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Old 08-11-2012, 05:48 PM   #1471 (permalink)
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Spain. Great for football, great for holidays, great for hotties. Not the first place you think of, however, when you consider heavy metal music. For a long time, the only band I ever knew that came off the Iberian peninsula was Baron Rojo, and I only really ever marked them for the novelty value of the fact that they sang in their native language. Imagine! But ask me to name a well-known metal band from most countries, I could do so. Spain, not so much. There has been some movement that direction on my behalf recently, it should be noted, with my discovery of Cain's Dinasty, but great as they are, they sing in English, and so although they're undeniably Spanish I tend not to think of them in the same terms as the ol' Red Baron.

Of course, I'm sure there are many good metal bands based in Spain these days: a cursory search through Encyclopadeia Metallum for same gives over two thousand results, but some of those are defunct and many are small bands, probably unknown outside of their native region. There are, however, some extremely inventive and downright funny names. Spaniards seem to have the best sense of humour (whether it's intentional or not) when it comes to naming their bands. Just look at some of these that turned up in my quick search for the intro to this piece: PussyWorm. **** Off. Timeless Necrotears(?). Trollfastheart (my favourite, for obvious reasons). Vaginal Kebab. [In mute]. Aversion to Mankind. Some of these name are just brilliant!

But it is of course doing a disservice to Spain to suggest they have no famous metal bands, as I eventually found out. War Cry have been doing the rounds since 2001 and have won numerous awards in their home country and in other Latin American climes. Dark Moor, of course, are another, and then there's the aforementioned Cain's Dinasty. But in general, it would seem that the state of heavy metal in Spain is, shall we say, fluid? I'm sure someone who lives in Spain or knows Spanish metal far better than I do may comment on how stupid and ill-informed I am, and I readily accept that: my search for Spanish metal bands was, after all, a quick and not at all intensive one, using just one website, though apparently one of the more respected ones for heavy metal.

Nemesis --- Saratoga --- 2012 (Calle Underground)


All of which leads me to Saratoga, who have been together since 1992 but released their first, self-titled album in 1995 and have had ten since, this being their eleventh, and most recent. I've waxed lyrical about Cain's Dinasty, and I do love that band, but these guys are in a class all of their own. Looking for the Spanish Iron Maiden? They might not thank me for that label, but I really feel that's what you find in this band from Madrid. They're obviously heavily influenced by Bruce and the boys, yet manage to have their own distinctive sound. They sing in Spanish, but luckily at least the titles of the songs on this album are all easily translatable, or at worst you can guess what songs like “Despues del silencio” and “La ultima frontera” are likely to mean. Doesn't mean I have a clue what they're singing about, but at least there's some idea as to what the songs are meant to be called.

They're only a four-piece --- which makes it all the more amazing how they manage to get that Maiden “twin-guitar-attack” sound with just one guitarist --- the classic metal band: bass, guitar, drums, vocals. No keyboards in this band! They seem to have had something of a changing lineup, with only bassist and founder member Niko del Hiero remaining from the original Saratoga, the others currently in the band looking to have joined between 2005 and 2007, but seeing as this is their third album with this lineup it would appear to be stable for the time being.

It blasts right off with a Dickinsonesque “Woh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!” and we're into “Juicio final” (final justice?) with a big heavy growling guitar sound and a thunderous drumbeat, vocalist Tete Novoa's delivery flawless and powerful, and even though he's singing in Spanish you can't help but get caught up in the song, and foolishly I try singing along with it: we all know how that's going to end! But it's infectious stuff, and there's a fine guitar solo from Tony Hernando which even Adrian Smith would be proud of, and we power on into “Hasta el dia mas oscuro”, which actually pulls things back a little, with some nice restrained guitar and something that I must admit sounds like piano, though there's no keyboard player mentioned at any point.

A slower song, but not quite a cruncher, it takes the level down a notch, but is still as heavy as hell. I loosely attempt the translation of this as “until darker days” or maybe “toward darker days”, but that's purely an educated guess. Great guitar solo again from Hernando, founder member Niko del Hiero on bass and the enigmatic Andy C on drums keeping the rhythm section tight, then as I already mentioned “La ultima frontera” hardly needs any translation, and it racks things back up a bit more, though still not as frenetic as the opener. The guitar here would be more described as growling than howling, but it's still heavy and very welcome. Andy C goes a bit mental (metal?) behind the drumkit, as we hurtle straight into “Revolucion”.

