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Old 04-11-2022, 07:15 PM   #11 (permalink)
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More something like this...

Love Scenes - Beverley Craven - 1993 (Epic)


This album I found all the more disappointing considering her stunning debut three years previous, which gave her a huge hit single in “Promise Me” and made people take notice of her. Possibly due to that, the ever-awkward second album syndrome, Love Scenes is a big let-down. Hardly prolific, Craven has only released a total of five full albums in almost twenty years, and it would be six more years before her third was completed. A lot of this has to do with the birth of her children, and you can't blame any mother for taking time off to make sure she shares the golden years with her kids, but her music certainly seems to have suffered from the hiatus, and any hope she had of making it big soon disappeared. Music fans are a fickle and impatient lot, and you can't expect (most of) them to wait six years between albums - even three is asking a lot, especially following a debut.

But I had enjoyed that self-titled first album a lot, even if much of it is somewhat indulgent and more than a little depressing. I thought a new star might have arisen on the horizon, and perhaps she would have shone a lot brighter and more powerfully had she followed up her debut more quickly, and with a stronger second album. As it is, what we have is a lot of rehash from the first, with some it has to be said pretty dire tracks, a lot of filler and one or two decent songs.

“Meh”, say I.

It opens, in fairness, with one of the better tracks, the title in fact. It's a nice guitar and string-driven semi-ballad with a good hint of bitterness in it, as Bev sings ”You're playing love scenes without me/ And she's got my role.” It's quite similar in pace and melody to her huge hit “Promise me”, and as this is one of the better tracks on the album, that's really not good. If you can't write new material without recycling your better songs, it's a bad start. Second track “Love is the Light” is another ballad, though this time a full one. This is another shortcoming with Craven's material. She always risked her music being forced into the “easy listening” category (surely death for any emerging artist!) due to the overpreponderance of ballads on her albums - her debut had five out of a total ten - (so that's half, for those of you as bad at maths as me) and the opening of the album does little to dispell this practice, despite a spirited guitar solo halfway through the song.

The shining diamond on this album is the utterly amazing “Hope”, which unbelievably was not chosen for release as a single. A tender, touching, tragic ballad, it focusses not on love and men, but the wrongs in the world, the injustices and the crimes against humanity practiced on a daily basis, often closer to home than we would wish to admit. Opening lines ”The martyrs of democracy/ Are lying in the streets/ People with the power/ Will kill to keep the peace” lay down the marker right away, as a lonely but effective piano is slowly joined by slowly-building strings, as a sad bell of doom tolls in the background. The strings surge on the back of powerful drums as the song increases in intensity, and this is, without question, one of the finest songs ever written by Beverley Craven, indeed, one of the finest songs on democracy and human rights ever recorded, and it should be far better known than it is.

Unfortunately after that it's pretty much downhill for the rest of the album. “Look No Further” is a pretty awful reggae-styled song in the vein of “You're Not the First” from the debut, while “Mollie's Song”, written for her daughter is touching but I prefer Phil Lynott's “Growing Up”. Still, you can't really pick too much fault with an artiste when they write a song for their children, and it's not a bad song, but doesn't stand out: perhaps it's a little overindulgent, though as I say we'll allow her that indulgence. Hey, at least it isn't “Kathleen!”

The ballads continue with “In Those Days”, more acoustic piano and to be fair Craven has a lovely clear and almost spiritual voice, even if it does often stray into Judie Tzuke territory. There's a nice touch with the addition of what sounds like uileann pipes, and the song is a nice look back to her childhood, while digital piano abounds on “Feels Like the First Time” (not, sadly, a cover of the stomping Foreigner song!), a ballad that owes much of its melody to “Castle in the Clouds” from her first album, and then she attempts - rather unsuccessfully in my opinion - to fuse reggae and rock stylings with a good slice of jazz on the first real uptempo number, “Blind Faith”. It's a worthy effort, but I think she's trying to step too far away from what she's best at here, and it comes across as too earnest, a real “look at me, I can rock!” song. And sadly, no Bev, you can't, not really.

There's not much left to say really after that. Although far from perfect, “Blind Faith” does come as a welcome break in the ballads, but then we're right back into weepy territory with “Lost Without You”, and the album ends with an unlikely cover of ABBA's “The Winner Takes It All”. One of my favourite songs from them, I'll never forgive her for reggae-ing it up! It's strangely prophetic really, as this album really didn't win her any new fans, any hits or any continued success, and when she took a six-year break - twice the length between her debut and this - before her third album, the writing really was on the wall.

