Friday, August 27, 2010

382. More Songs About Buildings and Food. Not many songs about buildings and less about food.


Album: More songs about Buildings and Food.

Artist: Talking Heads.

Year: 1978

Genre: Art Rock.


Tracks

  1. Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
  2. With Our Love
  3. The Good Thing
  4. Warning Sign
  5. The Girls Want to Be With the Girls
  6. Found a Job
  7. Artists Only
  8. I'm Not in Love
  9. Stay Hungry
  10. Take Me to the River
  11. The Big Country


The name of this album is “More songs about buildings and food” which may lead you to believe that Talking heads have a prior history involving tunes about constructions and yummy things. You’d be forgiven for thinking that in the past they’d recorded tracks called “Blocks of flats with blocks of cheese”. "Two slices of bread and a slice of shed" and "Olive coloured houses with olive coloured olives". In fact this isn’t the case. The Talking Heads back catalogue contains few, if any, songs about buildings and food and More Songs about Buildings and Food doesn’t contain any songs about buildings or food. All of which says more about Talking heads than I ever could in a review.

While the title of the album isn’t really all that appropriate the band itself seems very appropriately named. The majority of the vocals on More Songs are basically just spoken by David Byrne. He doesn’t so much sing as chat. But his vocals aren’t the dulcet tones of the trained news reader or radio announcer. He doesn’t possess the richness of a Tom Waits or the depth of a James Earl Jones. He’s possessed more of the voice of the possessed. It’s an other worldly voice- it’s tones aren’t so much earthy as marsy, or possibly plutoey. It’s the voice of the mad guy who sits next to you on the train and tries to persuade you that not only have the aliens landed but they’ve established themselves as recording artists and started to release albums. It’s just a bit too sing-song to be truly spoken and a lot too monotone to be actual singing. Whatever it is your reaction is going to determine your appreciation of not just this album but the entire Talking Heads collection. If you’re a fan of Byrne’s voice (perhaps you’re from his home planet) then this is probably a great album. If he grates on you then it’s a fairly challenging listen.

The most accessible song on this album is a cover of Take me to the river, which used to be a pop standard but is now better known for it’s renditions by battery powered fish. The rest of the album shows a clear Brian Eno influence (he produced it) and if you're a fan of his stuff then you'll probably like this. If not you're best advised to keep away.

Highlight: The Big Country

Lowlight: Warning Sign

Influenced by: Art rock and Al Green

Influenced: Jonothan Ross.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I've never heard the album, so i cant rate it, and im not a fan of talking heads, but the title sounds like the old Undertones song "More songs about chocolate and girls".

-Yes. That's why amazon have a customer review rating system. So you can log on and give a release one star even though you've never heard it.


So do you want more songs about buildings and food or less? Let me know below.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

383 A Quick One. Sadly not quick enough

383 A Quick One. Sadly not quick enough

Album: A Quick One
Artist: The Who
Year: 1966
Genre: Rock

Tracks


1. Run, Run, Run
2. Boris the Spider
3. I Need You
4. Whiskey Man
5. Heat Wave
6. Cobwebs and Strange
7. Don't Look Away
8. See My Way
9. So Sad About Us
10. A Quick One, While He's Away


The mega-selling bands of the British invasion era are gradually starting to appear on this list with more regularity. The bottom hundred was home to some of the more obscure artists in the countdown and we're starting to move into territory in which household names start to get more a foothold. But that doesn't mean the top 500 isn't kicking up some major surprises. When I encountered a Who album I assumed I'd recognize a lot of the songs. I'm not an avid devotee of Daltrey and Townshend but I've got some compilations and live releases and so I was expecting to know some of these tracks. With the exception of one song and a cover this was all new to me. A Quick One is definitely a strange kind of Who album. It's their second release and an attempt to broaden their sound away from the limitations of their first album which was fairly narrowly focused on good songs worth hearing. For some reason the band decided to reach out beyond quality songs and expand their repertoire to include mediocre and bad songs as well. The process for accomplishing this feat involved broadening the pool of songwriters so it wasn't limited to Pete Townshend (who could write good songs) and included the rest of the band (who can't write for nuts). So while The Who Sings My Generation (their debut release) was a great set of songs that sounded like an actual album, A Quick One is a hodge podge of writing styles and sounds like a shambles. But that's not to say there isn't stuff here to love, it's just got nothing to do with the songwriting.

