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Old 04-01-2022, 07:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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If there's one thing you can say about me (to my face anyway; I know what you people are like) it's that I won't discount any album or artist without giving them a fair shot. This has led to my reviewing albums that let's say did not impress me, made me laugh outright, throw up my lunch or otherwise negatively affected me. Sometimes, as in the first one here, this was due to a challenge thrown down, sometimes it was as a special request from someone, sometimes it was just sheer bloody mindedness on my part: it can't be that bad, I would think, and then when it was, I'd make a laugh out of it.

I'm not a mean person (no I'm not) but if something deserves to be torn apart and there is no pack of hyenas or jackals handy, I'll do the job. I'll always try to do so with humour, and while it's always possible someone may take offence, none is intended, so my advice to you if you feel that way about any of the reviews here is to suck it.

While these albums may not exactly be recommended and are not destined to set the world alight (actually, this ****ing thing next may be) the reviews will, I hope, at least provide some mirth and humour. If not, then go **** yourselves.

Peace!

Originally Posted February 12 2014 in The Playlist of Life



Believe - Justin Bieber - 2012 (Schoolboy)

Disclaimer: Trollheart wishes to make it clear that he is only doing this because a challenge was issued by Briks, and he does not like to turn down a challenge (see “Classic albums I have never heard”).


I love Canada. Really. I'm a big fan. If there were two places I could live if I had the money and the opportunity they would be the Cotswolds in England and Canada. Everyone there seems so nice, life seems to go at a more relaxed pace and apart from Americans slagging them off, nobody seems to hate Canadians.

Except this one.

Bieber is the one thing that sours my love of Canada. I mean, he would be bad enough if he came from the US of A, where pretty boy talentless so-called popstars at ten a penny, or a thousand for a dollar. But no. He doesn't even have the good taste to be American. He has to sully Canada's good name by dragging it into his puerile attempts at music. Yeah, nice and unbiased, huh? Come on! What did you expect? I'm doing this under duress and against my better judgement. All right all right, let's listen to the damn thing. But first (try to put it off for as long as possible) some background, for those of you with enough taste not to know who this kid is.

First of all, and without any fear of correction at all, I can tell you he is a bastard. His parents were never married so he was born out of wedlock. What? I'm only stating the facts. Bastard, bastard, bastard. Oh, and the day he was born Satan grinned and Hendrix, Marley and Elvis all groaned. I made that last bit up. I think.

His mother, showing staggeringly poor judgement, refused to abort the baby against advice from her friends, and then doggedly pushed him towards a career in music. Thanks a lot Patricia Mallette! Guess we have you to thank for unleashing the musical equivalent of the antichrist upon us! To be fair, she had to raise baby Bieber on her own as a single mother, and worked two jobs to feed the family, which no matter what else you have to admire. And, yes, pain me though it does, I have to admit that Bieber apparently taught himself how to play the guitar, piano and drums, so he's not just a singer. Damn it! I want to slag him off and call him a talentless prick, but it's really not turning out like that. Stop it!

After making various videos of cover songs and posting them on YouTube, Bieber was discovered and offered a recording contract, and the rest is sadly history. He now has an army of fans, has sold over fifteen million records (are there that many gullible people in the world? It would seem so!) and is worth well in excess of fifty million dollars. This is his third album, the one in which he apparently wants to step away from the teenybop music of the last two, and be taken as a serious artiste. Yeah well, I'll be the judge of that!

So then, there's no putting it off any more. Time to hit play and grit my teeth, and see what I've let myself in for. I think I'm known for as unbiased reviews as I can do, so I don't want to put this down without a proper listen, but I'm not expecting my already-made-up mind to be altered over the course of the next forty-eight minutes and nine seconds...

So we start off as I expected, with an annoying pop uptempo dancy song with that blasted autotune all over the place. Could be any boyband or slef-important singer singing “All Around the World”. Plenty of “Woh-oh-oh”s and buzzy synth with club-style percussion and a breathy vocal. Apparently this song features someone called Ludacris. I don't know who he is. I also don't care. Meh. Next. While that plays out, let's at least give the guy some more credit (must we? Yeah, I have to be equitable) - he also writes his own music. Every track here is co-written by him with another songwriter, though there are none he writes solo. You have to admire anyone who can write their own songs.

