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Old 02-12-2014, 09:18 AM   #2121 (permalink)
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TROLLHEART REVIEWS ALBUMS IN THE STYLE OF Urban Hat€monger
Number One:

Justin Bieber ---- Believe


Shit.

THIS HAS BEEN TROLLHEART REVIEWING AN ALBUM IN THE STYLE OF Urban Hat€monger
Fixed.

I'm on a roll of inane posts in people's journals.
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Old 02-12-2014, 09:19 AM   #2122 (permalink)
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So funny, yet so disappointing.
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Old 02-12-2014, 10:41 AM   #2123 (permalink)
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So far, this album is exemplifying pretty much everything I hate about the charts, dance and pop music. It all just sounds empty to me, soulless.
Well duh. If you come to pop expecting substance then you're coming with the wrong expectations. It's supposed to be catchy. End story. If you're trying to find something of worth other than that then you're doing it wrong. True, sometimes an artist like Kylie Minogue (shame on you, TH) or Madonna can inject originality into their music while remaining as catchy as they need to be, but that's really just a bonus that makes them worth listening to over a long period of time rather than two minutes and then moving on to the next faceless clone. If you're going to listen to Britney Spears then you need to quit taking your taste in music so seriously and leave your brain at the door.

And if a song is knocking around in your head after you listen to it then no matter how much you think you hate it some part of you likes it. Stop thinking and let that part have it's fun.
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Old 02-12-2014, 10:47 AM   #2124 (permalink)
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Trollheart reviews albums in the style of Trollheart

Believe --- Justin Bieber --- 2012 (Schoolboy)



Disclaimer: Trollheart wishes to make it clear that he is only doing this because a challenge was issued by Briks, and he does not like to turn down a challenge (see “Classic albums I have never heard”).


I love Canada. Really. I'm a big fan. If there were two places I could live if I had the money and the opportunity they would be the Cotswolds in England and Canada. Everyone there seems so nice, life seems to go at a more relaxed pace and apart from Americans slagging them off, nobody seems to hate Canadians.

Except this one.

Bieber is the one thing that sours my love of Canada. I mean, he would be bad enough if he came from the US of A, where pretty boy talentless so-called popstars at ten a penny, or a thousand for a dollar. But no. He doesn't even have the good taste to be American. He has to sully Canada's good name by dragging it into his peurile attempts at music. Yeah, nice and unbiased, huh? Come on! What did you expect? I'm doing this under duress and against my better judgement. All right all right, let's listen to the damn thing. But first (try to put it off for as long as possible) some background, for those of you with enough taste not to know who this kid is.

First of all, and without any fear of correction at all, I can tell you he is a bastard. His parents were never married so he was born out of wedlock. What? I'm only stating the facts. Bastard, bastard, bastard. Oh, and the day he was born Satan grinned and Hendrix, Marley and Elvis all groaned. I made that last bit up. I think.

His mother, showing staggeringly poor judgement, refused to abort the baby against advice from her friends, and then doggedly pushed him towards a career in music. Thanks a lot Patricia Mallette! Guess we have you to thank for unleashing the musical equivalent of the antichrist upon us! To be fair, she had to raise baby Bieber on her own as a single mother, and worked two jobs to feed the family, which no matter what else you have to admire. And, yes, pain me though it does, I have to admit that Bieber apparently taught himself how to play the guitar, piano and drums, so he's not just a singer. Damn it! I want to slag him off and call him a talentless prick, but it's really not turning out like that. Stop it!

After making various videos of cover songs and posting them on YouTube, Bieber was discovered and offered a recording contract, and the rest is sadly history. He now has an army of fans, has sold over fifteen million records (are there that many gullible people in the world? It would seem so!) and is worth well in excess of fifty million dollars. This is his third album, the one in which he apparently wants to step away from the teenybop music of the last two, and be taken as a serious artiste. Yeah well, I'll be the judge of that!

So then, there's no putting it off any more. Time to hit play and grit my teeth, and see what I've let myself in for. I think I'm known for as unbiased reviews as I can do, so I don't want to put this down without a proper listen, but I'm not expecting my already-made-up mind to be altered over the course of the next forty-eight minutes and nine seconds...

