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Old 07-07-2013, 03:05 PM   #1841 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
Ok well Inhuman Rampage I've already done if I recall, Paul McCartney I don't like (not a Beatles fan) and I tend not to review albums I don't have an interest in. Queen: meh, I've heard bad things about Hot Space but I might give it a go. I've a massive backlog though so it wouldn't be any time soon.
Alright dude. Das fine. I may send it to you sometime.l
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Old 07-11-2013, 04:32 AM   #1842 (permalink)
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Man walks on the Moon, July 20 1969

In response to a recommendation by then-President John F. Kennedy in 1961, that the United States should "commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth", the Apollo Program was born, and NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, set about the task of making the president's wish come true. There was of course more to this than honouring the wish of a now-deceased President. America was at the time locked in an arms race with the USSR which had led to the almost world-shattering standoff in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and though the Cold War, the ongoing thinly-veiled hostilities between the two superpowers had cooled down slightly after seeing that they had almost between them initiated the destruction of the Earth, both were now looking to gain an advantage over the other and both looked to the stars, as the arms race was exchanged for the space race.

The Soviets won that, being the first nation on Earth to launch an artificial satellite into space (Sputnik, 1957), but this was unmanned, and both superpowers wished to be the first to put a man into space. Four years later, America lost that race too as the USSR sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit around the Earth. Frustrated, and wary of the Soviet Union's growing capability with spaceworthy rockets, President Kennedy announced that very year that the US would land a man on the Moon. In order to facilitate this, and other American space endeavours, NASA had been created in 1958 and it was of course to this organisaton that the American public looked for their salvation from the ever-increasing encroaching of the Russians (as they were at the time) into space. The US knew they had to put down a firm marker, make a foothold for themselves in space or all their earthbound military might could avail them nothing should the Cold War heat up.

It was however to be an inauspicious and indeed tragic start to the missions, when Apollo 1 developed problems leading to a control cabin fire before launch, killing all the crew. Apollo 5 however launched and orbited the Earth, while Apollo 7 orbited the Moon with Apollo 8 coming close to the moon's surface, but not landing, in the lunar landing vehicle. By now it was 1969 and preparations were underway for the launch of what was to be NASA's most important mission.

Apollo 11 was crewed by three men whose names have now gone down in history and who are forever associated both with bold adventure and exploration, and of course specifically with the Moon. Captained by Commander Neil Armstrong, with Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (who would be and is forever after known by his nickname) Apollo 11 lifted off from Kennedy Space Centre on July 20 1969 and as far as local time was concerned arrived at the Moon the next day, basically six hours later, so that when Armstrong made his famous moonwalk he was in fact doing so on June 21, Earth time. The event was of course broadcast all over the world, and the Soviets must have been fuming, watching the footage. Their own space programme had stalled somewhat due to the death of its chief engineer and also the debate as to its necessity, and now the capitalists had (eventually) stolen a march on them. And it was the most important victory to win: it was all very well sending a piece of metal into space, or having a man orbit our home planet, but who would be remembered: Gargarin or Armstrong? Of course, both men are, but a schoolchild even today could tell you that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon, whereas they might be hard-pressed to name the Russian cosmonaut.

After the initial euphoria of the mission had died down, and NASA had gone to the Moon six more times --- viewed with a sense of excitement slowly fading to apathy and finally disinterest --- the Apollo programme was retired in 1972. After this with relations thawing between the superpowers there was a joint space effort by the US and the USSR, effectively bringing the Cold War to an end, millions of miles from the planet it could so easily have destroyed. Though the Moon landing has of course gone down as a legendary and pivotal event in world history, and proved beyond all doubt that it was America who had the upper hand in space travel, doubts began to creep into the public mind afterwards, as people questioned the massive financial outlay on the programme, and the idea that these millions of dollars could have been better spent trying to help those at home rather than send men off to what is essentially a dead rock in space. It's true that NASA and the US Government did little with their achievement, more a case of "because it's there" and "because if we don't the Commies will" than any actual desire to get to the satellite and, what's more, without any real plan as to what could be done once we got there. Plans are in hand for a return mission in the next few years, with very clear ideas about setting up a moonbase to lead to an eventual colony there. Whether this will happen or not is open to conjecture, but perhaps it's time Mankind took its second giant step, and learned how to walk into the future.
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Old 07-18-2013, 05:29 PM   #1843 (permalink)
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Has been --- William Shatner --- 2004 (Shout! Factory)