Okay, enough credit. Let's get back to slagging him off. That first track was godawful, but “Boyfriend” is slower with handclap drums and a low vocal, sort of low-key Backstreet Boys kind of thing. Not too bad, and I say that with the unspoken understanding that every track here is just different levels of awful. The lyric is inspired certainly: ”If I was your boyfriend/Never let you go/ Keep you on my arm girl/ You'd never be alone.” Sigh. It's less grating on the nerves than the opener, but not much. Imagine Dragons, Script, anyone could have written this. Another yearning vocal in “As Long As You Love Me”, but it's not the old BSB song, which I kind of had expected. Rumbling, staccato drums in a slow pattern and soaring, squealing synth. This features Big Sean. Yeah. Oh look: he referenced Beyonce there! ”You can be my destiny's child.” Halfway through it kicks up the tempo and gets a bit faster and harder, and here comes a rap vocal so I assume that's our Big Sean getting in on the act. It's always funny in the least funny way to hear a guy who is worth untold millions sing about being starving and homeless. Bah.

There's a nice little bit of acoustic guitar to start “Catching Feelings”, (reminds me of Kurt Van Houten!) with a sort of slightly sparse dancy beat behind it and another low vocal, the melody rather similar to the song that just ended.

Full band kicks in now and it's jumping and hopping, No wait, that's “Take You”. Bloody Grooveshark! See, this is the problem when Spotify don't have the album, and I'll be damned and cursed before I'll pay even eighty cents for this thing! So the 'Shark has the tracks somewhat mixed around. Probably doesn't matter. “Right Here” features Drake, who I do at least know of, even if I haven't heard or am likely to hear anything he's recorded, and it's a sort of slowish ballad with nice vocal harmonies, but again meh you know? Nothing special here, and certainly nothing that's likely to change my mind about this guy.

Incidentally, considering how many writers most of the songs have I would question how much input Bieber had into the tracks. Maybe he did the lion's (or lamb's) share of the work, I don't know, but with all these guys helping out you'd have to wonder. Now we get “Catching Feelings” as the ones with the sharp rows of teeth who move to the rhythm a lot again rearrange the tracks for no discernible reason I can see. Was it worth waiting for? Well it has a nice sort of almost seventies pop vibe to it, bit like Bread or even the Carpenters in places. Soft lush keyboard and a breezy melody; you know, it's not too bad, and I say that in the full knowledge that I am now being taken over by some alien being who is putting words into my mouth. If I had to choose a favourite - or least hated, let's say - track on this album so far this would be it by a country mile. I can actually listen to this without vomiting blood.

Mediocrity is soon resumed though with “Fall”, a mid-paced ballad-ish song that's just embarrassing - although listening to this album that's kind of a given - while “Die in Your Arms” has again a nice seventies feel to it with bright piano and a slow rhythm, some sweet guitar, though the spoken vocal - supposedly sexy - is just laughable. The basic melody is okay, quite bouncy and upbeat, reminds me of Climax Blues Band or maybe the Little River Band. “Thought of You” moves the tempo back into dance territory, and removes any interest for me in a generic pop number, but if I disliked that then I hate the next one, which features Nicky Minaj. Oh dear god! “Beauty and a Brat”, sorry “Beat” - beat this! - is the epitome of dance music that I absolutely hate. Moving swiftly on...

Thank the lord Satan we're getting near the end! “One Love”, again, we're not talking about the Bob Marley classic here, just a sort of mid-tempo banal love song. It's followed by “Be Alright” which at least has a nice acoustic guitar backing, sort of “More Than Words” feel to it, and if I'm honest is the only other song I can stand on this album, which mercifully comes to a close with the title track. It's not all that bad really in fairness. Never thought I'd say that. Sort of mid-paced half-ballad with some decent piano and is that a strings section? Nice. It's not the worst song, and if I really force myself I can say that's three tracks out of thirteen that I like, or can tolerate on this album.

