Album Review

Searching Inside Pink Floyd's Album Animals

In 1977, Pink Floyd released its tenth studio album, Animals. To mark the record’s 40th anniversary this year, I wanted to take a peek inside the timeless album that even after so long, still rings very true today with the current political climate.  

Written at the band's studio Britannia Row in London, Pink Floyd's Animals album had only five tracks and ran for 40 minutes. It is the start of Roger Waters taking more of the reigns during this period of the band.  One of my favorites, this literal album itself makes subtle human behavior comparisons to animals and is very reminiscent of George Orwell's literary masterpiece Animal Farm.

The first tune "Pigs on the Wing, Part 1" is an intro setting the tone of the album offering unvarnished lyrics like “If you didn’t care what happened to me/ And I didn’t care for you/ We would zig-zag our way through the boredom and the pain/ Occasionally glancing through the rain/ Wondering which of the buggars to blame/ And watching for pigs on the wing.”  Next, "Dogs" is a lengthy song that speaks about the band's perspective of capitalism.  During "Dogs" with Waters & David Gilmore handling the lyrics, it's Gilmore's talent on guitar that actually takes this song to places only he can.  On side two, "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" was written by Waters where he portrays what he describes as different types of pigs who have influence over the people from the politicians, authority figures and government types. The next song "Sheep" is referring to the followers that rarely do anything to change their circumstances. Finally, after all of the lengthy jams, the second part of "Pigs on the Wing" merely served as a short outro of the album. 

While Animals was an album widely appreciated by uber Pink Floyd fans, it did not see much radio play on the rock stations. However, it is interesting to note that even with such political underlyings, Animals still went to #2 on the UK Albums Chart and #3 on the US Billboard 200 chart as well as reaching 4x Platinum. 

1. Pigs on the Wing, Part 1 1:25

2. Dogs 17:06

3. Pigs (Three Different Ones) 11:26

4Sheep 10:20

5Pigs on the Wing, Part 2 1:26

Gov't Mule's The Tel-Star Sessions

During their stint with the Allman Brothers Band, guitarist Warren Haynes & bassist Allen Woody started a side project known as Gov't Mule.  Warren recruited drummer Abts after playing together in the Dickey Betts Band.  While this band started as a side project, they quickly discovered that there was a unmistakable chemistry between the three musicians.  The Tel-Star sessions is the first ever, never before released recording of the band.  This recording captures this group in their rawest form.  While some of us Mule hard-cores have had a bootleg of these recordings in our woodshed, we have not had the opportunity to hear it in this pure format.

This album starts off with "Blind Man in the Dark", which is a song that blends the musical influences of rock, jazz, funk, & R&B.  There isn't a song in Mule's repertoire that is more appropriate for a opener/encore of a show than this one.  Over the years the band has incorporated Frank Zappa's "Pygmy Twylyte" as a prelude to this song.  It carries an instrumental dark undertone before launching into this heavy number.  "Rocking Horse" is the second number that comes up on the album.  It contains one of my favorite lyrics in Gov't Mule's arsenal, "My guardian angel wears a hard hat said the boy with the microphone".  This tune was written while the guys were staying at Big House in Macon, Georgia and the Allman Brothers Band played it for years.  "Rocking Horse" on this album is in it's earliest form, and while you don't see it on many Mule set lists nowadays, I wish the band couldn't "leave it alone".  

Next up, is the rocker "Monkey Hill".  I'll leave this up to your imagination of what the song is about as it includes lyrics like, "between the buildings and the alleyways, that's where the living is done, where the young boys chase the dragon, that's where flesh and steel are one".  Back in the 90s, Warren uses a microphone component, that is perfect for making his voice sound like he takes a trip into the oblivion of drug addiction. In these early days of Gov't Mule, the trio was as heavy as it gets. The three members had a tendency to push each other and they would be completely in sync, knowing exactly where the other one was going to go musically.  