Again, you don't exactly need A-Levels in Spanish to work out what this title means, and it rocks along at a great pace, reminding me in places of the great French band Trust, whose “Repression” I reviewed what seems a long time ago now. It's very melodic, perhaps the most commercial of the tracks on this album so far, which takes nothing away from the metal these guys play. Think the likes of “The Trooper” or “Run to the hills”: it's that kind of commercial, almost radio-friendly metal, and no-one would ever accuse Iron Maiden of wimping or selling out! Del Hiero really has a great voice for metal: it neither screeches nor growls anymore than the song requires, and if I had to compare him to anyone in the metal arena I actually think it might be a more melodic and slightly more balanced Paul Di'Anno. Hmm. I think “Revolucion” is my favourite track so far, with a big powerful ending, and we're not even halfway through the album yet!

It's followed by a chunkier song in the shape of “Perversidad”, which again needs not too much imagination to work out its meaning, and has a nice jangly guitar a little reminscent of “Innocent exile” (sorry for all the Maiden comparisons, but they really do evoke memories of the kings of metal), with del Hiero able to scale back his vocal for the softer parts too, but turn it right back up when required. Versatile, certainly, and surely he must be a big name in Spanish metal circles? “Depues del silencio” (after the silence? Before the silence?) rocks along in a good headshaking way, with a grittier, rougher vocal and strong, tough guitars from Tony Hernando, and is the longest song on the album at just under six minutes, then “Maltratador” has a certain Black Sabbath vibe to the opening, but soon settles down into another Maidenesque rocking groove with some great squealing guitar from Senor Hernando.

There's a somewhat slower, crunchier example in “El ultimo vals”, with Hernando's guitars growling and grunting like rutting beasts, while “Corazon herido” really allows him his head, kicking out the stays in a big, dirty, unapologetic metalfest of a song that rockets along on the steamhammer drums of Andy C. I know “corazon” is Spanish for heart, as for “herido”: who knows? Something heart, anyway, or heart of something. It's a great song, no matter how it translates. Pretty hooky chorus too, that again has me inadvisedly trying to sing it --- “Yo tengo corazon herido...” Yeah, I'll stop now, shall I?

Things keep a-rockin' and a-rollin' for “Condenado” (condemned?) with some really superb guitar work and a big growly bass courtesy of del Hiero, and is in fact the second-longest track on the album, just beaten out by seven paltry seconds by “Depues del silencio”, and I would consider it the better of the two, if only for the clever time signature change halfway through which takes the song in a whole new direction. Okay, it's basically a chance for Tony Hernando to show off on the axe, but hell, it's worth it! We close then on “Angel o demonio” --- a prize to the first one to write in and tell me what that means! What? No, not really: how stupid are you?

It opens on an almost acoustic, picked guitar melody, and I begin to wonder is this the obligatory closing metal ballad? Certainly a nice intro, almost progressive metal in its construction, then Tony stops messing around and turns up the amp, fires up the electric and away we go! No ballads, it would seem, on this album! A power metal anthem, it's full of hooks, solos and great vocal performances, a fine closer to a fine album, which proves --- as if it needed to be --- that just because metal is sung in a language other than English, it doesn't mean it's in any way inferior, nor inaccessible to those of us who don't speak the language. Hell, Baron Rojo tried to teach me this thirty years ago! Wasn't listening then, but man am I hearing it now, loud and clear!

TRACKLISTING

1. Juicio final
2. Hasta el dia mas obscura
3. La ultima frontera
4. Revolucion
5. Perversidad
6. Despues del silencio
7. Maltratador
8. El ultimo vals
9. Corazon herido
10. Condenado
11. Angel o demonio
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Old 08-12-2012, 09:44 AM   #1472 (permalink)
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Let's have a little Meat Loaf to shake things up on a Sunday, shall we?
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Old 08-13-2012, 12:00 PM   #1473 (permalink)
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One of the finer bands to emerge out of Northern Ireland around the time punk was gripping the nation, this is the Undertones.
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Old 08-13-2012, 01:17 PM   #1474 (permalink)
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Author's note: this just serves as a warning not to write topical/time-based introductions to my album reviews. This was originally meant to have been posted, obviously, back in April, but how time flies and these pre-written reviews get lost on my word processor and forgotten about till I remember to go looking for them. "I'm sure I posted that", he said. "No, I definitely did! I remember doing so!" But he didn't, and ends up looking even more of a jackass than usual. Oh well, not like I'm not used to it...

