Trollheart's Treasures: Solid Gold - Music Banter Music Banter

Go Back   Music Banter > The MB Reader > Album Reviews
Register Blogging Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Welcome to Music Banter Forum! Make sure to register - it's free and very quick! You have to register before you can post and participate in our discussions with over 70,000 other registered members. After you create your free account, you will be able to customize many options, you will have the full access to over 1,100,000 posts.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 05-11-2022, 10:14 AM   #1 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,793
Default Trollheart's Treasures: Solid Gold

There are of course albums I love, and this thread will feature them. The end.
Kick off with this one.


Now, no-one would be surprised to hear that Carole King was still making albums. In a career spanning over forty years, she's been making music for almost as long as I've been alive and has had more number one singles and charting albums than you can shake a decent-sized stick at (why would anyone want to do such a thing? But I digress...), in addition to writing hits for huge stars like James Taylor, Celine Dion and the Monkees, in particular with her husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin. She's a music legend, even if many people only know her by the songs she's written for other people, and music is obviously in her blood, so reaching the tender age of forty-seven (at the time of the release of the album I'm going to look at here: she's eighty this year!) was surely going to be no barrier to her continuing her career.

What did blow me away though was how she could still turn out a classic album at that age, this being her eleventh album at the time, and usually at this point in their career artists like her tend to get by on past glories, with greatest hits compilations, tributes, live albums and collections keeping the money steadily streaming towards their door. But the album she put out in 1989, after six years inaction on the music scene, was quite frankly phenomenal.




City Streets - Carole King - 1989 (Capitol)

It's an album with no bad tracks, and some really excellent ones. Not surprisingly, it's all self-penned, mostly with other writers and twice with Goffin, but she has an input into every track. She also produces the album, in addition to playing guitar, piano and synth and of course singing. As you might expect she ropes in some guest stars, though the album is not overpopulated with star names, as it could have been. One of those stars guests on the title track, someone you may have had a passing acquaintance with, guy by the name of Clapton? I predict big things for this talented guitarist...! The opener and title track is a pop/rock bouncer, with great keyboard lines and as already mentioned, guitar courtesy of God Himself, a great solo from him at the end of the song. Also some nice sax, and of course Carole's singing hardly need be praised anymore than it has been down the years.

It's a strong opener, and in a way there's a sense of trepidation, as you wonder has King injected everything into that one track, leaving filler in its wake? Nothing could be further from the truth though thankfully, as the cool funk of “Sweet Life” shows in spades, with nice jangly guitar, some cool organ and a very upbeat and positive message: ”You can't keep living inside your head/ In a prison cell all your own/ Just let yourself go/ Get your body out of bed/ You don't have to do it all alone.” This, if no other track, personifies Carole's optimistic attitude and view on life. Easy to have, I hear you say, if you have her millions, but there's something infectious about her optimism, and it certainly comes through in this song.

Things slow down then with a half-ballad, “Down to the Darkness”, which despite its ominous title is nevertheless a song of hope, as Carole sings ”I know you're gonna take me/ Down to the darkness/ Oh, but I want you to.” Some really nice percussion here from Omar Hakim, steady piano from Carole herself, the lady getting a little raunchy on the vocals, a deep organ keeping the melody behind her. “Lovelight” is a bright and breezy little uptempo pop tune then, with an almost Peter Gabriel feel about it, circa So, nice backing vocals on a wistful plea for the rekindling of love. Great little splash of rock guitar, this time from Mark Bosch, and the song gives way to the first real ballad, a delicate piano acoustic which recalls the best of Fleetwood Mac's “Songbird”. A simple, plain song with a really heartfelt message, “I Can't Stop Thinking About You” has some nice country-style piano as Carole asks ”Why did you show me all your colours/ When you knew that I was blind?” It's lyrics like that, which get right to the point in a subtle and yet intense way, that have helped make her the success she has been for four decades now.