The album's opener is a track called Run Run Run which starts off sounding like My Generation but quickly sounds like just a cheap copy that replaces the anger with silly lyrics and bad rhymes. Daltrey sings the track as if he's a pop singer rather than a rock shouter and it's all a bit tepid. I Need You is actually worse but replaces Daltrey's slightly pissy voice with Townshend's pissier one. Pete should spend his time writing songs and playing guitars and should be kept well away from microphones (and the internet, but that's a different story). Don't look Away, See My Way and So Sad about Us are all inconsequential Who songs that you won't see on any best-of's and they won't be playing live any time soon. But they're actually a lot better than some of the other stuff on the album.

Bass player John Entwhistle was never known as a song-writer and the reasons are here on this album. The two songs penned by John are both pretty deplorable. Whiskey Man is fairly forgettable while Boris The Spider is annoying. It developed a cult status amongst Who fans for the novelty of having Entwhistle sing it rather than the song itself. Boris is basically a nursery rhyme tune with even simpler lyrics. I've listened to the song four times now which means I think I've spent more time on it than Entwhistle did writing it and the Who spent recording it. Apparently Entwhislte was forced to play this song at every Who concert for years and he quickly got quite sick of it. I know how he feels.

The most notable thing about A Quick One is the title track which was The Who's first foray into the arena of Rock opera which would later set them apart from other rock bands of their era. While their future efforts would spread over two albums, A Quick One lives up to it's name by clocking in at a modest nine minutes. It tells a story of infidelity involving a train driver and it moves through several "movements" before finally finishing in a big finale. Personally I've never really responded to The Who's rock operas. To me it sounds like a lot of poorly formed ideas cobbled together into a clumsy narrative that is as engaging as a "what I did on my weekend" essay. The whole thing is overblown and given far more pomp and gravitas than rock deserves.

You might think I hate this album but as I said earlier there is something to love and that's the drumming of one of rock's greatest ever skin-thumpers. Even in the dullest examples of songwriting on A Quick One there are moments when Keith shines through as the wild maniac he was. His finest effort is the "song" he wrote called Cobwebs and strange an odd cacophony of off key whistles and brass reminiscent of what an Alcoholics Anonymous marching band would sound like if they all fell off the wagon at the same time. It's weirdly compelling but made impressive by Moon's furious drum solos. The man was amazing and his death was a huge loss not just for drummers but for larger-than-life characters everywhere.

The Who were a great band and there are albums coming in this countdown that I will praise at annoying lengths. But this is a long way from their finest moments. When they band released a four CD boxed set of greatest hits back in the nineties this album didn't rate a single track except for a live version of A Quick One. I think that says more than my review ever could.


Highlight: Heatwave. And Moon's drumming
Lowlight: The final track

Influenced by: Motown, nursery rhymes and opera.
Influenced: Drummers everywhere

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "If you like British Invasion, Hard Rock, Metal, R&B, Reggae, Polka, Disco...I don't care. You will love the Who! Harder than the Beatles, funnier than the Stones, the Who are an amazing band. "

-God knows that's always been my problem with the Stones. I've often thought "I could like these guys but they're just not funny enough"

So did you enjoy this or was a quick one too long for you? Let me know below

Friday, August 20, 2010

384. Pyromania- Not really setting the world on fire.


Album: Pryomania

Artist: Def Leppard

Year: 1983

Genre: Rock

Tracks


1. Rock Rock (Till You Drop)
2. Photograph
3. Stagefright
4. Too Late for Love
5. Die Hard the Hunter
6. Foolin'
7. Rock of Ages
8. Comin' Under Fire
9. Action! Not Words
10. Billy's Got a Gun

A few albums back I wrote a review of Hysteria by Def Leppard. I proclaimed it “Dumb but fun.” Pyromania, the band’s earlier work, is exactly the same... except it’s not much fun.

