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: 25,038
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 offline   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: 46,559
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: 25,038
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 offline   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: 25,038
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 offline   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: 3,388
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 offline   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: 25,038
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 offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-30-2022, 09:04 PM   #7 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
Location: Canada
Posts: 219
Default

So many artists I know nothing about. Carole King only rings a bell because I saw her play with Slash in a video.
music_collector is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 06-16-2022, 02:37 PM   #8 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default


The Tall Ships - It Bites - 2008 (The It Bites Music Partnership)

First, a little backstory. For those of you who may not be that familiar with them, It Bites were a band I got into after hearing the hit single "Calling All the Heroes" - before it was a hit - and realising this was something really special. I was proved correct of course, but on buying their debut album, the oddly-titled The Big Lad in the Windmill, I was crushed. That one song apart (as I remember it at least; been a while since I listened to the album) it was a huge disappointment, and I remember songs like "All in Red" and "Whole New World" failing to impress me. But their followup album changed all that, and Once Around the World was a massive step forward for the band, easily becoming one of my favourite progressive rock albums of that period. Mind you, the third album, EatMme in St. Louis didn't do it for me either, though I suspect that should I relisten to it now I might be more forgiving towards it.

This, then, is their fourth album, and somehow I just never got around to getting it. I did buy Map of the Past, gave it one quick listen but even now couldn't tell you if I liked it or not and really, that's the sum total studio output (other than compilations) of a band that has been going since the late eighties: five albums. Doesn't really seem much, does it? But then, when you look deeper into It Bites' history you can see why. After becoming dissatisfied with the overly progressive direction of the band, especially on "Once Around the world", Francis Dunnery, lead singer and guitarist, was so at odds with the rest of the band that he left, and in the wake of his departure It Bites went through two namechanges, seeking to change also their music approach but nothing worked and they split up in 1990. After failed attempts at a reunion with Dunnery they decided to ditch him altogether, as he was not prepared to commit himself to the new lineup, and John Mitchell, who had played with some of the guys in Kino, was drafted in. Thus began the renaissance of It Bites, and this was the first album put out under the new lineup.

It opens weirdly enough, to be fair, on a sort of mutil-vocal line accompanied by a descending synth line, the vocal rising with the keys until percussion and hard guitar punch in and "Oh My God" gets going with a real sense of "Yellow Christian" from Once Around the World. As the song settles into a sort of mid-paced groove, John Mitchell takes the main vocal and you can hear how competent he is and how worthy a successor to Dunnery, though his voice is a little more gravelly than his predecessor. It Bites have always straddled that precarious chasm between rock and pop, with many of their songs very radio-friendly, leading to their own desciption of their music as "progressive pop". To my mind they're the only one in that sub-genre. If it even is a sub-genre. The band certainly sound happy to be back together, John Beck clearly enjoying himself on the again prog-sounding keys, while Mitchell takes both vocal and guitar duties: it was in Arena that he made his real mark, and as a guitarist, but now it's clear he's one hell of a vocalist too. Not only that, but he also writes or co-writes most of the songs.

Everything kicks up into full gear then for "Ghosts", with a great catchy keyboard line from Beck complementing Mitchell's harder guitar work, and it fairly crackles and fizzes with energy. Mitchell's vocal here is a little more urgent and perhaps a tiny bit laboured, the song sounding somewhat personal to him, but again it's a song you could hear on the radio with no trouble at all. Nice little jangly guitar break in the middle, with Beck's keys moaning like the spirits of the title before it all takes off again, and perhaps when Mitchell sings "The past is behind me" there's a message there for the fans of It Bites. Great screaming guitar solo and the song builds up to a real crescendo with an abrupt sudden end taking us into "Playground", the first ballad with an opening right out of the title track to Once Around the World, a sort of waltzy rhythm pervading the song, a sense of drama and power about it, with Mitchell wringing every ounce of emotion out of the song; big heavy keyboard passages from John Beck add to the both oppressive and liberating atmosphere of the track. The addition of children laughing and playing on the recording is nothing new - Supertramp were doing this in 1974 - but it still works.

