I assume Bloodrock 1 was better, since Capitol Records saw fit to let them release a second album.
17) Ceremony—THE CULT (1991)  My expectations were very high for The Cult’s follow-up to 1989’s killer Sonic Temple, which featured a cool triumvirate of songs—"New York City", "Automatic Blues" and "Soldier Blue"—in addition to the big hits off it like "Fire Woman", "Sun King" and "Edie (Ciao Baby)".  Evidently, singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy shot their wad on Temple, because Ceremony was beyond dull—nothing but bland mid-tempo stuff that didn’t rock out at all.  The next album after that one in 1994 wasn’t much better.
16) Good Stuff—THE B-52’S (1992)  The title here could not have been a bigger misnomer.  The B-52’s were totally unprepared for the unenviable task of following up their mega-hit 1989 album Cosmic Thing, and this turned out to be a mega-flop.  While the departure of long-time singer Cindy Wilson rendered the group a threesome, it wouldn’t have mattered if she was still in the group with such lame lines as "I wanna be dangin’ with your dang good stuff!"  Too bad, because the 52’s can be a fun group with the right material.
15) We’ve Got A Fuzzbox, And We’re Gonna Use It—FUZZBOX (1987)  I brought home a promo copy of this album from the "Mighty 1030", KKJC-AM when I was working there.  Why on earth Geffen Records thought we’d have any use for it at our little Oldies/Adult Contemporary station is beyond me, and I’m not sure why it’s even still in my collection.  This was just a bad album by a group of untalented New Wave punk chicks, the highlight from which (if you wanna call it that) being a silly remake of Norman Greenbaum’s "Spirit In The Sky".
14) Gone Troppo—GEORGE HARRISON (1982)  I picked this one up in the cut-out bin at Musicland for a buck—it wasn’t even worth that much!  George was merely phoning his records in by the early ‘80s, and I found it sad that such a lame record would come from an ex-Beatle.
13) If You Can’t Lick ‘Em, Lick ‘Em—TED NUGENT (1988)  Rev. Theodosuis Atrocious’ downward spiral in the ‘80s continued as Nugent did just like George and basically phoned this album in.  Full of lame songs (and lame videos) like "She Drives Me Crazy" and "That’s The Story Of Love", it's no small coincidence that he joined Damn Yankees the next yearhe had nothing better to do, anyway.  And believe it or not, this isn't even Nugent's worst albumread on, friends...
12) Pipes of Peace—PAUL McCARTNEY (1983)  I still haven’t quite forgiven Big Macca for that "Say, Say, Say" debacle.  As I used to parody it, "But don’t play games with my erection…".  Sad to say, but the rest of this album was almost as wretched.  Dirty shame too, because Paul seemed to be back on track with his previous album Tug Of War from ’82 after the string of mediocre records that ensued after Wings At The Speed Of Sound in '76…
11) Antenna—Z.Z. TOP (1994)  You could sense that Z.Z. was falling into a comfortable rut on their 1990 release, Recycler, which was only about half-decent.  Z.Z. was known for taking extended periods off between albums, and it was usually worth the wait, but not this time, as that comfortable rut had by now completely enveloped the band.  All the songs sounded practically identical on Antenna—you couldn’t tell one from the other—and they all had the same bland crunchy guitar riffs and lame subject matter ("Pincushion", "Girl In A T-Shirt", "Cover Your Rig", et al), totally devoid of the sense of humor and/or upbeat blues boogie found on most of their previous albums.  One would think being on a new label (RCA) would have inspired Z.Z. to put out something a tad more lively.  Sadly, they now seem to take their core audience for granted and just put out the same old stuff every time, as their subsequent releases like Rhythmeen and XXX haven’t been much better.  Perhaps they should rename themselves Zzzzzzzzz Top, because this stuff would put you to sleep!
10) Other Voices—THE DOORS (1971)  A lot of people are unaware that The Doors continued on as a trio after Jim Morrison kicked the bucket in his bathtub in July, 1971.  As misanthropic and pretentious as Mr. Mojo Risin’ was, he was sorely missed all the same when Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger tried their hands at singing—hence the album’s very cryptic title.  Manzarek is one of my favorite keyboardists of all-time, and his simultaneous multi-tasking on the bass organ was admirable, but I’m sorry to say the man cannot sing!  Let me put it this way, Brother Ray sings about as well as I wrap Christmas presents, and as my close friends will attest, I suck at gift-wrapping.  Having a song with a title like "I’m Horny, I’m Stoned" did little to enhance this album either.  I don’t know if this LP was purely contractual obligation stuff or just bull-headed stupidity (probably both), but Manzarek, Krieger, and drummer John Densmore really should’ve hung it up the nanosecond Morrison’s heart stopped.
9) Balance—VAN HALEN (1995)  VH began to lose their edge around 1991’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and it was totally gone by the time this album came out.  Apart from the rather humorous "Big Fat Money", this album was totally devoid of the good-time spirit of past Van Halen records, and you could tell they were getting bored with each other.  The insipid power ballad therein, "I Can’t Stop Loving You", sounds like something Sammy Hagar wrote in his sleep.  I wish he'd woken up sooner…
