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Old 04-25-2010, 09:32 AM   #30 (permalink)
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
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Badly Drawn Boy - About a Boy OST (2002)

Anyone out there wonder, like me, what the hell happened to this guy? He used to be pretty popular, at least here in Ol' Blighty. This aside, I'll admit I only remember the odd song from the radio a good seven or eight years ago, and there was this pretty cool video where the Badly Drawn Boy himself wears a yellow shirt and piggy-backs punters around town for taxi fares. I'm sure a quick visit to wikipedia would solve that little mystery, but it's a good review-starter anyway!

Either way, Badly Drawn Boy are basically the musical vehicle of Boltonian singer-songwriter Damon Gough and a load of session musicians from project to project providing a foil for his multi-instrumental talents and, as such, every song on this album was written by him and him alone. Around the time I spoke of earlier when the guy was enjoying a healthy slice of the pie of mainstream success, Nick Hornby's About a Boy was due to be adapted to the silver screen (as probably the only Hugh Grant film I actually like as well) and, unusually for such a mainstream film production with the amount of trans-Atlantic potential it had, Damon Gough here from little grey Bolton was the man deemed best for the job of writing and performing the entire soundtrack.

He probably couldn't believe his luck eh. As for the kind of music this soundtrack consists of, being a soundtrack album and all, about half of it comprises of all these sweet little instrumentals, while the other half is built on the back of some simplistic little indie/folk-rockers with a very mellow and calm feel, all sung in Gough's trademark deadpan vocal style with enough hooks for anyone to really grab onto. Basically, I'll put it this way - it's Sunday, I've seen rain for the first time in about a week and the skies are just covered with little patches of white and grey. This is the perfect album to go with that kinda backdrop.

Also, simplistic as this album may sound, it's clear that there's a lot of talent that goes into making stuff like this. Gough's a bit like a swan on this album - looks all fine above the surface, but below it his little legs are going mad.

Bobby McFerrin - The Voice (1984)

I doubt though that this here's a man who needs any introduction whether you're British or American or have or haven't seen or read About a Boy before. Possibly for the wrong reasons too, seeing as I'm sure you've heard Don't Worry Be Happy at least once before in your lives. I'll admit that's a little bit of a guilty pleasure of mine but, my point is, don't let that put you off. Also, it's not worth being skeptical about the amount of grammies he's won throughout his career (at least it'd normally leave me asking a few questions anyway).

For those of you who've only heard 'that song' before, what you might not have known (I know I didn't for years after I'd first come across it) is that it's entirely acapella, as in every line and full stop in that song is all down to McFerrin's vocal. In that respect alone, if you view talent in objective terms like I do (the way I see it, talent is doing what the untalented find difficult with ease, whereas genius is doing what talented people find difficult with ease), then it's so easy to see it being served up in buckets here, whether or not you like the results of it. That's just a me thing anyway, so don't take my word for it or anything (that said, this whole thread is really). It's does take a hell of a of lot of something pretty special to do any song acapella on your lonesome as well, particularly over an entire album such as this (if I'm not mistaken, this was one of the first jazz albums to be recorded entirely solo).

There's not really an awful lot of explaining to do. I can only tell you that if you haven't heard it before, you're either gonna love it or absolutely despise it. I'd say it's worth a gamble myself though (evidently). Strangely enough for someone who's had so much critical acclaim go his way, videos apart from the one of 'that song' are pretty thin on the ground with youtube. The below song (apologies in advance for the out-of-sync-ness of it) isn't actually from this album, but it should give you a good idea what it's like anyway. Some of the album's actually a lot more lively than you might think it'd be as well.

Also, I'm fully aware that it's pushing it a bit to call this pop music of some sort. I'm just going by the amount of records sold and awards won here.

David Bowie - Let's Dance (1983)

Talking of people who don't need introductions, hands up who hasn't heard of David Bowie before...

I really can't think of many other artists who've appealed to so many listeners from so many musical backgrounds. Throughout the length of his 40-year recording career (if he has indeed, which unfortunately looks very likely at the moment, retired by now), while it'd be exagerrating more than a Sun article written by office's cleaning lady to say that no two of his albums have ever sounded the same, the amount of styles and genres that the full extent of his back catalogue has provided us with is simply mind-boggling. Folk, glam, soul, r'n'b, funk, krautrock, electronica, new wave, disco, stadium rock, industrial, drum 'n' bass, gospel; he's kinda like that old geezer you see weekday nights down the pub who gets there about 5pm, stays all night, stares into space and doesn't even look at or talk to anyone - he's done it all down the years.

A pop thread just wouldn't be a pop thread without David Bowie chiming in somewhere in the middle of it, and there's no album of his that I'd call more out-and-out pop than this one (or at least not any good ones anyway). While is far, far away from being one of my favourite Bowie albums, it's also worth mentioning that it just happens to be far, far away from being a bad album by any stretch of the imagination at the same time. It's 80s pop, or at least early 80s pop, in a nutshell - very loud drumbeat, heavy use of brass augmentations, a production style so polished you can see your face in it etc. This is down to Bowie's ditching his usual producer Tony Visconti in favour of Chic's hit-machine Nile Rodgers in seeking a more mass-oriented sound. It might smack of sellout to some but, to tell you the truth, this is just another experiment with a new style of music from the man, and no more commercial than songs he released in the 70s like Rebel Rebel, Starman, Life On Mars or whatever.

Also, even if was the definitive sellout, the music backing it up is wonderful. In most places anyway. The only song I plain don't like on this album is Ricochet - just sounds like it's being edgey and 'out there' for the sake of it. Overall though, I always think of this as the classic album of two halves. Side A (particularly the three singles) represent 80s pop music at its most vibrant, fun and infectious, while side B has good points scattered around but meanders a little on the whole.

Whether you're into Bowie or not though, if you want something that's just a good pop album, get hold of this somehow.

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