The Playlist of Life --- Trollheart's resurrected Journal - Music Banter Music Banter

Go Back   Music Banter > The MB Reader > Members Journal
Register Blogging Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Welcome to Music Banter Forum! Make sure to register - it's free and very quick! You have to register before you can post and participate in our discussions with over 70,000 other registered members. After you create your free account, you will be able to customize many options, you will have the full access to over 1,100,000 posts.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 12-23-2012, 05:25 AM   #1661 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,971
Default


Christmas in the heart --- Bob Dylan --- 2009 (Sony)


Now I'm no Dylan fan, but surely even he must hang his head in shame at getting roped in to the "Christmas album" deal, something I would have felt sure, from his reputation, that he would have steered clear of, even sneered at? I'd be more surprised, to be honest, to see Nick Cave or King Diamond release a Christmas album! But here he is, complete with Russian-looking horsedrawn sled, snow and lots of songs about the festive season, delivered in the characteristic lazy drawl that has become his trademark, and made of him a living legend in music. Personally, I don't like his singing, but who am I to talk?

Well, looking a little deeper now, I see that all profits from the sales of the album went to various worthy charities, so I guess I can't put him down too much on that front. None of the songs are composed by him, which is itself perhaps unusual for such a prolific songwriter. He prefers to stick with the standards: "The first Noel", "Here comes Santa Claus", "Winter wonderland" and so on, with "The Christmas Blues" and Mitch Miller's "Must be Santa" thrown in to just offset the traditional songlist. It's Dylan's first --- and to date, last --- Christmas album, and it sold very well, so I guess the charities the sales supported at least had a happy Christmas.

TRACKLISTING

Here Comes Santa Claus
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Winter Wonderland
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
I'll Be Home for Christmas
Little Drummer Boy
The Christmas Blues
O' Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Must Be Santa
Silver Bells
The First Noel
Christmas Island
The Christmas Song
O Little Town of Bethlehem
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-23-2012, 03:19 PM   #1662 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,971
Default

Europe give the finger to everyone who wrote them off as a one-hit wonder band!
Bag of bones --- Europe --- 2012 (Gain)


What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Europe? Fiscal meltdown, Greek debt, Germany ruling with an iron (financial) fist ... yeah, I meant the band. Oh in that case, that would be DADA-DADA! DADADADADA! DADADADA! and the words "It's the fi-nal count-down!" Yup, that's the one: trumpeting, fanfare keyboards and Joey Tempest bouncing around on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans. I must admit, when I first saw that song being performed on "Top of the Pops", I wondered who the hell these guys were? Coming in and riding the wave of popularity for this sort of music created by the likes of Bon Jovi and Heart, I took them to be an American band, though of course they're not. The single was huge, as we all know, even though it's really, really weak and survives around that famous keyboard arpeggio. I mean, have you ever listened to the lyric? But this was Europe's big hit, it caught on like wildfire and spread across the globe. It was actually taken from their third album, and that sold really well off the back of that number one single, though the other singles released from it did poorly, and subsequent albums didn't make the cut. After blazing brightly for a few months, a year, Europe were gone from the scene, forgotten about, destined always to be associated with, and remembered by, that one song.

But they soldiered on, and while many would class them as a "one-hit wonder", they released another five albums after "The final countdown", and though the followup "Out of this world" was very successful in terms of sales, and did well in the album charts, they never managed to repeat the success of the title track of their third album. Along the way they changed record labels twice, and this is their ninth album overall. In listening to it I did so more out of curiosity thatn anything else, but I found myself if not quite blown away, then certainly impressed, in a big way.

It opens in rockin' style with talkbox guitar as "Riches to rags" gets us underway, and Joey Tempest is in fine voice, even after all this time --- I've heard nothing from him since 1986, and that's over twenty-five years now. It's pretty much the same band, more or less, that recorded that famous album, with a few changes over the years, but mostly the same five guys who lit the charts up with that incessantly catchy single and seemed the new Bon Jovi for a time. There's a great sense of boogie about this opener, and John Norum is great on the guitar, but it's the second track that really lights the spark. "Not supposed to sing the blues" seems to be at its heart a tale of a white man who wants to play the blues, but is advised/warned not to by authority figures/parents, blues being almost exclusively the pervue of the black community back in the sixties, which is when this song is set. Well, it says the protagonist is "Born in '63/ In the shadow of Kennedy" so I guess it could be seventies/eighties when he's learning the guitar. It might of course be totally made up, or it could be based on someone, I don't know, but it's a strong and powerful song, with some great ominous guitar from Norum, and a real bluesy vocal from Tempest.

