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Old 08-08-2011, 01:27 PM   #131 (permalink)
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Why do some artistes choose to split from their parent band and go solo? Sometimes it's to “stretch their wings”, to enable them to do things they wouldn't be able to do in their band, explore themes and concepts, and perhaps other musical styles, that the other band members are not interested in, and which would not fit with their own music. Sometimes it's a full split with the band (for whatever reasons), sometimes it's a side-project they can carry on while still with their band.

Often, a band member going solo will follow the same sort of music trends as his own band (think Jon Bon Jovi, Gary Moore, Jon Anderson and so on), but other times they will go on a complete tangent, exploring other musical influences and interests, often deliberately distancing themselves sufficiently from the music they usually play to ensure their solo or side project is not seen as just another version of their band music (I'm thinking here of Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and Freddie Mercury).

In this new series, which I'm calling "Gone solo in the game", I'll be examining the work of some famous (and not-so-famous) artistes who have spun-off from their band --- whether fully or as a side project --- to pursue their solo interests, and asking did they do a good job or was their solo work rubbish, was it worth the effort and how much, if any, different was it to what they usually produced? As some artistes have a slew of solo albums (Gabriel, Anderson, Stevie Nicks, Roger Waters...) I'll be looking at a cross-section of their work rather than the entire catalogue, but where a solo artist has three or less albums I'll generally try to get through each of them, assuming I have or can get them.

Because you see, it doesn't necessarily follow that if you like a band you're going to like their solo material, as I found out with more than one artist (Clive Nolan from Arena springs to mind) --- quite often, the very different direction they may go in in order to express themselves as individuals rather than part of a whole, and to differentiate their solo music from their band music, may mean that their solo material is not up your street at all. Would you listen to a Phil Collins jazz album (hey, would you listen to a Phil Collins album!)? Or what about Steve Perry, if he had decided to go all salsa or reggae? Would you still listen, just because of who they are? And if so, would you expect to hear generally the same sort of music you've been used to hearing from them in their band, and would you be disappointed if this was not the case? Or would you applaud them for taking a bold step into the unknown?

To try to answer at least some of those questions, I'm going to start off with a man who made his name with hard rockers Thin Lizzy, but released two solo albums of his own. Sadly, his death in 1986 prevented his exploring this path further, but with all due respect for the dead, were Phil Lynott's two solo albums good, bad, or indifferent? Did he waste his time releasing them, or were they something he definitely should have done? Would we have wanted to see more of his solo stuff, or was two albums enough, or even too much? Let's see...


Solo in Soho --- 1980 (Vertigo)


Phil Lynott's first solo album, though in some ways it hardly counts as a solo effort, as most of the Thin Lizzy boys are involved on it, including Snowy White, Gary Moore, Scott Gorham and Brian Downey, although Lynott does write all of the material himself, bar three tracks, all of which he co-writes, and the songs are personal to him. So before we dismiss it as just “Thin Lizzy-Lite”, let's delve into “Solo in Soho” and see what we find.

It opens well, with the hit single “Dear Miss Lonely Hearts”: heavy guitar which soon drops away as the song becomes more a pop than a rock song, but with a suitably hard edge, as Lynott takes the role of two people. One is writing to a newspaper “agony aunt” about an affair he has inadvertently started, the other is the respondent as she tells him what he should do. In fact, in the song there is a third person, one of the girls involved, who also writes to the agony aunt. The song is well known as it got a lot of radio airplay, and is a great start to the album, with rocky but not overly-present guitars, solid drumming and a great hook. Lynott is in great voice, of that there can be no doubt, and the twin guitar sound of Gorham and White on the track does make it something of a Lizzy song, but different enough to be Lynott's own.

The second song is more in a Dire Straits vein, not surprising as Mark Knopfler is on guitar, for this ode to Elvis Presley. “King's call” was a minor success from the album too, but I definitely think it has too much of Knopfler's trademark guitar sound on it to be Lynott's own song. Still, at least it's not a Thin Lizzy clone. The song's lyric features snatches from “Are you lonesome tonight?”, cleverly woven in to seem like Lynott is talking to Elvis. Track three is “A child's lullaby”, and here is where Lynott really expresses his individuality, and takes a major step away from Lizzy, with strings and synthy keyboard, and very restrained percussion, hardly any guitar and some flute sounds which are probably made on the synth. This is one of the three tracks Lynott would write about his baby girls, and reveals the softer side of the tough rocker.

“Tattoo (Givin' it all up for love)” is pure pop, almost disco, with brass (synth?) and a very boogie/funk bassline with an almost nursery-rhyme melody. This departs from Lynott's work with Thin Lizzy in as sharp a manner as “Sussudio” did for Phil Collins on his third album. I have to be honest: I feel like I've been listening to Kool and the Gang after that! Urgh! What's next? Ah, the title track, with girly laughs on the intro and then a heavy reggae beat against which Lynott tries his best Bob Marley accent. Nah, don't get it son, don't see it working at all.

