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Old 08-08-2013, 12:45 PM   #1851 (permalink)
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Rather appropriately perhaps, tying in to what has become one of the hottest threads on Music Banter this week, this time around we're looking at songs which are about, or mention, the notion of peace.

Starting off with one of two songs of the same name, this is Big Country, with "Peace in our time".
Spoiler for Peace in our time:


One of U2's better songs off the "All that you can't leave behind" album, this is "Peace on Earth".
Spoiler for Peace on Earth:


The Eagles have a "Peaceful, easy feeling"
Spoiler for Peaceful easy feeling:


while Chris de Burgh goes "Where peaceful waters flow".
Spoiler for Where peaceful waters flow:


Gary Moore tries to send a troubled lover to her rest in "Rest in peace"
Spoiler for Rest in peace:


and John Lennon just wanted us to "Give peace a chance".
Spoiler for Give peace a chance:


There's the other "Peace in our time", this time from Eddie Money
Spoiler for Peace in our time (The other one):


While Fleetwood Mac are singing about a "Peacekeeper"
Spoiler for Peacekeeper:


and Ocean Colour Scene deplore the fact there there is no "Profit in peace".
Spoiler for Profit in peace:


Surprisingly enough (or maybe not) it's not that easy to find ten songs about peace that are reasonably well-known, and I was damned if I would include McCartney's "Pipes of peace", so instead we're wrapping up with perhaps one of the best anti-war songs in several generations, at least in my mind. This is "The green fields of France." Peace to you all.
Spoiler for The green fields of France:
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Old 08-09-2013, 05:11 PM   #1852 (permalink)
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The last time I featured one of these it was based around my brother's obsessive interest in the Pet Shop Boys. I probably wouldn't have been so bothered about the group if he hadn't kept trying to shove them down my throat, convince me they were something special. I came to realise, through the review of "Actually", that they weren't. Score one for me. This time out I'm looking at an album that my sister may not exactly have obsessed about, but seemed to think was really great and at the time I couldn't see anything in it other than generic pop/dance trash sung by a woman with red hair, though she was quite popular at the time. Will it be two for two, or will the softer side of the family win out this time round?

Tell it to my heart --- Taylor Dayne --- 1988 (Arista)

Looking at it now, the first thing that strikes me is that Taylor Dayne is described as a singer-songwriter, but on this, admittedly her debut album, she doesn't have a hand in any of the songs at all. Even looking further, she only slowly seems to have started contributing to later albums, with two tracks on her second and a few more on her third. Maybe she needed to gain the confidence putting your songs out there for the world to hear requires, I don't know. But though the great Diane Warren did later write for her, I recognise none of the songwriters here, though I'm not that well up on pop or dance to be honest.

It starts with the title track, one of her big hits, and it's so generic it's painful. Anyone from the Stock-Aitken-Waterman stable could have sung this, and although her voice does have a strength reminiscent of Chaka Khan or Jennifer Rush, it's nothing terribly special. The song is built on a buzzy synth bass and annoying little parping keys, very dance, very pop, very eighties. The beat is so reminscent of SAW that I'm almost surprised to see they don't produce or have a hand in the album, but their legacy is certainly very much alive in this. Well, I knew this song already from the amount of times my sister had played it at the time, and it was a big hit single, so it's not changing my mind about the album, but what of other tracks? There were four singles taken from this, but to be honest I think I only know this one. Karen was one of those people, when she listened to music, who would latch on to a track or tracks and just play them to death, even if she had bought the album, so I really haven't heard any more of it up to now.

"In the darkness" is a little better, boppy and upbeat in a kind of Madonna "True blue" way, again very synth-driven with those annoying sqeuaky, perky keys peppered through the tune. The bass is nice though. Like the sax break too, changes the song from being totally generic pop into something a little, well, less generic, though not much. Little touches of Laura Branigan then in "Don't rush me", with a nice haunting synth line, more mid-paced than either of the first two tracks though it picks up a little after the first verse. Yeah, I'd definitely call this a very Braniganesque song. The vocal hook in the title reminds me of something, though I can't remember what, and there's a nice Chris Rea-style guitar solo, the first time we've really heard the guitar at all. This was apparently a big hit in the US, though not over here, and another of her hit singles is up next, the first ballad, "I'll always love you".

