She’s Gone, and She’s Wearing Your Red Sweater

For almost two years, some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.

Some weeks are heavier or more dense than other weeks. Not that this week was whipped cream, but it was lighter.

Greg Kihn Band – RocKihnRoll (1981)

When Tim shared this album, he made me feel like I should have heard The Breakup Song before. But I haven’t. Tim will be flabbergasted.

But I like it. It’s got good energy. The lyric-less vocals after every line in the verse (which were a little annoying) and the chorus seemed unoriginal, but that may be a sign that others, whose stuff I did listen to, were influenced by this song. The keyboard solo was pretty weak though.

I do feel like I’ve heard Sheila before (maybe because it’s a cover). While it was still unoriginal, it felt stronger than The Breakup Song. It was short, but it had some power behind it. Womankind was also pretty strong, although I got sick of the background guitars doing the same thing for the whole song. It needed more movement. The best part of the song was the 30 seconds they switched it up. Valerie was strong and musically more interesting. I think it was the best track on the album.

I liked this album. It’s definitely ’80s, but not new wave or synthpop or hair metal. More like ’80s Billy Joel. It’s just nice solid pop rock obviously made in the ’80s. Kind of like Roy Orbison, it’s dated, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold up 30 years later. Well, I’m not sure about Nothing’s Gonna Change. I liked the groove, but it’s pretty dated. I’d like to hear a modern cover of that.

Actually what this album reminds me of is that girl in your group of high school friends, who you never thought about asking out. She’s not bad at all, and you like having her around, but she never caught your eye. If that makes sense.

Now I want to listen to some Billy Joel. 3/5

“I was confused of the date of this. Spotify lists the year as 2013. I thought, man, this is like some kind of retro rock. It sounds old. Then I remembered you said it was from the 80s and figured it out. It actually aged fairly decently, but still, sounds like 80s pop rock to me. The hits are fun to hear (another “oh thats where that song comes from!” moment) but overall this isn’t really my thing.
I accidentally let it play after I left work last night so I missed the last half the album so I’m hearing the first tracks again. They’re growing on me. Womankind has a pretty good beat. Deeper into the album they were losing me again. Nothings gonna change seemed to really lack some oomph. Is that an accordian? This tune sounds familiar and the vocal melody seems to have a lot of potential but the instrumental backing just seems lacking.

Overall, the writing seems actually pretty good, but the sound is a bit weak. Its not really rocking me and at this point I don’t know that I’ll come back to it. Not a bad listen though.” 3.9/5 – Spencer

“This was fun to listen to. It reminded of some B-sides to some 80’s movie soundtrack. I actually enjoyed this since it was so easy to listen to and not hard to figure out. Like watching a movie that is just good entertainment for the 2 hours but will likely be forgotten in 2 days. Highlights are – Nothings Gonna Change and Sheila. I still like the simple rock of the 80’s so I will give this more credit than maybe it deserves.” 3.5/5 – David

Earth, Wind and Fire – The Best of, Vol. 1 (1978)

I have always thought it was funny when bands release a best of or greatest hits album when they’re still together and making new music. It’s such an obvious money grab. And this was their second compilation! I know they don’t always know how long they might be together, but it seems like this would have been more appropriate during their 1983-1987 hiatus (like their next compilation).

Also, I am appalled that Boogie Wonderland isn’t on this album.

Reviewing “greatest hits” albums doesn’t take as much thought or effort as a normal studio album. I can pretty much say ” sweet grooves, rich harmonies and tasty horn licks” for most of these tunes. The upbeat ones anyway. Also, it makes me realize that I’m hungry. There’s also a couple of slower ones. Creamy to contrast the spicy. Ok. I need some lunch.

I had heard Got to Get You Into My Life off the Sgt. Pepper’s soundtrack (the same place Aerosmith‘s version of Come Together comes from), but I don’t like it as much as the original. For me, the best of these selected-by-someone-else best was Shining Star, even though it is mostly one chord. Getaway was a pleasant surprise for me and September is always a good one.

The only relative lowlight was Love Music, which sounds like stock audio people use on sitcoms when they’re making fun of a ’70s porno. That’s the Way of the World had bit of that, but it didn’t let the slow groove bog it down. 3/5

“The opening is such a departure from the Beatles version that I really like both. That’s how covers should be in my opinion. I’ve never heard this version before, but I like the tight funky beat and the additional instrumental sections. I’d only heard about 3 of these tracks before.
Overall, I have mixed feelings on this. The horns, the groove, everything is really tight and bumpin, but its almost too polished. I like it, but not as much as the more raw, jazzier deep-funk I listen to more. I’ll share some more of what I mean some week.
That said, September is a masterpiece of grooviness. Shining Star is another highlight, its just seems so relaxed, yet movingly funky. Thats what EW&F does though. It was good to hear a bit more of their catalog, and I’ll be listening to many of these tracks again, but I’m not going to rush out to buy the album either.” 4/5 – Spencer

“OK, you know I don’t normally rate best of’s that well. It’s not that I don’t like best of albums, but when I listen to one without the context of the album it came from I tend not to enjoy it. It’s like watching a show on Netflix, but only watching a couple episodes per season. It sounds familiar, but you can’t figure out the motivation of the characters or what is going on. That being said, EWF made some great songs. I really enjoyed it, but I just felt like I was missing something from track to track. Some best of’s pull off the format better than this one…it was just like the power behind the song got lost when a new track started. So yeah, 3 stars for the quality of individual songs, but not for the whole.” 3/5 – Tim

Cake – Fashion Nugget (1996)

Ah, Cake. They are one of the few bands that have never changed their unique sound, despite playing for more than 20 years. And their sound really is unique. A Cake song I have never heard before could come on and without being told, I’d know it’s Cake. I can’t do that with most bands. But most bands aren’t Cake. In fact, no other band I can think of is really much like Cake.