There's some small orchestration in the song too, which adds to the somewhat paranoid nature of it as the singer is warned "If you walk across those railroad tracks/ Son, you're on your own" but is unable to resist the pull of the blues. Blues of course began in the poorer black cities and towns of the deep south, while the "rich white folks" were listening to big band and swing. So a white guy wanting to play the blues could indeed have been frowned upon. It's hard to think of a white man who played the blues back then; all the greats were black. "Firebox" is another great rocker, with jangly guitar and thundering bass, with a brilliant hook which could make it a decent choice for a single, and you can hear really for the first time on the album the contribution from Mic Michaeli on keys. It's not mentioned in the credits, but unless that's some great synth work I believe that must be a sitar, giving the song a real Indian feel, a sort of a hippy vibe in places.

The great and incomparable Joe Bonamassa lends his talents on slide guitar to the other standout on the album, the title track, which starts off like a ballad, and indeed you'd be fooled into thinking that, yes, this is about where a ballad might be. Soft acoustic guitar from John Norum and something that again sounds like a mandolin with Bonamassa's slide in the background frames Joey's passionate vocal, and the song looks like it's going to be a great little acoustic ballad. Bass and percussion cut in, guitar filling out the song and then ... everything kicks up in tempo and the track takes on some real Springsteen influences, hard electric guitar and powerful organ now forming the backdrop for the song, which could be a 9/11 song, with the lines "My city lies in ruins" and "I'm siftin' through the rubble", but I doubt it, as it would be very late, over a decade later, and hardly current. Still, it's a great song and definitely my favourite on the album. Bonamassa's slide really adds to the feel of the track, and it rocks along with just enough commercial radio-friendly sound that could make it a single, and possibly a successful one.

Lovely strings and orchestration then for a short --- less than thirty seconds --- piano instrumental which reminds me of one of those old western movies, and runs into the slowburner "My woman my friend", with a great repeating piano line leading it, courtesy of Michaeli, joined by booming guitar and heavy organ in a real blues scorcher, a great vocal from Tempest with a lot of power and passion. The song reminds me a little of late-seventies Deep Purple, with some great multi-tracked backing vocals adding to it. Great burning guitar solo from John Norum. One thing I do notice on this album --- and this is on the understanding I have only heard the one other Europe album --- is that it's nowhere as heavily keyboard-centric as "The final countdown" was. With much less of the AOR and more of the straight-ahead rock, this is an album that shows a band evolving and moving in the right direction. I don't know what Joey Tempest looks like these days, but I'd say those golden locks are probably much shorter, probably not golden any more, and the music has matured along with the man, and his band.

"My demon head" is another hard rocker, with a great descending chord structure in the melody, and the great line "Some drunken honesty", more talkbox guitar from Norum and thrashing, pounding drumwork from Ian Haugland. A great almost gospel style organ punctuates procedures, and then guitar and drums take over again with Joey singing his (demon) head off, and the organ returns for the somewhat frenetic ending, taking us into another great track, the acoustic "Drink and a smile", which succeeds in not taking itself too seriously on the back of an uptempo acoustic guitar and a blues vocal from Joey, the return of the sitar (if it is a sitar) and some laidback electric guitar from Norum. Other than the instrumental it's the shortest track on the album, under two and a half minutes, and very simple and sparse, with handclap beats and a little reverb on the vocal.

The fun continues in "Doghouse", a big rip-roaring rocker with the eternal complaint of men: nag nag nag. A really heavy guitar melody carries this song, almost ZZ in style, and some deep organ from Michaeli blends in early Zep with Purple, Joey doing a very passable Coverdale, while "Mercy you mercy me" is a faster, almost frenetic track with a big city feel and racing guitars, a dark heavy sound to Norum's axe, almost Iommi-like at times. There's a great thumping, pounding, punching anthemic chorus too, though I'd think this is a little too heavy, comparatively, to make it as a single. The album ends then on the "cigarette lighter in the air" moment, with the Poison-ish "Bring it all home", a stirring semi-ballad with some pretty deep emotion in it, though it rather worryingly sounds like a sign-off, with lines like "Thrills will fade/ We've had some good laughs on the way" seeming very like a thank-you and farewell to their fans. And let's face it, they must have them: you don't last almost thirty years in the business and sell over five million records without having a big fanbase. Joey's voice sounds totally ragged and raspy here, more Joe Cocker than Jon Bon Jovi really, and it's sure to be a crowd-pleaser if used to close a concert, which I'm sure it will. If it is Europe's swansong I'd be disappointed, on the strength of this album, as I think they have many more years left in them yet. Still, if it is to be their last hurrah, it's a damn good one, and brings the curtain down in style on one fine album.