Very soul motown style, nice pace on it with some soft acoustic guitar and very David Foster digital piano. Nice backing vocals, and the sax is back to add a touch of class to the song. Yeah, not bad, but then again I could see a fistful of other artistes like her doing this song: there's just nothing that individual about it. Whitney? Mariah? Dionne? Any of them could have sung this, and a lot more besides. Oh dear! I realise now that I have in fact heard "Prove your love", her other big hit single on both sides of the pond, before. It's another dancy tune with sprightly keys and busy bass, and brings us back to earth with a bump. Not that we ever really left, but "In the darkness" and "I'll always love you" were a nice little break, now we're back in Generic City. Still, there's another nice guitar solo so that's something, adds some teeth to what is mostly just a dancefloor clone of any other disco song you've heard, and how it was such a hit both here and in the US is beyond me.

But that's the end of the hits on this album. If the first half is ninety percent hit singles, the second is zero percent. Not that that stops the songs being any less uninspired (I'm trying not to overuse the word generic but it's hard as this album screams that concept with nearly every track): "Do you want it right now" is ho-hum dance with the guitar solo the only thing remotely remarkable about it, while "Carry your heart" is at least a decent power ballad in the style of Heart or Pat Benatar, with some punch to it and a great little guitar solo. Seems one of the only decent things about this album is the fretwork: let's see who's responsible. Hmm. Bob Cadway. No, sorry, don't know ya. Kudos for giving me something positive to say about this album though.

In fairness Dayne's voice is decent, but she seems to have studied the style of Chaka Khan too closely and comes across mostly as something of a copy of the disco diva. I known nothing about the Chairmen of the Board, but I think it's possible "Want ad" might be a cover of one of their songs, though it sounds more like "Candy girl" by New Edition. God help us. More annoying upbeat squealy keyboard, and is there a guitar solo to rescue this song from banality? Sure, it's probably a soul classic or something but it does nothing for me. And no, there is no saving solo. Boo. At least there's a decent bit of percussion to start off "Where does that boy hang out" and a slick little bassline with some nice uptempo brass (you ever known downtempo brass?) while the album closes on the appropriately-titled "Upon the journey's end", on which Dayne duets with Billy T. Scott. No, I don't know who he is either. It has a nice country feel to it, so I may assume that he's from that sphere, and it's a nice enough ballad. In fact, strike that: it comes close to being the standout, although on this album that's not really too much of an accolade. And now I hear Mr. Scott he sounds very much more soul than country, so I guess I made an incorrect assumption there. Oh well, I don't think I'll lose any sleep over it.

TRACKLISTING

1. Tell it to my heart
2. In the darkness
3. Don't rush me
4. I'll always love you
5. Prove your love
6. Do you want it right now
7. Carry your love
8. Want ads
9. Where does that boy hang out
10. Upon the journey's end

If you're into dance music you'll probably like this album, and if soul is your thing then you'll find something here to enjoy. Hell, if you just like generic pop then you're laughing. But none of these really do anything for me, and I don't see any real individuality about this album, and it really does come across as a collection of other people's songs sung by a singer, but nothing much else. There's heart put into the songs, don't get me wrong, and she's a good singer. I just don't see anything about her standing out, and to be honest I begin to wonder if the reason Karen liked this album, and artiste, so much was because of her hair, which is certainly impressive. My little sister always wanted, and eventually got, hair extensions.

It's the only logical reason that I can see why anyone would rate this album so high. And sadly, at my time of life, hair extensions are of no interest to me.
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Old 08-11-2013, 09:56 AM   #1853 (permalink)
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Back from the dead! It's...


Some time ago, last year I think, I mentioned in passing a little show RTE, our national TV channel, had premiered and then dumped. At the time, the channel was rolling out several potential pilot shows to see what struck a chord, and it seemed this one was not to be one of the chosen. However, this last month "The Hit" has returned in triumph" as a fully-blown show for RTE, and it seems like my faith in the programme was justified, its potential finally seen by the Suits.

