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Old 08-19-2011, 04:19 PM   #161 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Friday, August 19 2011

And lo! The spell is broken! After four days of random tracks that corresponded to albums and/or artistes I had already touched on, today we have something totally different. I've never even featured a song from Dan Fogelberg to date, even though he is one of my favourite artistes. Look out for a “Taking centre stage” special on him soon. This is from his 1987 album “Exiles”, which is a great album, but rather unfortunately this is not what I would consider the best track from it. In fact, this is an extra track on the CD, and I originally bought the album on vinyl, so I'm not that familiar with it.

Beyond the edge --- Dan Fogelberg --- from “Exiles” on Full Moon



Dan was always at his best penning a great love ballad or slow song. You all know, no doubt, the classics like “Longer”, “Same old lang syne” and “Leader of the band”. He also does some very good “rockier” numbers, and to be fair, this is not bad as one of those. It's not a Fogelberg classic though, and is a little formulaic for my tastes. Definitely not the introduction to his music I would have chosen, but c'est la traque randome, as they (probably) say in France.

Dan Fogelberg died in 2007, having released a string of albums, many of which went platinum or multi-platinum, and left behind him a musical legacy spanning over thirty-five years. You could do a lot worse than check out his music, especially “Phoenix”, “Souvenirs”, “Windows and walls” and of course the double “The innocent age”.
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Old 08-20-2011, 11:52 AM   #162 (permalink)
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Brand new morning --- Magnum --- 2004 (SPV)


This, ladies and gentlemen (and those undecided!), is one hell of a great album. I'm not intimately familiar with all Magnum's work, but on the basis of this I've acquired their catalogue and it's on my list to be listened to (tentatively pencilled in for around 2014, assuming the world doesn't end next year!). I don't know whether this album will turn out to be their best, but if there is better waiting then I can't wait to hear it.

In many ways, although 2002's “Breath of life” is considered their comeback album, released a full eight years after their last studio album, “Rock art”, it's this one that brings the band sharply back into focus following the heart attack suffered by guitarist Tony Clarkin, and indeed, the title of the album reflects that near-death experience. And you can hear it in the music. The whole thing is a glorious celebration, gratitude at being alive and a fierce determination to make sure the time left is spent productively. Even on “down” songs like the nuclear scare “We all run”, you can still hear the hope and the joy permeate not only the lyrics but the playing too. This is a band who, having been together since the late seventies, know that one of their members could have died, didn't, and are proclaiming loudly their joy and relief at that.

The title track gets proceedings underway, heavy keyboards and punchy guitars, with the drumbeat stomping along like a newly-transplanted heart, singer Bob Catley growling out his prayer of thanks for the survival of his friend, while Clarkin himself makes sure his guitar does the talking for him. The track is a real cruncher ™, driven by the rhythm section of Al Barrow on bass and Harry James behind the drumkit. The lyric is unmistakably thankful: ”It's a brand new morning/ So spread your wings/ And you'll take flight.” I'm sure it must have been terrifying to have gone through such an ordeal, but Clarkin certainly does not seem any the worse for it, cranking out the solos like they were going out of fashion, his fingers assured and determined on the frets.

Great piano on “It's time to come together”, where the tempo rises and Clarkin's guitar bows to the expertise of Mark Stanway on the keys (heh! Imagine if his name had been Steinway, eh? No?), although he does get in a solo. Mind you, Stanway kind of outdoes him with his own solo on the piano!

Then it's time for “We all run”, one of the standout tracks on the album. As mentioned, it's a warning against the dangers of nuclear war, and how we're being very blasé about them. The song has a great melody, very AOR. Great vocal harmonies too. But then you have “The blue and the grey”, another slow cruncher, and another candidate for best track on the album. Catley is on fine form vocally on this track, with great guitar from Clarkin. A great melody that you just can't get out of your head. Sorted.