So we start off as I expected, with an annoying pop uptempo dancy song with that blasted autotune all over the place. Could be any boyband or slef-important singer singing “All around the world”. Plenty of “Woh-oh-oh”s and buzzy synth with club-style percussion and a breathy vocal. Apparently this song features someone called Ludacris. I don't know who he is. I also don't care. Meh. Next. While that plays out, let's at least give the guy some more credit (must we? Yeah, I have to be equitable) --- he also writes his own music. Every track here is co-written by him with another songwriter, though there are none he writes solo. You have to admire anyone who can write their own songs.

Okay, enough credit. Let's get back to slagging him off. That first track was godawful, but “Boyfriend” is slower with handclap drums and a low vocal, sort of low-key Backstreet Boys kind of thing. Not too bad, and I say that with the unspoken understanding that every track here is just different levels of awful. The lyric is inspired certainly: ”If I was your boyfriend/Never let you go/ Keep you on my arm girl/ You'd never be alone.” Sigh. It's less grating on the nerves than the opener, but not much. Imagine Dragons, Script, anyone could have written this. Another yearning vocal in “As long as you love me”, but it's not the old BSB song, which I kind of had expected. Rumbling, staccato drums in a slow pattern and soaring, squealing synth. This features Big Sean. Yeah. Oh look: he referenced Beyonce there! ”You can be my destiny's child.” Halfway through it kicks up the tempo and gets a bit faster and harder, and here comes a rap vocal so I assume that's our Big Sean getting in on the act. It's always funny in the least funny way to hear a guy who is worth untold millions sing about being starving and homeless. Bah.

There's a nice little bit of acoustic guitar to start “Catching feelings”, with a sort of slightly sparse dancy beat behind it and another low vocal, the melody rather similar to the song that just ended. Full band kicks in now and it's jumping and hopping, No wait, that's “Take you”. Bloody Grooveshark! See, this is the problem when Spotify don't have the album, and I'll be damned and cursed before I'll pay even eighty cents for this thing! So the 'Shark has the tracks somewhat mixed around. Probably doesn't matter. “Right here” features Drake, who I do at least know of, even if I haven't heard or am likely to hear anything he's recorded, and it's a sort of slowish ballad with nice vocal harmonies, but again meh you know? Nothing special here, and certainly nothing that's likely to change my mind about this guy.

Incidentally, considering how many writers most of the songs have I would question how much input Bieber had into the tracks. Maybe he did the lion's (or lamb's) share of the work, I don't know, but with all these guys helping out you'd have to wonder. Now we get “Catching feelings” as the ones with the sharp rows of teeth who move to the rhythm a lot again rearrange the tracks for no discernible reason I can see. Was it worth waiting for? Well it has a nice sort of almost seventies pop vibe to it, bit like Bread or even the Carpenters in places. Soft lush keyboard and a breezy melody; you know, it's not too bad, and I say that in the full knowledge that I am now being taken over by some alien being who is putting words into my mouth. If I had to choose a favourite --- or least hated, let's say --- track on this album so far this would be it by a country mile. I can actually listen to this without vomiting blood.

Mediocrity is soon resumed though with “Fall”, a mid-paced ballad-ish song that's just embarrassing --- although listening to this album that's kind of a given --- while “Die in your arms” has again a nice seventies feel to it with bright piano and a slow rhythm, some sweet guitar , though the spoken vocal --- supposedly sexy --- is just laughable. The basic melody is okay, quite bouncy and upbeat, reminds me of Climax Blues Band or maybe the Little River Band. “Thought of you” moves the tempo back into dance territory, and removes any interest for me in a generic pop number, but if I disliked that then I hate the next one, which features Nicky Minaj. Oh dear god! “Beauty and a brat”, sorry “beat” --- I'd like to beat her! --- is the epitome of dance music that I absolutely hate. Moving swiftly on...

Thank the lord Satan we're getting near the end! “One love”, again, we're not talking about the Bob Marley classic here, just a sort of mid-tempo banal love song. It's followed by “Be alright” which at least has a nice acoustic guitar backing, sort of “More than words” feel to it, and if I'm honest is the only other song I can stand on this album, which mercifully comes to a close with the title track. It's not all that bad really in fairness. Never thought I'd say that. Sort of mid-paced half-ballad with some decent piano and is that a strings section? Nice. It's not the worst song, and if I really force myself I can say that's three tracks out of thirteen that I like, or can tolerate on this album.

