Wednesday, March 30, 2011

322 Ghost in the Machine- Lets never speak of them again.



Album: Ghost in the Machine
Artist: The Police
Genre: Pop
Year: 1981

Tracks



  1. Spirits in the Material World
  2. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
  3. Invisible Sun
  4. Hungry for You (J'aurais Toujours Faim de Toi)
  5. Demolition Man
  6. Too Much Information
  7. Rehumanize Yourself
  8. One World (Not Three)
  9. Ī©megaman
  10. Secret Journey
  11. Darkness



I have to confess that encountering this album was a huge personal relief. When I embarked upon this project I deliberately tried not to pour over the list in order to preserve some element of surprise. I didn’t want to know what was coming but I did have the occasional peek from time to time for research purposes.

Once such dip into the list occurred a long time ago when I reviewed my first Police album. I naively assumed that I’d encountered Sting’s lone appearance in the countdown. I wrote my review but was horrified to discover that there were three further police albums in the list. When I was plodding my way through Jackson Browne albums, seminal punk and rap releases I cheered myself up knowing that there was lots more Dylan and Stones to come but the impending threat of further Police records blunted my enthusiasm.

But now I’ve reached Ghost in the Machine the final Police album and the last time I have to try and overlook how annoying I find Sting, something I’ve failed at three times already. He is annoying though isn’t he? His voice is irritating and he’s so pretentious it’s hard not to want to slap him around his pointless spikey head.

Unlike other Police albums Ghost in the Machine is comparatively hit-free. It does have Every Little Thing she Does is Magic but other than that (and Spirits in the material world which does get some airplay) the album is unfamiliar territory to those of us who aren’t Police devotees. You can see why most of the other tracks didn’t get much of a release, for their most part they’re not especially catchy and wouldn’t trouble the singles market.

The exception is Rehumanize yourself which is actually a great little track which really rocks along but had two things holding it back from single release. The first was a co-writing credit for Stewart Copeland which apparently was enough to sink it in the mind of Sting who wasn’t good at sharing, the other is the appearance of the word “cunts” which traditionally doesn’t go down well in the singles market.

Ghost in the Machine is a slight departure from their previous efforts in that it includes a horn section but it still sounds like Police with a horn section. If you liked them before you’ll probably like this, if you didn’t then you wont.

They good news is that we’re past them now.

Highlight: Rehumanize yourself
Lowlight: Hungry for You (J'aurais Toujours Faim de Toi)

Influenced by: Erections derived from reading French Literature
Influenced: Other cod-reggae.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote:  "some sad cases like "guybunda" and "the infidel" or whatever their lame made up names are have no clue of the impact of the police.especially an album like ghost in the machine.the infidel sounds like a racist and probably doesnt like sting cause he's white.pity.i would take the worst police album any day over the over-rated bob marley.pot-head.oh and guybunda sounds like a small minded shmuck.he probably only knows the police songs from the radio and is too busy buying 50 cent cds rather than take in the incredible sounds of the police.the police took reggae and jazz and made it coolest.way to go sting and co.poor saps like guybunda and infidel should take another listen and not talk soo much.-----later"

-Police fans can be very, very touchy.

So the Police, will you miss them or are you glad we don't have to hear from them again? Let me know below.

Friday, March 25, 2011

323 Station to Station. I think I'd prefer the replacement bus service.

Album: Station to Station
Artist: David Bowie
Genre: Pop
Year: 1976

Tracks

  1. Station to Station
  2. Golden Years
  3. Word on a Wing
  4. TVC 15
  5. Stay
  6. Wild Is the Wind

I’ve written before about how I respect David Bowie I just can’t actually enjoy him. His music leaves me cold and unaffected. Listening to him is like being praised by an idiot- you know how it’s supposed to make you feel but you just can’t get moved by it at all. 

At least that’s how I used to feel. Now I’ve listened to Station to Station I’ve actually lost quite a bit of respect for the guy. Station to Station is the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard Bowie do. While his other albums make me think “I can understand why people like this but why don’t I?” this made me wonder how anyone could love it. 

