Sunday, September 21, 2008

Classic Rock Videos

Can't have a classic rock video series without the professor of early rock and roll- Chuck Berry!

Album Cover Art

Let's continue our look at Gigwise's top 50 controversial, weird, best and worst album covers as compiled by their crack staff. Some I agree with, some are debatable- but they all interesting and certainly worth exploring.


38. Guns N Roses: ‘Appetite for Destruction’ MTV originally refused to play any of Guns N Roses videos until they agreed to change the cover of their debut album. The album's original cover, based on the Robert Williams painting "Appetite for Destruction", depicted a robot rapist about to be punished by a metal avenger. After several music retailers refused to stock the album, they compromised and put the controversial cover art inside, replacing it with a cover depicting a cross and skulls of the five band members (designed by Billy White Jr., originally as a tattoo), each skull representing one member of the band: Izzy Stradlin, top skull; Steven Adler, left skull; Axl Rose, center skull; Duff McKagan, right skull; and Slash, bottom skull. The photographs used for the back of the album and liner notes were taken by Robert John.

Guns N' Roses' debut, Appetite for Destruction was a turning point for hard rock in the late '80s -- it was a dirty, dangerous, and mean record in a time when heavy metal meant nothing but a good time. On the surface, Guns N' Roses may appear to celebrate the same things as their peers -- namely, sex, liquor, drugs, and rock & roll -- but there is a nasty edge to their songs, since Axl Rose doesn't see much fun in the urban sprawl of L.A. and its parade of heavy metal thugs, cheap women, booze, and crime. The music is as nasty as the lyrics, wallowing in a bluesy, metallic hard rock borrowed from Aerosmith, AC/DC, and countless faceless hard rock bands of the early '80s. It's a primal, sleazy sound that adds grit to already grim tales. It also makes Rose's misogyny, fear, and anger hard to dismiss as merely an artistic statement; this is music that sounds lived-in. And that's exactly why Appetite for Destruction is such a powerful record -- not only does Rose have fears, but he also is vulnerable, particularly on the power ballad "Sweet Child O' Mine." He also has a talent for conveying the fears and horrors of the decaying inner city, whether it's on the charging "Welcome to the Jungle," the heroin ode "Mr. Brownstone," or "Paradise City," which simply wants out. But as good as Rose's lyrics and screeching vocals are, they wouldn't be nearly as effective without the twin-guitar interplay of Slash and Izzy Stradlin, who spit out riffs and solos better than any band since the Rolling Stones, and that's what makes Appetite for Destruction the best metal record of the late '80s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide



38. Elephant's Memory: 'Elephant's Memory' The sleeve depicts the band in tribal paints superimposed onto an elephant's body. Although chiefly remembered these days for their role as John Lennon's loose and ragged backup band on his Some Time in New York City album from 1972, Elephant's Memory have a bit more to their history than that. Formed in 1967 by drummer Rick Frank and saxophonist and clarinetist Stan Bronstein, who reportedly met on the New York City strip-joint circuit, the group specialized in an eclectic Frank Zappa-like mix of psychedelia, jazz, and acid-tinged rock, and delivered a truly bizarre stage show complete with inflatable stage sets. Their first album, simply called Elephant's Memory, was released in 1969 on Buddah Records, a label more famous for bubblegum pop groups than whacked-out horn bands.

Two tracks from the LP, "Jungle Gym at the Zoo" and "Old Man Willow," found their way onto the Midnight Cowboy movie soundtrack later that year, which gave the group some visibility, but it didn't exactly translate into sales for the debut album. A second LP, 1970's Take It to the Streets, had even less commercial impact. Then came John Lennon and Some Time in New York City, and Elephant's Memory had their moment in the sun. They released a third album, also called Elephant's Memory and featuring David Peel, on Apple Records later that year, then backed up Yoko Ono on 1973's Approximately Infinite Universe. Angels Forever, which turned out to be the group's swan song, appeared in 1974. I never saw this cover before or maybe I did and forgot.



38. Rob & Fab – ‘Rob and Fab’: Poor Rob and Fab. They were known as Milli Vanilli- the world's worst lip synch artists, so I guess this name change and the fact that they were really singing on this LP meant that they were talented. Guess not, as the album was a complete failure. Rob & Fab is the lone album by Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan after their disastrous turn as Milli Vanilli, was produced in 1993.

Months after the lip synching scandal, Morvan and Pilatus appeared in a commercial for CareFree Sugarless Gum. The duo begin to lip sync to an opera record. An announcer asks while they are lip synching, "How long does the taste of CareFree Sugarless Gum last?". The record then begins to skip and then the announcer answers, "Until these guys sing for themselves."

During this time the duo moved to Los Angeles, where they released an eponymous album under the name 'Rob & Fab, but despite receiving positive reviews; financial constraints, poor promotion and the scandal surrounding Milli Vanilli's lip-synching allegations led to its failure.

Pilatus served three months jail for assault, vandalism, attempted robbery and spent six months on drug rehabilitation before returning to Germany. A depressed Pilatus eventually died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in Frankfurt on April 2, 1998.

This album was the last performance by Pilatus prior to his fall from grace and eventual death in 1998. Morvan would not release another album until his 2003 solo work, Love Revolution.



38. Tangerine Dream: ‘Rubycon’ -The 'Dream' have released many albums, but this is considered among their best. An interesting cover blended in with their signature progressive rock, made this one of their best. The simple idea of a solitary splash in water proved made for a durable image for their classic album cover.

Rubycon is a classic of electronic music and still sounds fresh today. If pieces of it sound familiar, its because three decades of ambient and film music has drawn from early TD's innovative use of electronic voices, sound textures and analog synth rhythems. Remember that TD did not use sequencers to produce their music at this time - they played it pretty much live. It ranges from dark and spooky to grand and etheral and feels more like a classical composition as it moves from theme to theme and through a variety of sound environments. It generally stays melodic or harmonic, mostly through arpeggiation, with only occassional dissonance - they were shooting to be a popular afterall, in contrast to some of their German counterparts. This is one of the classic electronic albumns by which you compare everything else that followed.