(Go on, laugh: you know you want to...)

Seems appropriate on this, the first annivesary of the opening of the Playlist of Life, as well as the first anniversary of his death, albeit a few months late, that we should review an album by the late Gerry Rafferty. His “Night owl” was one of the first to be reviewed originally, back in May of 2011, so this time we're going to be looking at the one that followed that. There were no hits from it, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a great album.

Snakes and ladders --- Gerry Rafferty --- 1980 (United Artists)


Following the phenomenal success of his first two albums, the first of which had yielded the now-classic “Baker Street”, and the second giving him another top ten single, this was supposed to capitalise on the popularity of “Night owl” and “City to city”, but didn't do as well as its predecessors. For all that though, it's a great album. Gerry would in fact have no more chart success after “Night owl”, and would forever be indentified with “Baker Street”, leading many to conclude he was a “one-hit wonder”, which is not miles from the truth, but he released some sterling albums in his time, even if they passed the mainstream charts by.

It opens in celtic style, with the excellent “The Royal Mile”, one of Gerry's many songs that reminisce about people and places, often from his own life. It bops along nicely, with jangly guitar, whistle from Richard Harvey and organ from Pete Wingfield, and is a nice uptempo start to the album. Guitar drives the next track, “I was a boy scout”, more in the rock vein with some cool slide guitar from Bryn Haworth and horns from two legends, Raphael Ravenscroft and Mel Collins. There's a very annoying American accent voicing the intro to “Welcome to Hollywood”, but it soon fades away and the song rides along on a sort of Mexican influenced melody, with horns and gentle percussion, nice piano and restrained guitar, Gerry presumably singing about his experiences in Tinseltown. There's a great sense of fiesta about this, with a soaraway guitar solo from, I think, Jerry Donahue. That annoying American (or someone parodying an American accent) is back for the fadeout, which is a little off-putting: why do people always say (as the voice does here) “You're gonna love it!”? How do they know? You might hate it, whatever it is...

Good, straight and honest rock and roll for “Wastin' away”, elements of “Get it right next time” in the song, with some great piano runs, then the shortest track at just over two minutes is “Look at the moon”, driven on acoustic piano and synthesiser strings and giving us the first ballad on the album, with an almost filmic score feel, and no sooner has it got going than it's over and we're into the standout on the album, and a song that, although not released as a single, nevertheless went on to become one of Gerry's most famous songs. “Bring it all home” has a real blues/jazz rhythm, with fine performances from the two sax players and real blues piano from Billy Livsey. There's a real feeling of enjoyment and fun about this track, with a great instrumental jam at the end, and it's not surprising it caught on as it did.

Another ballad then in “The garden of England”, slow, measured and stately, with some nice strings and keyboards, a melody and arrangement not a million miles removed from ELO, then there's more of an Alan Parsons Project feel to “Johnny's song”, as the tempo kicks up again with some powerful guitar that really rocks along. “Didn't I” is a nice boogie blues number with some more fine guitar and a kind of campfire feeling about it, while “Syncopatin' Sandy” is driven on jazz piano but again betrays a certain sense of the APP in its melody.

Not surprisingly with a title like “Cafe le Cabotin”, there's a French flavour to this song, with some rocking guitar and what sounds like accordion, a nice boppy tune. I wouldn't call it one of the strongest on the album, but it's not that bad. Kind of unremarkable, although it has a nice instrumental ending. The album finishes on “Don't close the door”, one final ballad to send us on our way, this one with a very country feel, what sounds like steel pedal and slide guitar, honky-tonk piano and some cool miramba-like percussion.