After a successful and impressive debut, Beverley made the decision to put her children before her career. You can't argue that kind of decision - so often it's the other way around - and paid the expected price. After the last strains of “Promise Me” had faded into the background, people forgot her and although her last album was released in 2009, for most people she'll forever be classed as a one-hit wonder, proving the old adage that if you stand still, the world moves on without you.

TRACK LISTING

1. Love Scenes
2. Love is the Light
3. Hope
4. Look No Further
5. Mollie's Song
6. In Those Days
7. Feels Like the First Time
8. Blind Faith
9. Lost Without You
10. The Winner Takes It All
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Old 04-11-2022, 07:30 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Or this...

Cold Winds On Timeless Days - Charred Walls of the Damned - 2011 (Metal Blade)


Now there's an album title and band name that belongs right up there with the greats! The brainchild of ex-Iced Earth's Richard Christy, “Cold winds on timeless days” is the second album from this kind of spinoff from that band, with their, and Judas Priest's, former vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens also involved. The name of the band, it appears, came from a phrase used by the host of one of those fundamental Christian radio stations, on whom the guys had played a telephone prank; it's a reference to Hell, of course, as seen by the Moral Right, a place where the ungodly will apparently be putting their “nails in the charred walls of the damned”. Nice. Hey, at least they'll be keeping busy doing some DIY for Satan! Oh wait: does he mean fingernails? Nah, I'm sure Lucifer is just looking to recruit an army of damned souls to put up all those pictures of him in the White House with Trump...

It starts off with deceptive laidback guitar before the title track, as such - it's actually titled “Timeless Days”- kicks in with exploding guitar solos and stomping drums, Owens' vocals cutting through the cacophony with the power of Dickinson and Dio combined. There's great melody though, and it's clear this is no hastily-thrown-together project, all musicians complementing each other and melding together almost as one as Steve DiGeorgio lays down solid basslines alongside Jason Suecof's burning guitar, Christy's pounding drums hammering out the rhythm as the song, actually the longest on the album, goes along. It's followed by “Ashes Falling Upon Us”, another fast pounder, with a real anthemic chorus - I can imagine this going over well live. Great guitar solo from Suecof, like the metal gods of old. Don't hear that too often these days.

This album is odd in that it really has two title tracks: there's “Timeless Days”, as already mentioned, and then you get “Cold Winds”, so either could lay claim to being the title track. Good stuff, but nothing is really standing head and shoulders above the rest yet, marking itself out as truly great. “Lead the Way” is a lot faster than previous tracks, veering close to speed metal territory, with a pretty dramatic feel about it - speed metal opera? “Guiding Me” is also a decent song, but so far I'm waiting in vain for anything special, something that lifts this album out of the ranks of the ordinary and makes it something more than just another metal outing.

Okay, for just a minute “The Beast Outside My Window” sounded like it might have been the track I was waiting for. Started with nice acoustic guitar intro and seemed like despite the title it might have been a slow song, but then kicked into high gear and became another more-or-less-indistinguishable from the rest. Ah well. “Bloodworm” has some nice ideas and an interesting melody; probably qualifies as the best track so far, though to be fair that's a pretty short list, sadly.

And that's about it really. The closer, “Avoid the Light”, comes and goes without making any real impression on me, and the album is over, having had a similar lack of effect. A real pity, as I had hoped this would be a great album. But I guess sometimes a great name and title and a decent pedigree doesn't necessarily guarantee that the product is going to live up to that promise. Not a bad album, per se, just nothing special. I wouldn't say avoid it like the plague, just as I wouldn't advise anyone to rush out and buy it.

TRACK LISTING

1. Timeless Days
2. Ashes Falling Upon Us
3. Zerospan
4. Cold Winds
5. Lead the Way
6. Forever Marching On
7. Guiding Me
8. The Beast Outside My Window
9. On Unclean Ground
10. Bloodworm
11. Admire the Heroes
12. Avoid the Light
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Old 04-11-2022, 07:42 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Maybe this...



Nine Objects of Desire - Suzanne Vega - 1996 (A&M)

Though I would certainly count myself a fan of Suzanne Vega, somehow I never got past her first two albums. Brilliant (each in different ways) as those two were, I just seemed to have drifted away from her music after that. Not a conscious decision I think, but maybe I got caught up in all the hype at the time, with her videos on MTV and her singles in the charts, and going to see her live: maybe it was all just oversaturation and when it was over, like a spent/selfish lover, I just rolled over and muttered “seeya” and left in the night. Not literally, you understand.

