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Old 05-04-2012, 08:58 AM   #1211 (permalink)
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Closer to you --- The Coronas --- 2011 (3u)


Although virtually unknown outside their native Ireland, the Coronas are big news here and just waiting to make the giant leap to international stardom. They've twice been nominated for the Meteor Awards, winning one for their last album. They've supported the likes of Paul McCartney and fellow Irish rockers The Script, and have twice appeared at one of Ireland's biggest outdoor music festivals, Oxegen. This is their third, and most recent album.

“What you think you know” opens the album well, with jangly guitar and squealing electric, and the song bops along nicely with a sense of Aslan mixed with INXS. Things continue to rock along for “Mark my words”, where The Coronas really start to come into their own, with a very commercial song that would I think have had great potential as a single. Great hook here, and the song really hangs together well, some fine guitar from Danny O'Reilly, who also handles the lead vocals, and is helped out on the guitar by Dave McPhilips. Lovely little, somewhat unexpected, restrained piano ending, and then we're into the title track.

A lowdown funky stride, this smoulders along on Graham Cox's exquisite bassline before Conor Egan's staccato drums ramp everything up, then drop back and allow the bass to take over again, keyboards from O'Reilly peppering the song with little flashes of colour, some harder guitar coming in from McPhilips, the song taking on quite a Big Country feel, especially in the vocal lines of Danny O'Reilly. It ends quite abruptly though, and then “Dreaming again” is a big, expansive half-ballad, with more than a touch of Irish traditional music in it, with a chorus that just demands a sea of waving arms, people swaying side to side in ecstasy. Definitely an infectious song.

Nothing here is particularly long, with the average song length being in the three to four minute mark, with only one or two going over that, and even then only by a few seconds. “Blind will lead the blind” is one of the longer songs, just a second shy of the four minutes, and has an interesting percussion line, almost tribal in its way, the song itself relatively restrained but with Danny on song, as it were, guitars carrying the main melody, while the lead single from the album opens on a piano line quickly joined by boppy keyboards as “Addicted to progress” gets going. You can see how this was selected as the first single, as it's very catchy and very airplay-friendly. Big, friendly guitars vie with the funky piano melody for supremacy, and above it all rises without any effort the voice of Danny, the heartbeat of The Coronas.

That heartbeat is thumping proudly as the acoustic-led “My god” slips in, Danny's voice taking command of the song while the twin guitars jangle along, electric joining acoustic as the song progresses. Lovely little bit of mandolin weaves through the melody, though I'm unsure as to who's playing it as they don't seem to be credited. More acoustic guitar on “Dreaming again part 2 (Wait for you)”, but it's soon pushed out by electric in a mid-paced slow rocker with anthemic ambitions. It's essentially the same basic melody as “Dreaming again”, but sufficiently changed as to sound like a completely separate song.

“Write to me” is probably the closest we get to a ballad, but it's a swinging, swaying one with a big acoustic chorus and some dour keyboards setting the tone; nice little song indeed. Danny manages to inject a real note of desperation into the vocal, and things stay relatively slow for “Different ending”, with some really deep, introspective keyboard and piano work from Danny O'Reilly, slick little guitar brushstrokes added by Dave McPhilips, and steady, measured drumming from Conor Egan, Graham Cox adding the bassline to the rhythm section. The song gets a little more mid-paced as it goes along, and becomes a little different to your average ballad, great vocals also from Danny, the tension in the song increasing until it fades out on light piano, then we're into the closer, “Make it happen”.

With a really smooth bluesy guitar opening, the song suddenly comes to life as the electric guitar is wound up and blasts out, then everything falls back as Danny comes in with the vocal, and then the music comes back in strength in a sort of striding boogie rhythm. That doesn't last though, and it's back to the arrangement that opened the song, with some really effective and emotive guitar and keys, the song fading out on an instrumental ending, there having been very little really in the way of vocals on the track at all.

It's easy to see why The Coronas are so popular here, because apart from their obvious musical ability and the great vocals of Danny O'Reilly, the thing that shines through about this band is their workmanlike approach to their music, as well as their honesty. You really get the feeling this is not an album written to get hit singles. If that happens then fine, but it's not the point of the thing, and nothing has been contrived or manufactured to be a hit. It's music for those who love and appreciate music, and taken in that vein, this is one hell of an album.