This song is a duet with Paul Hipp, who also plays guitar on the track, and with whom King had a collaboration in an off-Broadway show she acted in with him. Some really soulful trombone from Nick Lane and sultry sax from the great Michael Becker really add something to this song, and it's a beautiful, perfect little ballad, crafted by a master songsmith. It's followed by “Legacy”, a powerful rocker that starts off slowly on a piano line that reminds me of Laura Branigan's “The Lucky One”, but soon ramps up into a fast uptempo bopper, something close to the opener, with some great solid organ, powerful drumming from the E Street Band's Max Weinberg. It's one of two tracks on the album she co-wrote with Rudy Guess, who also helped her produce the album, the other being “Sweet Life”.

This is an album with no “tipping point”, and you would think that after a great stormer like “Legacy” this is where the quality might begin to dip, but not a bit of it. Clapton reprises his role on “Ain't That the Way”, the last of four tracks on the album penned solo by Carole. It's a slow, bluesy ballad with heavy organ and as mentioned Clapton's signature guitar sound, rock fusing with blues fusing with slow gospel, another simple song about human relationships, which is where Carole King shines, and always has done. Things jump back up a gear then for “Midnight Flyer”, on which Carole renews her songwriting partnership with ex-husband Gerry Goffin, and you can just hear the years fall away as the song bops along, not a care in the world. A truly exceptional turn by the legendary Branford Marsalis adds layers of class to what is already a great song, with some right-on harmonica courtesy of another great, Jimmy “Z” Zavala, and though that sounds like banjo there in the break near the end, I guess it's just someone being very creative on the guitar, as no banjo player is credited.

Most artists - young or old - would surely have a problem maintaining this level of quality on an album, but Carole has no such problems, as she effortlessly launches into “Homeless Heart” with a huge AOR keyboard hook, and backing vocals by her and Gerry Goffin's daughter, Sherry. A mid-paced half-ballad, it evokes uneasy images of wandering through a city at night with a lot on your mind, with a great piano line and some really nice guitar, and the kind of piano solo to fade the song out that would have made it a satisfactory closer, but it's not the last track.

The album closes on another simple piano ballad, in fact a song written by Carole originally for Air Supply. The tender, supportive lyric of “Someone Who Believes in You”, the other song on which she collaborates with Gerry Goffin, evokes the very best of Carole King, the sort of songs that could, and did, last down the years, and pass into musical history. Almost a sort of "You've Got a Friend" for the late 1980s, this song deserves the same distinction as that classic, however it seems the record-buying public did not agree, and the album did so badly that it is now out of print. Truly a crime, however my vinyl copy is safely under lock and key.

Hard to believe that after nearly twenty years of recording and writing hit songs, that Carole King could still come up with a gem like this, but City Streets certainly proved that she was, and is, a force to be reckoned with. I was, to quote a phrase, gobsmacked, having expected nothing that great and been totally overwhelmed by the quality on this album. Just proves, some things only improve with age.

TRACK LISTING

1. City Streets
2. Sweet Life
3. Down to the Darkness
4. Lovelight
5. I Can't Stop Thinking About You
6. Legacy
7. Ain't that the Way
8. Midnight Flyer
9. Homeless Heart
10. Someone Who Believes in You
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 05-11-2022, 04:28 PM   #2 (permalink)
Zum Henker Defätist!!
 
The Batlord's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Beating GNR at DDR and keying Axl's new car
Posts: 46,486
Default

Where's the thread where you rate the songs you hear at the store?
__________________
Quote:
Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien
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.
The Batlord is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-11-2022, 06:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,793
Default

Think that's over... there... no, further than that. Keep going. Out the door, turn left and it's about, oh, sixty miles that direction. Just keep walking, you can't miss it.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 05-15-2022, 01:24 PM   #4 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,793
Default



Given to the Wild - Maccabees - 2012 (Fiction)

I’m notorious for buying albums on a whim, because I like the cover, title or because it just looks cool, but this album was one I had been hearing about, though without hearing any of the actual music. Seemed like a lot of people were putting it in their “pick of 2012”, and granted these were people I didn’t know, but even so I wondered was there anything to all this high praise, or would this turn out to be yet another overhyped boring generic album (hello, Night Visions!), with people going mad about some band who would induce nothing but the deepest shades of meh in me? Only one way to find out.