TRACKLISTING

1. Riches to rags
2. Not supposed to sing the blues
3. Firebox
4. Bag of bones
5. Requiem
6. My woman my friend
7. My demon head
8. Drink and a smile
9. Doghouse
10. Mercy you mercy me
11. Bring it all home

For some time now, I've been intending to look deeper into Europe's catalogue, and I had hoped to have managed this in 2012, but that now seems increasingly unlikely, so next year I'll be launching a new section (what? Another one? Yeah, another one: you got a problem with that??) in which I'll be looking at perhaps forgotten bands, or bands or artistes who are seen only in the light of one album or single, but who have produced a lot more than most of us realise. The story of Europe, so far, will head this up; I want to see if "The final countfdown" was a blip (albeit a very successful and profitable blip), if their music has always been that brand of slick AOR or if they developed from other styles, indeed to other styles. Does that one album, I'm asking, define, characterise and represent Europe? Find out next year...

In the meantime, if you thought all there was to this band was that one song, then give a listen to "Bag of bones": you just might be pleasantly surprised.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-24-2012, 05:34 AM   #1663 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,971
Default


I know I said I'd post the last album in this series on Christmas Day, but really, who's going to be working then? I certainly hope not to be, and I don't expect any mods to be either, so here then are the last two, just before the big day.
Christmas at home --- Donny Osmond --- 1997 (Sony)


Another suave, insincerely-friendly face stares out at you from yet another album cover for a Christmas collection. This time it's the darling of the seventies, America's most blue-eyed boy at the time, the star of the Osmonds, Donny. He's cooked up a concoction of Christmas favourites sure to brighten any Christmas. Er, yeah. With expected songs like "God rest ye merry gentlemen", "I'll be home for Christmas" and "The most wonderful time of the year", you also get more eclectic, perhaps lesser-known fare such as "After December slips away", "Who took the merry out of Christmas" and "A soldier's king", so at least you have to give him points for a certain amount of originality. But how original can you be on a Christmas album?

Donny looks well, standing in unconvincing snow in his expensive black suit, under an unconvincing sky and with one very unconvincing Christmas tree in the background, grinning at the camera, no doubt thinking of how much money this record is going to make off gullible fans, but you have to say at least he looks the part. However, I do wonder why so many of the reviews of albums like this on the likes of Amazon and CD Universe are so universally gushing. Guess they only select the good ones: don't want someone saying "This album is crap! Don't buy it!" now do they?

It's from one of these reviews that I find the one sentence that sums up this album, and also acts as a warning, though it's not meant to. These are the actual words of a fan: "It is one of the very best Christmas cd, right next to Clay Aiken, The Osmonds, and the Carpenters' Christmas cds." Nothing more need be said.

TRACKLISTING

1. Angels We Have Heard On High
2. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
3. I've Been Looking For Christmas
4. After December Slips Away
5. It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
6. Baby, What You Goin' To Be
7. Deck The Halls/ Hark The Harold Angels Sing
8. I'll Be Home For Christmas
9. Who Took The Merry Out OF Christmas
10. O Holy Night/ Divine
11. A Soldier's King
12. The Kid In Me
13. My Grown-Up Christmas List
14. Mary, Did You Know?
15. Come To The Manger
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-24-2012, 08:15 AM   #1664 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,971
Default


Christmas on the open road --- Various Artists --- 2008 (Oh who really cares?)


Man, these terrible Christmas albums have really taken it out of me! I couldn't even be bothered to find out what label this is on, but there's one good thing about this crummy album: it's the last in our series. I have no idea at all what it's about. Sounds like the sort of thing truckers might record, songs about being away from their families maybe, but I can't be sure. I know none of the artists featured on it, although I've heard of Taylor Swift. The songs? They seem to be a mixture of standards like "Silent night", "The first Noel" and Elvis's "Blue Christmas" and I suppose original songs with titles like "Christmases when you were mine", "Papers angels" and "21st century Christmas", and someone called Russell de Carle sings "I got the blues for Christmas". I know how ya feel, man!

There's also some godawful song I've never heard before --- and hope never to hear again! --- called "Hockey sweater", not to mention "Christmas in jail", which, judging from the performances of some of the artistes here, is what they should be looking forward to! What is the point of this album? Then again, that's really a question you could ask about the last twenty-four albums in this series I guess.

TRACKLISTING

1. Christmas must be something more (Taylor Swift)
2. Merry Christmas to all (Doc Walker)
3. Silent night (Johnny Reid)
4. I wanna be your Santa Claus (Willie Mack/Jason McCoy)
5. Paper angels (Jimmie Wayne)
6. 21st century Christmas (Jaydee Bixby)
7. The first Noel (The Higgins)
8. I've got the blues for Christmas (Russell de Carle)
9. Auld lang syne (Jack Ingram)
10. Blue Christmas (Tara Oram)
11. Christmas in jail (Prairie Oyster)
12. Christmases when you were mine (Taylor Swift)
13. Hockey sweater (Dala)

I conceived this notion late in November, and initially wanted to make this a countdown to the very worst Christmas album ever, but quickly realised I had not the time to listen to each album, possibly more than once, so as to judge and place them. Not that these are albums you'd really want to listen to any more than once in any case, if at all! But it would have been cool to have crowned one album the Christmas Turkey. Still, what can you do? Perhaps next year I'll try listing the best Christmas albums. Probably a short list though.