When reviewed Hysteria I trawled my way through Amazon’s customer reviews and found quote after quote from Def Leppard fans who were all verging on Hysteria over the same thing. Apparently to their mind Pyromania was a Heavy Metal masterpiece which elevated the genre to an unappreciated art from- Hysteria however was a foetid pile of crap which saw the band sell out to commercialism and release a terrible album that wasn’t worth mentioning in the same beer-soaked breath as the band’s earlier work. Consequently when I heard this disc for the first time I was expecting something less commercially accessibly but more artistically pure- and therefore somehow better.


As far as I can tell the only difference between Pyromania and Hysteria is that the latter has infinitely stronger tunes. I’d never heard any song from Pyromania before so the whole thing was a blank slate and a completely new experience. At least the first song was, the rest of the album was a lot more familiar, primarily because it was basically just the first song again. The same big rhythm, the same shouty vocals, the same ludicrously over-treated backing vocals and the same guitar solos coming in at the same time. It’s just a big loud shouty ball of sweaty testosterone dripping congealed hair-gel with leather pants and a shaved chest. It’s dumber than a box of toast and lacks all the sense of fun that made Hysteria a passable listen.

I think a lot of it has to do with the attitude of the band. I could be wrong but you get the sense on Hysteria that they know what they’re doing is just supposed to be fun. It’s not meant to be taken seriously or examined as art. Nobody is going to sit in a lecture theatre and study the chord progression, it’s just silly music that can be enjoyed by anyone who doesn’t take themselves or it too seriously. That sense of devil-may-care enjoyment is missing on Pyromania which seems to think it's important somehow. And it shows in the response of the fans who take it so seriously that they actually see Hysteria as selling out, when it’s basically just more of the same only with better written tunes.


If you like your rock hard, big and silly or your metal soft, big and silly then Pyromania might well be for you. If not you might be better advised to put the matches down.

Highlight: Rock Rock til you drop
Lowlight: Too Late for Love

Influenced by: Led Zeppelin and Hair Spray
Influenced: Lots of hair bands that followed.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I purchased this C.D about 4 years ago and it instantly became one of my favorites. Forget what any overly-pompous jerk who wouldn't know good music if M TV still played it, this is a truly fun and energetic C.D. Every song is great, the only song that could be considered a filler song is the last one on the album. This album contains the classics "Pour Some Sugar On Me", "Animal", "Love Bites" and"Armageddon It". However, in my opinion, the lesser known songs on the C.D. like "Dont Shoot Shotgun", "Run-Riot" and "Excitable" really steal the show. This C.D. is definitely one of the few that truly deserves the enormous success that it recieved, it has afterall gone on to sell 12 million copies in the U.S. alone. Great Guitar work, great vocals, great songs, great album. "

-There are few rules to posting a good amazon review. The first is to make sure you're reviewing the right album. The songs you mention are on Hysteria.

So did Pryomania set your world alight or fail to raise a spark? Let me know below.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

385. Pretzel Logic- All downhill after the title.

Album: Pretzel Logic
Artist: Steely Dan
Year: 1974
Genre: Rock



  1. Rikki Don't Lose That Number
  2. Night by Night
  3. Any Major Dude Will Tell You
  4. Barrytown
  5. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
  6. Parker's Band
  7. Through with Buzz
  8. Pretzel Logic
  9. With a Gun
  10. Charlie Freak
  11. Monkey in Your Soul


Steely Dan are probably the dullest band ever named after a sex aid. It's a piece of trivia gleefully shared by rock fans all over the world- Steely Dan got their name from a strap on dildo mentioned in The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. You would expect a musical act with that start in life to be a bit edgy and dangerous. You'd think they would play the sort of music that your mother would hate and they'd be courting controversy at every opportunity. You'd be wrong. Oh god you'd be wrong.

Steely Dan are regarded in most rock circles as a bit dull. They're considered not very adventurous and a tedious outfit who play a boring mix of Rock and Jazz. On the strength of Pretzel Logic I'd have to say the reputation is entirely justified. This is tedium at it's most finely crafted. Steely Dan seem to have avoided the excitement of rock and the spontaneity of Jazz and replaced them with a predictable nature that lifts monotony to new levels.