To his credit, Lynott does extend himself on the album, not only playing bass and singing as he did in Lizzy, but also playing keyboards, synth, string machine (whatever that is!), percussion, vocoder, minimoog and rhythm guitar, so fair play to him for that. “Solo in Soho”, the track, does contain a line that somewhat echoes the title track of Thin Lizzy's “Chinatown” album, where he sings ”When you're solo in Soho/ You got nowhere to go.” Rather like ”You don't stand a chance/ If you go down in Chinatown.” Soul music next on “Girls”, where Phil joins the Temptations, apparently! Keyboard is nice, but the backing vocals are a bit annoying. Again, I don't see it working, but then that's obviously because I'm looking for Thin Lizzy material, or at least rock, and this ain't it. Dammit though, it's bloody catchy! Stop it!

Standout track next, after “Dear Miss Lonely Hearts”, the excellent (but another real departure from his rock roots) “Yellow pearl”, a song written by him with Ultravox's Midge Ure, and which in a remixed version surfaced on the second album, and was in fact the theme for the 90s version of “Top of the Pops” for years, without vocals. It's a hell of a catchy number, with some great vocoder work by Lynott, and a really great hook, almost Pac-man-like percussion. I can't listen to it without seeing the opening credits for that show, which we all watched as teens and adolescents.

Nice harmonica (courtesy of Huey Lewis) on “Ode to a black man”, a much rockier/bluesier track than previous, and a good flip of the finger to the racist element in society. Good rockin', indeed. Steel drums and some interesting guitar from Gary Moore makes “Jamaican rum” a very happy, fun song, but there's not a lot in it, and it's the shortest track on the album, less than three minutes.Another short track winds up the album, three minutes of “Talk in 79”, with a great bass intro and a spoken vocal recalling the fate of punk and new-wave bands at the end of the seventies. Clever lyric like “The Rats were caught in their own trap/ And Steve Strange began to change.”[/i] Interesting idea but unsure if it really closes the album in the style it deserves. Still, it certainly lets Phil loose on his favourite bass guitar.

So that's the first of Phil Lynott's two solo albums. On balance, I would say that it fulfils the conditions of being different enough from his band work to qualify as a proper solo effort, despite the presence of his Thin Lizzy bandmates, and there is definitely a lot of stuff on there which he would not get to play, or evens suggest, in Thin Lizzy, so a chance to stretch the wings, explore new horizons? A big yes on that one.

TRACKLISTING

1. Dear Miss Lonely Hearts
2. King's call
3. A child's lullaby
4. Tattoo (Givin' it all up for love)
5. Solo in Soho
6. Girls
7. Yellow pearl
8. Ode to a black man
9. Jamaican rum
10. Talk in '79

And so on we go, to his second and only other solo album, 1982's rather unoriginally-titled “The Philip Lynott Album”. (Actually, the story goes that he wanted to call it “Fatalistic attitude” originally, but he didn't, and when asked why, he replied “I don't have a fatalistic attitude anymore!” Makes sense...)

The Philip Lynott Album --- 1982 (Vertigo)


Two years on, and Lynott is back with his second solo album. Again, his Lizzy mates are here, though Gary Moore and Snowy White are conspicuous by their absence --- I think Moore may have been working on “Corridors of power” at this time, not sure. However he also drafts in help from the likes of Midge Ure, Mel Collins and Huey Lewis, and again Mark Knopfler is on hand. So is the album any different to, or just a continuation of “Solo in Soho”? Let's have a looksee.

It opens with the track which was supposed to have been the title of the album, “Fatalistic attitude” opens with a girl ringing a radio station while behind there's keyboards and bass with drum machines keeping the melody. [i]This{/i] song reeks of Ultravox, in the hisses, thumps and whistles of the percussion, not to mention the keyboard sound and almost no guitar. The lyric echoes lines form “Dear Miss Lonely Hearts”, like ”If this boy goes on like this” and ”This boy is going insane.” It's an odd track, vocals half-lost in the radio commentary as Lynott sings over it, but sometimes the two cross.

“This man's a fool” is his “Sussudio”, with brass and disco rhythms, close vocal harmonies, and although the album is no longer called “Fatalistic attitude”, many of the songs do betray that dark side of Lynott in their titles, like this one, “Fatalistic” itself, “Don't talk about me baby” and the bittersweet “Old town”, but then there's hope and joy in songs like “Cathleen”, “Together” and “Ode to liberty”. The standout track though is “Old town”, with its upbeat piano and keyboards, and its great melody, and its recurring theme ”This boy is cracking up/ This boy has broke down.” It's a real pop opus, and with “Dear Miss Lonely Hearts” and “Yellow pearl” probably represents the apex of Lynott's solo career.