TRACKLISTING

1. What you think you know
2. Mark my words
3. Closer to you
4. Dreaming again
5. Blind will lead the blind
6. My god
7. Addicted to progress
8. Dreaming again part 2 (Wait for you)
9. Write to me
10. Different ending
11. Make it happen
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Old 05-05-2012, 05:24 AM   #1212 (permalink)
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Old 05-05-2012, 05:28 AM   #1213 (permalink)
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Despite not having any legs, the worm feels like boogieing! Here's Snap!
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Old 05-05-2012, 06:49 AM   #1214 (permalink)
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Yeee-hawww! Oh, very original, Trollheart! No-one saw that one coming!
Nevertheless, time to pull on ma cowboy boots an' mosey on down to the --- will you just bloody stop it? No-one thinks you're funny, you know!

Yes, well, funny or not, it's time to check out some more of those country songs that I like. Not a huge country fan in truth, but I'm open-minded enough to realise that every genre has its good music, and just because you don't like or subscribe to that sort of music doesn't mean you can't find something good in it. Besides, country music has been around for a lot longer than I have. Course, so has jazz, but then...

Anyway, here is my next selection of country tunes I enjoy.

There's just something I love about this old crooning ballad from the legendary “Gentleman” Jim Reeves, especially when he sings “Turn the jukebox way down low”. Great track, it's called, of course, “He'll have to go”.


And this is the great Marty Robbins, with “El Paso”


My love for the music of Nanci Griffith is well known. This is the title track from the first of her albums I ever heard, this is “Lone star state of mind”.


Bit commercial yes, but I still love this classic from the Bellamy Brothers, “Let your love flow”.


And you just have to love Johnny Paycheck's everyman two-fingers to the boss! Most of us have felt like saying this at some point in our working life...
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Old 05-05-2012, 06:00 PM   #1215 (permalink)
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Old 05-05-2012, 06:05 PM   #1216 (permalink)
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Who feels all seventies glam rock? Well, you'd better beware, you'd better take care, and you definitely want to watch out if you've got long black hair! This is The Sweet, with “Blockbuster”.
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Old 05-06-2012, 08:37 AM   #1217 (permalink)
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Let's have a look at some more advertisements, some old, some not so old, all of which are worth sitting through those damned ad breaks for. Ads like this are the only reason I sort of regret in a way that we can all skim through the breaks these days; when you had to WAIT for the ads to finish before you could get back to your show, you often experienced ads that you would never otherwise have seen, and that in many ways turned out to become classics. Of course, then there's always the likes of “Injury Lawyers 4U”, which is always a good reason to hit that “fast forward” button...

There was a whole series of these ads back in the seventies, or maybe eighties. Basically, the fox was annoyed that there was a polar bear on the mint: he was a fox, after all, and the mints were made by Fox's, so why should there be a bear on there instead of him? Why indeed? In classic “Roadrunner” style, he was forever trying to get the bear off the mint, and like Wile E. Coyote, always failing.


Tetley's did a great series of adverts too. This one is to the great music of Bill Withers.


Everyone in Ireland loved this ad! One of the great, great Carlsberg “what if?” ads, which envisages Ireland winning the World Cup. As if.. Of course, it went out at the time we were in the tournament.


This was a really clever ad for Sony, with some great animation.


I don't think this was ever broadcast (think it was banned) but hey, it's Kylie in sexy lingerie. What more do you need to know?


And I absolutely love this “Postman Pat” ad for Specsavers!


Who can forget this incredibly clever and artistic ad for British Airways?


The Alliance and Leicester ads with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were great, too!


The Fairy Liquid ads were sickening, yes, but the one I wanted was the one where the kid is waiting for the Fairy Liquid bottle to be empty, so he can make a rocket, but every time he comes in and asks the mother says not yet. Damn spoilsports on YouTube hadn't got it, so here's one with a very cute and not really annoying little girl, and a pretty sexy yummy mummy, as the kids apparently say these days...


And finally, proof that sometimes, even having a mega-celebrity with tons of cool like Steve McQueen advertise your product doesn't necessarily guarantee sales. Who has ever since heard of the Ford Puma? Anyone own one?
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:14 AM   #1218 (permalink)
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:14 AM   #1219 (permalink)
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Time for some AOR gold, the worm figures. Here's Toto.
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:22 AM   #1220 (permalink)
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Out of nothing --- Embrace --- 2004 (Independente)


I bought this album on the strength of the one song I had heard from them, which is in fact the opener to this, Embrace's fourth album: I was that impressed by the song! Apparently, a lot of other people were too, as the album shot right to number one in the UK, so chances were there was going to be some damn fine music here. If anything even approached the quality of the one song I had heard up to then, this would not be money wasted. But before we get into that, who the hell are these guys?