The song that you probably know from this album is Rikkie Don't Lose That Number, which opens the album and gets it off to a deplorable start. I don't know about you but I've always hated this song. It manages to pull of the unique trick of being boring and annoying in equal doses. The "Rikkie don't lose that number, it's the only one you want" refrain is one of those annoyingly catchy, repetitive lines of music that gets stuck in your head and provides a constant but dull soundtrack to your day. It will sit there in your brain and adds an extra shade of grey to your life making everything you do that much more dull and irritating. It's wrong but not the only crime on the album.

Kicking off side two is Parker's Band, which would just be a simpering stain of tedium if it wasn't a tribute to Charlie Parker who is one of the most interesting musicians jazz ever produced. Parker's Band is hideously upbeat and jaunty melody that sounds like it was rejected from a B-grade musical. Offering it up as a tribute to Parker is like someone trying to produce a memorial to Jimi Hendrix on the Swanee whistle. It actually made me angry.

But these aren't the only tracks not to like on this hideous album. Almost every song is dripping with over-produced vocals and dull instrumentation at best and annoyingly cloying melodies at worst. Any Major Dude Will Tell you has a frankly stupid name but in fact it's the songs only redeeming feature. The chorus proves that the irritation caused by Rikkie wasn't just a fluke- these guys can do effortlessly irritating in their sleep. It's like breathing to them and I wish they'd stop doing both. With a Gun is the same again- annoying and repetitive. The other song that I was surprised I recognised on this album was Barrytown which I did know but only because Ben Folds has done a cover. Check out Ben's version, it's a lot better.

I struggle to understand how Steely Dan can be described as Jazz Rock. To my ears it's all just pop, and annoying pop at that. Listening to Pretzel Logic is only slightly less painful than being violated by their namesake. Avoid.

Highlight: Barrtown
Lowlight: Everything except Barrytown

Influenced by: Charlie Parker (but not so it shows)
Influenced: Ben Folds.


Favourite Amazon Customer Review: "Dear Amazon, As a first time user to your company , its hard to reveiw it when your products have yet not arrived in the Est time you posted,But I have not given up.As per a e-mail sent last week to Amazon I was told to wait unti June 6th to see if they arrived.When this happens as per my cart I will place my next order.The reason for using your company was a Sydney radio person John Stanley Radio 2UE who gave you people big Wraps,But I will wait and see what happens this week if they arrive."

-Ah Amazon, how you must hate disgruntled customers who write you letters of complaint when they should be writing reviews.

So Pretzel Logic. It will get stuck in your head, but will it torture or delight you when it does? Let me know below.

Friday, August 13, 2010

386. Enter the Wu Tang. Rappers hunting in packs.

Album: Enter the Wu Tang
Artist: The Wu Tang Clan
Year: 1993
Genre: Rap

Tracks

1. Bring da Ruckus
2. Shame on a Nigga
3. Clan in da Front
4. Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber
5. Can It Be All So Simple/Intermission
6. Da Mystery of Chessboxin'
7. Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F' Wit
8. C.R.E.A.M.
9. Method Man
10. Protect Ya Neck
11. Tearz - Wu-Tang Clan, Wu-Tang Clang
12. Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber, Pt. 2 - Wu-Tang Clan, Wu-Tang Clan
13. Conclusion - Wu-Tang Clan, Wu-Tang Clan



Enter the Wu Tang is a rap album. Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm not the world's biggest fan of Rap. During the course of writing this blog I've listened to old school rap, new school rap and gangsta rap. I've heard the pioneers, the masters, the fallen martyrs and the revered elder-statesmen of the Hip Hop world. I've listened patiently to all of it and tried to review a genre that to me sounds shamelessly one dimensional. I've said: "This isn't for me and their arrogant posturing really gives me the irrates" in as many different ways as I can. I'm seriously contemplating opting out of rap reviews in the future and replacing them with the reviews I'd really like to write: "This is another rap album, please read my other reviews of rap albums because they apply just as equally here. Instead I'm going to write about Midnight Oil." I wish there was some Oils on this countdown I really do.