TRACK LISTING

1. All Around the World
2. Boyfriend
3. As Long As You Love Me
4. Catching Feelings
5. Take You
6. Right Here
7. Fall
8. Die in Your Arms
9. Thought of You
10. Beauty and a Beat
11. One Love
12. Be Alright
13. Believe

So what do I think of the album overall, having endured, sorry listened to it through? What do you think? Really? You think my attitude will have changed after one listen? Not likely. It's not the worst record I've ever heard, but it's nothing special at all. Just another pretty-boy singer doing what he does. Bieber could be the contestant or finalist on a million X Factors or American Idols, and I see nothing here to differentiate him from the many others ploughing the same tired old furrow with song subjects like “Girl you're the one for me”, “Why can't we stay together” and “It'll be all right.”

Meh, I'm sure it will be, for him. After all, he's made - and will surely continue to make - his millions as long as there are teenage girls in the world, and I suppose fair play to him if he's tapped into an almost endless market. But this sort of music is the kind of thing that I hate and it takes away attention from real artistes, definitely pandering to the lowest common denominator. I wonder where Bieber will be in ten years' time?* Twenty? Whereever it is, he'll still be a whole lot richer than I'll ever be, that's for sure.

But he'll never make me a Belieber. Oh, Canada! How could you?

* Note: Written in 2012. Bieber has now six albums with over 150 million sales and owns a 26 million dollar house in Beverly Hills. Gaaahhh!
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Old 04-09-2022, 07:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Well that was low hanging fruit.
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Old 04-09-2022, 08:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Meh, I'm not very tall.
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Old 04-09-2022, 08:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Try this (jumping a little higher)...


Legacy of Humanity - Anubis - 2010 (Distro Rock)

I heard these guys by accident. I'm into another band called Anubis (I featured them on my now-defunct Trollheart's Fortress of Prog) but they're a prog rock outfit, and when I downloaded this album I expected it to be one of theirs. Imagine my surprise when I was assaulted by hammering guitars, thundering drums and growled vocals! Still, for what it was it didn't seem all that bad. I do find it odd, perhaps even a little disheartening that a band who have been together for twenty years now have only managed to churn out one demo album - and that in 2006, over a decade after they were formed - plus a single in 2010, with this being essentially their debut album. The sands of time, guys! The sands of time...

Anyway, what's it like? Well, as you'd probably expect, it's hard fast and heavy, with the usual twin guitar attack courtesy of Renato Costa and Vinicius Carvalho, who are good at what they do. Anubis sing in English, though sing is perhaps a little kind when you listen to vocalist Sandro Costa --- is he related to Renato? I don't know: perhaps Costa is a common surname in Brazil. “Armistice Day” opens proceedings, but it's anything but a surrender as the lads go for the throat, pounding and screaming in that special way thrash metal enjoys. There's something of Slayer and a lot of the big German thrash bands here, the likes of Kreator and Destruction. “Forbidden Game” keeps the tempo fast and heavy, though there's really nothing special about it, the guitar riffs basically repeated throughout the song. It does slow down about halfway but then returns to its previous groove, and it's really been and gone before you can even notice it.

“School of Hate” is more of the same: low, growling guitars and a snarled vocal with steamhammer drums. It's possibly a little slower than the last two tracks, but not that much, while “Dark Hope” has a long instrumental intro, about the only thing that distinguishes it from what has gone before. As a matter of interest, I see that later on “Under the Influence” is an actual instrumental, so that may be something to look forward to: Costa's vocals are certainly not making this an easy album to like. That said, there's a pretty cool solo in “Dark Hope” that shows the talent of the two axemen, but otherwise, like much of this album so far, it's rather unremarkable. Moving on, we head into “The Last Act” (shall I be unkind and say I wish it was? No, I won't, not yet) with a sort of galloping beat that almost hits boogie territory at times.

The title track is up next. Well, not really the title track - there is none - but the name of the band. Yeah, “Anubis” is also the longest track on the album by far, clocking in at over eight minutes. There's a reasonably long Sabbathish intro on the guitar before it all gets pumping and Sandro Costa roars in with the vocal, though after his growl it's back to instrumental really for another minute or so as the band take the song. When he comes back in he's singing in a faster, more rapid-fire delivery than he has done, and the music matches his vocal: fast, driving with much shredding. Well, at least it seemed to go in quicker than I expected, and we're on to “P.O.W” which rocks along nicely with some almost discordant guitar, taking us to that instrumental I mentioned earlier.