And still the excellent tracks continue to pour into the ears! There are no ballads on this album, as such, but “I'd breathe for you” probably comes closest, being not only the slowest but also the one track which could be legitimately described as a love song. It's another cruncher, another great melody and powerful vocals from Catley. Strong piano from Stanway, the band on fire basically. “The last goodbye” starts off on lovely piano, leading you into the trap of thinking it's a ballad, but then the drums kick in and the guitar gets going, and you're left in no doubt that this is a rocker!

“Immigrant son” adds in a small touch of funk to the proceedings, though I could swear Catley is singing “American son”. Must just be me. The almost ten-minute closer, “The scarecrow”, is a great slice of blues/boogie/southern rock, and a great way to finish the album.

An album with not one bad track. A rare thing indeed. Hard even to choose the best track, as there are about five that could all take the title. An embarrassment of riches, to be sure. If this is Magnum's brand new morning, I look forward to seeing what the day brings!

TRACKLISTING

1. Brand new morning
2. It's time to come together
3. We all run
4. The blue and the grey
5. I'd breathe for you
6. The last goodbye
7. Immigrant son
8. The hard road
9. The scarecrow
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Old 08-20-2011, 11:54 AM   #163 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Saturday, August 20 2011

Way hey! Back to the beginning of the seventies we go, as the random-o-meter casts us back to the heyday of the prog rock movement, when bands like Uriah Heep were at the top of their game, and could release albums with only seven tracks on them, like this one. Only their third of eventually twenty-three (to date) albums, this featured the talents of world-famous Manfred Mann on keyboards, though not on this track.


Look at yourself --- Uriah Heep --- from “Look at yourself” on Bronze



The title track (obviously), it's seriously keyboard-heavy, with great guitars from Mick Box, powerful vocals from David Byron, a thundering rhythm, and near the end a totally mad all-out battle for supremacy between keyboardist Ken Hensley and drummer Ian Clarke. Has to be heard to be believed!
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Old 08-20-2011, 05:26 PM   #164 (permalink)
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Trawling across the internet, I've stumbled across some pretty good music which is, to my knowledge, largely unknown. In an effort to address this, I'm beginning this new section wherein I'll be highlighting artistes who I think are worth checking out. Some of them may only have one song available, some may have a few, and some a full album or more.

I'm currently perusing a website called “Soundclick” (SoundClick - Free MP3 music download and much, much more.) and going through it alphabetically, sorting the gems from the rubbish. Naturally, anyone who wants to is free to head over there and poke around themselves, and of course it's only my own personal tastes that are being used to select the music listed below, so there could be stuff there someone else would like that I would not consider worthy. But for those who have less time and/or patience, I'm hoping to save you the hassle of wading through a sea of dross to get to the good stuff.

I'll be featuring three bands or artistes per section, telling you a little about them and pointing you to their page wherein you can listen to their music. Who knows? You may discover buried treasure... To help you out further I'll be rating the songs (assuming there are more than one) as Gold, Silver or Copper. I assume that's self-explanatory, but just in case there's any confusion, Gold will be the songs you really have to listen to, the best the artiste has to offer (of the ones available), while Silver will denote tracks that are okay, but not as good as the Gold. I'd still recommend you listen to them. Copper will be the lowest quality, the ones that really didn't impress me at all. You can probably get by without listening to them.

Of course, this will all be based on my own personal impressions and tastes, so naturally you're free to listen to any track(s) you want, and form your own opinions. I simply offer these as a guide, in case you haven't the time, inclination or patience to listen to every track.

To listen to any artiste, click on the link which begins "SoundClick artist".


Abstract
First I recommend these guys, Abstract, a great little AOR band from Florida. They say they have supported the likes of Molly Hatchet, Georgia Satellites and Creed, and on the basis of the quality of their music here I would tend to believe them. Have a listen and see what you think. They've made what appears to be a whole album available: and that's full tracks, not just samples or snippets. Actually, it's probably more than an album, as I've just counted twenty-eight tracks.