As I mentioned when I featured one of the tracks a while back, once upon a time someone here at Music Banter put forward this album as a recommendation, with the (perhaps vain) hope that someone would see beyond Shatner's laughable musical career and 1968's "The transformed man", and give it a chance. I don't know who that was, but I would like to thank them. While this album is certainly not the best I've ever heard --- not even the best this year or indeed of today --- it's far from the worst. It's not that it's so great, or so bad (the latter of which you would probably expect to be associated with "the Shat") but that it's so .... interesting. Interesting good or interesting bad, you ask? I really don't know. The tracks vary from very very good to meh, but they're always --- oh, what is that word again? Oh yeah --- interesting.

Anyone who knows Shatner will more or less know what to expect in terms of singing, ie none. Captain Kirk does not do the "s" word. He talks, narrates, eulogises poetically across some really fine music, and in this endeavour he is helped by Ben Folds, who co-wrote and arranged the album with him, and also by several other "guest stars" such as Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann and Henry Rollins. Yeah, that one. The genre of the songs vary, from lounge pop to out-and-out pop to (almost) punk and even country, so there is really something in there for everyone.

But it's in the opener that Shatner drops his major bombshell, with the only cover version on the album --- yeah, I know: you'd expect him to have played safe and covered Sinatra, Cole, Martin, that sort of thing, wouldn't you? But no, all of these songs bar the opener are his own creations, and the cover: well! It's Pulp's classic "Common people" and by god he does a fine job on it. People have slagged him off and no doubt will continue to do so, but I feel he puts his heart and soul into this song, sneering the lyric with all the worldly wisdom and hard cynicism of a man who has been (sorry!) there and done it all, and knows himself what life is all about. When Joe Jackson comes in to take the chorus it's great, but almost an anti-climax as he has been carrying the song so well himself up to that point. The music behind him is hard rock and punchy and the choir is an inspired idea. It's a great performance on a great song, and I think Jarvis Cocker would be proud.

It all calms down then on gentle piano as we move into "It hasn't happened yet", and Shatner shows how he can carry a tune completely on his own, narrating the way the singer's life is going. It's quite a talent really, the way his voice phases with the music, but without singing. They call this spoken word I think, but even then it's more than that. Takes a little getting used to, but it really works very well. This song though bitter in one way and perhaps naive in another, is nevertheless relaxing, but the next one is like a stand-up routine as Shatner tells everyone that they're going to die. "You'll have time" is I think an idea that went wrong, or was carried out the wrong way. For one thing it's incredibly repetitive. It opens on church organ and introduces the Shat as a sort of drunken preacher, and that's good as far as it goes but it gets real old real fast. It's five minutes long and that's about three minutes too long. It's like an idea that sounded good on paper or in his head but once transferred to the studio it falls very flat indeed, and comes across like an unwelcome visitor who doesn't know when it's time to go. Ironic really, as the song is about people dying, but this song doesn't want to see that it's time for it to shuffle off this mortal coil.

But then things turn around with a heartbreakingly beautiful and touching rendition of a father wanting to reconnect with his estranged child, with lyrics partially written by Nick Hornby, so perhaps it's from one of his books? I don't know. But "That's me trying" becomes one of the highlights of the album and it just brings a tear. Again it's piano that backs Shatner, softly, almost reminds me of something by the Eagles or Dan Fogelberg. Just beautiful, and will strike a chord with many fathers who no longer see their children. The chorus, sung by Aimee Mann and Ben Folds, is gorgeous and recalls the best of David Gates to me, with elements of Alan Parsons and a definite feel of country too. The next one is weird. It's almost completely unaccompanied, the tale of the discovery of a dead body underwater. "What have you done" is a scary, stark, bleak tale of powerlessness and impotence, written by Shatner solo. It then goes into "Together", backed by organ guitar and maybe mandolin? Some interesting loop samples used on this too. A sort of uptempo country-ish, folky tune, the longest on the album at just over five and a half minutes, and another of my favourites.

