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Old 09-24-2011, 09:52 AM   #291 (permalink)
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A song guaranteed to make you grin and want to dance and make a fool of yourself, today it's Mr. Dave Lee Roth with Van Halen, from the album and year of 1984, with a pretty massive hit single for them, this is “Jump”.
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Old 09-24-2011, 10:01 AM   #292 (permalink)
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GTR --- GTR --- 1986 (Arista)


What do you get when you put Yes/Asia's Steve Howe and Genesis' Steve Hackett together? Well, they're both guitarists, and songwriters, but primarily guitarists, so you get GTR, short for guitar, a short-lived “supergroup” from the late eighties who released only the one studio album, their self-titled debut. It did well, but tended to polarise opinion in both Yes and Genesis fans, and there were conflicts within the band itself. As a result, GTR disbanded a year later and went their separate ways.

Opener “When the heart rules the mind” was the first single from the album, and is very reminiscent of Asia's “Heat of the moment”. Although there are no keyboards on the album, the keyboard sound is recreated by the use of guitar synths, which both the Steves used. People have criticised vocalist Max Bacon's voice, but I see nothing wrong with it. Although both Hackett and Howe came from progressive rock backgrounds, this is not really a prog rock album, more like an AOR record. The opener is good, punchy and with a great melody, great backing vocals but strangely for a band whose name is GTR and which features two guitarists, both experts in their field, it's very keyboard-heavy (I know they're guitar synths, but even so), with little in the way of true guitar solos, which surely you would expect from these two?

All the songs are written either by one or both of the Steves, or in collaboration with others, apart from the second track, “The hunter”, which is a Geoff Downes composition. Downes, Howe's bandmate in both Asia and Yes, produced this album but he didn't play on it, strangely. “The hunter” has definite touches of Yes, and almost to try to accommodate this it would seem, Bacon tries to sing like Jon Anderson. It doesn't really work, but at least there's more guitar in this song.

“Here I wait” is a Hackett/Howe composition, and it's far rockier than either of the first two tracks, with a good solid beat and some nice angry guitars. “Sketches in the sun”, a Hackett original, is far more introspective, reflecting the ex-Genesis man's nature and musical style. It's an instrumental, and to be honest, goes a long way towards adding a real touch of class to the album, which it's kind of lacked up to now. Back to the hard rock then for “Jekyll and Hyde”, a powerful little track that allows the guys to stretch themselves on guitar, and features some pretty nifty backing vocals. This is the only song on which vocalist Max Bacon contibutes to the writing. Like most of the others that have gone before though, you can't help but be reminded of Yes, though Hackett's guitar playing does bring a certain flavour of mid-seventies Genesis to proceedings.

It's very repetitive though, with the same line mostly sung throughout, between bursts of guitar solos from the guys. The Yes clones continue with “You can still get through”, and at this point if you fell asleep (not totally unlikely: it's hardly a gripping album!) you might think, when you woke up, that you were listening to a Yes album. It's that similar. Very unoriginal, for a so-called supergroup. At least “Toe the line” is a little different, though I can still hear Anderson's voice singing this. Nice little ballad though, a step away from the dross they've been putting out up to now. At last we get a decent solo worthy of these two uber-guitarists! It's the first track apart from Steve Hackett's instrumental that I've actually enjoyed listening to, and we're near the end of the album!

Speaking of Hackett, it's another of his solo-penned songs next, in stark contrast to his gentle “Sketches in the sun”, although also an instrumental, “Hackett to bits” is more hard rock than folk ballad, and this really shows him to be the accomplished guitarist he is. It's a different sort of piece entirely to his other on the album, but stands out in the same way that one did, and in the same way the rest of the tracks fail to manage to. Closer “Imagining” is very Genesisesque in its opening, but then becomes another sub-Yes song to finish off what is essentially, and sadly, a sub-par album.