Unfortunately, their page is not very up-to-date, as the last information they quote as “news” is that they are working on a videogame soundtrack, dated 2007!
SoundClick artist: Abstract - Melodic and meaningful - Abstract music is written for riff and lyric lovers! Our new CD Checkmate
Music genre AOR/soft rock
Nationality American (Florida)
Gold: Everafter, Thought I'd let you know, Finiteland, Prize fighter, Hey sister, You won't see me, Sad moments, Tree song, Maybe next time

Silver: Down, Valentine, Pick up the phone, Semper Fi, X, The Blame, Everything, Apologize, Brooklyn Bridge, Not today, Wastin'

Copper: 420, Plastic Jesus, One chance, Carousel, Faith, Pissed, The river's edge, Hey you


Accelerator
This is one guy from Canada, who goes by the name of Accelerator. What I've heard from him I really like. His music has a southern/country rock feel.
SoundClick artist: Accelerator - This is a one man musical effort with the exception of some finely crafted lyrics and phenomenal voc
Music genre Rock/country
Nationality Canadian
Gold: Kites against the wind, Temperature in Tucson, Broken glass, The fall of Eden

Silver: Rude people, Where do we go from here, Livin' on dreams, Only U

Copper: K.I.S.S, Broken hearted


Aedgemont

Seems to be just one guy on guitar and drum machine in the New York/Brooklyn area. Pretty damn good on his own though!
SoundClick artist: aedgemont - Guitarist of 15 years influenced by classic rock, prog rock/metal.
Music genre Rock
Nationality American (New York)
Gold: An excerpt of nothing, Driving rock tune

Silver: Fields of Govan, New heavy tracks

More next time, when I'll be sailing across the Sea of Mediocrity and navigating the Straits of Poor Quality to get to the Island of the Noteworthy, and bring you back some treasure for your ears.

"Pieces of eight, pieces of eight!"
Shut it, Polly! Stupid parrot....
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Old 08-21-2011, 10:05 AM   #165 (permalink)
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Cry like a rainstorm, howl like the wind --- Linda Ronstadt --- 1989 (Elektra)


Now, I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of Linda Ronstadt. I don't hate her music, but she's one of those artists who I know exists, but whose music I have never felt compelled to listen to at any length. That changed when she released this album in 1989, and as a matter of history it turned out to be one of her biggest-selling and successful; in a career spanning over half a decade and almost twenty-five albums, that's quite an accolade. The presence of Neville Brothers' Aaron Neville does help, but to be totally fair to Linda, this is her album and has her stamp all over it.

In fact, Neville only helps out on four of the twelve tracks on the album. Tellingly though, it's two of those four which gave her successive number one hit singles, though in fainess there are much better tracks on the album, as we will discover. The album also features a huge, panoramic sound, helped by the inclusion of the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, and the Tower of Power horns.

Interestingly, and a little disappointingly for someone of her calibre as a songwriter, there is no input on any of the tracks from her in terms of writing. There are people like Jimmy Webb, Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Karla Bonof involved, and some cover versions included, but nothing written by Ronstadt herself. Minus one in hit points then for that (D&D in-joke: if you're not a nerd, you won't get it!)

The album opens with a really nice ballad, detailing the idea of someone holding on to the memories of a lover through the sound of their voice on the radio. “Still within the sound of my voice” would certainly sound autobiographical, if Linda had written it, but as noted above, this is not the case. In some ways, it's quite similar to “Superstar”, made famous by the Carpenters and Elkie Brooks, though told this time from the perspective of the one who has left, and not the one left behind. It's a gentle but powerful ballad, with great instrumentation and Linda as ever in full voice, but it's really when the title track gets going that we get a feel for the overpowering scope of the sound of the album.

Although shortened to “Cry like a rainstorm”, the song is introduced on a massive chorus which I assume must be the already-mentioned Oaklands Interfaith Gospel Choir, and becomes a big bluesy ballad which perfectly characterises the album's sound. Robbie Buchanan on the organ adds a lot to the song here, as does Andrew Gold on twelve-string, with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra filling out the soundcape to massive proportions, and certainly giving the impression of travelling along wide, rolling prairies and across yawning deserts.