Embrace are an English rock band who have been around since 1990, though they only achieved success --- and huge success: a number one album with their debut! --- eight years later. They were literally formed at the bottom of a garden by two brothers, Danny and Richard McNamara. Adding a bass player and a drummer, they decided to use the name Embrace for their band, despite there already being a band of that name, based in the USA. Securing permission from that band to also use the name, Embrace released their first album, “The good will out” in 1998 and it went directly to number one, a massive feat for an as-yet-unknown band at that time.

As is often the case though, they were initially unable to repeat this feat, and though their next two albums both hit the top ten, neither made it to the very top and they were dropped by their label. Signed to a new label they released their fourth album, “Out of nothing”, which raced right up to the top spot, emulating the success of “The good will out”, almost six years later.

As I mentioned, “Ashes” is the opener, and made such an impression on me when I heard it on the TV that I rushed out to buy the album. It's a perfect combination of pop and rock, with busy guitars, sparkling keys and a great vocal line from Danny McNamara, with a wonderful hook and great melody. It's got just the right mix of pathos and determination in the lyric, and I always regard it as a real “cheer up” song. Guitarist Richard McNamara certainly knows his way around a fretboard, and you can see why this album was so well-received. My only concern with the song is its sudden piano lead-out, which I think jars just a little.

“Gravity” is co-written by Chris Martin, with whom the guys had become friendly when supporting Coldplay, and as a result it is very Coldplay in its sound. A ballad, it's a lovely song with a nice line in piano from Mickey Dale and an impassioned vocal, some great guitar work from Richard, and it was in fact their comeback single after two successful but not chart-busting albums and a lack of interest from Hut, their previous label. “Someday” has an almost acoustic opening, with some squealing guitar, a laconic vocal and a bare piano line, then it gets going with heavy drumming from Mike Heaton and some fairly Big Country-style sharp guitar from Richard. The song has a real anthemic quality in its chorus, with some great backing vocals. There's a quite unexpected burst of guitar right at the end, which certainly shows that Richard can rock out with the best of them.

More restrained then is “Looking as you are”, which kind of reminds me of a more animated Travis, some very passionate guitar and some solid piano , and “Wish 'em all away” is a hard ballad, with a lot of power and honesty in its execution, while “Keeping” is also quite balladic in its structure, given added power by the inclusion of the London Session Orchestra, and there seems not to have been a fast uptempo song since “Ashes”, which is not a criticism, just an observation. No bad tracks so far. Atmospheric opening thanks to Dale's keyboards to “Spell it out”, then Richard's guitar chimes out and Mike's drums take the song up a notch, and it becomes a mid-paced rocker, with some very distinctive guitar riffs throughout, more lovely orchestral arrangements lifting it to new heights, then a beautiful piano intro from Mickey Dale takes us into “A glorious day”, a love anthem if ever there was one, powerful backing vocals with bright piano mostly leading the melody.

Some guitar histrionics over a piano intro opens “Near life”, with a dour, almost Chris Martinesque vocal from Danny, his brother's wild guitar making this the closest thing to hard rock on the album, but I'm not a fan of this style of singing, almost what I'd call slurred, in a way, or what comes across as uninterested, even though I know Danny is certainly full of passion for all his music. The album then ends on the title track, more lovely piano from Mickey Dale in a closing ballad that's certainly worthy of the quality on this album. Halfway through though it really jumps into life, and the guitar, not so much solo, as passage, that ends it has to really be heard for it to be appreciated how good a guitarist Richard McNamara is.

It's easy to see why Coldplay wanted them as support on their tour, as Embrace's sound is very similar to Chris Martin's band. So if you hate Coldplay are you going to hate these guys? I don't know; it's not a problem I have as I like Coldplay, but until reading about Embrace on Wiki I was unaware of the connection between the two, and maybe that knowledge has coloured my perception of their sound. All I know is this is a band who definitely deserve to be given a chance. Listen to the album and make up your own mind. I personally don't love it, but I do like it a lot, and it gets regular airplay on my media player of choice.

TRACKLISTING

1. Ashes
2. Gravity
3. Someday
4. Looking as you are
5. Wish 'em all away
6. Keeping
7. Spell it out
8. A glorious day
9. Near life
10. Out of nothing
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