I was really quite amazed at what I found. Considering I have never heard of this band before, the level of quality and professionalism on this album just floored me. Every track just gets better as you listen to it, and there is no tipping point, no demarcation zone after which you can say well the album was great up to here but then it began to slide. It really doesn’t. Right up to the last track it holds the quality and keeps the attention, and the only real disappointment is that there are only thirteen tracks on it, because I would happily have listened to twice that.

If there is any letdown at all - and it’s a big if - it’s in the opener, which really doesn’t count as it’s not even a track as such, not even an instrumental, just two minutes plus of mostly ambient sound, with deep organs and sound effects, and a sort of softly chanted vocal basically consisting of the title, leading us into the first track proper, where it all gets going. The title track actually segues in on some nice laidback guitar into “Child”, acquainting us with the vocals of Orlando Weeks, the smooth basswork of Rupert Jarvis and the understated but no less great fret style of Felix and Hugo White, while brother Will makes some great horns sounds on the keys. “Child” is a slow enough song, but something I found to be a trademark of the Maccabees, at least on this, their only album I’ve heard to date, is that slow songs often pick up in tempo near the end, as this one does, kicking out the stays and rocking along nicely, taking us into what was their second single.

Amazingly to me, “Feel to Follow” did stupendously badly in the charts, not even breaking into the top 100. It’s a great uptempo track with a fine piano backbone, great vocal harmonies and a real sense of northern soul in it, with an infectious chorus. Halfway through it winds down for a few seconds before coming back strongly on the back of the Whites’ superb guitar work and some excellent percussion from Sam Doyle. This should have been at least a top ten single, and I could not tell you why this didn’t happen. In fact, none of their singles did well it would seem, but since when was that a hallmark of a good album? “Ayla” then dances along an a totally catchy rippling piano line and a hook to die for. Weeks is in fine form on this, and again though released as a single it seems to have bombed.

Another uptempo song, it rocks along with real purpose and features a little less of the guitar work from the White brothers, letting the keys come more to the fore, with some quite heavy percussion working almost in counterpoint. It’s the sort of song you’re still singing long after it’s finished, and we head towards “Glimmer”, with a really nice drum opening and some chimy guitar that kind of reminds me of Simple Minds at their best. Good slice of classic Prefab Sprout in there too, some really bright keyboards peppering the tune, then one of my favourite tracks on the album is “Forever I’ve Known”, a big, bouncy rocker with bags of enthusiasm and energy, though it starts off more like something out of Tom Waits’ catalogue, with screeching, howling guitars and echoey percussion, a slow laidback vocal, sort of a feeling of Native American melody about it before it picks up in about the third minute, the ease with which the previously somewhat discordant screeching guitar melds in with the melody and complements it truly impressive. A real example of a song building up to something special.

A guitar reminiscent of The Edge takes over then as the percussion gets stronger and more insistent, as it all falls back in the fourth minute on soft keyboard, coming back in on single guitar notes before the whole band punches back in to take the song to its powerful and energetic conclusion. Superb, a real standout. And they just keep coming, with “Heave” up next, introduced on a strings-style keyboard from Will White, a slow instrumental intro almost Floydesque in places, a soulful, almost mournful vocal from Weeks tearing at your heartstrings. It seems to be hard to know when you can class a song by these guys as a ballad, but “Heave” does seem to fit the bill, soft, shimmering percussion and lush keyboard supported by little guitar riffs, but then it kicks up in the third minute and becomes a pretty different animal. Certainly nobody could call this band predictable.