And it's been worth waiting for, with a sort of Gary Moore twist to the guitar, allied to a sound that I can only describe as Boston. Yeah. It gets heavier and punchier then, but retains the basic slow, almost balladic melody of the opening, putting it clearly in the running for standout on the album, as far as I'm concerned (not that it has much competition in my view); a real pearl among the swine, and a great showcase for Carvalho and Costa, who really deserve to be in a better band than this I feel. “Slaves of Misery” returns us to the banal and pedestrian, with a refrain a little too close to Maiden's similarly-titled “Chains of Misery” for my liking, and the album ends on “Dream Beyond the Mirror”, a promising start with some laidback guitar that then comes through more heavily as the song gets going, but it's a nice introduction.

It's actually almost halfway through the track's six-minutes-plus length before we hear the vocals, but it's the guitars that carry the closer, with again some licks coming very close to Maiden territory, especially “The Trooper” and “Die With Your Boots On”. The problem here is that, like a broken fishing rod, this would be useless to an angler; in other words, there are no hooks in it, or very very few. Nothing is memorable, there's no Hum Factor and it's all pretty much more of the same. Not impressed, I must say.

TRACK LISTING

Armistice Day
Forbidden Game
School of Hate
Dark Hope
The Last Act
Anubis
P.O.W
Under the Influence
Slaves of Misery
Dream Beyond the Mirror

I've had experience of Brazilian thrash before, and I really didn't like what I heard. Anubis have not done anything to change my mind on that score. I'm sure there are great metal bands in the land of Mardi Gras, but I've yet to encounter them.

As for Anubis, I think I prefer the progressive rock band, who are miles apart from this sort of music. Anubis was the guardian dog of the dead in Egyptian mythology, and stood watch not only over the bodies of pharaohs and powerful people but no doubt their wealth too. I don't think he would be too bothered about guarding this particular tomb, as there's nothing new or innovative, catchy or even memorable here. Considering that this album took, technically, twenty years to record, you'd think they'd have come up with something better than this collection of tired metal cliches.

I'd certainly like to hope and believe that humanity can leave behind a better legacy than this.
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Old 04-09-2022, 09:28 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Corporate America - Boston - 2002 (Artemis)

How long did we have to wait for the third Boston album? Eight years. Then another eight years for the next one, and, believe it or not, it's been eight years since 1994's Walk On. Is he doing this on purpose? Has it been worth the wait? Well, it certainly starts off well, powerfully and with a lot more AOR to be fair than straight ahead rock, but that oh-so-missed distinctive voice is great to hear, as Brad Delp puts in a great performance, his last with Boston before tragically taking his own life five years later. I'm a little offput by the electronic/dance nature of the title track, even if Tom Scholz's instantly recognisable guitar riffs do add a bit of needed punch, but the basic tune is more like something you'd hear on a dancefloor really, and despite a pretty fine solo from Tom it's hard not to scratch your head at the composition of this song.

There's a nice change of pace then for a beautifully gentle little acoustic number, that comes on all "Starman" as it begins, and is very interestingly sung by country songstress Kimberley Dahme, who joined Boston that year. I believe this is the first time a Boston song has had female lead vocals, and it's certainly unexpected, to me at least. There's another unexpected twist in "Turn it Off", when Boston go all grunge rock, and a lovely little piece of Spanish guitar in "I Didn't Mean to Fall in Love", though the rest of the song sounds like Toto, and is somewhat drowned in keyboards. Beautiful closer in an apparently live version of "Livin' for you", off previous album Walk On, though to be honest the only clue it's live is at the end with some basic cheers, but it's a great song anyway.

Boston will never equal or exceed their amazing debut from 1976, especially now that the “voice” of that band has passed on, but they came close with Third Stage. This I do not place in that sort of category. It's a decent album, but in a few places quite weak and really lacking the energy and enthusiasm I'd expect not only of Boston, but of an album that bears such a title. Corporate rock? Maybe not, but as Steve Hogarth once wrote, ”The fire in your belly/ That gave you the songs/ Is suddenly gone.”

Perhaps they might have been wise to have taken the advice in the title of their previous album. I certainly could not confirm that the title of the opening track is at all appropriate. What I'm saying is, I did not have a particularly good time.