When there are bands like Yes and Genesis already around, doing this sort of thing much better, there seems no reason why two ex-members of those bands would try to recreate that sound on what is supposed to be their album, with their new group. It just doesn't make sense, and shows a lack of originality, commitment and ideas. It's frankly not surprising there was no follow-up. Perhaps if Yes and Genesis disbanded completely, there might be a market for this album, but as it stands, then and now, if you're a Yes fan you'll buy Yes records. If you're a Genesis fan you'll buy Genesis albums.

No true fan of either would bother buying this. One reviewer famously wrote the most succinct and yet appropriate review of the album, when he wrote “GTR: SHT”. Kind of says it all really.

TRACKLISTING

1. When the heart rules the mind
2. The hunter
3. Here I wait
4. Sketches in the sun
5. Jekyll and Hyde
6. You can still get through
7. Reach out (never say no)
8. Toe the line
9. Hackett to bits
10. Imagining
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Old 09-25-2011, 09:37 AM   #293 (permalink)
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Holy diver --- Dio --- 1983 (Vertigo)


Rarely does it happen that an artiste's debut album is their best, but this is widely accepted to be the case in this instance. Although, technically, this was not the first album for band leader and founder Ronnie James Dio, who had worked with Black Sabbath and Rainbow before, it was his first solo effort, or more correctly, the first album released with his own band. “Holy diver” is an impressive debut, and there's really very little, if anything, bad to say about it.

It's pure metal and rock all the way, from the headbanging opener “Stand up and shout”, with guitarist Vivian Campbell making a name for himself, Ronnie's distinctive voice grinding out the vocals with the enthusiasm and delight of a man who has finally achieved his lifelong dream. The lyric reflects this: ”You've got desire, so let it out/ You 've got the power/ Stand up and shout!” The first of many excellent solos from Campbell and thunderous drumming from veteran sticksman Vinnie Appice just pull this song along at a breakneck rate, and even though things slow down for the title track, it's in no way a ballad (there are none on this album) --- it's a slow, epic cruncher that starts off with keyboard and sounds of wind and thunder, an introduction that almost treads on prog rock territory before Campbell's insistent guitar dispels any such notions, and the track gets going.

Definitely one of the standout (among several) tracks on the album, “Holy diver” closest resembles Ozzy-era Sabbath, but very much updated from Sabs' somewhat doomy and plodding approach. The young guitarist keeps it fresh, while RJD's vocals are clear, sincere and powerful. This sort of beat, the aforementioned cruncher, would become something of a trademark for many of Dio's future songs, probably honed during his time with Sabbath.

Back up to fifth gear then for “Gypsy”, with a big yell from Ronnie and a powerful, stomping metal song replete with heavy guitar and some nice keys. Ronnie really stretches his voice on this one, mostly roaring the vocal, and things don't slow down for “Caught in the middle”, another fast rocker, but the real standout track comes with “Don't talk to strangers.” Built on a whispered intro and a jangly guitar line, it soon takes off and heads off into the stratosphere, courtesy of Appice and Campbell. Excellent track!

“Straight through the heart” is a great mid-paced rocker, with a terrific solo from Campbell, while “Invisible” is similar in pace, with an expansive guitar opening and a faux-balladic start before it takes off. Jimmy Bain's keyboards finally come properly to the fore when “Rainbow in the dark” kicks in, and it's another of the standout tracks. Much gentle fun has been poked at RJD over his seeming fascination with rainbows --- they crop up a lot in his lyrics, in addition to his being vocalist on the “Rainbow rising” album and also writing a song called “Catch the rainbow” for Rainbow. And here he is again, singing about rainbows. But it's a fantastic track, a real power metal song, with banks of keyboards carrying the sound while Vivian Campbell manages to stamp his own authority on the song with one hell of a solo.

After the majesty of “Rainbow in the dark”, the album closer feels like something of a footnote. It's no slight on the track, but “Shame on the night” just doesn't come close to the quality of the track that preceded it. It's a slowburner, starting off with the sound of wolves howling, then Campbell's bluesy guitar intro which turns into some heavy licks, and the song gets going in earnest, a real cruncher with a lovely little bassline from Bain.