Not just another reality TV show, and certainly not an X-Factor/Idol wannabe, The Hit features six Irish singer/songwriters, who are chosen from probably hundreds who submit songs to the show. These six are then sequestered in six separate booths, and two well-known Irish artistes are invited to choose from them whose song they will pick as their new single. The songs are all chosen by producer supremo Steve Lillywhite, and each week it's two different artistes who select the songs for that week. Each artiste can enter each booth as many times as he or she wants, stay as long or as short a time as they like, and when they find a song they like and think they could record they must "lock" the room, by punching the electronic door lock. This room is then unavailable to the other artiste. Each artiste is required to lock in two songs, and from these two they will eventually choose one to be recorded.

It's a different and original idea, in that the songs are all written by the people involved, with no help from anyone, and they must play and sing them without any form of accompaniment other than what they use themselves, be it a guitar, a keyboard or some other instrument. There is no band or backing singers involved. They literally play to an audience of one (although of course we're all listening too) and that listener could very well be the one who decides their future. When the two songs have each been chosen, the artistes have one meeting with the songwriters before going into the studio to record the song they choose. That song is then premiered on the show, and the two songwriters on each side find out whose song has been chosen. It's a bittersweet disappointment for one --- to have come so far and fall at the final fence --- while for the other it's the realisation of a dream and a real shot at the big time.

Where I can, I've put a video of the original performance of the song alongside the finished article, recorded by the guest musician, but in some cases these have not been available. One small niggle I would have is that sometimes the interpretation these artistes put on the songs change them in ways I would prefer they weren't changed, as in Julie Feeney's version of "New tattoo", which I think is awful and ruins the song, and Duke Special's butchering of "1969". I didn't and don't like the song, but Special took all the fire, passion and energy out of the song and castrated it so that he could play it as a ballad on his piano. Perhaps appropriately, it's not available on YouTube, but I think he made an awful job of it. Other, like Johnny Logan's treatment of "Prayin'" and The Stunning's rewriting of "Run and hide", to say nothing of Brian Kennedy's "Try", really enhanced and brought out the best in songs which perhaps needed that little something.

The first two artistes to make the choice in week one were Steve Wall of Irish band The Stunning, who initially chose "Run and hide" by Alice Lynskey as their new single,
Spoiler for Run and hide (original):
Spoiler for Run and hide (The Stunning):


while the other artiste, Julie Feeney, plumped for Tommy Moore's "New tattoo".
Spoiler for New tattoo (original):
Spoiler for New tattoo (Julie Feeney):

Week two saw the appearance of Brian Kennedy and Ryan O'Shaughnessy, who chose Sean Redmond's "Try"
Spoiler for Try (original):

and Mark Graham and Frances Mitchell's "Who do you love"
Spoiler for Who do you love (original):
Spoiler for Who do you love (Ryan O'Shaughnessy):

respectively. This week it was the turn of Eurovision legend Johnny Logan and someone called Duke Special (no, I don't know who he is either) and they went for, in Johnny's case, Alan Earls' "Prayin'"
Spoiler for Prayin' (original):
Spoiler for Prayin' (Johnny Logan):

and in Duke's "1969" by sixteen-year-old Aaron Hackett .
Spoiler for 1969 (original):

The week following the choice each song's performance it totalled up on Irish radio and its chart position ascertained, with the song coming in the highest going on to the grand finale at the end of the month. The show is hosted by RTE radio 2FM's Aidan Power and Westlife's Nicky Byrne, and is proving very popular on TV. I'm delighted to finally see an original idea, not copied from US or UK TV but our own, homegrown effort, and more to the point, that the show gives exposure and publicity to the wealth of Irish songwriting talent that's out there, and for some, the chance to step onto the national stage, and perhaps even further. Even for those who don't make it, they get to perform their songs to a national television audience and whether or not the artistes pick them, they might hear something that could make them want to talk to the songwriters after the show, or put them in touch with people who might be able to help them on their own road to fame.