TRACK LISTING

I Had a Good Time
Stare Out Your Window
Corporate America
With You
Someone
Turn it Off
Cryin'
Didn't Mean to Fall in Love
You Gave Up On Love
Livin' for You (live)
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Old 04-10-2022, 01:24 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Because of the Times - Kings of Leon - 2006

Another band I've been meaning to listen to for some time. Like a lot of the bands I have on my computer but have yet to listen to, I know Kings of Leon by reputation only, and can honestly say I have never heard one single song by them (no, not even "Sex on Fire"!) so when I say my familiarity with them is zero, I mean it. I know so little about them that until I Wiki'd them I thought they were English! Who's that laughing? Yeah, you there at the back...

Well, it's running now and I don't hate the opener, "Knocked Up", quite catchy in fact, but you can keep "Charmer": it's just terrible, like the Smiths doing punk! Ugh! Will this, I find myself wondering, be an album of extremes: some tracks I'll like, others I'll hate? Perhaps not: God I hate this guy's voice! It just grates on me like nails on a blackboard! I doubt much can rescue this album, indeed this band, for me now: sure, we're only four tracks in, but hey, if you can't stand the singer you're exceptionally unlikely to warm to the band, and though the music is generally okay, I don't see where the love for these guys is coming from, as to me they sound very distinctly average.

"Black Thumbnail" has a certain Springsteen charm to it, until suddenly it speeds up and loses the feeling; I'm really struggling to find anything decent to say about this album at all. There's a decent guitar solo near the end of "True Love Way", but really, it's a little crack of light in the overall darkness. Do Kings of Leon do any instrumentals? I could really do without hearing - what's his name anyway? Caleb Followill - Jesus! These guys are all brothers? Well, I'll persevere to the end of the album, because I never leave a review half-finished, but who the hell told this guy he could sing? He sounds half the time like he's hoarse, and he certainly has (to me anyway) no charm, warmth, charisma or class in his voice.

Right, let it run on. Okay vocal harmonies and a decent melody to "Fans", another good solo, but the big problem is still there, and our man Caleb ain't going away! Guess I'm in the minority, as KoL have been very successful, but then, so have a lot of bands I would not rate. Acquired taste? Maybe, but I don't see myself ever savouring his vocals, and the music, though not terrible, is nothing that special either. There's a nice idea in "The Runner", but it never seems to really get going, and there's a sleazy, Chris Isaakesque feel to "Trunk" which isn't bad, but Caleb seems unable to stay in tune (seriously!) and ruins it.

Okay, okay! The closer is quite nice, and even Caleb's singing is not too irritating or distracting, in fact weirdly "Arizona" reminds me of Chris Rea's "Nothing's Happening By the Sea". But by now it's way too late for a rearguard action or a last minute push, and Kings of Leon have lost me. I hate this album, and as long as this guy remains with them (which I guess is still the case today) I won't be listening to any more of their records.

TRACK LISTING

Knocked Up
Charmer
On Call
McFearless
Black Thumbnail
My Party
True Love Way
Ragoo
Fans
The Runner
Trunk
Camaro
Arizona

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Old 04-10-2022, 08:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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The Power and the Myth - House of Lords - 2004 (Frontiers)


This was an album I had high hopes for. Don't ask me why: I had never heard of the band before, but something about it just piqued my interest and I decided to give it a try. While not awful by any means, it nevertheless did not exactly send me searching avidly for the rest of their catalogue. It is in fact their fourth of, to date, eight studio albums, but even the appearance of Dream Theater's Derek Shernihan and the lovely Robin Beck could not lift this album above the realm of the ordinary for me.

It opens with “Today”, nice humming synth and lovely little picked classical guitar, the synth getting louder and more insistent until it's joined by electric guitar and drums, and the song gets going. The vocals of James Christian, who also plays lead guitar, swing between a sort of Nickelback growl and a generic AOR style, but effective and also very clear. Nice guitar solo too.

It's an impressive opener, but then “All is Gone” seems to be a fairly generic rock song, nice idea but undeveloped, with an almost Free-like melody, fairly predictable and a bit of a disappointment after the first track. “Am I the Only One” has a nice oriental feel to the keyboard opening, then slips into a sort of semi-ballad style, understated, not bad. It goes along nicely, but then ends very badly, quite unexpectedly. It's followed by a hard rocker, “Living in Silence”, but this goes from prog rock to almost heavy metal: hard to place this band, whom I had taken as being a progressive rock band at heart, but find now to be more straddling AOR and hard rock with, it has to be said, not too much confidence on either side. A balancing act that constantly looks in danger of failing, sending the guys tumbling through the air and down to the ground.