So here's my chance, now that I have her discography, to see what Suzanne got up to while I was away. By all accounts, she's still successful, highly-thought of and despite the fact that her albums no longer break the top ten - a steady decline since Solitude Standing almost hit the top slot back in 1987, with this one falling just outside the top forty - she still shifts more than enough units to keep herself in the style to which, no doubt, she's become accustomed. But is there a reason for this fall in commercial popularity? Or did people (like, I have to admit, myself) just jump off the bandwagon after '87 and leave it trundling on, unconcerned as to where it went without them? Have we, to mix metaphors a little, missed the boat, and will I wonder, after listening to this album, why I stopped buying her records?

And do I ever stop asking questions? Well, do I?

Two tracks in, and I'm already asking more questions. Where's the acoustic guitar? The folk aspect of her music that drew me to her initially? This all sounds a little too electric, a little too, well, pop for me. The lazy lounge of "Caramel" sounds like it should be in some old forties movie, but it's better than what has gone before, with a certain Waits charm about the clarinet and bass, while "Stockings" (who else could write a song about a woman wearing stockings and somehow not make it sound that sexual?) is a lot rockier, with hard guitar and pulsing bass and a sort of bossa-nova beat, with something of Neil Hannon's Divine Comedy in the melody, and some pretty wild trumpet, almost Arabic style.

As I listen to this more I get the feeling (reinforced with each new track I hear) that this is not Vega's own music, but what some record execs feel she should be playing. I'm not saying she didn't write it, as I know she did, but it just doesn't have the same heart as her earlier work, at least for me. Other than the pretty distinctive voice, if I heard this on the radio I'd probably not recognise it as being her product. Maybe she was just trying other things, but this sounds more like an album written to try to get attention, hit singles, commercial success - which is odd, considering she had her biggest success with Solitude Standing. Maybe trying to recapture the genius of that album backfired? Either way, I'm only halfway through, but though it's not a terrible album, I really don't see me ever seeing this as a great one.

In fairness, "No Cheap Thrill" comes closest to the sort of song I've come to expect from her, but it's very much in the minority, along with "World Before Columbus", which really goes back to her basic sound, and is in fact one of the few favourites I would have on this album. Sadly, after that, for me, it's downhill all the way. I feel after listening to this album that Vega is trying to sound like Waits, though of course that could just be me. Still... Maybe two objects of desire on this one, Suzy, never nine. Not for me, anyhow.

TRACK LISTING

Birth-day (Love Made Real)
Headshots
Caramel
Stockings
Casual Match
Thin Man
No Cheap Thrill
World Before Columbus
Lolita
Honeymoon Suite
Tombstone
My Favourite Plum

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Old 04-11-2022, 08:27 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Oh man, even this. And it started off so well. Okay, maybe I expected too much.



and hell, let's have another


Make way! Make way for the master! Peter Gabriel has forgotten more about music, theatre, technology and merging the three than most other bands will ever know. If there's an innovation in music, chances are he's behind it, at the forefront (if that's not a contradiction!), spearheading the next muso/technical revolution. Unlike some artistes of his generation, Gabriel sees emergent technologies not as taking over his music, but as a tool he can use to further improve that music. No real surprise then that he should once again try to step out of the box and engage in a new venture.

Of course, setting an artist's music to an orchestra is nothing new. It's been done many times, whether it's the Symphonic Pink Floyd or the music of the Beatles for orchestra, or even the Genesis Suite from last year by Tolga Kashif, but in each case that has been a conductor, composer or indeed orchestra interpreting the music of the artist, but with no input from said artist. New Blood, Peter Gabriel's latest album, is the first instance I have heard of where the artist himself plays with the orchestra his own re-arrangement of his songs.

New Blood - Peter Gabriel - 2011 (Real World)


You might expect Gabriel, in this sort of setting, to pick the obvious tracks to get the orchestral treatment. What a show “Sledgehammer” or “Big Time” would make, or maybe “Games Without Frontiers” or “Biko”. But that's not the path he takes. Instead, he goes for some hits, but mainly tracks that may not be that well known outside his fanbase, but that translate the best (to his mind) for orchestral arrangement. “Freedom from the tyranny of guitar and drum” is how he announces the project, and indeed, you won't find either here. It's all completely on strings, woodwind, brass and piano that these songs are carried.

So how does it work out? Well, the atmospheric opening to the album, which also opens the album it comes from, 1982's album, one of four all self-titled (though this one does apparently carry a sub-title of Security) should I think impress more. It's introducing the whole thing, and though “The Rhythm of the Heat” is a slowburner, I just don't think it works that well here, at least not as an opener. The song is pretty much built on a heavy drumbeat, and I personally think it suffers without it, though the violins and cellos do their best to maintain the menace of the original, at which I'm sorry to say I feel they come up short. Gabriel's voice is as desperate and urgent as ever, almost as if he's calling for help, but this song kind of falls a little flat for me, and it's a disappointing beginning.