Having taken the time to research the album and try and understand what the fuss is about I can put my finger on the reason- it’s all Kraftwerk’s fault. Kraftwerk are the biggest band in a genre known as Krautrock, the German industrial rock and roll scene. They took the genre we know as Rock and Roll and sucked all the life and fun out of it and made it a noisy mess than Germans liked. In stark contrast to Krautrock is funk which is a genre that said: “hey this rock thing is great but why don’t we make it even more fun by giving it groove?” If I had the choice between listening to Kraftwerk’s greatest hits of Funkadelic’s most minor album I’d be choosing George Clinton and the Mothership Connection any day of the week. Make my funk the P-funk.

Station to Station is a transitional album that saw Bowie turn his back on Funky and move towards the more industrial sounds of Kraftwerk and krautrock. He shed some fans along the way and while I was never a fan he also shed me. 

I just can’t get excited by anything on Station to Station. While some see it as a fascinating transition it’s only really appealing to listen to if you like both where he was coming from and where he’s going. To me most of the tracks are just interminably long with no respite. The title track goes for ten minutes and feels like an entire album. These between-station journeys aren’t quick, it’s not Flinders street to Southern Cross it’s Parliament all the way to Lillydale with long delays and regular breakdowns. Golden Years (the album’s single) is only 4 minutes long but still manages to feel like it takes an eternity. 

Station to Station was a brand new experience for me, a whole album of Bowie tracks I’d never heard before. I never want to hear any of them again. 

Highlight: Golden Years
Lowlight: Word on a Wing

Influenced by: Kraftwerk
Influenced: Industrial pop

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "A record you want to play while drinking a glass of champagne with the beautiful wife of your best friend...."

-Wait. Who? You want to drink champagne with who?

So do you stop at all stations or would you rather travel express through the whole thing? Let me know below.

Friday, March 18, 2011

324. The Very Best of Linda Ronsdadt. Easy to listen to, hard to spell







Album: The Very Best of Linda Ronsdadt
Artist: Linda Ronsdadt
Year: 2002
Genre: Pop


Tracks


  1. You're No Good
  2. It's So Easy
  3. Blue Bayou
  4. Don't Know Much
  5. Somewhere Out There
  6. When Will I Be Loved
  7. (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
  8. Different Drum
  9. Poor Poor Pitiful Me
  10. The Tracks of My Tears
  11. After the Gold Rush
  12. Long Long Time
  13. Just One Look
  14. Heart Like a Wheel
  15. Back in the U.S.A.
  16. That'll Be the Day
  17. Hurt So Bad
  18. All My Life
  19. Ooo Baby Baby
  20. The Blue Train
  21. How Do I Make You
  22. Desperado
  23. Winter Light




It turns out I know a hell of a lot more Linda Rondstadt than I thought I did. Prior to my encounter with this album I thought she was just a girl with a nice voice and a difficult to spell surname. Having given her greatest hits a detailed listen I’m surprised to discover I’m intimately familiar with a lot of her work and deserves my respect.


I know some of her songs because she appeared on The Muppets. As far as I’m concerned being a guest on the original Muppet Show is an instant increase in kudos. If Jim Henson liked you then you’re okay with me. I had no idea I knew Blue Bayou until I heard this and realised that she sang it on The Muppet Show. I had no idea I knew Somewhere Out There until I encountered it at track 5 and realised it’s the song that my wife often sings around the house (and very well I might add).


There are other tracks that I know well because they’re popular covers, Heatwave was instantly recognizable as was Tracks of my tears and Back in the USA. The surprise of the disc was track 11 which I instantly recognised but took a while to place as After the Goldrush by Neil Young.


The other reason to respect Linda is her political activism. She regularly spoke out against George Bush’s presidency during her solo shows. Fans intending to see that nice lady sing those nice songs received a brief but definite condemnation of their president. No doubt her manager was begging her not to stick her neck out and alienate fans but she stuck to her guns because her values mattered more than the value of her ticket sales. You can’t help but respect her for that.


But let’s not allow any of this to overshadow the fact that Rondstadt has a great voice. She’s an outstanding singer who can deliver original material and covers with an individual style. Respect.


Highlight: Tracks of my Tears
Lowlight: Hurt so Much


Influenced by: Country singers, showtunes and Neil Young.
Influenced: Female vocalists everywhere.


Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "There's no reason to omit the Top 10 hit "How Do I Make You?" from 1980. It would have easily fit on the disc. As it is, this collection is incomplete."