“Cathleen”, though understandably slushy, is just TOO sugary for my taste. The spoken intro vocal just makes it worse. I know he loved his daughters, but this was weak by Lynott's standards, and it's frankly embarrassing. Move on. “Growing up” is introduced on a sweet sax solo by Mel Collins, and is a lovely little ballad, with something of the melody of “DMLH” in there somewhere. It's the story of a little girl who is growing up, and the thoughts of her parent who is watching, and wishing he could make it easier for her but knowing what she will have to go through. Lovely track, and a real example of the kind of ballad Lynott could pen when he really tried. Quite honestly though, it's the sax work of Collins that lifts this track out of the ordinary. Just superb.

Then there's the remixed version of “Yellow pearl” from the first album, with a whole lot more punch and a screaming intro. This is the one they used for “Top of the Pops”, all right! Now, to be honest, I always thought this was called “Yellow peril”, and was about the Japanese, especially when you hear the lyric ”They will arise/ They will control.” Well, maybe not, or maybe the title was changed. Either way, it's a hell of a song, even second time around. “Together” is pure new romantic, and you can really hear the influence of the drum machines, while “Little bit of water” lets the guitars get a look in for once, forcing the keys to the background for at least some of the song. Nice bright piano soon gets in on the act though, and gives the song real heart.

“Ode to liberty (The protest song)” suffers from Dire Straits-itis again, with Lynott even singing like Knopfler, which is a pity, as it's a good song, but really sounds like it belongs more on “Communique” or “Making movies” than here. It's interesting, as Knopfler did not have a hand in writing it, but he's stamped his identity all over it, from the inimitable guitar to the way it's sung. “Gino” begins with another great bass line, though I kind of think it's on a synth, and the song itself is again very new romantic, kind of reminds me of Depeche Mode or Visage, with a quasi-gospel theme, which is a little weird. Closer “Don't talk about me baby” is as close as we get to a Thin Lizzy song, with the wolf-whistle beginning and grinding guitar, and drums that at least try to be heavy and real. The verses are very restrained, with an odd single-note bassline, but on the choruses the song takes off, and at least as the album comes to a close you're left with a good rock tune in your head.


TRACKLISTING

1. Fatalistic attitude
2. This man's a fool
3. Old town
4. Cathleen
5. Growing up
6. Yellow pearl
7. Together
8. Little bit of water
9. Ode to liberty (The Protest Song)
10. Gino
11. Don't talk about me baby

So, that's the solo career of Phil Lynott. Four years after releasing this album he would be gone, and so this is all we have to judge him on as a solo artist. What's the verdict? Well, there's no doubt that he tried new musical styles and managed to experiment, though his distinctive voice could never be mistaken for anyone else. I'd say he was glad he got to try going solo; whether he would have persisted or not I don't know. I'm sure it was a lot of fun, and different to the vibe and way of working he would have experienced when cutting a Lizzy album, so for that on its own I'm sure it was worth it.

Is it, however, worth buying the albums? On balance I'd say no. There are good tracks, but there are some real turkeys. If you simply have to have everything Phil Lynott has ever done, then go ahead, but don't say you weren't warned! And make sure you have that “skip” key ready --- there are times when you'll definitely need it!

Next time, I'll be examining the solo work of Ric Ocasek, lead singer with the Cars.
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Old 08-09-2011, 09:26 AM   #132 (permalink)
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Postcards from Heaven --- Lighthouse Family --- 1997 (Polydor)


A “family” of only two, Lighthouse Family produced three albums between 1995 and 2001. “Postcards from Heaven” was their second, and in terms of commerciality, the most successful. The music of the duo, a mix of light pop, soul and some jazz influences with just a little of the blues thrown in, struck a chord with the record-buying public of the 90s, and this album went to the number two slot in their native UK, yielding five singles, three of which reached the top ten.

Comprising vocalist Tunde Baiyewu and keyboard player and much-less-exotically-named Paul Tucker, Lighthouse Family were regular inhabitants of the charts during the late nineties. The album starts off as it means to go on, with a nice funky, jazzy upbeat number called “Raincloud”, with a really catchy tune, and distinctive vocals from Tunde, and what I assume must be drum machines, as no drummer is credited on the album. Obviously very keyboard oriented, the track gives the impression almost of seventies disco but at a slower pace, or perhaps the softer side of motown. It's polished, classy and very listenable. Despite the negative-sounding title, it's actually a very optimistic song: It's been too long now/ We been living under a raincloud.”

From the very start it's hard to believe this is just two guys: the feel is of a full band, so I can only assume Paul Tucker is a real keyboard wizard. “Once in a blue moon” is pretty much in the same vein as the opener, and you have to give this album double-thumbs-up for the production, which is clean, crisp and spot-on. There are lovely string sections in this song, which again I must imagine come from the magic keyboard of Tucker. “Question of faith” puts me in mind of the Isley Brothers, with some nice synth-flutes and whistles helping to give the track also a kind of latin/caribbean slant, while “Let it all change” is funk noir with bright piano and baritone sax, and a funky bass line.

