7 Park Avenue
It's about 25 years after the fact, but Badfinger collectors can now add the solo demo recordings of Badfinger founder Pete Ham to their collections. 7 Park Avenue documents the demos Ham recorded in the late '60s and early '70s during his tenure with The Iveys and Badfinger. Before taking his own life in 1975, Ham wrote three of the most memorable hits from the era in "No Matter What," "Baby Blue" and "Day After Day," as well as co-writing a hit which has been remade by several artists, "Without You." 7 Park Avenue, listens like a coffehouse performance by a gifted Beatlesque pop writer. Focussing mainly on Ham's voice and guitar (with some keyboards and rhythm section additions) the disc offers an intriguing look into the demos of a master songwriter. "Catherine Cares" and "Coppertone Blues" leave the listener wishing for full band Badfinger versions and "Leaving On A Midnight Train" is a complete piano rocker that makes one wonder if Paul McCartney snuck into the studio to handle the mic. None of these, unfortunately, were ever recorded by Badfinger. 7 Park Avenue also includes an early, unamazing demo of "No Matter What." A listen to this spare recording next to the Badfinger hit version demonstrates how a rough gem can be polished into a masterpiece when a talented band takes it over.
The Very Best of Todd Rundgren
The 16 tracks on this best of span Rundgren's early solo hits "We Gotta Get You A Woman, " "I Saw The Light," "Love of the Common Man" and "Hello It's Me" through the poppier side of his stint with Utopia ("Love Is The Answer" "Love In Action" and "The Very Last Time") and then through his solo-again period of the '80s ("Bang The Drum All Day" and "The Want of a Nail"). Unfortunately, there's only one track included from his brilliant 1985 A Capella album ("Something To Fall Back On") which used vocal samples to create all the vocal, percussion and instrumental tracks. Overall, this is a good casual sampling of Rundgren's singles career through the '70s and '80s. For those who "just want the hits," this one's loaded with 10 Billboard Top 100 charting singles and a half dozen other worthy tracks.
Opening with a sinuous groove and a hippie "peace
love flower power" vibe," you'd think at first listen that '80s metalheads Slaughter
had been rebornin the '90s as T-Rex. But sadly, the "Bang A Gong" jam of the
first track "American Pie" gives way to the high-pitched wail of the Slaughter
of old. There's a decent power ballad in "Hard To Say Goodbye" (sounds a bit
like Guns 'N' Roses) and Mark Slaughter's upper range proves a fine instrument
to replay Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain High." Unfortunately, range alone can't
duplicate the offhanded, unaffected feel of Walsh. There's some promise here,
but ultimately, Slaughter is still a bit too stuck in 1989. Wake me when the
real Slaughter Revolution happens.
Slaughter, along with CMC labelmates Dokken and Warrant will open for Alice Cooper at The World on Saturday, August 2.
The Grateful Dead
Fallout from the Phil Zone
Only the Grateful Dead could make 11 songs last more than two hours and span two CDs. This latest Dead "from the vault" material released on the Dead's own label through Arista, collects some of Dead member Phil Lesh's favorite rarities. That means a lot of songs where the sound quality (and sometimes even vocal backup) isn't the best, but something about the song was particularly memorable (a 1967 recording of Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour" is offered here in mono, but is included as the longest take of the song Lesh could find — 31 minutes). There are 1989 recordings of "Box of Rain" and "The Music Never Stopped" from Alpine Valley in Wisconsin, and a 1969 take of "Viola Lee Blues" from Chicago, which gives the Chicago/Milwaukee area more than its fair share of the running time of these two discs. Ultimately, though, this is an album for staunch deadhead collectors only. It's basically an "official bootleg," not a high quality live recording.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs has released two more classic rock albums on its Original Master Recording gold compact disc format. Why would you want to pay an extra $10-$20 more for these reissues? MFSL remasters the albums before comitting them to gold disc (the gold coating, instead of the standard aluminum, provides increased sound reproduction fidelity). The latest offerings are XTC's double album Oranges & Lemons, originally released on Geffen in 1989. Nirvana's final studio album, 1993's In Utero (also on Geffen) gets the gold treatment as well. While these albums don't enjoy the huge sonic improvement of some of MFSL's renovations of early Moody Blues or Pink Floyd albums (there simply isn't that much to improve on, mastering-wise) these are fine additions to a home collection for fans of these albums and artists. If these CDs were videos, it would be as if MFSL had adjusted the color knob on your television set slightly, and made you realize that what you thought was a fine picture before, actually had an annoying red tint.