I personally feel that Ronnie James Dio lost his way about four albums into his solo career, and with the exception of one or two, his last few albums did not impress me, and in fact one or two really disappointed me. This however is from his golden age, and for the next few years he could really do no wrong. “Holy diver” will always stand as the perfect Dio album: even its follow-up, “The last in line”, though almost as good, had one or two bad tracks on it, and as the albums went on they tended to have more sub-par tracks than good. But this is how I would prefer to remember the late Ronnie James Dio: slaying all before him with power metal in a class all of his own.

TRACKLISTING

1. Stand up and shout
2. Holy diver
3. Gypsy
4. Caught in the middle
5. Don't talk to strangers
6. Straight through the heart
7. Invisible
8. Rainbow in the dark
9. Shame on the night

Suggested further listening: “The last in line”, “Sacred heart”, “Killing the dragon”, “Magica”. Also Rainbow's “Rainbow rising” and “Long live rock and roll”, and Black Sabbath's “Heaven and Hell”.
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Old 09-25-2011, 09:43 AM   #294 (permalink)
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Ah yes, the fantasy of many a teenage boy in the tail-end of the seventies/early eighties, the worm reminds us of the smouldering power and almost casual charisma of the great Chrissie Hynde, here with her band the Pretenders, with their biggest hit single, “Brass in pocket”. Phwoar!

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Old 09-25-2011, 09:54 AM   #295 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Sunday, September 25 2011
Good-time bands, huh? Not enough of them these days, what with everyone being so “emo”, “dark” and “Gothic”. Lighten up guys! Music should be fun, for Chrissakes! You should take a leaf out of these fellahs' book! Before there was the Beautiful South of course, there was the Housemartins, and one thing they knew how to do was have fun. Perhaps comparable to Madness, in style if not in music, the Housemartins only released two albums before they split, some of them going on to form the Beautiful South, and of course Norman Cook famously reinventing himself as Fatboy Slim.

Happy hour --- The Housemartins --- from "London 0 Hull 4" on Go! Discs


Probably their most famous and successful single, there's nothing bad you can say about “Happy hour”. It's short, snappy, catchy, happy and a lot of other words ending with “y”! You just can't listen to it without wanting to get up and dance --- infectious, but in a really good way.
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Old 09-25-2011, 11:23 AM   #296 (permalink)
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It's always bugged me that there is one Marillion album I could never get into, despite repeated listenings and some real effort on my part. You see, I've been a Marillion fan since 1982, and have followed them from their first release, “Script for a jester's tear” (which still ranks in my estimation as one of the best, if not the best debut albums ever), and have watched them go through lineup changes, changes in musical direction and changes in the way they sell their records. I have never, or had never, up to this album, been less than delighted with any of their releases, never mind satisfied. Disappointment was not a word I associated with Marillion, except in the case where there was to be no new album for a few years.

But their 2007 effort, “Somewhere else”, let me down bigtime. Especially as their last outing, the superlative double album “Marbles”, had been so good and perhaps set me up for a fall. In addition, we had had to wait three years between the release of “Marbles” and 2001's “Anaroknophobia”, with another three years wait for this one. So I was all set to once again revel in the delights of a new Marillion album. I was to find it a huge -- and very unexpected --- disappointment, and so here we are, in the Last Chance Saloon once again, to try to figure out if this album is as bad as I remember, or if it can be redeemed.

Somewhere else --- Marillion --- 2007 (Intact)

I was somewhat disconcerted by the opener, “The other half”. It opens slowly and then builds in an okay way, but okay is not good enough when you're talking about this band. It felt like something was missing, and as I listen again, in a final attempt to get into this album and not have a big gap in my appreciation of Marillion, I feel the same. Followup track “See it like a baby” is pure pop, and not in any way worthy of Marillion, however the third track in is where they really get going, finally, with a lush ballad in “Thank you whoever you are”: great keys as ever from Mark Kelley --- which somehow had been absent, subsumed or muted on the previous two tracks. Excellent and introspective guitar from the ever-reliable Steve Rothery, and a passionate and bittersweet vocal from Steve Hogarth, or “H” as he prefers to be known, lift this track head and shoulders above everything that has come before, and really, it's the standout track. I know that's somewhat disconcerting, so early into the album, and that fear is sadly well founded.