Most rap sounds the same to me but thankfully The Wu Tang Clan have a twist up their sleeve which made me pay this album more attention than I thought I would. The Wu Tang clan are a rap group. Or more accurately they're a group of rappers. A rock group usually has one vocalist and a bunch of guys who play instruments. A rap group has one guy who handles the musical backing and a collection of vocalists. Rapping duties on Enter the Wu Tang are shared by a guys named Raekwon, Method Man (who later became an actor but refused to change his name to Method Actor Man, an opportunity missed I think), RZA and GZA (who not only share the same last name but the same middle name as well, how wild is that?) Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, Ghostface Killah and Ol' Dirty Bastard. The MC's don't just take a song each but usually take a verse in a song which means every track features a variety of voices. It's the perfect way to compare different vocal styles and having listened carefully I can conclude not all rappers sound the same.

The most unique voice in rap music that I've ever heard is probably Ol Dirty Bastard who sounds like he's rapping from a different planet to the rest of the band. He somehow sounds old and confused while rapping, which is a fairly impressive feat in a genre that doesn't really appreciate the elderly or the baffled. While most MC's are sure they're the greatest rapper to ever live ODB comes across as someone who is not entirely convinced he's actually in the studio. He sounds unsure about where the microphone is and a bit vague on how rapping works. It's really refreshing to be honest.

While I'm never going to become a rap convert I'd rate Wu Tang as among the best Hip Hop albums I've heard lately. It's partly the variety that lots of different voices provide, it's partly the samples from old kung Fu movies but it's mainly because there is some sense of playfulness about it. It sounds like a bunch of guys together enjoying doing what they do. It's the closest rap gets to jamming and it actually works. If you're not a rap fan don't bother hunting it out because it won't convert you. If you're a fan of the genre then you've probably got it already. In both cases I apologize for wasting your time.


Lowlight: Can it be that it was all so simple. Annoying sample overdone.
Highlight: Bring Da Ruckus

Influenced by: Rap and a communal spirit.
Influenced: Rap

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote:
"South Sid "

-A two word review, both of them baffling.

So would let the Wu Tang enter or would you rather keep

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

387. Country Life. Roxy Music's most famous album (cover).


Album: Country Life

Artist: Roxy Music

Year: 1974

Genre: Art Rock

Tracks

The Thrill of It All
Three and Nine
All I Want Is You
Out of the Blue
If It Takes All Night
Bitter-Sweet
Triptych
Casanova
A Really Good Time
Prairie Rose

So my rapidfire education in the career of Roxy Music continues with another album hot on the heels of an earlier release. While I hadn't heard this albums just as much as I hadn't heard the earlier one I was definitely aware of it because of the cover. Whenever you see iconic album covers compiled in the one spot you will always see Country life, and it tends to make an impression. More on the cover in a minute.

The difference between Country Life and For Your Pleasure is the absence of Brian Eno, who had left to pursue his own brand of musical weirdness. The band was left in the full control of Brian Ferry who took them in a different kind of direction. It's possible that Ferry was worried about fans missing Eno so he decided to distract them. Firstly by including nude ladies on the cover (About which more in a minute) and also by throwing on ever instrument he could find to dazzle the listener.

Country life is unbelievably dense and complicated. It's so busy it should probably be called City Life. There's so much thrown into the first track that it’s almost impossible to work out. There seemed to be three guitars all riffing at the same time along with strings, keyboards, horns, vocals, backing vocals and quite possibly a massive array of other effects buried somewhere in the mix. There may have been a recognizable melody in there somewhere but it was struggling to get out.The effect should be terrible bt it does kind of work. The entire album does have a timeless sort of quality about it because it comes from nowhere and everywhere at once.

There’s a lot of talent here, arguably too much talent. You could happily ditch 5 or 6 musicians from each track and still have enough talent kicking around to make a perfectly acceptable song, possibly even two. There are entire instrumental passages played by instruments I don’t actually recognize. I think one was an electrified violin but then it could have been a guitar with an affects pedal stolen from another planet. There are harmonica solos, subtle strings and other affectations. It’s like Roxy music lost a bet with a music shop owner and were forced to use his entire stock in the creation of their work.