"Familiar love" has a forties high-pitched piano and a lounge pop feel, very easy-listening. It's okay, with a very Carpentersesque backing vocal chorus, and has its own quirky humour regarding the everpresent spectre of growing older, but "Ideal woman" takes this idea and kind of turns it on its head. It's tongue-in-cheek, irreverent, a little too clever and smart, with a kind of tango rhythm. Meh, it's okay but it kind of annoys me. The title track is a western-styled country effort with Mexican overtones, reminds me of Stan Ridgeway's "Camouflage" and indeed that trucker's favourite, "Convoy" as Shatner takes on his critics, those who call him, well, a has-been but have done nothing in their own lives. There is a jokey, half-wish half-warning when he says "Has been could be again!" One of the best moments though of the album is when Shatner goes punk! Well, not really, but it is Henry Rollins from Black Flag helping him out, with the fastest percussion and an almost "Hawaii Five-o" intro. Shatner rails on about everything in the world that he doesn't understand or like. "I can't get behind that" is a great track that is totally atypical of Shatner, and a real triumph for a man seen as washed up. It's quite hilarious when he growls "Everybody's lifetime is longer than mine!" What's even funnier is that he argues "I can't get behind singers / Who can't carry a tune/ But get paid for talking!/ How easy is that?" in a wonderful piece of self-deprecating humour.

Speaking of humour, he finally lays to rest his alter-ego in "Real", the only song other than the cover on which he has no input. It's written by Brad Paisley, who also sings the chorus. It's a sobering message to those who think that Shatner=Kirk as he croons "Sorry to disappoint you/ But I'm real" and Shatner admits "I'd love to help the world/ End all its problems/ But I'm an entertainer/ And that's all!" A great and simple song that seeks to separate fiction from reality, the star from the character, the man from the legend. It's a great closer, sung in a very country style and with real feeling both by Paisley and Shatner.

TRACKLISTING

1. Common people
2. It hasn't happened yet
3. You'll have time
4. That's me trying
5. What have you done
6. Together
7. Familiar love
8. Ideal woman
9. Has been
10. I can't get behind that
11. Real

When I started this album I had no idea what to expect. Silly me: when Joe Jackson picked up the chorus in "Common people" I thought "Wow! Shatner can really sing!" He can't of course, and the point to remember is that he realises this, but still manages to put across his feelings, his ideas and his sincerity through his odd style of spoken words against music. It really is something to hear, and if you've been put off by "The transformed man", I can't tell you this is better as I have never heard that album. But if it's anything like this I'd certainly be willing to give it a go.

It's nice to see Shatner poking fun at himself; the very title of the album speaks of a man who no longer believes he has to prove anything, or has to take himself so seriously. There was a time when he enraged Star Trek fans with the famous "Get a life!" speech. Seems that he's taken his own advice, put Star Trek behind him, and concentrated on the things he enjoys. He's never going to be a rock star, or a musician, and he knows it, but hell, you know, he's not a bad songwriter and this album is not at all bad for a guy who can't sing.

As I said, interesting.
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Old 07-20-2013, 05:17 PM   #1844 (permalink)
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Coming soon...
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Old 07-21-2013, 07:45 PM   #1845 (permalink)
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Cool stuff mi hombre, can't wait.
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:16 PM   #1846 (permalink)
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Inspired by Urban and Powerstars, in different ways:
Musical conundrums and questions that have been asked, down the years: sorted!