A worthy effort, a thoroughly entertaining show and something which finally --- finally --- steps outside the constricting, suffocating confines of shows like the X-Factor. These are real people, singing real songs: their songs, not the parroted mimicry of songs that are already well known. There is no Boot Camp, no famous musician to help them hone their craft, and thank the lord God almighty, no audience or text-in vote! It's left entirely up to the guest artistes to decide what song they want to choose to record, and so it should be. After all, this is their new single they're picking, not some crappy record to make Simon Cowell or Louis Walsh even richer. Other shows could learn a lot from "The Hit".

(For those interested, the show has its own YouTube channel where you can listen to all the songs from the previous three episodes, and later those yet to come. There's also an app you can download, but unless you're in Ireland that's probably going to be of little interest to you).
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Old 08-15-2013, 05:26 AM   #1854 (permalink)
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Welcome to
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I started out intending to run this in my journal, then thought maybe it would be better as an idea for an actual thread. It worked, for a very short while, then died, so I'm going back to my original idea. Probably most of you know what the concept of Room 101 is. Well, put simply, the term comes from George Orwell's dystopian science-fiction masterpiece "Nineteen eighty-four", where after all other attempts at interrogation has failed, the prisoner is taken to Room 101, where their worst fear awaits. Taking that idea to a lighter level, the TV chatshow/comedy "Room 101" allows invited guests to each expound upon something that annoys or irks them, and campaign to have it consigned to Room 101, where ostensibly it will never be seen again. This concept is of course utterly fallacious, as the items of course remain in the real world, but it's more an exercise in catharsis and of course, bloody good telly.

Trollheart's Room 101: Music Version is equally pointless, but here I intend to drone on at length about the music I dislike, whether it be singles or albums or even artistes, perhaps even concepts (live "unplugged"?) and kick them through the door and into Room 101. Anyone's free to disagree with me and comment, but as ever if I pick something/one you love don't take it to heart. It's all in fun and although I will be choosing things I really do not like, I'm not for a moment suggesting they have no value to others or that there is anything intrinsically wrong with them, just that I don't see any value in them, which will already have been explained.

So, a double-header for my first pick. They're both by the same artiste, and while I could yes have pushed Steve Miller himself into Room 101, I admit I know very little of his music and it's unfair to judge him on the basis of these two singles. But these two I do know, and abhor, so they're going in. Why are they going in? I'm glad you asked.

The imagery in "Abracadabra" is mixed, to say the least. For a song with a title with such obvious magical connotations, you would expect some sort of reference to magic. But no: Steve is more concerned with making a clever rhyme for the magical word, which to my mind he does not succeed at. Sure, "abracadabra" is not the easiest of words to rhyme, but "reach out and grab ya"? It's clever, but I think it's just a little too clever, thank you. Also, the song is supposed to put across the idea that this girl is weaving a spell on Steve with her beauty, sex appeal, whatever, so why doesn't he mention that once? Nothing about spells, got me in your power, working your magic. Yes, all these may seem cliched and that may be why he's staying away from them in the lyric, but for me, that being the case, nothing justifies the title. There's no anchor for abracadabra bar the rhyme. It's just a totally nonsensical song.

As for "The joker"? Yeah I know lots of people love it but I don't. I think the obvious use of the word pompatus is just there to make people think "what the hell is a pompatus"? and for no other reason, not to mention that everyone and his mother was then trying to sing the song putting in their own word when pompatus didn't make sense: the papoose of love? The porpoise of love? Give me strength! Turns out he made the bloody word up! And what is the point of the wolf-whistle after "Some people call me Maurice"? In the second verse he just runs out of ideas: "Don't you worry baby no no don't worry/ Cos I'm right here right here right here right here at home." Seriously, Steve? FOUR "right here"s? You couldn't fill up one line with more than that? I'm no songwriter but that just comes across to me as lazy.