“Pelican” was the lead single, relatively well known I believe even though it also fell flat on its face chartwise, and it’s very much an upbeat song, with the lyric sung three times each line, so you get ”Before you know it, before you know it, before you know it/ You’re pushing up the daisies.” Probably one of the hardest rock tracks on the album, it’s driven on sharp guitar work from the Whites, with growling bass from Jarvis and punchy drumwork, the vocal almost African chant in nature in places. The beat really picks up in the third minute as the song goes into overdrive, and if you can keep your feet and fingers from tapping while listening to this, you’re a better man than I am. Another fast song then is “Went away”, though it starts off low-key enough, with simple synth lines and Weeks’ vocal sounding very much like Ricky Ross (no, not him! The one from Deacon Blue!), then guitars and drums launch in as the intensity of the track increases.

Like so many of The Maccabees’ songs, this gets dialled back for a moment before it comes storming back with a huge finish, keyboards and guitar joining, as the drums punch it forward and Weeks’ voice strengthens and gets more passionate, the tempo upping near the end then abruptly stopping, as what surely must be a drum machine brings in “Go” with sampler keyboards before they’re supplemented by heavier synth lines and joined by strong guitar from the White brothers. A tale of, I think, love trying to survive against the odds, it’s a vocal full of fire and passion from Orlando Weeks, and a nice little bass solo from Rupert Jarvis, with a big powerful punch of an ending.

An atmospheric synth melody then draws in “Unknow”, which features Catherine Pockson from The Alpines on vocals, Weeks’ own vocal returning almost to the keening, moaning style of the opener. The Whites power the song along on their twin guitars while the rhythm section lays down the backbone of the track along which Weeks winds his way vocally. Another hard powerful rocking track, it has some of the strongest guitar on the album, but Pockson is I feel somewhat wasted on it, being relegated to the background mostly. It’s not really till the last minute or so that she gets her chance to shine, and then she does extremely well. “Slowly One” is a much more low-key affair, almost an acapella opening, Weeks supported only by soft guitar on a sort of motown-ish vocal. It’s not till about halfway through that the song comes properly to life on the back of some wah-wah guitar and a powerful seventies-style keyboard. Nice sung instrumental ending (if you know what I mean; and if you don't, listen to the album!) with some great vocal harmonies.

“Grew Up at Midnight” ends the album, and like much of the work I’ve listened to here from this band it starts off slow but then really gets going. With a sort of church organ keys start, and a falsetto vocal, it seems to be a remembrance of youth and first love, picking up a little after the first minute but it doesn’t really hit its stride until nearly the third minute, with a big shouted chorus and a powerful guitar ending, then cutting off right at the end to return to the muted keys sound and end the album close to how it began.

TRACK LISTING

1. Given to the Wild (intro)
2. Child
3. Feel to Follow
4. Ayla
5. Glimmer
6. Forever I’ve Known
7. Heave
8. Pelican
9. Went Away
10. Go
11. Unknow
12. Slowly One
13. Grew Up at Midnight

It’s always gratifying to try something and find you really like it. This is even truer when it comes to music, because usually - though not always - this can lead to further new enjoyment as you then seek out the artist’s other work. I haven’t done that yet, but this is The Maccabees’ third album, so I’m definitely going to take a look at what they did prior to this. Just proves that sometimes hype can be correct, and also that just because your singles flop it doesn’t mean that your album isn’t worth listening to.

This went down, I think, as one of my top albums of 2012, or if not, that was only because I listened to it after I had already compiled my list. It’s certainly getting into my alltime top albums though, as this is one album that, no matter how many times I listen to it I still enjoy it, and in fact, sometimes relistening to it just reminds me how damn good it is.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 05-15-2022 at 01:35 PM.
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 05-15-2022, 02:39 PM   #5 (permalink)
SGR
No Ice In My Bourbon
 
SGR's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: /dev/null
Posts: 3,322
Default

Will Gang of Four's Solid Gold make an appearance in this thread? That's what I initially thought the thread would be about.
SGR is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 05-15-2022, 04:10 PM   #6 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,793
Default

No. A) I don't like GoF and B) I haven't heard the album. This thread is for albums I love, not albums everyone else may love. Sorry. Name is in the thread.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads



© 2003-2022 Advameg, Inc.