Despite what I might have thought when perusing the tracklisting, and given their association with the mid-to-late eighties progressive rock scene, "Memory of Water" is not a cover of the Marillion track from Radiation, but is instead a big heavy power rocker with a killer hook built on a superb vocal harmony and some sublime keyboard work from John Beck. It rocks along at a fine pace, some great guitar but much of it relies on the keys, which switch from organ to piano to synth with fluid ease. There is however a wonderful guitar solo from Mitchell near the end, then we're into the standout, which is also the title track. With an incredibly romantic, fantasy element in the lyric, which is freely interpretable however you want to, it seems to be a conversation between two people, one of whom has settled in a foreign country but knows one day he will return home. With a soaring guitar opening it settles into a soft mid-paced, almost balladic sound, with an impassioned vocal from Mitchell, and again the kind of hook many bands would give their eyeteeth for. Fanfare keyboards from Beck overlay an air of grandeur on proceedings, with powerful, almost stately drumming from Bob Dalton. He in fact has intimated the song is about dying, "going home on the tall ships", but as I say you can interpret the lyric how you like: it could even be about an alien stranded on Earth who falls for a human woman and waits to be rescued. The chances of him staying are pretty slim, as the lyric declares "When the time has come/ For me to go/ I will try to make you see".

It's just an amazing song, and definitely for me marks the high point of the album, with even some Celtic sounding whistling sounds on the keys from Beck adding an almost Irish lilt to it, but what is more amazing is this: usually I find on albums once you get to the best track it delineates the "comedown point", as in, from here on in the songs get weaker, and nothing really measures back up to the greatness of that track. This album, though, doesn't flag for one moment, and where you would normally expect a fairly poor song to follow such a classic, that simply doesn't happen, as "The Wind that Shakes the Barley", an eight-minute monster, keeps the quality top notch. Opening on a bouncy organ intro from Beck, the song pounds along with a good degree of heaviness, bringing in that old vocal harmony style that It Bites made their trademark, then falling away on the back of some introspective guitar and slowing right down before bumping right back up again, this time on the vehicle of Beck's trumpeting keyboards. Again, the song title comes from a Marillion one, but then, they took that from a movie I think, perhaps a poem, and it's pure coincidence, as this song is an original.

The one thing that did strike me as odd about it though is the phrasing in the lyric, which reminds me very much of the way a-ha sing "The Blood that Moves the Body". It's not anything like that song, but the chorus does sail very close to it. Now the vocoder rides in, taking the song in a more "Calling All the Heroes" direction, and, uh, we're only halfway through it! Another fine solo from John Mitchell brings the song well into its fifth minute, backed by Beck's almost speaking keys, then for the last two minutes or so it basically returns to the original theme, Mitchell's voice almost cracking with emotion and power. Most poppy of all on the album is "Great Disaster", which utilises that other old trick this band made their own, the idea of making up sounds and singing almost nonsense, not quite vocalise, but nothing that makes any sense, with the opening line being "Dumbry-umbry-ayo! Oh-wo-ho-ho!" which then forms a sort of backdrop to the actual lyric. The song is a boppy, uptempo, kind of silly little pop song, but whereas another band could have made this indeed into what the title declares, I believe that the sense of fun and passion that It Bites have keeps it within the realms of high quality. In fairness, if there is a point where the album could be seen to dip - if - then this would be it. But I still see it as a good track, very catchy and different, and though it wouldn't appear in my top three on this album, it certainly doesn't merit being skipped or anything like that.

Starting on a quiet digital piano line and soft vocal, "Fahrenheit" becomes another mid-paced rocker with a chiming keyboard sound almost repeating like a kind of bell and some U2-like guitar, another great hook in the chorus and a pitch-perfect vocal performance from John Mitchell. Slick little guitar solo and a softly thumping bassline complements the measured drumming of Dalton, and it's really another winner, as you wait, almost expect, for the quality to slide in one bad track at least, but it never does. I've listened to this album at least twenty times now - many of those consecutive - and I know it back to front. There's not one track on it I don't like, not one that I think should not be there. It really does just get better as it goes along. Another beautiful ballad, very well placed as the last one was near the beginning of the album, "For Safekeeping" has its bitter side, as Mitchell sings of the power of words, as indeed he did in the opener, and reflects on how a casual sentence or remark can have a much more devastating effect than perhaps was intended or expected. A lovely piano line from Beck leads the song in, with Mitchell's vocal almost stilted in the beginning, and for almost the first two minutes of the song it's keyboard that remains the only accompaniment for the singer, before the percussion, bass and guitar breaks in, with some nice vocal harmonies added too.

A superb guitar solo near the end which is directly taken from "Plastic Dreamer" off the Once Around the World album --- though whether John Mitchell has listened to that album or not I don't know; perhaps it's mere coincidence, but then again ... At any rate, the song winds down as it began, on a simple little piano line and takes us into "Lights", where the band put the foot firmly down on the pedal and barrel along, a great song full of the usual It Bites hooks and melodies, and though both Beck and Mitchell take bass duties on the album whoever does the honours here deserves a mention, as the bass has a real marching, triumphant quality. Excellent chorus that just screams "stage show!"