Finally, both these songs were played so often on the radio when they came out that I became heartily sick of them and refused to listen to any more music by the guy, so without further ado, and with apologies to any Steve Miller fans... IN YA GO!
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Old 08-15-2013, 02:11 PM   #1855 (permalink)
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I'm not the biggest Steve Miller fan but he's got a big discography and those songs are only representative of a small part of it. He started out as a blues rock artist and then onto psychedelic rock before shifting into a more mainstream rock sound. I can assure you he doesn't belong in room 101 and his best album is Fly Like an Eagle which you should check out, you might be surprised!
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Old 08-15-2013, 07:00 PM   #1856 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Unknown Soldier View Post
I'm not the biggest Steve Miller fan but he's got a big discography and those songs are only representative of a small part of it. He started out as a blues rock artist and then onto psychedelic rock before shifting into a more mainstream rock sound. I can assure you he doesn't belong in room 101 and his best album is Fly Like an Eagle which you should check out, you might be surprised!
Yup, I'm sure he does. That's why I made the point that I wasn't putting HIM in Room 101, just those two singles, which I really hate.
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Old 08-18-2013, 07:54 AM   #1857 (permalink)
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In these days of Sky Plus, Tivo and Virgin Media it's really no longer necessary to wade through a bunch of ads, waiting for your programme to begin or resume. Fast forward is a wonderful thing. But back in "the olden days", when I were only knee-high to a thing I were only knee-high to, we had no such luxuries. When "end of part one" or whatever hit the screen we all groaned and went to make a cup of tea, use the toilet or sometimes just sat there immovably, too lazy, bored, tired or bothered to move. As a result of this we ended up sitting through some godawful ads --- I'd say eighty percent plus of them --- but there was the odd good one, and the very odd great one, which have now gone down in popular culture as "classic ads", some of which even have their own dedicated website!

Often certain brands would emerge as being cleverer or more interesting than others, and we actually looked forward to a new ad from them. These were companies whose advertising arm understood a critical truth: if you're going to watch an ad it had damn well better be interesting. Interesting in a funny way, interesting in a shocking way, interesting in a memorable way. Think Kit Kat, Weetabix, Audi, Guinness. These are names that you not only associate taglines with (so their marketing campaign obviously worked --- Vorsprung durch technik!) but whose ads you can remember even if they played twenty or more years ago. The Guinness dancing man. The pandas on the Kit Kat ad. And of course, the various road safety ads, although we remember them for other, darker reasons.

One of the ads I always looked forward to --- still do, to some extent, were the ones from Carlsberg. I don't drink it, and the ads would never convince me to, but by god they were clever. Down the years they've had some amazing ones, usually based around a tagline of "Probably the best lager in the world", which was later changed for more recent ads as they replaced the word "lager" with things like dreams, night clubs etc. Now their strapline is "That calls for a Carlsberg!" which is not as snappy as their original motto, but the ads are just as good. Here are some of my favourites.
Spoiler for Complaints Dept:

The first of course is one of the most famous. For those who couldn't be bothered clicking the video and don't know the ad, here's a brief synopsis. A man is leaving work, hears a phone ringing and not being answered. Puzzled, he follows the sound to a door which leads into a very dark, deserted, musty room which looks like it hasn't seen any use in years. Fighting his way through the cobwebs he gets to a desk, whereupon a very old phone is ringing. He picks it up, listens. "No," he says, "this is 4724. That's quite all right." and replaces the phone. Looking around him he marvels once more at the decrepit state of the room and then leaves, closing the door behind him. It's only then we see the plate on the door: Carlsberg Customer Complaints Department. Subtle and brilliant at once.

"Carlsberg in Irish" is funny. Though only if you know Irish. I do. Enough to get this one anyway.
Spoiler for As Gaelige (in Irish):


Then they began their campaign of replacement. Each ad would feature a "dream idea", as I said from football to night clubs to girlfriends, and they would say "Carlsberg don't do [insert here], but if they did, they'd be the best in the world!" Here's one about apartments and flatmates.
Spoiler for Flatmates:


And a great one about night clubs. Not that I'd know anything about that sort of thing...
Spoiler for Night clubs:


I hadn't seen this one before, guess it's new, but it's good. Based around their new strapline, "That calls for a Carlsberg", it's long but worth sitting through. Sort of.
Spoiler for Friends:


"The crate escape" is of course based on the World War II movie...
Spoiler for The crate escape:


"The Fan Academy" is for all your fans of the England team...
Spoiler for Fan academy:


... and this is for all us fans of the Irish team! One of my favourites.
Spoiler for Ireland World Cup winners:


In memory of the late Neil Armstrong. Maybe.
Spoiler for Moon:


And this is the latest, based around Spartacus. Kind of.
Spoiler for Spartacus:
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Old 08-19-2013, 05:35 AM   #1858 (permalink)
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Bat out of Hell III: The monster is loose --- Meat Loaf --- 2006 (Mercury)


Ye gods! Another "Bat out of Hell"? My very thoughts when I saw this was available, and whereas I had enjoyed the second foray into Satan's domain on the wings of said flying mouse --- I was somewhat doubtful that the franchise --- for such it seemed to be turning into --- could be stretched to a third album. Apart from anything else, I feel and felt that it almost trivialises Meat Loaf's music; it was like saying that he couldn't make an album unless it had this prefix or suffix attached. Now, granted he had turned out two "non-Bat" albums since the second one and four since the first, but even so, this sounded like a backward step. I mean, what if every Iron Maiden album mentioned the Beast (some do, I know) or every Bon Jovi album had "slippery" in the title? Surely Meat Loaf was and is a big enough musical presence to continue his legacy without always looking back?

But there it is: "Bat out of Hell III" and this is what we have to review. Seems that there was some delay in getting the album out as Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf's right hand and power behind the throne wanted to prevent him from using the "Bat out of Hell" phrase, having trademarked it a decade earlier, but that was eventually settled by the men in suits and everything was a go. Although Steinman is again not involved directly in the album, more than half of it centres around compositions of his, either cover versions of already used songs or demos of songs he intended to perform. The man casts a long shadow.

It's a dark, atmospheric keyboard and synthy opening for the opener and title track, very gothic and with heavier guitar than I've heard used on his album recently, provided by John 5 from Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. To these ears, the big man's voice here is not as strong as I would expect, it's a bit more restrained. The guitar work actually reminds me of John Halliwell's work with Ten, especially on "Return to Evermore" and "The twilight chronicles", and it's a kind of slow or midpaced cruncher, rather than the blistering steamtrain rock we usually get on a Meat Loaf album. Nice soft piano from --- you know, I don't know from who. There's a massive amount of players on this, and I've just scanned the list to see who plays the piano on track one and it doesn't say. Anyway it's a powerful opener, if not as fast as I would have liked, with full orchestra and choir, but "Blind as a bat" starts off as a typical Meat Loaf ballad with a lovely little piano intro, soon taking off as a midpaced tune with a really nice hook.

Some more great orchestral work and backing vocals add to the drama of this song, cool little guitar solo and now Meat is in full flight, the power and passion coming through every pore as he strains at the mike. Excellent stuff. More than a little disappointed though to see so many songs I already know, one of which, "It's all coming back to me now", is next. Popularised by Celine Dion but originally on the Jim Steinman solo project Pandora's Box album "Original sin", which I reviewed about two years ago, so I won't go into this too much here, only to say that this time it's a duet between Meat Loaf and Norwegian singer Marion Raven, who for me sounds a little uncomfortably like Dolly Parton! Um, pass. The idea of a duet is a good one; breathes new life into a song which, while excellent, we've all heard before one way or the other. But I would have preferred someone like Ellen Foley or Patti Russo,both of whom have sung with Meat before and are often identified with him. It's an okay version but I really didn't need to hear it a third time.

The unmistakable wail of Brian May's guitar kicks off "Bad for good", again a Steinman solo released on his album of the same name in 1981, in fact his first solo album. I'd prefer to see Meat Loaf use more of his own material --- as he did on the most recent album, "Hell in a handbasket" --- rather than keep recycling Steinman songs. I mean, if you're into his music then there's a pretty good chance that you've heard Steinman's too, so why repeat it as if it's new? May's guitar definitely adds something to the song, and there's nice piano too, but I do feel a little shortchanged, in the same way as I did when "Surf's up" appeared on "Bad attitude" and "Lost boys and golden girls" closed "Bat out of Hell II". Finally, "Cry over me" is an original song, written by hitmaker Diane Warren. It's a nice swaying ballad with a strong vocal line and some great piano, with again the orchestra lending its weight to the music.