Well, in fairness, there is another great track near the end, but come on! I shouldn't be saying this about Marillion! You may not be a fan, but if you are, you should know that they have had consistently perfect output since 1982, even with the shocking departure of frontman Fish, and the new, energised version, Marillion v 2.0, as it were. But after the sublimity of “Thank you”, we're hit with a truly awful track that can't even claim to qualify as filler: “Most toys” is just lazy, loud rock, with its admittedly interesting message almost completely lost in the cacophony of guitars that just throttles this track. About the only thing I can say about it is that it's short, mercifully short, at just under three minutes, the shortest on the album.

The title track is up next, and although it's a Marillion-respectable length, at just under eight minutes, and indeed a nice relaxing ambient number, I find it lacking in that it sort of comes and goes, without really making any impression on me. Perhaps it's the understated vocal from Hogarth, or the lack of a well-rounded and clear lyrical idea (I still don't really know what it's about), but it just passes me by, and for an eight-minute (almost) song, that's not good. To be totally equitable, I must admit that the playing on the song is up to the high standard I expect of Marillion, with lovely piano from Kelley and soulful guitar from Rothery, gentle percussion from Ian Mosley, but I just don't feel it goes anywhere.

Now, as a dyed-in-the-wool Marillion fan, I feel I should point out that I don't hate this album: there is no Marillion album I hate. But if you asked me to choose my least favourite of their catalogue, there would be no hesitation on my part in pointing to this 2007 album. It leaves a great hole of longing in me, musically. I had waited three long years for new Marillion output, and to be this let down was a huge blow, so much so that I seriously considered not getting the next album. Luckily that did not happen, and I only had a year to fret and chew my fingernails until “Happiness is the road” appeared on the horizon, and although it was not the opus I had hoped, it was far better than this, and went a long way towards re-establishing my faith in the band. You can read my review of it on the first page of my journal, if you're so inclined.

You know, on reflection, the album sleeve is quite appropriate, as I do sort of feel like I'm staring through one of those seaside telescope/binocular things, searching for the band I know and love, looking for the music I want to hear, and finding that I am, in a very real way, somewhere else. Somewhere I don't want to be.

Another long track is next up, “A voice from the past” is again a low-key, understated number, with some really nice instrumentation, but once more I feel it's a little empty. I think one of the main things that upsets me about this album is that it's so laid-back! With the exception of “See it like a baby” and the hateful “Most toys”, the band rarely seem to break a sweat, turning this into almost an easy-listening album more than a rock one, or even a pop one. I'm all for relaxing tunes, but unless the band is known for producing such content, I think a whole album of lounge music is not a good idea. There are some good concepts in the tracks, the playing is as ever excellent; I just feel that it's an album where the band are holding themselves back, not realising their true potential. I mean, compare this to the previous “Marbles”, or even albums before that, like “Radiation” and “Marillion.com” --- there's just no comparison.

“No such thing” is basically the same idea repeated over and over for almost four minutes, while “The wound” does its best to get things going in a harder vein, and to its credit it is a lot closer to the sort of Marillion I prefer, and expect, to hear, not a bad track at all, but again a little lacking in direction. Rothery is right on form here, it must be said. However I think the problem here is that the song is overlong: it doesn't need seven minutes to get its message across, and in overextending itself that message tends to get lost, or at least a little confused.

There are, thankfully, no such problems with the penultimate track, sensibly cut down to less than six minutes (though only ten seconds less). “The last century for Man” is a powerful yet underplayed indictment of the state of the world, almost, but not quite, recalling Marillion's Magnum opus “Forgotten sons”, perhaps more reminscent of “When I meet God” from “Anoraknophobia”. But it's a well-crafted --- almost perfectly so --- song, starting slow and low-key, building in intensity and power to the denoument and then fading away as it began, but this song at least leaves an indelible mark on the mind, and on the heart, and remains in the ears long after the album has finished.

