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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A's (the) - self titled & A Woman's Got the Power

Band: The A's
Albums(s): The A's~ & A Woman's Got The Power (AWGTP)*
Year(s): 1979 (1st album) & 1981 (2nd album)
Style: Rock & New Wave. First album~: That classic blend of pop and jittery angst that only survived a few years in the late 70's to early 80's. If XTC covered Cars songs. The second album* was more relaxed and sedated, with the exception of one song...
Similar Bands: XTC, Cars, The Knack, The Jam, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker
"One Word" Review: A's: Jitter-Pop AWGTP: Small-townie-rock
Based Out Of: Philadelphia, PA
Label: Artista, Columbia Pictures
The A's & A Woman's Got The Power Front
The A's & A Woman's Got The Power Back
The A's Slip Front & Side 1
The A's Slip Back & Side 2
A Woman's Got The Power Sides 1 & 2

A's - 1979~
  1. After Last Night - 4.11
  2. CIA - 4.03
  3. 5 Minutes In A Hero's Life - 3.28
  4. Words - 3.20
  5. Parasite - 4.35/
  6. Artificial Love - 2.39
  7. Who's Gonna Save the World - 2.39
  8. Teenage Jerk Off - 3.09 (reverse order with "Grounded" on cover)
  9. Grounded (Twist and Shout Interpolation) - 2.34
  10. Nothing Wrong With Falling In Love - 5.00
A Woman's Got the Power - 1981*
  1. A Woman's Got the Power (sample) - 4.43
  2. Electricity - 3.40
  3. Heart Of America - 4.10
  4. How Do You Live - 3.51
  5. When The Rebel Comes Home - 3.48/
  6. Johnny Silent - 3.49
  7. Little Mistakes - 5.32
  8. Working Man - 2.45
  9. I Pretend She's You - 3.37
  10. Insomnia - 4.44

Album Rating (1-10):
A's: 10~
A Woman's Got The Power: 7.5*

Members & Other Bands:
Rocco Notte (Clutch Cargo)
Richard Bush (the Peace Creeps current)
Rick Di Fonzo (solo current)
Mikey Snyder
Terry Bortman
Rick Chertoff-Producer
O. Tim Bomba - Asst. Engineer~
Thom Panunzio - Asst. Engineer~
Julie Last - Asst. Engineer~
Ross Frankel - Asst. Engineer~
Greg Calibi - Mixing~
Apple/Chipetz - Personal Direction~
Randy Green - Photography~
Veronica Reilly - Stylist~
Eleanor Laurin - Make Up~
Howard Fritzson - Art Direction~
Nick Garvey - Producer*
William Whittman - Assoc. Producer*, Engineer~*
Brian McGee - Asst Engineer*
Steve Marcantonio - Asst. Engineer*
Peter Corriston - Art Director*
Hubert Kretzschmar - Pictures*

Unknown-ness: I had never heard of these guys when I bought these records years ago...I think they were 10 cents each. Not only are they the first thrift store band to review alphabetically, but they were the first unknown band I took a chance with. And perhaps because this discovery was so good, I grew passionate about finding other unknown acts. I picked up their albums because of their appearances. I tend to take more of a chance on records made in the late 70's, early 80's because there was a lot of good records made then. That time period possessed a specific sound and urgency that will never be recreated or recaptured. With their look and the perfect copyright years, I was hoping to score something that would be rocking, poppy, and full of energy. As if I needed more convincing, it was then that I read the back of "A Woman's Got the Power" and the address to get more info on the band was based on a familiar street in Philadelphia. The local touch just put me over.

On a more recent turn of events, they recently had a reunion show where they opened for the Hooters on two dates (11/21/07 & 11/23/07). If I thought they were an unknown band before seeing them, I was justifiably wrong. My mind was blown when I saw how many fans were there (like me) just to see the A's. And the songs still sounded great.

Album Review: Together these albums mark a dynamic range that any band could wish to have. They show growth from a young jerky band into more relaxed, mellower song craftsmanship over 3 years. Depending on what you prefer, that could be good or bad.

The first album starts off with their two big songs: “After Last Night” and “CIA.” Both songs (as well as the whole album) are held together by the sound of the organ-like keyboard (used so well by Elvis Costello & Attractions). Urgency, Jittery, Nervousness, and pure adrenaline fueled energy are all apparent here. The key thing about the A's is that they churn that feeling out with a tremendous radio pop sense and catchy hooks that make these songs stick in your head. The repetitive chorus of “Words” feels like the repetitive ending in Elvis Costello’s “Accidents Will Happen.” And in truth, if the lyrics were a little deeper, diverse and metaphoric, this first A’s album could have been a great Elvis record. “Parasite” has a great Violent Femmes style baseline, with the organ-keys following up, dribbling down the musical note scale. And my favorite track is Teenage Jerkoff. Borrowing a short but great bass hook from XTC’s Science Friction, this song has all the bouncy energy that 70’s punk/new wave continually displayed.

From the start of the second album, we hear a difference in Bush’s voice. If only displayed in the title track, “A Woman’s Got the Power (sample),” his deeper, seasoned, more confident voice tells of how this album will compare. With an underlying Motown feel, A Woman’s Got the Power is a great single. Its style was untouched on the first album, and is an unexpected addition to the band's arsenal. A definite growth. Although, if you like the herky-jerky appeal of the first, then this might be growth in the wrong direction. Through the album’s journey, you get hit with a sad tale of Little Mistakes. The song's theme seemed to be a staple of the 80’s music. A country town boy and girl get together and experience a life full of differences that tear them apart (John Cougar Mellencamp). We also get the feeling on “When the Rebel Comes Home” that we should be proud of and take care of our armed forces soldiers. Taken as a whole, this record has the feel of a small-town America concept album ("Heart of America" "Working Man"). So, once you get to the last song, Insomnia, you are jerked back and reminded of their first album. And I do mean jerked, because the song itself starts out with :33 seconds of slow painful lament. Then the good ole organ-keyboard comes to follow along with the bouncy bass line, and we are taken along a carnival rollercoaster. It pulls us along the bumpy course, up the first incline, followed by a downhill chant of the blasting, angry, shouting, chorus “Insomnia.” And just when you think the ride is winding down, it starts over again, up that hill of anticipation and the down the other side with climactic delivery (the pure ability to produce anticipation of a particular music or lyric section, and then delivering it with perfect timing is a talent I personally love. Anticipation/Delivery is my favorite way to experience a hook. To have that build of energy and the release of melody in a song is a wonderful auditory trick).

Stand Out Track:

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