The title track, then, comes over all prog-rock, a powerful instrumental with organs, keyboards, synth and rumbling drums, wailing guitars and warbling keys going at it hammer and tongs. This then runs into the eastern-favoured, Zep-like “The Rapture”, which gives way to the gentle, almost acoustic “The Man Who I Am” (bad grammar too!), probably one of the best tracks on the album with its softly keening synth and its laidback guitar, Christian singing the best I've heard him so far. I believe Shernihan's expertly-crafted keyboards are what makes this song so good. Then we're into “Bitter Sweet Euphoria”, a mid-paced rocker with busy guitars and a nice solo, but then “Mind Trip” falls over into hard rock/almost-punk territory, and it just doesn't work for me. Sounds a little too confused.

Closer “Child of Rage” mimics Guns 'n' Roses' version of Dylan's “Knockin' on Heaven's door” with its opening, but it settles into a nice little ballad with country leanings, great acoustic guitar and organ taking the melody until the electric guitar kicks in as the chorus hits. Very much in the style of Bon Jovi, Poison or indeed the aforementioned G'n'R, a kind of “cowboy ballad”, the sort that tends to be popular with heavy rock bands, and to be fair, they do a good job on it, and it's a very decent closer.

But there are too many low points and nothing special enough about this album to earn it any proper points. Not a bad album by any means, but nothing great either. Never really going to rise above the level of mediocre for me. Hah: not so much the Power and the Myth as the Power and the Meh. Sorry.


TRACK LISTING

1. Today
2. All is Gone
3. Am I the Only One
4. Living in Silence
5. The Power and the Myth
6. The Rapture
7. The Man Who I Am
8. Bitter Sweet Euphoria
9. Mind Trip
10. Child of Rage
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Old 04-10-2022, 08:33 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Billy Joel is not one of my favourite artists. I mean, I have some of his albums, and his greatest hits of course, and the man has written some exemplary material, but I wouldn't go for his whole discography. The last album of his I bought was Storm Front, way back in 1989, and I was seriously unimpressed with it. I've never bought another of his albums since. There are many artists who come to what I call their “Lady in Red” moment, that is, they release a song which just makes me hate them, and look at their former work in a less than favourable light. No prizes for guessing where that phrase came from!

Well, in fairness, the “LiR” moment doesn't really affect previous output: I'm not that shallow that I can enjoy an artist's music until they record something I don't like, and then say I hate everything they do, or have done. No, not quite that shallow. Not really. But the “LiR” does affect, usually, my desire (or lack thereof) to purchase, download or even listen to any of their music post-”Lady in Red” moment. For me, Billy Joel hit that point with “Uptown Girl” which, although it was one of his most successful singles, I truly hated, and since then I've viewed his output with first a suspicious and then a disinterested eye.

In general, at least pertaining to Joel, this attitude has, for me, for the most part, been vindicated, as post-”Uptown Girl” I see very little in his music that I've liked. Certainly, there have been moments: The Bridge is a good (but not great) album, and “Baby Grand” is a wonderful song, and “We Didn't Start the Fire” is clever and catchy, but I see most of Joel's best output in the late seventies to early eighties bracket, and what I've heard - I stress what I've heard, as I can't really offer an informed or decisive opinion, not having listened to his recent albums - just has not measured up to that.

All of which prefaces nothing really, because the album I'm going to feature here comes well pre-”Lady in Red” moment, from 1978, and I initially bought it (on audio cassette!) purely because of two songs from it I had really enjoyed, but on listening to the album through, I was quite disappointed. Now, I point out that I only really ever listened to the album once, maybe twice, so here is its opportunity to make its case and see if I was really giving it a fair chance or if, after all, it is nothing more than what I took it to be at the time, filler for the few tracks I enjoyed.