If it matters to you, I Will Survive and Nugget both have f-words. And they don’t swear, but I still wouldn’t listen to Race Car Ya-Yas or Italian Leather Sofa with my mother. For all that, I love the grooves of I Will Survive and Italian Leather Sofa.

Actually, I love most of what Cake. I don’t know that any of it is mind-blowing, but it’s certainly comfortable, but interesting alternative rock. I think the only think I don’t really care for (in general) is their cleaned up guitar distortion. It’s like they can’t decide what they want their guitar to sound like, so they picked a weird middle ground. And more specifically, Nugget gets a little repetitive. Open Book has grown on me, but it isn’t really one of my favorites. Friend is a Four Letter Word and She’ll Come Back to Me have also grown on me, but I think that’s more because my tastes have matured more since I first heard them.

This whole album hits me pretty hard with nostalgia. Frank Sinatra (which is a terrific way to open an album) and the bass line from I Will Survive were big influences on some of my earliest song writing. Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps and Sad Songs and Waltzes still influence my song writing. The Distance is there on my high school “playlist to accompany video gaming,” along with Fastball‘s The Way, Semisonic’s Closing Time, Stroke 9’s Letters, Weezer’s blue album, maybe some others I can’t think of, and a ton of stuff from Napster that is mislabeled on my computer to this day.

Anyway, the highlight of this album for me isn’t The Distance or I Will Survive, although they are very good. Although lyrically simple, It’s Coming Down is strong, driving, and has interesting horns. Plus the background vocals remind me of some ’60s psychedelic pop rock. 4/5

“I have this disc and it’s been awhile since I listened to it. “Italian Leather Sofa” is a classic- lots of jazz influences and sets apart for the rest of the songs in my opinion. The lead vocals grow on you as well- at first you just assume this dude can’t sing so he just raps the lyrics and relies on the song to carry it home. The bass line on “The Distance” is great and this song is still a highlight. “I will survive” is funny. I still like the original from Gloria Gaynor but it’s cool they covered this classic disco era tune. I can dig it.” 3/5 – David

“I really wanted to like this album. I mean really wanted to like it. I’ve liked the Cake songs I’d heard on the radio, and was expecting that, but as a whole the album just felt fractured to me. The music really didn’t grab me. I will say though, they are consistent, and I really like the lead singer’s voice. In some ways I thought the lyrics and songs were a bit lazy and easy…which I know you guys will say about some of the music I like…but I just didn’t get it. So two stars here from me…I doubt I would just put it on at home.” 2/5 – Tim

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Déjà Vu (1970)

This is their second record, and their first with come-and-go member Neil Young. Plus John Sebastian from the Lovin’ Spoonful plays harmonica on the title track and Jerry Garcia plays steel guitar on what may be CSN&Y’s most famous song.

I’ve been thinking about sharing CSN&Y (or CS&N) for a long time (I’ve said many times before how much I love their harmonies), but could never decide which album to share. In anticipation of the Grammy’s on Sunday, I decided to share an album that was nominated for Album of the Year (although this did not end up winning in 1971). Between this and their debut (which had been nominated the year before and also didn’t win), it was still a hard decision so I flipped a guitar pick (because I didn’t have coin in my pocket and a pick seems more fitting anyway).

Because CSN&Y became famous as their own group, I never realized until recently that at the time they were a super-group, consisting of members of The Byrds, The Hollies and Buffalo Springfield. It’s not surprising their collaboration surpassed their original bands. Here’s what my friends thought:

“CSN&Y is great. I have listened to this album a couple times but I don’t know it extremely well. The acappella in Carry On is just beautiful. Perhaps I’m a sucker for harmony like Paul, but really I think harmony is one of the greatest tools you can use in music. The rhythmic variety in the opening track is cool too. The opener is by far the best track, but overall, I find this album very enjoyable. I love a lot of 70s music where progressive stuff was a bit more common, so you often see more drama, more variation than some of the later decades.” 4.3/5 – Spencer

“I have the vinyl version of this album and brought it into work to show Spencer. He has actually seen an actual vinyl record before, but I sure felt old busting this out and then listening to this again. Tons of good songs on this record. I’m a big Neil Young fan so his songs are the highlight for me. Picking up Neil along the roadside on the way to Woodstock is a great story as well. You’ll have to watch his documentary sometime- unless that was just his heroine induced version of how he meet CS&N. “Our House” is a great track and always will be until the end of time. In fact, this is probably played up in the heavens since it’s such a great song. I agree with all the other reviews on the harmony within this group- it’s essential to their sound. Great album.” 4/5 – David

“This was a great album. I really enjoyed it. I’ve heard many of these songs as covers, but I guess I was too lazy to check out the original…and the original is better. You can clearly hear Young’s influence here as both a performer and writer. It was a great solid album, and it is no wonder they were/are the super group of their day.” 4/5 – Tim

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5 thoughts on “She’s Gone, and She’s Wearing Your Red Sweater

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