It's hard to see, with albums of this quality, why Gerry Rafferty more or less faded from the public eye. Perhaps it was that old curse, the “big hit single syndrome”; people expected him to better or equal “Baker Street”, and he never did. For all that, he released a total of nine albums during his career, right up to 2000 when his last album, “Another world” hit the shops. In 2009 he did put together an odd sort of compilation of older work, with some new material and apparently some hymns and carols (!) on it, but his last major studio release was the aforementioned “Another world”.

Gerry was dogged by alcoholism which overshadowed the last decade of his life, and during 2009 he seems to have spent time moving from place to place, having “incidents” along the way, meeting his new wife and being happy for a time before finally succumbing to multi-organ failure brought on by his alcohol dependance. A sad end, and a great loss, but here we prefer to remember him by the music he left us, and I'm sure this is how he would want to be remembered.

TRACKLISTING

1. The Royal Mile
2. I was a boy scout
3. Welcome to Hollywood
4. Wastin' away
5. Look at the moon
6. Bring it all home
7. The garden of England
8. Johnny's song
9. Didn't I
10. Syncopatin' Sandy
11. Cafe le Cabotin
12. Don't close the door
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Old 08-14-2012, 08:40 AM   #1475 (permalink)
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Not quite bad enough to be considered for the “Nice song, shame about the album!” spot, I was nevertheless sufficiently disappointed with Del Amitri's second album, bought on the strength of what was their most successful single, “Nothing ever happens”, that I feel it deserves a place here. There are a few good tracks on it, yes, but a few good tracks do not a good album make, and so here it is, to be relistened to and dissected, with a distinct feeling of ambivalence.

Waking hours --- Del Amitri --- 1989 (A&M)


Surprisingly, this Scottish band had six albums released before they split up in 2002, and most of those did reasonably well in the UK, less well in the States, where they hardly bothered the charts there. I had expected a lot on the basis of the single, but once the album got going I knew that it was quite likely that particular song was going to be the highlight of a rather disappointing album. It wasn't, not quite, but there's an awful lot of filler on “Waking hours”, and it doesn't encourage you to check out any of their further material. Maybe that's my loss, but after listening to this I knew that I had heard about as much of Del Amitri as I wanted to.

By all accounts, if you ask the band members what the name means, “expect violence”. They have long tired of explaining that it apparently means nothing, was just made up, and though several ideas of what it could mean exist, they say they are all wrong. As for the album, it opens well with “Kiss this thing goodbye”, good jangly guitar and harmonica, the latter from guest Julian Dawson. Del Amitri employed three guitarists, one of whom was the lead singer and founder, Justin Currie. Great sounds of what must be a banjo in there too, though it's not credited. A very happy, uptempo song which starts what is generally a pretty bleak album in terms of lyrical themes.

Del Amitri used some traditional instrumentation like accordion and harmonica, and surely banjo (?) as well as more classical ones like violin and cello to create a different sound that had something of the Hooters in it, but was individual enough to always be seen as their sound. Currie is a good singer, in addition to his other talents, and the songwriting itself is of quite high quality. There's more a sense of soul to “Opposite view”, more rock than fusion; good guitar work from Iain Harvie and Mick Slaven with some warbling organ from Andy Alston on another generally uptempo song, then “Move away Jimmy Blue” is a slower, more restrained song, though not quite a ballad with again Alston's heavy organ work helping to characterise the melody. It's a song of warning, as the lead character is warned ”Move away Jimmy Blue/ Before your small small town/ Turns around and swallows you” and contains a really nice guitar solo, though who is responsible I can't tell you.

Low keyboard intro to “Stone cold sober” with a nice bassline and some solid drumming, a sort of mid-paced song with a nice line in lyrics: ”Stone cold sober/ Looking for bottles of love.” I personally find this song quite reminscent of Australian band Icehouse, whose “Man of colours” we reviewed what seems a long time ago now (and probably is), then “You're gone” is another uptempo rocker with a downbeat theme that hardly needs to be explained. Nice bit of slide guitar from --- well, take your pick of three guitarists! --- and very lively drumming from Paul Tyagi. Great bit of violin work from Robert Cairns, too. “When I want you” is as close to indie pop that Del Amitri come, very boppy and happy with some jangly guitar and a catchy if simple chorus.

