Tuesday, November 30, 2010

354. 12 Songs- A dozen more Randy Newman tracks.

Album: 12 Songs
Artist: Randy Newman
Year: 1970
Genre: Pop

Tracks

  1. Have You Seen My Baby?
  2. Let's Burn Down The Cornfield
  3. Mama Told Me Not To Come
  4. Suzanne
  5. Lover's Prayer
  6. Lucinda
  7. Underneath The Harlem Moon
  8. Yellow Man
  9. Old Kentucky Home
  10. Rosemary
  11. If You Need Oil
  12. Uncle Bob's Midnight Blues

I've written about Randy Newman before. You may recall him as the nice old man who records songs for pretty much every Pixar film out there. He's also the guy who recorded Short People a song that everyone seems to know but can never recall the origin of. 12 Songs is an album by that guy. There are 12 songs on it. One can only assume this somehow affected his choice of title.

Newman's musical style is best described as gentle. He sounds a lot like that guy playing piano in the corner of the bar. You enjoy the atmosphere he provides but at the end of the day you can't recall a single thing he played. He accompanies himself on piano without any kind of flourish or flamboyance. He's no Dr John. He's got an agreeable voice that soothes the ear but doesn't take you anyplace you haven't been before. He's not at all seductive unless you're the sort of person who thinks pleasant oil paintings of rustic scenes is the height of pornography. Nobody was ever incited to riot because of a Randy Newman song.

Lyrically he is prone to adopt characters, which is an interesting tactic but must have made him the ideal candidate to write for Pixar. He writes satire from a first person perspective. Which is all very well but since his voice always sounds like your favourite uncle it's a strange experience hearing him adopt different personna. Especially since he's happy to play various roles throughout the album. On 12 Songs he's a racist, a drunk, a lech and a terrified teenager- all while sounding like the nice man who plays on your kids favourite soundtrack albums. It's a weird experience.

Newman is one of those guys that I can appreciate the talents of but have no desire to hear very often. He's agreeable, clever, pleasant but not memorable at all. He deserves every bit of the fame he's acquired and every dollar in his bank account. But there is too much fantastic music out there for me to spend time listening to his albums.

Influenced by: The state of the world
Influenced: Musical satirists who wanted to blend comment with melody.

Highlight: Suzanne
Lowlight: If you need Oil


Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This CD secretly installs DRM (digital rights management) software on your PC without your permission. Not only does it do this, but the software then hides itself by installing as a "root kit."

-The review then goes on to give a detailed list of the problems of trying to rip certain Sony CD's onto a computer. It's long and comprehensive and outlines the CD's affected. Sadly Randy Newman's 12 songs isn't one of them. A Neil Diamond album which is also called 12 Songs is but Randy's album of the same name is not. The reviewer gave this album one star. So to summarize this album recieved a one star review from someone because an album with the same name doesn't play nicely with a computer.

So is 12 songs not enough or is it a dozen songs too many? Let me know below.

Friday, November 26, 2010

355. Between the Buttons. Why?





Album:
Between the Buttons
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Year: 1967
Genre: Rock

Tracks

  1. Yesterday's Paper
  2. My Obsession
  3. Back Street Girl
  4. Connection
  5. She Smiled Sweetly
  6. Cool Calm And Collected
  7. All Sold Out
  8. Please Go Home
  9. Who's Been Sleeping Here
  10. Complicated
  11. Miss Amanda Jones
  12. Something Happened To Me Yesterday



About time! Finally after 144 albums of non-stones music I get to sit back and listen to an album by The Rolling Stones, one of my favourite bands of all time. The guys who reinvented rock and roll as we know it. The creators of some of my favourite albums and performers of magnificent concert events. The glimmer twins. The Stones! Who march triumphantly onto the Top 500 list with.... this crap.

Seriously this is really baffling. I love the Stones but I can't stand Between the Buttons. Nobody likes Between the Buttons. Die-hard fans of Jagger/Richards hate it as do Mick and Keith. Rolling Stones best-of compilations (and there are lots) only ever include one track from this album and that's always the compilation's low point. When the band toured after this album was released they only included one track in their setlists. In the subsequent years when they've mined their back catalogue for surprises to delight the fans in concert they've only dipped into Between the Buttons, presumably because not even they can stand listening to it.