In any case, I hope you've enjoyed this satirical and gently humourous look at some of the albums released down the years over the festive season. I think you'll agree some were worse than others, some not so bad, and some so awful they should be forever locked away from human sight. Had we rated them, I feel sure the likes of the albums from The Kelly Family, James Last, Star Wars and that Irish Christmas one would have had a good shot at getting in there at the top, not to mention The Waltons and A Country Christmas! Ah, so many terrible albums, so little time!

Finally, if by some chance you happen to like any of my selections, as I said at the start, don't take offence. It's all in fun, and no slight is meant. Christmas is a time for japes and frolics, after all, and if you can't laugh at this time then when can you? Hope this list raised a few smiles, and all that's left to say is have yourselves a very happy Christmas, wherever you are, whatever you're doing, and whatever you choose to listen to.

See you after Christmas!
Trollheart.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-27-2012, 11:04 AM   #1665 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,971
Default

Hope you all had a great Christmas, but for me it's time to head back to work, as it were, and fill up the last few days of the year with whatever updates I can. "Bitesize" won't be reopening till January, and there may indeed be something a little --- well, completely different on the horizon. More about that in due course. For now though, it's full steam ahead here to the end of the year.

There are a few more 2012 albums to be reviewed, (well there are loads, but of the ones I wanted to review specially I still have a few left) but with only now four days left I won't be getting them all done, so watch later for the list of those I intend to post.

Until then, what better way to relax after big Christmas dinners and many Christmas drinks than with a selection of songs you only have to change about once every twenty minutes or so? Yes, it's our final round for this year of

As we all know, if there's a go-to genre for epic songs, it's progressive rock. And so we're heading back in that direction to check out five super-long prog rock compositions, some of which you may know, some of which you may not, but all of which kick in around the twenty minute mark.

Starting off with one from an album we recently reviewed in the Prog Rock Album Club, this is Spock's Beard, with a track that, though broken into sections, runs in total for 23 minutes 10 seconds. From their debut, “The light”, this is “The water”.


Just short of that by eleven seconds, this is the title track to Big Big Train's album, “The underfall yard”. Watch for a feature on this band soon.


The great epic “Milliontown”, from Frost*, coming in with a running time of 26 minutes 37 seconds!


Classic AND epic, this is Yes, from the seminal “Close to the edge” album, with the title track from same, running a very respectable 18 minutes 43 seconds.


And with a tenuous link to Yes, this is Mystery, a band from Canada whose vocalist, Benoit David, went on to replace Jon Anderson. This is from their album “One among the living”, and it's called “Through different eyes”, coming in at 22 minutes and 35 seconds.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-27-2012, 12:15 PM   #1666 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,971
Default

(Of the four albums I meant to review before Christmas, this was the one that fell by the wayside. So, better late than never, eh?)

"Non-genre-based compositions"? Er, not quite.
Ampersand --- Villebrad --- 2012 (Transubstans)


Okay, first things first: for those who don't know, "ampersand" is that little symbol that signifies "and". You know the one, looks like "&". Why is the album called that? I have no idea. The band's name though, Villebrad, apparently comes from a Swedish word for quarry or prey. They're Swedish, in case you hadn't guessed. Formed in 2004 by brothers Erik and Pahl Sundstrom, Villebrad was the coming together of some pretty apposite influences, blending hard rock, electronic, ambient, progressive and even folk elements into one band, the two boys having cut their musical teeth for over a decade in metal, prog rock and electronica bands. With a desire to write "non genre based compositions", Villebrad were setting themselves a rather lofty and perhaps unattainable goal, and on this, their third album, and first in English, I must say that I feel they still fall far short of that ambition. The album is good, even great in places, but comes across to me more as a hybrid of progressive rock with electronic and some dance elements. Not groundbreaking, and certainly not genre-free, but certainly interesting.