The over-arching theme that comes through from this album is one of bright optimism. Some of the songs do touch on the problems with the world, but each of them is concerned with making them right, and knowing this can be done, if only by little people like you and me. It's a refreshing slant on songwriting, and listening to the album does kind of give you a lift. Got too much doom metal in your musical diet? Tired of hearing emo bands crying about how unfair the world is, or punk outfits telling us how we're all gonna burn? Stick this on your ipod and learn to smile again, and see the world through perhaps rose-tinted glasses, but whose wearers have a clear purpose and a determination to change things.

The highlight of the album (though it's all very good) comes in a clutch of three songs, two of which were hit singles, so you may know them already. The one that wasn't, is next, and it's called “Sun in the night”, a lovely slow ballad with flute opening and a lovely little keyboard intro joined by some truly exceptional piano. It's really hard not to relax while listening to this album, it's so laid-back. I mean, this is a ballad, but there's nothing really on the album that could be even classed as fast, or rocky. “Raincloud” is about as fast as they get, and it's not that fast. It's all kept at a really sedate, though never boring, pace, and it works really well. It helps that Tunde has that sort of voice that you just want to croon you a lullaby. If he has kids, they're lucky.

Second of the trio is “High”, which if you were around at the time you will have heard, as it was never off the radio. It's another feelgood song, a little faster than “Sun in the night” (though not much), with nice handclaps (yeah, I know I said elsewhere that I hate them, but here they're appropriate, and they work) carrying the drumbeat, happy backing vocals and silky keyboard as Tunde sings ”We are gonna be/ Forever you and me/ Always keepin' flying high/ In the sky of love.” Simple idea, something we all want. Cool melody, great vocals equal hit song. And deservedly so.

The last of these three is another top ten single, the totally gorgeous “Lost in space”. This came out around the same time as the film, so initially I thought maybe it was from the movie. It's not, just pure coincidence. An excellent song, although to be fair I'm kind of running out of superlatives to describe this album. I must admit, when I got it originally I didn't realise it was only a two-man effort, so now I'm doubly impressed. Anyway, the song starts off on lovely acoustic guitar, then the keys slide in and the vocals get going, and you can't help but get misty-eyed. There's something totally sincere and real about the way Tunde sings, and you feel there's a great honesty about the man. As the two composed all the tracks on the album, it's quite possible that they're drawing on their own experiences here to craft these songs, which only underscores my belief that artistes should write their own material: makes it so much more personal, and that can only be good.

The lyric says it all: ”I will never lose my faith in you/ How will I ever get to Heaven if I do?” The synth-string section works its magic, weaving a sumptuous tapestry against which Tunde's vocals thread their way like the finest golden thread. Beautiful, with a capital B. My only small gripe with the track is the ending. On the single, it fades out instrumentally, but on the album it goes into a sort of repeat vocal, which I feel takes from the song slightly. If they had even included the single version on the album as well, I would have been happier. However, it's a small and inconsequential complaint on an album with which I can otherwise find no fault.

It even continues really well to the end, with the nursery-rhyme vocal melody in “When I was younger” complemented by lovely piano and synth, and the title track is an excellent closer, maintaining the overall extremely high quality seen, and heard, throughout this special release.

You'll get no mad guitar solos here, no jarring drum sections or brass horns, but it's definitely in my top ten albums to relax to. It's also one of the best albums to put on if you want to cheer up. After being immersed in “Postcards from Heaven” you just won't be able to stay sad, annoyed or depressed. The guys are hoping to come back this year or next with a new album, and I certainly hope that happens, because the world needs more bands like this. Makes the world seem a less cold and unfriendly place, if only for forty-seven minutes plus.

TRACKLISTING

1. Raincloud
2. Once in a blue moon
3. Question of faith
4. Let it all change
5. Sun in the night
6. High
7. Lost in space
8. When I was younger
9. Restless
10. Postcards from Heaven
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Old 08-09-2011, 10:24 AM   #133 (permalink)
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Due to the huge response … okay, the moderate response … well, okay, one or two people commented... Fine, fine! NO-ONE commented. Not one person! Ingrates! So, due to the complete lack of response to my recent “Tunnel of Love” segment, I choose to take your silence as approval, and am therefore doing it again. So there.

Another ten ballads, slow tracks, whatever you want to call them, introduced in the style of a late-night radio programme I used to host when I was younger and had a lot more hair. And money. And time.

So, welcome back to Trollheart's “Tunnel of Love”. And what have we for you this time around? Well, starting off our selection of music to play when the lights are down is Kiki Dee, known to most of us for her association with Elton John on the duet “Don't go breaking my heart”. This, however, is a tune I used to play a lot, probably totally uknown to most of you, originally a French song but rendered into English and covered by Kiki, it's a gentle love song called “Amoreuse”.


It's seldom, if ever, I hear of a song which is written not only in the hope of being a classic (many are of course), but with that hope clearly expressed in the lyric, and finally also titled “Classic”. But that's what Adrian Gurvitz managed in 1982. And let's be honest, it is a classic. Mission accomplished then.


