New this week in the Rhino Room at iTunes:
We’ve only got two artists to tackle in this week’s Digital Roundup, and one of them has nine – count ‘em – nine titles being added to our digital catalog, so before we dive into discussing those efforts, let’s talk about the lone addition from the other artist first, just to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
Savatage, Fight for the Rock: It may not be the reason why it’s taken this particular entry from the band’s back catalog to make into our digital catalog, but the members of Savatage have referred to this, their third album, as Fight for the Nightmare, with lead singer John Oliva declaring outright on the band’s website, “I’ve never really been fond of that album,” only to quickly upgrade his statement to state, “We’ve never fond of that album.” It’s not hard to see why: between the album’s artwork, which found the band echoing the pose of the soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima, the unlikely inclusion of cover versions of Badfinger’s “Day After Day” and Free’s “Wishing Well,” the placement of a lyrically-unnecessary parental-advisory sticker on the front cover to make metal fans think there might be something outrageous contained therein, and, of course, a title track prominently featuring the word “rock,” the whole affair was clearly Atlantic Records’ attempt to break Savatage into the mainstream. Did it work? Well, the album made it onto the Billboard Top 200, if only at #158, but it was their subsequent album, Hall of the Mountain King, that proved to be the bigger seller, and it did so while delivering a collection which was far more in line with the real Savatage. Still, if you’re a fan of the band, you really need to hear Fight for the Rock, if only to confirm that rocking properly is something that’s worth a fight with your label.
Okay, now that we’ve given Fight for the Rock a fair shake, it’s on to the substantial number of additions to our catalog from our other artist of the week.
37 years ago today, Yes topped the UK charts with an album from which most of the band’s casual fans…or certainly the ones in America, anyway…would be hard pressed to name a single song.
We offer that States-centric caveat because two of the songs, “Wondrous Stories” and the title track, were actually hit singles across the pond, hitting #7 and #24, respectively, but the truth of the matter is that, over the course of the past decade or two, there’s actually been a universal tendency for Yes’s history to be simplified so that only two very specific bits tend to stand out in any substantial way: the classic-album trifecta of The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge, and the grand reinvention of the band with 90125. As Going for the One falls between those windows, it often slips through the cracks, which seems a bit ridiculous for a former #1 record.
Make way for the Queen of Soul! This week’s picks feature the incomparable Aretha Franklin. After 75 of these, I’m finally starting to get the hang of this.
Today marks the 65th birthday of the man who brought you “Sultans of Swing,” “Romeo & Juliet” (the one that wasn’t written by Shakespeare), and extolled the virtues of getting money for nothing and your chicks for free.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1949, Mark Freuder Knopfler was inspired to play guitar by Hank Marvin of the Shadows…or if he wasn’t, he was certainly inspired by Marvin enough that he desperately wanted his very own Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster. In the end, economic realities resulted in him getting started with a twin-pickup Hofner Super Solid instead, but it was enough to get him started in a band or two. Prior to adopting the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as a full-time endeavor, Knopfler spent a bit of time studying journalism at Harlow College, even picking up a position as a junior reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post, before ultimately graduating from the University of Leeds with a degree in English. After stints in the bands Silverheels and Brewers Droop, as well as forming a duo with Steve Phillips called the Duolian String Pickers, Knopfler really got serious with a group called the Café Racers, and before long, Mark, his brother (and rhythm guitarist), David, bassist John Illsley, and drummer Pick Withers had begun the Dire Straits story.
In today’s world, package tours are a staple of the concert industry, with promoters putting several artists together in the hopes that their combined fanbases will result in sell-out shows. Sometimes, however, you’ll get a bill that’s pleasant enough at the time, only for history to look back at it and say, “This was freaking iconic!” Such was the case on this date in 1973, when the Corral Club in Topanga, California played host to The Eagles and Joni Mitchell opening for Neil Young and the Santa Monica Flyers.
As triple-bills go, you have to admit: that’s a pretty damned good one.
Largely made up of old blues and folk chestnuts, this week's playlist is designed for the dog days of August humidity. Bukka White, Obray Ramsey, Big Bill Broonzy, Elder Charles Back, Slim Harpo, Odetta and Lightnin Hopkins all make an appearance. Press play, pour a glass of ice tea, or something stronger if it suits, and beat the heat.