Brian Ferry met the two women who grace the cover while he was on holiday in Portugal. He managed to persuade them to pose naked on the cover which goes some way to explaining the power of the rock star. I've met people on holiday and I could barely persuade them to let me have a quick read of their Lonely planet, let alone strip down and pose for photos. It must be pointed out however that the two girls were also responsible for providing the German translation of the lyrics. So they're not just a pretty face or two.

Country life is a complicated listen that might not be for everyone but does reward repeated hearings. If you can get past the cover it might be worth your time.


Higlight: The Thrill of it all.

Lowlight: Prairie Rose

Influenced by: Music instrument catalogues
Influenced: Radiohead apparently.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Turgid, plodding music. Could barely get through a single playing of the CD before taking it hastily out of the player. "

-Turgid and plodding. Great words. I've used plodding in a review but not Turgid. Expect to see it on this blog soon.

So are you a fan of the country life or would you rather get the hell out of and move to the city? Let me know below.

Friday, August 6, 2010

388 A Hard Days night- The first great soundtrack.


Album: A Hard Days night
Artist: The Beatles.
Year: 1964
Genre: Early Beatles.

Number 388 sees a continuation of the march of the Beatles- an unstoppable progression that began at number 420 and will contain a lot more steps between now and the end of the list. Once again I will try and contain myself and again I'll probably fail dismally because I'm a massive fan of the fab four, hopefully however I'll go some way to pointing out why I think you should be too.

A Hard Days night has thirteen songs every one of which is a Lennon/McCartney composition. By today's standards that's nothing special, we expect the new Radiohead album to be a Radiohead composition, but back before the Beatles reinvented the album this sort of thing was a real rarity. Albums were basically a way of persuading people to fork out money for some filler to accompany a single they probably already owned. Most pre-Beatles albums were made up of covers with the only original compositions purchased from a professional songwriter who worked for a company that sold hits to producers. Buying an album made up of entirely new compositions written for the record was a rarity in 1964 and the fact that we expect it today is thanks to Mr Lennon and Mr McCartney. And while we're praising the world's greatest songwriting duo lets remember that this album was the first of two they recorded in 1964 having released two the year before and cranking out two more the following year, along with EP's and singles. In the first 3 years of their recording career Lennon and McCartney wrote 71 original songs, something most bands couldn't manage in 15 years. As if writing and recording of those original compositions wasn't enough the lovable liverpuddlians traveled across the UK and then the world performing the songs for hordes of screaming fans and appearing on countless radio and TV shows.

Perhaps the biggest miracle in amongst all of this was that they found time to make movies. People forget that A Hard Day's night is more than just a new Beatles album it's also the soundtrack to their first motion picture. If you haven't seen the movie then can I recommend you check it out. A Hard Day's Night isn't just the quick knock-off movie that lots of bands made throughout the sixties, which is basically just an extended video clip with hastily thrown together linking pieces. It's a well scripted and enjoyable comedy movie with great lines and four great performances from the Beatles who proved surprisingly natural in front of the camera. The great film reviewer Roger Ebert described it as "one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies" which is high praise for someone who's been reviewing movies for over 40 years.

And so to continue a tradition here's a track by track run down of the 13 Lennon McCartney Compositions that make up A Hard Day's Night.

A Hard Day's Night.

It's no surprise to find some indications of weariness creeping into the Beatles catalogue by 1964. It's a subject John would often return to but in this early outing he's eager to counter his fatigue with a joyous indication that the woman he lives with is like a female can of Red Bull. The album version is great but I have to say I'm a big fan of take 7 which replaces the lead break with a great instrumental passage.

I should have known better.


Track two isn't much of a trip away from the opening track with a similar tempo and feel and John again taking lead vocals. It's a good track for appreciating how good a singer Lennon was.

If I fell

The pace slows down for track three which cruises along as Paul sings another insincere narrative about his love life. While people around this time poured over Dylan's lyrics to get some insight into what the man himself was thinking there wasn't anyone alive who thought McCartney was actually relating his true feelings in his lyrics. He could be in a happy relationship, pining for an unrequited love and lamenting a tragic break up all in the space of an album's length. Paul kept his private feelings private and instead gave his fans lyrical themes that they could readily identify with.