Meat Loaf, through the writing talents of Jim Steinman, can always be counted on for a good ballad, and usually a long one. This one fulfils both criteria, being almost nine minutes long. It's taken from “Bat out of Hell”, and it's the classic “For crying out loud.”


And speaking of classics, how about this one from Ultravox? Remember the cool video? This is of course “Vienna”.


From an album featured on my journal not so long ago, a name most people seem to hate because of one song, and it's sad, as he's one hell of a songwriter. This is from his “Back to Bedlam” album, and it's James Blunt, with a lovely song called “Tears and rain”.


Hazel O'Connor is more well-known for her punk anthems like “Eighth day”, but this is her in more mellow mood, with a gorgeous sax solo at the end, this is “Will you”.


And keeping with people you don't necessarily associate with ballads, you might be surprised to find that Tom Waits has many. This is one from his “Heartattack and Vine” album, a lovely gentle little song called “Ruby's arms”.


From the masters of AOR, and their very successful album “IV” this is Toto, with “I won't hold you back”.


Coming to the end of the show now, just time for two more tracks before I leave you. First up it's a nice relaxing little number from China Crisis, this is “Christian”.


And closing the show for another edition of “Trollheart's Tunnel of Love” is a true classic. Love songs are often best when in duet, and these two stars couldn't be bigger. It's Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie, with the timeless “Endless love”.


That's all we have for this time. Don't forget to comment if you liked (or disliked) this segment, and if you want anything featured let me know. If you don't tell me to stop I'll just keep doing it, you know! Anyway, hope you enjoyed it and will tune in again next time. Till then, take care.

This is Trollheart, signing off on another edition of “The Tunnel of Love”.
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Old 08-09-2011, 10:40 AM   #134 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Tuesday, August 9 2011

Another good track today, I'm glad to say, from one of my favourite bands, the Electric Light Orchestra, also known as ELO. This is from their album “Time”, one of the last they recorded before effectively splitting up two albums later. Though there was a divergence of band members, then a sort of reformation, the true ELO lineup is now gone, particularly after Jeff Lynne's failed 2001 effort, “Zoom”, which was essentially just him.

This is from the tail-end of their heyday. Albums like “Discovery”, “A new world record” and “Out of the blue” had made their name in the music world, and ELO were a recognised brand and a hot property from the late seventies on into the late eighties, but after this album (and even before it) their huge popularity was on the wane. This was their last properly successful album, going to number one and yielding a hit single for the last time in ELO's history.

The lights go down --- ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) --- from “Time” on Jet



Although not one of my favourite tracks on the album, “The lights go down” is a pleasant little track, mid-paced with a sort of quasi-reggae beat. Jeff Lynne is on form as usual, as is all the band, but in a way it's sad that you can trace the beginning of the end of ELO to this album, and in that respect, the title is extremely appropriate.
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Old 08-10-2011, 09:08 AM   #135 (permalink)
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Black tiger --- Y&T --- 1982 (A&M)


Originally known as Yesterday & Today, but shortening their name in 1981 to release their third album, “Earthshaker”, their first on A&M. This is where I first heard of them, when the track “Hurricane” from that album was doing the rounds of the local discos/rock venues, and my brother (yeah, the same one mentioned in the “Wild Cat” entry, the Tygers fan) bought that album and thereafter became a big Y&T man. I, of course, borrowed his albums and listened to them. I was most impressed with this album, “Black tiger”, their fourth overall, second for A&M, and the one which started off the brief series of mechanical figures which would be featured on the next two albums, but which would then resurface on the cover of last year's “Facemelter”. On this the animal is, not surprisngly, a tiger, made up of what appear to be metal, electrical cables and so forth.

This also stands as the best Y&T album I ever heard, though in fairness after the follow-up, “Mean streak”, my brother got married and moved out, so I experienced none of the Y&T catalogue after that. Hey, I was hardly going to buy them myself, now was I?

It kicks off with “To the moon”, a short guitar intro to the first track, “Open fire”, a rollicking rollercoaster of a rocker (sorry!), the guitars of Dave Meniketti and Joey Alves leading the attack, while the former belts out the vocal, sounding like Coverdale on speed. As an aside, the intro is also used later on as the opening to the best track on the album, but more of that later. This four-piece sure know how to rock, with the rhythm section of Phil Kennemore on bass and Leonard Haze on drums keeping everything nice and tight. Great guitar solos show that in their day Y&T were one of the premier metal bands, and though they're still recording, they don't seem to have captured the general attention these days in the same way that they did in the early eighties. Ah, my favourite decade!

“Don't wanna lose” keeps up the pressure, another hard rocker, a little slower than the track that precedes it, with a nice hook and almost AOR type chorus, putting me in mind sometimes of REO. The twin guitar attack belies any other comparisons with “soft-rock” bands though, and there's not a keyboard or synth to be seen, or heard. This is rock, down and dirty. Metal, mean and mighty. And some other things with alliteration that I can't think of at the moment.

