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Old 06-19-2012, 01:16 PM   #1351 (permalink)
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Strong persuader --- Robert Cray --- 1986 (Mercury)


One of the most influential blues guitar players of the last thirty or so years, Robert Cray has received five Grammy awards and just last year was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He has been into blues guitar since he was young and has played with the likes of John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins and Eric Clapton, and has lent his name to a signature Stratocaster. This is his fifth of almost twenty albums recorded over the last more than thirty years.

To be honest, I bought this on the recommendations of a workmate, who was totally into blues, but when I played it the first time I wasn't overly impressed with it. Of course, back then I was only in my mid-twenties, and in the throes of coming out of an obsession with heavy metal, and running headlong into another, this time with progressive rock, so perhaps this just did not sit well with where I was at the time, musical appreciation wise.

It starts off well, rockin' with “Smoking gun”, some really low-key organ adding to the squeal of Cray's guitar, and his vocals are certainly up to scratch, sort of reminds me of the late Gary Moore in places. It's a good fast opener, and certainly grabs the attention, while trumpet and trombone from Wayne Jackson forms the backdrop for “I guess I showed her”, a bit slower and a bit more Chicago than Delta blues, with a good splash of New Orleans jazz thrown in. Cray's guitar of course plays a central role, but this song is less based around that than the brass, with a lyric in which Cray tries to convince himself that he's better off without his woman, and that she has got the worst of the deal:”She can have the house/ She can have the car/ I'm content with this motel room...”

The next one up is one of the standouts, but for all that takes second place for the most selfish lyrics I've ever heard in a song, just behind Robert Johns' “Sad eyes”, and in effect it's the title track, although it's actually called “Right next door (Because of me)”. It concerns Cray's successful attempt to woo the wife of his neighbour, and once he has done so, he loses interest in her but listens to the argument as the couple fight it out. ”She was right next door/ And I'm such a strong persuader/ She was just another notch/ On my guitar.” It's played in a mid-paced fashion, with a lot of guitar, and no real sense of regret in Cray's lyric.

Cray writes or co-writes every track on the album, and indeed “Nothin' but a woman” is the last on which he collaborates, the final six all being his solo efforts. With a strong flavour of Creedence in the tune, he's joined on this by the Memphis Horns, and it's great blues fun, the guitar again pushed a little to the side in favour of the energetic brass section. Cray does his best BB King on “Still around”, with a striding, walking rhythm and some soulful organ, and here again we get a great tasteful little solo from the man, and the horns are back in control, this time courtesy of Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, for the somewhat underwhelming “More than I can stand”, while “Foul play” is a lot better. A classic blues “suspicion” song, again reminding me of the dear departed Moore, with a solid guitar line and a sharp, acid vocal from Robert Cray, some nice keyboard and piano backup and a good backbeat.

Of course, no blues album would be complete without a ballad, and this is what we get with “I wonder”. A great, slow, meaty ballad with a superb lazy guitar line winding through it, it's almost the track I've been waiting for, and definitely one of my favourites on the album, if not the standout. Backed by Peter Boe on the organ it's close to perfect, Cray's wounded vocal laying the final veneer on a really classic blues ballad. Two fairly ok tracks then to close: “Fantasized” is good blues rock, with some great solos and a cool almost soul piano melody, while “New blood” is a thick, heavy blues slowburner with some very Rory Gallagher style guitar and a last appearance for the trumpet of Wayne Jackson.

It's a good album, but even though back then I was somewhat lacking in my appreciation of the blues, I wonder if it's anywhere close to seen as his best? The songs on the album are, mostly, fairly generic blues and I'm pretty sure that Cray is a lot better than this. He's had plenty of albums since and a few before, so maybe I just picked the wrong one. However, I remain a little disappointed at the lack of variety in the album, and I would have liked one or two more ballads. For all that though, it's certainly worth listening to. Whether there are better Robert Cray albums to start with, is a question I can't answer. Maybe someone out there can?

TRACKLISTING

1. Smoking gun
2. I guess I showed her
3. Right next door (Because of me)
4. Nothin' but a woman
5. Still around
6. More than I can stand
7. Foul play
8. I wonder
9. Fantasized
10. New blood
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:37 AM   #1352 (permalink)
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:40 AM   #1353 (permalink)
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How about another big slice of Hall'n'Oates, eh?
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:24 AM   #1354 (permalink)
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I'm sure it's happened to you: you're listening to a song and really getting into it. You think you have a good idea how it's going to finish, then BAM! It completely changes. I've listened to many songs that have just totally disappointed with the ending. It hasn't always ruined the song for me, but it has been a big let-down. Of course, I'm no songwriter and have the utmost respect for those who can master this difficult art, but it is annoying when a song changes tack completely or goes off in some direction you don't expect, ends abruptly when you thought it should fade, or just fails to live up to the expectations you've built up for it over the course of the song's length.

Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are
Meat Loaf
Bat out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993)

Written by: Jim Steinman


One of the standout tracks on the “follow-up” to “Bat out of Hell”, this song wins the award for longest song title ever as far as I'm concerned, and it's quite amazing and impressive how Steinman worked the whole title into the melody of the lyric; it really flows, and you wouldn't expect something that long to do that. The song itself is a brilliant power ballad, detailing Steinman's and/or Meat Loaf's childhood, and showing how far he has come, but that images from the past still intrude on his life today. There are three main influences on his life, each afforded a verse of the song. The first is his friend Kenny, who died in an accident --- ”They said he crashed and burned/ I know I've never learned/ Why any boy could die so young!” --- the second his abusive father --- ”My father's eyes were blank as he hit me/ Again and again and again” --- and the third his lover, who appears to have been the one to have shown him about love --- ”She taught me all I'll ever know/ About the mystery and the muscle of love.”

It's an excellent song, with some seriously powerful imagery, lines like ”If life is just a highway/ Then the soul is just a car” the sort of thing you'd expect from Jim Steinman. Particularly effective is the passage where the singer envisages his father (probably dead now, but certainly left behind) trying to claw him back into his dark, abusive world: ”And though the nightmare should be over/ Somehow the terrors are still intact/ I'll hear that ugly coarse and violent voice/ And then he grabs me from behind/ And then he pulls me back!” But it ends badly, at least I think it does. As the song begins to fade out on piano and vocal, with accompanying choral vocals, Meat Loaf sings the opening four lines with just the piano, and then just stops in the middle of the verse. I find it a terrible ending, very anticlimactic, considering how it builds to a stupendous crescendo of music and emotion at the end, then just tails off as if Steinman wasn't sure how it should be ended.

Well, I would have ended it either in a piano fadeout, right down, or at least, if the opening verse had to be quoted, finish it, which would have sounded much better. I just hate the way it ends, and I wish Steinman had paid more attention to its conclusion. Often how a song ends is at least as important, to me anyway, as how it begins and how it develops. A bad ending can ruin a song for me, and while this doesn't ruin “Objects...” it does ultimately let it down at the very last.
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:54 PM   #1355 (permalink)
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:59 PM   #1356 (permalink)
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Well, they're not worms, but they are turtles, so the worm guesses we have some sort of connection: probably on mother's side...

Hey, wait a minute! They're not turtles! They're just mock turtles! Of all the ...
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Old 06-21-2012, 12:58 PM   #1357 (permalink)
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Choosing a song title with just the one word is perhaps not a smart move. There are bound to be other people who have thought about using it before you, and so much more so when the word is used so often as a request, often a plea. Therefore it's not at all surprising to find that there are literally dozens of songs which all have the title “Stay”, spread across various genres. I'm concentrating here purely on songs that have only that one word in the title, not including songs that include the word stay, such as “Stay with me”, “If you let me stay”, “Let's stay together” and probably hundreds more. Even so, there's a long list.

Stay (Shakespears Sister) from “Hormonally yours”


One of the best known is the hit by Shakespears Sister, featuring ex-Bananarama girl Siobhan Fahey. It's notable for its dual vocal, where theother half of the duo, Marcella Detroit, plays the distraught girlfriend trying to save her dying man, with the role of the dark angel trying to steal him going to Fahey, in a brilliantly nightmarish performance in the music video.

Stay (David Bowie) from “Station to station”.


Generally accepted as one of Bowie's top albums, “Station to station”, released in 1976, has a track on it which was released as a single and also has the title “Stay”. It's quite similar to a previous hit of his, “John, I'm only dancing”.

Stay (Eternal) from “Always and forever”


Not a band I have too much truck with, Eternal nevertheless should be included as their single went into the top five, and was in fact their first hit single.

Stay (Jackson Browne) from “Running on empty”


One of the first --- all right, the first --- of Jackson Browne's songs I ever heard, this was originally recorded by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs back in 1960, when it hit number one. Browne's version, performed live and segueing from the closer on the album, “The load-out”, just narrowly missed the top ten.

Stay (Stephen Gately) from “New beginning”


They even used it in the tired old world of boybands, when ex-Boyzone member, the late Stephen Gately, struck out on his own, his single again missing the top ten, though not by much. Due to his tragic and untimely passing in 2009 though, this would be Gately's only solo album.

Stay (Agnetha Faltskog) from “Wrap your arms around me”


My old mucker Agnetha from ABBA also had a track called “Stay” on her debut album, well, debut in English anyway. Unlike all the others above, this was never released as a single.

Stay (Madonna) from “Like a virgin”



Another famous female act, Madonna also included a song with that title on her controversial and breakthrough album, “Like a virgin”.

Stay (The Blue Nile) from “Walking across the rooftops”



And we couldn't end without a look at the second single taken from the debut album by The Blue Nile. Although this one was released as a single, it just barely scraped into the top 100.
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Old 06-21-2012, 05:32 PM   #1358 (permalink)
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Old 06-21-2012, 05:37 PM   #1359 (permalink)
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Love this version of the old classic, this is Amii Stewart with “Knock on wood”. Ooh yeah baby!
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Old 06-22-2012, 06:48 PM   #1360 (permalink)
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