Things start to get a lot better as the album approaches its end. “This side of the morning” is definitely one of the standouts, with its simple guitar line joined by cello and accordion to paint the bleak image of a man lying awake and mulling over the decisions in his life, and perhaps regretting them. A great line in the song is ”Trying to decide what you want/ Is like trying to divide ice from snow.” You can really get a sense of celtic fusion on this song, with Currie's vocal almost at once passionate and uncaring, quite a feat to pull off. “Empty” is another bleak song with a harsh message: ”At least a house when it's empty stays clean.”

The album finishes strongly on “Hatful of rain”, a boppy, uptempo song driven on sharp guitar, more indie pop/rock, and then the closer is the very reason I bought this album originally, the highly politically-aware “Nothing ever happens”, riding on an acoustic guitar melody with a lyric that rails against the injustices in society, and the way we all turn our heads: ”They'll burn down the synagogues at six o'clock/ And we'll all go along like before” as well as the huge disparity in wealth and priorities ”While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs/ For the price of a hospital wing.” Great accordion and harmonica adds to the sense of the surreal in this track, with a truly soulful little violin solo halfway through, added to by mandolin for that extra touch.

It's a great song, a great closer and was Del Amitri's most successful single, but it brings to an end an album that, while not bad at all, fails to live up mostly to the promise of this remarkable song. There are a few that are as good as it, perhaps one better, but sadly there are all too many that fail to measure up to the promise of this song, leaving the album lacking in many respects.

TRACKLISTING

1. Kiss this thing goodbye
2. Opposite view
3. Move away Jimmy Blue
4. Stone cold sober
5. You're gone
6. When I need you
7. This side of the morning
8. Empty
9. Hatful of rain
10. Nothing ever happens
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Old 08-14-2012, 08:44 AM   #1476 (permalink)
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A metal band doing a disco number? Ah yes, that'll be Kiss then!
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Old 08-15-2012, 04:25 AM   #1477 (permalink)
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Zoom --- Electric Light Orchestra --- 2001 (Epic)


You know when we say “so-and-so IS such-a-band”, like “Lemmy IS Motorhead” or “Freddie Mercury WAS Queen”? Well, it seems Jeff Lynne took that quite literally for this, ostensibly ELO's last ever album. With none of the previous members of the band playing on the album, bar the one track on which keyboardist Richard Tandy guests, this really became a case of “I don't need you! I don't need any of you!” but was to prove Lynne's overconfidence in his own popularity to be his undoing. The album failed to chart well, its two singles were released and quickly sunk from sight, and ELO fans did not take the album to their hearts.

Now, I'm a huge ELO fan. As I mention in my recent “Love/Hate” feature, they, along with Genesis and Supertramp, were the first band I ever got seriously into, and I've remained a fan of their music. But their last “proper” album was fifteen years prior to this, and though it was okay, it wasn't as good as “Secret messages”, and you have to go right back to 1981's “Time” for their last big hit singles. Not that that has ever bothered me --- I follow many bands who have never even troubled the charts --- but with a pedigree like ELO's, with twelve albums and almost thirty hit singles prior to this, you have to take their chart success into account, and really, the dying gasps of the band were heard on “Balance of power”, which, while a good album, shows ELO a frail, former shadow of themselves.

So when “Zoom” hit the streets it seemed like there was life in the old dog yet, and I of course went out and bought it (this being in an era where you did rush out and buy records, not just download or order them online), eager to hear if they still “had it”. When I played it I did not realise it was only Jeff Lynne (I seldom used to read liner notes, unless I was trying to get a particular lyric or had some other reason to), and to his credit, that's a good thing, as this album does sound like the ELO of old. But it certainly didn't get him the resurgence of success with, and interest in the band he had founded back in the seventies, and a planned US tour had to be cancelled due to poor ticket sales. Well, would you pay to see a band, knowing only one member (maybe two) of the original lineup was going to be there?