8) Van Halen 3—VAN HALEN (1998)  Wait, it gets worse!  Out goes Hagar, in comes Gary Cherone (formerly of Extreme) to supposedly save the ship.  Uhhh—it didn’t work!  To be fair, Cherone's a great singer when he’s himself, but when he tries to imitate Hagar, the results are far less satisfying.  This colossal flop really wasn’t his fault, anyway, as by this time Eddie Van Halen had morphed into Little Hitler and was making really stupid decisions, like jerking the fans around by bringing David Lee Roth back for two lame songs on the previous year’s greatest hits package.  How’d that work for ya, Eddie?  What struck me about this crappy album is how staggeringly boring it was.  I have a feeling some of Yanni’s records are edgier than this thing…
7) Living In The Material World—GEORGE HARRISON (1973)  Don’t mean to seem like I’m picking on George on this list because I really did like him, but let me quote British authors Roy Carr and Tony Tyler from their book The Beatles-An Illustrated Record and their review of this record:  "It is not the function of this book to comment on George Harrison’s religious beliefs—so long as Harrison himself can refrain from didactically imposing said Holy Memoirs upon innocent record collectors.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what he did (to excess) on this LP."  Amen, brothers!  George probably meant well, and even though Material World yielded a #1 single, "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)", this record is so sanctimonious (not to mention boring) with songs like "The Lord Loves The One Who Loves The Lord"—oh, puh-leeze!  George's Hare Krisnha leanings really bogged his solo career down in the mid-‘70s, and it wasn’t until he lightened up on albums like Thirty-Three & 1/3 in 1976, his self-titled 1979 album (featuring "Blow Away"), 1987’s Cloud Nine and the Traveling Wilburys records that the real George Harrison showed through.
6) Victim Of Love—ELTON JOHN (1979)  It pains me to rip on Elton here, being as he’s one of my all-time favorites, but even he fully admits that this record was pure excrement.  In the wake of his unprecedented run of success in the early-to-mid-‘70s, Elton was bound to run out of creative energy sooner or later, and it might’ve served him better to take a year or two off and chill out, but instead he put out this half-hearted slab of vinyl that featured a disco version of Chuck Berry’s "Johnny B. Goode".  Nowhere to go but up after this one…
5) Carnival Of Souls—KISS (1997)  As bad as 1981’s Music From The Elder was, Carnival makes it look like Destroyer by comparison.  Just as they did with Elder, Kiss tried to impress the critics here instead of their fans, and this time they tried their hand at playing uninspired grunge Rock.  This was the only Kiss album I ever actually wanted my money back for after listening to it.  I should’ve known not to buy it in the first place when the gnarly dude behind the counter at Streetside Records said, "Ohhh, man—they sound just like Soundgarden now!"  If this is the permanent direction the band was headed in, then the reunion with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss couldn’t have come at a better time.
4) The Best That I Could Do, 1978-1988—JOHN MELLENCAMP (1997)  Oh, wait—I don’t actually own this album, but boy if I did, I imagine this is about where Mellenschmuck’s best-of CD would rank on this list!  (Sorry, Dr. S.!)
3) Intensities In 10 Cities—TED NUGENT (1981)  Nugent’s Double Live Gonzo! from 1978 is one of my favorite live albums ever, and when I heard that Terrible Ted was putting out another live album in ’81, I eagerly awaited its release.  Talk about disappointing!  Instead of going back into the studio to make a proper album, Ted decided to try out his latest material live, and most of it sucked, big-time!  Ted went to the over-sexed He-Man playbook one time too many with songs like "Flying Lip Lock", "Jailbait" (not the far-superior Motorhead song of the same name) and "My Love Is Like A Tire Iron", and he sounded ridiculous singing a lame cover version of Wilson Pickett’s "Land of 1,000 Dances".  This piece of caca all but killed Nugent’s career, and it never fully has recovered from it since.
2) Two Virgins (1968)/Life With The Lions (1969)—JOHN LENNON & YOKO ONO  My sophomore English teacher in high school once said something that's always stuck with me:  "There’s a lot of good stuff in Shakespeare, but there’s also a lot of crap in Shakespeare."  The same can be said for John Lennon.  For all his brilliance as a singer and a musician, there were also times when John was full of shit (as was Yoko), and these two records (which I’m lumping together here), are a prime example of that.  Neither of them are even music albums, really, just a bunch of snippets of sounds spliced together with no particular theme at all.  I realize JL had fallen under Yoko’s spell and was totally enthralled by her arty-farty Avant-Garde ways, but I’m sorry—it don’t take a whole lot of talent to fart in stereo!  As with Paul McCartney’s and George Harrison’s entries on this list, one would expect a whole lot better from an ex-Beatle.
1) Laverne & Shirley Sing—PENNY MARSHALL & CINDY WILLIAMS (1977)  Doesn’t live up to the title, especially in Penny Marshall’s case!  In an effort to capitalize on the success of the TV series, Atlantic Records put out this album in ‘77 of Marshall and Williams caterwauling tired old ‘50s and ‘60s hits like "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Chapel Of Love", and the thing is just dreadful.  Both actresses excelled at doing physical comedy, and Marshall has turned into an outstanding film director with hits like Big, Awakenings and A League Of Their Own, but you might as well have teamed Yoko Ono up to duet with Edith Bunker—it would’ve sounded better!

