On Second Thought: Bryan Adams, Cat Stevens, Dire Straits, ELP, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, others

So, the local church down the block was having its annual MAMMOTH GARAGE SALE. Occasionally, there are good deals to be had: high-end stereo systems for $100 or less, old but serviceable furniture suitable for a rental suite or cabin at the lake, and hard-to-find collectible books hidden amongst the boxes of cast off romance, thriller and self-help paperbacks.

Oddly enough, no mammoths for sale, or even a mammoth garage — though it’s likely there were more than a few items there that could have been classified as pre-historical.

Sadly, there were not many deals to be had this year — likely due to the uninspiring and un-spring like weather conditions. But in a corner, there were a couple of hundred CDs in pristine shape: no scratches or marks, not even on the jewel cases. So, after weeding through the plain ol’ crapola and paring it down to about twenty possible acquisitions, here are the twelve survivors that made it out the door with me. I wouldn’t have paid full price for any of them, or even bothered to get my fave tracks off of iTunes, but I didn’t mind paying about 10 cents per song, even though I’ll probably never listen to some of these cuts ever again. And so — the albums and some thoughts:

BLIND FAITH – BLIND FAITH (1969): Some good stuff here, though I think most people would forgo much of the Ginger Baker drum showcase that closes out the album. So, can a band go out on tour with only five songs and a drum solo to promote? And that’s why Blind Faith remains a supergroup relegated to also-ran status.

DIRE STRAITS – SULTANS OF SWING: THE VERY BEST OF DIRE STRAITS (1998): Turns out I already own the best of Dire Straits: the self-titled first album from 1978 and 1980’s Making Movies. Although many of these individual tracks are good, this compilation only makes one want to go out and hear these songs in context of the original albums on which they appeared. I guess that isn’t a bad thing, but it really shows how the right combination of songs can make the whole much more interesting than the sum of its parts.

CAT STEVENS – GREATEST HITS (1974): A good friend of mine is always trying to get me to give Cat Stevens a second chance. Here it is: Whoa — what’s that sound?!? I do believe that’s the sound of twelve songs’ worth of second chances that just came and went. Still doesn’t make it happen for me.

ROXETTE – LOOK SHARP! (1988): “The Look” — great tune. The rest? Not in the same league at all. Some of Roxette’s later albums had at least a few interesting tracks with which to connect the hits, but this album has only its lead off track and not much else.

ERIC CLAPTON – TIME PIECES: THE BEST OF ERIC CLAPTON (1982): After his short time with Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos, Eric Clapton didn’t recreate his image as the English blues guitar legend so much as tweak it, developing a mellow, more commercial style that helped him retain his original fan base as well as appeal to the then contemporary mainstream tastes. I don’t know — other than “Layla” and maybe a couple of others, if you fall asleep easily while driving, this compilation is the kind you don’t want in your car’s CD player when taking a long trip after a heavy lunch. Clapton had way better songs, somewhere — but most of them aren’t on this album.

BRYAN ADAMS – RECKLESS (1984); KIM MITCHELL – ROCKLAND (1989); BLUE RODEO – LOST TOGETHER (1992): Three classic Canuck records I more or less missed the first time around (I think I was deeply into L.A’s Paisley Underground bands around that time). Bryan Adam’s Reckless captures the sound of the decade: big, big drums and cleanly distorted guitars supporting good, catchy, hook-filled songwriting — B.A.’s trademarked style. Kim Mitchell’s offering attempts to weld this kind of production technique to Mitchell’s own unique musical and lyrical perspectives, but falls a little short on Rockland. It’s OK, but Mitchell would find his mojo on subsequent albums and make a decent living for himself as a recording artist throughout the next decade. Blue Rodeo’s Lost Together is the big winner in this pile, but I really can’t explain how I missed this when it originally came out. I liked 1991’s Casino, but 1994’s Five Days in July just got way overhyped, and I couldn’t see why. Lost Together was released between those two others in 1992, and … lost to me, anyway. But there’s great writing, performances and production all around, and I think in the long run, Lost Together will hold up better than some of their other albums.

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER – BEST OF (1994): As mentioned, songs taken out of the context of their original albums often don’t shine so brightly when posing for a family photo with their other shiny siblings. And there’s often one or two that don’t smile at all. At least the band’s ’70s haircuts are absent due to the complete lack of any band photos in the album art. If the record company was going that far, the question is this: why bother putting these musical equivalents of pictures in any kind of exhibition in the first place?

VIKING SKULL – HEAVY METAL THUNDER (2010); AIRBOURNE – NO GUTS, NO GLORY: SPECIAL EDITION (2010): Really now, everyone should just look ahead and think logically. AC/DC can’t go on forever doing the AC/DC thing — they need to come up with some kind of agreement with Airbourne, whereby they can lease out their songs and their name and let Airbourne take over the singing and playing and touring for a while as AC/DC. I really do think some people might not even notice. As for Viking Skull, that was an impulse buy. The songs and the sounds don’t live up to the expectation of the girl on the cover with horns growing out of her eyes.

And finally …

PAUL McCARTNEY – NEVER STOP DOING WHAT YOU LOVE (2005): A “not-for-sale” promo CD endorsed by Fidelity Insurance, it compiles one great song, “Jet,” with about 14 more tracks that I would simply excommunicate from Paul’s canon of work. In this day and age, “soundboarding” should be considered as a form of torture and therefore inhuman — no one should have to listen to 14 out of 15 pieces of dreck such as what McCartney was releasing in the late ’70s and ’80s. I’m thinking of keeping this CD on the off chance it really develops a reputation as a rare compilation that’s so terrible it becomes collectible.

Well, that was my first Saturday garage sailing episode of this calendar year; a pretty good start, I think. I’m sure there’ll be more weekends of great deals and giveaways — if the snow ever melts. I’m thinking by August would seem to be a safe bet …


JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • apollo c vermouth

    ….no one should have to listen to 14 out of 15 pieces of dreck such as what McCartney was releasing in the late ’70s and ’80s.

    Such as?
    1. Another Day
    2. Jet
    3. Let ‘em In
    4. With a Little Luck
    5. Live and Let Die
    6. Listen to What the Man Said
    7. My Love
    8. Take It Away
    9. No More Lonely Nights
    10. Silly Love Songs
    11. Put It There
    12. Once Upon A Long Ago
    13. The World Tonight
    14. Bluebird
    15. Calico Skies

    Mosquito…….dreck is you.
    Get swatted.

  • JC Mosquito

    Well, I said I liked “Jet”….and “Live and Let Die” is decent as well, I suppose. OK – I stand corrected – 13 out of 15 on the Dreck-O-Meter.