classic album dissections 2009

Radio CityRadio City available on iTunes

Big Star Radio City

During this episode Jim and Greg celebrate the legacy of Big Star with a Classic Album Dissection of their first two records, #1 Record and Radio City. Both albums have recently been re-released as a double album, and a new Big Star box set is due out next week. As Jim and Greg discuss, the band changed the history of American music without selling very many records. With a sound that combined Memphis Soul with British Invasion rock, they laid the groundwork for "Power Pop" and influenced bands including R.E.M., Wilco and The Replacements. The original Big Star lineup included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jim and Greg's guest this week, drummer Jody Stephens.

Following their discussion with Jody Stephens, Jim and Greg each discuss and play a song. Greg chooses to highlight the opening track from #1 Record called "Feel." The song was written and performed by Chris Bell. While Alex Chilton is the name most people associate with Big Star, Bell really created it. Most of his incredible work didn't see the light of day until after his death at age 26, but Greg thinks songs like“Feel,”illustrate the power of his voice and lyrics–many of which convey the problems he faced in his short life.

Jim plays a song written and performed by Alex Chilton from the second album called September Gurls. As he discussed with Jody earlier in the show, this was a breakout song for the band and one that was immediately adored by critics and fans including The Bangles, who later covered it. Jim's not sure what the song means, but for him it's more about the mood that Chilton created. With its sweeping melodies and“pan-sexuality”it's a power pop classic.

Go to episode 198
Purple Rain (Deluxe)Purple Rain available on iTunes

Prince Purple Rain

It's hard to believe, but Prince's blockbuster album Purple Rain is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. To honor this occasion Jim and Greg conduct a Classic Album Dissection. They talk to former Revolution members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman about their relationship with Prince and the making of the album. Wendy & Lisa are now a musical duo, and also score music for TV shows like Heroes and Nurse Jackie. But back in 1984, they were part of Prince's recording and performing team — Wendy on guitar and Lisa on keyboards. As Jim and Greg explain, it was unique for Prince to be collaborative. He even shared songwriting credits with The Revolution. Jim and Greg also credit Wendy and Lisa with opening Prince up to new music and new sounds.

To cap off their dissection Jim and Greg talk about two specific songs from Purple Rain. Jim plays "Darling Nikki," one of the only songs on the album written solely by Prince. It was targeted by Tipper Gore and the PMRC for its suggestive lyrics, but Jim sees it as a love/lust story similar to "Norwegian Wood." Greg plays "When Doves Cry." With no bass line, multiple guitar parts and a multi-tracked voice, it's an example of Prince's modern and avant-garde side.

Go to episode 191
Astral WeeksAstral Weeks available on iTunes

Van Morrison Astral Weeks

Van Morrison recorded and released his masterpiece Astral Weeks 41 years ago, and to celebrate he released a live version of the album. This gave Jim and Greg a perfect opportunity to look back at Astral Weeks with a Sound Opinions Classic Dissection. Astral Weeks didn‘t produce huge hits, but as Jim and Greg explain, this record is unique from any other in Van Morrison’s collection, and in fact, rock history. It melds rock, blues, folk and jazz in such a way that makes it hard to define. The jazz musicians who contributed to this sound were guitarist Jay Berliner, drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. In addition to the music, Jim and Greg both marvel at the emotions conveyed by the songs on Astral Weeks. You hear Van Morrison struggle with the search for home and the impermanence of life. It's as much a poem as it is an album, making it a classic in the Sound Opinions' book.

Go to episode 171