"Sketchy feelings" opens the album on high-pitched vocoder, reminding me of the work of Pink Floyd on "A momentary lapse of reason", then kicks into a pretty standard rock/pop song with electronic overtones, nice guitar work from Pahl and Erik filling in with some weird warrbly whistling keys. Pahl is lead vocalist and sounds to me rather a lot like a-ha's Morten Harkett, which is no bad thing. Nice percussion also from Erik, which doesn't come across as electronic or sterile, and a lovely blast of sax from Magnus Kjellstrand helps lift the song and give it extra soul. More almost in the Ultravox mode is "Liberation day", with Erik's keyboards mostly driving the melody, supported by a fine little bass line from Petter Broman. There's a lot more as I say of the electronic pop about this one, with little of the slight rock influence evident in the opener, and it's also slower, though not really what you'd call a ballad. Good backing vocals, reinforcing for me the a-ha comparison I made earlier.

Also quite keyboard driven is "Clouded sleeping buildings", with an more uptempo beat, short, tinny keys like one of those old cheap Casio machines stabbing through the melody, a good vocal from Pahl but not too much in the way of guitar. Some atmospheric synth creates a nice backdrop against which a constant percussive beat taps, with some nice choral vocals on the keys breaking in as the song slow in the last minute, before it takes up again in a driving finale. Truth to tell though, as I've listened to this album there hasn't been that much that's stood out or impressed me. "Dead weight" changes this slightly, one of the better tracks, with a racing, computer-game melody on the keys and some solid drumming, a laconic, almost mournful vocal from Pahl while the general atmosphere of the song takes on that of an eighties new-wave composition. Fine backing vocals from Erik add to this, and his powerful and varied keyswork really creates and supports this track. It's a little repetitive, to be fair, with not too much in the way of originality or variety in the lyric, but considering the title perhaps that's intentional? Anyway, it's definitely one of the tracks that made me sit up and take notice.

Things begin to take a turn for the better after that, with "Split in two" a funky, dancy catchy song with a great squealing keyboard line and some almost timpani-like drumwork from Erik, while "Inertia" is built around a busy bassline and some dancy keyboards with Erik's echoing synth lines permeating the melody like veins in a rock. The vocal from Pahl is indistinct and hard to make out, but the music is pushed to the front so in some ways that doesn't really seem to matter all that much. Pahl does however add a nice guitar line in the last minute, but maddeningly it's fractured and broken --- obviously quite deliberately, though why I don't know: sounds terrible --- and we move into "No more open hands", the track I'd consider the ballad on the album. Pahl's vocal here is clear and soft, with a ringing, sharp guitar line carrying the music, some nice piano from Erik filtering in, but it's mostly his brother's song.

The title track then is probably the most rock-oriented, though it opens on a deceptively gentle lush keyboard line. Pahl's electric guitar quickly breaks through though and takes the song in a new direction, with Erik's keys and synths turning a little more solid and aggressive, the whole thing instrumental as Petter Broman shows he's not just there to make up the numbers with a thumping, hypnotic bassline on which the main song hangs, little in the way of percussion with a big finish. This, and the closer, show what perhaps Villebrad can accomplish if they really put their minds to it. "Harm" is in fact the longest track on the album, over seven minutes, and driving on the twin rails of Pahl's acoustic guitar and Erik's bipping, squeaking keyboards, a lot of OMD or Echo and the Bunnymen in it, touches perhaps of China Crisis there too. It's a great vocal performance from Pahl, with the two brothers meshing, along with the rest of the band, into one almost indistinguishable whole, almost as if for the first time they're working as a unit and not separate parts of the machine. Some very proggy keyboard touches from Erik, but it's the guitar hook that runs from about the third minute to the end that really defines the song, and that you're left humming as you put the disc away. Some more fine sax leaks in too, and Broman's bass is a constant heartbeat through the melody.

The remaining four minutes, in fact, are completely instrumental, and it's a testament to the expertise and accomplished musicianship of the band that it doesn't get boring or repetitive. In fact, it almost seems to fade out too soon. Saved the best for last? Yes, they certainly have: it's just a pity that the rest of the album --- a few tracks notwithstanding --- fails to live up to the high promise of this most interesting, but ultimately underachieving album.

TRACKLISTING

1. Sketchy feelings
2. Liberation day
3. Clouded sleeping buildings
4. Dead weight
5. Split in two
6. Another worthless phrase
7. Inertia
8. No more open hands
9. Ampersand
10. Harm
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-28-2012, 12:36 PM   #1667 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,971
Default

Perhaps one of the most honest and sincere, and personal, albums of this year.
Aftermath of the lowdown --- Richie Sambora --- 2012 (Dangerbird)


I don't hate many people, but I do intensely dislike my sister-in-law, and that dislike does verge on a sort of hatred every so often. She's one of these domineering personalities who, not only have to control everything and everyone, but also have always to be right. She's the type who will, and has, upend a gameboard in a petulant fit if she's not winning, who will turn on the waterworks to get any attention that's going which she feels is going to others, and is just a thoroughly nasty person. She also, incidentally, is convinced that beef and pork come from the same animal, and you can't tell her she's wrong.

