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The Day After The Sabbath 91: Forced Landing [Heavy AOR Metal special] by Rich Aftersabbath on Mixcloud
This volume mines a time period and style that I don't often concentrate on, the latter part of the 70s and what is often called AOR. Here I am using the term as defined by RYM:
"[Adult Oriented Rock]...characterized by a rich, layered sound, slick production and a heavy reliance on pop/rock hooks, which led to its huge popularity in the late 70s and early 80s".
This volume could also be seen as a document of where US/Canadian rock was going in the latter part of the 70s. Don't worry, it's not a sea-change for the blog, just an interesting diversion in all things 70s.
Setting the scene - some background as I see it to rock in the US in the late 70s
By this time, the rock and roll industry had come of age. The corporate promotion/recording/touring machine was firmly in place, as was the actual machinery; radio/vinyl and the new kids on the block, 8-track, cassette tape and the ultimately unsuccessful quadraphonic sound were established. Bands were becoming more adventurous with their stage setups and newer/bigger arenas were being filled. Cultural influences in music and art were changing; Vietnam war sentiments and hippy ideals were fading and the new record-buying "me" generation's attention was drawn in more materialistic directions. Music got closer to becoming just another cynically-marketed, "safe" product. Lyrical and conceptual themes were dumbing-down as a result of record label's construction of money-making bands. Music tastes were changing as they always do, new recording techniques and improved technology was making slicker-sounding, multi-faceted and bigger-sounding production the norm. Though not directly influential in an artistic sense, innovators like Pink Floyd were inspirational with their ever-increasing commercial success using these new widescreen soundscapes. Queen was a direct influence, their strident pomposity and multi-harmony arrangements were important to the pomp of AOR.
In the UK, Punk was the resulting antithesis to these times, and while punk existed in the US too, it didn't have as much impact in American culture. In the US, simplified riff-based bands like Kiss and the UK's Bad Company were pointing the way for popular hard rock. The well-known American bands that pioneered the typical AOR sound took influences from UK/European progressive rock like Yes and made them commercially viable and palatable for the masses who were tuning in to the burgeoning FM radio stations of the American midwest where this sound was largely evolving. These early bands include Chicago's Styx and Kansas (from Kansas strangely enough). Illinois's REO Speedwagon started very early too but remained a hard rock band for a while (See final track on Vol53). Other famous AOR names will all be familiar to you; Boston, Journey, Foreigner et al.
So....back to volume 91!
It's mostly fun, catchy, uplifting music. I have tried to choose the heaviest cuts, from albums that are all found at the obscure end of the sound and all worth investigating further, which was quite difficult as while searching for this kind of stuff I frequently encountered the situation of an album having one or two great tracks while all the others were sub-par. There's a mix of US and Canadian tracks here, as Canada seemed to have a knack for it too and produced a lot of great bands. Canada seemed particularly adept at turning out pomp-rock, pushing the limits of AOR with grand bombastic arrangements, heavy use of swirling synths and super-melodic lead guitar melodies. As usual, it's impossible to pin down any collection of bands to just one genre and on here are some bands that mix things up, Hounds is a great example with their mix of Queen-ish pomp and new wave rock they show what a big influence Queen had on pomp-rock. Rex Smith was an aspiring star who ended up with the lead role in the 80s 'man and machine' TV show Street Hawk, and the Californian 'Masters of the Airwaves' had a guitarist who used a double-neck 32-string steel resonating guitar for their distinctive sound.
Intro over....I must give another quick thanks to the members of the TDATS fb group, especially Marc Joseph (of Vitamin X), for some top AOR tips. There was also one site which I returned to again and again, and not just because Google searches were frequently pointing me there; GloryDaze Music, an amazing resource for AOR/Pomp rock (they cover other genres too).
01. Groundstar - Forced Landing / It's All The Same (1978)
from album 'forced landing'
02. Rex Smith - Dead End Kids (1976)
from album 'rex'
03. Tantrum - Applaud The Winner (1979)
from album 'rather be rockin'
04. Lynx - Lucifer (1976)
from album 'missing lynx'
05. The Hounds - Angel Of Fire (1979)
06. Network - Sundown (1978)
from album 'nightwork'
07. Gamma - Solar Heat / Ready For Action (1979)
from album 'gamma 1'
08. Masters of the Airwaves - Light Up The Heavens (1974)
from album 'masters of the airwaves'
09. Striker - Hard On Me (1978)
from album 'striker'
10. Wheatstone Bridge - Live Each Day (1976)
from album 'bad connection'
11. Morningstar - Turn Out All The Lights (1978)
from album 'morningstar'
12. Rose - Ride Away (1977)
from album 'a taste of neptune'
13. Airborne - Optimystical (1979)
from album 'airborne'
14. 1994 - Keep Ravin' On (1979)
from album 'please stand by...'