The closer, then, is a mid-paced number that rocks along gently, not quite a ballad but no rocker either, “Faith” starts off with a Simon and Garfunkel-esque acoustic guitar, which accompanies and complements Hogarth's voice perfectly. When the rest of the band come in, near the end, there's a sense of the sort of song that Marillion can write, and that there definitely should have been more of throughout this album. A nice sort of horn piece closes the track and brings the album to an end. It's perhaps ironic that the closing track should be so titled, as this album has sorely tested ny faith in Marillion.

Listening back to “Somewhere else” now, and not for the first time either --- I've tried to get into this album so many times! --- I still feel that it is without question the weakest in Marillion's catalogue. I can perhaps appreciate some of the songs a bit better now (though I still hate “Most toys”!), and perhaps even get to like one or two I previously didn't rate. However, that's not the point.

With a Marillion album, and on the strength of everything I've heard from them prior and since, I expect to be if not blown away then at least have my faith in them vindicated, album after album. Perhaps that's a lot to ask from a band, but up until they released this, I had had no reason to even hesitate in rushing out and buying the new Marillion album. There was no decision to be made: this was Marillion! But then “Somewhere else” hove into view, and shook my belief in the constant excellence of the band.

Since then, as mentioned, I've regained that faith, and of course I will always buy a new Marillion release as it comes out. But even now, and in the future, that little woodpecker of doubt will be tapping at my mind, the niggling, tiny fear that at some point, Marillion will again fall short of the greatness I expect them to achieve, and that they have achieved, consistently. There's a shadow of unease over my appreciation of my favourite band since 2007, and for that reason, I will never quite accept “Somewhere else” as an album to be listened to. It's the black sheep, the orphan child of the Marillion family, and although orphans need as much love as any other child, sometimes it's hard to give that love.

TRACKLISTING

1. The other half
2. See it like a baby
3. Thank you, whoever you are
4. Most toys
5. Somewhere else
6. A voice from the past
7. No such thing
8. The wound
9. The last century for Man
10. Faith
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Old 09-26-2011, 10:22 AM   #297 (permalink)
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Sometimes stars are born, sometimes made, but mostly you only discover them when they burst onto the scene. Occasionally, an artiste you've been following makes it big, and you can grin and say “told you so!” --- a friend of mine was well into Michael Bolton years before he made the big time. But it's rare that you get advance warning that a new star is due to shine, and that you had better look out for them.

But such is how the nascent career of one Charlie Sexton was foreshadowed, and with good reason. Part of Bob Dylan's band from 1999 to 2002, and having toured with the Rolling Stones, learned guitar from some of the greats in the field, especially Joe Ely and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, Sexton was marked for greatness. He was a pretty phenomenal guitar player, could sing like a pro from an early age, and had cut his teeth and paid his dues where it mattered, on the road. He would have big names to recommend his work and to call upon if needed, and associations with such heavyweights could only add clout to his grab for the big time.

But amazingly, that big break never arrived. Which is not to say that Sexton did not make it as a musician. In fact, he has had a fairly stellar career, working with even more giant talents like Ron Wood, Jimmy Barnes, Don Henley, Keith Richards, Clapton and Bowie, and has produced albums for the likes of Lucinda Williams, Double Trouble (Stevie Ray's band), Edie Brickell and Shawn Colvin. He has been hailed as a major talent, and is in great demand as a session musician, even playing the guitar on Justin Timberlake's version of “Hallelujah”.

But despite all that, the glittering solo career and superstardom that was foretold in his stars has not come to pass, and it's even odder when you consider his debut album, his first proper introduction to the world as a solo artiste.

Pictures for pleasure --- Charlie Sexton --- 1985 (MCA)


Even from the photo on the sleeve you could guess this guy was going to make it big. Hell, you'd have put your house on it! The broody, James Dean-esque teenager staring out of the picture, his hair in a quiff, his eyes dark and mysterious, rather a lot of heavy makeup on his face and a leather jackt pulled casually around his shoulders would perhaps put you in mind of one of those X-Factor/American Idol wannabe “stars” who think they're a rocker. But you can't ignore or deny the image: this is a guy with the face record companies and producers kill for, the sort of face that can sell records on its own.