Between the Buttons is the sound of a great band floundering around trying to find a place for themselves in the pop firmament. While the Beatles marched confidently on reinventing themselves, and modern music, with every release, Mick and Keith were trying to work out what they wanted to do. They started doing blues and R&B covers but quickly realized they weren't going to climb the heights as the lads from Liverpool if they didn't write their own songs. While their earlier efforts were fairly transparent rip-offs they quickly started to develop as songwriters. Between the Buttons catches them after their initial spurt of beginner's luck was over but before they became one of the greatest songwriting duos in Rock and Roll.

Selecting a low-point on this release is actually a real challenge. My Obsession is a tuneless wander around the recording studio which stops and starts and falls in a heap at regular intervals, Back Street Girl is a semi-sweet ballad with truly terrible lyrics about a nobleman who has a bit of street-rough on the side, Connection sounds like a drum track with other people interfering in the back-ground, She Smiled Sweetly is crap and Cool, Calm and Collected is even worse with a honky tonk verses and psychedelic chorus prioving they could bugger up multiple genres in the space of one song. The opening tracks on side two (All Sold Out, Please Go Home and Who's been sleeping here) are thankfully not as bad but you wouldn't even include them on a six-disc best of album. Complicated is another shambles and Miss Amanda Jones sounds like an ill advised attempt to be the Monkees. But my award for album nadir must be the staggeringly dire Something Happened to Me which takes five minutes to become my vote for worst Stones track ever. It's supposed to bounce along but it just flops about like a fish in a tuba and if Mick wasn't stoned at the time you can bet he was a few minutes after finishing as he tried to get the memory of the vocals from his head. There's nothing of the grit that they would later produce. It's just badness by the bucketload.

I can only assume Between the Buttons managed to sneak its way onto this chart (although being 144 places from the bottom is a pretty brazen sneak) because the bastardized American version included two sides of a recent single. The US market dropped two songs from the tracklisting and replaced them with Lets Spend the night together and Ruby Tuesday, both stone-cold Stones classics and would lift any album in anyone's estimation. But how it could raise it to 355 in a top 500 countdown is still a bit baffling.

It goes without saying I don't reccomend Between the Buttons. It's not good at all and was followed by the further not-goodness of Satanic Majesties, another misstep the band needed before they became untouchable.

Highlight: All Sold Out (but don't look for it on a Stones best of anytime soon)
Lowlight: Something happened to me yesterday

Influenced by: Career aimlessness.
Influenced: I honestly can see anyone being influenced by this.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "this album rules. i mean seriously, it wears a crown and is a monarch and makes laws that govern the land. the land of your head!! or at least mine. "

-that's outstanding. Although if something rules there is always the chance it can be deposed.

So are you a fan of the Stones. And if you are are you a fan of this? Let me know below.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

356. Sketches of Spain- Bliss on vinyl.




Album:
Sketches of Spain
Artist: Miles Davis
Year: 1960
Genre: Jazz

Tracks

  1. Concierto De Aranjuez (Adagio)
  2. Will O' The Wisp (From "El Amor Brujo")
  3. The Pan Piper
  4. Saeta
  5. Solea


Sketches of Spain is an absolute, bone fide masterpiece from start to finish. It's one of the great works by a man who created buckets of greatness throughout his career. It's an album I turn to constantly whenever I feel the need to be completely absorbed by music. If I want to lie down and experience an album that has the power to overwhelm anything else in my life and take me to another place for a while it's often Sketches that I'll reach for. Miles Davis is one of the 20th centuries greatest musical talents and we should all take some time to revere him as the godlike figure he was.

Having said that it would be unfair to give the world's greatest jazz man full credit for this release. In fact it's not right to give Miles the entire credit for any of his masterworks. He was a great trumpeter, innovator and band leader but he was also amazingly good at finding and appreciating talent and bringing out the best in those around him. The list of people who played with Miles is a who's who of Jazz greats many of whom started out in his bands. On Sketches the man who deserves the accolades is Gil Evans, who was responsible for the arrangements. The pairing of Davis and Evans gave us many other great works but none with the power of Sketches.