Aaron Neville makes his first appearance on “All my life”, which is okay, a good song and one of the singles to reach number one, but it's nothing special, nor in my opinion is the other hit single, “Don't know much”, again with Neville, and this time a cover version recorded by, among others, the Righteous Brothers' Bill Medley and Bette Midler. I personally don't feel Neville adds much to any of the songs here, and his somewhat nasally, whiny voice grates on my nerves, but hey, that's just me. You may love him.

It's tracks that largely went unnoticed like the formidable “Adios”, with its piano melody and its simple lyric that work best for me, Ronstadt's voice suited perfectly to lines like ”Ran away from home/ When I was seventeen/ To be with you/ On the California coast.” Backing vocals from the legendary Brian Wilson give this song the Beach Boys sound, but it's the heartbreaking tension in this song that really makes it work. This is something that I feel is very much missing from the aforementioned singles, but present in abundance in “I keep it hid” --- both, incidentally, written by Jimmy Webb. It's simple, human emotion that carries this track, with Linda at her most vulnerable when she sings ”Why can't I just walk up to/ That old love of mine and say/ Baby how you been doing?/ I still love you like I did.” The orchestration and the choir coming in on this track gives it a real epic feel, almost in contrast to “Adios”, but both work perfectly.

It's not only the ballads, now, that are good on this album, though I may be giving that impression. The pure fun of “Trouble again”, when Ronstadt holds a note about the longest I've heard in a while, proving that even at the age of forty-three (at the time this was recorded: she's sixty-five now, and probably still sounding great!) she still has it, has the band really rocking out, enjoying themselves. And one of my favourite tracks on the album, the old Sam and Dave song “When something is wrong with my baby”, gets my vote, even if it does have Neville on it! The bluesy beat helps to up the tempo on the album, and the choir really get into their groove on “So right, so wrong”, with Linda demonstrating why she has one of the strongest and most respected voices in music. But really, we do keep coming back to the ballads, and it's these that form the glue that holds this opus together.

“Shattered” is again Linda at her most forlorn, singing mostly against a piano backing for most of the track and baring her soul, before the orchestra comes in to lift the track to a new level before it ends, and the closer, “Goodbye my friend”, probably the most tender farewell song I have heard since James Blunt's “Goodbye my lover”, is just perfection, with lines like ”Goodbye my friend/ I know I'll never see you again/ But the times together through all the years/ Will take away these tears/ I'm okay now.” Very touching, simple song to finish the album on a low-key but almost flawless note.

It's probably unlikely I'll go exploring Linda Ronstadt's back catalogue, and I doubt I'll search out her albums since this, but though this was something of a pleasant surprise to me, it's one of those albums that gets a regular airing from time to time. After twenty years it's apparently been deleted, though I'm sure you can find it somewhere, comrade (!) if you know where to look. Definitely worth the time spent searching.

TRACKLISTING

1. Still within the sound of my voice
2. Cry like a rainstorm
3. All my life
4. I need you
5. Don't know much
6. Adios
7. Trouble again
8. I keep it hid
9. So right, so wrong
10. Shattered
11. When something is wrong with my baby
12. Goodbye my friend
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Old 08-21-2011, 10:06 AM   #166 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Sunday, August 21 2011

Last RTotD for this week, and it's something completely different to bring the week to a close. Swedish doom/death metal band Lake of Tears have evolved over the seventeen years they've been together, expanding into the arena of prog metal, and this track is taken from their third album, “A crimson cosmos”. It's more the latter, ie doom/black/death metal, but thanks be to the Great White Handkerchief there are no death vocals. Lead singer Daniel Brennare has a rough, gruff voice, well suited to his type of music, but you can understand him!

When my sun comes down --- Lake of Tears --- from “A crimson cosmos” on Black Mark


Certainly a heavy song, it's a slow rock cruncher with a great melody. Brennare puts me in mind of a much slower and restrained Lemmy, but then, I don't tend to listen to that much death metal, so perhaps he's more typical of the genre. Good voice though, and a good track, with real power and melody.