“Hell or high water” is a brash, powerful, shouting anthem that no doubt had many a clenched, leather-and-metal studded fist in the air whenever these guys played live, with a great acapella ending, seguing directly into the standout track, “Forever”, which as mentioned starts off with a reprise of “To the moon”, then gets going with chugging guitar, pounding drums and Meniketti at his roaring best in what can be most accurately be described as a power-metal-ballad. It's a love song, as Dave sings ”I surrender all my love/ And you make my desire run/ Hot as the desert sands/ Your eyes have the power to warm me/ Like no other's can.”

There's also great timing on this track, and of course a great guitar solo from Joey Alves, really lifting the song right up into the stratosphere. The song goes out as it came in, on that “To the moon” theme, wrapping up a perfect track. Next up is the title track, and it's a killer, with jungle noises and chugga-chugga-chugga guitar sounding like a tiger sneaking up on its prey. Then suddenly he strikes, and the track takes off, riding on growling guitar and thumping drums, heartbeat getting faster as the song progresses. In essence, songwriting-wise, it's “Maneater”, but Hall and Oates never sounded like this!

“Bar-room boogie” is a pure ZZ, honky-tonk without the piano, and there's an arrogance and swagger about “My way or the highway” (definitely NOT a PC song!), but the closer is worth waiting for. “Winds of change” (not the old Scorpions song) is a great ballad, with an opening straight out of the Jimmy Page playbook, and great guitar indeed throughout, although the song is more a showpiece for Menkietti's powerful singing voice. It's quite impressive that they managed to craft a song like this without any piano or keyboard, as it really sounds like it demands such, but Alves and Menkietti are so versatile in their playing that they can make the guitar take the place of a piano. It's really something to hear.

All in all, a really great album that throws the spotlight on one of perhaps the forgotten metal acts of the eighties. Y&T were big in their time, but seem to have fallen a little out of favour with today's music fans, which is a pity. I really must acquire the rest of their catalogue and see if that loss of interest is merited, or if they're just as brash, bold and loud as ever. I suspect the latter.

TRACKLISTING

1. To the moon
2. Open fire
3. Don't wanna lose
4. Hell or high water
5. Forever
6. Black tiger
7. Bar-room boogie
8. My way or the highway
9. Winds of change

Suggested further listening: “Earthshaker”, “Mean streak”
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Old 08-10-2011, 09:10 AM   #136 (permalink)
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Fallen --- Evanescence --- 2003 (Wind-up)


Hard to know where to “pigeon-hole” Evanescence. They have progressive rock/metal influences, definite goth rock leanings, as well as a harder sort of emo vibe. “Fallen” was their debut, released in 2003, and took the album charts by storm, but since then they have only released one other studio album, and one part of the songwriting partnership and founder members has left the band. That leaves us with singer Amy Lee who, with guitarist Ben Moody, formed Evanescence (who must surely go down as the band most misspelled on paper!) and found huge success with this, their first album, selling over seventeen million copies worldwide. The sleeve of the album features a pale girl (presumably Amy herself) looking out at us like some sort of vampire or dead thing, with a half-frown, half-grin on her face. Quite spooky, and more than a little unsettling.

Their music definitely has a hard edge, mostly delivered on this album by Moody's fierce guitar, as in the opener, “Going under”, while “Bring me to life”, one of their most famous and successful singles, opens on gentle keyboard and piano, then the guitar kicks the track into life, with almost rap-style shout/singing by Moody. The song was used in the soundtrack to the film “Daredevil” (the only good thing about that movie, so I'm told!) and is a powerful slice of prog/goth metal, with passionate and desperate vocals from Amy, the melody dragging the song along by the scruff of its neck.

“Everybody's fool” continues in more or less the same vein, but halfway through it goes quite and a choir adds its voice to the song, which concerns the hero-worship youngsters attach to the latest opo sensations, dressing like them, talking like them, trying to be them. Quite an angry song, but the follower, “My immortal”, is a beautiful piano ballad, with Amy in much more relaxed form, her voice still strong and powerful but without the anger of the previous tracks. Shades of Edenbridge or Within Temptation about this one. Lovely string arrangement really makes the track; you can feel the pain in Amy's voice as she sings, and through it all is threaded the lonely, plaintive sound of her gentle piano.

“Haunted” is a scary-sounding song, with weird sounds and sort of skewed instrumentation giving the impression of being lost in a haunted house. Moody's heavy guitar returns, having been absent for the previous ballad, and goes to work with a will. “Tourniquet”, another heavy track, is concerned with the idea of suicide, and why it's still seen as a mortal sin to take your own life. Actually, not so long ago, it was a crime. How do you punish that? He killed himself: lock him in jail! Ridiculous! Anyway, the guitar growls away and keyboards keep the track bubbling nicely against Amy's distressed voice. Lovely, emotive synth ending.

“Taking over me” is something similar to “Bring me to life”, with gentle piano and snarling guitar, but things slow right down later for “Hello”, a simple piano ballad where again Amy's restrained vocal works just as well as, perhaps even better than the powerful siren of the faster tracks. Some truly expressive and emotional violin adds to this track, as if anything were needed, but it gives the song an extra dimension when it comes in.