TRACKLISTING

1. All around the world
2. Boyfriend
3. As long as you love me
4. Catching feelings
5. Take you
6. Right here
7. Fall
8. Die in your arms
9. Thought of you
10. Beauty and a beat
11. One love
12. Be alright
13. Believe

So what do I think of the album overall, having endured, sorry listened to it through? What do you think? Really? You think my attitude will have changed after one listen? Not likely. It's not the worst record I've ever heard, but it's nothing special at all. Just another pretty-boy singer doing what he does. Bieber could be the contestant or finalist on a million X Factors or American Idols, and I see nothing here to differentiate him from the many others ploughing the same tired old furrow with song subjects like “Girl you're the one for me”, “Why can't we stay together” and “It'll be all right.”

Meh, I'm sure it will be, for him. After all, he's made --- and will surely continue to make --- his millions as long as there are teenage girls in the world, and I suppose fair play to him if he's tapped into an almost endless market. But this sort of music is the kind of thing that I hate and it takes away attention from real artistes, definitely pandering to the lowest common denominator. I wonder where Bieber will be in ten years' time? Twenty? Whereever it is, he'll still be a whole lot richer than I'll ever be, that's for sure.

But he'll never make me a Belieber. Oh, Canada! How could you?
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Old 02-12-2014, 10:51 AM   #2125 (permalink)
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Well duh. If you come to pop expecting substance then you're coming with the wrong expectations. It's supposed to be catchy. End story. If you're trying to find something of worth other than that then you're doing it wrong. True, sometimes an artist like Kylie Minogue (shame on you, TH) or Madonna can inject originality into their music while remaining as catchy as they need to be, but that's really just a bonus that makes them worth listening to over a long period of time rather than two minutes and then moving on to the next faceless clone. If you're going to listen to Britney Spears then you need to quit taking your taste in music so seriously and leave your brain at the door.

And if a song is knocking around in your head after you listen to it then no matter how much you think you hate it some part of you likes it. Stop thinking and let that part have it's fun.
God I know! I can't bloody stop singing "Work bitch" now....
Also: shame on me? Why?
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:12 AM   #2126 (permalink)
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God I know! I can't bloody stop singing "Work bitch" now....
Also: shame on me? Why?
Cause Kylie is one of the few pop artists who actually has originality and substance. She blends disco with dance pop in a way that you really can't get anywhere else. I'm not well versed enough in her music to go on about her, but she's fantastic.
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Old 02-12-2014, 01:53 PM   #2127 (permalink)
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How dare you mention Believe in the same sentence as the phrase "classic albums"?
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Old 02-12-2014, 03:38 PM   #2128 (permalink)
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Cause Kylie is one of the few pop artists who actually has originality and substance. She blends disco with dance pop in a way that you really can't get anywhere else. I'm not well versed enough in her music to go on about her, but she's fantastic.
Yeah. I know. I like a lot of her music. Just not all of it. I'm not into dance music but for your sake: "Slow", "Spinning around", "Confide in me", "Light years", "Breathe", "On a night like this", "Can't get you out of my head", "Come into my world", "Red blooded woman", "Chocolate", "All the lovers" = yes"Better the devil you know", "Locomotion", "I should be so lucky" etc = no.I love Kylie. I just don't love all her music. But I seriously respect the woman.
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Old 02-15-2014, 06:45 AM   #2129 (permalink)
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It’s been said, and rightly, that there’s no soul in the Playlist, so this is something I hope to change with this new section. Each time I’ll be reviewing two soul albums. They may be connected, they may be by the same artiste, or not. And I readily admit I know next to nothing about soul music, so bear with me and throw any corrections --- or recommendations --- my way that you think I might need.But when I personally think of soul, particularly male soul singers, two names leap instantly to mind:Luther Vandross (1951-2005) was one of the leading voices in the world of soul music. He worked with such luminaries as Diana Ross, Chaka Khan and Donna Summer to name but a few, and over the course of his career won eight Grammy awards and sold over twenty-five million records. Between 1981 and 2003 he released thirteen albums, and was inducted posthumously into the Soul Music Hall of Fame in 2012.Releasing his first single at the tender age of ten, George Benson has been at the forefront of jazz, soul and pop music for over fifty years now, releasing a total of thirty-six albums. I see he’s more inclined towards the jazz end of the spectrum rather than the soul, so perhaps not good news for me. Or perhaps it will be helpful, in my attempts to wrestle jazz to the floor and choke the … I mean, my endeavouring to endure, I mean enjoy the genre. Or not. With two more Grammys won than Luther, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Benson is certainly a hero of soul music.Now as I say I know little to nothing of either artiste, but I know enough to know that not only are or were they respected in their genre, they are or were giants within it. What I know of each is their singles, so whether I’m choosing representative albums of theirs here or not is purely chance; it’s a hit-or-miss affair, and there’s no real reason why I’ve chosen the recordings I have, but this is what I’ve decided to do.