The difference here is that Sexton can rock, and does on his debut album. “Pictures for pleasure”. He has the kind of voice Cowell would kill for, and the sort of stage presence only gained through years on the road with bands who are the masters of their craft. And he's not just a pretty face either: he plays guitar, bass, piano and keyboards, sings and indeed writes or has a hand in writing some of the songs on the album. The full package, indeed.

So where did it all go wrong? Why was this album not a huge, chart-topping smash that launched Charlie Sexton on the road to superstar nirvana? I really can't answer that. The first single from the album is excellent, so much so that it pushed me to buy the album, and that's damn good too. Yet his next album seems to have sold very badly, and he only released two more solo albums after that, in total four, six and ten years between the last. Obviously, as detailed above he was very busy, either playing with other bands or producing albums, and he probably hadn't time to record much of his own solo work, but after the single I heard nothing more from him, and I had so much expected to.

The album opens with “Impressed”, a good hard rocker in the vein of John Cougar Mellencamp, and you can already hear the talent of this guy, not only on vocals but on guitar too. It's a good opener, with a great hook, and would have made a good single, but it's the next track that was the single, and deservedly so. “Beat's so lonely” is a fantastic slice of fast power-rock, melodic to the max, with a great lyrical theme about how it's lonely at the top and how things look different from there. Charlie cuts loose with his first proper guitar solo here, and it's a doozy!

This is also one of the songs he helps write, with producer Keith Forsey, and it's a real slice of Americana. Charlie's often relaxed, southern Texas drawl puts me in mind of the late Stevie Ray: the man's influence has certainly rubbed off! “Restless” is another track which Charlie co-writes, this time it's a more electronica/funk type with lots of fiddly keyboard and some very bright piano, still retaining the rock shell the album is built upon.

Perhaps surprisingly, given his pedigree, Sexton eschews the idea of calling in famous names to play on his album, perhaps afraid that such “guests” might misrepresent his music to the masses, or perhaps he just wanted to make it on his own, after years of playing in the shadow of titans, standing, as it were, on the shoulders of giants. The only recognisable name on his crewlist is that of guitarist and producer extraordinaire, Richie Zito.

A strange choice for a cover version next, the 1933 semi-classic “Hold me”, which Charlie gives the full eighties rock treatment, updating the old love song for 1985. Another great little solo in this song, and some truly exceptional playing from Charlie, and the song is instantly his. It seems everything this boy puts his hand to, no matter how obscure or old, or seemingly inappropriate, turns to pure rock gold.

The title track is next, and again Sexton has a hand in its penning. “Pictures for pleasure” is a boppy, keyboard-led slice of eighties AOR, with a certain Cars vibe about it, probably the most laid-back track on the album so far, although nowhere near a ballad. It should also be remembered that at the time of this album's release, Charlie Sexton was a mere slip of a lad at only sixteen. Displaying a maturity way beyond his tender years, he then launches into “Tell me”, one of two tracks solely written by him. A real hard rocker, it combines the best of his keys work with heavy, snarly guitar, conjuring up visions of Survivor after a particularly hard day at the studio meeting up with Ric Ocasek and heading off for a drinking session with John Parr. Another super solo marks this track out as special, and it's on to his second attempt at writing a song on his own.

“Attractions” is a far different beast to its predecessor, with somewhat confused melody and a darker, more ominous vocal with nevertheless great backing vocals, and more guitar-driven than the previous “Tell me”. I find the singing a little muddy on this track --- I would say possibly due to production, but then Keith Forsey is acknowledged as a great producer, so I'd have to say it's down to Charlie's singing style, at least on this track. I have to admit, I'm not as fond of this as the previous, in fact, this goes down as my least favourite track so far.

“You don't belong here” gets things back on track after the somewhat unexpected “curve ball” (don't you just hate those American phrases?) thrown by “Attractions”, with another good rocker with tons of hooks and some great guitar work from Charlie. Sort of mid-paced, it's not as frenetic as the likes of “Restless” or “Impressed”, but it holds its own, with a strange sort of Pretenders/Bryan Adams guitar riff running through it. Closer “Space” is written by those stalwarts of the rock song, Holly Knight and Mike Chapman, and it shows.