52nd Street - Billy Joel - 1978 (Columbia)


I know it's gone down in history as a great album. I know it had three hit singles (two of which are the tracks on the basis of which I bought the album) and I know it's been hailed as one of Billy Joel's best. But I certainly didn't like it. It was, I told myself, no The Stranger, though measuring up to that classic was always going to be a hard, even impossible task. But I wasn't expecting The Stranger II, just a good album with more tracks on it like “My Life” and “Honesty”, the latter of which I had really fallen in love with. I was as I say at the time disappointed. Is it still the case?

It starts with “Big Shot”, a boppy, uptempo number that really isn't too bad. Great piano goes without saying when you're dealing with Joel, but there's some pretty funky guitar too from Steve Khan (Star Trek fans will understand if I roar KHHHAAAAAAAAANNN! Others will just think I'm crazy, and who knows? Could be true...) and nice measured percussion. A good enough start, nice horns too from various brass players employed for the album, but it's the next track that takes the album into could-be-classic territory, the beautiful “Honesty”, played against initially a solo piano melody, Joel's voice low and earnest, Diogenes in the dark looking for that one honest man. Or, in this case, one assumes, woman. It's a lovely, gentle ballad which breaks out for a short time with a heavier midsection as Joel snaps ”I can find a lover/ I can find a friend/ I can have security/ Until the bitter end/ Anyone can comfort me/ With promises again.”

Everyone knows the big hit, “My Life”, with its jumping, joyful piano melody juxtaposed against the lyric which yearns for freedom from rules and having to please people. It's “Zanzibar”, up next, which sort of let the wind out of my sails, with a more jazzy sort of beat, but listening to it now, you know, it's not that bad. Kind of reminds me of the faster sections in “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” on the previous album. Joel's voice is as ever perfect, loud and strident when needed, soft and gentle when not. “Zanzibar” also features some instrumentation not used before on Billy Joel's albums, to my knowledge: vibes, marimba and flugelhorn.

“Stiletto” is another jazzy type song, sort of mid-paced, kind of reminds me of a slower “Only the Good Die Young” in melody, with marching drums and nice organ, some very clever bass lines and great sax breaks. Nice handclaps and stride piano halfway through, but not one of my favourites, then we're into “Rosalinda's eyes” (not literally!) with an interesting organ and marimba intro which takes us into a mid-paced half-ballad, with very Spanish overtones (it's about a Cuban lady, but you get the idea) and some piano licks borrowed from “Just the Way You Are”. Again, it's okay, but nothing special, I feel. Probably doesn't help that I'm no fan of Latin American music - I only listen to Gloria Estefan for the ballads (and to watch that fine aaa-aahhh never mind...)

“Half a Mile Away” is very much built on a horn section, and funky and jazzy in a way I'm really not all that fond of, lot of soul in there but not my kind of song, sorry. I lied above in the intro when I said I bought this album for two tracks: it was three, and the penultimate song is one of those, in fact one of the two most important to me. “Until the Night” is a slowburner ballad which opens on piano and guitar rather slowly, and builds to something of a climax to the horns-heavy ending, a triumphant string section carrying the song to its powerful close, and indeed this is the song that should have, in my opinion, closed the entire album.

As it is, we're left to hum the title track, oddly the shortest track on the album (the previous having been the longest), sort of blues and jazz melding with soul and rock, but it lacks a certain something. Nice sax, good piano as ever, but a little flat I feel. After the glorious “Until the Night” this feels limp, flaccid and anticlimactic (sorry for all the inadvertent sexual imagery there!), and a huge disappointment.

No, I'm still not convinced. There are good tracks, but they're the ones I already knew, and on second listen “Zanzibar” is okay, but the rest I feel are just filler, and not very good filler. Maybe it's the jazz leanings Joel used on this album, as opposed to the, in my opinion, far superior The Stranger, or even its successor, Glass Houses, that alienated me, but I'm still largely bored with this album. Pass.

TRACK LISTING

1. Big Shot
2. Honesty
3. My Life
4. Zanzibar
5. Stiletto
6. Rosalinda's Eyes
7. Half a Mile Away
8. Until the Night
9. 52nd Street
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Old 04-11-2022, 05:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Do Nothing by Meshuggah! You'll ****ing hate it, dude. If I'd have thought of it I'd have put it in the Torture Chamber.
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Old 04-11-2022, 07:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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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.
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