The album opens with an interpretation of a piece of music that everyone now knows. It's called Concierto de Aranjuez and is instantly recognizeable as that piece that sounds like a mexican desert. It crops up often in movies, TV shows and advertisements representing a desolate wastelande in South America. You couldn't play it over the top of an arctic scene (it would baffle the penguins for a start, and you should never confuse a penguin- they prefer things black and white) but wack it over the top of sand and cactii and it fits. Aranujuez is a classical music piece that Miles heard it at a friend's house and brought back to Evans who loved it so much he decided to base an entire album around it. Evans found another Spanish sounding piece to round out side one and then wrote three more latiny tracks to make up a second side. The whole experience bleeds wonderful and is the sort of music that possesses the closest thing to universal appeal that 20th century music can acquire.

There are those purists who criticize Sketches as something other than Jazz. They prefer Miles when he stretches out and leaves the safety net of an arrangement behind. The idea of taking one of the greatest improvisers of all time and confining him to a score is sacralige to those who just love Miles when he lets the music move him. To a degree they may have a point. Sketches doesn't have the edge of Kind of Blue (or his later, much edgier work) and it may be pre-arranged Big band jazz but it's the greatest example of the genre there is. The first track really does give you tingles in the spine and Miles might be locked into a score but that doesn't mean his trumpet sounds confined or restricted. It's hard to define why one guy blowing raspberries into a bendy brass tube sounds better than another but there's no doubt Miles could play that thing.

There's nothing more to say really. It's greatness on a CD. Go out now and appreciate the greatness.

Highlight: Concierto De Aranjuez (Adagio)
Lowlight: The rest of the album. It's still great but there's no doubt it's not as good as the opener.

Influenced by: Spain.
Influenced: Modern Jazz.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This reminds me of someone practising on trumpet. I couldn't stand it. This is dead. I can't believe anyone liked it."

-Someone practicing trumpet? How many people do you know who practice the trumpet with thirty other musicians?

So do you love Sketches of Spain or haven't you heard it yet? Let me know below.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

357. Honky Chateau. With a conservative looking heterosexual on the cover.

Album: Honky Chateau
Artist: Elton John
Year: 1972
Genre: Pop

Tracks


1 Honky Cat
2 Mellow
3 I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself
4 Susie (Dramas)
5 Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)
6 Salvation
7 Slave
8 Amy
9 Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters
10 Hercules


Elton John is one of the unbelievably famous artists that I've actually been forced to sit down and listen to as a result of taking on this project. He's a household name and of course I'm fully aware of his existence but prior to taking on this blog my experience with him was limited to radio songs, headlines and of course his Muppets appearance (appearing on The Muppets is an instant increase in prestige as far as I'm concerned). I've now heard three of John's albums all the way through and it's allowing me to hear him as a performer who released albums instead of just a funny-looking guy the English press adore.

Honky Chateau is his fifth release and much better than the previous two which appeared on this countdown. Saying it's my favourite Elton John is definitely faint praise but it's still a positive step from how scathing I've been about him in the past. There are two things which make me appreciate Honky Chateau more than his previous work. The first is the absence of strings. Back in 1972 Elton saw himself as the leader of a rock band which suits his style a lot more. The second was the addition of Jean-Luc Ponty on electric guitar. Jean Luc is great and it says something about my music tastes that I've got a hell of a lot more Ponty in my collection than I do Elton John. He's only on two tracks which is a pity and they're not his finest moments but he does lift the album when he appears.

The biggest track on Honky Chateau is definitely Rocket Man which is one of Elton's biggest tunes. I'm not sure about you but I've never been a huge fan of Rocket Man. It's always struck me as a bit daft and does nothing to move me at all. It's still a bit too over-produced for my money. The bass is nice but the backing vocals almost make me wonder if Elton ditched strings from this release as a cost-cutting rather than artistic measure. Personally I prefer the song Mona Lisa's and Mad Hatters which is a nice ballad that I quite enjoy, although it has to be said I prefer the Indigo Girls version which I reccomend you hunt out (and while you're there check out the Indigo Girls version of every cover they've ever done)

Honky Chateau is my favourite Elton John album, but then I hate the other two I've heard and the finest moments are provided by a guest musician and it's greatest song is much better when sung by someone else- that's praise so faint you can barely see it on the paper.


Influenced by: A lyricist (I'm not knocking it. I think the musician/lyricist combination is actually a great idea)
Influenced: A lot more people than you might think.