Why do I tell you this, and why should you care? Well, you shouldn't, but I say it all because despite how much I dislike her, I reluctantly have to thank her for one thing, and that is for getting me into the music of Richie Sambora. I didn't even know he did any solo work at the time, when she gave me a cassette of "Stranger in this town", his debut, and I must say I really liked it, though his followup, "Undiscovered soul", which I reviewed here some time back, I found to be a much better album. This of course leads us to his latest, released earlier this year, and which comes close to being his best yet.

A much more mature album than even its two predecessors, the overall impression I get from "Aftermath of the lowdown" is of a man standing back and taking stock, looking at his life; where he has gone wrong, where he has made the right decisions and why, and the ultimate realisation that in the end it's only yourself that can save you, if you want to be saved. Track titles like "You can only get so high", "Seven years gone" and "Weathering the storm" tell their own story, but I get ahead of myself. This is, as I mentioned, the third solo album from the Bon Jovi guitarist and songwriter, and his first in fourteen years. That's twice the gap between his debut and his second, and that gap was so large at the time that I believed Richie would only have the one solo album. Glad I was wrong.

Most of this album is written by him with the help of Luke Ebbin, who masterminded Bon Jovi's smash comeback with "It's my life" and the following album "Crush". This is similar to what Richie did with "Undiscovered soul", when he penned many of the songs on that album with the mysterious Richie Supa, previous to that his bandmate/leader Jon Bon Jovi helped out on one track on his debut, as well as keyboardist David Bryan, who also had some input into the debut. But this appears to be more of a collaborative effort, which is maybe why it sounds more polished and together than his previous outings. It retains however Sambora's personal stamp on it, and his frank detailing of a life often lived on the edges bleeds through many of the tracks, though there's plenty of room for good old rockin' fun too.

And rock we do, as "Burn that candle down" gets us started, that hard-hittin' guitar we know so well smashing forward, with a hard funk/rock track, stomping drumwork from Aaron Sterling sounding like he's hittin' the skins inside a tunnel. There's the expected fret workout from Richie, and his voice is a little mechanised here, which to be fair doesn't work that well, but it's a good hard opener and paves the way for much better tracks. Great organ from Matt Rollings and squealing guitars from Richie, taking us already into one of the standouts. When I first heard "Every road leads home to you" I had to double-check, because it sounds so poppy and commercial I for a moment thought that maybe I had put on the wrong album! Definitely the most radio-friendly song he's ever written, it rides along on the bubbling keys of Roger Manning, with some fine piano from Rollings alongside and a hook that surely must make this a hit? No? Well, we live in hope. It has been released as the first single from the album, so you never know. Great song though, and here you can hear Richie sing as he's supposed to, devoid of any technical trickery.

It runs at a nice pace too, not a blisterer by any means but nowhere close to a ballad, and with a great sense of optimism. Much of this album is, as I mentioned earlier, reflective as Richie seems to take stock, and looking back at the decisions in his life and where he goes from here. Many are dark realisations that things can't go on like this anymore, some are perhaps thanks for what he still has, and this certainly seems to fit into the latter category. Heavier but still quite commercial in its way is the blues-influenced "Takin' a chance on the wind", which starts on what sounds like a dobro (but I don't think is: maybe just a capo on the guitar?) then goes into a nice acoustic passage before the electric blasts in and the drums come thundering behind. Sense of boogie too in this song, and more optimism in evidence here. Great bassline from Curt Schneider and more powerful organ from Matt Rollings, with definitely a harder edge than the previous song.

Another standout (and there are many) comes in the form of the rocketing "Nowadays", a searing indictment of our modern world, with hard stop/start guitar and Richie's vocals slightly mechanised again. Some great lines in this: "Walking Wall Street dead", "Tryin' to tell your friends/ From your enemies" and not much in the way of keyboards. It's pretty much a guitar-centric songs with some great work from Richie; could nearly be another single, though it might be too heavy for radio. Things slow down then for "Weathering the storm", the first ballad, where Richie shows off how powerful his voice can be without having to shout or scream, that even when he takes it down several notches he's still got the presence to grab your attention. Almost a gospel feel to this song, one of the redemption songs I'd say. Back to rockin' then with the fun "Sugar daddy", which is a little throwaway but lightens the somewhat sombre mood of the album. With almost the rhythm and melody of the Doors' "Roadhouse blues" or even Bowie's "Jean genie" it's a real boogie rocker and should go down well on stage. Great backing vocals and shot through with another fine thread of blue, then "I'll always walk beside you" is another lovely ballad which has been released as a charity single, all proceeds going to the Red Cross.