-Linda's fans seem very picky. This guy gave the disc one star just because it left off one song. (And as a side note her fans seem to suffer from SHOUTY CAPS LOCK SYNDROME even more than most amazon reviewers. Someone should write a psychology thesis analyzing what it is about Linda's music that makes her fans want to type exclusively in capitals)


So does Linda do nothing for your OR IS SHE THE GREATEST THING EVER. Let me know below

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

325. Slowhand. Whatever the opposite of Cream is.


Album: Slowhand
Artist: Eric Clapton
Year: 1977
Genre: Rock

Tracks

  1. Cocaine
  2. Wonderful Tonight
  3. Lay Down Sally
  4. Next Time You See Her
  5. We're All The Way
  6. The Core
  7. May You Never
  8. Mean Old Frisco
  9. Peaches and Diesel


Eric Clapton was given the nickname Slowhand because of the speed his hands reached when they he played guitar. That’s not to suggest he was exceptionally sluggish, quite the opposite, the fingers streaked across the fretboard. It’s one of those ironic nicknames, like calling a massive biker "Tiny", or Yul Brynner "Curly" or Richard Dawkins "Deacon". (actually Dicky "Deacon" Dawkins has a real ring to it). Slowhand is an ironic name, consequently the same logic could be applied to call Clapton “Greatvoice”.

Slowhand is Clapton’s most popular solo album and his highest ranking solo effort on this countdown. That’s not to say it’s the last time we’ll see him. Clapton appears on the top 500 in his own right and as a member of The Yardbirds, Cream, Derek and the Dominos and as a guest on a Beatles album. Fair credit to the guy. But there’s no doubt he earned all these places as a guitar player and not as a vocalist and rarely as a songwriter.

The best known song on Slowhand is Cocaine, a track originally written by JJ Cale. Some people are big fans of Wonderful Tonight a slow ballad that Clapton sings about the woman in his life. I’ve never liked Wonderful Tonight, partly because it’s schmaltzy, partly because Clapton sings it in his creepy-uncle voice and partly because the woman in question was Patty Boyd, who Clapton stole from George Harrison. It takes some of the romance off the track when you know a bit of the sordid history behind it.

The standout track on the album is a song called The Core which allows Clapton an opportunity to show you why the world held him in such reverence. Clapton’s guitar licks are fantastic and proof that the guy didn't get his nickname for nothing. And Eric isn’t the only one who is allowed a chance to shine. Clapton shares the vocals with Marcy Levy and frankly the track would have been a lot better if she’d been allowed to handle the entire thing. In fact she should have been allowed to handle lead vocal duties for the entire album. She’s got a great voice and could have turned Wonderful Tonight into something a lot less cringeworthy.

Slowhand is further proof that Clapton was at his best as part of a band and not as a solo artist. If you've ever wondered why Cream songs get the best response from the audience at a Clapton concert, this album will give you the answer.

Highlight: The Core
Lowlight: Lay Down Sally

Influenced by: Blues artists and a desire to have more money than they did.
Influenced: Young Blues Players in danger of selling out.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "The album is simply superb to listen, highly, I mean HIGHLY pleasant."

-It's not just pleasant, it's not even highly pleasant. This album is HIGHLY pleasant.

So is Clapton God or just a guy with a guitar? Let me know below.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

326. Disintegration. Mopey Dicking around.


Album: Disintegration
Artist: The Cure
Year: 1989
Genre: Pop

Tracks


  1. Plainsong
  2. Pictures of You
  3. Closedown
  4. Lovesong
  5. Last Dance
  6. Lullaby
  7. Fascination Street
  8. Prayers for Rain
  9. The Same Deep Water as You
  10. Disintegration
  11. Homesick
  12. Untitled


Well this is awkward. I’ve long gone as record as someone who doesn’t like The Cure. I’m no fan of Robert Smith’s voice, or his song writing, or his silly hair, or his silly face or lots of other things about The Cure (including their fanbase). When Disintegration came around I was fully prepared to actively dislike them again. The fact that I really like this album either proves how brilliant it is to get turn me around 180 degrees or else what a dill I’ve been for clinging onto a prejudice for so long.