And for most bands that would be a decent place to close the album. But It Bites aren't finished with us yet, oh no! There's been nineteen years between this and their last album, and they're determined to squeeze as much as they can out of this one. And so we get the thirteen-minute epic "This is England" as a closer, which, to be fair, opens very similarly to the epic and title track that brought Once Around the World to a close. A soft vocal over tinkling piano and lush synth brings us into the second minute before uptempo bass and squeaking keys with chimes opens into a big hard guitar part with a stronger vocal from Mitchell, harder percussion and the intensity of the song slides up a couple of notches. Driven mostly on almost waiting guitar now, it's just getting into the fourth minute when the song explodes on the back of a searing guitar solo and rattling percussion. Slipping back then on tinkling piano again it's not long before the guitar punches its way back into the mix and then fades back out as vocal harmonies in almost a Queen fashion take the song.

Dalton then properly winds up his drumkit and gets going, and the track is now six minutes old as the title comes into the hook, but unfortunately it's not a hook they hang the song on, which I feel was perhaps a mistake because it really works, but after this they more or less ditch it after one more outing, as the song moves into a warbly frenetic keyboard passage that descends and leads into a recording of a speech of some sort, backed by bass and guitar and drums, then a very Genesisesque keyboard solo before a narrative emerges. I would be lying if I said I knew what the song was about, and even having the lyric doesn't make it any easier to decipher, but then I've never been quite sure what "Supper's Ready" is meant to be either. Doesn't stop me enjoying it.

Over an appropriate church organ from Beck Mitchell sings about a vicar who would not confess his sins, and about some woman who lost her child in a hospital. The organ then breaks out into a big booming roar as the song nears its conclusion on a strings-like keyboard passage and a powerful vocal from Mitchell, finally breaking down into a soft retreading of the opening on keys as Mitchell sings "At the end of the day/ I'm going home."

TRACK LISTING

1. Oh My God
2. Ghosts
3. Playground
4. Memory of Water
5. The Tall Ships
6. The Wind that Shakes the Barley
7. Great Disaster
8. Fahrenheit
9. For Safekeeping
10. Lights
11. This is England

Perhaps I shouldn't be quite so amazed at how brilliant this album is. I raved enough over Once Around the World when I reviewed it, and I'm aware what It Bites are capable of. But other than that album I never really thought they managed to achieve the potential they were so clearly capable of, and after what I would term two disappointing albums - at least in comparison to that one - and almost twenty years, it's more than gratifying to find that they did finally manage to create an album that not only measures up to Once Around the World but in many ways surpasses it. The songwriting here is nothing short of top drawer, and the band just completely mesh together, even though there are only three of them. The replacement of Francis Dunnery was always going to be a tricky prospect - in way ways, he was It Bites. He sang, played guitar, composed the songs.

But in John Mitchell I believe the guys hit pure gold. As I said, I've always had the utmost respect for him as a guitarist, whether with Kino, Arena or Frost*, but did not know until now how superb a singer he could be, not to mention songwriter. It wasn't until 2000 that he was allowed to contribute any songs to Arena's albums, and that resulted in the massively popular (among the fans) Immortal?, and the albums just improved from there on. I don't see his writing anything for Frost* (though he may have) and Kino simply credited all their songwriting to the band, though as it was there that he met Beck and Dalton, he may very well have written for that band. Whatever the truth, some of the songs he wrote for The Tall Ships are nothing short of remarkable.

Remarkable, too, is the fact that a band, basically thought dead without a new album in almost twenty years, could come storming back after a breakup and a major lineup change and record such a brilliant album, almost like Asia returning with Phoenix in the same year, though they had only been apart for four years at that time. My advice to those who thought It Bites were broken up, or who have never heard of them but are intrigued by this review is to book your ticket now and head down to the docks, as the ships are ready to sail, and you don't want to be left behind.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2022, 09:26 AM   #9 (permalink)
why bother?
 
Bulldog's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 4,833
Default

Dude, I have got to catch up with your work here when I next get some good downtime!

As ever, phenomenal stuff. Keep it up
Bulldog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2022, 10:56 AM   #10 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

Hey thanks man! Always nice to get some compliments, and welcome back, as I think I already said. Beware of my journals though: they're BREEDING! Got about 30/40 on the go now....
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads



© 2003-2022 Advameg, Inc.