It's low-key, opening on soft acoustic guitar and with a gentle vocal from Richie, swirling keys floating in the background, then Richie's voice gets progressively stronger and more insistent, as does his guitar, until acoustic is joined by electric and choral vocals drift into the mix, and then halfway through the song the percussion comes up more powerfully and the song takes off on electric guitar and organ, picking up tempo and intensity as it goes. Nice subdued little solo from Richie, and we move into another acoustic ballad, the brilliant "Seven years gone". Having spent time in rehab for alcohol abuse from 2008, I'd wonder if this is a reference to that time lost? Okay, he didn't spend seven years in there --- it was on and off --- but even so, perhaps he feels that's too many years wasted out of his life. The lyric would seem to support this: "Can't find a road to healin'/ When you're blinded by your pride" and "You wake up/ Move on/ Seven years gone". Richie's not above robbing a line from Don Henley's "The end of the innocence" here either, but the song gets harder and more uptempo, if not upbeat, as it goes along, so it's not really what you'd call a ballad. Great song though, and another standout.

I could probably do without the mad guitar solo at the end, as I personally feel it changes the whole feel of the song, which was sad, reflective, emotive and now just goes out on a burst of riffs and ends abruptly, but it is what it is, and it doesn't quite ruin the song, though I'd prefer it had ended differently. Another hard rocker is up next, in the shape of "Learnin' how to fly with a broken wing", recalling the best from "Undiscovered soul", and also betraying his Bon Jovi heritage. Probably some of his best solos on here too, a real braincrusher. That leads us into what, if I had to pick just one standout, I would select as the best track on this album. "You can only get so high" is about as reflective as you can get, with a truly gorgeous, melancholic piano run from Rollings and Richie's guitar crying like a violin, and some of his best lines ever: "First light came without a warning/ Sunrise scared the daylights out of me" and "I'll take one more drink/ And two packs of lies." Beautiful burst of synthwork from Luke Ebbin adds real heart to the song, and if there's one song that depicts Richie realising that he can't go on living like this, well this is it. A true tale of remorse and realisation, and determination to change. Just stunning.

The closer is, interestingly, another ballad, another acoustic beginning with what really does sound like violin joining him, and whereas I think I would have preferred the previous track to have closed the album, "World" is a good finale too. Some really nice light piano from Rollings, and a fine clear vocal from Richie. There's a certain sense of sixties hippy/psychedelia about the song, sort of Beatles meets the Byrds. It's also quite short for a closing track, less than two and a half minutes. There are, however, two extra tracks which although I don't usually feature them, I will, as this is the first time I've heard this album. Well, not really: I've listened to it on and off for about a week now, probably ten or more times. What I mean is that I usually don't include bonus tracks because they weren't on the original version of the album I listened to or owned, but in this case I haven't heard this album without the extras so they're getting mentioned.

As it goes, one is a fast happy rocker, the ultimate "had enough of this" song, with "Backseat driver" featuring some great organ and a really upbeat vibe, while the other, "Forgiveness Street", is perhaps one of Richie's most emotional and accomplished songs to date, really tugs at the heartstrings. Both these were included on the Japanese release --- which is obviously the one I bought --- but the latter was for some reason removed from later pressings, which staggers me, because it's easily as good as some of the very best work on the album proper. But there it is: it's no longer available, unless it gets released on the back of one of the singles. Carried on the doleful organ of Matt Rollings, it features somewhat understated guitar from Richie, and reminds me in ways of "Harlem rain" from the previous album. As a coda to his soulsearching on this album it's the perfect ender, which is why I'm even more surprised it wasn't on the main album, much less cut from the extras.

TRACKLISTING

1. Burn that candle down
2. Every road leads home to you
3. Takin' a chance on the wind
4. Nowadays
5. Weathering the storm
6. Sugar daddy
7. I'll always walk beside you
8. Seven years gone
9. Leaning how to fly with a broken wing
10. You can only get so high
11. World
12. Backseat driver (additional track on Japanese release)
13. Forgiveness Street (additional track originally on Japanese release but now deleted from same)

It's been fifteen years since we've had a solo album from Richie Sambora, but we shouldn't be that surprised. He has, after all, his day job helping Jon run Bon Jovi, and apart from that he's also been involved with other artistes, as well as taken part in and in some cases organising various charity events. If there's one word I had to pick to describe this album it would be honest. We're listening to the tales of a man who knows he went to excess in his life, and has mercifully managed to come back from it. He knows where he went wrong, acknowledges his past failings and sins, and is now looking for redemption and forgiveness in the church of rock and roll.

Who'd deny him that?
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-28-2012, 04:36 PM   #1668 (permalink)
I sleep in your hat
 
Stephen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Melbourne, Vic. Aus.
Posts: 1,846
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
Metallic spheres --- The Orb featuring David Gilmour --- 2010 (Columbia)


Now this is a strange one!... I think I'd probably just have to file under “interesting”, and leave it at that.
Should have realised I would find it here . My Floyd days are well behind me but I will still have to check this one out.
Stephen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-29-2012, 08:59 AM   #1669 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,971
Default

Okay then, time for the last

of this year.