Judy Garland, "Somewhere over the rainbow": If happy little birdies fly across the rainbow, why, oh why, can't I? Um, because humans don't have wings?
Spoiler for Somewhere over the rainbow:

Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Who'll stop the rain?" And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain? Answer: nobody. Rain is a natural phenomenon and can't be stopped by anyone. You can shelter from it, but you can't stop it.
Spoiler for Who'll stop the rain:

Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Freebird": If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me? Course I would! Er, what's your name again...?
Spoiler for Freebird:

Isley Brothers, "Harvest for the world": When will there be a harvest for the world? Never. Corporate greed and capitalism will keep the poor poor, the hungry hungry and the dispossessed without anything. Harvest for the rich, the powerful, the influential, certainly. Harvest for the world? Not in my lifetime I think. Or yours.
Spoiler for Harvest for the world:

Carpenters, "(They long to be) Close to you": Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? I think the big bag of birdseed I carry might have something to do with it!
Spoiler for Close to you:

Peter Sarstedt, "Where do you go to my lovely?": Where do you go to my lovely, when you're alone in your bed? Um, nowhere, unless her bed is motorised and on wheels...
Spoiler for Where do you go to my lovely:
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Old 07-23-2013, 11:16 AM   #1847 (permalink)
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Oh, I actually helped inspire that? Looks like The Song Overthinker was good for something. Really though, I enjoyed that segment and thanks for the mention.
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Old 07-25-2013, 05:09 PM   #1848 (permalink)
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In the last waking moments --- Edison's Children --- 2012 (Random Disturbance)


When is a Marillion album not a Marillion album? When it's one from Edison's Children! Now, that is an extremely inaccurate and unkind, and untrue comment, but it serves to make my point if in a rather ham-fisted way, which is that this album is the creation of one of Marillion's founders, bass player Pete Trewavas, and roadie/musician/film composer/producer Eric Blackwood, though most if not all of Marillion do play on the album. It's primarily though a collaboration between Trewavas and Blackwood, and is much darker and bleaker than anything Marillion have ever put out, except perhaps "Brave" and the track "Gaza" off the current album.

The story behind how Edison's Children formed is a long and interesting one. And here it is. On the 2006 Marillion tour, at which Eric was a roadie, Pete proposed that they should at some point work together. Eric agreed, but nothing came of it, both being extremely busy. The next year, after Marillion released what I consider to be their only ever below-par album, "Somewhere else", the subject was brought up again, and both seemed enthusiastic about the prospect, but again nothing came of the intentions. Finally, when Pete missed his flight out of New York in 2009 after a tour there with Marillion, Eric and his wife put him up and this time they decided to do something about the collaboration they had been talking about, on and off, for over three years at that point.

And so, Edison's Children was born.

As I said, Marillion help out, contributing to a track here, a track there, but this is in no way a Marillion album by any other name. It's the solo project (okay, okay: collaborative project!) of Eric Blackwood and Pete Trewavas, and they each do a phenomenal amount of work here, both writing the music and also playing it. In addition to his usual bass duties Pete sings some of the leads, plays keyboards and also guitar, while Eric sings most of the songs, plays guitar, bass, keyboards and programmes some of the drum patterns.

"Dusk" gets us going, with bongo-style hollow drums and little effects, this being the single drum pattern Blackwood programmes in, then his smooth guitar slips in as the song begins to take some sort of form, both the men taking the lead vocal in a harmony for a moment before Eric takes the lead, and he's certainly used to singing, from his time with Crimson Steel among others. The drums hit in and we hear, sort of in the background, what I'm going to refer through this review to as "the Waking Moments theme": three keyboard notes that repeat through most of the rest of the album, popping up all over the place and certainly fastening the concept style of the album together. As I mentioned, Blackwood is the main vocalist, and it will be five more tracks into the album before we hear Trewavas take the lead again.

It's a nice slow opener, moody and somewhat desolate, as is most of this album, with some very Marillion-style guitar from Blackwood, and some great keyswork from the Marillion bassist. There appears to be some sort of undefined basic concept running through the album; I think it has to do with alien abduction, though I couldn't swear and it's really only an educated guess. If that's correct, then, the protagonist is abducted by aliens but doesn't know why, or why he's been chosen. He's just an ordinary guy, no-one special, and he can help no-one, least of all himself. The story would seem to revolve around his attempts to understand this event and come to terms with what it means.