And we're back to the Steinman castoffs. Okay, that's not fair: these songs are not ones he didn't consider good enough to release himself, and most if not all saw the light of publication in one form or another. Still, the reach of Jim Steinman is so overbearing at times that I often wonder if he dies before Meat Loaf will there be something written into the contract between them that Meat has to keep using his songs in his albums? At any rate, the suitably-Steinmanesque-titled "In the land of the pig, the butcher is king" opens with a big heavy guitar punch after some soft and kind of distant synth, and has Meat in full furious energetic mode, almost metal in a way. A dark, epic piece it's quite cinematic in tone, the title obviously a play on the phrase "In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king". It features the inimitable Steve Vai on guitar, and it's been some time since I've heard anything from him so his contribution is certainly welcome and adds a lot of power to an already strong song, allowing it to truly rock out.

A criticism often levelled at Meat Loaf songs is that they go on way too long, and to be fair this is the sort of composition that could easily be stretched to eight or nine minutes, but it comes in at a reasonable five and a half, and the following one is less than two, although it is pretty much an instrumental, carried on rolling, thundering drums and trumpeting pipe organ with an operatic style choir and it leads into two short tracks again, though you know the epic is coming... "Alive" is a typical Meat Loaf rocker in the style of "Peel out" from "Dead ringer" or the title from "Bad attitude", with again bright piano and some squealing guitar, while "If God could talk" betrays a few touches of Marillion in another soft piano ballad which then powers up on the back of the orchestra and a passionate vocal from the man.

Apart from the one after this, everything remaining is Steinman-penned. "If it ain't broke, break it" opens on heavy, punching guitar and odd horns, with a sort of death-soul sound to it (is that a subgenre? If it isn't, I claim its creation!) and rocks out with some crazy guitar solos from Eric Sardinas (no, I don't know who he is either) then the final non-Steinman track is "What about love", with a kind of U2 opening then some very alt-rock piano and a lyric that recalls the best of Springsteen, and a great duet with longtime singing partner Patti Russo. Halfway through it takes off on a typical Meat Loaf upsurge to trundle along like an express train with a great guitar solo. Then we're into that big epic I warned you about, and from here on in as I say it's all Steinman.

"Seize the night" is almost ten minutes long and definitely the longest track on the album, with an almost "Lord of the Rings" intro that allows the orchestra to take the spotlight and lasts for almost two minutes before it falls back to a solitary piano and Meat Loaf's vocal comes in. It's not surprising to find that this song was used in a stage musical, though perhaps what is surprising is that it was in German. Hmm. The piano-and-vocal doesn't last too long as guitar and drums ramp everything back up, then a very annoying boy soprano comes in on the fourth minute, joined by the full choir and then Meat Loaf himself. The tempo picks back up on the back of some strummy guitar and ticking percussion, and something that is endemic to many Steinman compositions crops back up: repetition. Good as some of his songs are, great as others are, a lot of the time he does tend to repeat the same phrases and passages over and over again, leading to the belief that perhaps his songs needn't be as long as they are. As a matter of interest, I hear two former Steinman songs here: there are definite echoes of "Holding out for a hero", which was of course a big hit for Bonnie Tyler, and Meat Loaf's own "Nowhere fast". A man not at all averse to reusing old melodies, our Jim!

It's very good and to be fair it doesn't drag, but I still wonder that it needs to be as long as it is. Still, it's one of only two really long songs on the album, and the next one is yet again from Steinman's Pandora's Box project, in fact the closer for the "Original sin" album. I always loved "The future ain't what it used to be", but again here it's made into a duet, this time with Jennifer Hudson, and I just prefer the original. Take my advice and check out the "Original sin" album; it's a forgotten classic. The album then closes on the short "Cry to Heaven", a lovely gentle little ballad which I guess more or less acts as a coda to the big, bombastic, orchestral work here. Nice low whistle, harp and flute on it gives the song a lovely celtic feel, and some hummed backing vocals work really well too.