But to the album. It starts off with a typical ELO mid-paced rocker with, it has to be said, some influences from those Traveling Wilburys leaking in. “Alright” is a good opener, quite standard rock but with the expected ELO backing vocals, however without the expected strings accompaniment which, quite literally, made the band their name back in the seventies and eighties. It's a foot tapper for sure, the only track on the album to feature Richard Tandy on keys, and therefore the only track on which any ELO member other than Lynne are involved. To be fair to Lynne, he's in perfect voice after a decade and a half of being “away” from the band, apart from his involvement with the aforementioned Wilburys and his one solo flop effort, “Armchair theatre”. “Moment in Paradise” is far more of what we expect from ELO, lovely laidback ballad with soft piano melody, synth sounds and the beginnings of involvement for cello, with a really slick little guitar solo. There's the odd star appearance on the album, like Ringo Starr, who guests here behind the drumkit, and his co-Beatle, George Harrison, elsewhere.

Lynne doesn't stretch anything here: the tracks generally bottom out at around three minutes each, a few shorter and one at four, though nothing longer. They benefit from this brevity, and “State of mind”, with a riff totally robbed from “Pretty woman” is a good rocker, with the old ELO backing vocals and some nice hard rock and roll guitar from Lynne, who plays everything from guitar to keyboards and cello, as well as singing and playing drums. You'd have to definitely consider “Zoom” his second solo album, though it does rely heavily both on the ELO name and sound, something he stayed away completely from on his solo debut, perhaps explaining why it was not such a good album. Playing to his strengths here, and using the ELO brand and fanbase in what amounts to an almost shameful degree, he continues with “Just for love”, the first song that really sounds like the ELO of old.

Reminding me of songs off “A new world record”, especially “Above the clouds”, this is another lovely guitar-led ballad with great backing vocals by --- guess who? Yeah, that's right, he even does his own backing vox on this album. With a lot of Beatles in it, this is definitely one of the better tracks, and the guitar line is very ELO, the drumming too. That could almost be Bev Bevan behind the kit, and it really is a pity Lynne didn't see fit, for whatever reason, to entice the rest of the boys back, as this could have been a really great combeack for ELO, but the “Jeff-Lynne-solo” aspect of it just seems to have turned people off. Perhaps had he released it under something like “Jeff Lynne's ELO” they might have looked more kindly on the project, but the fact that Lynne was essentially trying to say this is ELO when it patently was only him I think got up people's noses.

Such a pity though, as it really is a fine album, and should have done much better. “Stranger on a quiet street” recalls the best from “Secret messages”, with some great funky keyboard work and some sharp guitar, while the cellos really come into their own on the almost forties-style “In my own time”, another ballad with more great backing vocals. You could see Lynne onstage (had the tour gone ahead) in a tux playing the cello while behind him a choir backed him, and it could have been great. But the next track, whether intentionally or not, betrays what many believed he was up to, and while “Easy money” is an uptempo blues rocker very much in the style of Dave Edmunds or even Chuck Berry, with Ringo bashing out the drums in obvious delight, the subject is too close to people's suspicions I would think, the reason why so many believed Lynne came “out of retirement” as it were, and tried to bring ELO the brand with him.

The lyric actually contains perhaps a satirical jab at his own intentions, when he sings ”Some people never learn/ To stop when they've had enough.” I'm sure he wasn't that sure of himself that he could put that into the lyric and realise it could refer to him, but it's pretty much a damning indictment of his efforts to flog the dead horse a little more. Talk about getting your (easy) money's worth! The next track could also be said to refer back to this, and “It really doesn't matter” is a good mid-paced rocker, with some great feedback/echo guitar and a really nice hook. That's the annoying thing about this album: it's really quite good, in places excellent. Handled properly, as a reunion album and tour, with the full band, it could have been huge. Now perhaps Lynne tried and failed to get the guys back together, but I see no evidence of that anywhere, so you're left with the inescapable conclusion that he must have thought he could go it alone and didn't need the band. People would still come and see “ELO”, as he was ELO, and ELO was him. But that's not how people saw it. Not at all.

And so a great album got given short shrift by the record-buying public and by ELO fans, and they really missed out, as there isn't really a bad track on this album at all. “Ordinary dream” is again a Beatles-sounding ballad, with some beautiful strings and nice piano, a lot of the old ELO in this, recalling something of “One summer dream” from the “Face the music” album, way back in 1975, and a great little guitar solo at the end, then “A long time gone” is very Tom Petty influenced, and features some superb slide guitar from George Harrison, another sumptuous ballad while “Melting in the sun” is a more uptempo rocker, again with Wilburys edges and Petty sounds, which helps to make it next to impossible to pick a standout track from this album. There are certainly no bad ones, and I would go so far as to say it was the best quote ELO unquote album since “Secret messages” --- certainly it's streets ahead of “Balance of power”!