“Downside Up”, from 2000's Ovo, features Melanie Gabriel, whom I'm assuming is his daughter, and is better. A slow, sedate song, it's almost perfectly suited for the orchestral treatment, almost a mini-symphony in itself. Bassoon and oboe lead the song in on slow string accompaniment ++ and then Melanie's lovely angelic voice just takes over the song, lifting it to Heaven on silver wings. Her father joins her then, and the orchestra gets a little happier and more a-buzz, the violins setting up a joyous melody not a billion miles removed from Handel's “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”. One of my very favourites of Gabriel's is up next, the dreamy “San Jacinto”, and again this is well served by the orchestra, tinkling piano and low trombone carrying the opening of the tune, Gabriel's voice low, almost a mutter, as the violins and cellos come in alongside a vocal chorus.

Gabriel's voice gets stronger then as the song goes on, and as it reaches the crescendo in the song, the string section rises with him, creating a soundscape that is almost perfect, man and musical section in complete harmony. I can't understand why this wasn't the opener: it would have been perfect. Nevertheless, as the happy flutes and violins pepper the song, memories of “The Rhythm of the Heat” have now faded, and the album is turning out to be what was really expected, and that is a triumph, a seamless melding of Peter Gabriel's flawless and amazing songwriting and musical skills with the sublime power of the orchestra.

The unsettling “Intruder” from his third album is next, and this will be a test. The track, again an opener, relies on building a sense of tension and fear, and the violins and cellos manage to convey this quite well, rather like setting this song to the soundtrack of a movie. Gabriel's voice is less threatening, I feel, on this version, but it's a good treatment of the song. The choral arrangements help, and the strings are very effective, but again this is a track that is built originally on a solid backbeat, and the loss of drums is again I feel to the detriment of the song, making it a lot less effective than it is on the original album. I also miss the shouted “I AM THE INTRUDER!” which is abandoned in favour of a whisper. Effective, yes, but not as much as on the song proper.

I only know the fourth album through what I've heard of it via the Plays Live album, so “Wallflower”, which is from the Security album, I can't really comment on as I haven't heard it before, but it comes across as a nice piano led ballad with some good strings and oboe, possibly French horn in there too. Lovely cello line takes the main melody and complements Gabriel's yearning vocal well, while piano keeps a counterbeat in the background. Very restrained, but not an awful lot for the orchestra to work with. Nice duet with Melanie again though.

The next three tracks are from his 1986 So album, the first to actually have a title (despite Security being retitled for the US market), and of course his biggest commercial success, kicking off with the boppy “In Your Eyes”, here given full strings opening with bassoon and horns taking part, slowing down then to allow cello to accompany Gabriel's voice, then speeding up again and getting very busy as the song goes towards the joyous chorus, vocal choir adding its power to the song, the tempo considerably slowed down nevertheless from the original.

I find the exuberant African mood missing from this version though, and that was one of the things that in my opinion made it such a good song, almost gospel in its way. “Mercy Street” was always a restrained song, very sparse, so there's not a whole lot the orchestra can do here, though the cellos and violins carry the track well, but for me it's an odd choice. Better is “Red Rain”, and even though this opener from So does rely quite heavily on drums and percussion, the orchestra manage to make it work this time, with flurries of violins, bassoons and trombones replacing the rhythm of the original.

“Darkness” is another song I'm unfamiliar with, coming as it does from the album I tried so hard to get into, but failed, that being Up. There's a nice sense of menace and power conveyed by the string section, then flute takes centre stage for a few lines, as Gabriel's singing gets less manic, then the strings come back in full force as he goes over-the-top again. This however as I say I can't really comment on, as I really hated Up, and this version of “Darkness” doesn't change my opinion of that album, even though I don't actually remember it. Next up is a classic, that surely had to be included in this reimagining of Gabriel's catalogue.

Although I'm disappointed Kate Bush couldn't lend her talents to this version - I always consider her duet with Gabriel to be the iconic version of this song - the incarnation we get here of “Don't Give Up” starts off well, but then Swedish singer Ane Brun chimes in, and she is not a patch on Bush: her contribution to the vocals is shaky, hesitant and has none of the heart or power of Kate Bush's desperate plea to keep going despite everything. In fact, I'd go so far as to say she ruins the whole song. There, I said it. My god, what a terrible voice, in comparison to Kate. What was Peter thinking?? Jesus, this girl sings like she has a cold! I can't believe how much she's ruined one of my favourite classic Gabriel songs!