TRACKLISTING

1. The monster is loose
2. Blind as a bat
2. It's all coming back to me now
4. Bad for good
5. Cry for me
6. In the land of the pig, the butcher is king
7, Monstro
8. Alive
9. If God could talk
10. If it ain't broke, break it
11. What about love
12. Seize the night
13. The future ain't what it used to be
14. Cry to Heaven

So, on the face of it, not a bad album. But did it have to be a "Bat out of Hell" album? Well, other than "Blind as a bat" there is no reference back to the original (not that there was on the second one either) and I think this album could have easily just been called "The monster is loose" or even "Seize the night". It's pretty obvious Meat Loaf was looking to cash in once again on the enduring popularity of "Bat out of Hell" as his last two albums had certainly not done so well at least Stateside; here he's always been popular and continues to be so. A wise decison in commercial terms, as the album hit the top ten whereas of the two previous, 1995's "Welcome to the neighbourhood" did reasonably well, hitting number 17, though that was probably off the back of the phenomenal success of "Bat out of Hell II" two years prior. The followup, 2004's "Blind before I stop" made a paltry showing of 85. Contrast that with the number 8 position of this album followed by a mere 27 for "Hang cool teddy bear" released in 2010 and a disgraceful 100 for the wonderful "Hell in a handbasket" the year after that. Perhaps if he had called it "Bat out of Hell in a handbasket", eh?

Seems the American record-buying public want only one thing from Meat Loaf, and when they don't get it they don't buy. As I said, here we buy the albums no matter the title. So a good marketing ploy for sure, but how much further can this be stretched you wonder? My other question was when was Meat going to let go the apron strings of Steinman and hurl himself into an album without his safety net? That question was answered in 2010 when the producer and songwriter supreme was not involved in "Hang cool teddy bear", nor was he part of the most recent album. So maybe Meat Loaf has finally cut the ties and can manage to stand on his own two feet? I wsa definitely impressed by the last album, and I am impressed by this too. It's just hard to lavish too much praise on an album when you've heard a large percentage of the songs before, and the name Steinman keeps cropping up all over the place like some sort of Merlin figure.
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Old 08-20-2013, 11:42 AM   #1859 (permalink)
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It's actually been over a year now since I last ran this section, which is surprising to me but I guess my other journals have taken up a lot of my time, especially the Couch Potato. So time to set that right now, with another chance for everyone to


And I'd like to start off with one of my favourite composers, Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), who did more to put Norway on the musical map than anyone at that time. Mostly known for his "Peer Gynt" suite, from which both the gorgeous "Morning" and the bombastic "In the hall of the mountain king" are taken, I'd like to go with something different from him. Well, okay it's from that suite, but a rather interesting and dramatic little lament called "Aase's death". Very powerful I feel.

Spoiler for Grieg:


Next I'd like to take a look at a work by Felix Mendelssohn, (1809 - 1847), probably most famous for putting Shakespeare's "A midsummer night's dream" to music, and also writing the famous theme we all know now as the Wedding March, within that. Here though I'd like to take another well-known but not that often played piece by him, entitled "Fingal's Cave", also known as the Hebrides overture.

Spoiler for Mendelssohn:


Edward Elgar (1857 - 1934) is of course best known for composing the "Pomp and Circumstance March", which contains the music which would later become the national anthem of Great Britain, "Land of hope and glory". He's famous too for his "Enigma Variations", the best known of which is of course "Nimrod". But again I'd like to step away from that, though not entirely. This is the finale to that suite.

Spoiler for Elgar:


Zoltan Kodaly (1882 - 1967) is a composer I know very little about, though he was obviously one whose work took him well into the twentieth century, as you can see from the date of his death. This is a nice one from him, called "Summer evening".

Spoiler for Kodaly:


And finally, Anton Bruckner (1827 - 1896) who was supposedly one of the most humble composers who lived around that period, unlike others who wanted all the glory and adoration they could get. This is from his seventh symphony, it's the first movement.

Spoiler for Bruckner:


If this music has moved or interested you, or made you want to hear more, check out the classical subforum in the General Music section. We're talking over four hundred years of music here, people, and more. There's so much to discover. Why not allow yourself to catch the Culture Bug, and see where it takes you?
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Old 08-21-2013, 09:35 AM   #1860 (permalink)
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