I have to admit, from there it all starts to sound a little the same to me. The problem is that the fast tracks --- which very much outnumber the slower ones, as is in fairness usually the case --- with a few exceptions are hard to really sort one from the other. Kind of makes the album seem a little over-generic in places. It's a good album, but seventeen million copies? Don't really see it. I guess Evanscence must have been popular at one time though. Sort file under “occasionally” for my tastes.

TRACKLISTING

1. Going under
2. Bring me to life
3. Everybody's fool
4. My immortal
5. Haunted
6. Tourniquet
7. Imaginary
8. Taking over me
9. Hello
10. My last breath
11. Whisper
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Old 08-10-2011, 11:17 AM   #137 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Wednesday, August 10 2011

I want to hear no complaints! No groans, no shakes of the head and definitely no titters of laugher --- hey! I'm looking at YOU, yes, you right there! Stop it!

The very nature of “Random Track of the Day” is that it's, well, let me see, how can I put this? It's, well, you know, it's --- ah yes! It's random! So far from you never knowing what I'm going to post from day to day, I have no idea what's going to come up until I start running my media player. We've had odder tracks, so just settle down, all right? This is what came up, and this is what I'm posting. Just live with it.

You probably have a sneaking admiration for Baz anyway, like most of us. Go on, admit it...

If I should love again --- Barry Manilow --- from “Greatest Hits: the Platinum Collection” on Arista



I've heard a lot of Manilow's work, and though I would not count myself as a fan (though I did go to see him once, with me ma, that was a long time ago, and for her benefit. Really. I just went along to keep her company. I did. Honest!) I of course know all his hits, and like a lot of them. I would put “Weekend in New England” as my favourite. This one I don't know, but hey, what's to know? It's a Barry Manilow ballad, and in essence, one is very much the same as another.

This is from one of his many collections (this happens to be from the “Platinum Collection”), and it's a typical piano ballad with his undoubted talent for writing a weepy song, and great orchestration as ever. Guy's got to be doing something right --- he's richer than God's richer neighbour! In fairness it's not a bad song, and after all, no-one's forcing you to click that YouTube link --- CLICK IT! --- but you never know, it may speak to the softer side of you. Or you may hate it. Or your girlfriend may like it. Choice is yours.

I would promise something heavier tomorrow, if I could, but I have no control over what the media pixies select. Could be Al Jolson! Nah, I don't have any of his stuff in my collection. Do I? Surely not.... heh heh.

See ya tomorrow!
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Old 08-11-2011, 04:27 PM   #138 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Thursday, August 11 2011

Well, I promised something heavier today --- well, okay I didn't, but I hoped for that --- and here it is. Not exactly Metallica or Venom, true, but a decent rock song from a great album. I've covered Bon Jovi in depth some time ago when I reviewed three of their albums, but this wasn't one of them. This is of course from their first major commercial breakthrough, “Slippery when wet”, which brought them to the fore with hit singles like “Livin' on a prayer”, “You give love a bad name” and of course “Wanted dead or alive”. This is another of those singles, one of the ballads on the album, and it's “Never say goodbye”.

Never say goodbye --- Bon Jovi --- from “Slippery when wet” on Vertigo



There's not much I need to say, is there? Classic rock ballad, kicking off with heavy drums and guitar, and an anthemic singalong chorus, the song looking back to the days of our youth when there was nothing but love, sex and rock and roll. Ah, to be young again! And also fabulously rich and the idol of millions....
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Old 08-11-2011, 05:24 PM   #139 (permalink)
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Bella donna --- Stevie Nicks --- 1981 (Atlantic)


Although she has had six solo albums since this, her debut, I personally view this as Stevie Nicks' best album. There's not a bad track on it, and it yielded four singles, three of which were big hits. Add to that the presence of both Tom Petty and Don Henley on the recording, and how can you go wrong? Of course, there's no doubt this wasn't a normal debut album: this wasn't the first we heard of Stevie, as she had been plying her trade with Fleetwood Mac for years, and still is to this day. So she was already well-known on the rock scene, making it obviously easier for her to get a label to give her a chance as a solo artist.

Again, it's only my own personal opinion, but I've always believed Stevie to be the most talented in Fleetwood Mac. She sings, writes, plays piano and dances. Sure, others in the band do similar, but I always felt she brought a very tender, innocent, ethereal quality to the band that Christine McVie couldn't, not for me anyway. Just look at her on the back cover of “Rumours” --- yeah, albums have back covers too, you know! --- she's just this young, gorgeous, wide-eyed innocent looking back at you, and she seems like some sort of princess in a fairy tale. Chrstine, on the other hand, looks more hardened, tougher, more knowledgable in the ways of the world. By then Christine, five years Stevie's senior, had already released one solo album (“The legendary Christine Perfect album”), which was largely unsuccessful, before even joining Fleetwood Mac. She was more a veteran of the music scene than was her “sister”, and it showed.