Give me the reason --- Luther Vandross --- 1986 (Epic)
The album that gave Luther Vandross his first chart hit as well as four other hit singles, it’s the sixth in his discography and comes five years into his career. It also shows the artist standing on the brink of success, which would take him through the eighties and nineties and into the early twenty-first century before his untimely death from a heart attack following a stroke in 2005.

Album opener “Stop to love” is a funky, almost Princelike track with boppy synth and keys, rippling piano and some really slick bass. Vandross’s voice when it comes through a few moments later is initially low, but smooth as silk and when the keys kick in they’re almost AOR in style. It’s a very uptempo and happy opener with, rather surprisingly to me at any rate, a pretty sweet guitar solo. Nice little drumtrack as well as a stuttering guitar leads in “See me”, a slower piece rather nicely piano-led with some sprinkly keyboards and a really nice groove. Nice to see also that he wrote his own material, with two tracks penned solo by him while the rest, other than a cover version, are all co-written with others.

“I gave it up (When I fell in love)” rocks along nicely on a real striding rhythm, pads going off all over the place, a cool walking bass taking the melody and a real sense of fun in the lyric. Super little sax solo in there --- sadly no matter where I look I can’t get lineup details, so I can’t tell you who the horn player is. The first of the ballads comes with “So amazing”, and it is. If there’s one thing soul music performers do well it’s love songs, and this is no exception. Driven on sweet piano with some lovely backing vocals it’s a great vehicle for Luther’s voice, not surprisingly chosen as one of the five singles from the album. I’ve seen the movie “Rutheless people” --- though it was some time ago --- so I’m expecting to recognise the title track, as it was used in the soundtrack to that movie. I must say, it doesn’t ring any bells right away. Nice tight soul rocker, hopping along with purpose and yeah, I think I remember it now.

Much stronger vocal from Vandross on this, lots of punch in it with some nice jangly guitar too. Does wear on a little too long though, sort of wandering around with no idea how to end. Gregory Hines duets with him on the second ballad, the sweet “There’s nothing better than love”. I’d only say if you’re going to have a duet on a lovesong would you not be better to do so with a member of the opposite sex? Still, the two voices work well and complement each other, and there are some really pretty female backing vocals. Trumpeting keyboards and digital piano paint a nice backdrop to the song, which was of course also a single, as was the next one, “I really didn’t mean it”. Almost close to a very early House sound, it has big thrumming bass, popping percussion and some biting guitar, and I know this song. I never really liked it I have to say. An uptempo song after the ballad, but a little throwaway I feel.

There’s one more ballad, the longest track on the album in fact at over six minutes, and “Because it’s really love” doesn’t disappoint. Another fine love song with a smooth performance from Luther, and I’m not sure but it sounds like there’s an orchestra playing on this. Strings section, at least, unless someone is a very good synth player. The album ends on a cover, somewhat disappointingly, and he does a good version of the old Bacharach song “Anyone who had a heart”, but I would have preferred another original song, given that there are only nine tracks altogether on the album.

TRACKLISTING

1. Stop to love
2. See me
3. I gave it up (When I fell in love)
4. So amazing
5. Give me the reason
6. There’s nothing better than love
7. I really didn’t mean it
8. Because it’s really love
9. Anyone who had a heart



20/20 --- George Benson --- 1985 (Warner Bros)

Again, this album contains one song I know from Benson’s own repertoire, plus one or two others I may have a passing familiarity with. It’s his twenty-second overall, and comes smack bang in the middle of his soul chartmaking period, when he was one of the major names in the genre. Later it seems he gravitated more towards jazz music, so this is about the right time for me to sample one of his albums, given that this section is titled “Soul2Soul” and not “Jazz2Jazz”...