And so another week comes to a close. The tracks are beginning to get more random and more interesting as we go along, so who knows what the next week holds in store for us?
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Old 08-22-2011, 04:13 PM   #167 (permalink)
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Electric youth --- Debbie Gibson --- 1989 (Atlantic)


One look at Debbie Gibson instantly consigned her to the Madonna-wannabes and copycats, lumping her in with the likes of Tiffany, Billie, Sabrina and a whole slew of young ladies with only one name, all playing the same vacuous pop songs intended for the charts. But conventional wisdom was wrong, and Debbie Gibson was much more a serious artist than any of the abovenamed (excepting, perhaps, Madonna herself). She was not particularly looking for a quick hit (though she got one) and then content to live off the proceeds and fame of that. She was a dedicated musician who not only wrote and produced her own compositions (a feat unrivalled and unthought of at the time), but played piano and keyboards in addition to singing. A real rarity at the time.

Her first album, 1987's “Out of the blue”, had sold very well and yielded no less than five singles, some of which had become hits. The follow-up was eagerly anticipated, and indeed, it's a rare thing when a second album is better than the first, but this was certainly the case with “Electric youth.” Having already hit the charts with a broadside, Debbie was ready for more serious songs, and the tracks on this album bear that out, for the most part.

Truth be told, it doesn't start off in a very promising manner, with the throwaway pop ditty “Who loves ya baby?”, but any fears that this is going to be a continuation of “Out of the blue” are blown out of the water when “Lost in your eyes”, her biggest ever single, hits. It's a powerful yet restrained ballad, with an excellent piano line and Debbie on top form as she sings of her lover. I always think the opening lines make her sound like she's telling her man to go away, her American accent making “I” sound like “Ah”, so you get ”Ah get lost”! Jokes aside though, this is a tremendously tender ballad, and in many ways it's hard to believe that the previous bubblegum track has come from the same artist.

It's quite amazing to think that this girl (nineteen at the time!) could write --- and produce --- songs of this calibre. Her voice is sultry and yearning, and her piano playing flawless. Digital piano could have reduced this song to the level of sugary sweet, but it's used only sparingly, the result being really one of the classic love songs of the late nineteen-eighties.

It's followed by another bopper, but there is some substance to it this time. “Love in disguise” is no “Only in my dreams” or even “Out of the blue”, but it's not a bad little track. Debbie sounds a little like Susannah Hoffs from the Bangles on this one, I feel. Good use of jangly guitar helps this track along, then we're into “Helplessly in love”, a far superior song. There's just something more mature about this, and I feel it would have been a great single, but they passed it over. Pity. It has a real sense of “Only in my dreams” about it too. I really like the melody on this, and in fact the bass helps drive the song very well.

There are three ballads on the album, and they're all excellent. “Silence speaks (a thousand words)” shows how much, and how quickly, Debbie has grown up since her debut album. With its almost medieval keyboard intro and a flute solo --- no kidding! --- the song is well constructed and far from being a typical teen love ballad, it has real heart. It's almost not a ballad, in fact, as the tempo is a little faster than you would expect, but it's certainly an introspective and mature song.

The title track is out-and-out pop, with stabbing, sampler keyboard and drum machines, and a message that really gets a little lost in the frankly sub-standard track, but it's soon forgotten when the final ballad, “No more rhyme” gets going. Much in the same lyrical vein as “Silence speaks”, this is a sad ballad, unlike “Lost in your eyes”, which celebrated love: this song considers what happens when the love is gone, or as she sings herself, ”What happens when there's no more rhyme?” It's a close thing for me as to whether “Lost in your eyes” is better than this one, and to be honest I've never made my mind up, as they're both excellent ballads. This carries more of the acoustic guitar and keyboard, with a lot of digital piano, but it works very well. Lovely melody, and sung with heartbreaking honesty by Debbie. ”You can find your place/ But never fit in/ Only when you've left. Do you know where you've been/ I can see the light/ But only when it's dawn/ You can go on waiting/ But only for so long.” Deep lyric indeed, and carried off with a maturity and class that belies her nineteen years. Lovely sax solo from Jeff Smith, along with cello by Bob Osman give the song a real melancholy tone.