"Mr. Big" is the next song on the album. It is a greasy version of the band Free's "Mr. Big" that was written by Paul Rodgers & Andy Fraser.  With songs like this, you get a feeling of just where the band was musically with each member contributing equally in their respective roles.  Allen Woody's parts on this song are so heavy, he almost sounds like he's playing the lead on bass.  His style on the bass was like no other out there and this album highlights his ability as a musician throughout.  "The Same Thing" follows next on the album.  It was written by Willie Dixon, known as "the poet laureate of the blues".  I believe some of you might know some of this greats other songs that have been covered out there on the jam band scene.  These include "Spoonful", "Wang Dang Doodle", "Bring It On Home", "Weak Brain/Narrow Mind", and "Hoochie Coochie Man", just to name a few.  "The Same Thing" is another tune that found its way into the Allman Brothers set list.  While this song was played pretty heavy during the early years of 1994-1997, it has been shelved for some time now.  The next tune, "Mother Earth" originally was a slow twelve-bar blues song written by Memphis Slim back in 1951.  It was reconstructed into this heavy blues number by Haynes, Woody, & Abts.  It is is one of the good, old school Mule songs that still finds its way into set list with the current lineup.  

The next thing you hear on The Tel-Star Sessions is Bud Snyder's voice in the background saying "tapes rolling" as the bands kicks into overdrive with this beefed up version of ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid".  As a Mule fan through and through, I feel that the placement of this song couldn't be more appropriate.  Right in the middle of the album, the band launches into this raw, loud version of it.  It's hard not to say that this is a highlight of the album, but I think the entire album is unbelievable.  While the band's first self titled album is a great album, this live one captures just how Gov't Mule were firing on all cylinders in 1994.  While the 1990s were great to the Allman Brothers Band musically, after hearing this Tel-Star Sessions album, one can understand why Haynes and Woody went on to see just where this band could go.  

"Left Coast Groovies" was written in honor of the late great Frank Zappa and was the first song that was written by the three original members.  It is a tune where the band asks for the audience help to contribute vocally, way before they did on songs like "Don't Step On The Grass, Sam" and "Lay Your Burden Down".  I for one, feel that Allen Woody and his talent as a musician have been hard to replace when the bass needs to come in as heavy as ever.  "World of Difference" closes the album with two different mixes.  This tune, written by Warren Haynes, is a bluesy number that carries such a serious message.  This song would appear in the set list in the early years of Gov't Mule from 1994-1996, but after the New Years show at the Wetlands in New York, it hasn't been seen in the set list much at all and is the only song that I have never heard live.

When I first heard The Tel-Star Sessions album was going to be released,  I had to have it on vinyl.  The album catches Gov't Mule in it's rawest form in the early days and this live performance captures the band in its element.  Gov't Mule is the heaviest, greasiest band in the land. I am proud to be a lifetime, hard core Mule fan and have seen them so many different times through so many various lenses. I cannot wait to see what their work in the studio this month develops into for a new album release.  In the meantime, if you haven't ordered this archival album yet, you owe it to yourself to grab it now. Trust me, you won't be disappointed!

The Tel-Star Sessions Track Listing:

  1. Blind Man In The Dark
  2. Rocking Horse
  3. Monkey Hill
  4. Mr. Big
  5. The Same Thing
  6. Mother Earth
  7. Just Got Paid
  8. Left Coast Groovies
  9. World Of Difference
  10. Bonus Track: World Of Difference (Alternate Version/Original Mix)

On the Hunt for Nuthin' Fancy

I'm always chasing down new vinyl.  I recently purchased Nuthin' Fancy, a 1975 album by Lynyrd Skynrd.  The third studio album, it was their first to reach the Top 10, peaking at #9 on the U.S. album chart.  It was certified Gold on 6/27/1975 and Platinum on 7/21/1987.  This album was drummer Artimus Pyle's premiere with the band. After being replaced by guitarist Steve Gaines, it was the departure of lead guitarist Ed King who was most notably known for co-writing their hit "Sweet Home Alabama". 