Highlight: Mona Lisa's and Mad Hatters
Lowlight: Amy


Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: Elton John is a legend of rock music since the 70's.Honky Chateau it's wonderful. Elton make a great folk-rock songs."Rocket Man" it's was the 2 mundial hit( the 1 was Your Song) but "Honky Cat" it's another massive hit.The album is make the top in Billboard Chart and was one of my favorite albums.

-I don't want to knock a non-native English speaker but I have to ask what a mundial hit is?

So is your chateau honky or not? Let me know below.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

358. Singles going Steady. Clever title.





Album: Singles Going Steady
Artist: The Buzzcocks
Genre: Punk
Year: 1979

Tracks

  1. Orgasm Addict
  2. What Do I Get?
  3. I Don't Mind
  4. Love You More
  5. Ever Fallen in Love?
  6. Promises
  7. Everybody's Happy
  8. Nowadays
  9. Harmony in My Head
  10. What Ever Happened To?
  11. Oh Shit!
  12. Autonomy
  13. Noise Annoys
  14. Just Lust
  15. Lipstick
  16. Why Can't I Touch It?
  17. Something's Gone Wrong Again

Singles Going Steady is a collection of all the Singles released by seminal UK Punk act the Buzzcocks. For those who love their punk seminal and British there are three bands worth getting excited about: The Sex Pistols, The (early) Clash and the Buzzcocks who never quite achieved the notoriety of the Pistols or the sales of The Clash. In fact the Buzzcocks are best known for giving their name to the title of an BBC music quiz show called Nevermind The Buzzcocks in which two great Comedians (Phil Jupitas and The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding) are joined by pointless shiny pop-stars who begin the show as the next big thing but whose career has pretty much passed by the time it goes to air.

The Buzzcocks are famous for being Punk’s less vitriolic and more melodic proponents. They’re not railing tunelessly against things as much as they are putting traditional rock themes (sexual frustration, teen angst etc) to a conventional melody and then playing it fast. You could imagine almost all the songs on this album slowed down and sung by a female vocalist with a bit of classical training, most would hold up quite well.

The problem with singles collections like this is that they throw on the B-sides as well. Which means it tries to act as a Greatest Hits package (the singles) and a rarities collection (the B-sides) at the same time. The first-time listener gets to enjoy great tracks like Ever Fallen in Love which is a fantastic song and it’s B-side Just Lust... which isn’t. There are some further hits on Singles but sadly they’re outweighed by the misses. Noise Annoys is an appropriately named attempt to charm the listener with a song that keeps stopping abruptly and then starting again, which sadly fails badly.

If you were around in the seventies and disgruntled with the excesses of Rock and Roll the Buzzcocks are probably remembered fondly as a kind of saviour who resurrected music. For those of us who grew up in a time when Rock didn’t need saving bands like the Buzzcocks who revel in their amateur status can often seem as self-indulgent as the virtuoso stadium rockers.

The Buzzcocks- not sure I’d recommend the band but the TV show is definitely a winner.

Influenced by: The Velvet Underground and The Sex Pistols
Influenced: Melodic punk bands (Greenday for example) and people who name panel games.

Highlight: Ever Fallen in Love
Lowlight: Noise Annoys

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: “If you do not own this you are dumb”

-That’s it. That’s the full review. Amazingly one person rated this review as helpful. I wonder what it actually helped them to do?

-The Buzzcocks. Do they generate a buzz for you or are they just a bunch of.... punks. Let me know below.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

359. Stankonia. Make my rap the p-funk.


Album: Stankonia.
Artist: Outkast
Year: 2000
Genre: Rap


1. Intro
2. Gasoline Dreams
3. I'm Cool (Interlude)
4. So Fresh, So Clean
5. Ms. Jackson
6. Snappin' & Trappin'
7. D.F. (Interlude)
8. Spaghetti Junction
9. Kim & Cookie (Interlude)
10. I'll Call Before I Come
11. B.O.B.
12. Xplosion
13. Good Hair (Interlude)
14. We Luv Deez Hoez
15. Humble Mumble
16. Drinkin' Again (Interlude)
17. Red Velvet
18. Cruisin' In The ATL (Interlude)
19. Gangsta Sh*t
20. Toilet Tisha
21. Slum Beautiful
22. Pre-Nump (Interlude)
23. Stankonia (Stanklove)



Stankonia is a rap album. It's hip hop all the way but unlike other albums in the genre... it's actually not so bad. I know I've said this before but this is my favourite Hip Hop album. It's not going to knock any of my favourite albums off my own personal list but if I was forced to listen to Rap this is the album that I'd take.