“Over the wall” is pure soul funk, good brass from the Cadillac Horns, but it's “We could be together” that gets my vote for best track on the album. A fast, poppy song, it has all the elements needed to make it a great single, and indeed it was released, though it did more poorly than anticipated. Great synthy keyboards, boppy drumming, brass and some great backing vocals melded to a melody that just plays over and over in your head as Debbie sings ”I'll push his love far away from me/ And then I'll be completely free/ I'll give up my security/ For just the possibility/ That we could be together/ For a while.” It's a desperate song of hope for an affair we all know will never work out, but Debbie's enthusiasm on the song is so infectious you tend to ignore the obvious outcome.

Would have been a great closer to the album, but there's one more track to go, and “Shades of the past” is not half bad, to be fair. It's a sort of soul half-ballad with a kind of ominous tone to it. I personally find the melody a little off, and in places it puts me in mind of the likes of Judie Tzuke, though much inferior to her. It's a pity that they close this song to close the album, as this is inevitably the one your mind is left singing as you put the album away, when “We could be together” leaves so much a better impression.

All in all though, this is one album that may very well surprise you. If you approach “Electric youth” expecting weak, pointless pop songs with the emotion produced out of them, you'll be interested to hear that while I would in no way suggest this to be rock in any form, it's very acceptable pop and really listenable music, and for a nineteen-year old who was making only her second album, that's something you really have to applaud.

TRACKLISTING

1. Who loves ya baby?
2. Lost in your eyes
3. Love in disguise
4. Helplessly in love
5. Silence speaks (a thousand words)
6. Should've been the one
7. Electric youth
8. No more rhyme
9. Over the wall
10. We could be together
11. Shades of the past

Suggested further listening: “Out of the blue” has its moments, though it's a lot poppier and less mature than this album.
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Old 08-22-2011, 04:15 PM   #168 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Monday, August 22 2011

And so begins another week. Believe me, you don't want to know how this week started for me! At least we have a pretty good RTotD to start us off, a nice slice of prog metal from Germany. This is a band called Ivanhoe, and this is from their second album, “Symbols of time”.

Vibrations ---Ivanhoe --- from “Symbols of time” on Navarre Corporation



It's a good solid rocker, lots of heavy keyboard, great vocals and some cool guitar. Almost more AOR really. Must check out some more of these guys' work...
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:31 AM   #169 (permalink)
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Christopher Cross --- Christopher Cross --- 1979 (Warner)


Famous for songs like “Arthur's theme (the best that you can do)” and “Ride like the wind”, Christopher Cross's voice is unmistakable, his particular brand of soft rock unpalatable to many, but essential to others. This is his debut album, and whatever else you say about it, it's quite a feat to have your first album yield three hits singles, one of which went to number one, one to number two, and those two are well-established standards now. The cover of the album is extremely distinctive, with the stylised figure of the flamingo, which became inextricably linked with the artist.

For an album that birthed such classics, it starts off a little weakly, with the rather bland “Say you'll be mine”, which really fails to stamp its identity on the album at all. Things improve a little for “I really don't know anymore”, with backing vocals from the great Michael McDonald and great guitar from Cross, and its slightly Steely Dan sound. “Spinning”, with its jazzy guitar and sax, and digital piano conjures up the sound of the seventies in a hundred soundalike songs, with backing vocals from Valerie Carter, but it's still fairly low-key and more than a little pedestrian, and listening to this album for the first time you could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel at this point.

That would be a mistake though, as history has shown, seeing as the next track up is one of Cross's big hit singles, the upbeat “Never be the same”, with its breezy keyboards, chug-along drums and infectious melody. Quite how different this is to the tracks that precede it is amazing: it's almost like Cross finally hit on the magic formula, and indeed his career would never be the same after this hit the charts, kickstarting a musical journey that would see him earn Grammys, Golden Globes and even an Oscar for “Arthur's theme”. There's something about this song that just, well, clicks, and you can almost hear the SNAP! As everything falls into place. From stuttering start to confident realisation that this is it, this is his “Eureka!” moment.