Today we're looking at songs about roads. Being on the road, going back on the road, running/walking/staggering down the road, depending on whose song it is, and songs that just have roads or the names of roads in the title. This time out, it wasn't hard at all coming up with ten different songs, the hard part was cutting it down to ten! Here's what I ended up with.

A great song from the Doors, oft covered, this is “Roadhouse blues”. Yeah, man!
Spoiler for Roadhouse blues:


Opening track from “Born to run”, it's Springsteen's minor classic, “Thunder Road”.
Spoiler for Thunder Road:


Steve Earle is heading “Down the road”...

Spoiler for Down the road:


Dan Fogelberg is going along it...

Spoiler for Along the road:


... while the Talking Heads are on one that goes nowhere.
Spoiler for Road to nowhere:


Chris's one goes to Hell...
Spoiler for The road to Hell:


... while Marillion's one leads to happiness. Sort of.
Spoiler for Happiness is the road:


One of the many bands to cover “Tobacco Road”, this is Spooky Tooth
Spoiler for Tobacco Road:


Classic from the Beatles
Spoiler for The long and winding road:


and to finish up with, REO Speedwagon are back on it.
Spoiler for Back on the road:
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 10-29-2013 at 11:22 AM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-29-2012, 07:37 PM   #1670 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,971
Default Coming in 2013...

After a brief hiatus to allow me complete, insofar as I could, my reviews of 2012 albums, "Bitesize" will reopen for business in January, and I'm planning a whole new journal separate to this one, details to follow soon. There will be some major changes coming to "The Playlist of Life", now running into its third year of operation. There are lots of new sections planned for the new year, many of which I had intended to implement before now, but hey, there are only so many hours in the day! So, look out for these new features in the coming months...

ROSES AMONG THE THORNS --- Focussing on the distaff side, the ladies of rock and other music genres, the women who have made it in what is primarily a man's world.

WHERE IT ALL STARTED --- I write about the first album I bought or heard from a particular artiste who impressed me. It may not have been their first, but it was where I was introduced to them, and in most cases made enough of an impression on me that I bought the rest of their catalogue.

THE STRANGE WORLD OF THE SESSION MUSICIAN --- The life of the wandering minstrel, eh? Some people were better known as session men (Steve Lukather) before they joined their main band, others still survive by playing with just about anyone they can (Michael Landau) but it must indeed be a strange thing to be going from band to band, gigging with maybe a jazz troupe this month and a hardcore metal next, or whatever. This section will be my attempt to look into the often long and varied careers of these temps of the music world, and see just what makes them tick, why they don't settle into a band or what makes them so much in demand.

POWER BEHIND THE THRONE --- Some people are just made to produce and direct, create and compose, and have their work disseminated through others. Sometimes these people are content to work from the shadows, like maybe Steve Lillywhite, never attempting to come out from behind the curtain, and sometimes they make a bid for personal glory, like Jim Steinman. But one thing is certain: without these men and women, there are many acts that would not be where they are today.

THAT ACOUSTIC FEELING --- Exploring music you can play even when the power is out. Some of the most beautiful and soulful music has been made, and is made, without the benefit of a single piece of technology. A guy/girl, a guitar, a piano, a violin: one person and their instrument can, often, wring more emotion from an audience than a whole philharmonic or an eighteen-piece band with three guitarists and banks of keyboards. I'll be exploring some of that very music in this section, later in the year.

THE ALBATROSS --- That "one-hit wonder" tag, or more specifically, the single that was a hit and now defines the band, even though they may have created some truly excellent albums since, or even before. Think of Genesis' "Follow you follow me", A-ha's "Take on me" or Europe's "The final countdown". I'll be looking at these "career-defining" singles in depth, and asking the question, does this artiste deserve to have this hanging around their neck for all time?

MUSIQUE SANS FRONTIERES --- Already hinted at during the year, I'll be travelling (metaphorically) far and wide to investigate and sample the music of countries beyond the usual. So expect to hear music from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and some tiny little island somewhere in the South Pacific that has a population of about a hundred. Well, maybe not them. But a lot of what I hope will be unknown and obscure music. Widen your knowledge, you know? Broaden the horizons?

All this and, as already mentioned and intended, ICONS and GUITAR MAN, plus the return of THE TWO HUNDRED WORD ALBUM REVIEW. And that's not all. Lots to keep you hopefully checking out and coming back to the Playlist of Life in 2013. It's gonna be a blast!
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads



© 2003-2024 Advameg, Inc.