[Originally published in the "5" email newsletter, June 9, 2002. -KJ]
Even with the numerous and startling advances in recording technology available these days to musicians--and their bogus counterparts--it’s still quite an impressive feat for an artist to write, arrange and produce his/her own material. It’s a whole new ballgame however, when in addition to this they can actually play every instrument and sing every note on a given album.
This time out we’re going to focus on some favorites of ours that fall into this interesting category: the real solo album. By the way, all these artists were in their 20s when they recorded the albums we’re highlighting here. Fuckers.
Here they are (in chronological order):
Paul may have been the first to officially leave the band--effectively breaking them up in the process--but he was the last of the Beatles to officially branch out and go solo. And as many guessed at the time, he would be the one to achieve the most commercial success among them. (He also happens to be the richest artist of any kind on the planet).
McCartney’s first post-Beatles solo album may not be his biggest seller but it is quite possibly his most influential. Many have been inspired to try to approximate the breezy, laid back feel and intimacy McCartney so ably captured here. (The Modfather himself, Paul Weller, is a big fan.) This is due in no small part to the fact that he recorded this one at home by himself--with very incidental contributions from wife Linda--seemingly wanting to get away both literally and figuratively from the Beatles recording habits in starting anew. Oh, and Paul is a much better drummer than Ringo, by the way.
Highlights: "That Would Be Something", "Every Night", "Junk", "Oo You", and of course "Maybe I’m Amazed".
If you’ve listened to FM radio sometime in the last 30+ years you are undoubtedly familiar with the Top 5 single included herein: the unforgettable "Hello It’s Me". But the album of which it is a part of is considered both Mr. Rundgren’s artistic and commercial peak. Not bad considering this is the man who produced Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell [Epic-1975] and XTC’s Skylarking [Geffen-1986], respectively.
Originally released as a double vinyl album--it was re-released as a 2 CD set--Rundgren played every note and sang every word over three sides, while side 4 was an operetta of sorts and features a stellar cast of musicians that includes legendary guitarist Rick Derringer; sax/trumpet playing siblings the and Peter Frampton drummer John Siomos. Breathtaking and highly influential. Just ask Prince. [See below]
Highlights: the aforementioned "Hello It’s Me", the Carole King tribute "I Saw The Light" and "Dust in the Wind". (No, not that cheesy Kansas song).
While most of the recorded studio output of Minneapolis’ pint-sized monarch has been a one-man show to begin with, we chose his sophomore album simply because it was the first we ever heard from him and has over the years remained very near and dear to our hearts.
If you don’t own this one, do yourself a favor and get it. If you haven’t heard it in a while then reacquaint yourself with a cool album made long before the hype, the hieroglyphics and the heartbreaking artistic downward spiral took hold.
Highlights: "I Want To Be Your Lover", the original version of "I Feel For You" (a sizeable hit for Chaka Khan in the mid ‘80s) and "Why You Want To Hurt Me So Bad".
It may sound like the work of a really tight unit and there may be a band photo inside the CD booklet, but don’t be fooled: with the exception of a guitar part recorded by Afghan Whigs vocalist (on "X-Static"), this is Dave Grohl all the way. Recorded in a Seattle studio in little over a week by the former Nirvana drummer, this debut album is the most raw and punk rock of the band’s releases and a logical musical extension of his old band.
At the time of its release the album’s lyrics were closely scrutinized and analyzed for clues to Grohl’s state of mind following Kurt Cobain’s death a year earlier--"I’ll Stick Around" and "Black Widow" are said to be jabs at Cobain widow and Hole frontwoman Courtney Love--but these days it just sounds like the loud, fun and even a bit naïve record we’re sure Grohl set out to make in the first place.
Highlights: "This Is A Call", "I’ll Stick Around", "Big Me".
...presents Author Unknown
Frustrated with the lack of creative input he was afforded in the late, great Jellyfish, Falkner left the San Francisco power poppers to hook up with fellow producer/multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann) to form The Grays, whose sole release was the underrated and out of print album Ro Sham Bo [Epic-1994]. Falkner still needed a wider outlet for his output so he decided to go solo. This album was the end result.
While ’s Something/Anything? is an obvious influence on various levels--the early ‘70s AM radio vibe; Falkner playing everything but strings--this is the work of an artist who finally has the opportunity to not only demonstrate that he’s got the goods but that he also know how to use these gifts wisely. A wonderful pop album.
Highlights: "I Live", "Don’t Show Me Heaven", "Before My Heart Attacks".
[All album covers courtesy of Wikipedia]