“Poor Shirley” has more than an element of “Breakfast in America”-era Supertramp, but it's not really in the same league as “Never be the same”, allowing the quality to dip again momentarily before we're hit with the supreme broadside of “Ride like the wind” and “Sailing”. With backing vocals again from Michael McDonald, you surely know “Ride like the wind”, the fast, staccato beat and the urgent vocal, not to mention the “Da-da-da-da-dada DA-DA-DA-DA!” hook that was pouring out of every radio in America and Europe from 1979 onwards, and which is still played today, sounding as fresh now as it did then. Cross's vocal is tight, desperate, the synthesised wind behind him that opens the song before urgent keyboards lead the track along its path with an insistent beat that just can't be ignored.

Hitting number two when released as a single, it's easy to see why. This shows what Cross was capable of, how good he could be, and what a great ear for a snappy tune he had. A great guitar solo and powerful backing vocals help craft this song into a true, timeless classic. “The light is on” revisits “Never be the same” and also faintly presages later hit “All right”, and in so doing manages to maintain the quality of the tracks in the way the first three did not. It's evident Cross was still learning here, honing his talent, and inevitably there would be one or two songs which failed to impress, but the good here certainly outweighs the bad.

Save the best for last? Almost. Again, I'm sure we all know the classic ballad “Sailing”, with its lazy guitar and meandering keyboards, its lyrics conjuring up images of relaxing summer days spent travelling down some quiet river or across some lake, the sun beating down. The opening strings introduce the song on a gentle, almost caressing piano line, Cross's vocals luxuriant and laid-back, inviting you to close your eyes and slip away with him into his world of peace and serenity, where all cares disappear as the wind fills the sails, and the land recedes.

The closer is the longest track on the album, at six minutes, and “Minstrel Gigolo” is a nice mid-paced half-ballad, with the stop/start staccato beat that characterises “Ride like the wind”. I personally don't think that style suits this song, which needs to be more gentle: it keeps punching when it should be tipping perhaps. Nice guitar solo, proving Cross is no stranger to the fretboard, but I find the song itself a little overlong: it feels stretched, with the same basic idea running through the melody to the end with little variation. I think four minutes, four and a half at most, would have done this song, and as a result it sounds laboured. The guitar is nice though.

There can be no doubting the worth of this album --- it did after all win a Grammy for Album of the Year --- but I feel that it stands upon the merits of the three singles, and one or two other tracks. Were it not for the popularity and class of such songs as “Ride like the wind” and “Never be the same”, this album may have just gone down as another failed debut. I don't think it has enough, beyond the singles, to justify it as a great album in its own right.

However, whatever I think, this was the one that launched Christopher Cross on his way to stardom, and I'm sure he's not complaining about how it worked out for him!

TRACKLISTING

1. Say you'll be mine
2. I really don't know anymore
3. Spinning
4. Never be the same
5. Poor Shirley
6. Ride like the wind
7. The light is on
8. Sailing
9. Minstrel Gigolo
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:33 AM   #170 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Tuesday, August 23 2011
Okay, it's time to go all weird and classical again. And believe it or not, with all the great composers out there to choose from, and the many in my collection, it's once again Mendelssohn that the random-o-meter has chosen to pick out of the pile. This is from an album called “Songs without words”, which is pretty self-explanatory I guess.

Songs without words, Op 30 no. 5 ---Felix Mendelssohn --- from “Songs without words” on Decca

The “Songs without words” collection is in fact eight separate volumes, each containing six lyrical piano pieces, or songs. This is from volume 2 (Op 30), originally published 1833-1834 and is in fact the fifth movement, titled “Andante grazioso in D Major”. It's short, less than two minutes, but a nice little piece and apparently good for those learning to play the piano.
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