I felt predisposed towards this release from the first track which is called Intro. It features some weird backing before a voice announces a journey to Stankonia a place "7 light years below the surface of the earth where all funky things come." My immediate thought was- someone has been listening to Parliament/Funkadelic. As far as I'm concerned a lot more people need to listen to P-funk and should be forced to incorporate their influence into their musical output. Outkast want to bring the Funk into their work which is what Rap has always been lacking as far as I'm concerned. Stankonia is a long way from being a true funk release but it's rap by people who have been to at least one George Clinton concert and have definitely been listening to his albums. There are more tunes and catchy hooks in Stankonia than on all the other rap albums I've heard combined.

The standout track is definitely B.O.B. which stands for Bombs Over Baghdad. As far as I've been able to tell it's got nothing to do with the Iraq war but then I couldn't tell that from hearing the song because the lyrics are so fast. The rhymes on B.O.B. don't just flow they're torrential. It's incredibly rapid stuff and if they can pull it off live then I'm hugely impressed. Most Hip Hop seems to have a fairly steady rhythm but this is the thrash metal of rap. There's also a catchy backing vocal which is arguably overused but still something to latch onto. The Eddie Hazel like guitar is nice as well and the overall effect makes it my favourite Hip Hop song of all time.

Stankonia has added elements (funk mainly) to the traditional Hip Hop mix and it's also taken away some the more objectionable elements (misogyny, a gun obsession and endless ego-trips). It does however feel the need to encorporate spoken work skits and pointlessness in amongst the tracks. There are 23 songs on Stankonia, eight of which are under or around a minute and contain no actual music. Does anyone listen to these things more than once?

Either way its encouraging that each new rap album I encounter as I move up the countdown is better than what went before.

Influenced by: Rap and George Clinton
Influenced: I'm not sure but if it his has influenced any modern rap it can only be a good thing.

Highlight: B.O.B.
Lowlight: Any of the spoken word stuff or Ms Jackson which was a hit single but is incredibly annoying.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "this album is stupid with no point no good songs. Its just about 2 men going on about nothing the songs are boring if i was you id buy eminem's album there is no point in buying this album its the worst album i have ever heard im very dissapointed i this album very poor i wouldnt even waste 5 cents on this album"

-sometimes your feelings are too important for punctuation.

So are you with the outkast or would you rather cast them out? Let me know below.

Monday, November 8, 2010

360. Siamese Dream. More Pumpkins smashed.

Album: Siamese Dream
Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins
Year: 1993
Genre: Metal

Tracks


  1. Cherub Rock
  2. Quiet
  3. Today
  4. Hummer
  5. Rocket
  6. Disarm
  7. Soma
  8. Geek U.S.A.
  9. Mayonaise
  10. Spaceboy
  11. Silverfuck
  12. Sweet Sweet
  13. Luna


Again with the bloody Smashing Pumpkins. Seriously I've had enough of these annoying bastards after listening to their double album opus four times and feeling the pain every minute. Meeting them again was like meeting the most boring person in your high school at your workplace. The sight of them brought back all manner of unpleasant memories. It's more shouty angst-ridden vocals with grinding guitars and metal flourishes. It's more music that takes itself so damn seriously you can't help but want to shout "Lighten up!" at it repeatedly until it develops some semblance of perspective.

Apparently when this album was recorded the band was effectively falling apart in the studio. Sometimes bands can overcome this situation to produce greatness and sometimes conflict actually takes a group to new levels. In the case of the Smashing Pumpkins it made them depressed and angry, so it's more of the same really. Lead guitarist and baldy-shouty man Billy Corgan was fighting a battle with his weight which was apparently ballooning out and not doing anything to aid his crippling depression which at times prevented him from getting out of bed. The drummer was addicted to heroin which apparently the band resented but if anything they should have been grateful for. It's a law of some kind that every band like the pumpkins has to have a drug-addict in their ranks and if Chamberlain hadn't been shooting up excessively one of the others would have had to put their hand up and their arm out ready to receive the obligatory near OD. Further problems were caused by the two remaining band members who had been married but were now undergoing an acrimonious divorce.