Fast funky opening with digital piano and the sort of drumbeat that reminds me of a-ha’s “Take on me” (sorry but it does!) as “No one emotion” gets us underway in fine style. Nice brass section --- I’m not mad about brass as you know, but it fits right in with soul music --- and a sort of strings effect keyboard presiding over everything. Benson’s voice is clear and precise, easy to see why he’s been one of the major voices of soul music for decades. Interestingly there’s quite a fretburning guitar solo, and as George is a guitarist himself I’m going to assume it’s him pulling it off. “Please don’t walk away” keeps things funky but slows the pace slightly, with some boppy piano and some nice solid keyboards. Some vocoder comes in right at the end, which is odd because it literally fades out as soon as it begins; like, why bother? Anyway that takes us into “I just wanna hang around you”, the first ballad, with my old friend digital piano holding court. It’s okay but a bit generic and a little empty of ideas too. Then we get the original of the song which was a major hit for Glenn Medeiros, “Nothing’s gonna change my love for you”, which is about as sugary a ballad as you can get, given that this is the eighties.

Benson does a decent job with it, but it should come with a dental warning, there’s so much sugar crammed into it, and I’ve never liked it. Right, so now I know who to blame! What a terrible song! If you wanted one song to characterise the eighties “wimp ballad”, this is it. Nice bit of guitar near the end, but it’s not going to make me like it, in fact, nothing’s gonna change my dislike of this song. Far better is the piano-driven “Beyond the sea (la mer)” which is I think an old song and very jazzy with some nice trumpet and horns. Benson’s voice suits this perfectly, making me wonder if I should check out some of his more recent jazz-oriented albums?

The title track I know, it having been one of the singles released from the album, and it’s an upbeat, sort of jazzy song bemoaning chances lost and decisions not taken. Nice jumping, bubbly keyboards run this song along uptempo lines with Benson really enjoying himself behind the mike and, likely, behind the guitar too. Warbly synth solo doesn’t in fairness add anything to it, and it’s an okay song but I wouldn’t go crazy over it. Some of that scat singing George is famous for takes us out and into “New day”, which is a nice ballad with gospel overtones, throwing in the old Zep line “Really makes me wonder”, though I expect it’s just coincidence rather than any sort of tribute to Plant, Page and Co. Actually, Benson sounds very like Prince here, especially on the higher notes.

“Hold me” is a decent mid-pacer but nothing about it gets me excited, while “Stand up” is a jazz instrumental, so that definitely keeps my skirt well in place. It’s well executed and well played but as I’ve said before I basically find a lot of jazz quite boring, and this sounds more like that sort of music you hear in supermarkets really. Bit better when he throws in some scat singing over the music, but even so it’s way too long at over five minutes. The album comes to a close then on a much shorter track, and the better for it. “You are the love of my life” clocks in at a mere two and a half minutes, but with a duet performance from Roberta Flack it’s pretty close to the standout, right at the end. It’s just as long as it should be, doesn’t overstay its welcome and takes the final bow perfectly.

TRACKLISTING

1. No one emotion
2. Please don’t walk away
3. I just wanna hang around you
4. Nothing’s gonna change my love for you
5. Beyond the sea (La mer)
6. 20/20
7. New day
8. Hold me
9. Stand up
10. You are the love of my life

Soul is never really going to be my thing, I know that. I’ve never liked it that much and while I can certainly see the merits in the music and applaud its artistes for what they do, it’s all a bit too soft and sugary and laidback for me. Of course, this is I suppose what would or could be described as “smooth soul” perhaps; there are other types like the sort of music Sam Cooke and Ray Charles made, and no doubt many subdivisions within the genre. But smooth soul, such as this is, just doesn’t do a lot for me.

Of the two albums I listened to here, Luther Vandross’s effort impressed me far more than George Benson’s, though why this should be I don’t know. Neither are really albums I intend to listen to again, nor do I have any plans to check out further work by either artiste, and I wouldn’t turn the songs of either off if they came on the radio, but these are not albums I would spin for pleasure. However in a straight knockdown, for me, Benson v Vandross ends with a knockout for Luther, and it’s not even close.

Next time out I’ll be looking into two of the major ladies of soul. Till then, keep rock --- er, keep it smooth cats!
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Old 02-16-2014, 04:49 AM   #2130 (permalink)
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I never ever took you for a fan of soul.
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