The opening track, then, slips almost unnoticed into the next one, "Fracture: fallout of the first kind", with that "theme" repeating on the keys in the background as Blackwood's guitar winds up and ramps the tension up. It's a harder, more powerful song, grinding a bit, Trewavas's bass rumbling like thunder, the percussion much heavier and insistent. The first of what will also become a recurring event through this album, recorded snippets of conversations, announcements etc, can also be heard in this song.

A very short interlude on the classical guitar with a very strained vocal from Blackwood leads into one of the standouts, "A million miles away (I wish I had a time machine)" which is one of the most commercial of the songs on the album, and if there were to be a single --- indeed, a hit single --- from it, this would be my expectation for one such. With a lovely jangly happy guitar line counterpointed by Pete's thick, pulsing bassline, and rippling keyboards it has a lot of I think Supertramp in its construction, and it's very catchy indeed.

More taped conversation as we head into "Fallout of the second kind", with a marching drumbeat and bass pattern, then some bubbly keyboards before Blackwood's vocal comes in and it's a heavy, almost claustrophobic song, a real sense of being trapped, the drum pattern turning almost militaristic near the end, then Pete takes the vocal for "Outerspaced", and I have to say his voice is pretty shattering, a little too high-pitched for my tastes (or maybe it's just for this song?) as Eric goes crazy on the guitar, almost Led Zeppelin-like, before a seriously buzzy bass leads in the much slower "Spiralling".

The theme returns as Blackwood takes back the mike, and Steve Rothery guests on the guitar parts, bringing his own special touch to the song while Pete sets up a lush backscape with the keyboards, then Trewavas's bass takes the lead for "The "other" other dimension", with spacy keyboards courtesy of Mark Kelly, and Pete back on lead vocals for the last time. Again, I have to say I'm glad it is the last time, as despite his many other undeniable and documented talents, Trewavas is no singer. The song is pretty weird, splitting off at times back into "Spiralling" and bringing in the theme at odd points, throwing in some spoken vocal parts too. Strange. I can't say I like it to be honest. Too confused, not at all well-defined.

Things re-establish themselves with "Across the plains", a short keyboard-led instrumental quite reminsicent of early Genesis and then we're into the title track, which ticks along nicely somewhat like a softly beating heart, with an appopriately soft vocal from Eric Blackwood and some towering keys from Pete, then everything kicks back off for "Lifeline" with a heavy, thumping beat and some wild guitar before "Fallout (of the third kind)" comes in on quiet acoustic guitar and gentle vocal. But it's a brief respite, as the hard guitar and thunderous drums from the previous track punch back in and Eric's voice gets more urgent and powerful, and takes us into what is essentially the closing track, although there is one more after it.

"The awakening" is also the longest track on the album by a country mile. A true progressive rock epic, it comes in at a massive fifteen minutes and liberally sprinkles the "Waking Moments theme" throughout its length, with great acoustic guitar from Pete in the opening section, a passionate vocal from Eric, and backing vocals by the great Steve Hogarth himself. Completing the Marillion connection, drums on this track are handled by none other than Ian Mosley. There's an instrumental section, mostly on acoustic guitar and the thing slows down in about the fifth minute, with some soft keyboards taking the melody, quite Marillionesque, with vocals not really coming back in until nearly the eleventh minute. Powerful vocal harmonies lead the piece out before they fade away and another instrumental takes the song to its conclusion, with the theme ringing out right as the last three notes.

Then there's a weird little acoustic guitar piece called "Fallout (of the fourth kind)" to end, but it's very unsatisfying really, as it almost cuts off right at the end. It's very jarring and I would not think a great way to end an album, but I guess it's a small quibble that slightly mars an otherwise worthy first effort from a band we hopefully will be hearing more from, depending on the busy schedules of Marillion (and Transatlantic, of course), to say nothing of the demand in which Eric Blackwood appears to be. Well, I guess we can wait, if it's going to be anything as good as this.