4 comments:

Louis said...

Wow, splutter, I hardly know what to say (big grin). I agree with most of your clunkers but one. I absolutely love DP's Perpendicular and rank it right up there with anything from the more famous Mark II line-up. Different stroke for different folk I would guess.

Brian Holland said...

Agreed--different strokes. That album just made it seem like they were playing out the string, so to speak. That last one before Blackmore left ('The Battle Rages On') wasn't a whole lot better, either...

Thanks for the comment!

dr sardonicus said...

I refuse to believe you actually own a Laverne & Shirley LP...

Some random notes: Re the sound on Live Evil: Ronnie James Dio was allegedly fired from Black Sabbath for going into the studio behind Iommi's and Butler's backs and fooling with the mix of this album. In particular, Dio is said to have turned up his own vocals.

Ray Manzarek fares better on his solo LP, The Whole Thing Started With Rock 'N' Roll, But Now It's Out Of Control (dreadful title). His singing doesn't improve much, but the songs are a bit better, and Manzarek doesn't have the pressure of trying to replace Jim Morrison. The disc also features some killer guitar work from Joe Walsh.

The two-disc Words And Music is a better overview of John Mellencamp's career, not that it will persuade you much at this point. As far as greatest-hits set titles go, The Best That I Could Do ranks up there with The Rolling Stones' Sucking In The Seventies, which can be taken any way you wish.

Brian Holland said...

Re. L&S: What can I say? I was only 12!

Re. Mellencamp: You've probably figured out that he's a favorite target of my verbal bazooka. He and I just never quite got off on the right foot, and a lot of his stuff just grates on me. I always thought 'American Fool' was a great LP title for him, though!

Re. 'Sucking In The Seventies': I always thought that was a very accurate title, because apart from 'Sticky Fingers' and 'Some Girls', that's pretty much what the Stones did in the '70s.