I'm Happy just to Dance with you

George sings this track and gives us a perfect example of why the Beatles were popular with mums as well as their daughters. Can you imagine a band today singing a song about how they were quite content just dancing? "No thanks, I'm not interested in oral sex I'm finding this foxtrot more than fulfilling enough." The Stones were making it clear that they only had one thing on their mind while the Beatles were interested in more innocent pleasures...at least in their lyrics. Anyone who believes they were only interested in dancing out of hours is frankly fooling themselves.

And I love her.

A tender ballad possibly ruined by the presence of someone incessantly tapping a piece of wood. I don't know if it's just me but overdubbed percussion like that really overwhelms the rest of the song. I'd love to track down the original master for a track like this without the overdubbing. If anyone has it please let me know.

Tell me Why

Another up-tempo rocker that seems to lack the wealth of ideas that John gave all his other compositions. It tends to wear out its welcome pretty quick and only has a weird falsetto part for variety. Not a bad track by any stretch of the imagination but not nearly as good as the rest of the album.

Can't buy me love.

Another rocker but this time it's one of Paul's and he provides the highlight of the album. It hasn't dated at all and still sounds as infectious today as it did almost fifty years ago. You know it and you love it.

Any Time At All

Side two of A Hard Day's night are tracks recorded in order to make a full album's worth of material. These songs didn't make it into the movie but are an added bonus. Any Time At All is one of those hidden Beatle gems that make their album so rewarding. You won't hear this on the radio and it doesn't make any compilations. The only way to hear this song is on this album and it's worth seeking out. It's a glorious piece of sixties pop/rock that anyone else would have been delighted to release as a hit single.

I'll cry instead.

John goes pseudo-country and gives us some jangly pop. It's worth hearing the remastered version of this track to appreciate Paul's basslines. All the focus on his songwriting and vocals tends to overshadow his contributions on the bass but it's worth hearing him out. He's a lot more creative than people give him credit for.

Things we said today.

A wistful track by Paul which has a sudden trek into darker and heavier passages when the chorus strikes. People tended to praise their later experimental albums so much that they dismissed these early efforts as a bit by-the-numbers. Tracks like this prove that the Beatles always had an adventurous edge, even when confined by the guitar-drums-bass limitations of their early studio works.

When I get home.

Even if you've never heard this track you could identify the band after about 5 seconds. Possibly even earlier. In fact this song is so Beatley it's possible that it's fab-fourness permeates beyond the boundaries of the disc and you could actually identify this just by smelling the CD. Even an MP3 rip gives off a Beatles odour.

You can't do that.

Apparently in his later, more sensitive days John regretted the ugly lyrics in this song which suggest he's going to inflict physical harm on his girlfriend if he catches her talking to another man again. Nobody was batting an eyelid at the time but it didn't really gel with his image later in life.

I'll be back again.

Another song sung by John who really dominates this album. Another track suggesting he's got a precarious hold on the woman he's with who seems to be constantly flirting with the notion of infidelity. Ironically John's wife at the time was a stable rock in his life and it was John who was cheating and would later abandon her completely.


A Hard Days' night is definitely the most consistent album by the Beatles in their earlier period. There aren't as many highs as their other releases but then there are no songs that drag the whole thing down. It's just 13 well-crafted and superbly performed songs.

Highlight: Can't buy me love.
Lowlight: Any Time at all, not that it's that low.

Influenced by: Soul groups. Wilson Picket for example.
Influenced: Everyone.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "this album let alone the stupidity of beatle lovers is outragous. this isn't that great and NEITHER was the POP group you losers like so much. in case you don't know THERE WERE OTHER ACTUALLY BANDS IN THE 60'S not strictly these losers as the media impleays. the media what do they know NOTHING they know NOTHING about or between a REAL ROCK band or the diferrence between a POP group and A ROCK GROUP. the beatles a "rock" group AS IF. they were BEARLY in the studio and whenever they played live you know right away that they are ALL studio. the beatles were NEVER a rock band just A TEEN IDOL POP GROUP WITH BORING SONGS THAT ALL SOUNDED THE SAME."

-It just goes to show that you can't please all the people all of the time. Although I have to point out that most of the negative reviews for this album were related to mastering and not the actual content.