|Groundstar LP (1978)|
|Rex Smith LP (1976)|
Rex Smith is the brother of Michael Lee Smith, singer in Starz, who I included on TDATS 14 and were managed by Kiss's manager in their early days. Rex was an aspiring star and pin-up who made a few attempts at musical success before becoming better known as a TV presenter and actor. His 1976 debut album (produced by Eddie Leonetti of Angel & Legs Diamond fame) was backed by a solid hard rock band comprising Orville Davis (bass), Mike Ratti (drums), Lars Hanson (guitar, vocals) and Lou Vandora (guitar, vocals). There's a few really great tracks on it, including the one I used here 'Dead End Kids'. Rex has a great voice here, but equally good are his backing band who played convincingly cool hard rock and though I haven't spent any time looking into it yet, I presume that Orville, Mike, Lars and Lou must have had some experience and other connections in rock. Rex's career veered further into pop music on later albums and he had a hit in 1979 with 'You Take My Breath Away', which appeared on an album and TV movie called 'Sooner Or Later' but he still included a few rocking tracks here and there and his final album was in 1983.
|Tantrum band photo 1979|
Tantrum were from Chicago and had seven members, fronted by three girls on vocals; Pam Bradley, Sandy Caulfield and Barb Erber. The rest of the band was guitarist Ray Sapko, keyboardist Phil Balsano, bass guitarist Bill Syniar, and drummer Vern Wennerstrom. The song I have used here may well be my favourite in this comp, it is fantastic. At this time I don't know which one of the girls is singing this particular track but the vocals and the guitar work are just amazing. They released two albums and recorded a third in 1980 that was not released until 2005. The band has resurfaced for live shows recently, and I found film of them performing at a Chicago show called the Haymakers Reunion, at which another band appearing later in this comp played called Hounds. Their 1979 album 'Rather Be Rockin' was a lot tougher than their pop-rock debut and the track 'Applaud The Winner' I used here was also included on a record called 'Striktly for Konnoisseurs'. This was a compilation put together by Kerrang magazine staff in 1984 and having only just found it recently I realise it included a few other bands I have used before, like Moxy (Vol2), Starz (14), Angel (18 & 24) and Legs Diamond (29).
|Lynx - "Missing Lynx" LP 1976|
|Network, from rear cover of the Nightwork LP (1978)|
|Network's 'Nightwork' LP (1978)|
|Gamma 1 LP (1979)|
|Masters of the Airwaves band shot|
|Masters of the Airwaves LP (1974)|
The band toured in support of the album, including some Midwest opening slots for the band Kansas, but sales were dismal. Your typical personality conflicts subsequently kicked in and Flak was promptly kicked out of the band which quickly folded. On first listen nothing special, but this is one of those albums that rewards a listener's patience. Definitely worth the price of admission, if only to hear Berick's unique guitar.
Under his given name Randy Schuchart, Randy Rand played in he metal band Autograph. Over the next two years Flak struggled on with a number of outfits including Redding, Acejet, Masters, and The Morgan Blackwood Group. In 1976 he dropped out of music, got married, and joined the Air Force where he was trained to repair F-111 Aardvark electronic warfare boxes. In an ironic move, he auditioned for a job singing with an Air Force band and closed out his tour of duty touring worldwide for the military. He's still active in music, fronting a three piece named Man Up."
|Striker (l-r): Scot Rosburg, Rick Taylor,|
Rick Randle, Rick Ramirez
|Wheatstone Bridge - Bad Connection LP (1976)|
Musically, the band are a tight well-oiled machine. There's a slight British influence happening in some of the arrangements and a nice blend of distorted and clean guitar tones. Tracks like "Bad Connection", "Make It Rhyme", "Dance The Whole Night Long", "Thunderock" and "Nightflight" all featuring blistering guitars and stand among the best material on the album. There are a couple of ballads present as well that lack the immediacy and impact of the heavier tracks. The production is solid and crisp and the writing is nice and compact. This is definitely one of the better 70's private pressings I've heard in quite awhile. I have no doubt lovers of old-school melodic hard rock will eat this up. Dig this sweet vinyl rip.."
|Morningstar LP art (1978)|
|Rose lineup in 1977|
|Earth, Air & Water LP (1973)|
|Airborne LP (1979)|
Originally issued in 1979, the album attracted a slew of favourable reviews but just when things were looking to take off, including a proposed tour with the Cars, the President of Columbia Records jumped ship leaving the band high and dry with the new regime deeming Airborne as yesterday’s news. It was, in effect, a knockout blow. However we still have their sole album to remind us what could have been."
|1994's "Please Stand By..." LP (1979)|
|1994's band photo from debut LP (1978)|
Thanks for listening!, Rich.