Co-written by King and Van Zant, the opening track "Saturday Night Special" is an instant hit, punching the critiques of the band right in the mouth! The perception of Lynyrd Skynyrd was often a bunch of substance abusing, gun slinging roughnecks.  The song's lyrics, "So why don't we dump 'em, people, to the bottom of the sea?" sets a powerful anti-gun course to belied the southern rock kingpins pistol-packin' image.  The second track "Cheatin' Women" is reminiscent of a drug & booze filled man who is at his wits end, tying off another late night, with the final conclusion of how to deal with his unfaithful counterpart.  Then there's "I'm A Country Boy" written by Allen Collins & Ronnie Van Zant, a rock & roll heater that signifies the pride in which the band feels being born down on the Dixie line.  The tune "On The Hunt" has been a centerpiece of many a road trips of my own.  It was a permanent fixture in the playlist that my friends and I shared during our late night debauchery.  This song premiered in Paris in '74 and in my humble opinion is one of the focal points on the album.  Gary Rossington lays down some tasty licks during this bluesy number.  "Am I Losin" is a intimately personal tune by Rossington & Van Zant.  It was written about original drummer Bob Burns leaving the band due to being overwhelmed by life on the road.  (Bob Burns is credited with the band's debut album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd as well as Second Helping.) While this song would be something desired in any Skynyrd fans set list, it has only seen the light of day a handful of times.  Closing the album and written by Billy Powell, King, & Van Zant, "Whiskey Rock a Roller" focuses on the band's time spent on the road.  Ronnie came across what he called a stupid writer who asked him, "What are you man?"  Van Zant responded he was a "Whiskey Rock a Roller."  There one thing for certain, Lynyrd Skynyrd was in their prime while releasing Nuthin' Fancy.  There is no telling where the band could have gone if the plane would have landed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 20, 1977.**

**Note: Neil Young wrote the song "Powderfinger" for Lynyrd Skynyrd, but the three band members passed in the plane crash before they could ever record it.  This is interesting to note as some thought there was bad blood between them.

Track Listing:

Side One:  
1. "Saturday Night Special" (E. King, R. Van Zant) – 5:08
2."Cheatin' Woman" (R. Van Zant, G. Rossington, A. Kooper) – 4:38
3."Railroad Song" (E. King, R. Van Zant) – 4:14
4."I'm a Country Boy" (A. Collins, R. Van Zant) – 4:24  

Side Two: 
1. "On the Hunt" (A. Collins, R. Van Zant) – 5:25
2."Am I Losin'" (G. Rossington, R. Van Zant) – 4:32
3."Made in the Shade" (R. Van Zant) – 4:40
4."Whiskey Rock-a-Roller" (E. King, R. Van Zant, B. Powell) – 4:33

Taking a Look into the Allman Brothers 2nd Set Album

The Allman Brothers has always been one of my favorite bands. Recently, I came across 2nd Set and had to get it on vinyl. Produced by Tom Dowd, this album was the Allman Brothers Band's fifth live release in 25 years. It was recorded during 1994 at the Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC and the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey with track five in 1992 at R&R Club in Los Angeles, CA. This hot album portrays this lineup at the band's highest point in the 90s, and shows how they were hitting on on cylinders.


I completely agree with Rolling Stone magazine's reviewer John Swenson when he said, "The Allman Brothers Band live on because live performance is what they're about. The call of the road and the thrill of collective improvisation are the animating forces behind this rock institution, ever since 1971's live At Fillmore East confirmed their reputation and provided their commercial breakthrough."

Writer Marc Greilsamer states, "Old-timers might cry blasphemy, but the band's resurgence in the early 1990s came remarkably close to recapturing the glory of their seemingly insurmountable peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With five years in the band under his belt, slide guitarist Warren Haynes had truly come into his own, magically interacting with Dickey Betts and serving up scorching leads that might have made even Duane look twice."

Swenson goes on to say, "2nd Set, the sequel to the 1992 concert disc An Evening With ..., documents the miraculous revivification the Allman Brothers have undergone since reconvening in 1989. They've survived the losses of guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley more than 20 years ago, not to mention a few lost years in between. In fact, they've managed to retain and refine their musical identity. The continuity is provided by the seemingly indestructible core of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts. These men have endured the ravages of rock & roll and emerged strengthened, with the kind of world-wary depth and wisdom that informed most of the great blues musicians." 

Both reviewers were dead on. Take a look at the tracks below and then listen for yourself. You will not be disappointed. 

  1. "Sailin' 'Cross the Devil's Sea" (Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Allen Woody, Jack Pearson) – 4:49
  2. "You Don't Love Me" (Willie Cobbs) – 6:36
  3. "Soulshine" (Warren Haynes) – 6:42
  4. "Back Where It All Begins" (Dickey Betts) – 12:32
  5. "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" (Dickey Betts) – 10:15
  6. "The Same Thing" (Willie Dixon) – 8:22
  7. "No One to Run With" (Dickey Betts, John Prestia) – 6:29
  8. "Jessica" (Dickey Betts) – 16:09