In any case, to the album: “Bella donna”, which can have two meanings: Italian for beautiful woman, or indeed the flower --- which I believe you can see in the foreground on the album cover --- starts off with the title track, and it opens with country-style piano, pedal steel guitar and then Stevie's vocal, starting off slow but then picking up a little speed as the electric guitars chime in. The song is very country-tinged, with excellent backing vocals from two ladies who would go on to back her on every album she released from then on, Lori Perry and Sharon Celani. There's also a good deal of folk-rock inherent in the track, and it's a really nice opener.

“Kind of woman” is almost a waltz, with a gentle acoustic guitar and piano opening, then we're into the biggest hit single on the album, and the only song not written by Stevie, the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers-penned “Stop draggin' my heart around.” You probably know it: it reached number 3 and is still played and mentioned whenever Stevie's music is discussed. A sleazy blues rocker, it's Tom Petty himself who duets with her on it, and as duets go it's up there with the best of them. The guitar gets heavy and then slackens off again, keeping the rhythm of the song. Great organ really complements this classic song.

Being already well-known in the music biz, Stevie had a lot of musician friends to call on for help in making this album, and apart from the already mentioned Tom Petty and Don Henley, she enlists the aid of Roy Bittan from the E Street Band, Don Felder from the Eagles, Russ Kunkel and the infamous Donald “Duck” Dunn. It's Bittan that co-writes the next track, “Think about it”, a mid-paced rocker with some great piano, as you might expect from “Professor” Roy Bittan. “After the glitter fades” is pure country, and then “Edge of seventeen” will strike a familiar chord with all you young 'uns, with its chugging guitar intro and theme which was sampled for Destiny's Child's “Bootlicious”, to my everlasting chagrin. It's a monster of a track, and was in fact a single, though it's quite long, so they must have cut it down quite a bit for the radio. I swear, the first one who starts singing “I don't think you're ready for this jelly” gets a slap!

The most pure rock track on the album, it's a great example of how Stevie could pen, and play, a great hit single and stay true to her rock roots. “Leather and lace” is another duet, this time with Don Henley, and again a hit single. It's a gentle love song that trips along at a nice sedate pace, and then we're into my favourite on the album, the excellent “Outside the rain”. I don't know what it is about the song I like so much: the melody is great, the rhythm suits it perfectly and there's just something really together about the track that speaks to me. I've YouTubed it here for you guys to see if you think the same.

The closer is almost as good, the almost acapella ballad “The Highwayman”, reflecting Stevie's interest in the romantic age and lore and legend, mixed with ghosts and magic. And magic indeed it is, the tale of a woman who forever pursues an enigmatic highwayman whom she can never catch. Great picked electric guitar really lends this final track a laid-back, yet sad air, a feeling of yearning and unattainable goals.

I liked her next three albums, but really feel Stevie got it perfect the first time out, then unfortuantely slipped a little. I haven't heard anything since “Trouble in Shangri-La”, and that only sporadically, but unless her current album, “In your dreams” is a real belter, she's still got a long way to go to beat her debut. Which is odd, as artistes usually progress past their first album and get better. Not that Stevie didn't get better, I just feel that on the subsequent albums there was more filler as each new one was released, and to my mind, the amount of filler on this is zero.

Like Billy Joel said, “Get it right first time, that's the main thing.” And she sure did.

TRACKLISTING

1. Bella donna
2. Kind of woman
3. Stop draggin' my heart around
4. Think it over
5. After the glitter fades
6. Edge of seventeen
7. How still my love
8. Leather and lace
9. Outside the rain
10. The Highwayman

Suggested further listening: “The wild heart”, “Rock a little”, “The other side of the mirror”
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Old 08-12-2011, 03:30 PM   #140 (permalink)
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Default ... And the milestones just keep coming...

It only seems like two months ago I was writing my little note of thanks for you guys getting me to 1000 views --- wait a minute! It WAS! How time flies...

Now, in amazement I watch the viewcount jump every day, and within forty-five short days we've just passed three thousand! I'm flabberghasted, really I am, but again just want to say thanks.

To all who read, hopefully enjoy and perhaps (dare I even think?) look forward to my journal, and especially to the (admittedly few) ones who comment to let me know if I'm doing a good or bad job, a real big thank you from me. It's great to know that people are continuing to read my wandering thoughts committed here to the forum, and it's fun to keep thinking up new items to include. I have a few in mind, never fear, more on that soon.

For now, once again thank you. I know I've only been (back) here a few months, but you've all made me feel very welcome, and even the silent majority, who are content to read and never comment, validate all the hard work that goes into this journal --- what? You think I just pull this stuff out of my aaaannnyway, thanks again and what more can I say but keep reading. I hope you keep enjoying the journal and stay onboard, as the ride is only just beginning!

Oh, and by all means, if the mood takes you, feel free to comment. Just click that little REPLY box. Go on, you know you want to. Don't make me send in the Hypno-Toad....
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