So what sort of music do you think was produced by a tubby manic depressive, a junkie and two people who hated each other? If you answered "angry and depressed" then congratulations you win, and your prize can be a life without having to listen to the Pumpkins ever again. If you like your music shouty, angry and aggressive but prefer to keep your album listening under an hour then this is the release for you. If you prefer to extend your angst and irritation for an entire afternoon then get yourself onto the Melonchollie trip. Please don't bother me with it again.

Influenced by: Heroin, divorce and obesity.
Influenced: The sort of people Ben Folds sings about in Rockin the Suburbs

Highlight: The singles
Lowlight: Putting it on again and getting melonchollie flashbacks

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote:
"All grunge is sick and gross and horrific sounding trash. When i watched the videos to this group it just seemed satanic and the visuals were like a timeless deformity had swallowed the universe. one of their videos was about the 70s. I dont remember the 70s being like hell. i remember the 70s being soulful and fun. this group is a green stain and icky stench."

-A green stain and icky stench is a fantastic description of pretty much anything.

So is this album a siamese dream or a cojoined nightmare? Let me know below.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

361. Substance. A title just dripping with irony.

Album: Substance
Artist: New Order
Year: 1987
Genre: Electronica

Tracks

  1. Ceremony
  2. Everything's Gone Green
  3. Temptation
  4. Blue Monday
  5. Confusion
  6. Thieves Like Us
  7. The Perfect Kiss
  8. Sub-culture
  9. Shellshock
  10. State of the Nation
  11. Bizarre Love Triangle
  12. True Faith
  13. In a Lonely Place
  14. Procession
  15. Cries and Whispers
  16. Hurt
  17. The Beach
  18. Confusion Instrumental
  19. Lonesome Tonight
  20. Murder
  21. Thieves Like Us Instrumental
  22. The Kiss of Death
  23. Shame of the Nation
  24. 1963


I didn't realise this until I came to research them but New Order are actually Joy Division without their lead singer. I'm fully aware of Joy Division but mainly because I'm a huge fan of Lets dance to Joy Division by the Wombats, a song I can't recommend highly enough. Just as Joy Division were about to conquer America, lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide and left the rest of the band without a frontman. They decided to forge onwards only without the name or their back catalog. They settled on New Order as a name, moved the band further towards the synthesized electro sound their previous band had been slowly creeping towards. They augmented their line-up with a friend and a new band was born.

An amazing thing happened when I put this album on- my wife started to sing along. She doesn't normally do this. Traditionally when I put top 500 albums on she closes the door and leaves me too it. But when she heard Bizarre Love Triangle she broke out in song. And unusually for her she actually got the words right. She's sung along before but traditionally using a set of phrases almost entirely of her own devising. Her amazing ability to rewrite pop classics on the fly has dazzled me in the past but she started at the: "Everytime I see you falling, I get down on my knees and pray" bit and kept going getting all the words correct. There's no accounting for this bizarre behaviour since she's never owned a New Order album or single and didn't even know the name when I told her. Some things just get stuck in her head.

New Order are from that shady genre of music that I tend to avoid- synth based 80's pop, often called electro. There are those who worship this genre with a dedicated passion. Many of these people are English. Many of them feel that the only kind of music worth listening to can be produced entirely by men standing behind keyboards. Drums aren't necessary and guitars just get in the way. Substance is a compilation. And not just a collection it's a two disc collection. And it's not just a two disc collection of songs it includes all their best 12" mixes. Which means it's two discs of electro songs most of which go for around six minutes. That's a lot of simulated drum beats. Far too many for the likes of me. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the spectacularly annoying The Beach which goes for 7:19 and manages to plod through this extended run time without a single redeeming feature. It sounds like a remixed 80's video game soundtrack with a repetitive rhythm that you can imagine pacman chomping his way through. Thumping behind it are some really tragic drum noises and that terrible hand-clap effect that thankfully we grew out of in the early nineties. The vocals are synthesised to sound like a computer villain in a kids tv series crica 1983. Did people really dance to this twenty years ago? And if so what moves did they make? I can only imagine them looking like complete dickheads in a nightclub somewhere as they manipulated their body to the sounds of machines competing to see who could make the most annoying noise.

I've listened to the entire of Substance four times and I can honestly say there is a lot more to love in one song by The Wombats than this entire collection. Once the people who grew up subjected to this die off it will be perish with them and be forgotten about forever.