Disintegration is a gloomy masterpiece. It was recorded at a time when Robert Smith was a bit of a gloomy masterpiece himself. He was depressed about his bandmembers drug usage, depressed about turning thirty, depressed about the success of the band, he was probably rendered inconsolably mopey by weather reports and sombre tones in wallpaper. He was in that sort of mood. He immersed himself in drugs and in songwriting and emerged with a set of songs that sound exactly what you’d expected a depressed drug-taker to write- only better. Pictures of You is a 7 and a half minute ode to feeling broody that takes about two minutes to actually include a vocal. It’s predominantly sparse interplay between guitar synth and drums. Most of the rest of the album follows the same pattern. Smith’s depression is not the hurried kind and it’s not the overly complicated variety either. He’s happy to let his songs evolve beautifully at their own pace and content to let his vocals sit quietly in amongst the mix.

Disintegration is a great album and I recommend it but even better was the recent re-release which contains a live version by the band recorded at Wembly Arena. Already good songs are much better in a live setting.

Either Disintegration is a truly unique Cure album or else it was the tipping point that turned me into a fan. I’m going back now to listen to their earlier works to see which one is true. Wish me luck, I may emerge a fully fledged Cure fan which means I’ll have to hate myself.

Influenced by: Drugs and sadness
Influenced: The Goth movement and eventually Emo music.

Highlight: Pictures of You
Lowlight: Untitled

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: For people in college only.

-Even if this guys whole review is just trolling I still love the fact that there are lots of Americans who can dismiss something as saying it's only for college students.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

327. Jagged Little Pill. Isn’t it Ironic?




Album: Jagged Little Pill
Artist: Alanis Morrisette
Genre: Pop
Year: 1995

Tracks

All I Really Want
You Oughta Know
Perfect
Hand in My Pocket
Right Through You
Forgiven
You Learn
Head over Feet
Mary Jane
Ironic
Not the Doctor
Wake Up


Number 327 brings us to an Alanis Morissette album. In fact it brings us to The Alanis Morisette album or possibly The Only Alanis Morissette album. I can’t name any others, except for something she released recently called The Acoustic Jagged Little Pill, an attempt to get those who bought the album the first time to buy it again. Even if the unplugged retread only sold a tenth of the units the first one did it would still have been a massive hit. Jagged Little Pill sold 33 million copies which is a truly staggering amount. To put that into some kind of perspective if the people who bought her album formed their own country they’re population would outnumber her native Canada. I remember when this album came out and I think I was the only person I knew who hadn’t bought a copy. It wouldn’t surprise me if even my parents, who owned typewriters more modern than their music taste, had a copy stashed away somewhere. It really was inescapable.

When it came out Jagged Little Pill annoyed me. It got on my nerves but not for the reason it irritated other people. At the time, and often since, much fuss has been made of the fact that Alanis appeared to have little to no understanding of what the word “Ironic” actually means. The lyrics to Ironic confuse Irony with bad luck. As countless thousands have observed before me rain on a wedding day isn’t ironic it’s just annoying. If it rained wedding cakes and ruined your big day that would be ironic, strange but definitely ironic. This never really bothered me, what got on my nerves were the ads promoting the album that declared it was the biggest selling debut album of all time. Once it passed the 10 million sales mark nobody could deny it was a huge selling album, it wasn’t that part I had a problem with. I was just a traditional soul who felt a debut album should be the first album the artist released. Alanis had released two CD’s prior to Jagged Little Pill both of which didn’t sell at all. They weren’t released outside Canada because even Canadians ignored them but they existed and were Alanis Morisette albums. So how she could claim that her third album was actually her debut was beyond me. And it got on my nerves.

I should also mention that the music got on my nerves because it was whiney, irritating and all pervasive. I don’t mind someone having a whine but when it’s basically your entire album and every single gets constant airplay it tends to get a bit draining. 15 years later when I came to re-listen after avoiding it successfully for more than a decade I found it more annoying still.

Highlight: Ed Byrnes Routine about correct use of Irony

Lowlight: Hand in my Pocket

Influenced by: Commercialism and Glen Ballard
Influenced: Alanis Morrisette fans into saying “It’s not as good as Jagged” about her every subsequent release.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: “What makes Alanis such a treasure is the honesty of her convictions and her absolute allegiance to commoners everywhere. When she plaintively emotes "I've got one hand in my pocket," you realize she could be singing about anyone.”

-Who the hell uses the word “commoners” anymore?

So do you have an ironic love for Alanis or a genuine love or no love at all? Let me know below.