TRACKLISTING

1. Dusk
2. Fracture (Fallout of the first kind)
3. In the first waking moments
4. A million miles away (I wish I had a time machine)
5. Fallout (of the second kind)
6. Outerspaced
7. Spiralling
8. The "other" other dimension
9. Across the plains
10. In the last waking moments...
11. Lifeline
12. Fallout (of the third kind)
13. Awakening
14. Fallout (of the fourth kind)
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Old 07-29-2013, 03:39 PM   #1849 (permalink)
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Yeah, yeah, we know: you all hate ballads, slow songs, love songs. But I bet you've slowdanced to more than one, used one or two to relax or calm you down, or just haven't turned off the radio or TV when a particularly good one came on. Go on: admit it. Me, I love slow songs, as those who read this journal and who know me will already be aware of. It's often the slow songs on an album that make it for me, which is not to say I don't like fast stuff, but I do have a real soft spot and preference for a well-written and played ballad.

In this new section I'll be taking a look at one single ballad, slow song, lovey-dovey, weepy, slushy ... call them what you will. It won't have to be a hit, though with the nature of slow songs many will be known and perhaps even famous. I'll be talking about the song and dissecting it a little, going on about the artiste, the usual thing. Hey, it's what I do!

The first one I'm choosing is this one, from a lady who has had more slow songs make the charts than, well, a lot of others. Although her music can be fiery, danceable and rhythmic, she's mostly known for her many many ballads, pretty much all of which have been hits and all of which I like. I could have chosen from a dozen or more, but something reminded me of this one and so it's the one I'm taking to open this section.

"Cuts both ways"
Gloria Estefan
1990
from the album of the same name


Rather surprised to find that, trawling down her singles discography on Wiki, this really marked the end of what I would term the "recognisable" singles for Gloria Estefan. Oh, she certainly had and continues to have hits, and indeed the single after this hit number one, but after that we don't really see any great chart performances for the lady. Nothing has made any appreciable impact on the charts after that and it's a long way from her heyday in the late eighties when singles like "Can't stay away from you", "Words get in the way" and "Anything for you" were hitting the top ten, some even number one. Sad really. But she can certainly boast an impressive array of hit singles, and as I say the lion's share (or should that be lioness?) of those were ballads.

As you can see from the above, this was the title track from her 1990 album, and was in fact the last single released from that album. It's also sort of the last track on it, the other three following it all being in her native Spanish. It's possible that her fall in popularity could be due to a year off the circuit when she was critically injured in a traffic accident, but she came back and continues to perform today.

The song opens on soft laidback acoustic guitar, shortly joined by a sort of fluty keyboard before Gloria's voice comes in and the guitar accompanies her solo, percussion slipping in on the second part of the first verse. Oddly enough it then takes an upswing for the bridge --- there's kind of no real chorus --- with latin rhythms, conga and a much more uptempo, almost salsa melody as Estefan's voice gets a bit harder and more determined as she sings "I'm hurting you and it's hard I know/ To stay and fight for what we got" before on the final words of what I'm going to call the chorus, though it isn't, the rhythm and tempo slip right back down to how they were at the beginning, with a twisty little bass taking us back in while the acoustic guitar and keyboard pick up the original melody. The song goes on like this pretty much up to the end, repeating the same pattern. It then falls back to the opening and ends more or less as it began, with the acoustic taking it solo for a moment before the rest of the band brings the thing to a close.

You could call it a simple ballad and I guess it is: there's nothing terribly new or original going on here, but it is interesting in that it doesn't maintain the slow, measured pace you would expect from a ballad. The change for the "chorus" is jarring the first time you hear it, but then you get used to it and it couldn't really be any other way. It mirrors the two feelings expressed in the song, when in the verses she sings of the hopes and dreams of the couple but then in the chorus lays it on the line, telling her man how the world is and how they must accept it: "Don't ask for more/ You'd be a fool/ Haven't we already broken every rule?"

The soft latin rhythms in the song are very typical of Estefan too, with the guitar when it gets going sounding quite Spanish and the percussion definitely latin-influenced, not surprising as she comes from Cuba. There's a sense of longing in the song, but a sense of pragmatism too, an understanding of how the world is and how things work, which in some ways makes this a more honest and realistic love song than many I could mention. Here it is, with the lyric in case you're interested.