Still smarting from the betrayal of “Don't Give Up” being butchered as it has been, the only song from 1992's Us almost passes me by, but “Digging in the Dirt” gets a pretty dramatic treatment with powerful horns and frenetic violins managing to come close to the somewhat unhinged tone of the original, then the beautiful, fragile, sensual “The Nest That Sailed the Sky”, the only other track taken from Ovo, loses none of its soft, gentle beauty, still a classic instrumental and one of the very few Gabriel has ever written.

Following this, and preparatory to closing the album, is a weird little thing called “A Quiet Moment”, which is essentially almost five minutes of nature and pastoral sounds, like rain, birds, waves and the like, interesting and certainly different, but surely a bit of a cheat when another track could have been included, considering how large Gabriel's repertoire is?

It does end well though, with the all-time favourite “Solsbory Hill” given the orchestral arrangement, though I still prefer the original. It's something of an annoyance to find that, should you decide to shell out for the “extended edition” with extra disc, all you get is instrumental versions of all the songs here, plus one additional track, right at the end, “Blood of Eden”. I would have thought extra tracks, information, out-takes, different versions other than just instrumental (this is an orchestra, after all!) would have been better value. As it is, I'm not going into that disc, even though I have it here: I see no reason to. I don't believe it would add anything to what has already gone.

I have to admit, somewhat in surprise, that I'm a little disappointed. While many of the tracks work well with an orchestra, many don't, and some are actually worse for the treatment. After having listened to this, I don't so much feel the need to hear more songs given this arrangement as an urgent need to revisit Gabriel's catalogue and hear them again as they should be heard. Sometimes the clever thing is not to do anything, to leave the classics as they are. I really believe that, on balance, that's the lesson that should be learned here. Perhaps, stunning a revelation though it may be, the master actually has something to learn?

I had expected so much more, but sadly, though Peter Gabriel crowed that his songs had been liberated from the “tyranny of guitar and drum”, I personally feel that his music needs that tyranny, and that, taken away, the stalwart servants of every musician are sadly and most effectively missed. Pushing the boundaries is all very well, but in the final analysis, I really don't feel it worked this time. I'm probably in a minority here, but after the disappointment of Up, here's another Peter Gabriel effort that has not made the grade for me.

And I so wanted it to...

TRACK LISTING

1. The Rhythm of the Heat
2. Downside Up
3. San Jacinto
4. Intruder
5. Wallflower
6. In Your Eyes
7. Mercy Street
8. Red Rain
9. Darkness
10. Don't Give Up
11. Digging in the Dirt
12. The Nest That Sailed the Sky
13. A Quiet Moment
14. Solsbory Hill

++ = I'm no student of the orchestra, and I certainly can't distinguish too many instruments one from the other, and information as to what is played on what song is very hard to come by. As a result, I've made my best guess when commenting, but I could be wrong. So if something I describe as a bassoon is an oboe, or a violin is actually a viola, or whatever, don't jump on me. Correct the text if you can, let me know, but bear in mind I'm winging it here as far as orchestral instrumentation goes. And writing “string section” or “woodwind” every time is both repetitive and boring, and shows a lack of interest or originality.
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Old 04-11-2022, 08:44 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
No man, this isn't Love or Hate with the first two words removed. I'm not looking for albums to hate. I'm just posting reviews of ones I didn't particularly like. If I actually hate it then it sort of doesn't work: there has to be something there for me to poke a little fun or some well-chosen snide gibes at. As the man said in the second post, too much like low-hanging fruit, sorry.
What in the god damn **** are you talking about? Who wants to read extensive posts about albums you're kind of meh on? Nobody cares if you have mild antipathy towards Billy Joel.
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Old 04-11-2022, 08:54 PM   #16 (permalink)
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What in the god damn **** are you talking about? Who wants to read extensive posts about albums you're kind of meh on? Nobody cares if you have mild antipathy towards Billy Joel.
Now why in the hell do you think I would care? As you would say yourself, eat me.

By the way, only been going a week and 150 views already, so up yours.
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Old 04-12-2022, 05:42 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Probably all bots.
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There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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Old 04-12-2022, 06:20 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Secret: I click on all the posts in my queue so I can clear the queue. I'm not necessarily interested in all the posts. I mean, who really wants to play a K-pop video besides K- Addict?
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Old 04-12-2022, 10:38 AM   #19 (permalink)
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K-Pop? You take that back, sir! The only reason I would watch a K-Pop video would certainly NOT be to watch nubile young females in tight, short, figure-hugging.... um, 'scuse me a sec...
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Old 04-12-2022, 10:40 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Probably all bots.
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