The song reeks of commerciality, but I really feel it does not suit either Sexton's voice or his style, and as such it seems incongruous here. Perhaps the decision to take this song was a bad move: virtually everything up to that had been good, but as a closer this just feels like it was written for someone like Go West or Eurythmics. Just doesn't sit well here, and finishes the album in the wrong vein for me. I feel perhaps a decent ballad might not only have closed the album better, but might also have given Sexton a chance at a real hit single, but for whatever reason there are no ballads on this album at all.

Having heard “Beat's so lonely”, I bought this album fully expecting it to be loaded with filler, and was more than surprised to find it really is a good listen. Having read about Charlie Sexton in the musical press of the day, I totally expected this album to be the springboard to launch him to worldwide fame and success. I'm amazed that it didn't happen, and though “Pictures for pleasure” is not a classic album, and does suffer from some deficiencies, remembering that it's the debut effort from a guy sixteen years old, this is good stuff! As mentioned, Charlie did experience a lot of success, with other bands and other avenues, and he'll always make a living as a session muso. He's in demand, and will most likely continue to be, and certainly he'll never starve.

But superstardom, it would appear, for reasons that remain unclear to me, seems to have eluded him. On the strength of this album, it's one of the mysteries of the rock universe, and one that I fear will not be solved any time soon, if ever. Steve Lukather, Danny Kortchmar, Mike Landau, are all names we know well. They're accomplished and famous session musicians (Lukather not so much now, having joined Toto and made a name for himself), and do well, but would we go to see any of them if they were in concert? Charlie Sexton deserved to become a household name, but sadly, and unaccountably, the likely response you'll get when mentioning his name now, outside of musical circles, is “Charlie who?”

TRACKLISTING

1. Impressed
2. Beat's so lonely
3. Restless
4. Hold me
5. Pictures for pleasure
6. Tell me
7. Attractions
8. You don't belong here
9. Space
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Old 09-26-2011, 10:26 AM   #298 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Monday, September 26 2011
And so another week begins, Monday we all hate (even me, who doesn't have to go to work), but once it's gone we can start looking towards the weekend. It's also the last week in September, so just get ready for those Christmas songs on the radio not too far from now!

When I began Random Track of the Day, the first or at least one of the first bands featured was this one, Epica, and here they are again, this time from a compilation album called “The road to Paradiso”.

Quietus --- Epica --- from "The road to Paradiso" on Transmission


Driven almost entirely on violin and string section, “Quietus” is almost an instrumental, with just choral backing vocals and some whispered/gutteral words accompanying it. It's quite something to listen to.
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Old 09-26-2011, 10:27 AM   #299 (permalink)
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One of those tracks you just can't get out of your head once heard, it's what the worm is all about. And here it is, the Cardigans, with that song, “My favourite game” --- DA-dada, DA-dada!
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Old 09-26-2011, 06:02 PM   #300 (permalink)
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When I started this section I pointed out that there are some songs which really stand out from the rest, lyrically, where the writer(s) has/have made a real effort to tackle some unusual subject, or indeed a well-covered theme from a different angle, or have just written a song which is so different that it draws your attention and shows how the lyricist has really honed their craft. Of course there are many --- thousands, probably more --- of these types of songs, but it's the ones that speak to me which I end up featuring here.

This time round it's Australian singer/songwriter Kevin Johnson, with his only hit from 1973, and the very antithesis of rock star worship. The rather long-titled “Rock and roll I gave you the best years of my life” chronicles the struggles of a young man to make it in the world of music, and how difficult that proves. Semi-autobiographical, the song channels Johnson's frustration at the lack of help from his record label at the time to break him beyond his native Australia, and is a moving cautionary tale that sometimes, just wanting something hard enough is not enough to ensure that you will get it.