It cuts both ways:
Our love is like a knife, it cuts both ways.
It's driven deep into my heart each time that I realise
How it cuts both ways.
Can't be together cannot live apart.
We're heading straight into a broken heart
But I can't stop

Cos I feel too much to let you go:
I'm hurting you and it's hard I know
To stay and fight for what we got,
Knowing it'll never be good enough.
Cos you and I are dangerous:
We want too much and life ain't that way.
Don't ask for more, you'd be a fool:
Haven't we already broken every rule?

It cuts both ways:
We're in too deep for sorry alibis.
Can't have regrets or even question why;
We can't say goodbye
Because it cuts both ways.
No more illusions of the love we made.
No sacrifice would ever be too great
If you would just stay.

Cos I feel too much to let you go:
I'm hurting you and it's hard I know
To stay and fight for what we got
Knowing it'll never be good enough.
Cos you and I are dangerous:
We want too much and life ain't that way.
Don't ask for more, don't be a fool:
Haven't we already broken every rule?

It cuts both ways:
Our love is like a knife, it cuts both ways.
It's driven deep into my heart each time
I see we're living a lie

And it cuts both ways...
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Old 08-05-2013, 09:12 AM   #1850 (permalink)
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No, I'm not talking about a musical hook, like a nice melody or a good chorus, or a repeating theme such as a keyboard or guitar riff. The "Hook" I'm examining here is that one little thing, that clever or annoying (often both) USP that makes what is essentially a terrible, or even just ordinary song into something catchy and memorable, and ultimately popular. The gimmick, in other words. Yeah, I could have called this section "The Gimmick", but do you know how hard it is to track down Google images of Gimmicks? Seems like they're some sort of protected species, I don't know...

Anyway, the point is that so many of the so-called "novelty singles" survive and indeed thrive on a single idea, one small thing that sets them apart and draws the attention and interest of people, so that even if the song is bad, or just unremarkable, a clever little gimmick hooks in the listener, and possible despite themselves they remember the song and maybe even sing it in their head, even if they don't know quite why. A good example is Bucks Fizz's debut, but I won't be going into that here as they're due to feature in "Eurovision Hell" very soon. But they're a perfect example. "Making your mind up" is a truly godawful song and Bucks Fizz aren't any great shakes as a singing group, but the thing people remember about that song is when the two guys whipped the skirts off the girls. That was what won them the competition, and it's what made the single famous.


Shaddup you face --- Joe Dolce --- 1980

The one I'm starting with is the "Italian" song we all thought was so funny back in 1980. Released by an American living in Australia, it's sung in a way that really should have had the Italian-American Defamation League up in arms, but then, it's all in fun, so shaddup ya face! Seriously, the song is awful. It's a pastiche of Italian pop songs, sung with an overstressed Italian accent by a man who is not Italian, although he has Italian grandparents, who were apparently the inspiration for the song. But the song itself is totally unremarkable, until the final line in the chorus, which is of course also the title, and this is what people remember it for. In fairness, they might also recall "Wassa matta you?" but most people will remember the "Ah, shaddup you face!"

I suppose it's a triumph of false marketing really. When I first heard the song I genuinely believed the guy was Italian --- he goes out of his way to pretend he is, or give the impression he is --- and the next day everyone in work was singing "Wassa matta you?" to the point it got really annoying, and I'm sure not just for me. Even now it's sort of passed into the cultural consciousness, with people often saying in a joking way "Ah shaddup ya face!" and everyone knows what they're referring to.

But it's a perfect example of a song which, had it not included the final line and been called something else, might very well have been giggled at but not sold in the volumes it did. I mean, it was number one in fifteen countries, for Chrissakes! It was not that good! But you see, the Hook made it seem better than it was, and that's why people bought it. It was funny --- barely --- different --- certainly --- and it had that line! It no doubt became a favourite, for a time, at parties and get-togethers, when someone would do their worst Italian impression and stumble around drunkenly trying to remember the lyric, while everyone shouted at the chorus "Ah shaddup you face!"

If only Joe Dolce had taken his own advice. Thank god for the Sopranos, is all I can say!
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