Highlight: Bizarre Love Triangle
Lowlight: The Beach

Influenced by: Computer games and a colleagues death.
Influenced: Johnny two hats.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Anyone who says this is not one of the best CD's ever is an idiot."

-I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree

So do you think this album has substance or are you an idiot like me?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

362. LA Woman. They could do albums too.

Album: LA Woman
Artist: The Doors
Year: 1971
Genre: Rock

Tracks

  1. The Changeling
  2. Love Her Madly
  3. Been Down So Long
  4. Cars Hiss by My Window
  5. L.A. Woman
  6. L'America
  7. Hyacinth House
  8. Crawling King Snake
  9. The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)
  10. Riders on the Storm


One of my discoveries of the countdown so far has to be the Doors. I'm not saying I was unaware of Jim Morrison before I started this project, I'm saying I didn't realise how consistent they were as a band. My experiences with Doorsdom had been limited to the greatest hits and a few live albums I've heard. Sitting down and listening to two of their albums from start to finish has made me appreciate how good they were as songwriters and musicians.

LA Woman grabs you from the first track. I'd never heard The Changeling and it made me wonder why it's taken me this long to catch up with it. Any other band would have put this out as a single and it would have charted well but the Doors had better songs to give the general public. The Changeling is good, blues based rock and roll, as is pretty much the rest of the album. The title track and Love Her Madly are two of the biggest hits from they album and they deserve their place in whichever "Best Rock songs of all time" list is prepared to count them. Been Down so long, Cars Hiss By My Window and Crawling Kingsnake are great blues tracks. L'america and the Hyacinth house are a bit of a flat spot on the album and WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) is an overly self-indulgence poem by Morrison that Krieger's guitar struggles desperately to salvage.

Far and away the best song on the album is The Doors biggest hit and possibly one of the best songs of the early seventies. Riders on the Storm is unlike anything anyone else was putting on vinyl at the time. It's creepy, hypnotic, mesmerizing and flat out fantastic. Of course I've heard this song before but for some reason it never really affected me the way it did when I heard it the other day. I'm not sure if it was just because I was listening closely or because the tracks preceeding it had conditioned me to really enjoy it. There's definitely something to be said for hearing a song in it's right place in a tracklisting. Certainly it benefits from not having the opening marred by some dickhead saying: "Weather bureau predicts some nasty weather on the way, rain, hail, it's gonna be ugly folks... here's The Doors with Riders on the Storm," which is how it gets announced every time it gets radio airplay.

The main reason Riders is such a good song is because it allows all The Doors a chance to shine. Robby Krieger is a much better guitarist than people give him credit for. People may enjoy debating Page, Clapton and Beck but all the while Robby is pulling off some tasty solos and proving he has a real feel for the blues. Ray Manzarek is a unique keyboard player who doesn't really sound like anyone else and The Storm song is his greatest moment in the sun. Ray's keys are funky and groovy and perfectly evocative of a fairly persistent downpour. Densmore is a tight drummer and at no point does he fall of his stool or smack himself in the forehead with a stick- which sometimes is all that's required of the guy who hangs around with the musicians.

The final aspect that makes Riders so good is that Jim Morrison shuts up. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against his vocal abilities, quite the contrary, but it's important that the guy behind the mike knows how to back away from time to time. During the song's long soloing passages Jim lets the rest of the band have their opportunity to crawl out from under his massive stage presence and feel some love. Jim's undeniable Charisma overshadowed the rest of the band completely and made him one of Rocks most recognisable Rock stars and granted the rest of the band virtual anonymity. Personally I think this is a real pity because the other members could stand equal in terms of talent. That's why albums like this one are the best way to appreciate The Doors. Sadly as a live unit the cult of Jim forced the band to become his backing outfit and their concerts were worse off for it.

If you're only Doors experience is on radio or from a Best Of then check LA Woman out.

Highlight: Riders on the Storm
Lowlight: WASP

Influenced by: The Blues and shamanism.
Influenced: Teenage boys searching for a hero.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Did you know that "Mr. Mojo Risin'" is a perfect anagram for Jim Morrison?"

-No. No I didn't. But I do now and I thank you for telling me.

So have the met an LA Woman? And did you love her madly or think she was just a crawling King Snake? Let me know below.