Rock and roll I gave you the best years of my life (Kevin Johnson) from “Rock and roll I gave you the best years of my life”, 1973.
Music and lyrics by Kevin Johnson
The polar opposite to such throwaway “we're-gonna-make-it” songs as Gary Moore's pretty awful “Teenage idol” (“He dumped his chick and sold his car/ Bought himself a hot guitar/ He joined a band and they cut some tracks/ They hit the road and they've never looked back!”) Yeah, if only life were that easy, Gary, we'd all be doing it. But set diametrically against this tale of easy money, hot chicks and instant fame, Johnson's song takes a totally different, and realistic, if somewhat depressing look at how hard it is to make it in the music biz.

The song starts off recalling the youth of the young man, as he gets his first guitar and learns to play it, through his adolescence as he joins a band and has some minor success, then just when it looks like they're about to make it, the sixties end and a new wave of cynicism and rebellion sweep over the world, punk comes to the fore and no-one wants to hear their music anymore. So he goes off to try to make it as a solo artist, but no matter where he goes, record companies are not interested.

Finally, he meets the girl he's destined to marry, and after she helps him try to shop his demos around London, she finally convinces him that this is not to be. He will never be a star, and in resignation he sells his guitar. It's a sad ending, but a brutally realistic one, and there is a note of hope, as the song is not only one of trying and failing, but of dedication, perserverance and finally acceptance. The man realises he has been chasing a pipe-dream which will never be his, and instead settles down with the girl, trading fame and glory for love and a stable relationship.

The first time I heard the song I was, probably like most people, rooting for the guy and fully expecting him to make it, and it's quite sobering to realise, as the song draws to its conclusion, that the good guy doesn't win. He never reaches his dream of becoming a rock star, and yet, behind the disappointment is a certain joy that he experienced music, in some form, and was able to be part of it, if only for a short time. He does lament the time spent in pursuit of his goal (“All those dreamy sunny Sundays/ Moonlight summer nights”), but has plenty to be thankful for, and he is after all glad he tried. His story surely resonates in the hearts of thousands upon thousands of men and women the world over who have tried, and failed, to make it in the often heartless world of music.

It's a pretty powerful song, which you can hear below, with the all-important lyric to follow.



I can still remember/ When I bought my first guitar/
Remember just how good the feeling was /Put it proudly in my car,
And my family listened fifty times/ To my two song repertoire
And I told my mum her only son /Was gonna be a star.
Bought all the Beatle records/ Sounded just like Paul;
Bought all the old Chuck Berrys / 78`s and all,
And I sat by my record player /Playin` every note they played,
And I watched them all on TV /Makin' every move they made.

Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life:
All the dreamy sunny Sundays, /All the moonlit summer nights.
I was so busy in the back room/ Writin` love songs to you
While you were changin` your direction/ And you never even knew
That I was always/ Just one step behind you.

`66 seemed like the year/ I was really goin` somewhere:
We were living in San Francisco /With flowers in our hair,
Singing songs of kindness/ So the world would understand;
But the guys and me were something /More than just another band.
And then `69 in LA/ Came around so soon;
We were really making headway /And writing lots of tunes,
And we must have played the wildest stuff /We had ever played:
The way the crowds cried out for us/We thought we had it made.

Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life:
All the crazy lazy young days /All the magic moonlit nights.
I was so busy on the road /Singin` love songs to you
While you were changin` your direction /And you never even knew
That I was always /Just one step behind you.

`71 in Soho /When I saw Suzanne:
I was trying to go it solo /With someone else`s band.
And she came up to me later/ And I took her by the hand,
And I told her all my troubles /And she seemed to understand.
And she followed me through London, /Through a hundred hotel rooms,
Through a hundred record companies /Who didn`t like my tunes;
And she followed me when, finally, /I sold my old guitar:
And she tried to help me understand/ I`d never be a star.

Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life:
All the dreamy sunny Sundays,/All the moonlit summer nights.
And though I never knew the magic/ Of makin` it with you
Thank the Lord for giving me /The little bit I knew.
And I will always be /One step behind you.

Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life:
Singing out my love songs/ In the brightly flashing lights.
And though I never knew the magic/ Of makin` it with you,
Thank the Lord for giving me /The little bit I knew.
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