So would you listen to this album any time at all or would the disc be a hard days night for you? Tell me why below.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

389- The End of the Innocence. Not that Rock Stars know much about Innocence.


Album: The End of the Innocence.

Artist: Don Henley

Year: 1989

Genre: Rock


Tracks


  1. The End of the Innocence
  2. How Bad Do You Want It?
  3. I Will Not Go Quietly
  4. The Last Worthless Evening
  5. New York Minute
  6. Shangri-La
  7. Little Tin God
  8. Gimme What You Got
  9. If Dirt Were Dollars
  10. The Heart of the Matter

It must feel fantastic to have a megasmash hit on your hands. Not just a big song but one of those massive million sellers that everybody knows. A song that moves out beyond radio and into the national subconscious so much that there are creatures on other planets who hum it while they eat breakfast. Of course the obvious downside is that nothing you ever do will ever come close to it and your great moment in the sun will cast a shadow over the rest of your career. At every concert Robert Plant plays there is a section of the audience desperately hoping he’ll play Stairway to Heaven and if Lynyrd Skynyrd opened with Freebird half the audience would go home knowing they’d seen what they came to see. Don Henly suffers from similar baggage. The millstone around his neck is called Hotel California. Throughout his solo career every song he’s ever done has suffered from the comparison.

Make no mistake about it, every song on this album is no Hotel California. Some get closer than others but there’s nothing that’s in even the same state (no Hotel San Diego or Hotel San Francisco). There are a few that are at least in the same country, even if they’re on the other seaboard.The problem with End of the Innocence are the songs which are so far from Hotel California they’re not even on the same continent. A collection of slower songs in the middle of the album might as well be renamed Hotel Brussells, Hotel Leningrad and Hotel Yackandandah. They’re genuinely awful songs and you actually get the sense that Henly knows it. He sings Shangri la in a style that I could only describe as apologetic.

But there are some good moments on this album, most notably the title track which benefits from what I can only describe as “the Bruce touch.” If I was going to put together a top 500 album list then Bruce Hornsby would be appearing a lot more often, and not just supporting someone else but as an artist in his own right. You probably know Bruce from The way it is which still gets radio play and I even heard recently as backing muzac in a Japanese drug store. Hornsby cowrote the end of innocence and recorded a version himself. While I’ve got nothing against Henly’s voice I’d take Bruce’s version any day of the week. I’m not someone who normally gets excited by vocalists but Hornsby is a singer that I really admire and a pianist who has few equals. The best rendition of this track I’ve ever heard is done by Hornsby alone at a grand piano with an audience hanging on his every word. I’ve got lots of live Bruce and every version he does is different.

Overall the album suffers from a lot of common mistakes that people were making in the eighties: Heavily processed drums, over use of synthesisers and guest appearances by Axl Rose. It's an attempt to stretch out a bit without going too far from the template that made The Eagles one of the biggest bands in the world. If you love the Eagles you're probably going to enjoy this one a lot. If you've never understood the attraction then The End of the Innocence is a Hotel you're best advised to drive straight by.

Highlight: The End of the Innocence.

Lowlight: Shangri La

Influenced by: The Eagles.

Influenced: Sheryl Crow (who makes a guest appearance)

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "If you want to encounter a textbook example of the "Hollywood Left" in all its absurd contradictions and vanity, go no further than this album. On the one hand Henley rails against corporate greed, Reagan, and America's sins, while on the other, he strikes a careful fashion pose on the record jacket, cigarette in hand! The entire record preens and struts this multi-millionaire's moral superiority without a shred of irony concerning exactly who it is who's lecturing us. Undeniably, Henley has his share of talent, particularly as a singer. He chooses good collaborators to give his more popular songs a distinct sound, i.e. the Bruce Hornsby piano chord pattern echoing thru End of the Innocence. But it is ultimately shallow and uninspired. Henley wants to be Bob Dylan, but in the end he's closer to Barry "Eve of Destruction" McGuire. "

-Interesting. Not quite sure how holding a cigarette discredits anything he has to say. Unless there's a tirade against smoking somewhere that I missed.

So is this just down the highway from Hotel California or across the other side of the planet? Let me know below.