Harrison is back then on slide for “All she wanted”, a rock and roll/blues thumper, sort of like a slowed down version of “Four little diamonds” off “Secret messages”, and the album closes on “Lonesome lullaby”, the longest track at just seconds over four minutes, with a big feedback guitar opening, then heavy drumming and accompanying guitar. With a title like this you would expect it to be another ballad, but Lynne pulls one more surprise out of his bag of tricks and the closer is in fact a mid-paced rocker with some balladic overtones, and a very satisfying finale.

I was more than surprised, impressed and happy with the quality of “Zoom”, and to be honest, it didn't bother me that much that it was only Jeff Lynne --- though I did feel a small sense of being cheated: the album should have made this clear on the case I think --- but this obviously figured in the decision of a lot of other people not to buy it. It's such a missed opportunity, as the writing is top-class, as you would expect, the playing excellent, even if it is Lynne more or less solo, and this should have been, and could have been, a massively powerful swansong for ELO, or even a rebirth.

As it is, it would appear the ego of one man got in the way of signing off a band which had given millions pleasure for decades, and now, instead of being happy and content with this album, most people probably feel cheated, and just a little bit taken for a ride. Sad.

TRACKLISTING

1. Alright
2. Moment in Paradise
3. State of mind
4. Just for love
5. Stranger on a quiet street
6. In my own time
7. Easy money
8. It really doesn't matter
9. Ordinary dream
10. A long time gone
11. Melting in the sun
12. All she wanted
13. Lonesome lullaby
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Old 08-15-2012, 04:28 AM   #1478 (permalink)
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It's a typical Irish summer's day outside (howling wind and pouring rain), so let's have a typical Irish band. This is Aslan, this is...
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Old 08-16-2012, 04:49 AM   #1479 (permalink)
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Let's hop onboard a-ha's train, shall we?
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Old 08-16-2012, 05:16 AM   #1480 (permalink)
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Although she's now mostly respected as a proper artiste (not to mention a sex icon), Kylie's original singles were pure cheese, as I'm pretty sure she herself would agree. Not really that it was her fault: she was after all being more or less controlled by the draconian Hit Factory, and Stock, Aitken and Waterman wrote, produced and marketed her music, and also created her image, the image they wanted to portray of her to the world. The image that would get them the most return on their investment. Fair play to her that she eventually stood up for herself and walked away from their cloying influence. It was a very brave decision: she could have sunk without a trace, but as we all know she diversified and reinvented herself, and ended up conquering the world, winning the hearts of millions.

But even though the world is now at her feet, there are skeletons in the closet that no amount of spring cleaning will remove, and her early songs remain as perhaps uncomfortable reminders of how she started, and how indeed she could have ended, had she not taken the chance and broken free of SAW. This one in particular is so cheesy that supercheese group (not fair to call them a band, really: none of them play) Steps covered it, though in fairness they didn't change it very much. It's typical of the kind of generic disco/dance/hi-nrg pap the Hit Factory were turning out with artiste after artiste, many of whom disappeared after the gods of pop music had lost interest in them, never to be seen again.

Better the devil you know (Kylie Minogue) 1990


Okay, so it was better (marginally) than some of her earlier hits, with a slightly more adult tone to it, and marked a change in Kylie's image and approach to her music, but it would be another three years before she was able to break the shackles of SAW and move away from their influence, starting her career properly, and getting people to start taking her seriously. SAW's problem of course was that they always went for the path of least resistance in terms of songwriting: if it rhymed, use it, no matter how many times you'd used it before in other songs. Melody already in three hit singles? Sure, drop it into the fourth! Need a new drum pattern? Nah, the one we've been using on all the hits up to now has obviously proved popular, so keep using it. One of the main reasons why all their stuff sounds the same, no matter who was singing it.

Anyway, luckily as I said, Kylie escaped from Castle Waterman, but not before they got her to record such cheese as this, and others, in her six years with them. Pete, Mike, the other one: have you no shame? Why do I even bother aking that question?
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